Fun and Low-Cost Summertime Activities

With all of its vacations, barbecues, and outdoor concerts, many people would say that the summertime is the most expensive season of the year. If you’re looking to stay active this summer without spending a lot of money, however, consider these fun and inexpensive activities — some of which are totally free!

  1. Go on a hike. You might not know it, but your town likely has hiking trails traversing its wooded areas and public parks. Do a quick online search to find the ones nearest to you.
  2. Have a picnic in the park. Invite a few of your friends to each bring a dish to a low-key picnic in the park. With just a few sandwiches, a light blanket, and some good conversation, you can have a wonderful afternoon outdoors.
  3. Go to a flea market. Instead of spending your hard-earned money at the mall, hit up a flea market to hunt for antique treasures.
  4. Go geocaching. If you enjoy uncovering hidden items, try your hand at this high-tech type of treasure hunting. Use your smartphone to create a geocaching account, then follow the instructions to find the geocache sites located throughout your town.

50 Cheap, Creative Ways to Have Fun (Tiny Buddha)
102 Things to Do on a Money-Free Weekend [The Simple Dollar]
12 Free or Low-Cost Summer Activities for Your Kids [U.S. News]

How to Safely Exercise Outdoors During the Summer

Even if you’re a very fit person, exercising outdoors in hot summer weather can be dangerous. Unless you take the necessary precautions, the heat and humidity can cause dehydration, dizziness, and exhaustion. Here are a few smart tips to help you exercise safely outside all summer long.

  • Stay hydrated. This one may seem obvious, but dehydration is the leading cause of illness and injury during hot weather exercise. Be sure to drink a lot of water not only during and after exercise, but also beforehand to fuel your body for your workout.
  • Choose smart times. Because the sun is lower (and so is the temperature) during the morning and evening, these are the smartest times to exercise outdoors.
  • Wear the right clothes. While you might wear sweatpants to exercise outdoors in the fall, you should invest in something lightweight and absorbent in the summer. Try synthetic fabrics like Spandex and Lycra, as these wick away moisture.
  • Listen to your body. Even if you’ve only been running for 10 minutes, that might be too much for your body in the dog days of summer. If you start to feel lightheaded and dizzy while exercising, make sure that you stop or slow down, no matter how long it’s been.

5 Ways to Exercise Safely in the Heat [U.S. News]
8 Tips for Exercising in Summer Heat [Active]
Essential Tips for Outdoor Exercise [Arm & Hammer]

Facts About Flax Seeds You Might Not Already Know

If you’re trying to improve your health and maintain a healthy diet, you may want to start incorporating flax seeds into your meals. These tiny seeds are said to be great for digestion and vascular health, and they may even help to prevent certain types of cancers. Here are just a few fun facts about flax seeds that you might not know.

  1. Flaxseeds have more omega-3 fatty acids than any other foods in the world. These acids remain stable for up to three hours in the oven, which means that you can bake flaxseeds into breads and muffins without losing the omega-3s.
  2. Flaxseeds have the highest amount of lignans of any other food. Lignans are fiber-related polyphenols that offer benefits similar to antioxidants and fibers, and they are beneficial to all humans.
  3. Flaxseeds provide support to the intestinal tract through their mucilage, or “gum” content. This water-soluble gel improves nutrient absorption into the small intestine.
  4. Flaxseeds are proven to reduce metabolic syndrome. Studies show that people who eat 30 grams of flaxseeds each day had a 20% decrease in metabolic syndrome over a 12-week period.
  5. By eating more flaxseeds, you can improve your cardiovascular system. These powerful seeds help prevent excessive inflammation in the blood vessels, keeping your blood pumping and keeping the body safe from diseases.

Flaxseeds [Vegetarian]
What's New and Beneficial About Flaxseeds [The World’s Healthiest Foods]
Flax for Consumers [Ameriflax]

What’s In Season? Your Guide to Spring Produce

Spring is a bountiful time of the year when it comes to fresh produce, but it always helps to know exactly what’s in season. If you want to purchase only the freshest, most flavorful fruits and veggies and ensure that they last as long as possible in your fridge, use these helpful tips for understanding spring produce.

  1. Artichokes. Whether you use them on pizzas or add them to your salads, artichokes are a great way to add flavor and nutrients to your meals. Their main harvest takes place during the springtime, so look for artichokes with close, compact leaves and clean-cut stems.
  2. Asparagus. This popular veggie is found in a number of high-end restaurants, but you can easily prepare it at home if you purchase it fresh in the springtime. The thickness doesn’t necessarily indicate tenderness, so don’t overlook thinner or thicker spears at your grocery store.
  3. Carrots. While carrots are commonly found in grocery stores year-round, they taste best during the spring season. Only purchase bundles that are firm to the touch for maximum freshness.
  4. Leafy greens. Nutrient-rich veggies like chard, kale, and other cooking greens tend to turn bitter during hot summer months, so purchase them in the spring for the best taste.
  5. Fennel. If you’ve never cooked with fennel, experiment with this green (a relative of celery) when it comes into season during the warmer springtime.
  6. Grapefruit. Create a nutritious breakfast by adding grapefruit, which starts to become plump and juicy in January.

Spring Produce: Your Guide to Picking the Best [Greatist]
What’s in Season? Spring [Fruits and Veggies More Matters]
Fresh Spring Fruits and Vegetables [About Food]

Tackle Spring Cleaning With These Helpful Tips

The change from winter to spring is typically accompanied by a desire to have a bright, clean home. You're tired of the dingy, cold effects of winter snow and ice, and everything just feels a bit less than fresh. If you’re planning a spring cleaning routine but don’t know where to begin, these seven tips will help you get started.

  • Set all clocks ahead one hour for Daylight Savings Time.
  • Change the batteries in things like smoke detectors, remote controls, and alarm clocks.
  • Flip or rotate your mattress to ensure that it lasts for years to come.
  • Protect hardwood floors against scratches by adding padded, adhesive discs to the legs of chairs and tables.
  • Clean the refrigerator using a few teaspoons of baking soda diluted in hot water. Also be sure to toss out expired or unused food items.
  • Wash pillows to prevent seasonal allergens common in the springtime from accumulating inside.
  • Re-stock cleaning supplies to prepare yourself for any number of household messes and spills that come with the spring season.

Spring Cleaning [Martha Stewart]
28 Spring Cleaning Tips [Country Living]

Cool and Unusual Uses for Fabric Softener Sheets

While you likely already know that you can use fabric softener sheets for, well, making your fabrics softer, you may not know that there are a number of other uses for these handy household items. Here are just a few smart and surprising things to do with your dryer sheets.

  • Wipe up fine, powdery spills like flour or makeup using dryer sheets, because the anti-static properties help to pick up these hard-to-scoop messes.
  • Likewise, dryer sheets also make great DIY dusters for shelves, television screens, and baseboards.
  • Freshen up musty places by placing dryer sheets inside of your smelly winter boots, gym bag, or in a musty closet.
  • Remove pet hair from just about any surface (including your clothing) by wrapping a dryer sheet around your hand and gently running it over the surface.
  • In the summertime, stuff dryer sheets in your pockets to repel mosquitos.
  • Remove hard water stains from faucets and the door of a shower by running a dry dryer sheet over the surface.
  • End static on your hair and clothing in the winter by running a dryer sheet all over yourself.

10 New Uses for Dryer Sheets [Real Simple]
20 Household Uses for Used (Yes, Used) Dryer Sheets [Apartment Therapy]
25 Alternative Uses for Fabric-Softener Dryer Sheets [Curbly]

How to Get Your Home at ARK by Korman Blue Bell Ready for Houseguests

The next time you host guests in your home, prepare in advance by setting a game plan well ahead of time. These smart and stress-free tips will show you exactly how to get your home ready for houseguests, even if you don’t exactly have a separate guest wing to work with.

  1. Create a designated space. Everyone likes to have a feeling of privacy and a place to decompress, which you can easily create for your guests even if you don’t have a closed-off guestroom. Simply give them free run of a living room or den, or create your own guest quarters by investing in a room divider.
  2. Test out the bed. Since you don’t normally sleep in the guest bed (or air mattress, or sofa…), it’s always smart to test it out first to ensure its comfort. If it’s not up to snuff, add a foam mattress topper, more blankets, or other affordable improvements.
  3. Create an overnight kit. Stock a small caddy with shower supplies, water bottles, pain relievers, and snack bars, as well as anything else that your guests might ask for.
  4. Change the linens. Be sure to put clean, fresh-smelling sheets on the bed and provide enough clean towels for all of your guests.
  5. Feel out their schedules. Once they arrive, work around their schedules to prevent stepping on any toes.

Make Your Overnight Guests Feel at Home [Southern Living]
Hosting Overnight Guests [Life Your Way]
Real Life Advice: Hosting Guests Without a Guestroom [Apartment Therapy]
Getting Ready for Overnight Guests [Real Simple]

Boost Energy and Fight Cramps with These Potassium-Rich Foods

If you engage in high levels of activity, you already know that potassium from foods like bananas prevent cramps and stabilize your energy supply. Potassium is a vital mineral that also helps prevent hypertension and can be found in many other foods. Here are two other foods that are high in potassium:

  1. Potatoes. Grab a few spuds to get a huge boost of potassium. Red, white, or sweet, they make great sources of this nutrient. One medium potato contains 751 milligrams of potassium.
  2. Yogurt. This quick and delicious snack contains 531 milligrams of potassium in a mere eight ounces. For the healthiest choice, go for plain yogurt to avoid extra sugar hidden in the fruit.

Top 10 Foods Highest in Potassium [Healthaliciousness]
15 Foods That Are High In Potassium [Health]
Food with More Potassium than a Banana [Huffington Post]
Potassium and Your CKD Diet [National Kidney Foundation]

Calling All Bibliophiles: These Pinterest Boards Are for You!

Pinterest is a great way to organize your favorite recipes or browse for home decor ideas, so why not use it to pay homage to your favorite books as well? If you’re an avid bibliophile who hates wandering aimlessly around the bookstore feeling overwhelmed by the endless selection of books, these boards will help you to bookmark ideas for new reading material and connect with other readers.

Book Lovers
Whether you’re looking for the best new releases or you simply want to share your love of reading with other pinners, this board is packed full of literary quotes, book recommendations, and peeks inside of some of the most impressive books stores in the world.

Reading Quotes
If all you’re searching for is a bit of inspiration on a tough day, this board pulls quotes directly from your favorite books to offer some words of wisdom straight from the authors’ mouths. From Annie Dillard and Theodore Roosevelt to C.S. Lewis, the Reading Quotes board has quotes for everyone.

Libraries
There are few places more relaxing for an avid reader than a beautiful library, and this board offers a virtual tour of some of the most impressive libraries in the world.

Need-to-Know Facts About Energy and Energy Consumption

Driving a car, turning on a light, heating or cooling our homes and offices—it all takes energy. But where does this energy come from? Read on to find some fun facts about energy.

1) Energy has many sources. Most of the energy we use is sourced from fossil fuels, nuclear power, or renewable sources like the sun. New sources, like biofuel, are being developed to help with the growing demand for energy sources.

2) Electricity is not a primary source of energy. Instead, it's considered a secondary source of energy, and it comes from primary sources that include coal, wind, and natural gas.

3) Electricity is a hot commodity in modern America. The demand for electricity in the U.S. is predicted to increase by 26 percent by 2030. Electricity is the second-most used energy source in American homes, second only to natural gas.

4) Heating our homes in the winter consumes the most energy. Space heating consumes the biggest chunk of energy in residential homes, ahead of large appliances such as laundry machines, computers, dishwashers—even refrigerators!

5) The U.S. sources 84 percent of its energy from fossil fuels. What's more, the U.S. consumes 20 percent of the world's total energy. To help with our growing energy needs, many companies have made an effort to cut back on energy usage. Large household appliances are becoming more energy efficient, and the government has mandated that in 2020, all new cars must average 35 miles per gallon. The automobile industry has also been focusing on creating electric cars to help decrease the use of energy.

For more information on energy, read What You Need to Know About Energy on The National Academy of Sciences website.

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