Summer has arrived so I thought I’d focus on travel, Fourth of July entertaining and ways to keep cool. Have a safe and happy Fourth of July.
Are you thinking about visiting one of the many theme parks this summer? The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) has put together brief list of attractions to help save time and money and is available in the “Fun Tips” section of the website www.TicketForFun.com.
Home Away from Home
The thing I hate about traveling is being away from home and all its comforts but did you know vacation rentals, like those from www.HomeAway.com , are inherently a better value than hotels, even costing more than 50 percent less per square foot, in side-by-side comparisons? They also provide more for the money in the way of space, privacy and amenities such as private pools and game rooms. Plus, with the extra bedrooms, travelers can save even more by vacationing in groups and sharing the costs, as well as by utilizing the kitchen to prepare meals instead of dining out. HomeAway.com features more than 215,000 vacation rentals across 120 countries, many of which are offering special offers for the summer. Travelers can also check www.VacationRentals.com, which is dedicated to vacation rental deals.
Tips from Cooper Tire
Okay, I’ll admit I don’t check the pressure in the tires on my car has often as I should. These tire maintenance tips provided by Cooper Tire prove that it’s costing me money. For example, did you know checking tire tread is so easy it only requires a U.S. penny? And simply knowing the proper air pressure for your tires can improve fuel efficiency by 3%, resulting in a savings of 9 cents a gallon at the gas pump?
The Rubber Manufacturer’s Association recently released reports that indicate more than half the cars on the road have at least one under inflated tire — a scary thought considering that the only part of the vehicle that touches the road are the tires. In addition to being a hazard on the road, under inflated tires are also the cause of more than 1.2 billion gallons of fuel that is wasted every year.
Test air pressure: Under-inflation causes excessive stress on the tire, and can create irregular wear, which shortens the lifespan of tires and can also cause tire failure. What’s more, proper air pressure can improve gas mileage by more than three percent – reducing drivers’ gasoline consumption and expense.
1. Check your owner’s manual or tire placard (or sticker) attached to the vehicle door edge, doorpost, glove box door, fuel door or trunk for the correct tire inflation pressure for your vehicle.
2. A common myth is the tire pressure listed on your tires’ sidewall is the optimal pressure – in reality it’s the maximum pressure.
3. When you check the air pressure, make sure the tires are cool — meaning they are not hot from driving even a mile.
Examine tread: Bald tires can skid and slide on pavement, and are more likely to be damaged by potholes and other road hazards. The tread on your tires should be more than 2/32 of an inch deep. If it isn’t, the tire must be replaced.
1.You can perform a simple test using a US penny. Put the edge of the coin into the tread, with Lincoln going in headfirst. If the top of Lincoln’s head is covered by tread that means you’re driving with an acceptable amount of tread. If the top of his head is entirely visible, it’s time to replace the tire.
2.To help you see tread depth, most tires have a built in “tread wear indicator.” These are narrow bars of smooth rubber in the tread grooves. When the tread is even with the bars, it is worn down to the minimum level and should be replaced as soon as possible.
3.While you’re examining your tread, also look for signs of uneven wear or damage (i.e., cuts, cracks, splits, punctures, bulges and impacts.) These conditions shorten the life of your tires and if not corrected, further tire damage or failure will occur.
Should any of these checks reveal the need for required maintenance – or when in doubt about the condition of their tires – drivers should take vehicles to a tire dealer for a professional inspection.
Fourth of July Entertaining
What types of foods do you associate with the Fourth of July? Probably hot dogs, hamburgers and anything cooked on the grill. Maybe for dessert it’s red, white and blue cupcakes, or strawberry shortcake. If holiday meals are getting just too predictable, causing guests to turn down your party invitation, it might be time to rethink the foods you serve.
While I have to admit grilling is a perennial favorite at my house, this year I’m thinking more picnic type foods. Items that don’t take forever to put together, and you don’t have to worry about keeping them warm. Here’s what I’m thinking about-
Instead of the standard ones like lemonade, try fruit flavored ones. Not mixes, but drinks you can easily put together yourself using real fruit. As strawberries and raspberries are in abundance right now try adding them to lemonade. You can put the lemonade into a blender and add about a cup of chopped strawberries and blend. And how about just adding some fruit, like blueberries, to a soda like 7-Up. If you get the wide topped one-liter containers you can just put the blueberries straight into the bottle. Let it stand in the refrigerator overnight and you’ve got a drink that’s changed color and added some natural fruit flavoring, try using raspberries too.
Sometimes my favorite items at restaurants are appetizers. They’re also great if you’re heading out to listen to a concert on the Fourth. Or maybe you’re going to watch the fireworks and need just a light snack to take with you. I also like to serve appetizers when guests are stopping by after they’ve been to another venue and already eaten. They’re not too filling and you don’t feel bad about not serving your guests something to nibble on. An easy one is to take a tortilla, spread it with cream cheese with chives, and add some slices of turkey or chicken, you can also add some fresh basil, roll it up, and cut into pinwheels. A couple of other easy ones are flavored cream cheese piped into cherry tomatoes, and mini quiches. You can also get ready-made mini fillo shells in your supermarket freezer. They cost less than $4 for 15 shells.You can add just about anything to them and as they have a neutral flavor, they work well with both savory and sweet fillings. I like to add chicken, tuna, or egg salad to them.
It’s Picnic Time
If you’re heading out for the day, or even just staying at home, a great way to celebrate is with a backyard picnic. One way to save some time is to buy a large loaf of uncut bread, slice it in half horizontally and start layering it with herbed mayonnaise, mustard, cold cuts, cheese, tomatoes and peppers. You can leave it whole and have guests slice off what they need. If you are taking it out and about with you, I prefer to wrap everything individually and assemble it once we arrive at the picnic site. It prevents the usual soggy bread, and it doesn’t take that long to put it all together. If you’re having guests over and want to turn it into a real party, why not give each guest a ‘picnic’ box with their name written on it. Inside you can add a sandwich, maybe wrapped in some red white and blue paper, and cut in half to reveal the filling. Put in some of those red and blue corn chips, a little dish of salsa for dipping, and a cookie/brownie, or a container of fruit salad.
Would any holiday celebration be complete without something sweet to finish off the day? One of my favorites, and an alternative to a pie, is a fruit pizza. You can use a regular pizza crust, and I know some people like to use crescent rolls as the base. The first layer is cream cheese sweetened with some powdered sugar. Then you just start layering on whatever fruit you want. Another dessert that’s really simple and makes an impressive centerpiece is Baked Alaska. Choose between pound cake and even brownies. And you can either make one large Alaska or individual ones. It’s basically a layer of cake topped with ice cream, some people also use a layer of fruit, and then the whole thing is covered with meringue. Here’s a link to a recipe in case you’re not sure how to make a meringue http://www.ehow.com/how_13800_make-meringues.html. It’s then placed in a 425-degree oven for about 10 minutes, or until the meringue gets slightly golden brown. And don’t worry, the ice cream doesn’t melt because the meringue protects it, or at least should protect the ice cream if you’ve sealed all the edges correctly, if not, you’ll have ice cream melting in your oven! Another important thing is to serve it straight away. You can experiment with different types of cakes and ice cream combinations to come up with your own unique Baked Alaska. I love dark chocolate cake and cherry ice cream. It’s also a great way to use leftover cake.
Throwing Your Own Party
If you’re thinking about throwing your own party this year here’s a site I found that not only offers ideas, but also has virtual invitations you can send to your guests. Save money and some trees!
I know some people like to send greeting cards for just about every occasion and if you’ve shopped for cards recently you know some of them are now in the $4-5 price range. Here’s a site where you can send a virtual card for free.
Ideas for Inexpensive Things to Do on The Fourth of July
•Check your local area for free concerts
•Some local parks have rides and games for the children… and those young at heart. Phone your local city office to find out what’s planned in your area.
•Plan a potluck picnic to spread the cost of food with others. If you don’t want to host the party at your house rent a picnic shelter at the park, maybe the other party goers will share the rental cost with you.
•And for even more variety, have a progressive potluck party, where you start with appetizers at one person’s house, main course at another, and then dessert at yet another house. It’s a way of assuring the cleanup and cost isn’t down to just one person or family.
•Go hunting for seashells.
•Independence Day gets many people thinking about their ancestors, make a scrapbook with cuttings from the country they came from and any other information you have about them and pass it down to the next generation.
•It’s a holiday, just relax with a good book. It’s the ideal time to start reading before summer’s over.
•Visit an historical site and learn more about the history of America.
Staying Cool This Summer
Doesn’t seem that long ago we were worried about keeping warm while saving energy and now we have to figure out how to cool our homes without breaking the bank. I have to say I’m dislike air conditioning, so if I can find an alternative to keeping cool, I will. Here are some tricks I found that help.
Get Chores Down Early
While it’s still cool, I try and get chores like vacuuming done as early as I can. Also, if I want to make a recipe and need to use the oven, I do that before it gets too hot outside and over heats the house.
Use Alternative Cooking Methods
We think of the slow cooker as a fall and winter cooking appliance but it can come in handy in the summer too. It radiates very little heat, saves money and you can get a meal cooked without heating up the kitchen. Plus, if you’re heading out for the day, dinner’s waiting for you.
I wish my house had more fans because on some days when you’re tempted to turn on the AC, sometimes turning on a fan (ceiling and free standing) in each room does the trick.
Be a Basement Dweller
I’m always surprised at the difference in the temperature in different parts of the house. In summer we spend more time downstairs watching TV where it’s cooler and there’s a patio door we can open. And I’ve known some people even switch bedrooms in the summer so they can sleep more comfortably in a cooler part of their homes.
Technology Can Heat Things Up
When I write my novels, I use a laptop. It’s great in the winter, free heat, but in the summer, after an hour, it’s uncomfortable. You’d be surprised just how hot your home can get having a couple of computers running. Once again, I’ve found cutting down on the time we have computers running cuts down on the heat we generate.
Watch the Weather
And what makes you more irritable and rushing to turn on the AC than walking into the house after you’ve been cutting the grass? I try to keep ahead of the weather by watching for days when it’s not going to be so hot and humid and doing outdoor chores when it’s cool.
Eat and Drink Light
Don’t know about you, but when it’s hot and humid, I don’t always want a heavy meal. Stick to sandwiches and salads and yes, I know it’s tempting but experts say to stay away from alcoholic beverages when it’s hot.