Personalized Back-to-School Gear

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It’s not only fun to personalize your school supplies, it’s practical! If your supplies are easy to recognize, they are harder to lose. Use some simple craft supplies you might already have and a little inspiration to make your school supplies look great all year through.

1. Washi tape wrapped in a pattern around your pencils, pens, and glue bottles is a fun, easy way to make supplies easy to identify and hard to misplace.
2. A personalized tote for teacher or student makes a great gift, keepsake, and useful tool.
3. Vinyl lettering for binders and folders helps students stay organized and looking great.
4. Use Modge Podge on backpacks, binders, even pencils to coordinate a fabulous look including monogrammed backpacks and super stylish notebooks and pencils.

Happy back to school!

Back to School Buying Tips

Getting the kids back to school doesn’t have to break the bank. A little bit of homework ahead of time can end up in big savings, which we think is worth an A+. Follow these tips and move to the head of the class:

  • Take inventory before shopping. Chances are, the backpack you put in the corner last June has plenty of items that can be re-used in September. And those jeans you put away in May probably still fit. Make a list of everything you need, then do an inventory of what you already have.
  • Never buy anything at full price. August is rich with summer clearance racks and back-to-school sales. Chances are, you’ll be able to find just about everything you need on sale.
  • Always sign up for rewards programs. Extra savings and coupons will come your way to remain loyal. You don’t have to be loyal, but why miss out on extra savings to entice you?
  • Use your smartphone for smart savings. Download apps like Favado to compare in-store prices. That’s less running around and more savings.
  • Ask for a student discount. Many retailers offer student discounts, especially during back-to-school time, but they rarely advertise it. Be sure to ask at checkout if there is a discount for students or educators.
  • Save receipts for price adjustments. If something you bought last week is discounted this week, many retailers will offer you a refund of the price difference, but only if you have a receipt.
  • Always consider used. Sites like Craigslist and ebay, as well as consignment stores, re-sale stores and thrift stores have incredible prices. You’ll often find better quality items than discount stores with lower prices too.

Do you have a favorite back-to-school shopping tip? Share your ideas in the comments!

{Image via Getty.}

Campfire Cones

If a campfire is in your weekend plans, then so should this delicious dessert. A simple sugar cone, loaded with flavors and textures that melt and mull together to make an ooey gooey treat to share in the glow of your cozy fire. What could be better on a summer of fall evening with friends? Easy to make at the campground, in the backyard, and even on the grill. Here’s what you need to get started:

Campfire Cones
inspired by Chef Jessica Bright

aluminum foil
sharpie marker
sugar cones
mini marshmallows
mini chocolate chips
salted pretzels
fresh berries
caramel
peanut butter
chopped candy bars
bananas
pineapple chunks
maraschino cherries
chopped cookies
ice cream (optional)

Directions
Let each person fill his or her cone with desired fillings. It’s a good idea to have at least 5 or 6 mini marshmallows in the mix to melt everything together. Once full, wrap the cone completely in foil and write the person’s name on the foil. Place wrapped cone in the outer perimeter of a campfire for about 3-5 minutes, or until marshmallows are completely melted. (These also work great on a hot grill. Cook for about 3 minutes!) Serve immediately as is or with a giant scoop of hard ice cream.

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10 Smart New Uses for Balloons

Mrs. Fields Secrets Balloons 1 Mrs. Fields Secrets Balloons 2 Balloons were once relegated to birthday parties and prom backdrops, but these inexpensive and colorful items can be transformed into so much more. Check out these 10 genius ideas!

1. Create delicate, tissue paper lanterns from balloon forms.
2. Make a colorful modern vase for flowers.
3. Add dirt, water, seeds and even a tiny toy or two and create a fun, disposable terrarium.
4. Make homemade drums and rice shakers for an inexpensive band.
5. Instead of a piñata, hang a collection of filled water balloons for a fun party finale.
6. Make your own squish-able  stress balls.
7. Make your own bouncy balls from balloons.
8. Substitute a baseball for a water balloon to cool off on a hot summer day.
9. Turn a balloon into creative gift wrap for cash gifts.
10. Add bright colors to clear jars and glasses with balloons.

Tips and Tools for Capturing Summer

In the blink of an eye, summer is more than halfway over and the only way to make it last forever is to preserve your memories to savor later. A smartphone in your hand is the only tool you need to get started. We’ve gathered tips and tools for you to capture all the special moments of summer and pair them with incredibly easy technology to make them last.

First, the tips:

  • We’re good at snapping photos at family reunions and on vacation, but what about all the special days in between? Take snapshots of your garden, your house in the summer, your favorite park, your regular spot at the pool. Think about all the things you love about summer and take a quick snapshot to document them.
  • Give your kids the camera for the day. You’ll be amazed at what they choose to include, and you’ll get a surprising new perspective on your life from their point of view.
  • Use the video function on your phone to capture small moments. Movement, voices and sound enhance the memories you preserve.
  • Get in front of the camera. Parents (moms especially) tend to take all the photos but are rarely seen in them. Think about it, you don’t want to be a phantom figure in your family’s history, so regularly hand the camera to someone else and smile for the birdie!

Now, the tools:

  • Magisto is a fantastic, free app that accesses your photos and produces short video collages using your own photos, video and music. You can tweak them in a variety of ways, but the app itself does an incredible job of drafting creative videos based on different dates and events in your photo stream. Videos can be easily shared with friends and family on social media.
  • Stellar is another fun, new app that allows you to create micro stories using your own photos and text. The editing tools are simple to use and you can add video as well. It’s a great way to document moments big and small.
  • Chatbooks is an easy, affordable way to transfer your documented Instagram photos into beautiful printed books for–get this–only $6. For the price of a combo meal, you can have a high-quality memento of your favorite summer events.

Now get out there and capture some summer!

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25 Genius Travel Tips

 

Summer is full of long vacations and quick weekend trips, so we’ve gathered 25 genius trips to make your journeys sweet!

  1. When packing, roll your clothes to save space and avoid wrinkles. For clothes that have to be folded, use a sheet of tissue paper to avoid wrinkles.
  2. Pack a variety of snacks for the kids in a tackle box.
  3. Carry wet wipes on the plane and wipe down tray tables, arm rests, and anything your hands will touch during a flight.
  4. Use a sunglasses case to store chargers and cables.
  5. A dryer sheet at the bottom of your suitcase or duffle bag keeps clothes smelling fresh for weeks.
  6. Use your cell phone to take a clear snapshot of all your tickets, passports and other important documents.
  7. Wrap shoes in a hotel shower cap to keep dirty soles off your clothes.
  8. Stuff shoes with socks, belts, or scarves to utilize more space.
  9. For road trips, hang a shoe organizer on the back of the seat to have kids’ activities and items organized and within hands’ reach.
  10. Tuesday afternoons are statistically the best time to buy airfare for less.
  11. Marking your luggage with a “Fragile” tag usually gets it preferential treatment, like first in line at baggage claim.
  12. When traveling to a foreign country, use an ATM to withdraw cash. You will get the best exchange rate and avoid markup fees by banks.
  13. On your last day in a foreign country, gather all your cash and loose change and give it to a homeless person or someone in need.
  14. Use contact lens cases to store small amounts of cosmetics and lotions to save space.
  15. A rigorous workout the day before international travel will help you fight jet lag.
  16. On road trips, pull over for scenic photos and outlooks. It’s a great way to break up the drive and you’ll see amazing sights you’d otherwise miss, all for five minutes of your time.
  17. Tie a colored ribbon around the handle of your luggage for easy identification at baggage claim.
  18. Always keep a bottle of water and a protein-based snack in your purse or bag.
  19. Keep a stash of essentials (underwear, toiletries, documents) in your carryon, just in case your luggage gets lost.
  20. If you miss a flight or connection, don’t stand in line at the counter, use your cell phone and call the airline directly.
  21. For car rentals, hotels and any other type of reservation, always ask the booking agent, “Is this is the best rate you can give me?” They are obligated to answer honestly.
  22. Always sign up for frequent flyer and customer loyalty programs. The perks are plenty and add up quickly.
  23. The water on airplanes is not regulated. Order drinks without ice and always use hand sanitizer after washing your hands in the lavatory.
  24. Purchase park, museum, and tour tickets online and in advance. You may pay a dollar or two extra, but it will save you precious time standing in lines.
  25. Ask local people where to eat.

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10 New Things to Roast on a Stick

Move over marshmallows and hot dogs, there’s much more to campfire cuisine! We’ve got 10 delicious ideas for your next cookout, so grab a stick and take note.

  1. Starburst Candy. Unwrap a piece, skewer it with a stick, and let it get warm and gooey before popping it in your mouth or squishing between two Vanilla wafers.
  2. Bacon. Weave a strip of bacon on your stick and let it roast to crispy perfection over open flames.
  3. Peeps. Okay, technically a marshmallow, but the sugary crust gets caramelized in the fire and makes the treat entirely new.
  4. Sea Scallops. Marinate first in lemon and sprinkle with kosher salt before roasting over the fire until edges are seared and crisp.
  5. Apples. Skewer a whole apple with a sturdy stick and roast over the fire until it starts to “sing” or whistle. Serve with cinnamon and brown sugar.
  6. Corn on the Cob. Use a sturdy stick to skewer an ear of corn and roast until you get a nice char. Delicious!
  7. Breadsticks. Wrap breadstick dough around a stick and roast until bread is puffy and golden brown.
  8. Asparagus. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, then roast asparagus over the fire until it glistens.
  9. Kielbasa. Spicy sausage is a perfect match for open flames. Roast until the juices start to burst and bubble out.
  10. String Cheese. Roast until bubbly on the outside and eat straight off the stick or between bread or crackers with a spoonful of marinara sauce.

Do you have a favorite food to roast on a stick? Share your ideas in the comments!

Beat the Heat with 7 No-Cook Dinners

No Cook Dinners

 

If you can’t stand the heat, you don’t have to get out of the kitchen. We’ve gathered seven delicious no-cook dinners you can prepare without breaking a sweat. That’s one whole week of staying cool!

1. Lobster Rolls are the quintessential summer meal. In your kitchen or your picnic basket, you’ll want this in your meal rotation.
2. Sesame Lime Chicken Salad combines zesty flavors and textures tossed together for a light, but substantial meal.
3. Chicken and Dill Souvlaki has refreshing cool yogurt and cucumber paired with store-bought rotisserie chicken for a savory, fresh flavor.
4. Turkey Club Sandwiches are tall and tasty crowd pleasers for any age.
5. Chicken Salad Lettuce Cups are cold and crispy and absolutely addictive. We recommend doubling the recipe because everyone will want seconds.
6. Roast Beef Salad is so easy to pull together even on the busiest evenings. High quality deli meat is the key to success with this one.
7. Gazpacho is the official soup of summer. Raid the garden, include all your favorite summer veggies, and pair with a loaf of crusty bread. Delicious!

Do you have a favorite no-cook summer meal?

10 Tips for a Perfectly Packed Cooler

Packing a cooler for a day on the water is both an art and a science. A lunch of  warm drinks and waterlogged sandwiches can put a damper on the whole experience, so use these tips to establish yourself as Master of the Cooler and bask in your glory (and the sunshine) all day!

  1. Use separate coolers for drinks and food. This is the number one tip because your drink cooler will get opened several times all day long, allowing cool air to escape, which can be dangerous for food. The temperature in the food cooler will be easier to keep consistent and safe if it is separate.
  2. Mark your coolers. A strip of masking tape with “FOOD” and “DRINKS” written on it is all you need to keep your friends from opening the food cooler a hundred times looking for drinks.
  3. Pre-chill drinks. Your ice will last 2-3 times longer if drinks are already chilled.
  4. Use crushed ice in the drink cooler. Lay cans and bottles on their sides along the bottom of the cooler and cover with a layer of crushed ice and repeat the process. This allows the ice to touch a greater surface of each drink, and as the cooler gets opened and closed, the ice will melt a bit, which will keep drinks nice and ice cold all day long.
  5. If you have a variety of drinks, have them represented in each layer, so that no one has to dig to the bottom of the cooler for their favorite drink.
  6. Always pack water. Hot sun, water activities and alcohol all dehydrate the body, so make sure to have plenty of water on hand. You can also freeze water bottles ahead of time and use as ice packs in the food cooler for backup water if needed.
  7. Avoid ice in the food cooler. Ice melts into water and water seems to find its way into everything. Use frozen gel packs and pliable freezer sheets to keep foods cool. There will be minimal condensation and no slushy water to mess with. Cool air travels down, so put your cooling mechanism on top of the food and allow it to cool from the top down. If it’s an especially large cooler, add gel packs in the middle and the top.
  8. Pack your food cooler in chronological order. Think about what you’ll need first and most often, and have that available at the top. This will help you contain the cold air and keep you organized.
  9. Keep perishable items in sealed containers and close to a cold source. Meats and dairy products should be stored in an airtight bag or container and placed directly next to a gel pack to prevent spoil and contamination.
  10. Keep coolers out of direct sunlight. All your smart packing and cooling techniques will not do much good if the cooler is baking in the sun all day. A shady spot will make all the difference.

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Summer Boredom Buster: Make Greeting Cards

If it’s too hot outside and the kids are getting restless, why not get creative to beat this summer boredom? Open up your arts and crafts closet, pull out your stuff, and have the kids create their own greeting cards for a year’s worth of occasions. The kids can eliminate their boredom with a little creativity and you’ll be thanking yourself again and again during the busy occasions ahead for utilizing this down time! Check out these ideas for inspiration:

1. Turn a handprint into Santa’s beard with this clever holiday card. (Can you imagine the bragging rights you’ll earn if you get your holiday cards made in July?)

2. Transform wine corks into custom stamps to create these handmade valentine cards.

3. Pick some flowers from the yard and use them as stamps to create a delicate design for an anytime card.

4. Create designs with a white crayon on card stock, then use watercolors on top to create a beautiful reverse design.

5. Cupcake liners from the kitchen cupboard paired with tissue paper and fuzzy poms transform into colorful birthday cupcake cards.

Do you have a favorite boredom buster? Share your ideas in the comments section.

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