The perfect summer soundtrack

The Perfect Summer Soundtrack

Whether you’re headed out on the open road, relaxing by the pool, or grilling with family and friends, music is an essential part of the summer season. The best way to share and enjoy the songs you like most is to create your very own custom summer soundtrack.

In order to put together a perfect summer soundtrack, remember that it takes time, practice, and, ultimately, a great range of artists and genres to fit your moods and activities. Since today’s hits are sure to be blaring on the radio already, let’s instead focus on some older, less recognizable songs and artists that fit the following typical summer situations:

Road Trip: It may be the ultimate challenge for any musical compilation. You’re in the car, possibly for hours, and music is your one salvation. The good news is that there are countless songs that are sure to put you into the road trip spirit. Here are a few that would make almost any list:

  • “Slow Ride” by Foghat – The name says it all.
  • “Life is a Highway” by Rascal Flatts – A perfect road trip anthem.
  • “Fantastic Voyage” by Coolio – An off-the-beaten-path (pun very intended) suggestion. Will make the drive almost as much fun as the destination!
  • “Boys of Summer” by Don Henley – What could be better for a trip with the guys?
  • For a girls-only weekend, you can’t go wrong with the Lenny Kravitz version of “American Woman.”

Basking in the Sun (and the Down Time): Few things offer the kind of simple pleasure as does basking in the sun. Whether on a beach blanket, on a favorite comfy outdoor chair, or in a hammock, it’s one of the best ways to relax and wind down. So with that laid-back vibe in mind, accompany your well-deserved break with these mellow tunes:

  • “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” by Alan Jackson – A subtle reminder there’s always a party going on.
  • “Could You Be Loved,” “No Woman, No Cry,” and on and on by Bob Marley – No relaxing afternoon or vacation would be complete without this musical genius.
  • “Summer Wind” by Frank Sinatra. No artist is cooler and no song gives you the feeling of ultimate summer decadence like this one.
  • From “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” and “Margaritaville,” to “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” no one captures the carefree days of summer quite like Jimmy Buffett as he reminds us all to relax and enjoy the ride.
  • For a more current artist to add to your laid-back mix, Jack Johnson is a great albeit not-widely-known pick. Johnson’s folk-rock jams feature poetic lyrics and rhythms that will get everyone nodding along in approval.

Get-Togethers: Summer gives all of us more opportunities to enjoy the company of friends and family with regular get-togethers. This summer, be sure your back yard, porch, or patio is ready with the right music to get everyone in a celebratory mood.

  • “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond – We dare you to find someone who doesn’t know the words, and nothing gets a party going quite like a singalong.
  • They aren’t called The Beach Boys because they’re great for listening to on a rainy day. Their upbeat tracks are perfect background for any summer gathering.
  • Make it a Motown evening with hits from The Temptations, The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, or any of your other Hitsville USA favorites.
  • Any of The Beatles’ classics would be perfect for a family and friends get-together. From slower tracks like “Let it Be” and “Yesterday.” to more rocking fare like “Can’t Buy me Love” and “Twist and Shout,” you really can’t go wrong.
  • Having a Family Reunion or just entertaining all the relatives? If so, you simply have to include Sister Sledge’s “We are Family” to the mix!

 

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Super Staycations

Super Staycations

Want a summer break? Need a summer break? But funds are a little low this year?

No fret! It’s time to think outside the box and discover the advantage of taking a summer staycation (i.e., a vacation in which you don’t travel away from home).

Your own backyard and your own hometown both offer some great getaways that you might not have thought of—and which won’t break the bank. They’re easy to plan, inexpensive, and fun, offering great enjoyment for you, your family, and your friends.

Here are some of our favorite staycation ideas:

  • Be a Tourist: Take a trip to your city’s own convention and visitor’s bureau to check out pamphlets on attractions in your area you may have missed or haven’t seen in several years. Ask for recommendations on restaurants you’ve never tried. And inquire about festivals, outdoor concerts, or special activities coming up. You may just see your city through new eyes!
  • Visit Some Furry Friends: When was the last time you went to the zoo? Rather than hurrying around to make sure you see all of the animals, take a leisurely stroll and enjoy the personality quirks of those on your way. You’ll be surprised at how the animals react when different groups come through.
  • Play Copycat: Recreate your favorite vacation spot with a favorite meal, a movie, or a few decorations. It’s funny how just a few tiki cups, paper umbrellas, and a lei can whisk you away to a faraway island without even leaving your own zip code.
  • Host a Movie Night: If you have access to a video projector and sound system, host a backyard movie night by showing a favorite flick onto a projection screen or sheet. Provide popcorn and soda (plus other theatre treats if you’re feeling ambitious) and invite the neighbors to bring their own seating. If you have a pool, even better! A float-in movie is always a big hit.
  • Camp in Your Own Backyard: Set up a tent and sleeping bags right in your backyard. Make s’mores on the grill. Tell stories. And try to identify the major constellations in your night sky. It’s a great way to enjoy the great outdoors without leaving the comforts of home behind!

Have you ever done a staycation? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments!

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Celebrate you this summer!

Celebrate YOU This Summer!

Chances are, your schedule will probably become pretty hectic this summer. Cookouts, weddings, sporting events, and other get-togethers will fill your days, nights, and weekends. But one thing you must never forget is to make some time for you. Just for you!

One way to make sure this happens is to write it down on a calendar—with a pen. Declare this time as sacred and non-negotiable. After all, there’s no denying we all need a few moments to enjoy some quiet “me” time on our own terms.

Here are a few suggestions on how to make that goal a reality:

  • Backyard Oasis: Sometimes all you need is a glass of lemonade, a hammock, a good book, or an iPod to shut the world out and relax. Be sure to set aside some time each week to just be by yourself and recharge your batteries.
  • Go Retro: Remember the ol’ days of listening to a baseball game on the radio? Relaxing on a veranda swing? Taking a nap? No? Well trust us, it’s worth a try. Every single one of them.
  • Party of One Always Has Fun: When was the last time you got to pick your dinner location, movie, or date activity? Well, it’s high time you took yourself out on a date! If you feel uncomfortable with the idea of dining alone, bring along a book or journal to write in. A few hours of solitude spent seeing a movie or wandering around a museum can also do wonders to calm the spirit.
  • Seasonal shopping: Summer is a great time for scouring outdoor flea markets and farmers’ markets. Take your time looking around and seeing what there is to offer. Ask a collector about their wares or a produce vendor about the proper way to prepare a vegetable you’ve never tried before. You’ll find yourself learning something new while at the same time having fun.
  • Expand your Crafting Education: Speaking of learning something new, have you always wanted to learn how to quilt, quill, or do another classic craft? Check out your local craft store’s class schedule and sign up to get started right away!
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Take on a creative challenge

Take on a new creative challenge

Last week we shared a few fun ideas for hobbies, but this week we wanted to expand with a few that lean into your artistic side!

Did you know that learning a new skill could improve your brain function and help protect against cognitive decline? The brain is a complex and fascinating network of nerve fibers that respond to mental stimulation and exercise. But beyond the physiological benefits of trying a new hobby or craft, there are benefits to your self esteem as you expand your horizons, make time for yourself, and even have the opportunity to connect and share these hobbies with friends and family.

Put your crafting skills to the test with these fun projects that are simple to master and then reap the unexpected benefits!

  • Knitting: What do Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz know that you don’t? While some may guess that they know what it’s like to collect multi-million dollar paychecks (which may be true), the real answer is that they all know the joy and skill of knitting. Stitching and purling is not only rewarding in the sense that you are creating a new accessory and garment, but many find that the feel of needles and yarn to be relaxing. The craft is so popular, there is an entire social networking site dedicated to the craft!
  • Scrapbooking: Preserving family photos has come a long way from the days of just placing them into an album behind a plastic sheet. Today scrapbooking has grown into a multi-billion dollar business where “scrappers” (as they’re affectionately called) create personalized, multidimensional storybooks to be treasured for years to come. Many scrapbook companies and craft stores offer workshops, weekend scrapbooking retreats, and even cruise vacations to enjoy the hobby in the company of others. What better way to celebrate fond memories of the past while making new ones (and getting a suntan!) at the same time?
  • Cooking:  You don’t have to attend culinary school to tap into your inner Julia Child. We mentioned last week that trying new foods can be considered a hobby, but if you’re not already skilled in the culinary arts, attending a cooking class can expose you to new types of food, preparation techniques and a world of tastier and healthier meals with less processed ingredients. For a more laid back approach to the art, pair up with an adventurous friend and take turns hosting an evening where you cook together, learning a new recipe in unison.
  • Photography: We’ve often heard people described as “having an eye” for photography, but have you really given your eye the opportunity to flourish? Learning a little bit of composition and gaining a clear understanding of settings offered by your particular camera goes a long way in making you able to operate it confidently, and with ease. Once you’ve mastered the technical aspects, go out and express yourself while recording places, people, and occasions that are important to you. You never know, you could turn your love of photography into a new career!

Whatever new hobby you choose, selecting one that suits your lifestyle will benefit you tremendously… And if things go awry, at least you’ll have some fun anecdotes and you can be commended for giving it a try.

Do you consider yourself crafty? What’s your latest project? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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New hobbies (to do with friends!)

New Hobbies to Do With Friends

If you search for the most popular hobbies today, you would learn that our society considers pretty much anything a hobby. In fact, we came across one list that included napping and watching TV! Not that there is anything wrong with either activity (who doesn’t love a nap?) but we were aiming for something…a little more creative to help us get through these last few weeks of winter.

However, the more we thought about it, the more we realized that most of the simple things everyone enjoys can also be opportunities for us to not only learn something new, but to spend quality time with our family and friends who may be suffering from a similar bout of cabin fever!

So, with that optimistic spring-forward view in mind, we compiled a few suggestions to transform leisurely activities into useful hobbies.

  • Start a book club: By forming a club based on your love of reading you not only gain more ideas to help you as you peruse bookstore aisles and library shelves, but you also get some much needed quality time and thoughtful conversation. To personalize your group, focus on topics, titles or authors that you have always wanted to read. If you really want to challenge yourself, come up with a goal of how many books you would like to complete by year’s end, and keep a running tab of how you are doing.
  • Get in the game: Video games have evolved from being the bane of parent’s existence to a great pastime for anyone in the family! Now, with the wide variety of games (including singing and dancing competitions) that get you up and going, you can add a little activity into every day without leaving your living room. Multi-task by spending some time with loved ones while burning off a little energy in the process. Set up a regular game night or begin a tournament to get your competitive juices flowing.
  • Create a whole new playlist: Musical tastes ebb and flow like few other forms of entertainment, but few hobbies are as universally appreciated. This year, embrace your love of music and expand your horizons by trying out new genres and performers. Research older artists that may fit your particular tastes or seek out new acts that friends enjoy. Whether adding to your playlist for the treadmill or taking in some fun concerts, the practice will certainly help you gain some appreciation for the medium.
  • Start a culinary quest: Checking out the latest restaurant, or simply enjoying a quiet dinner out, can be a challenge. Budgeting time and finances often leads to ordering in or making a quick meal instead of an outing. This year, spice things up by creating a small dinner club or schedule “dinner dates” with other couples every month. Enjoying a good meal and a quiet night can be the perfect anecdote to a long week, and making it a monthly practice will help ensure that your newest hobby is affordable while giving you something to look forward to.
  • Lights, camera, hobby: Few activities have been made more convenient over the past few years than enjoying a movie. You can make a night out of it by hitting the local movie-theater, rent a DVD or set up the ultimate Netflix queue. So, whether you are looking to host your own film festive live from your living room or revel in all of the subtleties that make a movie theater so charming, coordinate a regular movie night with friends and family.

By integrating entertainment into your life in a way that not only helps you to learn but also connect more with those close to you, you are sure to grow and have a lot of fun in the process. No matter what piques your interest, challenge yourself and be sure to include others to enhance your appreciation!

Do you have a new favorite hobby? We’d love to hear it in the comments!

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What Oscar Film Are You?

What Oscar Film Are You?

With the 87th annual Academy Awards taking place this Sunday, now seems a good time to admit that the movies we love actually reflect a lot about our personalities. No matter who you will be rooting for this year, all of the nominees have joined the distinguished company of films that are treasured classics.

With more than seven decades of films to choose from, this year is the perfect time to find the film that best reflects who you are (or at least get a few fun suggestions to add to your Netflix queue.) Here are some suggestions from our in-house movie lovers sure to fit any cinema-inspired personality.

Are you a romantic at heart?

Romantic films are not just mindless entertainment; they are escapist fun that moviegoers have enjoyed since the dawn of filmmaking. From classic tragedies to realistic comedies, the theme of real love has always been a popular one in Hollywood. Are you just like many of those top-level movie execs that just can’t help falling in love with people falling in love? If so, then here are a few films for you.

  • “The English Patient” (1996) is the film that proves the rule, “better to have loved and lost than to have never loved before.”
  • “Shakespeare in Love” (1998) scored a shocking upset to win the Best Picture award thanks to its literally Shakespearean balance of romance and comedy.
  • “Lost in Translation” (2003) paired Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson as the unlikeliest of friends, let alone possible romantic partners.

Are you someone who enjoys a rewarding challenge?

If you enjoy your cinema on a grand scale than you are probably a fan of the big budget epic. If this is your genre of choice you are also likely to enjoy thought provoking material and activities that really engage your attention and intellect. Sticking with a film that spans years or that examines the enormity of a situation can be challenging, but it can also be very rewarding as well. If you prefer losing yourself in one of these tall tales here are a few suggestions for your viewing pleasure:

Are you always up for an adventure?

Films are supposed to take you away, and if your preference is to get lost in the suspense and tension a great thriller delivers, the action/adventure genre is for you. While big budget action films crowd the Cineplex every summer, some classics have been able to elevate the fun to a higher level of entertainment. Are you a thrill seeker always looking for a new experience? If so, here are a few examples of award winners you might enjoy (its not quite an extreme sport, but as far as movie viewing goes…)

  • “The Fugitive” (1993) followed Harrison Ford on his tireless quest to find the “one-armed man” who ruined his life.
  • “Apollo 13” (1995) made an unsuccessful trip to the moon, and the harrowing return home, edge of your seat entertainment.
  • “Gladiator” (2000) saw Russell Crowe fight for the honor of his family during the Roman era in what could be the most action packed Best Picture winner of all time.

Are you looking for a laugh?

Comedies have always had trouble at the Academy Awards, but they have also been one of the favorite genres of movie fans since the days of Charlie Chaplin and the silent film era. Classic film comedies connect us back to the memories or emotions we all share, proving that laughter is something we should enjoy together. Looking for a good laugh this spring? Check out one of these timeless titles:

  • “Four Weddings and a Funeral” (1994) launched the career of Hugh Grant and proved that there were films that could make good on the promise of comedy in a romantic comedy.
  • “Babe” (1995) may be the only Best Picture nominee in history to feature a talking pig, but fans loved the heartwarmingly amusing tale.
  • “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006) took a satirical look at beauty pageants and family dynamics.

Love watching The Academy Awards? Join us on Twitter this Sunday, February 22nd as we live Tweet during the show!

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How To Beat The Winter Blues

How to Beat the Winter BluesIs cabin fever cramping your style? You know the warning signs – lethargy, irritability and the inability to concentrate on anything but exotic trips to the tropics?

While sunny skies and warm weather are still months away, there’s plenty that can be done in the meantime to beat the winter doldrums. Even if you’re south of the Maxon-Dixon line, chillier weather can take its toll on you. From indoor entertaining to braving the elements, our experts at American Greetings would like to offer up the following tips on how to beat the winter blues–and keep the whole family entertained!

  • Set sails for sunny skies… in your living room! Have a warm weather movie night by bumping up the heat a few degrees (or pull out some warm blankets) and trick yourself into a summer mindset with a classic summer camp movie, such as Indian Summer, The Parent Trap or Meatballs.
  • Break up the monotony with a little Monopoly: Host a board game night with friends to bring everyone out of their igloos. Keep the menu simple and stress-free with cold weather favorites grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.
  • Project time: Whether it’s cleaning out a neglected closet, organizing your recipes or family photos, or finishing a craft project, winter provides a great opportunity to stop procrastinating. You’ll feel proud of your accomplishment and happier in your newly clutter-free home.
  • Weeknight fun: Avoid workweek hibernation mode by breaking it up with meeting friends for coffee, visiting a relative or even a little retail therapy.
  • Find your inner peace: Take time for yourself to contemplate, meditate and de-stress. Whether you take up yoga, start journaling or just set aside some time for yourself, you’ll be glad that you did!
  • Create your 101 things in 1001 days list: Select 101 goals you would like to accomplish in the next 1001 days and come up with a plan to achieve them. Goals can be as simple as wanting to learn how to knit, as practical as paying down debt or as adventurous as bungee jumping.
  • Take a mental vacation: Since we don’t all have the ability to become globetrotters, try visiting your local library to select a travel book or DVD to learn about a new place. It might even inspire you to plan for your next vacation!
  • If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em: Ice skating, skiing, sledding or even a short walk out in the winter wonderland offers the benefits of increased energy, an uplifted spirit and stress relief.

What’s your best tip for alleviating cabin fever?

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A Little Daily Dose of Adorable

It’s no secret that we love, love, love our friend and content partner, Taylor Swift, and are super excited about her new album! Her most recent single release, “Shake it Off” not only has all of our favorite Swifties on Twitter abuzz, but it has parents and kids shaking it off together in living rooms and kitchens across the country. And who doesn’t love a stress-relieving dance party?!

This completely adorable daddy and daughter video caught our eye this morning and we just had to share!

Hopefully this inspires you to turn on some tunes, grab someone you love, and dance your way through life!

Do you have a big Taylor Swift fan in your life? Enter her ‘1989 Swiftstakes’ for a chance to meet Taylor or win another one of 1,989 amazing items they are giving away! Watch her new “Shake it Off” video here.

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How to Make a Child’s Christmas Magical

Top Ways to Track Santa's Sleigh

The tradition of Santa Claus is passed down generation after generation, and kids of all ages like to celebrate and keep the spirit of Kris Kringle alive. In today’s tech-savvy world, it is a little more challenging than it used to be, but with a little bit of internet wizardry, you can add to the sense of wonder at the heart of the holiday season. Here are a few awe-inspiring websites and apps to help you keep Santa’s story going strong for another year.

Track Santa Across the World

Your child can track Santa’s progress across the globe on Christmas Eve with the help of a few very qualified experts!
Due to a happy accident, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) introduced the tradition of tracking Santa’s journey back in 1955. A misprinted Sears ad encouraged children to call a “direct line to Santa,” but the incorrect phone number actually redirected to the Colorado Springs Continental Air Defense Command. The good-natured agency rose to the occasion, and all staff were briefed to give Santa’s “current location” to any eager young callers.

Fast forward almost 60 years and the experience is considerably more captivating. Starting December 1, the NORAD Tracks Santa website provides descriptions of the technology used to follow Santa.  As he flies on Christmas Eve, it will be updated hourly with “Santa Cam” videos of his sleigh flying over famous landmarks around the world. The very serious and official nature of NORAD lends credibility to the whole affair for a fun, educational, and very convincing experience.

After a few years of partnering with NORAD, Google Maps branched out on their own in 2012. The Google Santa Tracker is very interactive, with mini games and animations in the style of Google Doodles. The link will be available on the Google home page, but you can also follow along on free apps for Apple and Android. It’s a good companion to NORAD’s offering and a fun way to keep kids engaged in those last long hours before the big day!

FaceTime with Santa

A video call from Santa himself will absolutely amaze your little ones. The Video Calls From Santa app is designed to look like a real Facetime call with the big man himself. You can leave Santa a voicemail, or call a number for “Nice” or “Naughty” — which may come in handy as a pre-Christmas behavior modification tool! This one will probably work best for the under-five set, but knowing Santa’s number is a surefire way to impress the whole family.

Send a Talking Santa Ecard

An ecard from American Greetings lets you send a completely personalized message to kids from Santa. Simply type what you’d like the animated Santa on the card to say in the voice you choose, or you can record a message by phone. There are two different Santa’s to choose from, Santa’s List and Dear Santa. It’s available when you sign up for a free trial of American Greetings’ ecards and is sure to inspire a lot of smiles.

In addition to the Santa talking ecards, AmericanGreetings.com offers a wide variety of Christmas ecards. Make the season sparkle with traditional, funny, cute or religious animated ecards.  You can even personalize a special Christmas song to send to your friends and family.

Provide Evidence After the Fact

This inexpensive and easy-to-use photo editing tool lets you insert a realistic image of Santa visiting your home on Christmas Eve. When the kids wake up on Christmas morning, you can proudly display the proof that you caught Santa in the act. Cue the wide eyes and excited questions!
These are our favorite examples of the many amazing Christmas resources online, so it’s worth a search! It’s heartwarming to know that people all over the world are committed to keeping Christmas magical in new and innovative ways. Children today might be a lot more sophisticated than we were, but technology is helping parents stay one step ahead to provide some of the most treasured Christmas memories of a lifetime.

What’s your favorite way to make the season magical?

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Talk Like a Pirate Day

Talk Like a Pirate Day

Avast, me hearties!

“Talk Like A Pirate Day” be celebrated on September 19, ‘n ye ‘would-be’ buccaneers best learn t’speak th’ lingo. If ye reckon that jus’ sayin’ “arrr” at the’ end o’ every sentence will fill yer sails and float yer ship–recon again, landlubber!  It’ll jus’ get ye tossed o’erboard!

So don’t settle fer bein’ an imitation pirate—be authentic  ‘n colorful like a real swashbucklin’ scallywag o’ th’ sea! Lookey here fer some official Pirate Talk tips:

  • Ye be needin’ t’ be rigged up wit a Pirate name—get yer’s here!
  • Change yer Facbookin’ language t’ “Pirate”, ye’ landlubbers!
  • Send all ya scallywags an “Arr!” with a pirate ecard.
  • Wearin’ a eye patch will make ye’ more feared than th’ black spot.
  • A pirate without a crew is bereft indeed! Assemble yer mates and get loaded to the gunwalls with pirates grogg of rum, pineapple juice, coconut juice, or what’ere ye’ scallywags can muster.
  • Talk wi’ yer hands as much as ye tongue, as pirates be loud and animated. Just be careful wavin’ that hook around… ye could put n’ eye out!

Talk Like a Pirate Day ecard

Now get to celebratin’! ARRR!

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Summer Series: Songs of the Summer

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The weather is warm, the sun is shining and your mood is light—now all you need are some great tunes to complete this happy scene.  We thought we’d end our Summer Series on a musical note, so here are our picks for the Top Ten Summer Songs that will give you the perfect soundtrack all season long…

Summer in the City, Lovin’ Spoonful

  • Released in 1966, this song shows that you don’t need a beach to capture the summertime spirit.

All Summer Long, Kid Rock

  • Kid Rock crossed over to country and his fans followed, making this song #1 across eight countries in 2008.

Walking on Sunshine, Katrina & The Waves

  • There’s something about 80s music that always gets the summer party started, even if there isn’t one.

Surfin’ USA, Beach Boys

  • Happy 50th anniversary to this timeless summer classic!

Soak Up the Sun, Sheryl Crow

  • This song kicked off the summer of 2002 with soulful style and still makes you want to turn up the radio.

Summertime, DJ Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince

  • After hitting the scene in the 90s, this hip-hop hit still a cool way to liven up the day.

Dancing in the Streets, Martha & The Vandellas (among others)

  • Take your pick on your favorite version that has blared at block parties for nearly half a century.

Hot Fun in the Summertime, Sly & The Family Stone

  • How can we not include a song that became a hit at the biggest music festival ever?  Woodstock!

California Gurls, Katy Perry

  • Labeled by music critics as the “summer anthem” of 2010, this is best sung at the top of your lungs.

Saturday in the Park, Chicago

  • This 1973 classic instantly immerses you into the feeling of a sunny summer weekend, no matter what day it is.

Summer Nights, John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John

  • It’s been 35 years since this song was made famous by the movie “Grease,” but we bet you can still sing along.

spotify:user:amgreetings:playlist:4hkwVlh8CSFD8Rdknxp0hL

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Summer Series – Recipes

Summer Recipes from StayInspired365.com

It’s summertime and the cooking is easy!  With so many delicious foods in season, the only hard thing about serving up the perfect meal is narrowing down the choices.

Simple Summer Meals

Nobody wants to spend a warm day over a hot stove, which is why summer salads are excellent options for lunch and dinner—especially if you add chicken, steak or seafood.   If you’re packing a picnic, it’s fun to combine classic favorites with interesting updates such as a BLT dip and pinwheel sandwiches, along with low-maintenance desserts that stay fresh all day long.

Great Grilling Recipes

Although burgers and hotdogs tend to be the most common grill foods, it might be time for a new spin on some old favorites, like barbeque hot dogs and stuffed burgers.  Or, serve all the flavors of the season on one skewer with easy kabobs.  If you prefer steak or seafood but worry that your grilling skills might not make the cut, a mouth-watering marinade is your key to success.  And don’t forget to grill your side dishes, too! Grilled vegetables complement any summer meal perfectly…and keep all the cooking out of kitchen.

The Coolest Cocktails

While water is certainly the best way to stay hydrated in the sunshine, it’s so much more fun to cool off with a creative summer drink.  For many people, iced tea is the official taste of summertime, but there are also plenty of occasions to keep the cocktails  flowing.  Non-alcoholic treats such as Watermelon Lemonade or an Orange Creamsicle Smoothie are refreshing options for kids—and a fun way to keep everyone in the summertime spirit!

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Summer Series Kickoff

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With the sunshine season in full swing, today begins a series of summer-themed topics to help you enjoy these lazy, hazy days in the most wonderful ways.

First Stop:  Summer Vacation!

Whether you’re going on a short jaunt or a long trip, here are some tips to simplify the travel process and maximize the fun:

Packing

  • Keep a packing list and write things down immediately when you think of them.
  • Limit your luggage to what you can wheel or wear.
  • Pack coordinating clothing items that can be interchanged—and layered.
  • Don’t pack more than one dressy outfit; clothes that require ironing; or anything you haven’t worn before.
  • Do pack extra underwear.
  • Zip-lock bag it!  If something can leak, it probably will.  And an entire kid’s outfit can fit in one bag…and then be used for dirties.
  • Stuff socks inside shoes.
  • Don’t forget chargers.  And be sure to check each outlet at the end of every trip.
  • Always pack a first aid kit.
  • If you’re staying with someone, bring a small gift for your host.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

  • Keep what’s needed within reach.  In a car, this includes cleaning supplies and emergency items.  Baggies also come in handy to corral your necessities such as gum, tissues, iPod, and anti-bacterial wipes.
  • For any long trip, bring your own blanket and/or pillow.
  • Layer your outfit for changing temps.
  • Pack an activity bag for kids (and yourself) with new surprises and reliable favorites.
  • Always bring snacks!

Safety First

*Put your credit card on travel alert before you go.*

  • Don’t carry your wallet in your back pocket or your purse on your shoulder.
  • Never leave your valuables in your vehicle.
  • Closely inspect all final bills—and don’t be afraid  to question extra charges.

Make it Memorable

  • Ask locals for suggestions on restaurants, directions and activities.
  • Keep a journal.  You’ll be amazed at how much you would’ve forgotten if you didn’t write it down.
  • Take tons pictures and videos, but don’t forget to enjoy the moment while you’re capturing it.
  • Spring for that silly souvenir!  It will surely inspire a smile in years to come.
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Top 10 Picnic Tips

Top 10 Picnic Tips from stayinspired365.com

It’s time to stock up the cooler, spread out the blanket and bask in the sunshine…because tomorrow is International Picnic Day!  And with the official start of summer occurring on June 21, a whole season of picnicking is about to begin.  So here are ten tips to get you perfectly prepared:

1.    Keep it simple. Stick to a menu of summertime favorites that you can serve all at the same time.  Guests can leisurely help themselves while you kick back and relax.

2.     Make things interesting. Even classics like fried chicken, watermelon and potato salad can be updated with a new recipe.  Or visit your local deli or gourmet market for a picnic made by pros.

3.     Cool it. Freeze bottles of water or juice to use as ice packs until they’re ready to drink.  Ice the cooler several hours beforehand to keep it colder longer, but be sure to keep some ice separate to put in drinks.

4.     Pack wisely. Use lidded plastic containers to keep things fresh and prevent spills.  Pack dressings separately to avoid soggy salads.  For condiments, many brands now offer convenient “picnic packs.”  But you still can’t beat individual fast food packets, so save your extras!

5.     Keep it light. Once you consolidate your supplies, make sure they’re simple to carry and not too heavy.  Some picnic spots are quite a hike. 

6.     Set the table or blanket. Bring extra plates or platters for serving, large spoons for salads, at least one sharp knife, and an opener for wine or bottles.  To keep things organized, put food and drinks in separate coolers.

7.     Be prepared. Sunscreen, bug spray, a waterproof picnic blanket, umbrellas and a first aid kit should protect you from most of the elements.

8.     Avoid these. Foods that don’t transport well (ice cream, puddings, frosted cakes) should stay off the menu.  And keep in mind that sweet and sticky tends to attract wasps and bees.

9.     Clean up. You can never have enough hand wipes—especially if you opt for barbeque.  And be sure to bring extra bags for leftover food and trash.

10.    Stay flexible. Even the best laid plans—and picnics—are weather dependent, but no one ever said you can’t picnic indoors.  If the skies turn stormy, move the meal inside, lay the blanket on the floor and stay in the summertime spirit!

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