Fourth of July must-haves for the whole family

Get your July 4 holiday celebration off with a bang

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Independence Day is around the corner, so get ready to celebrate in style and spirit. Be a star at your July 4th party with festive food, drink and Americana accoutrement made for entertaining and enjoying your holiday.

Hole-in-won!

You can’t miss with a flag themed bean bag toss game. This stars-and-stripes Americana Edition of the popular corn hole game comes with two 24″ x 35″ boards and red and blue bean bags for two or four players, with a built-in compartment to store the bean bags and Velcro fasteners to keep the boards together for easy storage and carrying. Available at TJMaxx for $79.99.

Spirit wear

Dress in indie spirit with patriotic themed Trucks Surf & Co. swim suit or a R, W & B Life is Good T-shirt ($7.99 – $14.99), available at TJ Maxx. Dress up or dress down with a versatile and comfortable Discovery skort from Royal Robbins ($55), with a zipper pocket, built-in UPF 50+ sun protection, and a wicking quick-dry fabric perfect for outdoor fun, trekking or travel.

 

Music go-round

Keep up the beat wherever you are, with the Yatra Aquatune 5712 ($34.99), a small but booming weatherproof wireless Bluetooth speaker that can jam up to 12 hours on a charge. It’s so compact it can clip on a belt or beach bag so you can bring along the tunes on the go. www.shopyatra.com.

A-la more

What’s more American than apple pie and ice cream? Scoop on the red, white and blue with Turkey Hill All Natural ice cream in pure vanilla bean and new flavors of raspberry chocolate chip and blueberry.  Like all 20 flavors in the All Natural line-up, all flavors are made with only milk, cream, sugar, and natural flavors, and they include no artificial colors and no stabilizers. Available at select grocers and convenience stores wherever Turkey Hill products are sold.

Not your grandma’s camp chair

Rock out while you view the fireworks in a GCI Outdoor FirePit Rocker ($60) that will make you the envy of everyone sitting stiff in their old-school camp chairs. This low-ride spring-loaded rocking camp chair lets you lean back and look up at the fireworks, and for camping it’s the perfect height for an evening around the campfire, with a mesh backrest and padded armrests for cool comfort, and a beverage holder to keep your drink close-by. Available at national sporting good retailers.

Take out the sting

Keep the skeeters and other pests from biting at your picnic or fireworks party with Nobitech insect-repellent performance wear. Their collection of Skintex-treated T-shirts and long-sleeve pullover sand hoodies ($19-$35) are suitable for the sports-minded athlete but also stylish enough for regular folk and can help ward off Zika-carrying mosquitos and Lyme-disease carrying ticks.

Pop star

Break out the Popcornopolis and make your Fourth of July party really pop.  Popcornolpolis chef-designed artisan popcorn one-ups America’s favorite snack food with decadent gluten-free, non-GMO confection varieties like Zebra, drizzled with premium chocolate; Chocolate Stripe carmel corn drizzled with dark and white chocolate; Chocolate Peanut Butter caramel corn; and White Chocolate Macadamia; or try the Popcornolpolis new line of organic popcorn Nearly Naked; Herbed Butter; Three Cheese; Pesto Mozzarella; Avocado Lime; Kettle Corn; Karamel Kiss; and Chocolate Macaroon. Available at Popcornopolis stores, grocery and club stores, sports stadiums, movie theatres and at www.popcornopolis.com.

Mix it up

 

When it’s hot as a firecracker outside, quench your thirst with a sparkling refreshing beverage from Zevia.  The zero-calorie, zero-sugar Zevia drink varieties include flavored bubbly waters, like Cucumber Lemon, Lime and Mandarin Orange. If you want a little punch in your drink, add your favorite spirits to Zevia mixers, perfect for cocktails or mocktails in Dry Lemon Lime

Ginger Beer, and Tonic flavors. If old-school pop is more your style, step up your health game with Zevia’s sodas, naturally sweetened with stevia, exploding with taste in flavors beyond cola including Black Cherry, Grape, Grapefruit Citrus, Lemon Lime Twist, Mountain Zevia, Orange and Strawberry.

 

Come share the wine

Invite friends over and chill out with your Little Black Dress on the table. No, not with a lampshade on your head, but with LBD wines. For a refreshing summer wine, try LBD Pinot Grigio, with aromas of apple, melon and lemongrass before a zesty tangerine finish; or for something a bit more complex, there’s the Pinot Noir, with layers of cherry and clove with soft floral notes, hints of strawberry jam and pomegranate; or everyone’s favorite party wine, the LBD Chardonnay, a crisp and fruit-forward wine with flavors of apple and pear, and creamy accents of vanilla and oak.  Available in wine stores, bars and restaurants and select grocers including Safeway, Wegmans and Harris Teeter.

Sit a little

When America’s poor tired huddled masses come to call on the Fourth, be ready with a little extra seating.  Sit in style with Dar Living Folding Stool, in red, blue and other colors. When your guests leave, the chairs fold up compactly for quick storage, and the built-in handle makes for easy carrying. Get the stools in a four-pack ($35) so all your company has a place to rest their laurels. Available on Amazon and home goods retailers nationwide.

Cycling safety for a relaxing ride

Road rules to ride by

Whether for recreation or a mode of transportation, bicycling is an excellent way to get exercise and get where you want to go. Cycle safely by following riding rules for the trail, the street or anywhere your two-wheeler takes you.

Be a helmet head

A helmet is a no-brainer, and it’s the cheapest form of head-injury insurance you can get, yet many riders forgo a helmet thinking unless they are performing extreme BMX tricks that they don’t need it. No matter if you are on a short ride around the block or a rocky single-track, cover your head.

Check it out

Check your equipment before every ride. Make sure tires are inflated properly, and test out your brakes, handlebar, and shifting to make sure it’s in good working order before you ride. Make sure your bicycle is in good mechanical condition with a regular checkup and tune-up by a certified mechanic.

Best buddies

Always bring your phone and ID, and ride with a buddy. If you break down or are injured, your riding companion could be a lifesaver. Coordinate with your partner before you set off as to your riding plan, and make sure your companion knows what hand signals you will use for turning, slowing and stopping. Also, tell others when you are going for a ride, where you plan on going, and when you plan to return.

Hydrate your ride

Bring along plenty of water. Most bicycles have cages to keep a water bottle or predrilled outlets to mount them. If you don’t want the extra weight or the obstacle of a water ball bottle mounted on the bike itself, or if you want to be competitive and streamline your ride without water breaks, Camelback and many other brands make backpack style hydration systems so you can sip while you ride.

Get lit

When driving at dusk or dawn or in traffic, use a bike light. The safest lighting systems are those that are always on, like car running lights, with front- and rear-facing daytime lights which have been proven to decrease the likelihood of a collision up to 33%.

Bontrager Flare R bike light is one of the best for daylight visibility, as demonstrated in this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5nC8zf_9FOc

Dress up

Wear contrasting clothing and gear. Accessorizing in tennis-ball-bright fluorescent and reflective gear and apparel has been shown to decrease a rider’s risk of incident by as much as 53% during the day and makes you 72% more noticeable at night.

Proper biking attire is not just for fashion. Wear appropriate clothing for cycling that is snug to the body to prevent it catching on saddles, handlebars or other bike parts. Fear not, you do not have to look like leg-warmer-wearing extra from Glow. Many cycling apparel brands make functional but decent looking hoodies, sweatshirts, jerseys and other performance wear that you might even wear out after your ride. Never tie clothing around your waist, wrap clothing around handlebars, or otherwise attach items to yourself or your bike where they can come lose and catch in moving parts.

If you are riding with clipless pedals, make sure your shoes are properly fitting and cleats and clips are free of mud and are in good working condition. Practice snapping in and snapping out of them before each ride to make sure you are able to clip out in a hurry if needed.

Map it

Know where you are headed. There are many mobile GPS tools like Avenzamaps can help you map and mark your way so that you don’t get lost on the road, woods or mountains. Make sure you are riding for your skill level.  Rails to Trails Conservancy has ratings and reviews on many trails to guide you in choosing your riding terrain.

Road rules

 Stay on designated trails. Wherever there is a marked bike route, use it. But be aware of vehicles around you at all times, even if you are in a bike lane, as motorists don’t always yield right of way. Obey traffic signs and follow the rules of the road the same as if you would behind the wheel. Ride in the same direction as traffic, on the right side of the road. If there is no bike lane, ride on the shoulder, but ride slightly in the lane rather than the edge of the road, which will cause cars to cautiously pass you, and you will have room to maneuver or bailout if needed.

If you are at an intersection with a traffic light but your bicycle will not trigger the sensor for the light to change, the best option is use the crosswalk as a pedestrian.

Listen up

If you want to listen to music while you ride, wear wireless headphones that can’t get tangled on handlebars and use an earbud with an open design that allows ambient noise so that you can hear your surroundings.

Even if you’re on a biking path, you must still follow the rules of the road. Use an audible signal when you are passing, and only pass on the left. On single-track mountain biking trails, the uphill rider has the right of way. Ride single file and give hand signals when turning, slowing and stopping.

Follow your heart

Nobody wants to be so concerned about safety that bike riding loses its fun. If you have the correct gear, in working order, and you know where you are going and the rules of the road, you will be relaxed on your ride, so plan ahead, so that you can get rolling with ease.

Topped up for Fourth of July at my favorite binge shopping place

A trip to TJ Maxx for a one-stop shopping spree for everything Fourth of July

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As I loaded up for Independence Day festivities at my secret place, before I noticed two hours had passed. I wondered how the time had gotten away from me, as it always does when I go there; and more broadly, I wondered how my TJ Maxx compulsion had started.

It began innocently, many years ago.  I wandered into TJ Maxx.  I wondered, “What is this odd place; a sort of no-frills mini department store?” I discovered, it is just that.  Officially, TJ Maxx is considered a department store, but sans the helpful sales associates to bring you different sizes in the dressing room. I have come to peace with my TJ Maxx habit, because if you are going to have a shopping problem, or more positively referred to as retail therapy, at least TJ’s is affordable.

I have found some great deals, like 50 percent-off prices on designer clothes that are currently in other stores.  How do they do it?  Well, for starters, its doubtful you’ll find too many of the same thing at TJ’s, such as a rack of the same white blouse in six sizes. They get the leftovers, but remember, last does not mean least, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and one man’s trash…you get the point.  There’s great stuff there, but you do have to really look.

Much of the merchandize is one-offs, end-of-season or last season or slow sellers at other stores. Rarely do I see an irregular item, though if so, those items are marked as such and usually deeply discounted. There’s also an awesome clearance section in each department, where you can find a set of three dishes or an item out of a box or in a banged-up box for a fraction of the regular retail price.

So, for the Forth, here’s a sampling of the great stuff I found, all for under $100.  Talk about a celebration.

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A cooler that will make you feel like a star when you stroll into a party, of course more so if it is filled with adult beverages

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Can ever have enough of these decorative glass sets, and they make great hostess gifts

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Cute overload. Get them to wear these while they are young , before they want piercings

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Not sure if I will ever use these cupcake cases and toppers, but I knew if I didn’t grab them, they would be gone

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Even Fido can get into the spirit with this patriotic chew toy

A little off the top

Solutions for when you are at a loss about hair loss

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A beauty issue that many women don’t want to talk about, or even acknowledge, is thinning hair and balding; and because so many sufferers keep this problem under their caps, the beauty industry has been slow to find solutions. Women usually will only wear wigs and hair pieces or turn to prescription remedies as a last resort and in the case of extreme hair loss, but for those who have a mild to moderate hair shedding, which can be due to age, medications, hormone levels, genetics, and other health or lifestyle issues, fill-in powders may be a suitable option.

Products like Fill-in Powder from Cover Your Gray can help reduce the appearance of thinning hair.  The matte powder can be dusted on with a brush to conceal thinning around the temples and cover graying or balding spots. Cover Your Gray’s formula contains Procapil, a natural botanical that promotes hair growth and prevents hair loss, so while camouflaging thinning areas it can help thicken hair and protect against further loss. The powder comes in four shades for matching, and it stays on through rain, sweat and normal daily activities.

fill in powder

While many other similar cover-up hair products are designed for touching up hair color between highlights or color styling, they can also be used to cover thinning hair and boost volume, such as sprays to cover thinning spots; permanent or wash-out root touch up designed to cover grey close to the scalp; touch-up sticks for around the hairline, side burns and roots; and brush-in wants for broader cover-up for scattered gray hairs throughout the head.

These are all affordable options, usually around $6 to $16. Look for brands that are waterproof, do not flake or rub off, and in shades that match as closely as possible to the rest of the hair, or slightly lighter. Powders and other topical solutions for thinning hair are generally the most efficient way to treat this beauty concern, and they are the safest and most economical, not to mention they can help extend time between salon visits.

Mom wears the pants

Wear these pants wherever

There are a lot of crop pants out there, but SlimSation pants by Multiples are not your garden-variety pants. This slimming pant, as the name implies, is designed to slim your figure, and make you look your sensational best.

The pants feature a flexible tummy control panel that smooths and holds in the tummy, thighs and rear. SlimSation states you can drop one size instantly and look and feel 10 pounds lighter wearing their Spanx-on-the-outside pants (obligatory disclaimer: Slimsation is not associated with the actual Spanx brand). The Bottom line (pun intended) is, with a $69 price tag (prices vary depending on style), you might expect something more from these pants, and in my estimation, they deliver. 

They have a slightly higher waistline, which helps reduce tummy bulge and the dreaded muffin top of low rise waistbands. They hug the body like Lycra leggings, but because the fabric is heavier and thicker, the wearer feels more contained rather than exposed.

 

 

SlimSation pants come in many styles, from walking shorts and skirts, capris and crops, to ankle-length pants and jean styles, including the skinny Boyfriend Crop, Knit Ankle Legging, Lace Print Crop Legging and styles in solid colors and patterns. The brand also carries a number of figure-flattering tops, such as tanks and knit tops that hang longer at the bottom to cover the tummy and are flowy rather than clingy.

The line was designed by fashion designer John Bourgeois, who endeavored to create the perfect fitting pant that would be a woman’s essential staple piece to wear and enjoy every day, for business or casual looks. After extensive wear-testing, and re-designing, he designed the SlimSation collection, using fabrics that are comfortable and move with you while having a slimming effect, without compromising style.

SlimSation apparel can be found with hundreds of specialty retailers across the United States.

Get ready to hit the road for summer road tripping

Protect your vehicle’s paint and interior and keep all systems go

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Just like your Mom told you, even if the sun is behind the clouds, UV rays can be damaging to your skin; but bet she didn’t mention what those rays can do to your vehicle.  Sun, heat, salty sea air and other harsh environmental elements can take a serious toll on your car or truck, inside and out, and under the hood.  Get your car ready for summer vacation with these DIY maintenance tips.

  • Check your tires. There’s nothing worse than a flat tire on your road trip. Be sure to check for proper inflation pressure, especially since under-inflated tires consume more energy, therefor giving you poorer gas mileage.
  • Protect your car from the sun. Similar to protecting your skin with sun tan lotion, it’s important to shield vinyl, plastic and rubber surfaces on your car from the sun’s harsh UV rays. You can use a product like Meguiar’s Ultimate Protectant, which creates a rich shine & darkness on interior surfaces, while bringing new life to exterior trim, moldings & tires.

UltProtectant

  • Wash and wax your car. Your car’s finish can easily fade and rust from the salty air and sunshine. Be sure to give your car a solid wash and don’t forget to wax before heading toward the shore. You can use Meguiar’s Ultimate Fast Finish, the easiest and fastest way to wax your vehicle in just 10 minutes. Simply spray and wipe with a microfiber towel and your vehicle will have a slick, protective top coat that will deliver up to one full year of water beading protection—no buffing required.

  • Clean the underside of the hood. Any salt and grime build-up remaining from the winter months along with added beach salt could harm electrical connections and fuel and brake lines. Spray Nine Heavy-Duty Cleaner/Degreaser can help wipe away bugs, tar and other unwanted hitchhikers on surfaces and can also help control mold and mildews as well as fungicidal growth.

  • It’s hot out there…don’t forget about your cooling system. The last thing you need on your relaxing trip is a problem under the hood. It’s important to inspect your antifreeze/coolant to make sure it’s free of debris and contaminants. If you notice an issue, flush and fill your system with a mixture of 50 percent concentrated antifreeze and 50 percent distilled water. If your reservoir is low, you can easily top off with Prestone® 50/50 Prediluted Antifreeze/Coolant with patented Cor-Guard® corrosion inhibitors.

Prestone AMAM 5050 with Superiority Claim

  • Wipers! Even if you have not used your windshield wipers in a while, they need regular replacing due to dry rot that can make them ineffective when you need them.  Rain-X Arch beam blade wipers are a step up from standard wipers as they have a curved design engineered to improve pressure distribution on the windshield and a graphite coating, so that they wipe smoothly and chatter-free, plus they are simple to install with nearly all wiper arm styles.

The REVOQ non-stop spinner for fidget aficionados

REVOQ creators dazzle with fully loaded fidget spinner that just won’t stop


The hot new fidget spinner REVOQ from WeFidget is the best thing I’ve seen since the faux Cartier diamond encrusted solid gold spinner on SNL. https://youtu.be/iN6df0twmJQ

Though I’m not a connoisseur of fidget spinner’s, my nine-year-old son he is. He and his friends are so addicted to them that they got banned from using them at school.

My son’s collection of fidget spinners is vast, including one constructed from a recycled motorcycle chain, custom spinners with Batman style wings, several cheapies purchased at Wegman’s and a few homemade devices, including a couple he fashioned from the bearings of a salvaged old skateboard. He has watched countless YouTube videos on spinners and how to make them, such as instructional videos on making edible fidget spinners. He also has fidget cubes and a fidget stick, or “roll-over toy.”

So now that we have established his qualifications, here is what he has to say about REVOQ’s premium spinner.

“This is the best spinner in the whole world.”

For boys and spinners, faster and longer matters, and this one spun nonstop for over five minutes. The website for REVOQ says it can go up to seven minutes, which perhaps was initiated by more forceful spin, in perfect conditions.

The only people other than my son and his friends I have seen more passionate and serious about spinners are developers from WeFidget, who on their Kickstarter page have a mini documentary featuring a number of grown adults explaining how the fidget spinner will replace rattling keys in their pockets or twirling hair or other compulsive fidgeting acts.

While teachers and developmental specialists have pretty much debunked the idea that fidget spinners are actually helpful in increasing attention span, the folks from WeFidget and their followers still believe that this true, at least for them. for most fidgetier, spinners are pure fun, and a competitive challenge to make faster and better and to perform tricks. There are even books like Fun with Fidget Spinners: 50 Super Cool Tricks and Activities to help guide users in making the most of their spinners.

For my son, the spinners have become like Pokémon cards, something to collect, compare, share and trade. This one he won’t be trading though.

What he likes about it: among other thigs, its weight. This is one heavy fidget spinner. Its solid metal construction gives it a satisfying heft to hold. It is also loaded with bells and whistles – or rather switches and levers to feel and flick. In addition to simply spinning, this fidget device has buttons and balls that click and roll to occupy the user’s hands.

My son likes these extras, thought he did note that the levers could be rounded, so they were smoother and more tactfully pleasing. Keep in mind, his is a prototype, and our feedback hopefully be used to improve later productions.

While he liked the balls embedded on one side, that he can roll with his fingers, the protrusion of these balls keep the fidget spinner from lying flat on one side. For avid fidget spinners, laying the spinner on its side to measure its speed and length of spin is important. While one side was impeded by the balls, by placing the spinner on a flat surface on the other side, the spinner did indeed spin freely.
For added tactile interest, one side the spinner has an oblong groove that feels good when the user places their finger in it or rubs across it. It also has jagged sunburst-style grooves around the center button on one side, to provide some tactile stimulation.

Of course, looks are important too. And this regard that we fidget excels. Its shiny beauty and its sleek two-wing styling makes it stand out from the typical three-prong colored-plastic spinners.

One aesthetic that my son objected to was the exposed screw heads on one side, but this was a double edge sword, because while he would like a more finished appearance, he also likes access to the inner workings of his spinners, so that he can disassemble, examine and cannibalize them if he wishes, but this is one he will be displaying, and not dissecting.

The REVOQ will retail for $45

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