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Archive for July, 2014

Make Your Next Family Reunion Memorable With These 5 Recipes

Posted on: July 23rd, 2014 by Quik Shade

memorable family reunion

No matter the size of your family coming to your reunion, you can make the experience memorable with these five recipes. These are perfect whether you are having a picnic, potluck, or another style of gathering.

Deviled Eggs

There are several different recipes you can use for deviled eggs, but this recipe from deepsouthdish.com provides the classic deviled egg recipe and makes 24 halves:

Ingredients:

  • 12 boiled eggs
  • 1/4 cup of mayonnaise (more or less to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon mustard (Creole, Dijon or yellow)
  • 1 tablespoon relish (dill or sweet)
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper (to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cajon seasoning
  • Paprika (for garnish, optional)

Directions:

1. Peel the eggs and split in half lengthwise. Remove the yolks from the white.

2. Mash the yolks together with a form or pastry blender. Add the mayonnaise, mustard, relish, salt, pepper and Cajun seasoning until they are creamy. Add more seasoning to taste if necessary. Use a pastry bag or a plastic storage bag with a cut corner to pip the yolk mixture into the egg whites. You can serve them immediately, or refrigerate in a covered bowl until time to eat.

Easy Raspberry Lemonade

What is a family reunion without drinks? With this easy raspberry lemonade recipe from allrecipes.com, you can have a drink that everyone will enjoy. The receipt yields 72 ounces.

Ingredients:

  • 1 12 fluid ounce can of frozen raspberry lemonade concentrate
  • 3 cups water
  • 3/4 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1 12 fluid ounce can of lemon-lime flavored carbonated beverage
  • 1 cup crushed ice
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 18 mint leaves

Directions:

Combine the water, lime juice and raspberry lemonade concentrate in a large punch bowl. Add the ice. Use the fresh raspberries and mint leaves as garnish, either in the individual glasses or the bowl.

Honey Chicken Kabobs with Veggies

This recipe from allrecipes.com creates a delicious and healthy twist on the classic barbeque fare. The recipe makes 12 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 8 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 5 small onions, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 red bell peppers cut into 2 inch pieces
  • skewers

Directions:

1. Whisk together the oil, honey, soy sauce and pepper fro the marinade. Reserve a small amount for cooking. Then, place the chicken, garlic, onions and peppers in the bowl to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

2. Preheat the grill.

3. Drain the marinade and place the chicken and vegetables on the skewers.

4. Lightly oil the grill, place the skewers on the grill. Cook fro 12 to 15 minutes while frequently turning and brushing with the reserved marinade.

Parsley Corn on the Cob

This recipe from realsimple.com adds just a little twist to the standard corn on the cob fare. The recipe serves 6.

Ingredients:

  • 6 ears of corn, shucked and halved
  • 4 tablespoons of melted butter
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
  • Kosher salt and black pepper

Directions:

1. Boil the corn in a large pot of water, letting it simmer until tender. Drain and then transfer to a serving dish.

2. Pour the butter over the cooked corn, followed by sprinkling with parsley, salt and pepper.

Strawberry Trifle

Every party needs a dessert, and this light and easy recipe from allrecipes.com is a delicious way to end the meal.

Ingredients:

  • 1 5 ounce package of instance vanilla pudding mix
  • 3 cups cold milk
  • 1 9 inch angel food cake cut into cubes
  • 4 bananas, sliced
  • 16 ounces of thawed frozen strawberries
  • 1 12 ounce container of frozen whipped topping

Directions:

Simply prepare the pudding as directed on the package. Then, in a trifle bowl or large glass serving dish, layer half the cake pieces with half the pudding, half the bananas, half the strawberries, and half the whipped topping. Repeat. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours before serving. 

photo credit: Nigel Jones

5 Adventurous Activities For The Whole Family

Posted on: July 21st, 2014 by Quik Shade

Camping With The Whole Family

Your adventurous spirit does not have to become a distant memory once you start a family. There are several fun and adventurous activities that can be enjoyed by the whole family, regardless of the age of your children. Everyone can easily enjoy each of these five activities, although there might need to be some small modification for very young children.

Camping

Camping is a great way to enjoy the outdoors as a family. There are a variety of camping opportunities, including staying in tents, recreational vehicles, trailers, cabins, or lodges. You just need to find a beautiful outdoor area and enjoy sleeping in the wild. You can also include other fun outdoor activities such as hiking or tubing in the river. You can do a trial camping run in your backyard to see how well your children handle sleeping outdoors before scheduling a larger event.

Skiing and Snowboarding

Skiing or snowboarding trips can be fun for the whole family. Generally, children can begin to take lessons for the full skiing experience around age three, but they can enjoy playing around in flat terrain on skis and boots before then as long as they are fairly stable on their legs. Even if you have children not yet able to walk, your family can enjoy a skiing or snowboarding trip. You can go sledding, snowshoeing, or just ride a gondola up the mountain, as well as trade off babysitting duties while the rest of the family enjoys skiing or snowboarding.

Kayaking

Kayaking is another fun activity for all ages. Until your child is experienced and old enough to kayak by his or herself, you will want one adult with every child in a kayak. If you kayak on smooth water and have a lot of experience yourself, you can take a child of any age in the kayak with you, as long as you take safety precautions such as a lifejacket. In rougher water, such as the ocean, you may want to wait until your child is a little older. It is important that you teach your child water safety and that they can swim before taking them kayaking, especially in rougher waters. You can also go canoeing, tubing, or rafting with your whole family, depending on the water activities available to you.

Hiking

Hiking is something that anyone can enjoy. There are a variety of trails that can be convenient for all skill levels, including very young children. When you are taking your children hiking, you should keep in mind their endurance, and the possibility you may have to carry a child for some of the distance. As your children grow, you can go on longer and more intense hikes, including extended backpacking trips that include overnight camping.

Geocaching

Geocaching is one of the latest crazes that people of all ages enjoy. All you need is a GPS enabled smartphone and you can go treasure hunting all over the world, including in your own hometown. There are specific geocache, or containers, hidden in special places. You use your GPS device to search for the container hidden in the area. Typically, once you find the geocache, you leave it. However, if you want to take it, you are expected to leave something of equal or greater value for others to enjoy. There are a variety of geocache types, including the traditional containers, a mystery or puzzle cache, multi cache that has multiple locations, and EarthCache that tells about unique natural features of the area.

With these five adventurous activities, you and your whole family can enjoy spending time outdoors together. You can start doing many of these activities when your children are young with some modifications, and then continue to build on the activities as they grow up. 

photo credit: Frank Vincentz

Solar Car Canopies Bringing Power To The People

Posted on: July 18th, 2014 by Quik Shade

Purpose of Solar Canopy

Solar power offers the potential to easily power buildings and homes without worrying about running out resources and contributing to global warming. When many people think about solar power, they think about solar panels on the roof. However, new solar car canopies provide another possibility for bringing renewable energy to homes and businesses.

What is a Solar Car Canopy?

A solar car canopy is simply a car canopy that has solar panels on the roof. It uses the same solar photovoltaic (PV) technology used in solar panels installed on roofs or used in solar plants. Solar panels can provide a significant portion of a building’s electricity needs, up to 100 percent. Solar power can be used anywhere, and the PV technology offers versatility that can be installed anywhere that can fit the panels. Typically, a solar car canopy needs to be built from scratch, as opposed to just adding solar panels to an existing roof.

Dual Purpose

Solar parking canopies have a dual purpose: generate power and protect your car. They feature solar panels on the roof structure to draw in the solar energy and convert it to electricity for the surrounding area, building, or home. They also protect the car from inclement weather and provide shading, just like any other car canopy. These panels do not just work in sunny, warm weather. They can withstand winter snow load, control the water runoff, and work through any type of weather. However, you will have to ensure that you purchase a canopy that is made to work with your climate. Additionally, solar car canopies help reduce the effects of heat islanding, which is what happens when the heat absorbed by the concrete and asphalt areas are released into the air at night. This can alter weather conditions, especially in large urban areas.

Parking Lot Structures

Businesses and apartment buildings can add parking canopies in their parking lots or adjacent open areas that provide covered parking in addition to generating on-site solar electrical power. There are several companies offering large-scale parking lot canopies that provide protection for the vehicles and create a power plant for the business. Many businesses have turned to installing parking lot solar canopies because of certain downsides and limitations to installing solar panels on their roofs.

Personal Car Ports

For individuals, solar car canopies can provide a way to bring solar power to their home. They are perfect for those who do not have the space on the roof for solar panels due to HVAC equipment or other issues. The solar canopy allows users to have significant space for enough solar power panels to power their house, or at least offset a significant portion of the energy use. Although these canopies are mostly used as carports, they can also be used to create patios in the backyard.

Electric Vehicle Charging

Solar car canopies can work in combination with electric vehicle charging stations to create a true zero emissions ride. The electrical vehicle charging station can be powered by the solar car canopies. These canopies can be used in cities to provide residents a place to charge their cars, or smaller canopies can be used in the home of the vehicle owner to charge their car.

Many people do not have a garage, or have more cars than fit in their garage. When this happens, they often consider installing a carport or a canopy in order to protect their car from inclement weather. Instead of installing a typical car canopy, consider using a solar car canopy. It not only protects your car, but it also will provide energy to your home, offsetting your energy costs and carbon emissions. In time, the solar car canopies will pay for themselves, especially if you have an electric vehicle.

photo credit: Tatmouss

The Best Rock Climbing Spots in North America

Posted on: July 16th, 2014 by Quik Shade

Best Rock Climbing Spots – North America 

Rock climbing is a fun and adventurous sport that does more than just keep you fit; it tests strength, resolve, endurance, and courage. Although climbing indoors can keep you fit and train you for getting outdoors, the best experiences are climbing some of the best rock formations in North America.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite is a great place for rock climbing. It has two famous locations, El Capitan and Half Dome. El Capitan is a 3,000-foot vertical rock formation known colloquially as El Cap. Located in Yosemite National Park, people once considered scaling it impossible. However, now big-wall enthusiasts enjoy climbing one of the two main faces, either the Southwest or Southeast. There are more than a dozen routes one can take, the most famous being the Nose. Half Dome is the most recognized climbing site in Yosemite and is more than 4,737 feet high. It features over a dozen rock climbing routes, in addition to the trail and cable route erected in 1919 for those not looking to scale the face.

Rocky Mountain National Park

The Rocky Mountains offer numerous climbs within their many peaks. The best peak is Longs Peak, which offers routes for a variety of skill levels. Some of the most popular routes on Longs Peak are the East Face, Keyhole Route, and the Diamond. During the winter season, special climbing equipment is necessary due to ice and snow. Another great area to climb on the Rockies is the Flatirons in Boulder, Colorado. It also has routes for all skill levels, especially fro beginners.

Moab, Utah

Many people enjoy climbing the rocks and sandstone towers in Moab, especially those who enjoy desert climbing. There are a variety of climbs suitable for all skill level from beginners to masters.

Smith Rock, Oregon

Smith Rock in Oregon offers more than a thousand routes. Many of the best climbers come to Smith Rock for the challenging climbs, and many consider it the birthplace of the modern sport.

Devil’s Tower, Wyoming

Devil’s Tower offers sheer rock walls with vertical cracks and columns for climbing routes for every skill level, from easy to some of the hardest in the world. There are over 150 different established routes, ranging from 500 to 600 feet.

Denali National Park, Alaska

The highest mountain in North America is Mount McKinley, which is known as Mount Denali to climbers and locals. The alpine conditions can be hazardous, so it is best for those with experience. Only about half of those climbing the West Buttress route actually make it to the summit.

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park in Maine offers solid granite rock formations perfect for climbing. The best spots are the Otter Cliffs, which are located on the southeastern side of the Mount Desert Island. These cliffs rise 60 feet out of the water. Climbers also enjoy the Precipice, which offers easy routes fro beginners.

Zion National Park

Zion National Park in Utah, made up of Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyons, feature big wall challenges best for those with experience. The best climb is most likely Moonlight Buttress, although climbers also enjoy Angels Landing’s Prodigal Sun.

Hueco Tanks State Park, Texas

Hueco Tanks State Park, near El Paso in Texas, offers climbers an incredible bouldering site. It does have limited access in order to preserve the formations, so most climbers have to join a guided group. North Mountain is available for unguided climbs.

This list is by no means definitive. North America offers numerous places to enjoy rock climbing, whether you are a beginner or a master. Some locations may just feature one main formation, while others have enough trails that you could spend a lifetime trying them all. 

photo credit: Markus_76

10 Greatest World Cup Hosts Of All Time

Posted on: July 16th, 2014 by Quik Shade

 FIFA World Cup 2014

The 2014 World Cup has ended, with the world congratulating Germany on its victory, the first European nation to win a World Cup title in the Americas. With World Cup fever beginning to abate and fans already anticipating the next cup in Russia in 2018, it is time to rank the 10 greatest World Cup hosts since its official beginning in 1930.

South Africa 2010

The 2010 World Cup took place in South Africa, making it the first time that the event took place on African soil. That alone makes the South Africa games memorable, but the culture and beautiful backdrops to the game intensified the experience for those who enjoyed the experience in person and on television. The games also introduced the world to the Vuvuzela, to much controversy.

USA 1994

In 1994, the United States played host to the World Cup, even though there was not a large population of soccer fans in the country. However, an average attendance of 69,000 set a new record, with a total attendance of 3.6 million that remains the highest. The games were played in nine cities across the country, showcasing soccer to Americans around the country. The tournament helped to bring professional football to America, and in 1996 Major League Soccer was established.

Korea and Japan 2002

In 2002, the World Cup made its way to Asia for the first time. Additionally, these games produced another first: tow countries hosting the event together. The event was held in venues that had scintillating perspectives, especially in Japan. The attendance was low, but it still ranks as a success for opening up the event into Asia, and for showing how two countries can successfully share hosting duties.

France 1998

In 1998, the World Cup expanded to featuring 32 national squads for the first time. Additionally, Japan and South Africa qualified for the first time, leading the way to their hosting the cup in the future. France not only hosted the games, they also took home the trophy.

England 1966

England last hosted the games in 1966, with the third most attended game with over 51,000 fans for each match. These games also are the last time England won the trophy. The games took place in many of the famous stadia around England still in use today.

Switzerland 1954

The 1954 games in Switzerland had the highest number of goals scored, with an average of 5.38 per game. For a game known for minimal scored games, these games must have been exciting for fans to experience.

Chile 1962

When the games returned to South America in 1962, it was to the victor Chile, who won hosting duties over Argentina and Germany. In 1960, a devastating earthquake hit Chile, making FIFA consider changing the event location. However, Chile’s FA president appealed saying, “We have nothing, that is why we must have the World Cup.” FIFA proceeded as planned, and the games successfully took place on two impressive stadia.

Germany 2006

In 2006, Germany hosted the games in twelve of its UEFA five-star rating stadia that had at least 40,000 seats for the matches. Visitors and natives enjoyed themselves during the games. The fans’ areas created an atmosphere for colorful congregations, providing a fun atmosphere to the games.

Italy 1934

In 1934, Benito Mussolini saw the potential of using such an international event for propaganda and hosted the World Cup with relish. Italy also brought home the trophy.

Brazil 2014

There are mixed reviews about the success of the 2014 World Cup games, but it deserves a place on this list for its news-worthy events, including the record-breaking, upsetting defeat of the host country in the semi-finals, the infamous biting incident, and more. About 3.5 million people attended the event, with an average 53,000 per match.

photo credit: Claudio Lara

Summertime Outdoor Dining Activities

Posted on: July 11th, 2014 by Quik Shade

Summertime Dining Activities

Summertime offers the perfect atmosphere to dine outdoors with your friends and family. You can have a backyard barbeque or a picnic at the local park or beach. During these outdoor gatherings, you do not have to rely on just eating and conversing for entertainment. Summertime is also the perfect opportunity to get active and enjoy fun, outdoor activities perfect for all ages. By including these outdoor dining activities, your party or romantic evening for two will be a huge hit.

Classic Outdoor Games

When you have an outdoor picnic, barbeque or other party, you can have fun playing some of the classic outdoor games. These include horseshoes, washers, croquet, and bocce. These games are simple, require minimal skill level and materials, and are fun for all ages to play. Smaller children may need to have some modifications or extra help, but they can still enjoy playing the games. Additionally, these games require minimal physical activity, so your guests can still enjoy them even after filling up on the delicious food. They also can be played with just a few people, so they are perfect even for small parties and family dinners outside.

Play Sports

If you want to get more active at your outdoor dining party, you can engage your guests in sports. Traditional outdoor games include volleyball and badminton. You can set up a net in your backyard, the local park, or on the beach. Both volleyball and badminton only require the net and the ball (and the rackets for badminton) and are also fun games for all skill level and age level to play. If you have a larger area, you can play baseball, football, or Frisbee.

Have an Old Fashioned Competition

When you plan your outdoor dining experience, you can also set up a multi-game competition. You can have three-legged races, potato-sack races, egg or water balloon tosses, and more. You could also set up a fun relay race that includes stunts, such as having to carry an egg. You can create teams as small as two people and as large as you like to compete.

Dancing

Just because you are outside does not mean you cannot set up a dance floor. As long as you have music, you can have dancing. You can create a playlist before you party that features a variety of music perfect for dancing, both slow and fast songs. If you are having the party in your backyard, you can decorate a section with lights to set the tone.

Kite Flying

If you are having a smaller outdoor dining experience, such as a romantic picnic for two, you can still enjoy some fun activities, such as kite flying. People of all ages enjoy flying kites, and there are many different varieties on the market. Additionally, you can also have fun playing with remote controlled planes and helicopters.

Board Games

Even though you are outside, you can still have fun playing board games. If you are in a wind area or on the beach, you should be careful of using any games with a lot of pieces and cards that you can lose. However, old classics such as chess and checkers can easily be played outdoors as well as inside. Other board games can make for an enjoyable evening, regardless of your location.

An outdoor dining experience can be complemented by a variety of activities. When you plan your afternoon or evening, you can choose your activity based on the intended feel for the party, as well as the guest list. Whether you are just enjoying a romantic evening for two, or you have invited the entire office for a party, you can find an activity that will engage everyone for a memorable event.

photo credit: Sergio Piumatti

5 Outdoor Games that are Fun No Matter your Age

Posted on: July 9th, 2014 by Quik Shade

Outdoor Games Are Fun No Matter Your Age

When it is beautiful outside, everyone wants to go outside and play. With these five games, it is not just the children who can enjoy playing outside. They are perfect options for amusement during a backyard barbeque, a family reunion, a birthday party, a picnic, a day at the beach, or any other excuse for being outside and enjoying the sunshine. These games are suitable for children of all ages. Even if the party is an adult-only engagement, you can still have fun playing these games.

Horseshoes

Horseshoes may be an old classic, but that does not change the level of amusement it provides. It is a simple game to play, and does not require many tools. All you need are two poles and two horseshoes, with plenty of room between the two. The standard length between the two is 40 feet, although you can adjust that depending on who is playing and how much space you have. You can purchase plastic varieties that are safer than the metal horseshoes. There are also other variations of this game, such as washers. Horseshoes can be played in grassy or sandy areas.

Bocce

Bocce is another classic outdoor game that anyone can enjoy. Like horseshoes, it can be played in grass or sand. For this game, you just need some bocce balls. They weight about two pounds, so smaller children sometimes have trouble playing. There are eight large balls and one small ball that is the target. Each team gets four balls and you try to get them close to the small ball. There are variations that are more family friendly, such as Boochie that has lighter bean balls and rings for tossing instead.

Frisbee Golf

Instead of just throwing a Frisbee back and forth, you can enhance the fun by playing a round of Frisbee golf. Some parks have official Frisbee or disc golf “holes.” However, you can make your own just by selecting a particular landmark as the goal. Then, everyone tries to get the Frisbee to that location. Similar to regular golf, you see who can do it in the least amount of tries. If you have a large park or beach area, you can have multiple “holes.”

Water Balloon Toss

When it is really hot outside, a water balloon toss can provide some relief, as well as amusement. For this game, you just need filled water balloons. Everyone partners up and tosses the water balloons, trying not to pop them. To make the game more difficult, begin with each partner standing close to one another. Each time they successfully catch the balloon, each partner has to take a step back. Whoever lasts the longest wins the game.

Tag

Another classic, tag is fun no matter your age. Playing a game of tag brings the kid out in everyone, and kids enjoy it as well. The basic tag game has one person as “it,” who has to chase everyone else to try to tag someone else, who is now “it.” Over the years, numerous variations have been created, such as freeze tag, TV tag, and more. You can create any version of rules you want for tag and have a great time playing it.

Many classic outdoor games you play as a child remain fun as an adult. These five classics provide activity and amusement for any outdoor party, regardless of the age of the guests. Additionally, they do not require many supplies, so you can easily bring them along if you are having a picnic or family reunion at the local park, or are planning a beach day. 

photo credit: Michael Desir

Getting Romantic with an Outdoor Picnic

Posted on: July 3rd, 2014 by Quik Shade

Romantic Outdoor Picnicphoto credit: Royce Bair

Beautiful, sunny days provide an opportunity to plan a romantic picnic date with your partner. A simple picnic can be an ideal date, whether you have just started dated or have been together for years. It does not take much time or money to execute the perfect picnic. However, you do need to plan carefully to ensure that you and your partner have a very romantic evening that will create, or reignite, sparks.

What to Eat on a Picnic

Picnic fair can be anything from simple sandwiches to an elaborate meal. However, traditionally picnic food focuses on simple food. Sandwiches, salads, finger food, veggies and hummus, and fruit are always enjoyable foods for a picnic. You can also choose romantically inspired foods when packing your picnic, such as strawberries and chocolate or any type of finger food. Don’t forget to pack some champagne or wine as well, if you enjoy alcoholic beverages. When choosing the menu, keep in mind that location of the picnic, especially how long the food will be outside of the refrigerator. You do not want the food to get too cold or hot. You also want to stay from any messy foods. You should also ensure to bring any applicable dishes or silverware to eat and serve, including a wine opener if you are having wine.

Where to Have a Picnic

Any outdoor location can be an ideal picnic location, even your backyard if you are unable to leave home for a variety of reasons, such as not finding a babysitter. For the most romantic outdoor picnics, try to find a more isolated location surrounded by greenery or nature. Local parks, the beach, a lakeside or river, or anywhere quiet and serene provide a romantic atmosphere. You can also consider places that have been special to your relationship in the past and revisit to add to the romance of the evening.

How to Decorate for your Picnic

If you can, consider adding some additional accessories to your picnic basket, including some fresh cut flowers and a nice blanket on which to sit. This will create a more intimate and romantic mood. The location you have your picnic will determine how much you can decorate the area. You can also bring some romantic music to play in the background to help set the mood. Depending on the situation, you can even bring some candles with you, but you want to be sure not to create a fire hazard.

What Time Should you Have your Picnic

You can have a picnic anytime of day, but the most romantic time of day is around sunset. You can sit and enjoy the beautiful surroundings, eat your meal, and then watch the sunset. However, you can still have a romantic afternoon picnic or even enjoy a breakfast outdoors. Just as watching the sunset is romantic, so is watching the sunrise. If you and your partner are early risers, you can always pack a picnic breakfast and enjoy the sunrise.

Make it more than just a Picnic

A picnic does not have to be the only activity you do on your date night. You can find an activity that you both enjoy that also takes advantage of the beautiful day and surroundings to go along with your picnic. For example, you can bring your picnic meal with you while you and your partner go on a hike. Then, when you get to a beautiful location, you can sit and enjoy your meal. You can do the same with kayaking, horseback riding, boating, and bike riding. Alternatively, you can bring some activities to play during your picnic, such as throwing a Frisbee or flying a kite. If you plan everything carefully, you can have a delicious and enjoyable picnic that combines relaxation with fun for a really romantic date.