4 Must-See Botanical Gardens in America

Summer is the season to get out in your garden and work your hands in the soil. While most of the dirty work is done in the spring, there’s plenty of maintenance to do throughout the summer to keep plants and veggies perfect, and flowers in bloom. Whether gardening is a pastime or your passion, it’s important to take a break from all your hard work and step into an expert oasis for leisure and inspiration. No matter what region of the country you call home, you’re never too far away from the fresh experience of world class botanical gardens.

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United States Botanic Garden, Washington D.C.
George Washington is cited as the inspiration for the botanical garden in our nation’s capital. Established by Congress in 1820, it is officially recognized as a museum. With a focus on educating the public about plants and fostering botanical knowledge, it’s a must-see for gardening enthusiasts and environmentalists.

Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, Dallas
If you’re looking to surround yourself with the beauty of nature while enjoying an entertaining event, Dallas might be the garden destination for you. One of the top arboretums in the world, it’s dedicated to getting the community involved with events and family activities. It’s newer than most top gardens, but always growing.

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Chicago Botanic Garden, Chicago
Though it’s only been around since the 1970s, the Chicago Botanical Garden is already one of the world’s leading horticultural museums and conservation centers. The garden is born of the city’s rich horticultural history, dating back to the 1893 World’s Fair, and has one of the largest memberships of any U.S. garden.

New York Botanic Garden, New York City
This diverse landscape in bustling New York city is spread over 250 acres and boasts over a million plants. Located right next to the Bronx Zoo, it’s one of the most popular botanical gardens in the country, hosting a healthy 300,000 people every year. It’s also home to one of the world’s largest plant conservation programs.

Stylish Summer Ensembles for Soaking Up Sunshine

For many of us, the best time to get out and enjoy the summer sun is limited to a few short months. Summer is the season to take a dive in the pool, put the windows down driving on the open road and take advantage of nice weather for your favorite outdoor activities. Summer is the season for fashionable beachwear, stylish accessories and getting a perfect tan. Soak up sunshine while you can with our stylish summer ensembles.

For the Beach or the Boardwalk

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Go from the beach to the boardwalk in style with the Women’s Crossover Cover-Up Dress. An easy-to-wear dress that features fun tie-dye detailing on the sides, it has a high/low hemline that crosses over in the front. Save your bare feet from the summer heat with Women’s Memory Foam Comfort Sandals. Their thong-style design features memory foam insoles that offer amazing comfort no matter where your summer adventures take you. Rubber soles provide resistance on slippery surfaces, so they’re perfect for wearing poolside. The large Cell Phone Organizer Wallet helps you stay organized in the summer without a streamlined design. It has a fun print and convenient pockets to hold your smartphone, cash, credit cards and more. It keeps your valuables safely secured in the zippered main compartment. Removable strap lets you wear it as a wristlet.

For Tanning or Taking It Easy

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Dry off after a refreshing swim with the Summertime Beach Towel. the high-quality cotton towel features a vibrant image with a summer theme. Its fiber-reactive print won’t fade from exposure to the sun or washing. Once you’re out of the water, make sure your poolside chair or beach lounger is extra comfortable with the Brightly Colored Chair Cover. Made of durable cotton terry cloth and polyester, it fits on all kinds of lounge and deck chairs. Hanging from one side is a 3-section pocket for your sunglasses, lotion, smartphone and more. It converts to a handled tote for carrying beach necessities. Always have the ideal cup holder during your beach tanning session with the Set of 2 Beach Buddy Drink Holders. Each sassy holder has a vibrant design with a humorous phrase. The sturdy design makes them easy to stick in the ground or carry around.

Sun Safety Tips for Babies, Kids and Teens

It is estimated that up to eighty percent of a person’s lifetime exposure to the sun occurs in the first 18 years, so when it comes to sun safety it’s important to start developing some good habits with your kids as early as possible. Learn how to properly protect babies, kids and teens from sun damage with these sun safety tips.

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Babies — The Less Sun the Better
Babies under the age of six months shouldn’t be in the sun at all. The damage that sunburn can cause with babies has the ability to effect them throughout their life, compromising their immune system and increasing the risk of skin cancer years down the road. If you are outside, keep them properly covered or in the shade.

It isn’t recommended to use sunscreens on babies under six months old, so covering up their skin is very important. Pants and long sleeve shirts cover the most skin, while bucket hats protect their head and offer a little shade. If they do get exposed to the sun, apply wet towels to their skin frequently to reduce swelling.

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Kids — Sunscreen On the Go
Kids are the hardest to monitor when it comes to making sure they’re using sunscreen. Once they get out of the house with their friends they could be gone for hours. Even if you send them out the door with sunscreen there’s a good chance it will wear off before they return. Send kids off right with some travel-size sunscreen.

If they’re playing close to home or within sight, don’t be afraid to interrupt their activity to reapply some sun protection. If they do come back with a little sunburn or some bad blisters, hydrate their skin with a wet towel, apply a topical moisturizer and ibuprofen if needed and keep them out of the sun until they heal completely.

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Teens — Tanning Can Be Trouble
Many kids start tanning in their teens. If your teen wants to get a nice tan, try to keep them out of the sun between the fiercest hours of the day. 10:00 am to 2:00 pm is when UVA and UVB rays can do the most damage to skin. It’s also the best time to tan. Being closer to 10:00 am or 2:00 pm is better than midday.

While it is tempting for teenagers to hit the tanning salon when the sun isn’t shining, radiation in tanning beds can be worse than the sun. Any type of tanning is technically harmful to your skin. One method isn’t any healthier than the other, but tanning beds have been known to have higher levels of UVR radiation.

12 Fast Facts: Ups & Downs from Roller Coaster History

Ever since their first appearance in the earlier decades of the 19th century, roller coasters have been raising the bar at a rapid pace. The humble mini-train poking along on wooden tracks has been transformed into an insane collection of massive, fast-flying thrill rides that make even the most daring take a deep breath before locking in. Roller coaster production isn’t slowing down soon. Get to know the fascinating ups and downs of roller coaster history before taking your family to the theme park this summer with these 12 super-fast facts.

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  • Roller coasters were inspired in part by “gravity railroads” mining companies used to deliver coal downhill to locations many miles away. The earliest thrill-seekers paid to ride with the goods.
  • The most direct inspiration for the modern roller coaster comes from France, where rides consisting of small trains on wooden tracks were built for amusement, and daring loops intrigued daredevils.
  • In Paris, in the middle of the 19th century, “centrifugal coasters” appeared. These consisted of a long drop to gather speed, with a full loop in the center that guided the car around using centrifugal force.
  • The earliest “looping coasters” were known for being especially dangerous. Many caused whiplash.
  • The first official “scenic” roller coaster opened in 1884 on the now famous peninsula of Coney Island in Brooklyn. Slower, safe and popular, it guided riders through passageways and painted scenes.
  • Coney Island outdid itself with The Cyclone in 1927, a wooden roller coaster that still operates today.

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  • After the Great Depression, amusement parks declined for decades. Roller coasters nearly fell off the map until an upswing in the economy paved the way for Americans to enjoy theme parks again.
  • Disneyland set up shop in the mid-fifties in California. Its main attraction: the Matterhorn Bobsleds.
  • There are nearly 900 roller coasters currently operating in North America. That’s less than half of the roller coasters operating in Asia, and still less than the total number currently operating in Europe.
  • The tallest roller coaster in the world is Kingda Ka at Six Flags in New Jersey. At 456 ft. tall, the giant roller coaster also boasts the longest free-falling drop in the world, kicking off with a 418-ft. drop.
  • While Kingda Ka is also the fastest roller coaster in the United States, it comes in second in the world rankings to Formula Rossa at Ferrari World in the United Arab Emirates. Rossa tops out at 149 mph.
  • The fan-voted best theme park for roller coasters in America backs up Cedar Point’s claim that it’s the “Roller Coaster Capital of the World.” However, many thrill-seekers say Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey has a higher concentration of the best roller coasters in the world, including Kingda Ka.

Before you think about setting off on your theme park adventure, make sure you’ve got all the gear you need to enjoy a flawless vacation. Shop luggage, totes, apparel, electronics and so much more for your family trip.

Quick Tips on Buying and Grilling Shrimp

Shrimp is known as the easiest and least intimidating seafood to cook. But when you’re buying fresh shrimp from the supermarket or local fishmonger instead of the freezer aisle, there are some key things you need to know to make sure you’re getting the very best quality seafood. Even after you get your shrimp home, there are storage and prepping procedures you should consider before finally throwing your shrimp onto the grill. Shrimp can cook pretty quick, so we’re giving you some even quicker facts and useful tips on grilling shrimp.

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  • Though there are more than 300 different species of shrimp around the world, you’ll probably only be able to find a few kinds at your local store. The good news: some of the best shrimp in the world comes off our own shores on the Gulf of Mexico, meaning you can eat fresh in any state.
  • The shelf life is pretty short, so shrimp behind the supermarket glass isn’t your best bet when looking to buy fresh. Some of the best shrimp is sold in frozen blocks. You’ll have to peel and take out the veins. Another great option is individual quick frozen shrimp. It’s easier to thaw and prep.
  • It’s sold by the pound, so if you’ve got less than 30 shrimp per pound, they should be big to jumbo or even colossal size. Tinier shrimp should score you more than 50. Colossal shrimp or larger sizes have a “U” before the number, which stands for “Under.” Ex: U8 is Under 8 shrimp per pound.
  • Black spotting that is sometimes seen on shrimp that aren’t fresh is called melanosis. It doesn’t mean the shrimp isn’t edible, but it’s a good idea to try to avoid the shrimp with spots to make sure you’re getting the freshest flavor. Shrimp should also be firm. Don’t buy shrimp if it’s falling apart.

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  • Defrost before grilling. Do this in the fridge or with a bucket of cold water. Cold, not warm. Warm water might thaw shrimp faster but it will also force it to lose good moisture and density that will mess with the flavor. Looking for extra flavor? Try brining. Boil water with a mix of salt and sugar. Add it to the cold contents already in the fridge for a couple hours before grilling. Remember to rinse it off.
  • Peel or not. It’s your preference. Peeling is better for throwing your shrimp on kabobs, but leaving the shell can help protect delicious shrimp meat from the grill. The exterior of the shrimp is best when it’s a little pink, and you know the inside is done when it’s white. Don’t walk away from the grill. Shrimp usually cooks quickly depending on how hot your grill is running. Cook time: 4-7 minutes.

No Sunroom, No Problem: How to Create a Sun Space

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During the warm summer months, most of us want to get out in the sunshine as much as possible. One of the best ways to enjoy the seemingly endless string of sunny days is relaxing on your favorite chair in the sunroom. Yet, for most homes, having a room specifically designed for soaking up sun, heating purposes or to grow plants in the proper light is a bonus, a luxury, something that could be added on to the house, but with a lofty price tag. Fortunately, if your windows face the right way, you can turn any ordinary room into a relaxing sun sanctuary. Here are a few easy do-it-yourself tips on how to create a sun space in your home.

East and West-Facing Windows
Windows facing east or west are usually the best for seeing the sun. If you prefer to enjoy your sun space in the morning, try to find a room with windows facing east. If you’ll be doing your relaxing in the afternoon, try to locate a room with windows facing west. It’s also worth noting that windows facing north are least likely to get the most sun, while windows facing south often receive a strong portion of sunlight throughout the day.

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Optimizing the Windows You Have
Once you have your orientation figured out, it’s time to start crafting your sun space. Because you won’t be adding any windows, you’ll need to optimize the windows you already have to draw in the most rays. Glass can easily be obstructed by dirt and dust, which can take a major toll on the amount of sunlight and warmth you can usher into your room, so the very first step is to thoroughly clean all your windows inside and out.

Carving Out Your Mini Room
In order to make a sun space, you’ll have to sacrifice some square footage. The best way to make your sun space feel like its own room is to create a partition between the larger room and the space near the window. This can easily be done with a freestanding bookshelf or partition. If you really want to make your room feel like a sunroom, you could decorate the walls with repurposed windows or add a vintage door as a divider.

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Filling It with Furniture
At last your room is divided and starting to feel like an entirely new space. Now it needs some furniture. In the spirit of the sunroom, adding some comfortable seating to relax and bask in the sunlight is a must. With comfortable seating, you could spend time in your sun space doing a variety of activities. Add a small table and a couple chairs to create a sunny café-style lounge, and don’t forget to add some plants and flowers to soak up all the super bright, nutritious sunlight funneling through your clean, clear window panes.

Whether you’re looking for some new furniture to create your partition, in need of some cleaning supplies to scrub your windows or anxious to add some colorful plants to your home, LTD Commodities is the place for you. Check out our selection of gardening essentials, cleaning accessories and outdoor summer furniture.

Ideas for your Labor Day Staycation

staycationWe’re just a few weeks away from Labor Day — with school starting, this may be a good holiday to take it easy and stay home. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun! Here are 5 ideas to make your Labor Day staycation memorable.

Garden Gala Make the last weekend of summer magical for your kids with a backyard carnival! For their friends who are in town, it gives them one last hurrah before they have to hit the books. Get their parents involved to rent a bouncy house, and put together stations for face painting, crafts or cookie decorating. Setup or cleanup aren’t tough tasks if you keep it simple.

Outdoor Observations Stargazing is dazzling any time of the year, but Labor Day weekend happens to be the weekend of International Observe the Moon Night. Events are set up across the country to stargaze and look at the moon while it’s still warm enough to be outside at night. Though the moon is the focus on Saturday, September 6, Mars and Saturn should be visible, too.

campfire-cookoutA Convenient Campfire Forget camping and forget a barbecue — fuze the two into a campfire cookout! It’s much more fun than a barbecue and much more convenient than actually going camping. Put together a fire pit similar to a campfire and make all the things you would on a camping trip — only when you’re done with your hobo meals, hot dogs and s’mores, retire to your bedroom rather than a tent! You’ll probably still smell like campfire, but it’s worth the temporary odious odors for a good time.

Open-Air Morning Munchies Soon, mornings will be too dark to enjoy outdoors; to make sure you take advantage of them while you can, have a picnic breakfast in the park on this last weekend of summer! It doesn’t have to be elaborate — juice, a thermos of coffee, muffins — just enough to get you out of the house to enjoy the beauty of a summer morning.drive-in

Alfresco Flicks Many communities host movies in the park, but not many communities still have a drive-in theater. If you live in one of those fortunate communities, go on an outdoor adventure to see a movie from the comfort of your car with the convenience of theater concession stands! Even if there’s not a drive-in theater in your city or town, there may be one nearby. A little bit of driving takes you to a whole lot of fun!

The Lakeside Collection has everything you need for every vacation and every season. Whether you need blankets to snuggle in while you’re stargazing or you’re looking for kitchen gadgets to perfect your Christmas dinner side dishes, shop Lakeside for great products at discount prices.

Relaxation Day: 5 Ways to Relax Before School Starts

August 15 is Relaxation Day — and with the start of the school year, this day couldn’t come at a better time! It’s a great reminder to take a little bit of time to take it easy. In honor of the day, we put together a list of ways to relax before school starts.mom-daughter-play

Play Time Play time is the obvious relaxation solution for kids, but it can be just as relaxing for you — and there’s research to prove it! Researchers at Kansas State University did a study on how mothers interact with their children. They found the more mothers engaged with their children, the less overwhelmed they felt. Keep that in mind the next time you have a pile of dishes to do and a stack of bills to pay with no time to do it all — just a few minutes with the kids and your problems won’t seem like big problems.massage-ball

Gentle Hugs Taking time to relax doesn’t mean you have to stop what you’re doing to meditate (though it can be very relaxing) — just getting or giving a hug can ease a lot of tension and aggression you may be experiencing as the school year nears. Hugs and general touching releases the hormone oxytocin — the “cuddle hormone.” Researchers at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences found that getting a dose of oxytocin lowers blood pressure as well as lowers stress hormones. A good hug isn’t such a bad way to introduce relaxation into your schedule. If you want to take it a step further with a massage, there’s analysis to back that up as a stress-reliever, too. Australian researchers found massage reduces stress and anxiety almost immediately. If you don’t have time to go to a spa, neck massagers or massage balls are reasonable substitutions.

foodA Good Nosh There are a few ways eating can be relaxing — shoving a handful of cereal in your mouth on your way out the door is not one of them. Try planning out a sit down meal for the family to get everyone in one place, be present and shut out all external distractions. For one hour, ignore work and electronics to eat and enjoy a meal with the family. If that doesn’t help you relax, end the meal with chocolate! Dark chocolate in particular helps you relax. Dark chocolate contains the essential amino acid Tryptophan which aids in the production of serotonin. Serotonin is responsible for boosting your mood and improving your sleep. If chocolate isn’t a favorite, Tryptophan is found in other foods like honey, duck and eggs.

exercise-outfitGet Active Some people like to exercise more than others. If you’re one of the others, relaxation may be an incentive to get start a workout routine. Aerobic exercise lowers stress hormone levels and releases the feel-good chemical endorphins. Not only does it release endorphins but, researchers from Princeton University found aerobic exercise restructures your brain to protect it from stress. It seems toning up is just a bonus to being more relaxed.

The Lakeside Collection has your back as the school year approaches. Whether you need ideas on how to relax or you need supplies to make the transition a little easier, look to The Lakeside Collection for inspiring products at affordable prices.

5 Ways to Be Lazy and Still be Productive on Lazy Day

lazyAugust 10 is Lazy Day! Not only does it land in the summer when we want to do nothing but sit around the pool drinking tropical cocktails with umbrellas, but this year it falls on a Monday — the day we dread doing work the most. While it’s easy to be lazy, it makes getting things done later very difficult. But there are ways around that. Here are 5 ways to be lazy and still be productive on Lazy Day.

Listen to a Podcast There are hundreds of podcasts to download and listen to when you don’t feel like doing much. A lot of them are fun as well as informative. Check out 99% Invisible, Radio Lab or Dinner Party Download — they always have fascinating stories that involve history, science and even etiquette. It’s impossible to listen to any of them without learning something new.

napTake a Nap Naps can recharge you to be more productive. However, you have to nap the right way. According to the Mayo Clinic, the best time for napping is mid-afternoon because you regain the energy the morning sapped from you and it’s a time that is least likely to affect nighttime sleep. So don’t feel guilty if you go out to your car for an afternoon nap — it improves your mood, alertness and performance.

Delegate If there’s something you need to get done, you can ask someone to help you with it. If there’s something you need done at work, ask a fellow team member to help you with it. You don’t have to be coy, just let them know you need to share the load for the day. Chances are, they’ll need to share their load in the very near future.

smartphoneDownload a Few Apps There are dozens of apps to help us be more productive. From tracking our exercise performance to paying our bills and grocery shopping, there’s no end to what apps can help us with. It takes no more energy than pushing a button — and it can be entertaining to explore all the different ways our smartphones help us navigate our lives.

christmas-shoppingStart Your Christmas Shopping Online Sitting in front of your computer scrolling through Facebook and Twitter is our default distraction, but it’s seldom productive. Instead of checking out what other people are doing, start your Christmas shopping online. You get to shop! Not only do you get to indulge in one of your favorite leisure activities, but if you’re doing your Christmas shopping, you’re reducing potential stress around the holidays. That means no scrambling for last minute ideas or hoping packages arrive in time to wrap.

Perhaps if Lazy Day were every day — we’d all be a little more productive. Since it’s not, look to The Lakeside Collection for ideas and products to make every day productive.

The Lakeside Selection: Our Choice of Favorite Items of the Week for Labor Day

We have just a few weeks left before Labor Day arrives. We’re doing everything we can to make the most of the waning days of summer! But, of course, we want to end it on a high note so we need to start planning Labor Day weekend now. Whether you’re spending it on the beach or in the back yard, we have hundreds of products to help you live it up on your last weekend of summer. Here is this week’s The Lakeside Selection: Our Choice of Favorite Items of the Week for Labor Day.camo-luggage

Trendy Traveler 3-Pc. Luggage Set comes with different bags to suit your traveling needs. Fun, vibrant prints make sure that your luggage is easily recognizable. The rolling bag features a handle that extends up to 15″, the duffel has sturdy double handles and the carry-on tote has a 14″ strap. trunk-organizer

Travel Companion This collapsible organizer helps you sort everything in your trunk and also comes with a removable cooler. Use all 3 compartments to store maps, emergency supplies, shopping bags and more. Or, use one of the compartments to hold the removable cooler. Fully insulated, the cooler has room for snacks and drinks, a full-zip closure and a handle. The organizer has pockets on both ends. Both the organizer and cooler fold for compact storage.gourmet-gift-set

Summer Spice Unleash your inner chef with the Gourmet Kitchen Gift Sets. The 5-Pc. Bread Dipping Set includes 4 decorated saucers and a 4-compartment plastic jar packed with seasonings. All you add is a loaf of crusty bread and a bottle of olive oil for a delicious treat everyone will love. Each saucer (4″ dia.) features an olive branch design and raised edges to keep your oil from spilling. The seasoning jar includes Sicilian, Parmesan, Tuscany and Rosa Maria blends (0.6 oz., each). Plates, melamine. Dishwasher safe. Use a 4-Pc. Gourmet Set to spice up your favorite meal, as a marinade, or to add a creative twist to your cooking. Just mix the flavors in! novelty-spatula

Cookout Contraptions Have more fun at your next backyard barbecue using a cleverly-shaped Stainless Steel Novelty BBQ Spatula. With a serrated edge along one side, each spatula is strong and sturdy to allow you to place your food on the grill. Bonus bottle opener at the top of the handle, so you can stay refreshed as you cook. disney-sleeping-bag

Sleep Tight Favorite Character Sleeping Bag keeps your child warm during a sleepover, camp out or while relaxing at home. Fully lined, this sleeping bag will help your child stay comfortable all through the night. Triloft II Performance insulation provides extra coziness and durability. Its zip-around closure with full-length, self-repairing zipper is easy to use. The sleeping bag rolls up for storage in the matching round zippered bag.