Get ready for an above-average 4th of July weekend with these 4 must-haves

June 28 |
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The 4th of July weekend is major party weekend. People are serious about their Freedom Day parties. To make sure you are ready for your commitment to summer fun, I've got games you should play, bug repellent tricks, and even reminders for those of you taking in music festivals.

1. A hammock

Hey ladies.
They always look sort of dumb in stores — gimmicky or something — but when I lie in a hammock on a pleasantly-warm day I suddenly wonder why we even USE mattresses. Hammocks are great to have around for all-day parties, when people traipse in and out and some of them eat both lunch and dinner at your house, and some of them take naps. Even NPR touts hammocks as better for sleeping.

Amazon seems to have the best offering of my normal haunts — so I picked a couple of the more highly-rated. The poorly-lit blonde lady above is in a Rada Hammock, which runs about $65 shipped in the US and is made to hang between two trees.

The Castaway runs $140 and is freestanding…meaning you also need a stand for $140.

So. Hammock. It. Up.

2. Bug Repellent

Here are some non-Off ways to keep the bugs away when you're out on the deck. They don't all go on your body, so read carefully.

  • Dab a little vanilla or lavendar extract on your pulse points. Many insects don't like the smell.
  • Plant basil, catnip, marigolds, peppermint and rosemary in pots around the area. Many insects don't like those smells, either.
  • Add fire. The main trick of citronella candles is just that they produce smoke. So whatever works for you: candles, torches, a fire pit — smoke keeps insects away.
  • Bug zapper. I don't think they reduce bugs much, but they do make me feel like I am still more powerful than insects, even when they are eating me alive.

3. Blankets

A good outdoor blanket is indispensable. Whether you want to grab one for a picnic or you have cold-blooded friends who catch a chill at 70 degrees, it's nice to have something rough and tumble and lovable.

Get a zarape. You know, one of these things.

Checando la calidad de la melcocha
Photo by Plumerio Pipichas. Used under Creative Commons license.

They're exactly the type of indoor-outdoor blanket that makes the difference between discomfort and a cozy night. Even in July.

I honestly can't find a great online shop for these. Amazon has a number of them, of course. If you know of a good zarape dealer, one with such info as a blanket's fiber type in the description, maybe — drop a link in the comments.

Army blankets are itchy, but sturdy. Most places probably have an army surplus store nearby, but they're all over the internet, too.

4. Outdoor games


Croquet. So fun, takes very little skill level, and it's a game even garden drunks can manage to keep up with. You can find them in antique and vintage stores, and on Etsy.

Bocce Ball makes me feel very classy. Unlike cornhole and its sister games, where I'm flopping a bean bag around on the lawn, bocce makes me feel dainty.

Me? I think I'm spending the weekend at a music festival, so I've got a different sort of planning to do.

Hitting a music fest? This list is for you:

  • Lots of fests post dos and don'ts on their websites. Check them — then you can know if you can bring in water bottles and bags or if you'll have to buy drinks and wear pants with pockets.
  • Bring sunscreen.
  • Prep a poncho. I bring the small type of poncho so I can tuck it in the back of my waistband if I don't have a bag. My festival philosophy is clearly travel light.

Stay safe, and have fun this weekend — hopefully more fun with these preparatory ideas.

  1. Yoga supply stores almost always have sarapes, and they usually list the fabric type:
    http://www.sunshineyoga.com/yoga-blankets.html
    http://www.yogadirect.com/Yoga-Blankets_c_10.html

    If you are looking for a more authentic sarape buying experience, and you live in a city, you can go to the Mexican part of town and ask around in the mercados, they usually know somebody who imports things from MX who can sell you the blankets, although they will likely not be as nice as what you get online. I am a yoga teacher who was building up my own personal stash of props and I found a man this way, who ended up giving me an awesome deal on some blankets.

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  2. Too bad that Castaway hammock doesn't come with the stand. That's another $140. Damn our lack of trees!

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  3. Bocce makes you feel dainty? When my friends and I play, it's free form (no 'court' or sandbox) and I'm always grunting, climbing on things and talking serious trash. LOL :)

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  4. I've coveted this hammmock since Ariel mentioned it in her post about downsizing, and now that I'm moving into a people house with a real yard, I'm SO getting one! The man will only allow the natural color, but we're getting the JUMBO!

    http://www.mexihammocks.com/

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  5. Has anyone heard of using bubbles as a mosquito repellent? A friend of my boyfriend's swears it works, but he is a bit unreliable. If it's true, I'm thinking a bubble machine may make a permanent home in my backyard.

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    • My fave mosquito repellant is a fan. Those tiny little suckers can't fly well in a breeze. Get a cheapo box fan and you're set!

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    • A far more effective thing for me is fresh-cut cedar. ALL bugs, roaches, mosquitos, everything, hate the smell of it. Even smaller animals tend to not like it – my cats hate my cedar balls I have stashed in my kitchen and closets.

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  6. My must have is SPARKLERS, of course!! I don't care what I do all day, but without dancing around with a couple of sparklers in my hands it just isn't a holiday.

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  7. I can't find it on their website, but I recently snagged a fairly large blanket at Target for $15. It's fleece on one side, water repelling nylon on the other, it rolls up, and has a strap. This thing is going to make every holiday and beach trip 20 times more awesome. I highly recommended, if you can track em down.

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    • http://www.thirtyonegifts.com has one in a few different patterns that's throw-sized. Perfect for when my BFF and I decide to go to the beach on a whim. I keep it in my car at all times to be beach-ready!

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  8. Zarapes! I didn't know that was what they're called. I have one or something similar I bought when I was in Xalapa, Mexico. They do rock.

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