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During these uncertain times, it’s important to find creative and safe fun for your family. However, after so many months of pandemic conditions, it’s easy to run out of ideas. Our family found one more source of fun by creating a cozy outdoor Hollywood experience in the comfort of our backyard.
Here is a safe way to host your own backyard movie night and turn any outdoor space, no matter what size, into a home theater. Cover all your bases with the following products and suggestions. Your kids will enjoy it so much, you might even be able to sneak in a documentary!
Assemble the equipment
The most important technical element for your outdoor theater is the projector, on which you can spend anywhere from $69 to $1,600.
A projector is a more effective outdoor viewing device than your TV, since your television is likely too small. It also needs to be plugged into a wall outlet and can be difficult to move outside and keep stable in an outdoor setting. Make sure you choose a projector of the proper size. You want one small enough that you’ll be able to move it outside.
Other important considerations when choosing your projector include its resolution, brightness and speakers. Many projectors take a high-resolution image and compress it into a lower quality one. If you want true HD content, you should choose a higher-end projector. Another factor in picture quality is brightness. The brighter your projector, the brighter and clearer the image that will appear on your screen. Keep in mind that the farther away the projector is from the wall, the larger the image will appear on screen.
Another important basic element is the media player, with prices ranging from $24.99- $1,099. If your Wi-Fi signal reaches your backyard, you can use a media player the size of a thumb drive that will just plug directly into your projector. If your Wi-Fi signal can’t reach your yard, you can try downloading movies and playing them directly from your laptop. You will likely need an HDMI adapter to connect the laptop to the projector. You can also play your movies on a DVD or Blu-ray player. You’ll just need to buy the proper cables to connect your media player to the projector.
The next technical element is your screen. At the low end cost of the spectrum, hanging a bright white sheet (costing as little as $11) is pretty much the easiest and most affordable solution. Just tie a wire or sturdy rope between two poles, trees or other structural supports, and use two clips to hang the sheet. Finish off by securing the sheet to the ground with some weighted objects to avoid it blowing in the wind and—viola!
At the more expensive end of the spectrum, purchasing an actual screen with a sturdy frame and ground stakes will give you the clearest image out of whatever projector you choose. These can cost as much as $600. You can also get a large blowup screen, but you are going to have to do some blowup work before each movie.
The final basic elements include speakers and extension power cords. Many projectors have speakers built in, but they won’t provide the best or loudest sound quality. For the noise to really travel, you’ll want to use the projector’s analog output and either a 3.5-mm-to-3.5-mm stereo cable or a 3.5-mm-to-RCA cable to connect a soundbar or a Bluetooth speaker, which can cost from around $40 to $1,750. You will also likely need an extension cord for your outdoor theater unless you luck out and you have an outlet close to where your projector will go. Cords and cables can cost $12-$65.
When shopping for our home theater equipment, we set price alerts for what we needed on www.price.com. We splurged on picture and sound and wound up using a white sheet to start our endeavor.
Setting up some good lighting will help create a welcoming ambiance for your outdoor theater. Use string lights, lanterns and flameless LED candles to add atmosphere. These are ideal since you want your lighting to be dim enough that you can keep the screen in clear view.
You can also provide glowsticks to amp up the fun factor for your kids. Consider setting up walkway lights or supplying flashlights to help keep everyone from stepping on any of the equipment.
Amp up the lounge factor
Give yourself and the kids something to lounge around on for the evening. Folding chairs and camping chairs work well if you’re arranging the seating on a hard surface. If you’ve got plastic chairs, consider draping them with something like plush towels. You could also set out blankets, pillows and beanbags on the grass. Whatever you’ve got for seating, you just want it to be a comfortable environment since you’ll be seated for a couple of hours.
To really elevate everyone’s comfort level, simply add a basket of blankets, because warm blankets will go a million miles. This is a great way to make your outdoor theater feel special. We splurge on UGG blankets. Just give everyone their own blanket, and I promise you’ll hear no complaints. If necessary, provide citronella candles and bug repellant to keep insect visitors at bay.
Have fun with food
A makeshift concession stand is the cherry on top of your theater under the stars. Serve all the traditional refreshments to make it feel like a real movie theater: individual bags of popcorn, candy and sodas. Add a fun little place to put them, such as an old wheelbarrow, just to make the food stand out.
And there you have it. With a little investment of cash and creativity, your family is ready for lights, camera, action!
Margot Black is a storyteller with more than 15 years of experience, an L.A.-based traveler, wife and mom.
This summer will be different, but as parents we need to do all we can to create fun and a sense of calm for our kids. So this summer, turn your backyard into the FUN ZONE! Our NAPPA Awards Guide to Summer Fun is here to help you bring that carefree vibe home. We have toys, family games, music, recipes and much more. Happy Summer!
Maya Warren has a job title that would get most kids’ attention. She’s an ice cream scientist. Translation: Warren is senior director of international research and development/tastemaster at Cold Stone Creamery, and has a doctorate in food science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, specializing in frozen desserts. After being introduced to food science through the Food Network show “Unwrapped,” she decided to combine her passions for ice cream and chemistry to create a career that lets her do what she loves every day.
While her favorite ice cream flavor fluctuates between cookies and cream and a double-buttered candied pecan that is her own creation, the L.A.-based flavor maker finds inspiration for new flavors everywhere. “Whether it is at a fine dining restaurant, the candy or yogurt aisle at the grocery store or just following up-and-coming food trends across the globe, creativity is always around us,” Warren says. “It is really fun to push the envelope with ice cream flavors.”
Honey, cornbread and blackberry jam? Thai curry, peanuts and lime? Why not! “The flavors you can make are totally endless!” Warren says. “Now, not everything will taste amazing, but you never know when you might develop an amazing flavor that will leave people wanting more.”
What does she eat when she isn’t eating ice cream? “I love a great plate of veggies,” Warren insists. “I pretty much add spinach and broccoli to anything and everything … except ice cream. I’ve definitely not tried spinach or broccoli ice cream!”
The recipe this ice cream scientist has shared is the no-churn variety, which means you can make it without an ice cream maker. She says both varieties are very tasty, and that the main difference is in the process. No-churn recipes involve whipping the cream separately to create foam and give the mixture lightness, which wouldn’t be efficient for large-scale production. Ice cream that is churned freezes a prepared mixture and uses the machine to incorporate air during the freezing process.
Using this no-churn recipe, you create the base, then let your creativity loose to create your own flavor combinations. “Layer in whatever your creative mind and taste buds desire!” says Warren. Want more inspiration? Follow the ice cream scientist on Instagram, where she hosts live “Ice Cream Sundays with Dr. Maya,” demonstrating her recipes so that families can follow along.
2 cups (1 pint) heavy whipping cream, chilled
1¼ cups of sweetened condensed milk (approximately one 14-ounce can)
¼ cup evaporated milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Inclusions of your choice – broken/chopped cookies, sprinkles, caramel and/or fudge sauce, etc.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and vanilla extract.Gently mix with a spatula until homogeneous, then set aside.
Pour the heavy whipping cream into a smaller mixing bowl. Starting on the lowest speed to avoid splashing, then gradually increasing to the highest speed, whip with a hand or standing mixer until whipped cream forms stiff peaks, about 3-5 minutes. Be careful not to over-whip the cream or it will turn into butter.
Using a spatula, scoop and gently fold the whipped cream into the sweetened condensed milk mixture until all of the cream is folded in. This now becomes your ice cream base – set aside.
Grab your storage container and a ladle. Using the ladle, scoop a layer of ice cream base into the container. Spread a layer of inclusions on top. Add another layer of ice cream base, followed by another layer of inclusions, and alternate until all of your ice cream base and inclusions are in your container.
Place a lid, plastic wrap or parchment paper over your ice cream. If using parchment paper or plastic wrap, gently press down until it lightly touches the ice cream. Freeze for 5-6 hours or overnight. Remove the container from the freezer and let it sit on the counter for 5-7 minutes if the ice cream is too hard to scoop. Enjoy!
When it comes to parenting in the COVID-19 era, the onslaught of “new normal” practices is, frankly, exhausting. But parents everywhere are rising to the occasion and finding ways to adjust.
In the realm of co-parenting – the term used most for parents who are divorced, separated or not in a relationship with each other – the challenge is especially real. Conflicts about shared custody, safety protocols and court-ordered support payments are on the rise. Family law attorneys are being inundated with calls and questions about co-parenting daily.
Some of the more frequent inquiries are:
There are also questions about financial support, and the list goes on and on.
I sat down with Judge Sherrill A. Ellsworth, co-founder of the parenting app CoParenter and past presiding judge of Riverside County, and Laura Wasser, author of “It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way: How to Divorce Without Destroying Your Family or Bankrupting Yourself” and founder of It’s Over Easy online divorce services.
Ellsworth and Wasser agree that the first step during this unprecedented time is to take a deep breath and think before you act. Understand that you are in a very different situation. Take away the animosity for the moment. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense to go rushing to an attorney at this point, because most of the courts are closed, and you are not going to get a hearing,” says Wasser. “The courts are only dealing with domestic violence cases. So, save money and save your child’s emotional wellbeing during this time.”
First, think about what you need to do now. “This is about empowering parents to do the best thing for their family financially, emotionally and at this time for safety purposes,” says Ellsworth. “At the heart of this is keeping children safe and families safe. How can we plan for right this minute?”
Both experts advise discussing crucial questions together and putting everything in writing. You can always revise and readjust later. Here are a few things to consider:
Wasser believes that what she calls the “three Cs” will also help. “Even without a global crisis, we generally try to recommend that parents try to adhere to the three C’s: communication, consideration and cooperation,” she says, “and really, really listen to each other, keeping in mind that there are court orders in place and to the extent that you can adhere to those court orders, you should do so.”
Wasser’s CoParenter app is designed to help parents get through the most trying times. It is dedicated to eliminating high-conflict divorce from the list of adverse childhood experiences (ACES). According to co-founder Jonathan Verk, the platform has helped divert more than 20,000 cases from family courts. The app allows users to resolve disputes online in real time with a qualified mediator, and also helps them manage co-parenting duties via a calendar, messaging and journaling functions.
Start by taking that breath, as Ellsworth and Wasser suggest, and resolve to find ways to agree and to settle disputes during these difficult times. Along the way, practice compassion for yourself, your ex and, most importantly, for your children. If we rethink how our actions and words impact our children’s health and wellbeing, this situation could create a reset for the entire extended family.
Donna Tetreault is a journalist and host of the podcast Kids Under Construction.
When was the last time you took a deep breath? If you’re like many of us, it’s been a minute. Stressful times (like when you are quarantined at home with your kids) make most of us resort to shallow breathing – or even holding our breath.
This can lead to low-grade chronic stress, says Sandy Abrams, who specializes in sharing calming, empowering breathing tips in the corporate world and is the author of “Breathe to Succeed.” Abrams, mom of sons who are now 22 and 24, uses these techniques in her parenting as well. “I started to use the power of breath in parenting for all sorts of different applications, like patience and being present.” Here are three of her favorites:
Beverage and Breath: Most of us like to enjoy a cup of something (coffee, tea, hot chocolate) to start the day, even when the morning is chaotic. Create a morning ritual by setting an intention for the day, holding your cup, closing your eyes and taking three deep breaths. “Find in that small moment a sort of meditation to empower yourself for the day,” she suggests.
Lion’s Breath: This is one of Abrams’ favorite breathing methods to use with kids. It immediately purges negative energy – and makes everyone laugh. Just close your eyes, take in a deep breath through your nose, then snap your eyes and mouth open wide as you stick out your tongue and breathe out with a roaring sound. Afterward, enjoy the giggles. “Laughter is a great thing to do with your children,” Abrams says. “Laughter is breath, too.”
Bumblebee Breath: To close all the “open tabs” you have running in your brain and tap into creativity, try this technique. Close your eyes and take a long, deep inhale. Close your ears with your thumbs and use your fingers to gently cover your eyes. For the whole length of an exhale, make a humming/buzzing sound like a bee. “After one or two rounds of that, you just breathe normally for a few rounds and then you open your eyes, and you’ve got that blank slate you need for creativity,” says Abrams.
Taking three deep breaths any time (especially with your eyes closed) is a great way to regroup when life throws you a curve. Make your exhales longer than your inhales for a deeper sense of relaxation.
#staywell #playlearnconnect #nappaawards #family #parenting #kidsathome
Give your family the gift of music this holiday season!
Get ready to sing, dance and expand your imagination. $12.00, www.amazon.com
An eclectic and unpredictable mix of 29 songs featuring a blend of kid funk, blues, pop, rock, country, anthem and ballad. $14.98, www.songwizard.com
Embark on a musical celebration featuring merengue, calypso and soca to New Orleans brass, jazz and country,. $14.99, www.whistlefritz.com
Brings together upbeat songs about growth mindset in a singalong-friendly range. $15, www.curriculumrocks.com
A whimsical musical tribute to the profound beauty of nature. $15, www.karestrongmusic.com
Designed to help children pay attention to themselves, others and their surroundings. $15, www.liannebassin.com
Multi-instrumentalist, Megan Schoenbohm, is an earthy, edgy, free-spirited songbird, who takes the audience on a mellifluous journey through themes of kindness, humanity, creativity and imagination. $15, www.musictimewithmegan.com
Featuring 13 stick-in-your-head original and cover songs and guest artists such as Billy Jonas and Molly Ledford. $13; $9.49/digital, www.seanmccollough.com
Full-length album with absurd, silly humor, as well as more heart-felt matters of childhood. $15.00, $9.99/digital, For Ages: www.store.cdbaby.com
Positive, joyful, high-energy collection of songs that will enhance children’s learning and social development. $9.99, www.rainbowrockband.com
For more holiday gift ideas, visit NAPPA Awards! #playlearnconnect
We know it can be hard for parents to send their kids off to camp, but this time, you can go too. It may feel like it is way too early to be thinking about next year’s summer plans, but many popular camps start selling out as early as January! The sooner you plan, the better you can book, and the more fun you can have. Let’s look outside of the box, and outside the mainland, at these island getaway family adventure camps.
Catalina Island, only 22 miles off the coast of Southern California, is home to a plethora of family-friendly activities. Camp Fox, run by the YMCA of Glendale since 1926, hosts five camps jam-packed with adventure. Ignite your summer camp nostalgia at their three-day Labor Day Family Camp, a perfect getaway that attracts visitors from around the world. Hike up to Bible Peak, fish off the dock, challenge the ropes course and lead a song at the nightly campfire for a taste of what the island has to offer. The 2018 Family Camp had attendees ranging from 11 months to 86-years-old – Camp Fox really is fun for the whole family!
Sandy Island’s Overnight Camp for Families, hidden on the breathtaking Lake Winnipesaukee, is run by the YMCA of Greater Boston. Bring along your family and friends as you explore the surrounding woods, go tubing, learn glass blowing or try stand up paddle board yoga on the crystal blue waters. With five different activity programs for children ages 3-19, parents will have time to take a break and enjoy the fresh air. After your family crushes the competition in the Sandy Island Triathlon, make some new friends at the Talent Show and Sandy Dances. If you’re worried about the cost, the camp offers scholarships, so there’s nothing in your way of a weekend of excitement.
Camp Abnaki is another YMCA Labor Day Camp packed full of island fun. Located on North Hero Island across from Alburg Dunes State Park, you can participate in the family programs or rent out the whole camp. Return to nature with a weekend in a cabin, try your hand at archery, get out on the water or just enjoy some downtime. For some extra special bonding, join Camp Abnaki for Father/Son weekend. Prices range from $75 – $95 for kids 5-15, and little ones 4-years-old and under are free. Check their website for the upcoming 2019 deadline, and don’t forget the sunscreen!
Campers’ Paradise is a family owned, family-friendly, island destination. Sheltered by one of Minnesota’s many lakes, you and your family will be truly immersed in the summer camp experience. This unique campground boasts sugar-sand beaches, a fishing bridge, mini arcade and solar-heated washing amenities (so your kids can play in the dirt as much as they’d like). Although you may never want to leave the island, the local towns have tons of extra activities like amusement rides, pig races and music festivals. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a Bald Eagle flying over Lake Belle Taine!
For more inspiration for family fun, visit NAPPA Awards. #playlearnconnect
As you gather together with your family, put on some great tunes and sing and dance together. Music is one of the best ways to connect.
A wonderful new album of 13 songs and a collection of stories and facts about how people around the world celebrate various holidays. $13.99, $9 digital, www.hunktabunkta.com
A unique and engaging compilation of holiday favorites, as well as new original winter songs. $10, www.staceypeasley.com
The whole family will want to sing and dance to these infectious and whimsical tunes by Tracy Newman. $14.99, www.RunAlongHome.com
Get ready for a Louisiana dance party with Cajun, Dixieland jazz, New Orleans R&B, brass band and Isleño original tunes. $10,www.johnetteandscott.com
A Vibrant album celebrating individuality and kindness. Inspired by and written with students, teachers and families and enriched by a handful of classic pop songs that underscore the message. $14, www.bradyrymer.com
An enchanting collection of 23 songs that pays homage to the cultural heritage and multilingual communities of West Africa and the Caribbean. $16.95, www.thesecretmountain.com
Nine original songs – always with a child’s perspective and a grown-up’s sensibilities. $12.98, www.stephenmichaelschwartz.com
A jazz album for kids by a charming real-life singing fairy featuring a fun collection of songs. $12.99, www.dianapanton.com
For more gift ideas, visit NAPPA Awards. #holidays #playlearnconnect
Summer is filled with so many great memories — family vacations, beach days and fun with friends. Now you can easily and securely share all your favorite photos and videos with these NAPPA Award winners.
FamilyAlbum allows you to simply and securely share family photos and videos with only the friends and family members you invite. With free and unlimited storage, users can upload as many photos and videos as they like. FamilyAlbum keeps memories organized and creates collages to make look backs even more special. The app also includes special features to make communicating with the entire family easy and fun. Free.
The Nixplay Seed is the easiest way to share and enjoy your photos and videos. Using WiFi connectivity, instantly display photos and videos sent from anywhere in the world directly to your Nixplay frame using the mobile app keeping all your favorite memories, right at your fingertips.
For more product reviews, visit nappaawards.com