Even though traveling to far-flung destinations feels a little aspirational right now, there’s nothing more exciting on a quiet day at home than fantasizing about some new and fascinating locale. America’s national parks have awe-inspiring scenery and features in spades, but there’s more to them than just Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon. Grab your hiking boots (or your swim fins, if you’d prefer) and come along on a tour of four of America’s lesser-known national parks!
The first thing you’ll notice about Katmai National Park in Alaska is its incredible size — almost 6,400 square miles (that’s larger than the entire state of Connecticut!)
Katmai’s main claim to fame, however, is its bears. Picture the iconic image of Alaskan wilderness — you’re probably thinking of a grizzly bear, jaws stretched wide to catch a leaping salmon, right? Katmai is the place to see that!
The park’s visitor center has multiple bearwatching stations, and park rangers take great care to make sure that the local bears stay completely unafraid of humans, so they can be viewed up close. Katmai is also home to the contestants of the wildly popular Fat Bear Week competition, so you can go and catch a glimpse of those incredible chunks yourself.
Even though traveling to far-flung destinations feels a little aspirational right now, there's no reason to confine your imagination — or your vacation plans — to your backyard.
Calling all amateur spelunkers! While there’s plenty of gorgeous Guadalupe Mountain scenery surrounding Carlsbad Caverns National Parkin New Mexico, the biggest attraction is way underground.
Located in South Dakota, Badlands National Park is probably the most famous on our list.
Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida is the only park on this list with as many human-made attractions as natural.
Katmai National Park and Reserve
What comes to mind when you think of the Alaskan wilderness? A grizzly bear, jaws stretched wide to catch a leaping salmon? Katmai National Park in Alaska is the place to see that iconic scene!
Stretching over 6,400 square miles (about the size of Connecticut!), Katmai State Park attracts thousands of hikers, campers and nature-enthusiasts each year. But the parkʼs bears are by far the biggest draw to the area — literally. An adult grizzly can top 1200 pounds! Want to get up close, but not too close? Brooks Camp in Katmai Park offers the best view from bear-watching stations conveniently (and safely) located above the grizzly's favorite fishing spots.
Katmai is also home to the wildly popular online Fat Bear Week competition, which features local bears as they plump up in preparation for a long winterʼs nap.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Calling all amateur spelunkers! While there’s plenty of gorgeous Guadalupe Mountain scenery surrounding Carlsbad Caverns National Parkin New Mexico, the biggest attraction is way underground. The Carlsbad Caverns are the most extensive cave system in North America.
The movement of mineral-rich water over millions of years has carved caves that gleam with gypsum (a type of crystal) and feature sculptural formations called stalactites and stalagmites that create an eerie, underground "forest."
Stand in awe inside the Big Room, the largest single-cave chamber in North America, and the Hall of the White Giant, an enormous white stalagmite rising from the cave floor. The entrance fee includes access to explore the majority of Carlsbad Cavern on your own; ride the elevator down or hike all the way. But be dressed to get dirty — some of the cave explorations require crawling through narrow passages!
Badlands National Park
Located in South Dakota, Badlands National Park is probably the most famous on our list. There's plenty of hidden treasure to be found — literally. The Badlands are a hot-spot for paleontologists and amateur fossil-hunters, with an abundance of prehistoric relics buried.
Perhaps the Badlands’ most famous former inhabitant is Sue, the world’s largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton ever discovered. Scientists have also unearthed ancient alligators, horses, and rhinos, but everyday visitors make many fossil discoveries in the Badlands, too. Book a campsite at Cedar Pass or Sage Creek Campgrounds, and you could be next!
The Badlands’ biodiversity isn’t confined to the past. This 379-square-mile preserve is home to bighorn sheep, coyote, elk, foxes, and the endangered American bison. Even then, that’s not all there is to see. Perhaps the most awe-inspiring view at the Badlands is the rock formations, with thousands of hills and canyons of beautiful banded rock. Anywhere you look, there’s bound to be something extraordinary waiting in the Badlands!
Dry Tortugas National Park
Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida is the only park on this list with as many human-made attractions as natural. This archipelago of tiny islands includes Fort Jefferson, an unfinished coastal fortress constructed of over sixteen million bricks, making it the largest masonry structure on this side of the globe. History buffs also flock to see the many shipwrecks - some dating from the 17th century. Not into diving? No problem: many of the wrecks are visible in the clear water from the coastline!
But the jewel in the Dry Tortugas crown is the surrounding coral reef, one of the most pristine in the Key West area. It’s a motherlode of natural beauty for boat tours and snorkelers, in addition to being vitally important to the local ecology.
Above the waves, the Dry Tortugas is a breeding ground and "rest stop" for 300 migratory bird species. While only eight birds nest here year- round, springtime provides a rare opportunity for birdwatchers to see pelicans, terns, songbirds, and raptors.
It’s common knowledge that sleep does a body good ― but just how good? What advantages does a full night’s sleep provide, and what are the drawbacks of sleep deprivation? In our stressful, fast-paced modern world, a good night’s sleep can often feel like an impossible dream. Read on to learn how sleep affects your day-to-day and find a few simple life hacks to help you get your forty winks.
We talk about needing a good night’s sleep, but what is that exactly?
Besides waking up rested and enjoying more energy throughout the day, proper sleep hygiene comes with a host of health benefits — something to consider before you sacrifice your sleep time!
Do's and Don'ts!
What Does ‘Good Sleep’ Mean, Anyway?
We talk about needing a good night’s sleep, but what is that exactly? The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recommends that the average adult get somewhere between seven and nine hours of shuteye per night, whereas adults over 65 require between seven and eight hours. And while kids don't always want to go to bed, the NSF recommends they sleep ten to twelve hours a night!
Of course, every individual is different, and there’s no magic number that’ll tell you exactly how much sleep you need to sustain your lifestyle. Still, shooting for somewhere in this range is an excellent place to start.
How Sleep Helps You
Besides waking up rested and enjoying more energy throughout the day, proper sleep hygiene comes with a host of health benefits — something to consider before you sacrifice your sleep time!
Your immune system also works the night shift to help shore up your defenses against illness. In 2009, researchers tracked people's sleeping habits for several weeks, then exposed their test subjects to the common cold. People who slept less than seven hours a night were nearly three times as likely to catch a cold as people who slept longer. What's more, researchers found that sound sleep strengthens 'T cells,' which can boost your body's ability to fight the flu and even cancer.
Just one night of poor sleep can leave you feeling irritable the next day. Studies have shown that people who don't get enough sleep report more frequent negative moods, such as frustration and sadness. Additionally, sleep deprivation is a linked to mental illnesses such a depression and can worsen these symptoms in people who already have them.
The effects of sleep on your ability to focus can have profound safety implications. Take driving. Your reaction time, awareness of hazards, and ability to sustain attention all worsen when you're even just a little tired. A study by the AAA's Foundation for Traffic Safety showed a higher incidence of road accidents among drivers who had slept less than seven hours the night before. Even an hour less of sleep increased the risk of crashing 1.3 times, and the risk quadrupled for people who slept only 4-5 hours the previous night.
Tips for Better Sleep
Keep a routine. Though it's tempting to stay up late and sleep in on days off, try to sleep at the same time every day. A good wind-down routine starts an hour or so before bed.
Go dark. The blue light emitted from electronic screens shouts "WAKE UP!" at your brain. Dim your screen or, better yet, power down entirely.
Make your bed a sleep haven. Working, scrolling social media, watching TV — anything that wants your brain's attention makes it harder to fall asleep.
Try relaxation techniques. Use a guided meditation app, progressive muscle relaxation, or deep breathing exercises to calm body and mind.
Booze before bed. That glass of wine might make you feel sleepy, but it can keep you from staying asleep.
Caffeinate. Got the post-lunch head-bobs? Take a quick walk and drink water before you down a soda, coffee, or energy drink. The afternoon espresso can impair sleep for hours longer than you may realize
Nap. If you must, keep it to 20 minutes. People who nap longer have more trouble sleeping
Caffeinate. Take sleeping pills or supplements without consulting a doctor. Even over-the- counter sleep aids can be dangerous if misused
Why Are You Still Up?
Sleep affects our lives in more ways than we think, and the impact that sleeping well can make on our happiness cannot be overstated. While people are often frustrated with their sleeping patterns, it takes only a few simple (and for the most part, free,) lifestyle changes to improve both quality of sleep and quality of life!
Deciding to buy a home is an exciting decision, but mistakes along the way could turn that dream home into a headache that could cost you over the years.
To start your home-buying journey on the right foot, assemble a team of professionals who can help guide you. Your team should include a real estate agent, a mortgage professional, a licensed home inspector, and a home insurance agent.
So how do you pick a dream team that listens to your needs, advocates for you, and helps you make the right decisions?
There are thousands of real estate agents, lenders, and insurance agents vying for your business. You know it's important to work with qualified professionals with verified experience, industry expertise, and top-notch customer service. So how do you pick a dream team that listens to your needs, advocates for you, and helps you make the right decisions?
Insist that anyone you work with holds a Five Star Professional designation.
By insisting on this designation, you will begin your home buying journey with a team of professionals respected by buyers or sellers like you, who have passed a rigorous and independent selection process
and meet local regulatory and licensing requirements. Five Star award winners are an elite group, and only 7% of professionals can win the award in any market.
Once your team of experienced advocates is in place, you can focus on finding the home of your dreams while your partners protect your best interests.
1. Shopping for a Home
As a critical first step, your mortgage professional, sometimes with your real estate agent, will help you qualify for a mortgage amount that gives you choices and bargaining clout.
For many buyers, navigating the mortgage application and approval process can be complicated and stressful with many factors at play: income, credit, the size of the down payment, the loan's term, whether you're a first-time buyer, fixed vs. variable interest rates, conventional/ FHA/VA/USDA loan types, and lender fees, all of which vary. But it doesn't have to be painful. Five Star Mortgage Professionals help you sort through this maze!
Putting a Five Star Mortgage Professional on your team will help you qualify for the optimal mortgage amount at the lowest interest rate.
2. Mortgage Selection
Once you begin your home search, your Five Star Real Estate Agent will guide you to homes that fit your requirements in a great neighborhood. Is a big front porch a must- have? Need a home office? They'll know just what to look for!
During home tours, they'll flag things you may not see, such as foundation problems or prices that seem out of sync with the market. Once you've selected a home, your agent is your partner to negotiate a fair price. Their experience negotiating hundreds of home purchases helps take the emotion out of this major financial decision and ensures success.
Putting a Five Star Mortgage Professional on your team can help you find the best mortgage solution for your situation.
3. Insurance Selection
The first critical step after purchasing a home is to insure it so that if anything happens, your investment is protected. Basic homeowner’s policies cover damage to the house caused by fire, vandalism, hurricanes, lightning, or other specifically covered events. Policies also cover liability up to certain limits, protecting you if someone is injured on your property.
A Five Star Home/Auto Insurance Professional will comb through the policy options to make sure you cover the things you need covered and to help eliminate unnecessary costs where possible. Agents will also discuss home security measures (alarms, surveillance), coverage for special items, replacement costs, home appreciation coverage, and new discounts.
The bottom line when purchasing a home: save yourself huge headaches and potentially thousands of dollars by surrounding yourself with a top-tier home buying team — your team — of a Five Star Real Estate Agent, Mortgage Professional, and Home/Auto Insurance Professional.
How Five Star Award Winners Are Chosen
Professionals who meet each of the following objective criteria were named a 2021 Five Star Real Estate Agent, Five Star Mortgage Professional, or Five Star Home/Auto Insurance Professional.
Evaluation Criteria: Qualifying rating. Eligibility Criteria: Holds an active license and is employed in their field for a minimum of five years. Favorable regulatory and complaint history review. Satisfies minimum production on a one-year and three-year basis. Successful completion of a Blue Ribbon Panel review.
Real estate agents, mortgage professionals, and home/auto insurance professionals are pooled only with other candidates from their profession.
Choose an award-winning home professional when it’s time to buy or sell your home. Go to www.fivestarprofessional.com for more information about the Five Star award, research process, and Five Star winners.
How do you take your eggs? Before you order "scrambled" or "sunny-side-up," consider all the ways to enjoy the humble egg. This perfect little powerhouse of protein deserves a spot at the table anytime!
Each of these egg-centric recipes is filling and fully portable! So, feel free to "poach" these ideas for an energizing lunch or a quick dinner — but they'll be happy to make a brunch date, too!
Nutritionally, eggs are the whole package. With the yolk, one egg has just 78 calories, five grams of fat, and packs six grams of protein. Eggs also contain choline, which supports brain health and may protect from age-related memory loss!
Did you read Tips for Better Sleep on page 9? A choline deficiency can cause fatigue and insomnia!
A crisp English muffin, tender eggs — what could be better? Oh, a slice of cheese, of course! It's only a breakfast sandwich before 10 am. So, stack one up for lunch or a busy weeknight meal.
Have you ever had an anytime casserole?
This easily mastered Italian crustless quiche will have your mouth watering!
1 English Muffin, split in half
2 Slices of Canadian Bacon (heated) 1 egg
1 slice cheddar cheese
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. milk
Salt to taste
1. Toast the English muffin and spread the inside halves evenly with butter.
2. In a small, nonstick pan, melt the butter over medium heat.
3. Place the Canadian bacon in the pan, cooking on each side for about 2 minutes and the bacon has turned brown and slightly crispy.
4. When the butter begins to foam, add the egg, top with a dash of salt and turn heat down to low. Allow the egg to cook for about 2 minutes until the egg white is no longer clear.
5. Flip the egg to cook the other side for another 2 minutes.
6. To serve, place the egg, cheese slice and Canadian bacon on bottom half of English Muffin, then top with other half. Enjoy immediately!
1. Position top oven rack in the center position and pre-heat oven to 350°F.
2. Spray a medium-sized baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
3. Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
4. Add sweet potato, red pepper, onion, garlic powder, basil, and parsley. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste, and stir to combine.
5. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pepper and onion soften and the sweet potato starts to develop a bit of color, approximately 5–6 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to the prepared baking dish. Spread into a uniform layer and set aside.
6. While the vegetables cook, whisk together the eggs and half & half in a large bowl. Add half the Gouda cheese and stir to combine. Set aside.
7. Add the remaining olive oil to the same skillet over medium heat and toss in the arugula or spinach. Cook, stirring occasionally, just until the greens wilt, approximately 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and spread evenly on top of the other vegetables in the baking dish.
8. Pour the egg mixture on top and spread with a rubber spatula, if necessary, to cover the entire surface.
9. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and season with additional salt and black pepper, if desired.
10. Place in pre-heated oven and bake until the egg is set and the top starts to turn golden brown, approximately 25-30 minutes.
11. Remove from oven and let it rest for two minutes before slicing. Garnish with fresh herbs and serve on a bed of dark greens like arugula or spinach.
As winter gives way to warm spring days, yoga is the perfect way to renew your mind, body, and soul. It’s also a gentle start to get moving again if you’ve been hibernating like a grizzly bear! (Still stuck indoors? You can yoga without a gym and fancy equipment.) So step away from the desk and your stress with these restorative poses and simple stretches perfect for beginners.
You don't need to gather five other people to loosen up! Squeeze in some solo asanas between meetings.
WARRIOR TWO POSE
This pose is great for anyone who spends their day sitting behind a desk. Disentangle yourself from your chair by hopping up and getting into this modified lunge. Warrior one aids your balance, improves your coordination and helps you build strength.
Balance — not just the key to yoga, but the key to life. Gaze off into the distance as you pull yourself up, up, up onto one leg. Tree pose has all kinds of modifications (close your eyes if it feels too easy!) to challenge beginners and practiced yogis alike.
UPWARD FACING DOG
This powerful pose awakens your upper- body and offers a wonderful stretch for the chest and abdomen. Starting flat on your belly, slowly work toward an even bend along the whole spine, engaging your abdominal muscles to support your back. Breathe in, breathe out.
SEATED FORWARD- FOLD POSE
If you’re going to bend back, you’ve got to bend forward. This pose isn’t about being so flexible you can touch your toes; it’s about reaching forward, elongating your spine, and releasing that lower-back tension. Inhale, exhale.
Even if you don’t realize it, you’ve seen it: cottagecore, the latest lifestyle and aesthetic trend sweeping Generation Z. It comes in earth tones, in pastels, in eyelet dresses and crowns of daisies — a simple, back-to-basics ideal of living.
Think Your Grandma- But Make It Trendy.
Cottagecore fan-favorites trend toward nostalgia, simplicity, and above all, cheerfulness.
But cottagecore isn't about running away to the 1800s or trading in hard-won equality for antiquated social norms — it's about reconciling the soul to the hollow demands of modern life.
Take it straight from the internet’s Britannica For art, fashion and home decor, picture muted, — Wikipedia says that cottagecore “celebrates an idealized rural life,” that it “values traditional skills and crafts” and satisfies “a desire for ʻan aspirational form of nostalgia’ as well as an escape from many forms of stress and trauma.” And that sounds great; cheaper than therapy at least. But what exactly does cottagecore entail?
Picture this: a charming rustic cottage in a sunny meadow or a clearing in the woods. Whitewashed kitchen and drying herbs plucked from the garden, mismatched stoneware on the table, homemade sun tea steeping on a windowsill. It's a porch swing, a foraging basket, a floral cotton apron. And, of course, the smell of freshly baked artisanal bread.
Cottagecore is an aspirational lifestyle, fashion, and home aesthetic that represents an escape from modern-day stress and celebrates an idealized rural life. It embraces traditional skills like scratch baking, gardening, and handcrafting. At its core, cottagecore is about a generation that's seeking a vision of tranquility that would be right at home in Little House on the Prairie. It is the romanticization of a life that many of its adherents have never known — rural, slow, kind, and unplugged.
For art, fashion and home decor, picture muted, gentle, earthy colors — dusty pinks, golden yellows, sage greens. Natural, cozy textures and materials are essential: warm wood, clay, and stone. The unifying principle is a kind of dreamy bohemian cheer, a plucky do-it-yourself simplicity, set against a pastoral scene.
Because cottagecore is a form of escapism, it's no surprise that fans flock to entertainment that takes place in a cozy world far from modern-day reality. Cottagecore fan-favorites trend toward nostalgia, simplicity, and above all, cheerfulness.
Follow #cottagecore on Pinterest or Instagram, and you'll find that children's stories and series feature heavily in the cottagecore repertoire. Now trending: Illustrations from the classic Frog and Toad children's books are quintessentially cottagecore with woodsy-illustrations, simple prose, and gentle conflicts, like how to resist devouring the last cookie in the jar. Finnish designer Tove Jansson's illustrated Moomin franchise is a cuddly favorite featuring a family of friendly, roly-poly trolls in Moominland. And with dreamy stories of friendship and love, artfully animated films from Studio Ghibli are also a staple of the cottagecore escape fantasy. For the literary set, cottagecore enthusiasts swoon over the work of authors like Jane Austen, who present easygoing romance with wit, delicacy, and old-fashioned charm.
More modern forms of entertainment can be cottagecore as well: computer gaming franchises offer a peaceful simulation for the bucolic lifestyles many cottagecore fans crave. Consider the Story of Seasons and Stardew Valley franchises; in both games, players take over a dilapidated farm and score points as they grow crops, tend chickens, craft goods, sell produce, socialize with townspeople, and raise children.
At first blush, the cottagecore trend may seem counterintuitive. Why are urbanized digital natives, people connected 24/7 by technology and social media, romanticizing a time and place without WiFi? What about the hard realities of rural living, let alone rural living a hundred years ago? It's safe to say that many who ascribe to the cottagecore aesthetic have never mucked a horse stall or grown vegetables. It's even more confusing when you see how many women and members of the LGBT community covet the cottagecore lifestyle, when historically 'simpler times' meant oppression for them.
But cottagecore isn't about running away to the 1800s or trading in hard-won equality for antiquated social norms — it's about reconciling the soul to the hollow demands of modern life. If a person can take one step away from the outside world and look toward a more peaceful existence, what does it matter if they're wearing rose-colored glasses to do it?