Tree Classics’ Summer Reading List

Tree Classics Pride and Prejudice

The slower pace of life in the summer allows you to take time, relax, and delight in a good book. As you make the most of your summer holiday, Tree Classics recommends titles that will help you unwind and pull away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life:

1. The Classics

There are novels that you wish you had read thoroughly back in college. Enjoy some of these old favorites. The classics take you back to the early times, giving you a greater perspective of the way people used to live and the ideas that had once influenced our world. Reading books written decades or even centuries ago not only increases your knowledge of literary references, but exposes your mind to different viewpoints. With some written in old English, and others representing the beginnings of modern English, classic books also improve your vocabulary and reading comprehension.

Tree Classics Recommends: Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen; Les Misérables by Victor Hugo; Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy; and Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.

2. The Bestsellers

Don’t shy away from the bestseller rack. Reading something popular once in a while allows you to check out mainstream literature. Many bestsellers have, in fact, received good reviews. Whether fiction or non-fiction, these titles can explain much about the present world we live in. They especially give us ideas of the latest trends both in literal and literary terms. Since most are written in modern English, popular books are easy to understand, but this is not to say that you won’t pick up any new words from them.

Tree Classics Recommends: Questions of Travel by Michelle de Kretser; Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld; The Peripatetic Coffin by Ethan Rutherford; and Snow Hunters by Paul Yoon.

3. The Beach Reads

Languorous afternoons on the beach set the stage for light, escapist reading. Let’s face it: no one actually reads something as heavy as The Brothers Karamazov while out in the summer sun! Summer books or beach reads should not be as challenging or heart-wrenching as the classics, but they should be interesting enough to keep you entertained while you’re swinging on a hammock or lounging under a beach umbrella.

Tree Classics Recommends: The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick; Heat Wave by Richard Castle; Summer Sisters by Judy Blume; and Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult.

And the list is complete. Happy summer reading!

Create a Sprawling Garden: Summer Flowers for Beginners

After highlighting summer crops in last month’s edition of Create a Sprawling Garden, Tree Classics will now take a look at four lovely flowers that are perfect for beginners. Not only are these blooms easy to grow. They also handle the extreme heat of summer very well.

1. Red Valerian

Most other plants wither under the summer sun, but the red valerian thrives in such conditions. In fact, this drought-resistant plant can exist in just about any condition except for wet climates. Originally from the Mediterranean region, red valerians are now commonly found in most western states such as California, Arizona, Utah, Oregon, and Hawaii.

Depending on how you look at it, the self-sowing seeds of the red valerian can either be a convenience or a nuisance. If you don’t want them to overpopulate your garden, make sure you deadhead your red valerian before the next bloom. A bi-weekly watering schedule and some bone meal placed in the soil should also be enough to take care of this summer bloom.

Let red valerians cascade from an elevation or grow along paths, rough slopes, and steep banks. Their lasting blooms enliven any dull and listless garden.

Red Valerian
Photo from M Hillier via flickr. CC BY 2.0

 

2. Moonbeam Coreopsis

The moonbeam coreopsis flourishes even in the brightest of daylight. You can plant this perennial flower in average or poor soil and it will still blossom radiantly. Because of its endurance, the moonbeam coreopsis is ideal for gardens in humid states, such as Florida, Alabama, and Arkansas.

As with most summer plants, this coreopsis cultivar does not require too much attention. One thing to note, though, is that for the moonbeam to bloom without hassle, you must regularly prune the flowers right after they fade. You can do this for a few times during the summer, and then allow the plant to go to seed at season’s end to reproduce new ones.

The pale yellow bloom of the moonbeam coreopsis adds contrast to the large leaves typical of perennials. Use the moonbeam coreopsis to balance the rich purples and blues of other blooms.

Moonbeam
Photo from F. D. Richards via flickr. CC BY 2.0

 

3. Daisy Fleabane

Native to the West Coast, fleabanes are considered one of the most durable summer flowers. It regularly blooms all throughout the harshest conditions of the season, from June to September.

In planting your daisy fleabanes, keep an eye out for “legginess.” It is a condition in which the plants do not get enough sunlight. They grow long thin stems that do not stand upright. When this happens, cut off these plants and remove them from under the shade.

If you’re looking for flowers to place in front of stone walls, then daisy fleabanes are for you. The slender ray petals give a splash of vibrancy to the naturally bland color of stone. Also, the long stalks make these cultivars a classic choice for flower arrangements.

Daisy Fleabane
Photo from wackybadger via flickr. CC BY 2.0

 

4. Goblin Blanket Flower

Also known as the kobold, the goblin blanket flower can withstand arid climate and, with enough leaf mulch, remain in bloom through winter. Similar to other summer flowers, it can survive even on low-quality soil as long as it has good drainage. If you plant them in moist garden loam, the stems tend to grow too far apart.

True to its namesake, the goblin blanket flower has an unusual way of growing. Unlike other plants that develop better in rich soil, this flower benefits more from thriving on poor earth. It is not advisable to enrich the soil by adding compost or other fertilizers. Goblin blanket flowers also do not grow properly in heavy clay.

The dark maroon center and golden yellow tips of the petals give the goblin a sunny appeal. Baring some striking resemblance to the sunflower, it also has a wide bloom that ranges from three to four inches. When planting the goblin in a group, you can place it beside taller flowers with warm tones.

Goblin
Photo from Sarah Korf via flickr. CC BY 2.0

Flowers have a unique way of enlivening any space. Try planting these colorful summer blooms to help you define the aesthetics of your outdoors.

4 Classic Games that Boost Brain Power

Spending summer indoors gives you the perfect opportunity to pick up an old hobby or learn a new one. While some hobbies exercise your body, others help you sharpen your mind. You will find that a simple game that improves memory and concentration will allow you to take on everyday tasks with clarity and renewed passion. This summer, Tree Classics is bringing back those timeless board games and puzzles that boost brain power.

Chess

It’s all about strategy, strategy, strategy. In a game of chess, a lot of analytic thinking is used to come up with a strategy. You must bolster every attack with a purpose. Winning every move may not always guarantee winning the entire game. This forces you to concentrate and lengthen your attention span as you move towards your ultimate goal of taking down the king on your opponent’s side. Players can never be complacent even for a moment.

Tree Classics Brain Games
By podpad / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Rubik’s Cube

This 3D puzzle is about aligning cubes to show only one solid color on each side of the bigger cube. The activity brings you to focus on each step and analyze each shift. It also improves your short-term memory when you recall the tricks you’ve learned. The toy may come in different forms. Some puzzles merely use colors; others sequential numbers that make it even more complex. The point is to use both the left and right sides of the brain for logic, memory, and creativity.

Scrabble

If you want to sharpen your semantic memory – your ability to remember meaning – Scrabble is for you. This 75-year-old board game looks simple. But it is engaging because you have to use your faculty for language as well as your analytic and logical thinking. Since each letter tile has a corresponding value that adds to your individual score and extends the word connections, the amalgam of letters you create not only improves your ranking but also paves the way for you to add on more words as the game progresses.

Crossword

Crossword also exercises language by tapping into the parts of your brain involved in semantics, word association, and spelling. A way to expand your vocabulary by examining the witty word clues, crossword puzzles may be the mental push-up you need to keep sharp.

These mentally stimulating board games have never faded from our memory! In fact, they help improve memory and focus. What are your favorite brain games?

Fantastic July 4 Fireworks Displays

 

It’s almost the Fourth of July! Time once again to take out those sparklers, light up the warm summer sky, and commemorate American Independence. If you’re looking for a good old fashioned fireworks display, check out Tree Classics’ list of the top pyrotechnics shows across the country and the best vantage points to watch them from.

1. Macy’s Fireworks Spectacular – New York City, New York

The most popular fireworks extravaganza in the country, the Macy’s Fireworks Spectacular over the Hudson River began in 1976. Since then, it has become part of New York City’s Independence Day tradition. This 26-minute show attracts an average of two million spectators every year.

If you’re planning on heading to the Big Apple to watch this spectacle, get on board the Independence Day Family Cruise. You can enjoy a fabulous dinner with loved ones while marveling at the breathtaking view from the Hudson.

2. Kaboom Town – Addison, Texas

What this Texan town lacks in size, it certainly makes up for in its stunning fireworks show. Highly regarded by the American Pyrotechnics Association, Addison’s 30-minute Kaboom Town spectacle is watched by 500,000 gazers annually.

Avid fans of Kaboom Town watch the fireworks show from one of the 170 restaurants found in and around town. If you don’t want to get caught in the huge crowds, you can view the whole event from Cantino Laredo. Try out their amazing Mexican delicacies for a full experience. 

3. Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular – Boston, Massachusetts

Residents of this great New England city are no strangers to festive fireworks displays. For over 40 years, Bostonians have kept this Fourth of July celebration running. People line up along the Charles River on picnic blankets to witness the pyrotechnics show while the famed Boston Pops Orchestra performs Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

For an intimate celebration with the family, you can set up camp at the Larz Anderson Park down at 23 Newton Street in Brookline. Aside from being a great vantage point for the 21-minute extravaganza, this open area also has room for games and other activities.

4. Go 4th on the River – New Orleans, Louisiana

While the entire show lasts for only 13 minutes, watching the beautiful reflection of the fireworks on the Mississippi River is what sets the Go 4th on the River celebration apart from all the others. Some 200,000 people crowd the Big Easy every year to witness this grand Fourth of July spectacle.

Check out the view of the evening sky from the deck of the Hard Rock Café in New Orleans’ French Quarter. You can also soak up the local jazz scene after the pyrotechnics show.

Wherever you choose to commemorate Independence Day, whichever spectacle you decide to watch, the most important thing is to celebrate the true meaning of this holiday. The Fourth of July is about being able to savor the joys of fun and freedom!

5 Amazing Gift Ideas for Foodie Friends

It’s time to wow your foodie friends with a delicious goodie basket bursting with the flavors of summer! Tree Classics recommends these sweet and savory homemade treats that are sure to uplift spirits and excite your gourmand buddies:

1. Homemade Limoncello and Frozen Bellini

Gift a friend hosting a party with homemade gourmet drinks, such as limoncello or frozen bellini. Crisp and fragrant, limoncello is an iconic drink from the Italian coast. This lemon liqueur is appreciated by gourmands amid the sweltering summer heat. The frozen bellini, on the other hand, blends champagne with peach or passion fruit nectar and grenadine. Served with a fine meal of roast and veggies, the intense citrusy flavors of these drinks give you the perfect summer blend.

2. Baked Goodies

A tea party gives your foodie friends the perfect opportunity to sample some of your heavenly cakes and cookies! A box of freshly baked goodies is a great gift for those who appreciate the unique combination of bittersweet tea and light and fluffy treats.

Whip up buttery delights such as sugar cookies or an assortment of miniature berry tarts. Present these homemade specialties in a gorgeous tin can or papier-mâché box. Tie a bright yellow or pink ribbon and decorate with a pretty label.

Tree Classics Baked Goodies
By studiocherie / flickr

3. Chutneys

Little jars of fruit chutney make a nice homemade gift that brings the fresh taste of summer into your chowhound friends’ kitchens. What’s great is that these flavors last beyond the season. Chutneys are one of the easiest preserves to make. Ripe nectarines and peaches are a wonderful accompaniment to grilled chicken or pork, as well as an excellent garnish in your sandwich or salad.

Package your homemade concoction in a decorative glass bottle, which your friend can later reuse as a cute shelf display. Don’t forget to use ribbons and labels to embellish the jar. You can also add a “best by” date or a list of the ingredients.

4. Cheeses

It’s not a secret that the best summer cheeses can make outdoor barbecues and picnics a gourmet experience. Surprise your foodie friends by gifting them premium cheese that you yourself have made. You can make something from scratch, such as queso blanco, yogurt cheese, and ricotta cheese, or pair the cheese you already have with a few gourmet herbs like basil and mint.

Wrap hard aged cheese in a beautiful cheese cloth or place freshly made soft potted cheese in a fancy jar.

5. Spice Mixes

A jar of spice mixes can be one of the most thoughtful gifts you can ever give a foodie friend. Quality spice blends are not only very easy to make but are also a lot healthier than store-bought versions, which may contain some chemical additives. From pesto to taco and cajun seasonings, you can conveniently create your own blend for making even plain meat and vegetables exciting.

Pack your spice mixes in a pretty mason jar, and include a set of colorful, decorative measuring spoons for a creative touch.

The great thing about these food gifts is that they are almost always eagerly consumed within days of being received. And with the right packaging, you will not only wow your friends with your fine culinary taste but also with your creativity!