Dad camping with kids in the backyard | Big R

How to Vacation in Your Own Backyard

Dad camping with kids in the backyard | Big R

If you found yourself busy all summer, and didn’t get to take your dream vacation, it’s not too late! Forget stressful airports, cramped road trips or expensive hotels – try a “stay-cation” in the comfort of your own backyard! Create your own slice of vacation heaven with a few curated items from Big R. Here are a few tips and tricks to vacation in your backyard:

Go Camping

Are your vacations more on the adventurous side? Were you itching to pack up and set off for some time in the woods but just couldn’t slip away? Well it’s easy to quickly set up camp and connect with nature within the comfort of your backyard. Set up your favorite camping tent on dry ground, laying down a tarp if needed. Put out some lanterns to perfect the mood and light your way. Bonus: Try to find a light that also repels mosquitoes! Don’t forget to grab the marshmallows for roasting! Then gather around the campfire (with a fire pit that can assist with grilling) to tell ghost stories under a starry night. When the night air gets a little crisp, snuggle into your sleeping bag to be counting sheep in no time.

Go to the Beach

If you weren’t able to make it to a beach this summer, don’t fret. Instead, turn your backyard into a private beach! Keep the kids cool in your very own pool, which is easy to set up and take down once you’re finished. Don’t forget the sunscreen for the kiddos (and parents too!) After splashing in the pool, give the kids some fun projects and toys to play with outdoors. Forget sand volleyball, play it in the pool! They will be entertained for hours — just like if you had made the trip to the beach…without all the sand clean up!

Go to the Waterpark

Nothing is more fun than a day trip to the waterpark– think slides, refreshing water, and BBQ food. Create your very own waterpark at home in a few steps and skip the lines. Set up folding chairs, towels, and umbrellas around the pool for a VIP section to soak up the sun. Float in a “lazy river” in your own circle inflatable tube. No trip to the waterpark is complete without grilled food. Cook up enough burgers and hot dogs for the family and friends visiting your backyard waterpark on a 6 burner gas grill – no charge!

Go to a Resort

When you imagine spending a vacation at the resort, you think of two things: rest and relaxation. The best afternoon, vacation–induced naps take place in a hammock. Also, no resort trip has started until there is a drink in your hand. Make your favorite blended drinks or smoothies in a top quality high speed blender. Avoid any spilled drinks by planting a drink holder stake next to your hammock. Sit back, close your eyes, sip your drink and enjoy the final days of summer from a truly exclusive resort.

Spend the last dog days of summer enjoying the outdoors, family and friends before fall comes around. Skip the driving and the stress of traveling to far places by taking a mini-vacation in your own backyard. With  just a few items from your local Big R store, you’ll be worlds away.

Winterizing Your Pool

How to prep your pool for winter

Cannonball! It’s time to make your last big splash as we head into the fall season! Is your pool ready for the colder months? Get it protected from damage caused by freezing temperatures and weather. Don’t live in an area that typically freezes? Best to play it safe and still take the proper precaution. If done correctly, winterizing your pool can save you time and effort when it comes to having it prepped for next summer’s BBQ and pool parties.

First thing’s first! Before closing your pool, be sure to brush and vacuum all the debris.  An Aquamate Leaf Skimmer can be used to easily pick up any leaves or bugs that are floating in the water.  Attach your garden hose to PoolMaster Pool and Spa Vacuum and lower it into the water to let the vacuum work its magic to clean the bottom of your pool.  Keep in mind that the water won’t be cleaned or sanitized in the off-season so get that water nice and clean! Don’t forget to remove any pool accessories that shouldn’t be left in the pool like toys, slides, vacuums, and heaters.

If you live in an area where freezing temperatures are common, make sure that the water level is at least 4 to 6 inches below the skimmer or tile line.  This prevents the skimmer from being easily damaged by any freezing water.  Freezing water expands and causes damage to the pool, plumbing, and filter system.  In freezing areas, add an antifreeze after draining the pool water a couple of inches.  Antifreeze prevents pipes from bursting or being damaged.  In areas that don’t experience frigid winters, you have two options when it comes to water level.  You can fill the pool with water to the point of overflowing, or drain the water to the level of the mouth of the skimmer and place a cover over the skimmer’s mouth.  Completely drained pools can crack from the pressure of the cold and will require costly repairs.

Balancing the water chemistry is the next step of the process.  It is very important to balance the pool’s pH, calcium hardness, and total alkalinity.  Having the right chemical balance helps prevent calcium deposits from staining the pool’s surface.  The pool should have a pH level between 7.2 and 7.6.  If it is higher, be sure to use a pH decreaser or a pH increaser if the level is lower.  AquaChek Pool & Spa Test Strips are quick and easy for pH testing as they give accurate results within 15 seconds.

Next, make sure the water hardness is adjusted to the proper level of calcium already in the water.  For all pool types, a calcium level between 175 and 225 parts-per-minute is ideal.  To decrease the calcium level, you can drain some of the current water and refill it with water containing a lower calcium level.  Add a calcium hardener to increase the level of calcium.  The next step is to adjust the alkalinity- the dissolved particles in pools with water that have a pH higher than 7.0.  If the total alkalinity is not balanced, the water may be murky next spring.  To keep the water looking clear and blue, use a winterizing chemical.  This prevents algae from forming.  This chemical will be effective even into the spring.

Plan to clean the pool as well as its filtration system. For sand filters, refer to the manufacturer’s directions for backwashing the filter correctly.  The directions should involve closing the filter’s valves, adding a filter cleaner, backwashing the filter an hour after adding the cleaner, removing the drain plug, draining the filter, and finally, closing the valve.  For cartridge filters, refer to the manual to see when it is time for you to replace your filter.  Some cartridge filters can be cleaned multiple times before needing to be replaced.  After removing the filter, spray it with water and soak it in a filter cleaner.

After cleaning the filter, turn off the filter pump and drain the equipment as directed by the manufacturer.  Don’t forget to drain water from any additional pumps, filters, or heaters.  If you use a chemical feeder, drain and completely empty it.  Any leftover chemicals can wear down the equipment.

The final step in winterizing your pool is covering it up.  Not only does a cover protect the pool, but it also helps keep your family safe from accidents.  The water in the pool will help support the cover.  The type of cover depends on your pool, but a good, solid cover will protect against any extreme weather- rain, snow, and ice.  You may want to use air pillows under the cover.  The air pillows create a tent with the cover which helps debris slide off instead of clumping together on the top of the cover.

These winterizing steps will help your pool stay clean and protected during the months as you dream of sunshine and warmer weather! Take care of your pool and it will take care of you.

Two Ladies Kayaking | Big R

Kayak & Boating Safety Tips

A day on the lake is refreshing, fun, and a perfect way to beat the heat waves. Before you seek refuge in your boat or kayak, get prepared and freshen up on your water safety knowledge. Be ready for the sun, water conditions, and a potential accident with these safety tips for kayaks and boats.

 

  1. Know Your Stuff– Make sure to take an on-water course before you head out to the lake. During the course, you will learn how to handle your kayak or boat and the rules of the water, as well as develop your safety skills. This knowledge may come in handy if you find yourself in an accident this summer. In 2015, the US Coast Guard counted 4,158 recreational boating accidents that involved 626 deaths, 2,613 injuries and approximately $42 million dollars of property damage. Protect your life and property by taking a 101 course.
  2. Suit Up– Are you wearing the correct gear for kayaking? If you’re planning to be on the water in the early morning or after dusk, it is especially important to wear brightly colored clothing, so other boaters and kayakers can see you in the dim light. Keep your PFD, personal flotation device, or life jacket on yourself and the kids at all times.
  3. Protect Your Skin– We know it’s a given, but sun protection is essential for a long day outside. The fresh air may feel nice, but having a sunburn the next day won’t be as welcome. Sunscreen and a hat will keep your skin safe from the harmful rays. Don’t forget to reapply the sunscreen every few hours for maximum protection.
  4. Check the Temperature– Cold water can be extremely dangerous! Even water in the 50-60 degree Fahrenheit range can initiate “Cold Water Shock.” Should you fall overboard, the sudden change in temperature can cause your body to increase your heart rate and blood pressure, potentially leading to cardiac arrest. Aside from water temperature, watch your local news to stay up-to-date on weather conditions. Rain or thunderstorms, rough winds, or a drop in temperatures can be a sign to hang up your paddle for the day and reschedule your lake trip.
  5. File a Float Plan– If an emergency were to occur, it’s always best to be on the safe side and have someone on shore know all important details. If this information is written down, emergency searchers will know where, when, and who to look for. What should you note? Make sure to include the name, address, and phone number of the trip leader, name and number of any passengers, kayak or boat description with registration information, and a trip itinerary. Leave your float plan with someone on shore, whether that be a family member, friend, or staff member at the local marina.
  6. Communication is Key– Brush up on your universal river signals, so you can communicate with others on the water. If you only remember three, make sure to know how to signal for “stop”, “emergency”, and “all clear.” A whistle can also come in handy to communicate to other boats or kayaks.
  7. Recognize & Avoid Hazards– Be familiar with traps that could endanger you and your crew. For kayakers, avoid trees, branches, other strainers, rocks, and low-head dams. It’s key to backwash in hydraulics and stay on the inside of the bends. For boaters, avoid strainers at all costs, be cautious around any bridge or contruction, and stay clear of fences and low power lines. Be especially cautious in boat marinas, as electrical appliances can leak voltage into the water causing death by Electric Shock Drowning, or ESD.

 

Whether with friends, family or the kids, make sure everyone returns home from your day on the water safe and sound. While a day on the lake is fun, a big dinner around the table with those you love is the icing on the cake.

For additional help finding all the equipment you’ll need for a day on the water, visit your friendly associates at your local Big R store.

DIY Projects for Kids & Parents to Do Together

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Biodegradable Ice Cream Cone Seed Planters

This is a project that’s perfect for the little ones – even the smallest of hands can help! To begin, fill an ice cream cone with potting soil, sunflower seeds, and water. The cone is the perfect home to watch your seedlings sprout! Then, have your kids help transplant the cone into the backyard. The cone will eventually disintegrate leaving the end result – Bright, growing sunflowers that are fun, easy, and eco-friendly!

Cookie Cutter Bird Feeder

Turn your backyard into a bird-watching paradise! Simply mix unflavored gelatin (yes, it is bird-friendly!), water and loose bird seed over the stove in a sauce pan. Then, have the kiddos press the warm mixture into their favorite shaped and oiled cookie cutter on a lined baking tray. Make sure to insert a straw at the top to create a small hole for hanging. Put the tray into the fridge for an hour to allow the feeders to set. Remove the cutter and the straw, tie with string, and pick the perfect branch to hang the new feeder. Sit back and watch the birds fly in for an afternoon treat.

Inflatable Tubes Turned Obstacle Course

Test the neighborhood kids’ fitness with your very own obstacle course. Use an air pump to quickly fill inflatable tubes. Forget throwing them in the pool – lay them on the grass. Use duct tape to tape the tubes together to create a a kid-friendly tire agility drill, and race to see who can complete the drill the quickest. Next, move the group over to tube alley. Separate into two teams. Lay eight tubes in a row, and have each kid step into the tub, shimmy it overhead, and drop it behind them as they continue forward. Whichever team is able to move their entire team through and finish fastest wins.

Tropical Sand Dough

Take a trip to the beach without ever leaving the backyard! Forget packing into the car and, instead, head to the kitchen! Have your kids mix sand, corn flour, and melted coconut oil together. This makes a yummy-scented dough that they can press, play with, squish, and create. Their imaginations will run wild with the endless amount of sand castles they can build. This dough is perfectly moldable and is a great sensory activity for the kids.

Outdoor Teepee

Call in Dad to help the kids with this one. You need a few power tools to create the cross shape junction of wood planks. Drill large holes into the wood to use to connect the four pieces of wood to the ridge pole, and two braces into the bottom for additional support. This is the frame for your teepee. Once this is done, you have a strong structure to spend long, hot days and many starry nights under. Drape an old sheet over the top to create the shady canopy. Want a teepee that can withstand the elements? Trade the sheet for a waterproof canvas tarp. This way, a little afternoon sprinkle won’t stop the fun. A bonus — the canopy will protect the children from prolonged sun exposure. Lay a soft blanket underneath, gather your kids’ favorite books, and sip a refreshing drink. Share giggles and stories in the comfort of your very own backyard teepee.

In need of a few more DIY or kids’ craft ideas? Visit Big R’s Pinterest board for great ways to keep them busy this summer!

The 7 Most Fun Outdoor Toys for Kids This Summer

two-boys-riding-skateboardsOn a bright sunny day, it’s almost impossible to stay indoors and not head to the park or the beach for some playtime. Make sure to bring favorite toys to keep everyone happy. Here are 7 of the most fun, outdoor toys that are perfect for summertime.

  1. Mini Gator SUV Tractor

This adorable little SUV tractor allows your kids to ride around in style, allowing you to relax knowing they are safe. The mini tractor vehicle has two-speed forward and reverse controls, with adjustable seats that help make the ride comfortable for your growing child. The smart pedal both accelerates and brakes, and the extreme traction wheels make the ride safe and easy for children young and old!

  1. Lightning Print Beginner’s Skateboard

Your kids will thank you years from now for buying them a skateboard! Make sure to prep them with protective gear and watch them take off down the sidewalk and driveway on their own! This skateboard is affordable and great for starting out – perfect for kids still figuring out what they want to do with their free time! Children should be supervised when they’re first starting out – we all want the kids to make it home happy and healthy for dinner!

  1. Jump ‘N Slam Hoop Set

This hoop set is incredibly easy to attach to any stable surface and will allow for hours of never-ending fun! Your children will grow up becoming accustomed to the hoop, concentration, and hand-eye coordination – plus who knows, maybe you’ll have a basketball star on your hand one day! Basketball also allows for great skills like teamwork and sportsmanship, and helps keep your kids in shape and active.

  1. Mini Spider Foam Balls

This set include a soccer ball, football and basketball, all made of foam for the ease and safety of your children! The webbing on each foam ball helps with gripping and is a great way to teach kids how to properly hold and throw a ball. Each ball is available in a variety of different colors. Your kids will never be bored!

  1. Buzz Bee Twin Blasters

These little Twin Blasters will help your kids perfect their aim at a young age! The blasters are incredibly easy to use with a simple pull-back trigger. It’s easy to load and comes with four foam darts that are all safe and soft. The package also comes with a bullseye target so your children can become pros!

  1. Foam Baseball Bat and Ball

If you want your kids to learn baseball early on, this baseball bat and ball is excellent for any age! Because they’re made of foam, you can be sure that your kids will be safe working on their batting and swinging skills! Plus, with the affordable price, you might as well get multiple for any upcoming birthdays!

  1. Nerf Crossfire Bow

This bow is created to emulate real crossfire action, preparing your kids for archery in the long run! This skill will also help them with coordination and focus. The package includes four darts. All your child needs to do is pull back the string to load the bow and fire! Because of its interactive features, we recommend this toy for kids 8 ages and up.

 

County Fairs in Illinois & Indiana

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It’s finally that time of the summer where county fairs pop up across the nation. The pageants, kettle corn, ferris wheels, tractor pulls, livestock shows, cotton candy and fried food are all waiting for you. Are you ready to get your fill of fair fun? Find the closest county fair in your Big R community with the list below.

Illinois:

  1. Iroquois County Fair: July 20th to July 25th (Watseka)
  2. Tazewell County Fair: August 2nd to August 6th (Washington and Pekin)
  3. Vermilion County Fair: July 6th to July 10th (Tilton and Danville)
  4. Ogle County Fair: August 3rd to August 7th (Rochelle)
  5. Livingston County Fair: August 18th to August 21st (Pontiac)
  6. McHenry County Fair- August 3rd to August 7th (McHenry)
  7. Will County Fair- August 24th to August 28th (Homer Glen)

 

Indiana:

  1. Montgomery County Fair – July 15th to July 21st (Crawfordsville)
  2. Wabash County Fair – July 10th to July 16th (Wabash)
  3. Kosciusko County Fair – July 10th to July 16th (Warsaw)
  4. Elkhart County Fair – July 22nd to July 30th (Elkhart)
  5. LaPorte County Fair – July 10th to July 16th (Michigan City)
  6. Fulton County Fair – July 9th to July 16th (Rochester)

Don’t forget to stock up on necessary fair gear like sunscreen and hats at your local Big R store before you go. There’s nothing like enjoying a warm, summer day with your family at the local county fair!

10 Grilling Tools for the Best BBQ in the Midwest

best-bbq-grilling-tools

We are saying good-bye to the snow and hello to the rising temperatures – you know what that means! Everyone’s starting to get out and enjoy the outdoors again with blue skies and warm sunshine. Can you truly think of a better way to celebrate the new season than with a group BBQ? At Big R, we have a surplus of top tools for you to make your next BBQ the best in the Midwest! Here are some of our favorite tools:

1. Char-Broil 6 Burner Gas Grill

This traditional 6-burner gas grill is built to last! It can also hold a large amount of your food while still doing the job efficiently. The charbroiled finish on your BBQ favorites creates a taste that is hard to beat! It also features 900 square inches of working space, so you have plenty of room to enjoy your grilling.

2. Weber Bamboo Grill Brush

This bamboo grill brush from a trusted brand like Weber helps to clean up your grill’s surface, making for a truly delicious and thoroughly grilled product! The scraper end removes all rough spots with ease, so you can save your arm power for the actual grilling. Bamboo is also known to keep from rusting, which will increase the longevity of your brush!

3. Simple Green Heavy Duty Cleaner

There is a way you can still try to be green while creating your BBQ. This non-toxic formula provides reassurance for you and your guests that the safest option was used in cleaning the grill. The fast-acting formula works efficiently to keep surfaces clean, and the aerosol doesn’t have any damaging CFCs.

4. Western Apple BBQ Cooking Chunks

Did you know that smoked apple is becoming a very popular flavor for grilling and smoking? The subtle sweetness and robust smokiness helps to give your food a delicious kick! We especially recommend apple wood chunks for poultry and pork BBQ products!

5. MintCraft Stainless Steel Tool Set

This 3-piece tool set is made with stainless steel, perhaps one of the best materials to use when handling meat. It features aluminum handles and a rubber grip that makes grilling easy and efficient. The set includes all of the essentials: a turner, tong, and fork. You’ll look and feel like a pro!

6. Kingsford Matchlight Charcoal

Lighting up your BBQ will be easy with Kingsford’s charcoals! They’re both fast-acting and safe, and you won’t even need to buy lighter fluid to get them rolling! All these charcoals take is one step – no lighter fluid needed! All you need to do is light them up and then let them burn for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes are up, you’re ready to go!

7. Char-Broil Charcoal Grill

This grill is extremely popular, not just for its affordable price and compact size, but also because it gets the job done right! The convenient side shelf helps you cook faster because you can utilize the 225 square inches of cooking area to make approximately 10 burgers all at once! This will quickly become your favorite BBQ tool to use in your backyard!

8. Weber Charcoal Grate

This convenient charcoal grate replaces 22 ½” grills with ease and sophistication. The grate is also incredibly easy to clean with a brush and a cleaner! The grates are made to perfectly hold onto your favored BBQ items, so you won’t have to worry about a lack of stability when you’re busy grilling up tonight’s delicious meal!

9. Kingsford Charcoal Lighter Fluid

Kingsford is a brand you can trust, and this lighter fluid gets you one step closer to the perfect BBQ in no time. Lighting up your charcoal will be easy, so you can spend time on the marinating and grilling — the things that really matter! The lighter fluid is clean, high quality and odorless, giving you the ability to create whatever flavors you’d like!

10. Weber Grill Rack

This convenient grill rack is easy to clean and easy to use! With storage space for 5 racks, you won’t have to worry about making a mess and delaying your BBQ! Even better, the grill rack is dishwasher safe, so getting rid of your mess won’t take long at all.

With these 10 awesome tools, you’re probably already salivating at the fact that BBQ season is right around the corner! Come to Big R today and get going on your backyard BBQ!

Outdoor Workwear: Carhartt Jeans, Boots, Coveralls & More

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Working outdoors is tough enough, but how about when it rains? No one wants to work outside when there’s the chance of getting stuck in the mud and having a cold rear its ugly head a few days later. Luckily, we have a few options for you to stay warm and dry while working outside in the rain. With these products, you’re guaranteed to have even the roughest of weather beat!

1. Tingley Hi-Visibility Sweatshirt

This bright, hooded sweatshirt is made with polyester and helps to keep warmth in as you’re working outside in the cold rain. The brightness of the sweatshirt, featured with the broad silver reflective tape, also ensures that you will be seen in the rain and fog, increasing your visibility and helping prevent accidents! The convenient pockets of the jacket are also very deep and can hold a good amount of essentials while on the job!

2. Carhartt Relaxed Fit Fleece Jeans

If you tend to get cold working outside in the rain, these comfortable, stretchy jeans are perfect for you! Not only are they relaxed enough at the waist to allow you to move easily and without stretching out your jeans, but they are also lined with fleece on the inside to keep you warm and focused on the task at hand.

3. Dickies Deluxe Blended Coverall

You probably already know about Dickies – you can trust their brand because it’s been everywhere for quite some time! But did you know Dickies also has coveralls for workers? The coveralls are ideal for someone who works too hard to be held back by the weather! You can rest assured that the bitter cold doesn’t stand a chance while wearing these on the job.

4. Berne Thinsulate Glove Mitt

These gloves from trusted company, Berne, warm up your hands without adding too much bulky fabric. They are insulated with a thin, yet effective fabric to keep your hands from getting cold in even the lowest of temperatures! The shell is also water-resistant, so you can wear them at any time. The bright color featured here also helps others see you in the mist!

5. Itasca Men’s Mudwalker Buckle Boots

These buckle boots provide a great fit for anyone! The buckles adjust and you can choose the tightness on each buckle. The rubber construction of the boots are waterproof and help to prevent damage and rust. The slip-resistant outsole is also incredibly important if you’re going to be working outside!

6. Honeywell Steel Toe Knee Boot

Servus by Honeywell is the brand’s heavy-duty supplies for working. These boots definitely do the trick while you’re working outside! The steel toe helps to protect your feet and the length of the boot ensures that you’re warm and comfortable. The insole is also specifically built to combat moisture and help keep your feet dry!

7. Muck Hi All Condition Chore Work Boot

Like the name says, these boots are ideal for all weather conditions! No rain or mud is enough to destroy these boots. The stretch fitting top helps to ensure a snug fit around any and all calf sizes. The steel shank built in also ensures additional arch support, so comfort and stability are guaranteed!

With these great finds, you might even be excited for your next time working in the rain! Come by Big R today and see even more of our weather related products.