Sunscreen, Use It!

As it continues to heat up here in North Texas, it's a good time to talk about sunscreen- when to wear it, why we wear it, and what happens when we don't wear it.  

When?

Always.  Seriously.  Well, maybe not at night.  That would be overkill.  But seriously, you should always wear sunscreen if you're going to be outside during the day.  If you're outside time is mostly spent going from car to air-conditioned building, back to car, back to air-conditioned building, you can get away with a lower SPF but you should still wear sunscreen.  If you plan to be outside for extended periods of time, you should definitely wear it and you should have extra with you so that you can reapply it every two hours as the day goes on, as well as after swimming or where you sweat it off.  You think those clouds are gonna protect you?  They ain't.  In fact, those clouds are tricking you into thinking you're safe when, in reality, you're even more likely to get burned.  So the moral of the story is, you should always be wearing sunscreen when you exit your house.   

Why?

The sun gives us all life.  It lights up our planet, feeds our plants, and keeps us from all freezing to death in the icy cold of space.  But it's not as friendly as we'd like to believe.  We've all heard about UV rays, but do any of us really know what they are?  Ultra Violet rays, or UV rays, are a type of electromagnetic radiation, transmitted from the sun in waves.  Their energy is strong enough to break chemical bonds, making them harmful to living tissue, like for example, human skin.  Protecting our skin from UV rays is a top priority for our bodies, which is why we get tans.  Our body, in an effort to protect our skin, sends melanin to the skin cells to shield them from damage, resulting in that bronzed look that we all crave.  Too prolonged exposure to UV rays, and our skin can get overwhelmed, resulting in a burn, so you need to help it out a little bit.  Wearing sunscreen has been proven time and time again that it will help you avoid damaging sunburns, decreasing your risk of developing skin cancer.  

How does it work?  Basically, sunscreens use minerals such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to physically block UV rays by reflecting the light back towards the sun.  They also use organic chemicals such as oxybenzone to absorb UV rays before they reach your skin.  Pretty cool, right?  

What If I Don't Buy It?

That's fine, but just know that, besides the fact that the sun can literally kill you (read: CANCER), it's also going to make you age faster.  Remember the neighbor from There's Something About Mary?  Yeah, that's totally what you're going to look like in your 40s and 50s if you keep rolling the skin care dice.  Think premature wrinkles, sun spots, moles, and that's if you're lucky.  People with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, often have to have surgery to remove the cancer, resulting in missing noses, lips, huge swaths of skin, you get the picture.  So don't let your stubborn desire for a tan now sentence your future self to painful and unnecessary suffering at the hands of a surgeon or radiologist.  

 

I think we've made our point.  Wear sunscreen.  All the time.  Period.  

Memorial Day, Summer, and How to Throw a Killer Party in 3 Easy Steps

It’s Memorial Day Weekend (almost)!  Summer may officially start on the solstice, but in Texas, we all know that it really starts on Memorial Day.  After all, what could scream summer more than pool parties, barbecues, cold drinks and great friends?  We spend the weekend outside, by the pool, laughing and getting into the mood for the season.  So how are you going to kick off summer this year?

Step One- Clean That Pool!  

If you haven’t yet, seriously, go clean your pool!  You want to wow your guests with a sparkling and refreshing pool to jump into, so put in some time after work tonight and give your pool a good once over.  If you haven’t checked the pH balance yet this year, definitely do that asap, because you will want to give your pool a good 24 hours after adjusting the chemicals before opening it up to guests.  If you try to swim too soon, the chemicals will not have had time to cycle through and you could experience very severe eye, skin, and breathing problems.  

Step Two- Food!  

You can’t have a party without tasty treats, something to give your guests lasting energy for a day of fun in the sun.  Whether you want to just put out nibbles or have a full-blown barbecue, planning a menu full of filling and delicious food takes some time and forethought.  Check out this great article from Delish with some truly inspired BBQ ideas!  Two words- pickle dogs.  

 

Are you invited to someone else’s super cool pool party?   Check out this article from Food & Wine for easy-to-transport party dips that are the perfect way to say thank you to your host.

Step Three- FUN!!!

Owning a pool is the ultimate life hack for planning party fun.  Seriously, place a few lounge chairs on the deck and throw some inflatable toys in the water and you are all set!  However, if you want to get more creative, try out a few of the following ideas.

Diving for Treasure- this is a great one for kiddos, so if you’re planning on your guests bringing their minis, plan ahead and pick up some sinking toys from your favorite pool supply store.  Toss them in the pool before the kids arrive and let them loose to find as many as they can.  The one with the most treasure wins!  What do they win?  That’s up to you!  :) 

Volleyball- if you have a play pool (pools with a maximum center depth of 5 feet), try setting up a volleyball net.  There is nothing more fun than a friendly game of v-ball while splashing around in the cool water!  

Basketball- not a volleyball fan?  If you’ve got the time, try putting in a basketball hoop.  You can buy portable ones, or install something a bit more permanent.  You can also get a floating hoop at most sports retailers, designed for smaller, Nerf-like balls.  There is just something about some light-hearted competition taking place in the pool that makes it feel like summer!  

Pool Jousting- this is a fun update on the classic (and classically dangerous) game of chicken.  Get some floating toys, like an inflatable shark or the like, and then try to knock your opponent off their float using pool noodles.  You can pick up these toys pretty much anywhere, even Target


So there you have it.  Three easy steps to having a stellar pool party to kick off summer.  Don't forget your sunscreen and have a Happy Memorial Day!  

 

Summer is Almost Here...Are You Ready?

In North Texas, we all know that summer really begins in May.  The days are getting hotter and the sun is out in force.  Pretty soon, you're going to be spending your days off poolside with a cold drink in one hand and sunscreen in the other.  Before that can happen, however, you need to make sure your pool is ready for you!  

Hot Summers, Mild Winters- The North Texas Way

Thanks to the (mostly) mild winter weather we get in NTX, you don't really have to "close" your pool for the winter, at least not like our Northern friends might have to do.  Here, as long as you keep your pool clean from debris, you're pretty much good to go until Spring rolls around.  However, there are a few things that you still need to do to make your pool welcoming and safe for guests.  

Clean Up, Clean Up, Everybody, Everywhere

Again, you should have been keeping that debris out of your pool all winter long, but we get it.  If you're not using it, it can be really easy to let some of that regular maintenance slide.  So that being said, first things first, bust out the skimmer and clean all the debris out of your pool.  Leaves, twigs, dirt, it's all got to go.  Leaves can really gunk up your filtration system, and leaving it for too long creates a nasty, slimy mess that no one wants to touch, which is why it's so important to keep your pool clear of this kind of debris.  No judgment if you let this one slide, but just know that it's got to get done, otherwise you can really damage your equipment.  

Next, you need to scrub off any algae that has formed in the pool.  You know that thing that looks like a broom with a really long handle that you used when you first built the pool and then hung on the fence and forgot about?  Yeah, you need to grab that thing and start scrubbing!  Give all the walls, floor, and coping a good scrub, and make sure to give extra attention to any slimy, green, yellow, black, or pink areas. 

Finally, you will want to clean your pool filter.  This one can be done by a professional, or you can also do it yourself.  Jerry shows us just how easy it is in this short video-

Chemistry Begins in the Stars...And Ends in Your Pool

Once you've cleaned all the junk out of your pool, you need to check the pH balance and adjust the chlorine.  Checking, adjusting, and maintaining the chemical makeup of your pool is one of the most important things you can do for it and for anyone who is going to swim in it.  It's what makes your pool swimmable, and what keeps it from becoming a gross, murky pond.  Shocking the pool, or adding a large amount of chlorine and other chemicals to the pool, is usually necessary if you haven't regularly maintained the pH balance of your pool during the off-season, or if your pool has developed algae.  (If the latter, you may also want to use an algaecide.)  Of course, if you have a saltwater pool, you still need to check the pH balance AND check the salinity level, making adjustments as necessary.  And remember- DON'T SWIM IN IT AFTER YOU SHOCK IT!  Give your pool at least 12-24 hours to circulate the water with the pump on before you even think about getting in.  Trust me, your skin will thank you.  

Dive Into Fun!

Now that you've got your pool sparkly clean and the pH perfectly balanced, I know you're dying to jump in...but first, you have to make sure that your pool toys from last year are clean too!  There is no point in doing all that work making your pool shine if you're just gonna throw a bunch of dusty old toys into it.  Take a few minutes and hose off any toys from last year that you're planning to use this year, removing as much dirt, dust, cobwebs, etc., as you can.  Check inflatables for punctures, and throw out anything that is damaged.  Sometimes, when left in the sun, pool noodles can start to break down, so make sure you check those too, as those little particles can clog up your filter something fierce.  

Okay, Okay, NOW Can I Get In??!??!??

Yeah, NOW you can get in.  Happy Summer, friends!