Author Archives: Brittany Joy Cooper

Brittany Joy Cooper

About Brittany Joy Cooper

Brittany Joy Cooper is a freelance writer, editor and consultant who lives in Nashville, Tenn. A native of Indianapolis and a graduate of Samford University, she spent several years editing a music magazine in Nashville before venturing out on her own. Brittany loves all things magazine, especially Real Simple and Whole Living, and now finds that she spends too much of her spare time looking for great recipes on Pinterest.

How to Find the Best Free Summer Activities in Your Area

How to Find the Best Free Summer Activities in Your Area

How to Find the Best Free Summer Activities in Your AreaGet the most out of your summer–without reaching into your pockets–with these simple tips. You’ll keep yourself and the kids entertained while saving big!

With the beginning of summer comes that overwhelming desire to get outside–shake off the routines of the other seasons and exchange them for a bit of adventure and a chance to explore new places.

And while you may already be seeing dollar signs flashing on the backs of your eyelids, most cities offer great summer activities for absolutely no charge. You just have to know where to look.

In order to have the most fun (and economical) adventures this summer, you have to think a little bit outside the box. Let the thoughts of theme parks and oceanfront houses rest for a moment and take a look at some of the places that may not be so obvious at first.

Free Concerts: Most cities play host to a number of free concerts, especially during the summer months. It might be your local symphony playing in the park or an old timers’ band jamming outside the courthouse of a small town square. Coffee shops are also great places to find live music, and you’ll get a taste of the local talent as well!

Farmer’s Markers: Look for a local farmer’s market in your area or even a downtown farmer’s market where you can either go alone or take your family to get a mouthful of delicious in-season foods and an eyeful of flowers. Even if you don’t decide to buy anything, it’s always fun to take in the sights and smells of summer in an open-air market.

Free Movies: Many cities offer free movie series in which they show movies on a giant screen in a park. It’s also worth researching some historic theaters in your area to see if they’re offering any community showings of films, either indoors our out. You can also check the library for free family movie nights. And if you don’t have any luck there, look up the nearest dollar theater, where you can get the movie-going experience for just a couple bucks.

Art Galleries and Museums: Most art galleries and museums offer free community days on occasion, many once a month. Do your research and figure out when you can hit the halls and gain a cultural experience at no cost to you. Also keep your eyes peeled for art crawls, where you can take in the work of several artists in a number of galleries.

Hiking Meetups: Find a local hiking meetup, where you can join others for great hikes in your area. You can generally do the same with biking or walking groups, and you’ll make new friends along the way.

Pools and Public Beaches: State parks often have free public beaches where you can take the family for a swim. Plus, some community pools open their gates to the community for certain hours on certain days, and it’s a great way to get out of the heat and into the water.

This list just begins to scratch the surface of things you can do this summer to take advantage of your local scene without forking out the cash at every stop. Be creative and do some research and you’ll be surprised at how much fun you can afford!


Fireworks 411: How Are Shapes Created?

FireworksWe all love to ooh and aah at the various shaped and colored fireworks, but have you ever wondered how all that brilliance is packaged in one cylindrical tube?

With their overpowering noise and their glittering color, firework shows are just plain impressive. One little spark zips up into the night sky and explodes into a burst of color and light, falling back toward earth much more slowly than it ascended.

And while the willow tree-shaped explosives are enough to impress, firework displays have become even more enticing with the ability to create different shapes or symbols. Now smiley faces, hearts and stars pop out at us, adding to the overall effect.

Have you ever wondered how these fireworks are made, how someone can ensure that, upon its explosion, a firework will emit a spray of sparks shaped like a smiley face? Well, there’s actually quite a science to it.

Though fireworks are assumed to have been around for the past 2,000 years, having originated in China as exploding pieces of bamboo, the ability to code a shape into one is a much more recent science. In fact, it is thought that the first time they were used in the United States was in the 1990s.

In order to create a shape, each little dot, also called a star or a burst, is wrapped individually and then packed into the aerial cardboard shell around a central fuse. In an interview with,  Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, further explained how these stars are glued to cardboard inserts to ensure that they burst properly.

“If you insert a piece of cardboard into the shell (or the outer cardboard tube) and then arrange the stars in a pattern around that, the cardboard insert forces the stars to explode outward in that pattern,” she explains.

One interesting fact about the use of specifically shaped fireworks is that, when lighting one off, there’s no way to know at which angle it will actually explode, making it impossible to decipher whether or not the audience will actually see the shape from the front or whether it will just look like a regular firework. For this reason, pyrotechnicians commonly light a several patterned shells at once to be sure at least one hits at the right angle for the audience.

According to a Newsweek article, the record for the largest fireworks show in history is currently held by Dubai for the opening of the Atlantis Hotel in 2008. The display lasted eight and a half minutes, occurred in 50 locations at once, took the skill of 97 pyrotechnicians and cost a whopping $2.7 million.

American Flag

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Caring for and Displaying the American Flag

American FlagIn honor of Flag Day, we thought we’d share some interesting facts about the best ways to handle, display and care for the American Flag. 

Today is Flag Day, and while it’s not a holiday that usually lands us a day off work, it’s at least a great time to learn a little something about the American flag. For example, do you know when you should burn your flag or if a flag on a T-shirt is really considered a flag at all? What about the United States Flag Code?

We’ve recently gleaned some facts about our stars and stripes, and we thought we’d pass them along for your enjoyment and education. Here are five interesting facts about handling, displaying and caring for the American flag:

1. You don’t have to burn a flag just because it touches the ground. According to, this tradition is no longer a necessary one. While you obviously don’t want to wave a flag that has a corner dragging on the ground, if you’re moving a flag and it brushes the floor, just make sure you pick it up and try to keep it off the ground in the future. The website also advises cleaning a dirtied flag with mild soap and letting it fully dry before putting it back to use. When your flag is too old to fly anymore and you’re ready to retire it, that’s a great time to respectfully burn it (depending on what material it’s made from, as some materials, like nylon, are more hazardous to burn).

2. The United States Flag Code details everything you need to know about how to properly handle and display the American Flag. Before Flag Day (June 14) 1923, there was no official document that spelled out how people were to handle and care for the American Flag. That year, though, the National Flag Code took shape under the oversight of representatives of more than 68 organizations. The American Legion printed and distributed the code nationwide that year. Then, on June 22, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Federal Flag Code, which led to the Code becoming official law. Even so, there is no penalty for breaking any of the rules laid out in the code, as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that enacting a penalty would be infringing on the First Amendment.

3. Flags unrolled before football games technically violate the Flag Code. Though we all love to see that football field-sized spangled banner unrolled before kickoff, it’s technically against the Flag Code to display the flag horizontally rather than vertically. Section 8c of the code reads, “The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.”

4. You can flip your flag in an emergency. The Flag Code lays out that you are allowed to fly the American flag upside down, but only under one circumstance: You must be in distress. According to the code, ”The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.” If you run out of flares out on the water and need to signal for help, just flip that flag and wait for someone to notice.

5. Skip those flag napkins and burn your T-shirt. Think you’re being patriotic when you’re doling out those American flag napkins at your Fourth of July picnic? While you may be expressing your national loyalties, flag napkins are (believe it or not) actually forbidden according to the Flag Code. Section 8i of the Flag Code goes into specific detail about this, saying, “[The American flag] should not be … printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard.” And if you’re planning on flipping burgers in a flag tee this year, just know that it’s considered an American flag, and you’ll have to burn it once you’re ready to dispose of it.

Thank goodness the Flag Code isn’t enforced with legal action or we’d likely all be guilty of a number of violations! Even so, enjoy Flag Day and take a minute to think about the American flag and all it represents.


5 Ways to Celebrate the Meaning of Memorial Day

5 Ways to Celebrate the Meaning of Memorial Day

5 Ways to Celebrate the Meaning of Memorial DayWhile Memorial Day is an exciting day of pools and barbecues at the beginning of the summer season, don’t forget to take in the true meaning of the momentous day.

When many of us think  of Memorial Day, we get excited that our neighborhood pools are finally going to open and we’ll have a three-day weekend to take in the sunshine. And while Memorial Day is a great time to celebrate family, cook out with friends and play outside with the kids, it’s also an important time to pause and be thankful for those who have served our country or given their lives for a cause in which they truly believed.

That said, here are five simple ways you can take in the full meaning of the holiday (even if you’re on your way to the pool):

1. Visit a local cemetery and decorate a grave. This is a great way to involve the whole family in appreciating the lives of people they’ve never met. Buy flowers and place them on the grave of someone who served in a war, or visit the gravesite of a relative and pause to be thankful for his or her life.

2. Fly your flag at half-staff. Most people don’t have full flagpoles at their homes, but if you do, remember to fly those colors at half-staff Monday in honor of those who gave their lives to ensure our freedom.

3. Tour a local monument. Find out if your city has a memorial or monument to soldiers from your area who have served, and take the family for a quick tour. It’s a great history lesson and an even better way to feel connected to the people you’re commemorating.

4. Celebrate the people in your own family. Memorial Day doesn’t have to be all about people you’ve never met. You may have people in your extended family who have served our country who you could celebrate and thank as well.

5. Attend a Memorial Day parade. It’s always fun to celebrate spring and summer holidays outside with other people. Find a Memorial Day parade in your area and join the festivities. If you’re in a quaint downtown area, you can take part in other activities or grab an ice cream cone at a local ice cream parlor to stay cool.

No matter how you celebrate this year, don’t forget that Memorial Day is a great time to communicate your thankfulness to others.



5 Holiday Crafts From Recycled Magazines

Rather than tossing your old magazines this year, put them to use with these five craft ideas that show off your creativity and your resourcefulness.

Don’t throw that stack of magazines into the recycling bin just yet. As the holidays approach, put that pile to good (and creative) use with these five crafts made entirely from recycled magazines. Grab some scissors and a glue stick and the rest of these around-the-house supplies, turn on a movie and set to work creating holiday cheer from your favorite magazines.

Merry Magnets

Merry magnets 01

For these friendly little fridge magnets, gather the following supplies: a magazine, scissors, glue, clear glass stones (available for $1 a bag at Dollar Tree) and magnets.

Merry magnets 02

First, place a stone over a fun design on the magazine page, and then cut around the stone to make a small circle of paper that will go behind the glass.

Merry magnets 03

Next, put glue on the back of the stone, and glue on the circular paper (I recommend using rubber cement). Then, use a strong adhesive or glue gun to glue the magnet to the back of the paper, and voila! Once it dries, you have a personalized fridge or chalkboard magnet. Also consider doing letter magnets for small children learning how to spell or photo magnets for extended family gifts.

Merry magnets 04

Merry magnets 05

Recycled Gift Bows

Recycled gift bows 01

These gift bows are extremely fun to make because you can infuse your own style into the traditional look while adding a pop of color not usually seen in store-bought bows. For this project, you will need the following supplies: a magazine, scissors and brads.

Recycled gift bows 02

First, turn the magazine page horizontal and cut lines straight up and down until the page is in strips.

Recycled gift bows 03

The next part seems a bit tricky, but once you do it one or two times successfully, you’ll have the entire craft mastered. Loop the paper into a figure eight and put a brad through the middle.

Recycled gift bows 04

Once you’ve mastered the figure eight, continue to make those and add them to the bottom of the bow, and it will continue to fill out until it looks like a complete gift bow. I generally use about six strips for each one.

Recycled gift bows 05

Recycled gift bows 06

Reader’s Digest Christmas Tree

Reader's Digest Christmas tree 01

For this project, all you need is a copy of a small magazine like Reader’s Digest and a little time. You could also choose to spray paint the tree once it’s finished to make it look a little more festive. The first step is ripping off the covers and then folding in the first page at a right angle.

Reader's Digest Christmas tree 02

Next, fold the page again, making more of a 45 degree angle.

Reader's Digest Christmas tree 03

Then, flip that page to the right and make one last fold, evening out the bottom of the folded page with the rest of the magazine.

Reader's Digest Christmas tree 04

Repeat these same steps on every page of the magazine until you have a Christmas tree.

Reader's Digest Christmas tree 05

Reader's Digest Christmas tree 06

Recycled Magazine Ornament

Recycled magazine ornament 01

This one is just as simple as it looks. To make the ornament, you’ll need the following supplies: a magazine, a clear glass or plastic ornament, scissors and a pencil.

Recycled magazine ornament 02

To make this festive ornament, first cut the magazine page into long strips. Then curl each strip around a pencil to make a pile of curled paper.

Recycled magazine ornament 03

Recycled magazine ornament 04

Next, stuff the ornament full of the curled magazine strips and replace the top. Your ornament is finished!

Recycled magazine ornament 05

Elaborate (Looking) Envelopes

Elaborate looking envelopes 01

These envelopes are super easy and so much fun to make and send! You’ll need the following: a magazine, an envelope the same size as the envelope you want to make, scissors and a glue stick.

Elaborate looking envelopes 02

First, unfold the envelope being careful not to rip it where it was glued. Then, place the unfolded envelope on top of a magazine page and cut around it.

Elaborate looking envelopes 03

Once you have your shape cut, refold the magazine shape back into an envelope and glue at the seams with the glue stick. Now you have a personalized envelope for sending cards or organizing around the house.

Elaborate looking envelopes 04

Magnet Tutorial

Stuff a (tiny) Stocking

5 Ways To Creatively Wrap Your Magazine Gift Subscription

Magazine subscriptions make great Christmas gifts but can be a hard to present to the recipient.  These five ideas will help you cleverly unveil your gift.

Magazine subscriptions can be one of the toughest gifts to physically present. What exactly do you wrap? You can’t put an email under the tree, but here are five creative ways to present your gift subscription so you still have something to stuff in the stocking or place beneath the pine this year.

1. Show off your style. Use a stylish scarf and a copy of the magazine from your local newsstand. Roll the magazine with the cover facing out, and tie it with the scarf. You can also wrap the rolled scarf and magazine in a wine-bottle gift bag with tissue paper.

Magazine gift wrap idea - wrap in a scarf

2. Stuff a tiny stocking. Pick up a miniature stocking in the Christmas wrapping section at your local discount or gifts store. Print the magazine cover from and attach the image to card stock, trimmed to fit into the stocking. You can always write a thoughtful note announcing your gift on the back of the card.

Magazine gift wrap idea - Put in a tiny stocking

3. Fits like a glove. Buy a pair of garden or work gloves and some small tools like garden shears, weeding tools, a screwdriver, etc. Then pick up a copy of the magazine you’ve given at your local magazine newsstand. Place the tools together in one glove and roll up the magazine in the other. Use the gloves as the gift bag, or place them into a gift bag surrounded by tissue paper.

Magazine gift wrap idea - Place in a pair of gloves

4. Spread some holiday spirit. Buy a festive cookie cutter or set of cookie cutters at the store. Print the cover of your gift magazine from and glue it to cardstock. Trim to size and punch a hole in one end. Use twine or ribbon to tie the tag announcing your gift to the cookie cutter, and wrap in a small gift bag.

Magazine gift wrap idea - attach to a cookie cutter

5. Create a subscription ornament. On a color printer, print the cover of your gift subscription and tape the image to a new ornament. Then, you can hang the ornament on the tree or wrap it up like a present.

Magazine gift wrap idea - create a subscription ornament

Magazine subscriptions are an affordable and much appreciated gift, so be sure to find the best magazines for your friends and loved ones this season. Then, grab some scissors and tape and set to work presenting the gift with your own personal style.

Want more ideas on how to wrap your magazine gift subscription? Check out five more ways to creatively wrap your magazine gift subscription.