Monthly Archives: June 2011

The Perfect 4th of July Outdoor Bash

This Independence Day, wow your friends and family by igniting the grill and throwing the ultimate backyard bash.  We know grilling for the gang sounds intimidating, but we have great recipes and helpful tips to make your outdoor party a blast. Now all you city dwellers (or non-grillers) may be wondering how you can throw an outdoor Independence Day celebration, too. We are well aware that in states such as Massachusetts and New York, it’s illegal to use propane BBQ grills on apartment balconies! But don’t worry, we have a multitude of ideas to help you throw a July 4th picnic party your friends and family will love. Let’s get started!

OUTDOOR PICNIC PARTY

The great thing about a picnic is that it can be done just about anywhere. Just lay out your picnic knapsack and let the fun begin! Melissa Clark is a Food Writer (check out her delectable site http://www.melissaclark.net/) and also recommends bringing extra dishtowels, “great for draping over platters, especially if you’re in a buggy area. Then you can use them to help clean up.”

Picnic Knapsack

In terms of food, food blogger Amy Sherman (visit her delicious site http://cookingwithamy.blogspot.com/) recommends taking “fruit, cheese, salami, crackers or a baguette, plus a cutting board and knife.” If baguette sandwiches aren’t your thing, try Amy’s flavorful Lavash Sandwiches. With fresh ingredients like avocado and tasty spreads like hummus, you’ll want to eat this everyday of the summer. Just throw a side salad and refreshing drinks into your Deluxe Modern Lunchbox to complete the meal! Melissa gives us a great tip for salads: “Choose salads that taste better as they sit, sturdy vegetables like broccoli, green beans, corn, cucumbers take in more flavor from the dressing.”

One last recipe we can’t get over– Potato Chip Cookies, definitely my ideal dessert. The cookies are the perfect blend of sweet and savory, and the crunch of the chips and nuts is an addition you can’t help but enjoy. Bake time is only 15 minutes, so pop these in the oven right before your picnic or while your BBQ guests are finishing up their entrees.

BACKYARD BBQ PARTY 

Grilling is a fun, interactive activity because guests can customize their food and help the host cook. So whip out your handy recipe organizer and let’s get grillin’!

Recipe Organizer

When grilling for a large  number, try simpler foods like burgers, hot dogs, or chicken. Burgers can be easily customized, and we love Bobby Flay’s unique toppings. What’s our favorite? The L.A. Burger– be careful, it can get spicy!

We know kids are always fans of hot dogs, so now it’s time to convince the adults. A sophisticated version of a hot dog, the Bruschetta Dog, kicks it up a notch with fresh tomatoes, basil and garlic, a combo the adults are bound to love (for more unique hot dog recipes, visit Food Network). Finally, get in the outdoor spirit with some perfectly barbecued chicken. This tangy BBQ sauce is easy to make and will leave all your guests wanting more!

Just as important as the meat are the sides, and one of our favorites is grilled corn. There are many ways to grill corn, but we love simply placing the corn directly on the grill (no husks or foil). To prep the corn, drizzle with olive oil. You are looking for lightly blackened kernels, so don’t forget to rotate the corn. My family’s trick is to dip the corn in heavily salted water when it’s fresh off the grill.

Another classic BBQ side-dish? Potato salad. Check out Delish for a great Americana Potato Salad recipe that is easy to make the day before your big party. Just pull it out of the fridge 30 minutes before serving so it’s a temperature your guests will enjoy. Finally, serve your guests a summer salad. I love including colorful ingredients like strawberries, bell peppers and feta cheese to give my salads a fresh kick. Mix balsamic vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard (to your liking), salt, and pepper to create a delectable basic dressing to top off any type of salad.

For dessert, help your guests cool off with some fresh fruit, or bake them up a batch of those delicious Potato Chip Cookies! Make sure you whip up a few summer cocktails, too. Try making this red wine sangria– it’s so delicious and a rare treat for your guests!

For more information about products and ordering, visit www.greatusefulstuff.com

Packing And Traveling Made Easy

Today is the first day of summer, but we’re sure everyone has already begun planning vacations with family and friends. Of course, one of the biggest challenges for all travelers is packing. We dread packing just as much as you do, but we’ve come up with some tips and tricks to make the task easier. Whether you’re traveling to the Caribbean or across the country, these tips will ensure you arrive at the airport on time and with everything you need!

KEYS TO PACKING

1. Make a checklist. Research the weather at your destination and create a packing list accordingly. We know it’s hard, but resist taking multiples of what you’ll rarely use (e.g. only take one pair of jeans to a tropical island instead of three). Another key to remember is that you’ll only need about half the amount of clothes you think you need. Check out this printable checklist that’s great for any vacation.

2. Consider packing cubes. Packing cubes like the ones shown below allow you to organize your clothing in categories and save space while doing so. You can follow our same packing tips while adding another level of efficiency to your suitcase.

Packing Cubes

3. Pack bottom heavy, starting with shoes. Stuff shoes with socks and small items, then align them heel to toe at the bottom of your suitcase. Place shoes in packing cubes to add extra protection and prevent clothes from getting dirty. Your toiletry bag, jewelry and makeup should go at the bottom of your suitcase, too.

Shoe Packing Cube

4. Pack clothes starting with pants. Roll pants first and fill in empty spaces created by your shoes and other items. Remaining gaps can be filled with smaller items like light scarves and tights. Check out these tips on how to roll clothes to reduce wrinkles!

5. Next, roll t-shirts. Create an even layer of rolled shirts on top of the pants and other items. Place t-shirts in packing cubes for even more division. Roll underwear to fill up remaining space around the layers of clothing.

6. Finally, fold and stack button-down shirts and dresses. Pack these items on top of the t-shirts to reduce wrinkles on more delicate clothing.

7. Pack electronics and other kick-knacks in your carry on. Optimize space with a glam travel case to carry extra special jewelry, essential makeup items and small electronics.

Glam Travel Case

OTHER NOTES…

Make sure to pack something for dirty clothes. When repacking at the end of your trip, layer dirty clothes on the bottom of your suitcase. Make sure they are covered or enclosed in a packing cube before layering clean clothes back on top (see “Worn” packing cube).

If you’re traveling under special circumstances (ex. small children, pets), consider a multi-purpose tote to carry and organize essential travel items.

Kids/Pet Care Tote (available in 3 designs)

For more information about products and ordering, visit www.greatusefulstuff.com

Surprise Your Dad With the Perfect Father’s Day!

Another Father’s Day is approaching– fast. We know you’ve probably run out of ways to make this holiday even more special than the last, but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. This easy Father’s Day guide will help you plan the perfect day with Dad so you won’t resort to taking him to yet another movie he’s bound to fall asleep in. Just pick the category that best describes your main man and read away!

THE FAMILY DAD 

Does your dad love spending a relaxing day at home with the family? Make him feel like the king of his castle this Father’s Day. Plan a family BBQ in your own backyard, even invite friends if your Dad is a social butterfly. Bobby Flay from the Food Network is host to some of my favorite grilling recipes, and your Dad (like mine) is going to love biting into one of these gourmet, juicy burger choices. For some easy backyard games the whole family will enjoy, try cornhole or a basic game of 2 v. 2 soccer. Or, let the adults relax  while the kids play. Your dad will love lounging and watching his little ones run around on this comfy outdoor hammock. Even the kids can jump on, too!

Steel Hammock Stand in Classic Arc Design

THE SPORTY DAD 

I would characterize my Dad as a “Sporty Dad,” and I’m sure there are many more out there like him. Try introducing your Dad to a sport he may not usually pursue, like kayaking. Make a day out of it by packing a picnic and stopping by shore for some snacks. Pack for the whole family with this deluxe modern lunchbox, perfect for dividing portions and even carrying water bottles. If your Dad wants to stay closer to home, try a family tennis tournament. The winner (hopefully Dad!) decides what to BBQ for dinner. Looking for the perfect Sporty Dad gift? The Scout will allow your Dad to keep his electronics and necessities close by while he works to stay fit!

Scout

THE OUTDOORSY DAD

A little different from the Sporty Dad, the Outdoorsy Dad enjoys nature and the beautiful weather. Take your Dad on a hike and find a cool, calm spot to stop for a picnic. Or, plan a beach day and a fun game of flag football with the family; fit beach toys, sunscreen and towels all in this handy mesh beach tote. Your Outdoorsy Dad will also love a Scout this Father’s Day (see Sporty Dad)– give it a try!

THE ARTSY DAD 

For the Dad who loves the arts, plan a day trip to see the new exhibit at a local museum (for SF locals, try the Picasso exhibit at the DeYoung Museum). Dad may also enjoy an outdoor concert with the family– pack your dinner and drinks, too! Your Artsy Dad probably still has the Father’s Day cards you made him when you were eight, but this year kick it up a notch. Help your Dad display his favorite family memories in his office with this photo storage tray. Choose and organize the photos for Dad, then sit back and watch him enjoy the finished product.

6 Section Photo Storage Tray

THE TECHY DAD 

Is your Dad always up to date with the latest gadgets? This Father’s Day, skip the gadgets and create a gift closer to the heart. Your Techy Dad will love a homemade DVD with clips of fun family memories, but for those who also want to purchase a gift for Dad, try one that he’s sure to use every day. Explore the  Tech Tamer collection, which includes everything from cord organizers to charging cases to help Dad manage his electronics with ease (great for traveling)!

Tech Tamer Collection

THE HANDYMAN DAD

Finally, we address the Dad who loves renovating and fixing every corner of the house. This Father’s Day, build something with Dad, like a new bench for the backyard or a bookshelf for the office; he won’t be able to resist spending time with the family and doing something he loves. Help Dad be Mr. Fix-it with a wall tool holder or a new tool case, especially one the kids can decorate for him themselves!

Alice Supply Co. White Tool Box

 

For more information about products and ordering, visit www.greatusefulstuff.com