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Simple Outdoor Kitchen Ideas

May 20th, 2014

By: Katie Koleas

With the birth of spring comes backyard cooking and barbeques. Creating a picture-perfect outdoor kitchen may seem stressful and overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Building a backyard cooking space can be easy and affordable with these simple ideas.

Purchase a pre-made grill structure

A stylish and multifunctional grill is the main centerpiece of any outdoor kitchen, but don’t want to feel like you’re undergoing an entire renovation. Basic grill structures with attached islands and bar space eliminate unnecessary custom improvements and won’t break your budget.

photo of a pre-made grill set up
Photo courtesy of outdoor-kitchen-hom.blogspot.com

Lighten Things Up

No one wants to fumble through the dark while trying to enjoy a relaxing night of outdoor dining. Lighting illuminates your outdoor kitchen and enables you to use it all hours of the day.  Battery operated and adjustable lamps are an inexpensive alternative to running an electrical line through your backyard.

Asian Outdoor Lighting by Oakland Furniture & Accessories Cost Plus World Market

Install a Sink

Nothing is worse than having to run to and from your home to wash raw chicken off your hands. Look for a sink that hooks up to a garden hose and drains into the ground for a fantastic money saving option.

Picture of an outdoor sink hooked up to a garden hose
Photo courtesy of ths.gardenweb.com

Cover Up

An outdoor canopy provides shelter from any type of weather that may arise. Form hiding the sun to shielding the rain, a canopy covering is a necessity for any outdoor kitchen.

picture of an outdoor patio cover
Photo courtesy of hgtvremodels.com

Don’t Forget the Basics

Store organizational necessities under grill counter tops such as baskets for napkins, utensils, dishware, glasses and cleaning supplies. Most importantly, be sure to have trash and grilling utensils close by with hooks to hang above the cooking station.

Picture of an option for outdoor grilling storage
Photo courtesy of thisoldhouse.com

Cheat Sheet for The Ultimate Mom’s Night Out

May 9th, 2014

Moms, you remember the carefree days of calling up your girlfriends on a whim to meet up for some dinner, cocktails, manicures, pedicures, shopping, and maybe dancing until the early morning hours? Remember when you could really do anything “on a whim?”

graphic of three women out on the town
Graphic courtesy of laracoffee.com

Now getting together with your girlfriends takes a good month to plan, and sure enough half of you won’t be able to make it because one of your kids catches a cold. And your idea of a fun night out still includes being home by bedtime.

At Mr. Appliance, we know that moms are the backbone of the family. With all the responsibility on Mom’s shoulders, she needs to de-stress and let loose every once in a while in order to keep her sanity. So, in honor of Mother’s Day, Mr. Appliance has come up with the ultimate cheat sheet for planning your Mom’s Night Out.

  1. Pick a stress-free activity. Pick a fun and fulfilling activity like dinner, drinks, shopping, movie, concert, or wine tasting.
  2. Plan well ahead of time. With soccer and dance practices, school activities, and play dates, your schedule fills up quickly. So, make sure you can plan a day well ahead of time. It’s a good idea to send an invitation — either mail or an Evite— that other moms can place on their calendars.
  3. Book babysitters. If the dads can’t handle the job, hire a few babysitters that can come to your house. All the kids can hang out together and play while you and your girlfriends are out.
  4. Set the rules. Before you head out for your evening of fun and frivolity, inform dad and the kids of when they should or should not interrupt your evening. Really, does a hole in your son’s sock constitute an emergency?
  5. Plan the next MNO. Before the evening ends, commit to getting the next get-together on your calendars. Let another mom plan the next get together with the girls. Each mom will have the chance to plan a fun activity and you’ll get to look forward to the next Mom’s Night Out!

Cheers!

Five Kitchen Gadgets You Didn’t Know You Needed

May 5th, 2014

A cook is only as good as his or her tools. When whipping up meals in the kitchen, it’s always helpful to have the best tools of the trade, making creating gourmet meals nearly effortless. Mr. Appliance works hard to maintain a high level of culinary knowledge, and is always on the lookout for ways to make life in the kitchen easier. Here are the top five kitchen gadgets that we feel have revolutionized the kitchen and brought convenience and fun back to life in the kitchen.

See-Through Toaster
Mondays just got a little better; burnt toast is no more thanks to the Robot-Coupe Vision Toaster. Keep an eye on your toast, and get it right every time!

see through toaster from Williams Sonoma

Pot Clip
Tuck a spoon or spatula into this clip to keep messes off the kitchen counter. Utensils stay in plain sight, instead of sneaking away, and counters stay spotless.

Spoon holder that clips onto a pot

SmartMeasure Cup

An affordable solution for all who pursue perfection in the kitchen! SmartMeasure Cups automatically convert ounces to cups and deliver the perfect measurement each time.

Smart digital measuring cup

Stainless-Steel Finger Guard

Don’t worry about nipping fingers in the kitchen. Protect them while slicing and dicing your veggies with a stainless steel finger guard.

stainless steel finger guard

Silicon Baking Ribbon

The freedom of creativity is in your pan. Mold desserts into any shape you desire with flexible, heat-tolerant silicon. The choice is yours; what shape will it be?  Unfortunately this one has not yet made it to the market and is still being judged by the Quirky staff.

flexible silicon baking pan

Feeding a Large Family on a Shoestring Budget

May 2nd, 2014

“♫♪ Here’s the story of a lovely lady. Who was bringing up three very lovely girls. All of them had hair of gold…♪♫” Yes Mrs. Brady was bringing up three lovely girls, and also three sons, but she had help! What would she have done without the assistance of Alice, the trustworthy housekeeper, who handled not only the cleaning, but also cooked all the meals.

Alice from The Brady Bunch

Photo courtesy MSN Entertainment Canada

Ann B. Davis played Alice not only in the original TV show but in follow up specials, and even wrote a cookbook! In celebration of the leading lady, whose birthday is today, here are some tips on ways to feed a large family on a budget, much like Alice did!

  • Evaluate what you currently spend and see where cut-backs can be made.
  • Determine what foods kids will actually eat and stop buying what they won’t.
  • Buy in bulk as this always offers a discount and has a bonus of having often used items on hand when you need them.
  • Plan meals a head of time to make sure you only buy what you need – this helps avoid impulse buys.
  • Learn how to make great dishes from less expensive cuts of meat – more cooking time and a few tricks can turn tougher beef cuts in to tender meals.
  • Don’t shop when you are hungry as people tend to buy more junk food and already prepared foods.
  • Use coupons when you can – why pay more for the same thing when you don’t have too?
  • Watch for weekly specials and stock up!
  • Try more veggie dishes – if you go meat free once or twice a week you will save money.
  • Buy local and seasonal produce as the prices are cheaper. Strawberries in January are great but not practical on the pocketbook.
  • Watch waste – don’t dish out more than someone will eat as they can always go back for more.
  • Use leftovers for lunch the next day, or turn in to a new dish for dinner.
  • Start a garden to grow your own veggies – cheaper and fresher.
  • Make your own meals from scratch and avoid pre-packaged, processed, ready-made meals – you will save on fat and salt content as well as dollars.

While you may not have a Brady Bunch sized family to feed, these tips are sure to help you cut down on your grocery spend. Let us know your tips and tricks to feeding a family on a budget!

Decorate Easter Eggs with These 5 Ideas

April 18th, 2014

Hop out of the box with your Easter egg decorating this year and follow these Pinterest-inspired nontraditional techniques.

  1. Glue and Glitter
    Dip your eggs in glue and then roll them around in glitter, beads or sequins. For polka dots, drop dots of glue and then sprinkle glitter. This method also works great with sprinkles.

    Easter eggs dabbed with glue and rolled in glitter to make glitter polka dots
    Source: http://www.domestifluff.com/2009/04/how-to-make-sparkly-dot-easter-eggs/

    Egg rolled in glue then glitterSource: http://www.boredpanda.com/easter-diy-ideas/

  2. Pretty patterns
    Using a Sharpie or other fine-pointed writing utensil, draw intricate designs onto your egg, such as big stripes, little stripes, chevron or squiggles. You can even write a favorite quote or saying onto the egg.

    Easter eggs decorated with SharpiesSource: http://obviouslysweet.com/blog/2012/04/easter-eggs/

    Easter Egg with words in sharpieSource: http://alisaburke.blogspot.com/2012/04/everyday-decorating-easter-eggs.htm

  3. Lovely lace
    To dress up your egg in a bit fancier way, glue on some lace and a small flower or other decorative piece. Your eggs will be sure to be egg-squisite!

    Easter egg with lace and a bowSource: http://www.bhg.com/holidays/easter/eggs/quick-and-easy-easter-egg-decorations/#page=19

  4. Bring out the Buttons
    Grab the craft box and pull out all the odds and ends of random buttons, ribbon and paper galore and have fun gluing this creative smorgasbord onto all your eggs. The more random, the better!

    Eggs with buttons glued on themSource: http://organizedclutterqueen.blogspot.com/2014/02/button-easter-eggs.html

  5. Stick ‘em!
    If you don’t have a steady hand to create your own designs, try painting over stickers to imprint designs on your eggs, and peel them off afterwards to reveal beautiful patterns. You can also paint the eggs first and then stick on white colored stickers, as pictured below.

    Eggs with designs made by painting over stickersSource: http://www.bhg.com/holidays/easter/eggs/quick-and-easy-easter-egg-decorations/#page=13

6 Ways to Feng Shui Your Home

April 16th, 2014

By Kellie Pearson

Many environmental scientists and architects incorporate the basic idea of Feng Shui into their designs on the premise that clutter in our homes hinders our sense of well-being. Surrounding yourself with objects and architecture that uplift your mood and ensuring items are in proper places and not in chaos can give you a better state of mind. To put it simply, as the old saying goes, a clean house is a happy house. Here are six ways you can put the ancient Chinese advice into practice and make your home harmonious.

Keep your front entrance friendly.

It’s a well-known fact: Nobody wants to go inside a home that has a dark, disowned and dreadful look to it. In a way, the state of your front entrance can symbolize your desire to welcome guests into your home. Dead flowers and peeling paint don’t exactly scream to your nearby neighbors that you are guest-friendly. Clear the pathway leading to your front door, clean up overgrown plants, tuck away toys and sweep the porch to make your home more inviting to others. The Home Owner’s Association will probably appreciate it, too.

Make your home shoeless.

There’s something satisfying about taking your shoes off after a long day – especially if they are high heels! A deep sigh of relief is almost inevitable after unlacing and untying those constricting things. By encouraging your family and guests to take their shoes off at the entry way before coming inside your home, can put them at ease and give them a mindset of leaving their cares at the door and help them enter into a peaceful place of comfort and rest. Not to mention the amount of dirt and hours of floor cleaning that can be minimized!

Give the garage a makeover.

Your garage is the first and last thing you see when arriving and leaving your home, so you might as well make it organized, attractive and something you enjoy seeing every day. Clear out plenty of space for driving and walking into and install shelves and cabinets for storage to avoid scattered clutter. Design areas for gardening or crafting hobbies that can provide getaways from the usual household routines. Keep trash and recycle containers clean and easily accessible. These tasks will make you feel more peaceful and less stressed when entering and exiting your home.

Illuminate the laundry room.

The laundry room, especially if it is directly connected to the garage door, can be a constant reminder of uncompleted chores – yuck! Nothing can give you more of a sense of discontentment than being greeted with that. Try adding curtains or closet doors to cover the washer and dryer and separate them from the rest of the room and decorating the walls with nice wallpaper or bright colors. Hang up a few reminders of your favorite things, such as your child’s artwork, a nature painting or a travel poster. Believe it or not, with some effort, you really can make the laundry room a space you enjoy being in, as long as it feels open and welcoming.

Dress up the hallways.

Sometimes, hallways can be quite stark and stagnant. Fix this problem by adding warm lighting, a gallery of pretty paintings or family portraits, and a splash of light pastel or vibrant color to give it a brighter look. Color also makes the hallway appear to be wider rather than closed off. Wider hallways can also be enhanced with book shelves, plants, rugs and furniture. This will make your home look more attractive and feel much more open.

Create a lovely living room.

Living rooms serve as the central part of the house where all the social gatherings occur, so, of course, you want to make it lovely! Choosing neutral tones for the larger pieces of furniture can be cost-efficient when you change your mind on the color scheme of the walls. Arrange your furniture to encourage social intimacy and create a sense of comfort and safety by placing the seating in view of the door. Adding a mirror that reflects the doorway from the sofa is also an option. Show off your favorite collections and art pieces to give your world a glimpse of what you love and enjoy.

With all this in mind, remember that your home is the environment in which you live, so take special care to make it a place in which you appreciate being and relaxing.

World Health Day: 10 Tips for Healthy Living

April 3rd, 2014

By: Katie Koleas

April 7 is globally recognized as World Health Day. The World Health Organization created this day to mark the anniversary of their founding in 1948, as well as to help draw attention to the importance of global health. While reflecting on this year’s initiative to combat vector-borne diseases, also remember to focus on the health of you and your family.

Spring into health this season by following the Mr. Appliance Top 10 tips for healthy living.

  1. Go Natural
    Whenever possible, avoid processed foods and harmful ingredients such as artificial sweeteners and partially hydrogenated oils. These additives promote an increase in cancer-causing free radicals.
  2. Hydrate
    Studies show that about 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated and not drinking the adequate amount of water for the body to properly function.  Men should drink three liters (about 13 cups) of fluids daily while women need 2.2 liters (about 9 cups).
  3. Sleep More
    Getting less than seven hours of sleep causes sleep deprivation, which triggers stress hormones to accumulate, resulting in weight gain and depression.
  4. Get Active
    Twenty minutes of physical activity per day, three times per week, promotes longevity and reduces your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
  5. Take a Probiotic
    This live source of healthy bacteria helps to promote gastrological health and boosts immunity, which helps to prevent illness.
  6. Cut out Sugar
    White sugar has almost no nutritional value and increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity and depression. When sugar cravings strike, reach for antioxidant-rich fruit instead of your favorite candy to satisfy your sweet tooth.
  7. Quit Smoking
    Smoking is the largest preventable cause of death. If you haven’t already, quit now, if not for yourself, do it for those around you suffering from secondhand smoke.
  8. Build a Healthy Plate
    Ensure that half of your plate is filled with fruit and vegetables to make sure you are getting all the necessary vitamins and minerals. The USDA recommends about two cups of fruit and three to four cups of vegetables daily.
  9. Stop When You’re Full
    Your body is biologically geared to know when you’re full. Take time to listen to your bodies hunger cues to prevent overeating and weight gain.
  10. Give Back
    One of the best ways to fight stress and boost your mood is to do something good for someone else.

Sources:
MayoClinic.org
MedicalDaily.com

Dryer Vent Cleaning Tips

March 28th, 2014

Did you know dirty dryer vents cause 15,000 home fires a year? That adds up to a collective $201 million in damages! According to recent studies, nearly 92 percent of all laundry room fires can be traced back to either a dirty dryer or a dirty dryer vent system. Either way, it’s kindling simply waiting for a spark.

And that’s all it takes – just one small spark can ignite lint buildup. Once ignited, that lint fire can then quickly spread into vent tubing throughout your home walls. The good news is lint fires are, for the most part, preventable. The key to prevention is plain and simple – get rid of the lint buildup.

A Specialist holding dryer lint that could be potentially dangerous

Here are four, quick dryer vent cleaning tips to help you prevent fires and keep your dryer lint free:

  1. We all know it’s important clean out the lint trap between each load, but it’s also just as important to clean the lint trap itself as well as along the edges of the trap.
  2. Remove the lint trap and clean the inside of the machine for the lint that made it through the lint filter. Use a damp cloth to wipe around inside of the dryer and grab all of the escaped lint pieces.
  3. Clean the dryer vent tubing leading outside of the home annually. This service is requires specialized equipment and professional services, but removes the threat of lint build-up inside the walls of the home.

Maintain your dryer vents, so you can maintain your lifestyle – happy and lint free!

5 Money Saving Tips

March 28th, 2014

It seems everywhere you turn these days, someone is offering up the latest and greatest money saving tips. Have you noticed it’s usually the same tips over and over? They’re recycled and bedazzled, but nonetheless, they’re the same. The most common tips are adjust your home thermostat, stop eating out (including trips to the local coffee house), and pay off your credit card balance each month.

While those tips are great, there are also subtle, little things that you can do that can make a substantial difference. Here are five money saving tips that don’t normally come to mind, but can save you money and allow you to maintain your lifestyle.

Money and a piggy bank
Photo rights reserved by 401(K) 2012

  1. Make a grocery list before you go shopping and stick with it. You shouldn’t put one single item in your basket that isn’t on the list. That includes the oh-so-tempting impulse items in the checkout line that always seem to add a little extra to the grocery bill.
  2. Call your credit card company and ask for an interest rate reduction. Just a 2 percent reduction on a balance of $6,000 will save you $120 a year. The worst thing the company can do is tell you no.
  3. Don’t speed. While driving over the speed limit will help get you from point A to point B quicker, it doesn’t help fuel efficiency. Your gas mileage actually decreases. Plus, slowing down will not only help your wallet at the pump, but it’ll also prevent a nasty speeding ticket.
  4. Keep leftovers. Leftovers often get a bad rap. Instead of tossing leftovers into the trash, reinvent them with a little pizazz. Transform old bread to bread crumbs, leftover rice to rice pudding and last-night’s chicken into chicken soup. The possibilities are limitless, but if you need some help Greatest.com has some great ideas to get the ball rolling.  http://greatist.com/health/leftovers-meals-healthy-recipes
  5. Give your time. Instead of buying gifts for every occasion, think of ways you can give your time. For a baby shower gift – an evening of babysitting; for the housewarming gift – a day of yard work; and for a get well soon gift – an afternoon of housework. Be creative and see what you can come up with.

The main thing to remember is little changes can add up big. If you would like additional money saving tips, AllYou.com has compiled a great collection of blog posts with ideas to help you simplify your life, stay comfortable, and ultimately save money.

10 Ways to Spring Clean Green

March 25th, 2014

Spring is here, spring is here! It’s time to open your windows, welcome the allergies and best of all … start tackling that monstrous checklist of deep-cleaning items that get handled this time each year.

A clean home is a happy home, but not when it’s filled with harsh and dangerous chemicals. Fluffy’s skin can get irritated by the stuff you use on your carpet and small children shouldn’t be anywhere near a dangerous chemical due to potential ingestion.

The good news: you can still deep clean your house without any of those harsh chemicals. There are thousands of “green cleaner” recipes, from carpet shampoo to laundry detergent, but we narrowed it down to our 10 favorites.

Water stains: Ain’t no water hard enough.

Easiest cleaning technique on our list! Get rid of your hard water spots by cutting a lemon in half and sliding the citrus over your spotted, used-to-be-shiny appliances.

Glass cleaner. I can see clearly now the chemicals are gone!

Mix 1/4 cup vinegar with one quart water in a spray bottle then spray it on your glass and wipe clean with a window squeegee or lint-free cloth.

Air freshener. Natural freshness.

Spritz a cotton ball with your favorite scented essential oil and stow it out of sight (you can do this in your car, too!). Keep them out of reach of pets and children.

Add some green stuff. Living air filters… so natural

Houseplants are natural air purifiers. Try spider plants, English ivy, rubber plants, and peace lilies. Plan for 15 medium-sized (6 to 8-inch diameter containers) houseplants for a 1,800 square foot house. If that’s too much for your taste, focus on the rooms in which you spend the most time.

Ditch the paper towels. Save trees and cut down on waste

Go green by not filling your garbage can. Special, reusable cloth materials in various lint-free fabrics are common, but you don’t have to race out and buy a cleaning cloth to clean! Cut up strips of your old t-shirts and rags to do your dusting. When you’re done, just pop them in the washing machine.

Couch upholstery cleaner. You already have the materials

Fill a container with half dish detergent and half water – mix it up with a hand mixer then grab a rag to rub it on the spot and froth it up. Once complete, rinse clean.

Clothing freshener and dewrinkler. Keep the chemicals off your clothes

A simple combination of two tablespoons white vinegar, two tablespoons fabric softener (use something organic) and 10 drops of your favorite scented essential oil in a 16-oz squirt bottle will do the trick! Just fill the remainder with distilled water.

Dusting spray. Say goodbye to harsh dusters

Combine two tsp. of olive oil, one tsp. of lemon juice, ¼ cup of white vinegar, and one cup of warm water in a squirt bottle then go to town!