10 Tips for a Perfectly Packed Cooler

Packing a cooler for a day on the water is both an art and a science. A lunch of  warm drinks and waterlogged sandwiches can put a damper on the whole experience, so use these tips to establish yourself as Master of the Cooler and bask in your glory (and the sunshine) all day!

  1. Use separate coolers for drinks and food. This is the number one tip because your drink cooler will get opened several times all day long, allowing cool air to escape, which can be dangerous for food. The temperature in the food cooler will be easier to keep consistent and safe if it is separate.
  2. Mark your coolers. A strip of masking tape with “FOOD” and “DRINKS” written on it is all you need to keep your friends from opening the food cooler a hundred times looking for drinks.
  3. Pre-chill drinks. Your ice will last 2-3 times longer if drinks are already chilled.
  4. Use crushed ice in the drink cooler. Lay cans and bottles on their sides along the bottom of the cooler and cover with a layer of crushed ice and repeat the process. This allows the ice to touch a greater surface of each drink, and as the cooler gets opened and closed, the ice will melt a bit, which will keep drinks nice and ice cold all day long.
  5. If you have a variety of drinks, have them represented in each layer, so that no one has to dig to the bottom of the cooler for their favorite drink.
  6. Always pack water. Hot sun, water activities and alcohol all dehydrate the body, so make sure to have plenty of water on hand. You can also freeze water bottles ahead of time and use as ice packs in the food cooler for backup water if needed.
  7. Avoid ice in the food cooler. Ice melts into water and water seems to find its way into everything. Use frozen gel packs and pliable freezer sheets to keep foods cool. There will be minimal condensation and no slushy water to mess with. Cool air travels down, so put your cooling mechanism on top of the food and allow it to cool from the top down. If it’s an especially large cooler, add gel packs in the middle and the top.
  8. Pack your food cooler in chronological order. Think about what you’ll need first and most often, and have that available at the top. This will help you contain the cold air and keep you organized.
  9. Keep perishable items in sealed containers and close to a cold source. Meats and dairy products should be stored in an airtight bag or container and placed directly next to a gel pack to prevent spoil and contamination.
  10. Keep coolers out of direct sunlight. All your smart packing and cooling techniques will not do much good if the cooler is baking in the sun all day. A shady spot will make all the difference.

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Summer Boredom Buster: Make Greeting Cards

If it’s too hot outside and the kids are getting restless, why not get creative to beat this summer boredom? Open up your arts and crafts closet, pull out your stuff, and have the kids create their own greeting cards for a year’s worth of occasions. The kids can eliminate their boredom with a little creativity and you’ll be thanking yourself again and again during the busy occasions ahead for utilizing this down time! Check out these ideas for inspiration:

1. Turn a handprint into Santa’s beard with this clever holiday card. (Can you imagine the bragging rights you’ll earn if you get your holiday cards made in July?)

2. Transform wine corks into custom stamps to create these handmade valentine cards.

3. Pick some flowers from the yard and use them as stamps to create a delicate design for an anytime card.

4. Create designs with a white crayon on card stock, then use watercolors on top to create a beautiful reverse design.

5. Cupcake liners from the kitchen cupboard paired with tissue paper and fuzzy poms transform into colorful birthday cupcake cards.

Do you have a favorite boredom buster? Share your ideas in the comments section.

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DIY Temporary Tattoos

Summer skin is the perfect place to showcase a new tattoo, but there’s no need to commit to permanent ink. We’ve got a fun way to create your own temporary tattoos that look totally legit with just a few household items (and maybe an artistic friend). Follow these directions for a tattoo that will last approximately one month with normal wear.

DIY Temporary Tattoo

Sharpie marker
baby powder
hairspray

1. Wash and dry skin surface.
2. Use a Sharpie marker to draw image directly onto skin.
3. Sprinkle a generous amount of baby powder onto the tattoo and gently rub in a circular motion.
4. Brush off excess powder.
5. Hold hairspray can several inches from tattoo and spray the area for about 5 seconds, or until coated.
6. Allow hairspray to dry and set for about 10 minutes before washing the tattoo.

HINT: Use a variety of Sharpie colors and tips to create all sorts of intricate art. The sky is the limit! (Although, we’re partial to cookie tattoos.)

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How to Revive Your Dingy Outdoor Furniture

If your patio furniture has lost its luster, don’t toss it out. A little elbow grease along with the right tools can turn your dingy patio furniture into like-new lounge areas. Here’s what you need to bring your furniture back to life:

  • White Resin Furniture: Use a bleach/water solution (1 part bleach to 5 parts water) along with a fine steel wool pad to easily scrub away the grimy gray film on your furniture (as pictured). Don’t forget a pair of gloves.
  • Aluminum Furniture: Mix 1 teaspoon dishwashing soap with a gallon of warm water. Dip a sponge in the solution and scrub the furniture. Rinse with a hose.
  • Wrought Iron Furniture: Use a broom or bristled brush to remove dirt and debris from crevices, then hose it down thoroughly. Add a teaspoon of dishwashing liquid to a gallon of water and gently scrub the iron, then rinse thoroughly. Wipe furniture down with a towel.
  • Teak Furniture: Use a soft brush to clear dirt and dust away. Then, use a mild wood soap solution with a damp rag to clean the wood. Rinse with a hose and allow to dry.
  • Wicker Furniture: Use a hose vacuum to remove dirt and debris from the tight weave, then dust with a dry paint brush. Mix 1 teaspoon mild wood soap with 1 gallon of warm water and use a soft rag or sponge to wash the furniture. Rinse with hose and wipe down with a clean towel.
  • Canvas Cushions: Mold and mildew can build up on the edges and underside of canvas fusions. Mix 1 teaspoon dishwashing detergent with 1 teaspoon Borax in one quart of warm water and fill a spray bottle. Thoroughly saturate the entire surface of the cushion, especially in the creases, crevices and edges. Allow the solution to sit for 15-20 minutes, then using a garden hose with a jet attachment, spray the cushions to release the solution and the grime. Stand the cushions on edge and allow to dry in a sunny spot until just damp. Then spray with a fabric protector to prevent future mildew. Allow to dry thoroughly in the sun.

NOTE: Always test in an inconspicuous area before treating an entire surface!

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Sweet Ideas for Store-Bought Nibblers

Have you picked up a box of our fudge-dipped Nibblers Cookies at your grocery store yet? These crave-worthy cookies are delicious right out of the box, but we’ve thought of some other great ideas to transform these snacks into some of your favorite desserts!

  • Mini Ice Cream Sandwiches: A little scoop of ice cream in between two Nibblers Cookies is both delicious and adorable.
  • Pie crust: Add two tablespoons melted butter to one box of loosely crushed cookies, then press into an 8″ pie tin. Fill with your favorite cream or pudding filling.
  • Brookies: Our Nibbler Cookies are delicious baked inside of a brownie using our Brookie Pan.
  • Push Pops: Layer Nibbler Cookies with cream and chocolate layers in your favorite childhood push container.
  • S’mores: Squish a freshly roasted marshmallow in between two Nibblers Cookies. The fudge will melt to make an ooey gooey easy s’more.

Grab a box and get creative!

25 Ways To Be a Tourist In Your Own Town

Now that summer is here, you don’t have to plan a getaway to enjoy some new sights. Chances are, there are plenty of interesting fun things to do in your own hometown that you’ve never tried because, hey, they will always be there, right? Time to go exploring in your own backyard with these great tips:

  1. Pretend you have friends coming to stay with you from a foreign country for the first time. Where would you take them?
  2. Pick up a local guidebook. You’re likely to discover places and tips you didn’t even know about!
  3. Sign up for community newsletters and mailings to be aware of happenings.
  4. Use web apps like Yelp! to discover new places to eat that are rated by locals.
  5. Spend a few minutes looking at the postings on bulletin boards in public places like libraries and schools.
  6. Visit your town’s website. Find out historical facts and future events.
  7. Make a list of museums, galleries, and parks in your town and make a point to visit them.
  8. If there are lakes or rivers nearby, rent a canoe and spend a day on the water fishing or relaxing.
  9. Research nearby walking, biking, or hiking trails. Take a bottled water and bug spray and make an afternoon exploring the great outdoors.
  10. Ditch your car for the day and plot out a pedestrian day about town.
  11. Take a ride on public transportation, whether bus, metro, tram or train. You’re likely to get a different glimpse of your own city and community.
  12. Snap a lot of photos, just as you would when touring other cities. Don’t let the familiarity keep you from preserving memories.
  13. Interview longtime residents about what life was like when they were younger. Ask their recommendations for a day on the town.
  14. Explore your local architecture. Look for themes, influences and charm. What’s the tallest building in town? The oldest?
  15. If you live in an older town, find out if there are guided ghost tours and take a friend for a bone-chilling walk into the past.
  16. Research your local gardener’s guild and participate in a garden tour of homes.
  17. Many tourist councils offer city passes with discounts to major attractions. Purchase one and spend the summer visiting different attractions.
  18. Any famous persons from your town? Research their biography and walk in their footsteps.
  19. Get connected with your local arts council. Attend outdoor concerts or plays put on in the community.
  20. Utilize weekend mornings for farmers markets and yard sales to pick up local delicacies and great antiques.
  21. Mix up your routine. Drive a different route to work for a week. Eat in different restaurants. Shop at a different grocery store.
  22. Spend a night or weekend at a local hotel or bed and breakfast.
  23. Attend a local sporting event and cheer for the local team. Even if you don’t know anybody!
  24. Shop local small businesses to find unique and meaningful “souvenirs” unique to your town and the people there.
  25. Adopt an adventurous attitude. We’re more likely to try new things on vacation, but why not at home too? Say yes to new opportunities and invitations that push you out of your comfort zone and lead to discovery.

12 Great Recipe Ideas for a Long Weekend

If you’re hosting a houseful for the holiday weekend ahead, there’s no need to slave over a stove to keep everybody fed. We’ve got a secret weapon to keep you on top of your game. Store-bought rotisserie chicken can be transformed into so many different delicious recipes, it’s the most versatile way to feed your crowd over the long weekend without breaking a sweat. (And nobody knows they’re eating leftovers!) We’ve put together a dozen crowd-pleasing meal ideas (hot, cold, and room temperature) to see you through from Friday to Monday.

1. Stir some tangy barbecue sauce with the chicken and serve it on rolls with coleslaw for a delicious Pulled Chicken Sandwiches.

2.  This Asian Chicken Pasta Salad is fantastic as a light lunch or dinner, or as a perfect potluck side dish.

3. A platter of Chicken Chimichangas can be put together quickly and will undoubtedly go fast.

4. A pot of this Half Hour Chicken Gumbo and a pan of cornbread is an impressive quick meal with impressively rich flavors.

5. Fresh Greek-inspired flavors come together in this Chicken, Tomato and Feta Pasta Salad that is perfect served cold or at room temperature.

6. Everybody loves an enchilada, and the pre-cooked chicken makes these Chicken and Green Chile Enchiladas come together in a snap.

7. Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wraps are a fabulous appetizer or lunch with fresh, summery flavors that everyone will love.

8. It’s hardy, it’s healthy, and so pretty too. Chicken and Wild Rice Salad is a meal on its own or a perfect side dish at the BBQ.

9. A Pear and Chicken Sandwich is perfect for a picnic in the park, a hike in the hills, or fresh fare during fireworks.

10. Loaded with grapes, apples, cashews and dill, My Favorite Chicken Salad is delicious on a croissant or as an appetizer next to a plate of crackers.

11. You can’t go wrong with a pot of chili and this White Chicken Chili is a savory summer alternative to heavier beef versions. Load it with fresh toppings like avocado, cilantro and sour cream.

12. And finally, a Tex-Mex twist makes these BBQ Chicken Tacos a festive (and easy) meal to serve inside, outside, for lunch or dinner.

Tips for a Perfect Cheese Plate

As an appetizer at the beginning of a party or as dessert to wind things down, a cheese plate is a beautiful and creative way to feed your guests. Putting together a great cheese plate is both an art and a science, but it’s not hard to pull off once you learn a few tricks. Here’s everything you need to know to do it right:

  • Serving Sizes: Plan on roughly 1-2 ounces of cheese per guest.
  • Variety: Select cheeses that are a variety of different textures (aged, firm, soft, semi-soft, blue) and made from different milks (cow, sheep, goat).
  • How Many: No need to go overboard. Three to five cheeses are plenty for a great platter. Too many options can get overwhelming.
  • Serving Temperature: Room temperature provides the best flavor and texture of each cheese. If you make your platter ahead of time, allow 45 minutes to an hour before serving.
  • Use Labels: Mark each cheese with its name and a simple one or two word description.
  • Knives: Have one knife per cheese.
  • Ask an Expert: If you’re not a cheese connoisseur yourself, no problem! Ask the advice of your local deli manager when putting together your cheese platter. He or she will likely have a lot of great recommendations. Let them know your budget and then allow them to offer advice.
  • Always Have Honey: A drizzle of honey balances and tames the flavor of sharp cheeses that some guests might not enjoy on their own.
  • Use Plain Bread and Crackers: Avoid herb-infused or flavored breads and crackers, which can fight flavors and take away from the experience.
  • Don’t Crowd the Platter: Leave a 1-2 inch gap between items on the platter to avoid getting fingers and knuckles where they don’t belong (and possibly cut!).
  • Fruit and Nuts Are a Must: Break things up with fresh fruit like grapes, figs, apricots and dates as well as small handfuls of your favorite nuts.
  • Sweet and Savory Sides: Jams, chutneys, olives, and thinly sliced salty meats like prosciutto are also great additions to your platter.
  • Platter vs. Individual Plates: If guests are walking around, opt for a large platter from which everyone can serve themselves. If it’s a formal sit-down meal, use an individual plate for each guest.

Do you have a favorite cheese or platter tip? Share your ideas!

Image via Williams Sonoma

10 Genius Camping Tips

Summer is officially here and the great outdoors is calling. Before you pack up your gear and head for the hills, check out these great tips that will make your camping trip a breeze (and make you look like a genius)!

1. No need to lug around an entire bag of charcoal. Fill an empty paper egg carton with Match Light charcoal for a simple and effective fire starter for the grill.

2. No coffee pot? No problem. Make individual coffee bags out of coffee filters and dental floss. Allow them to steep in boiling water for several minutes, just like tea.

3. Refill empty Tic Tac containers with your favorite spices. It takes up less space and you can store them with your camping equipment year round.

4. Add bundles of sage to your campfire to keep mosquitoes away.

5. For perfect s’mores, use a small block of wood on the outer rim of campfire to rest your cracker and chocolate while you roast the marshmallow.The wood will transfer heat to get the chocolate nice and melted.

6. Campfire Banana Boats are a delicious ooey-gooey alternative to s’mores. Or a good side dish for s’mores. Either way.

7. Freeze drinking water in jugs and use them instead of ice in your cooler. Not only does it save space, it saves your ham sandwiches from getting soggy.

8. Avoid soggy, slippery bars of soap by creating one-time-use strips of soap with a vegetable peeler. HINT: rub dry soap on a mosquito bite to relieve itching.

9. Place a few of unscented dryer sheets on the table (or under a tablecloth) to keep bees away from the food.

10. A first aid kit that fits in your pocket is a must-have for hiking. Use an old prescription bottle and fill it with bandaids, alcohol wipes, antibiotic ointment and some Benadryl.

Do you have a favorite camping tip? Share you ideas with us!

Oh Fudge!

Today is National Fudge Day, the day we all gather to celebrate the rich, chocolaty goodness that is known as fudge. But how will you pay homage to this perfect confection? Here are some favorite fudge recipes to inspire your day:

Instead of your morning coffee, how about morning coffee fudge?

Or swap your sandwich for Mini Mint Fudge Ice Cream Sandwiches.

Think you don’t have time for fudge? Think again. This recipe for Easy Chocolate Fudge comes together in only ten minutes!

And happy hour just got happier with fudgy Guinness Brownies.

Heat things up in the evening with a little hot fudge, because everything is better with Hot Fudge Sauce (except, perhaps, spaghetti).

Or, cool things down with some Homemade Fudge Pops, the perfect treat on a summer evening.

Whatever you do, enjoy your day enjoying fudge!

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