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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15 Genius Summer Party Ideas

Get your next summer party on the calendar with these genius ideas that will transform you into the host with the most. From decorations, to cooking tips, to thoughtful details that make your guests feel comfortable, these ideas will change the way you par-tay!

Clip flowers from your yard and place them under glasses with votive candles on top.  This will create a gorgeous, colorful display that takes you from daylight to night light.

 

Terra cotta pots lined with foil and filled with hot charcoal make great centerpieces and tiny s’mores stations!

Large leaves make colorful coasters for drinks.

Provide outdoor necessities your guests may have forgotten, like bug spray, sunscreen, extra sun hats or scarves.

Put glow sticks in balloons and scatter them across the yard for an illuminating display.

 

Think outside the box for serving containers. Fill a kiddie pool, wheelbarrow, or bird bath with ice and turn it into a cool drink station.

Fill water balloons and freeze them for colorful, functional ice blocks to keep food and drinks cool.

Keep bugs at bay and out of your cocktail by popping a cupcake liner on top of your cup!

Grilling burgers? Have guests write their meat preference in ketchup on their bun.

Cook kebabs more evenly by using two skewers instead of one. It will keep items from spinning or falling off.

A mini marshmallow in the bottom of an ice cream cone prevents drips!

Use colorful pots or vases to hold utensils and other party necessities. Always inventory your own stuff before buying anything new.

Tea lights inside empty jars transform into summertime lanterns. This is an incredibly simple and affordable way to add ambiance to a party. Place them on tables, along paths, and anywhere you need a little twinkle of light.

Serve summer salads or appetizers in strawberry crates. Cute, recyclable, and a perfect way to control portions.

Transform your hampers into trash and recycling bins at your party. So much prettier than regular garbage cans.

Do you have a favorite outdoor entertaining tip? Share your ideas!

Recipe: Watermelon Pie

Mrs. Fields Secrets Watermelon Pie
Everything you love about summer is contained in this delicious pie. It’s a sweet, cool, refreshing reprieve from the hot summer sun. No artificial watermelon flavoring found here, this pie is made with real watermelon juice, which gives it the most amazing authentic flavor. It’s a light summer dessert you’ll enjoy again and again. Pair it with your favorite crumb crust, a bit of whip cream, and put your feet up for a while to enjoy. Better yet, find a hammock.

Watermelon Pie

2 prepared pie crusts (graham cracker or vanilla wafer)
5 cups pureed, strained watermelon juice (approximately half of a large watermelon)
4 envelopes unflavored gelatin (1 oz. total)
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions
Separate two cups of watermelon juice into a microwave-safe container and pour the gelatin packets on top. Allow the gelatin to bloom for about 2-3 minutes. In a mixing bowl, combine the remaining three cups of watermelon juice with lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar and cream. Whisk until sugar is completely dissolved. Place the gelatin/juice mix in the microwave and heat for two minutes on high, stirring midway to help dissolve the gelatin entirely. Slowly whisk the warm gelatin mix into the other mixture. Once combined, pour into the prepared pie crusts and refrigerate several hours or overnight. Serve chilled with whipped cream.

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.

Recipe: Deep Fried Pickles with Spicy Dipping Sauce

Mrs. Fields Secrets Fried Pickles
We’re rounding out our Favorite Fair Food Series (see Deep Fried Oreos and Funnel Cake) with a delicious snack that is perfect for sharing with friends. Deep fried pickles have everything going for them: sweet, spicy, crunchy, salty. The key is to use a good quality pickle. Choose your favorite variety (we recommend a sweet and spicy brine), and make a batch for your next party or movie night in. (And don’t forget the spicy, tangy dipping sauce.) They are blue-ribbon worthy and downright addictive!

Deep Fried Pickles with Spicy Dipping Sauce

2 cups sliced pickles, drained
1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons cajun seasoning
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup water
pinch of salt
2 quarts peanut oil

Spicy Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 tablespoon ketchup

Directions
Heat oil to 375 degrees. In a mixing bowl, stir flour, cajun seasoning, pepper, baking soda and salt together. Whisk in the water and stir until no lumps appear. In a small bowl, combine the dipping sauce ingredients and set aside. Dredge half of the pickles in the batter and place in the hot oil. Fry until golden brown on both sides and remove to drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining pickles. Serve warm with dipping sauce.

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.

Giveaway: What’s Your State’s Favorite Treat?

Patriotic Cookie Tray

Undoubtedly, one of the best things about America is the diversity of culture, people, and best of all, food. Every region around the country has its own unique cuisine and flavor, the staple dishes that represent the population. We know that Philly has cheesesteaks, and New York has pizza, but what about the treats? With the Fourth of July right around the corner, we’re celebrating the great flavors of all fifty states with a fun new giveaway.

Show your state pride and win some delicious Mrs. Fields cookies by completing this sentence: When you come to __________(your state), you’ve got to try the ____________! Tell us your state’s favorite treat and you’ll be entered to win this incredible Patriotic Cookie Tray, loaded with our favorite treats: luscious cookies, brownies, and frosted cookies.

Time to step up and represent your state!

Fine print: One entry per person, please. Entries accepted until midnight, Sunday, June 29, 2014. You must be 18 years to enter and a resident of the United States. Winner(s) will be selected and notified via email.

Recipe: Funnel Cake

Mrs. Fields Secrets Funnel Cake
We’re back for the second installment in our Favorite Fair Food Series with a fair food that has been around as long as fairs themselves. Sweet, crispy funnel cake, dredged in powdered sugar is an indulgence that you can definitely enjoy at home. The key to a great funnel cake is a good batter, some hot oil, and the right squeeze bottle. (We highly recommend this Pancake Pen.) It’s really that simple!

Funnel Cake

1 large egg
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons melted butter
2 quarts peanut or canola oil
powdered sugar

Directions
Heat oil to 350 degrees while you prepare the batter. In a mixing bowl, whisk egg, then add the milk and vanilla and whisk again until well combined. In a separate bowl, stir the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt together. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until there are no lumps. Stir in the melted butter then transfer batter to a squeeze bottle. Once oil has reached the correct temperature, squeeze batter into the oil in a circular motion until you have an even layer (about a 1/2 cup of batter). Cook for about 30 seconds, or until edges appear golden brown, then flip and cook an additional 15-20 seconds on the other side. Gently remove cake to drain on paper towels, then coat with a generous sprinkle of powdered sugar before serving. Makes 4-6 cakes.

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

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