Backyard BBQ Basics

Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer and is the quintessential time to celebrate American heroes with the three B’s: buds, brews, and barbecues. By now, you’ve got your patio decked out and have the essentials down for an outdoor party, but barbecues are another ballgame. Before you start marinating your meats, make sure you have these essentials down for a memorable Memorial Day BBQ.

Grill & Grilling Accessories

This roomy charcoal grill will stack all of your hot dogs and hamburgers without a problem!

This roomy charcoal grill will stack all of your hot dogs and hamburgers without a problem!

The most essential item at any barbecue is the smell of smoked meats wafting through the air. It goes without saying that a grill is necessary to make that happen. Invest in a quality outdoor grill and the appropriate accessories including skewers, utensils, and cleaning brushes. Make sure you have enough charcoal and lighter fluid or gas to power up and power through the entire meal. If you don’t have the space for a large, year-round grill or are looking to take your BBQ on the road, opt for a tailgate style portable grill.

Beer & Beverage Cooler/Tub

Nothing screams ‘Murica louder than an ice cold beer enjoyed at a Memorial Day barbecue. Make sure your beers and other beverages are adequately chilled in an ice tub/cooler. For a throwback to college keg parties with an adult twist, surprise your guests with an electric beer keg guaranteed to be the star of any barbecue. For your more elegant guests patriotically drinking red or white wine out of a blue glass, have a wine cooler handy.

Keep your beers and beverages cold in this cool looking cooler (it looks like a Coca-Cola can on the front!).

Keep your beers and beverages cold in this cool looking cooler (it looks like a Coca-Cola can on the front!).

Stylish Serveware & Plates

Sturdy, rustic serving tray made in the American heartland.

Sturdy, rustic serving tray made in the American heartland.

Eating outdoors doesn’t mean sacrificing style when it comes to serveware and plates. Stick with wooden serving trays to enhance the rustic ambiance of the outdoors and save yourself the worry over broken or shattered glass or china trays. Mark the occasion with fun and festive plastic plates designed for outdoor use; find stars and stripes styles that you can reuse for your July Fourth BBQ.

Mosquito & Insect Repellents

Nobody thinks about mosquitoes and other outdoor insect nuisances until they inevitably start hovering around your grill and guests, looking for meat – the human kind. Avoid the hassle of fighting over that one can of bug spray by preparing your backyard beforehand. Try a mosquito repellent torch that doubles as a romantic lighting source or an electronic solution that’s non-toxic and chemical-free.

Sun Protection

You may have been jonesing for the sun for a while now, but the last thing you want for yourself or your guests are sunburns as a result of your outdoor BBQ. Keep your guests safe in the sun by providing sunscreen, setting up seating in the shade, and opening patio umbrellas to cover areas in direct sunlight.

Lounge Seating

All that beer and meat is sure to make you and your guests want to sit – or lie – down. Make sure you have enough comfortable outdoor lounge seating in the form of colorful plastic chairs, wooden benches, or even a hammock or two.

Lounge seating, also available in red and white, for your All-American BBQ.

Lounge seating, also available in red and white, for your All-American BBQ.

Post-College Apartment Essentials

Moving into your first apartment post-college is an exciting milestone. For one, it means your degree came to good use and landed you a job. In between rent and student loan payments, what’s left of your salary will need to be spent on groceries, transportation, exploring your new city’s nightlife – and finally, furnishing your new digs. Whether you or your roommate are splitting the cost or seeking contributions from family and friends, we’ve got you covered on where to spend your cash on apartment essentials.

Kitchen Items

You probably could still continue subsisting on your abhorrent college diet, but the cost of eating out every night will quickly take its toll on your wallet – and waistline. Save money and eat better with a properly stocked kitchen where you can adequately prepare meals. Invest in real, non-paper plates and silverware that you can use to show off your improved cooking skills during dinners and parties. Most home goods stores offer all-inclusive sets at reasonable prices so you can have everything you need without breaking the bank.

Entertainment Center/TV Stand

A modern entertainment stand with plenty of room for storing and showing off the DVD collection you accumulated in college, from Monarch Specialties.

A modern entertainment stand with plenty of room for storing and showing off the DVD collection you accumulated in college, from Monarch Specialties.

You’re officially an official adult, and adults don’t have their televisions propped up on the boxes they came in. A chic TV stand or entertainment center, depending on which fits your area best, goes a long way to elevating the adult-ness of any living space. Choose a modern, space-conscious design that enhances the decor of the room while protecting your prized possession from toppling over. If you lack the space or funds for a well-designed stand, opt for a flat-panel TV mount and hang that bad boy up on the wall.

Home Improvement Tools

If you’re asking yourself who you would have to pay to install that TV mount, it’s time to get to your local hardware store or start reading Tools for Dummies. Brush up on basic home improvement necessities and have the most basic tools (hammer, screwdriver, wrench, pliers) handy. Invest in other home and safety staples like flashlights, step ladders/stools, and first aid equipment. Having (and knowing how to use) tools will save money and time when making small improvements like installing a shelf or putting together larger furniture.

A shockingly chic, adult-looking coffee & end table set that even a struggling post-grad renter can afford, from Steve Silver Company.

A shockingly chic, adult-looking coffee & end table set that even a struggling post-grad renter can afford, from Steve Silver Company.

Coffee & Accent Table

You finally ditched the futon and got yourself a real couch, and now you need a coffee table to match. Choosing and purchasing a coffee table and coordinating accent pieces doesn’t have to be stressful or expensive; you can find plenty of contemporary designed coffee table sets at competitive prices. Alternatively, you can make your coffee table the decorative centerpiece of your living room by splurging for a higher-end antique style or glassy post-modern piece.

Decor & Design

Speaking of decorative pieces, don’t forget to save some of your furnishing budget on designing your dream space. Unlike a dorm or college housing that you didn’t mind trashing and thrashing, make your apartment a sanctuary with carefully selected accent pieces and wall decor.

Stain and Spill Proofing Furniture

It used to be that stain-proofing a living room couch meant wrapping it in bulky plastic that crunched and stuck to sweaty legs when sat on. But these are the days of smartwatches and space travel, which means upgrades to grandma’s methods too. We’ve searched high (high tech, that is) and low for the best ways to protect your furniture from spills and stains so you don’t have to.

Slipcovers

 

Impeccable style while staying stain-free and sane. Slipcover seating by Powell.

Impeccable style while staying stain-free and sane. Slipcover seating by Powell.

The best protection against spills is to prevent them from happening. The easiest way to do so, assuming you’re not a psychic or sorcerer, is to cover your susceptible sofas and dining chairs with a slipcover. Unlike plastic, modern day slipcovers are sleek and available in a variety of styles and colors to satisfy everyone. In a home filled with young children and pets, entirely covering couches is the safest bet against stains. Easily washable and cost effective, slipcovers have even become their own category of style, with many designers offering lines of high-end, interchangeable covers for compatible upholstered dining chairs and couch cushions. Slipcovers are also safe, non-toxic, and easily removable when the kids are asleep and you’re enjoying a glass of wine or entertaining. If you’re not ready to cover up the couch completely and want to retain your own sense of style, decorative throws and afghans draped over the sofa make an excellent alternative.

Stain-Proof Sprays

If you have kids that are a bit older who won’t draw all over your furniture in permanent marker, you have more options than completely covering up the couch. Before you think about spray treating the fabric to make it stain-proof, think long and hard about the fabrics you choose for your home. Select the right sofa with fabrics that are kid-friendly, durable, and conducive to cleaning like microfiber. Steer clear of light colors (or, if you’re brave, steer into the skid and go all-white for easily bleachable stain removal) and temperamental fabrics like linen and silk. Stain-resistant sprays “seal” your fabrics to repel spills and can be used on most fabrics, including ones designated as dry-clean only. These sprays won’t change the feel of the fabric, allowing your couch to retain its comfort and can also be used on rugs and carpeting. While many manufacturers of these wonder sprays have altered their ingredients in recent years, concern still exists regarding the safety of these chemicals. If you’re set on spraying your stains away, do your research and stick with a non-toxic, environmentally-friendly brand.

Futuristic Fabric

Stain-proof your couch to avoid abstract toddler-designed upholstery. And buy your kid some paper. As seen on iVillage.

Stain-proof your couch to avoid abstract toddler-designed upholstery. And buy your kid some paper. As seen on iVillage.

The latest in spill-repellant fabric comes in the form of patio furniture. Before you dismiss it as absurd, think of the last time the rain damaged your outdoor couch. Never, right? While patio furniture has notoriously been known for its sometimes uncomfortable plastic-feeling polyester, advancements in technology have led to the development of wax and acrylic based cotton blends that feel just as comfortable as typical microfibers, while having the stain-repelling properties of sprays embedded within. If you’re not ready to start upholstering your living room couch in patio furniture fabric, take a small step by bringing outdoor pillows inside.

Home Gifts for Newlyweds

Wedding season is just around the corner, bringing with it the marriage of your wallet and the perfect wedding gift. Most couples have made life easier for you by registering for items they’ve personally chosen, but we all know that one couple that just never got around to it or whose over-eager friends depleted the registry before you got a chance to contribute. But don’t stress! Going off-book for wedding gifts gives you the chance to show your appreciation for the newlyweds by getting them something you know they’ll actually use, desperately need, or just love.

Serveware

Simple and stylish serveware to satisfy even the most demanding couple. Silver nesting dish set by Lazy Susan.

Simple and stylish serveware to satisfy even the most demanding couple. Silver nesting dish set by Lazy Susan.

Bring out the most in the newlywed hosts with chic serveware. The couple may already have enough cook and flat ware, but serving trays, tiers, and bowls are always welcome. If you know the couple and their style well, opt for a unique tray that you know they will love. If you’re not so familiar with their tastes, stick with universally appreciated styles in white porcelain, glass, or silver.

Vases & Sculptures

These are perfect examples of a “want, but wouldn’t buy it for myself” type of gift. A stylish vase or sculpture can make any room or space more elegant, but your newlyweds may not necessarily think to purchase one or even put it on a registry. Surprise quirky newlyweds with a whimsical and contemporary vase, or go upscale with a chic glass or porcelain sculpture.

Go for a colorful yet classy vase that can stand as its own decorative piece. Vase set by Uttermost.

Go for a colorful yet classy vase that can stand as its own decorative piece. Vase set by Uttermost.

Candles & Candleholders

Extend the honeymoon for your favorite couple with sophisticated candleholders for home-cooked, dimly-lit dinners and aromatic ones for afterwards. Sleek candleholders will not only act as useful candle housing, but can double as decor pieces when not lit. As with the other pieces, you can’t go wrong with minimalist silver candleholders or frosted glass tea light holders.

Picnic Basket

Candlelit dinners are plenty romantic, but an outdoor lunch or dinner can be even more special for the new Mr. & Mrs. Surprise your couple with a thoughtful picnic basket which they can use well beyond the honeymoon. For an added touch of personalization, you can include the couple’s favorite wine inside the basket.

Pitchers & Teapots

Like serveware, pitchers and teapots are gifts every host needs. But since you’re a rogue off-registry guest, make it a memorable one. Opt for an out-of-the-box piece that is not only functional, but decoratively interesting as well. If you’re more conservative or worried about your submission getting re-gifted, stick with a classic tea or coffee serving set in silver.

This whimsical teapot set will brighten any couple's day; ceramic teapots by Howard Elliott.

This whimsical teapot set will brighten any couple’s day; ceramic teapots by Howard Elliott.

The couple that drinks together probably needs a stylish wine holder like this wall-mounted one from Moe's Home.

The couple that drinks together probably needs a stylish wine holder like this wall-mounted one from Moe’s Home.

Stemware & Wine-ware

Speaking of beverages, you can’t go wrong with wine accessories. Wine glasses are always a safe bet, but can be predictable. Venture on the wild side with a quirky wine holder and unique wine stoppers. For the wine connoisseur couple, go upscale with an elegant decanter.

Tidy Home Hacks for the Busy Mom

Mother’s Day comes around just once in May, but your kids keep you busy and feeling like the full-time mom you are all year around. After all the feeding, clothing, and preparing for school, soccer, and sleep, your children leave you little time (or energy!) to keep a tidy home. It’s been said that a messy home is a happy one, filled with active and imaginative kids, but keeping a neat house is just as important to raising well-organized children. Here are a few tips from moms across the Internet on how they manage to retain their sanity while keeping a happy, but clean home.

Include the Kids

Your kids are basically little soldiers for Team Parents. Use them to help keep the house clean by assigning chores that play to each one’s strengths and involving them in daily activities like dish washing and folding laundry. Turn clean-up time into a game or blast music to combine it with a dance party. If your kids are old enough to know you’re making them “do chores,” don’t be afraid to bribe them by creating a reward, ticket, or wheel system where they can choose-a-chore or land on a free pass.

Okay, this is a stock photo. But your kids can actually enjoy doing chores with you. Found on Modern Day Mom.

Okay, this is a stock photo. But your kids can actually enjoy doing chores with you. Found on Modern Day Mom.

 

Get (and Stay) Organized

Enough storage space for all your sentimental school-sent art projects. Storage cabinet by OSP Designs.

Enough storage space for all your sentimental school-sent art projects. Storage cabinet by OSP Designs.

The reason there are always Legos littered on the floor may have less to do with your kids’ messiness and more to do with lack of organization. Everything, from clothing to papers to toys should have a proper home. Assigning a communal or personal toy box for your children is a great way to relay the importance of personal responsibility while stressing the need for returning items to their proper places. Keep their shoes paired properly by assigning each child their own hook and cubby space in the mud room or a specific area in the entryway or foyer for storing shoes, coats, and caps. Remember that your children are sponges and learn from you, so they’ll be more likely to keep their rooms and belongings organized if they see you doing the same.

Declutter for Chaos-Free Living

You love the art projects your little ones bring home, but don’t let yourself drown in the deluge of papers and macaroni art sent from school. Clutter is the root of all chaos. Weigh the necessity of whatever your child brings home: if it’s actually important, keep it in a folder and toss it when no longer necessary, if it’s truly sentimental, store it. With their growing bodies, kids collect tons of clothing over the years, turning their rooms and your laundry pile into a muddled mess. Work with your children to declutter their closets and rooms for outgrown clothing and toys which you can donate, teaching them another valuable lesson in generosity.

RELAX!

The truth, as told by Pinterest.

The truth, as told by Pinterest.

Seriously, relax. You are probably your own worst enemy when it comes to expectations of cleanliness in your home. Lower your standards a bit and remember that mess-free and happy is a whole lot better than spotless and exhausted. Give yourself credit for the little victories and wellbeing of your children, remembering that they are your source of pride, not your house.