Save time, energy and frustration by using smart home tech the next time you host family and friends for a holiday meal!
Guest post by June Lawrence
Whether your holiday entertaining features casual cocktail parties, full-fare, sit-down meals, or an open house for friends and neighbors – you can save time, energy and frustration with the latest home tech solutions that make holiday hosting easy. Smart home automation trends have made steady inroads in domestic consumer goods, home automation, and wireless entertainment market sectors, with expectations to surge beyond $3 billion in 2017.
Basic smart home tech starts with voice-controlled devices, wireless sensors, and semi-artificial intelligence platforms changing the way we entertain, work, and interact. These can reduce and help with chores that eat up your time and energy when hosting during the holidays. Whether you are menu planning, grocery shopping, stocking the bar, notifying attendees, or cleaning, there’s an app – or smart gadget to the rescue.
Holiday Shopping Helpers
Holiday menu shopping has never been simpler with The Shopping Button. As you scrutinize the pantry, use the voice recognition and recording features to create your holiday grocery list on-the-go. If this year’s holiday feast and lavish delicacies are a budget-buster, use this gadget to save money by scanning barcodes at your local, premium marketplace. Then connect and download your selections online for price comparisons and fast order placement.
New low-profile robotic vacuum cleaners include many updated features. Precise control directly from your smartphone takes care of last-minute clean-up or tidying between guest functions. Not only can you clean low-pile carpet or hardwood floors with a preprogrammed, recurring schedule, these labor-saving vacuums also dock and clean themselves.
Preparing the Kitchen
Smart home and kitchen automation systems are possibly the greatest application of smart technology for worry-free holiday hosting. Kitchen appliances that mate with a wide array of on-demand applications monitor and provide continuous feedback while preparing holiday dishes and desserts.
Smart kitchen appliances equipped with on-board intelligence, high-powered thermometers, and digital sensors tell you when to stir, flip, or add ingredients – like the pantelligent. Cook fast or slow, but cook smart with pressure cookers and crock pots monitored and controlled via smartphone.
For those with a bigger budget, consider swapping outdated kitchen appliances for new, connected cooking versions. A smart home hub provides seamless connectivity for multiple appliances; such as refrigerators that automatically send restock messages and smart ovens for perfect holiday pies. According to HomeAdvisor, the national average cost for a home automation system is about $1,200.
Cooking the Main Dish
Presenting the perfect Thanksgiving turkey or a succulent Christmas ham can be worrisome. Consider a smart thermometer with presets for all types of meats and weights to take the anxiety out of over or undercooking the holiday bird. You’ll always know the temperature of your food and exactly when it’s done. The key is a Bluetooth connection to your phone and easy-to-use, icon-based apps.
Large parties, especially those held at an off-site venue, often require the same planning and coordination as small corporate events. Consider party planning appsthat feature automated email invitations; interactive, step-by-step mixology videos, and helpful reminders at every stage of your event planning timeline.
And not to worry, you can always keep the holiday cheer pouring with an Internet-connected wine cooler. Within 30 seconds, internal cameras will scan wine labels to correctly identify and chill each bottle independently and at the perfect temperature.
Even sensor-driven kitchen fixtures lend a helping hand with liquid refreshments. Taps that deliver steaming hot water on command or touchless faucets that turn off and on with hand gestures are quick plumbing installations that cost between $90 – $500.
For the perfect finishing touch to a great holiday party complete the holiday ambiance with lighting. Consider installing the Phillips Smart Hue line of wireless and smart lightbulbs. Go from warm white exposure for casual conversation to a holiday-inspired scene for singing, dancing, and drinks. Smart lighting is also a great way to establish different moods throughout the home for an array of holiday entertaining or age groups.
Why spend the holidays frantically keeping up with all there is to do when smart home tech can lend an extra set of eyes, ears, and hands for trouble-free holiday hosting!
Source: CB Blue Matter Blog
Planning and cooking everything for Thanksgiving can be very stressful. But, who says you have to do it all? Follow this guide to Thanksgiving meal planning to lighten the load this year. As with most things in life, it’s all in the preparation.
Source: CB Blue Matter Blog
There is more to mowing grass than just pushing the mower back and forth. Did you know there are correct ways to mow your grass? Plus, knowing what the proper cutting length is and what to do about lawn clippings are important in keeping a healthy lawn.
Mow at the Right Frequency
There is a correct way to mow a lawn to get the cleanest, well-kept look. By keeping the grass at the right length, it keeps your grass stress-free and healthy. Grass should be a little longer during the hot summer months, especially in places that are in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 9b like Houston, Phoenix, New Orleans, and Tampa. When grass is permitted to grow a little longer, the roots grow deeper, and the grass gives the soil cover from the hot sun. It forms an insulation that lets the soil better maintain its moisture.
Mowing at the right frequency is key. During fall, the most common lawn mowing frequency in Houston is bi-weekly, or every two weeks, with 83 percent of Houstoniteschoosing this option. However, if you get lawn treatment and water more frequently, you may want to consider weekly.
Plus, the blade of the mower needs to be sharp. If the blade is dull, then it will shred the tops of the grass. Shredded grass tips can leave grass susceptible to diseases.
The Correct Way to Mow Your Grass
The first thing to do is to adjust the height of the mower so that the mower doesn’t butcher the grass. Also, if the lawn is shady, then it will benefit from setting the mower blades at a higher height. Because photosynthesis helps grass grow, a longer blade of grass has more surface for conducting photosynthesis. This is one secret to developing a healthy lawn when parts or all of it stay in the shade.
Also, don’t scalp the grass by cutting it too short. When a lawn is scalped, it becomes vulnerable to disease and invites weeds. By scalping a lawn, it exposes the soil, and the grass becomes sparse and weak. Plus, this gives the sun an opportunity to feed the weed seeds in the soil so that they start to grow. A lawn that is cut too short will have a system of poorly developed roots and this will cause damage to a lawn from hot days or drought.
The best rule of thumb is to follow the one-third rule: If more than a one-third of the grass blade is cut off, it can damage the grass.
Another tip is to mow when the grass is dry. When grass is mowed when wet, it’s not harmful to the lawn, but the results can look mediocre. This is because grass that’s wet will clog the mower and this makes it more difficult to mow. The grass also clumps and causes an uneven cutting pattern. In addition, if clumps of wet grass are left on the lawn, then it can kill the grass under the clumps.
When you mow in the middle of the day in the sun, it causes the lawn stress. The individual blades of grass will lose water quickly and recover more slowly. You can either mow in the cooler part of the day or mow the area when it’s covered in shade. This will let the grass rebound quicker. Also, when mowing, don’t always follow the same pattern. This can create ruts and compacts the soil. Compacted soil and ruts can cause unhealthy grass, which can provide places for weeds to start growing.
What to Do With Grass Clippings?
One problem that crops up is what do you do with the grass clippings when finished? A solution to that is called “grasscycling.” This is when you let the grass clippings lay on the lawn after it’s cut. When this is done, it can provide up to 25 percent of what the lawn needs as fertilizer. It also saves money on fees and yard waste bags. A specialized mulching mower isn’t necessarily required, but you can put a mulching blade on the mower that you already have. Grasscycling works well if your grass is mowed often. It can be done on grass that is cut when it’s longer — if you don’t have a mulcher, rake the piles of clippings flat after mowing and then run the mower back over them.
As you can see, there is more to mowing grass than just pushing the mower around the yard. If done correctly, it can revitalize your lawn.
Katie Kuchta is a marketing guru, gardening and outdoor living expert, and self-proclaimed foodie. She can often be found cooking in the kitchen or on the hunt for the best tacos. Follow her on Instagram @atxtacoqueen.
Source: CB Blue Matter Blog
For some sports fans, there’s more to the game day experience than the game itself. Sure, it’s great to cheer on your favorite team through a white-knuckle competition, but it’s just as fun to explore the smorgasbord of delicious food that every stadium and arena across America has to offer. Food is a big part of the stadium experience, whether you’re sharing a snack with friends or chowing down on a full meal from the comfort of the stands.
Nachos, chili cheese dogs, cotton candy and pretzels are just some of the classic foods you’ll find spectators noshing on—and don’t forget liquid accompaniments ranging from lemonade to beer. But as tasty as they are, these treats can do a number on your waistline. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to replicate your favorite game day snacks at home—and with creative and healthy twists—no matter which team you root for.
America’s pastime isn’t complete without a ballpark frank—and that goes double for Chicago Cubs fans, who gobble down Chicago-style hot dogs by the thousands each season. Topped with a garden of veggies—including tomato slices, white onion, pickle relish, sport peppers and a pickle spear—a Chicago dog is a much smarter choice than a chili cheese dog. And with a few simple substitutions—like chicken sausage instead of beef, organic veggies, and whole wheat buns—you won’t feel guilty going back for seconds. Or thirds.
Buffalo, New York is most famous for three things: the Buffalo Bills, the Buffalo Sabres, and the tangy, spicy, bright orange sauce that works so perfectly on chicken wings. Traditionally, buffalo wings should be fried, but grilling is a healthy and delicious alternative (and baking works just as well). Make sure you have a big stack of napkins for this snack, and don’t forget the celery and bleu cheese.
Peanuts are the perfect handheld snack that can feed tons of sports fans with very little effort. Rich in protein, they can be sweet, spicy, salty or sometimes all three. Southern sports fans have a penchant for boiled peanuts, which can be whipped up in a crock pot, while roasted peanuts have universal appeal.
If you’re making fries at home, you might as well kick it up a notch. Northern California is famous for its garlic and, as a result, its garlic fries. So it comes as no surprise that the dish is one of the most popular menu items at San Francisco’s AT&T Stadium, home of the Giants. If you follow this recipe, you won’t even need a deep fryer.
If there’s one thing New York Yankees and New York Mets fans can agree on, it’s that a baseball game isn’t complete without a soft pretzel and a side of spicy mustard. But if you’re gluten intolerant, you often miss out on this handheld treat. Luckily, pretzels are surprisingly easy to make at home—even without the wheat.
Stadium nachos are notorious for their neon yellow cheese sauce and a few other suspicious toppings. At home, you can load up your tortilla chips with whatever you want. Miami fans swear by Cuban-style nachos, which add a Caribbean twist to the traditional recipe by topping gluten-free tortilla chips with slow-cooked pork, ham and a light Swiss cheese sauce.
By the time the seventh-inning stretch rolls around, you’re going to be craving something sweet—that’s the real reason Cracker Jacks are prominently featured in “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” By substituting sugar with maple syrup, you can make caramel corn that’s as good as the Cracker Jacks you remember from childhood baseball games—but without all the calories (or, sadly, the toy surprise).
After all the hot dogs, peanuts and other snacks, you’re going to need something to quench your thirst. With just three ingredients—lemons, water, and honey—you can make ballpark-park quality lemonade at a fraction of the price.
Once you’ve gathered your snacks and turned on the game, it’s easy to recreate the stadium experience at home. Just gather your favorite sports fans, sit back and dig in.
Source: CB Blue Matter Blog
An uncluttered counter is essential in a small apartment. It looks attractive, feels more airy, and encourages you to cook, rather than sending you running for the takeout menu. So get creative with kitchen storage ideas, and you can make clean counters a reality.
No Drawers? No Problem!
Some tiny NYC kitchens lack drawers. This may seem like a big problem, but with a few clever kitchen storage ideas, you can work around it. For utensils, you have plenty of options. Mason jars work great. You can do what Heather Clawson of Habitually Chic did, and put them on the counter where they double as an attractive interior design element — but if you’re striving for empty counters, simply put them inside a cabinet. If you don’t want to use mason jars, you can use the kind of utensil caddytypically used for outside dining. It has separate compartments for each type of utensil, making it the perfect storage tool for forks, knives, and spoons.
If you like to cook and bake, you’ll have lots of mixing bowls, ramekins, and dishes. In order to allow them to be organized inside your cabinets and take up as little space as possible, it’s important to look for nesting bowls. Try Williams-Sonoma’s glass or melamine bowls — they’re incredibly useful for cooking while taking up minimal space.
Use Your Oven
Where’s the best place to store big, bulky pots and pans in a tiny kitchen? The oven! This saves invaluable cabinet space in a compact kitchen, and it takes only a few seconds to remove all the pots when you need to use the oven for cooking. If you have the appropriate overhead space, a pot rack can also be a good space saver — but be sure that your pans are attractive enough to be on constant display (copper is always a beautiful, high-quality option).
Maximize Wall Space
Use your wall space whenever possible. You can hang up a magnetic knife rack; you can also hang spices on the wall or the refrigerator, if you get magnetic spice containers. Both options look fun and eclectic, while saving valuable cabinet space.
Create More Counters
When your counter space is sparse, you need to get creative. Here’s an idea: Buy a large wooden or marble cutting board and place it over two of the stove burners. Instant extra counter space! When you’re not using the cutting board for cooking prep, you can put something on it like a French press or a spoon holder. It’s a win-win … but you must be careful of your stove dials! Always be vigilant about not accidentally brushing against them and turning them on while the cutting board is in place.
With these tips, your compact kitchen will be a clean, uncluttered space, perfect for whipping up meals and hosting friends!