About Melanie

I am an Online Marketing Specialist with LivingDirect.com.

Summer Cool Down Giveaway

Summer Cool Down Giveaway

This summer we are excited to be giving away a prize package of items to help fight off the summer heat. Unlike our other giveaways though, this one isn’t as simple as just entering your name to win. We’re asking entrants to write a blog post about why they want the products and how they will use them. The winner will be voted upon by the readers leaving comments on their favorite posts.

Here’s how the giveaway works:

June 27, 2012 – July 11, 2012 – Entry Period

During this time, entries are being accepted! Write your blog post and send it in to us. Don’t just write a single word or sentence. A blog post needs to be at least a few paragraphs and the more detailed you are, the more likely you will probably be picked as a finalist.

July 11, 2012 – July 17, 2012 – Choosing the Finalists

The entry form is going to disappear on July 11 and we’re going to start going through all of the entries to narrow them down to our favorites. Out of our favorites, no more than10 entries will be chose as our Finalists. All Finalists will be notified of their qualifying by July 17.

July 18, 2012 – July 31, 2012 – Voting Period

The Finalists will have their blog posts posted to our site along with a Facebook comment box for people to use to vote for their favorite post. Finalists are encouraged to share their post wherever they can to try to get as many votes as possible! Whichever post has the most comments by midnight on July 31, will be the official Grand Prize Winner! The post with the second most comments will be the First Runner Up.

The First Runner Up will win their very own Koldfront PAC701W portable air conditioner. The Grand Prize Winner will also get a Koldfront portable air conditioner (but the AP12000S model), a Koldfront portable ice maker, a Wagan travel cooler and a Little Snowie snow cone maker!

So hurry on over to our Summer Cool Down Giveaway and send us your blog post entry. Only one week left to enter!

Father’s Day Sale & Gift Ideas

Father's Day Banner

Just say NO to ties! Whether your dad uses the backyard to house his grill or his garden, keeps wine or beer in stock, we have the perfect gift to make his Father’s Day extra special – and none of them can be worn around his neck (at least not comfortably). Plus, we are currently offering an extra 5% off most products that are already discounted 20% off! Break the tie tradition and get on Dad’s good side with any of these choices:

For the Beer Enthusiast:

Krups Beertender Mini Kegerator   Nostalgia Electrics Kegerator   EdgeStar Dual Tap Kegerator   28 Quart Jockey Box

from left to right: Krups Beertender Mini Kegerator ($141.55*), Nostalgia Electrics Kegerator ($399.99), EdgeStar Stainless Steel Double Tap Kegerator ($616.55), 28 Quart 2 Faucet Red Jockey Box ($398.05)

For the Wine Lover:

Summit Countertop Wine Chiller   EdgeStar 26 bottle Wine Cooler   Koldfront 4 Bottle Wine Cooler   EdgeStar 155 Bottle Wine Cooler

from left to right: Summit 8 Bottle Countertop Wine Chiller ($341.24), EdgeStar 26 Bottle Dual Zone Wine Cooler ($699), Koldfront 4 Bottle Wine Cooler ($94.99), EdgeStar 155 Bottle Dual Zone Wine Cooler ($1499.99)

For the Grill Master:

 Outdoor Greatroom Company Portable Gas Grill   Minden Master Gas Grill   Napoleon Mirage Grill   Grill Dome Infinity Series Kamado Grill

from left to right: Outdoor Greatroom Company 20″ Portable Gas Grill ($219), Minden Master Gas Grill ($479), Napoleon Mirage Grill w/Infrared Rear & Side Burner ($1899), Grill Dome Infinity Series Kamado Grill ($799.95)

For the Gardener:

Exaco ECO Square Rain Barrel   Brill Razorcut Push Reel Lawn Mower   Good Ideas Compost Wizard Standing Bin   Exaco 39 sq ft Green House

from left to right: Exaco ECO 70 Gallon Rain Barrel ($208.99), Brill Razor Push Reel Mower ($239.99), Good Ideas Compost Wizard Standing Bin ($128.25), Exaco 39 sq ft Green House ($427.49)

*NOTE: All prices are valid as of 6/14/12, but are subject to change.

What are you getting Dad this Father’s Day?

4 Built-In Appliances to Replace a Trash Compactor

trash compactor

If your kitchen has a trash compactor, but you hardly ever use it, then maybe it’s time you replaced it with a different appliance. Trash compactors are typically 15 inches wide, but make sure to measure your model and the opening it sits in before deciding on the new appliance you want to exchange it with.

To help get you started, I’ve put together a list of appliances that are 15” wide and could easily replace your outdated trash compactor. Start dreaming of the ways you can upgrade your kitchen:

Wine Cooler

Like all under counter appliances, you will want to make sure you are purchasing a wine cooler that is specifically designed for built-in purposes. A freestanding unit should not be built into cabinetry because it will overheat and stop working, and in the process, your wine could be ruined.

A wine cooler will definitely upgrade the look of your kitchen. There are many different designs you can choose from, but all of them are sleek and sure to be a conversation piece amongst visiting family and friends.

Aside from the aesthetics, if you enjoy wine, then having a wine refrigerator in your kitchen is convenient. You can easily pair a wine with your dinner, entertain guests or enjoy a glass after a long day at work. The wine will be perfectly chilled to your preferred temperature and waiting for you when you want it.

Some of my favorite 15”, built-in wine coolers:

Koldfront Built-In Wine CoolerKoldfront BWR300BL Built-In Wine Cooler

- Single zone wine cooler

- Holds up to 30 bottles

- Temperature range of 40 – 65 degrees F

- LED display & interior lighting

- Slide out wire shelves

 

EdgeStar Built-In Wine CoolerEdgeStar CWR261DZ Built-In Wine Cooler

- Dual zone wine cooler

- Holds up to 26 bottles

- Temperature ranges:
Lower zone – 40-54 degrees F
Upper zone – 54-64 degrees F

- Slide out steel-trimmed, wooden shelves

 

Vinotemp Wine CoolerVinotemp VT-26 Built-In Wine Cooler

- Single zone wine cooler

- Holds up to 26 bottles

- Temperature range: 45-65 degrees F

- Has a lock for keeping your wine secure

- Slide out wood shelves

 

Beverage Refrigerator

What’s great about having a beverage fridge in your home is you’ll free up space in your kitchen refrigerator. Sodas and beers can take up quite a bit of shelf space that could instead be used for more groceries or leftovers from dinner.

Having a designated fridge for your drinks will also make it easier when entertaining because guests will know exactly where to go for a refill. It also means your refrigerator door won’t be constantly opened and closed, causing temperature fluctuations, which can cause some food items, like eggs, to go bad.

My favorite 15”, built-in beverage fridges:

EdgeStar Beverage FridgeEdgeStar CBR900SS Beverage Fridge

- Holds up to 84 cans

- Temperature range: 38-50 degrees F

- Has a lock for keeping beverages secure

- Slide out coated wire shelves

- Blue LED interior lighting

 

Avanti Undercounter Beverage CenterAvanti BCA1501SS Beverage Center

- Holds up to 72 cans

- Temperature range: 34-43 degrees F

- Has a lock for keeping beverages secure

- 2 slide out glass shelves, 1 slide out wire shelf, 1 basket

- LED interior lighting

 

Marvel Beverage Fridge & Wine CoolerMarvel Beverage and Wine Fridge

- Holds up to 60 cans & 4 wine bottles

- Temperature range: 40-65 degrees F

- Slide out maple-trimmed, wire shelves

- Double pane, tinted, UV-resistant glass door

- An alarm if the temperature is higher or lower than desired point for an extended time

 

Refrigerator

Maybe instead of drinks, it’s too much food that’s making it difficult to close your kitchen refrigerator door. An under counter refrigerator might be the answer to your problems then.

Beverage fridges and regular fridges have a similar temperature range, but beverage fridges might get warmer than you need for storing food. Also, many refrigerators have door storage and adjustable shelves, which most beverage refrigerators don’t have.

Here are my favorite built-in refrigerators:

Avanti Built-In RefrigeratorAvanti OBC32SS Outdoor Refrigerator

- 3.2 cubic foot capacity

- Reinforced for outdoor use, but can be used indoors

- Comes with attachable caster wheels for easy mobility

- Full range thermostat

- Reversible, stainless steel door

 

Marvel Built-In RefrigeratorMarvel 30AR Refrigerator

- 3.0 cubic foot capacity

- 3 adjustable, chrome-plated wire shelves & 3 door shelves

- Auto-defrost

- Filler kit allows usage in 18-inch wide opening

- Leveling legs

 

Ice Maker

Large families, or those that just really love ice, might find that their refrigerator ice maker can’t keep up with their needs. Luckily, you can get a separate, larger ice maker than can be built into your kitchen cabinetry.

There are quite a few different under counter ice makers available on the market and most make what is known as clear ice, meaning it contains no impurities; it’s restaurant quality. However, the Scotsman that I’ve included in my list of favorite built-in ice machines makes what is known as nugget ice or, as most people call it, Sonic ice. That’s right; you can get delicious Sonic ice right in your home!

My favorite built-in ice makers:

EdgeStar Built-In Ice MakerEdgeStar Clear Ice Maker

- Makes up to 45 pounds of ice a day

- Stores up to 25 pounds of ice

- Removable ice bin

- Gravity drain line

- Insulated ice storage

 

Danby Ice MakerDanby Clear Ice Maker

- Makes up to 32 pounds of ice a day

- Stores up to 25 pounds of ice

- Removable ice bin

- Built-in drain pump

- Produces bullet-shaped ice cubes

 

Scotsman Sonic Ice MakerScotsman Nugget Ice Maker

- Makes up to 125 pounds of ice a day

- Stores up to 22 pounds of ice

- Produces “Sonic” ice

- Drain pump with 10 foot pump line

- Uses 40% less energy than standard machines

 

So, now that you know about the variety of built-in appliances available, it’s time for you to update and upgrade your kitchen by getting rid of that outdated, unused trash compactor. Fall in love with your kitchen all over again with any one of these amazing appliances!

 

21 Ways to Clean with Vinegar

Vinegar

Most cleaning products fall into one of two categories: toxic or expensive. While both types will clean almost anything, or at least what they are designated to clean, there’s a third option. It’s inexpensive and not at all poisonous to humans. It’s multi-purpose as well–one container will take care of laundry, kitchen cleaning, even bugs and weeds. You don’t have to look farther than your kitchen cabinet for this “miracle cleaner” – Vinegar.

Vinegar is a weak form of acetic acid that forms through the fermentation of sugars or starches. It is completely edible, and cannot harm your stomach and is safe to use around children. And luckily for us, many things can be cleaned using it.  The uses of vinegar are nearly endless. In addition to cleaning, it is an excellent item for cooking and even home science experiments.

For most uses you can fill a spray bottle with a vinegar and water mixture, which will make it much easier to use.  Here are 21 popular uses for cleaning with vinegar:

Uses around the House:

  • Removing stickers and sticky things that have been stuck around the house on walls and furniture.
  • A bowl of vinegar in room overnight gets rid of constant unpleasant odors.
  • If something is spilt on the carpet soak up as much liquid as possible with towels or sponges and spray with a mixture of half vinegar, half water. Wait 2 minutes and then blot with towel.
  • Wood paneling can be cleaned with 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup vinegar and 2 cups warm water.
  • With persistent stains, you can mix 1 teaspoon vinegar, 1 teaspoon liquid dish soap and 1 cup warm water. Follow the procedure above and then dry with a hairdryer.
  • To clean windows, spray with half vinegar, half water. Wipe clean with either newspapers or cloth.
  • 1 teaspoon of salt in one cup vinegar and 1/4 cup of flour can be used to create a polishing paste for silver, pewter, copper or brass. Apply to item, let stand for 15 minutes, rinse with warm water and dry with a soft cloth.

Bathroom Uses:

  • Soak showerheads in vinegar overnight to remove deterioration or chemical build-up.
  • When cleaning the toilet bowl, spray vinegar to get rid of rings and spots.
  • To prevent mildew, spray shower walls and shower curtain with vinegar.

Kitchen Uses:

  • Spraying  vinegar along doorways, windowsills, countertops, cabinets, etc. will get rid of ants.
  • Wash your sink out with vinegar and pour some down the drain to remove unwanted odors.
  • For a clogged drain,  pour in 1/2 cup baking soda and ½ cup vinegar. Rinse with warm water after bubbling occurs.
  • Vinegar is great for removing odors and bacteria  from a chopping board after use, as well as your hands after handing smelly foods like onions and garlic, etc.
  • Use it for any counter tops or surfaces.
  • For microwave cleaning purposes, put a bowl of 1/2 cup vinegar and 1 cup water inside and cook until it boils. This will get rid of odor and unstick food stains from the walls of the microwave.
  • Vinegar and salt together can be used to remove stains from china.

Who would have thought you could get so much out of such a common product!

Appliance Maintenance Tips

                    refrigerators

To ensure that your favorite appliances last a long time and continue to work well, you want to make sure you take very good care of them. From big appliances like refrigerators and washing machines to small appliances like toasters and microwaves, caring for their overall function is a must. Without proper care, your appliances may become ineffective, resulting in a higher electricity bill or unfulfilled purpose, or even potentially start a house fire due to faulty wiring or mechanics.

Cleaning your appliances after you use them is an excellent way to keep hazards at bay. Small appliances such as waffle makers, sandwich presses, blenders and toasters should especially be cleaned after use to help keep crumbs or uncooked batter from burning and possibly catching on fire. Therefore, after cooking food with these appliances you should wipe or wash them down, but also be cautious of electrical cords and features that may be ruined by contact with water.

Inspecting your appliances’ electrical connections is extremely important. Appliances age with use and loose wires can be potentially very dangerous to you and your family. If wires seem taut, split or torn and exposing the actual electrical wires, your appliance may be at risk of sparking and starting a fire or electrical surge causing a power outage in the rest of your home. This can also lead to damaging your appliance completely.

Overheating is also a common deficiency in older appliances. Being aware of the age of your appliances and their normal function is important so that you can recognize when something is wrong, like overheating or strange noises.  This appliance reaction is usually caused due to a backup of dust and dirt blocking the appliance filter. In some vacuums and washer dryers, this is common when the lint filter is filled to capacity with lint or dirt.

Make sure to read the instructions on any new appliance you purchase so you know how to care for them and what to do if they need repair. Some appliances are self-explanatory and easy to use, but keeping the instructions handy will help you if you need to repair the appliance or need warranty information. If something goes wrong with any of your appliances, you’ll find comfort in knowing you are prepared.

Holiday Gift Ideas: Small Appliances

Small Appliances

Small kitchen appliances make great gifts for any occasion. They are affordable and usually appreciated for the purpose they serve. Finding the right appliance can be confusing and time consuming but with these tips we hope to make your next shopping trip a little bit easier! Do your research and make sure you compare reviews so the gift-receiver isn’t left with a useless appliance.   Here are the top three most common small appliances for gifts:

 

1. Coffee Makers

Kalorik Coffee Maker

One of the best and most popular appliance gifts for the holidays is coffee makers. These are excellent gift choices because they will provide the receiver with hot beverages, a great way to warm up during this cold weather period.

Coffee makers typically range in price. Choices vary based on your budget and the special add-ons you want to include that may or may not be necessary for its overall purpose. For the best decision consider the recipient’s taste. Do they enjoy bright colors? If so, the Kalorik 12 Cup Coffee Maker is a great choice, we love its bright cherry red color and it can make enough coffee for the recipient and their family. It also has great digital features for the high tech people in your life! We offer a variety of coffee makers available in different colors, serving sizes and features, so you’re sure to find the perfect one for the coffee lover on your list.

 

2. Mixers and Blenders

Tailgator Portable Blender          Oster 10-Speed Blender          Kalorik Stand Mixer

Mixers and blenders are the next most popular appliance gifts. They make the perfect gift for the baker in your life or your health-conscious friend who enjoys a morning smoothie.  Both are also usually inexpensive but again, the price varies depending on the features you want.

Does your brother love to tailgate?  Get the green Tailgator Gas Powered Portable Blender for him to enjoy frozen drinks at his favorite sporting event.  For the more traditional model, try the Oster 10-Speed Blender . Then we’ve got this amazing Kalorik Silver Stand Mixer, for the Betty Crocker in your life.  You can choose from any of our mixer and blender options that come with a variety of features.

.

3. Toaster

Cuisinart Toaster                    Sunpentown Breakfast Maker

And finally, another common appliance gift is the toaster. Many families use toasters every single morning for breakfast. You can choose a regular toaster for the typical 2-4 slice appliance, or you can opt for a more multi-purpose toaster oven, which can toast your bread as well as cook frozen foods and bake small quantities of cookies and small entrees.

Our Cuisinart Classic 2-Slice Toaster is the perfect gift for your friend with a modern kitchen. Or you can combine the conveniences of coffee and breakfast by giving this Sunpentown Stainless Steel 3 in 1 Breakfast Maker as a present.

Finding the right small appliance for your gift giving needs can be easy if you consider the functions and preferences of the user.  Small appliances are excellent gifts for loved ones; they will keep on giving, providing the recipient with freshly made coffee or cooked food and drinks for many years to come!

Gift Baskets: Perfect Holiday Gifts

I am very pleased to say that LivingDirect.com now offers a whole slew of gourmet gift baskets featuring all sorts of themes. Gift baskets make great gifts for the holidays because it’s easy to find the perfect one for anyone on your list, they combine an assortment of items that the receiver is sure to enjoy and actually use, and they arrive already all wrapped up. Holiday shopping doesn’t get much better, or easier, than that!

To celebrate the launch of our new gift baskets (and show you that they really do come in all shapes, sizes and themes), I’ve compiled the following list of my favorite/the most unique gift baskets that we offer. (I’d also like to add that one of the best elements of any gift basket is the very unique name assigned to it, so I hope you enjoy these choices as much I enjoyed picking them.)

7 Unique Gourmet Gift Baskets

Frosty's Winter Wonder Care Package1. Frosty’s Winter Wonder Care Package

There really isn’t a better name for the image of this wintery-themed gift basket. The care package itself is decorated with plenty of snowflakes and snowmen, and even comes with a miniature Frosty stuffed toy.

I imagine this gift basket would be greatly appreciated by any college student in the midst of studying for their exams – however, that might be said for almost any of these – or by someone who loves winter wonderlands. This Frosty Care Package also includes, but is not limited to, cookies, jelly beans and two different types of hot chocolate.

 

Junk Food Junkie Gift Box2. Junk Food Junkie Gift Box

Honestly, the face on the box scares me a little, but it’s probably the exact same face I would make if I received this gift basket in the mail. There’s something about a box full of candy that turns adults into giddy little kids.

I’m not sure there’s anyone that wouldn’t enjoy this gift box. It comes with a large variety of different sweets and snacks, including M&Ms, Skittles, Reese’s, Chex Mix, Frito’s chips, cookies and even popcorn! They definitely aren’t kidding when they say junk food, but the holidays are the best time to indulge yourself a little.

 

And the Race is On NASCAR Lovers Gift Chest3. And the Race is On NASCAR Lovers Gift Chest

Now that is a mouthful of a name for a gift basket, but it certainly captures the theme well. I’m not quite sure what some of the items in this gift chest have to do with NASCAR, but I doubt any NASCAR lover would complain about receiving them.

This gourmet gift basket includes NASCAR-themed pistachios (please, someone buy this and let me know how that works), a cooler cup, racing-themed candies, cheese and crackers, a snack mix, NASCAR note cards with envelopes, a NASCAR hat and a book on stock car racing. The best part of the package though might be that it’s not actually a gift basket, but a 10 pack cooler that all of these great items arrive in.

 

Mickey's Fun House Gift Bag4. Mickey’s Fun House Gift Bag

This gift basket just proves my point that you can find a gift basket for anyone on your list, including even little kids. Though I do suppose this Mickey Mouse gift bag would make a great gift for a Disney-loving adult too.

Mickey’s Fun House Gift Bag is great for keeping kids entertained on days when they are stuck in doors because of bad weather or they’re sick. It comes with a Mickey coloring book and crayons, a Mickey puzzle, a Mickey paint set with 2 canvas boards, bubbles, candy, cookies and play-dough. This bag would make a great holiday gift or a wonderful get well soon package.

 

A Sincere Thank You Gift Box5. A Sincere Thank You Gift Box

If you wish to express gratitude to someone in your life, then this gift box is the best way to do so. Just make sure that your thankfulness is genuine, because, as the name says, this gift basket is for sincere thank yous only.

A Sincere Thank You gift basket includes chocolate-covered pretzels, truffles, chocolate peanuts, coffee, snack mix, mixed nuts, more pretzels (also, possibly chocolate-covered), caramel corn and flatbread crisps – All the ways someone knows that you really are thankful for their help.

 

6Bullseye Treats Dart Board. Bullseye Treats Dart Board

This might be the most interestingly packaged “gift basket” on the list, possibly our site. In fact, I had to double check with my coworkers that this was even on the right page! At first glance it looks like an actual dart board.

The Bullseye Treats Dart Board would make a great gift for a guy that can’t get enough of the bar. It comes with 6 assorted cheeses for pairing with beer, which might not be as impressive as some of these other gift baskets, but the dart board can actually be used for games! A package of 6 darts is included.

 

Picnic for Two Hamper7. Picnic for Two Hamper

The Picnic for Two Hamper is a brilliant gift idea for any couples (newlyweds maybe?) or people who love the outdoors on your list. It not only comes with delicious food already packed, but it also includes two place settings ready to go!

The food items in this picnic gift basket include fruit slices, cheese, cookies, sausage, salami, chips and salsa, crackers, snack mix (seems to be a gift basket staple), mustard, caramels and pretzels. The only thing not included is the blanket.

 

 

There are definitely more interesting gift baskets on our site that you should check out. Leave a comment and let me know which one is your favorite! And while you’re at it, take a look at our Holiday Gift Center for other great gift ideas.

 

Around the Living Direct Network

Here’s what’s been happening on the Living Direct Network blogs for the last 10 days or so. Expect more posts in the future once we have regular updates going strong. All links will open in a new tab.

Appliance Wise

What is the Best Portable Air Conditioner?

Wine Savvy

Can a Freestanding Wine Fridge be Installed Under the Counter?

Beer Scholar

Where to Buy a Kegerator

Compact Excellence

Welcome to Compact Excellence

Have a great weekend and stay tuned for more information on appliances.