4 Key Appliances for Outdoor Entertaining

When it comes to outdoor entertaining, the key to a successful party is creating an oasis for you and your guests. Understanding the important elements that will complete your event is crucial. If you plan to entertain outdoors in the summer, it means lots of heat. To ensure your guests do not become overcome by the intense heat that may be present, it would be wise to have a couple of cooling appliances readily available.

From cold drinks to a refreshing environment, your outdoor party will be successful when you implement the following elements. Each one holds equal importance in creating the perfect outdoor entertaining area. These four appliances ensure that you can refresh your guests’ drinks and provide comfort for everyone who attends your get-together.

1. Ice Maker

Portable Ice Maker

Ditch the trays, and keep your guests cool with ice on the go. There are many types of ice makers, but if you’re throwing an outdoor party, we would recommend going with a portable ice maker. You can bring it outside and put it just about anywhere. A portable ice maker gives your guests the convenience of getting quick ice, without having to go in and out of your house all day long. This will save them the hassle, and save you on your energy bills.

Portable ice makers will produce ice in as little as ten minutes, and produce 33 pounds of ice daily, or roughly the equivalent of three bags of ice.

2. Outdoor Beverage Refrigerators

Outdoor Refrigerator

It doesn’t matter what your guests are drinking, it’s a fact that everybody loves a cold drink on a hot day. Conveniently placed on your patio or deck, an outdoor refrigerator provides your party guests with easy access to the coldest beverages they crave.

Designed to thrive in unfavorable weather conditions, outdoor refrigerators are durable enough for year-round exterior use. Before you buy an outdoor refrigerator make sure it allows for various shelving configurations so you can fit a wide variety of shapes and sizes, as well as gives you multiple temperature options. For optimal convenience, place your refrigerator next to your ice maker and your guest can have an all-in-one beverage station and not even leave the party!

3. Kegerator

Mini Kegerator

Instead of having an unsightly keg sitting around, utilize the latest in beer-cooling technology with a kegerator. These devices can keep your beer at brewery-recommended conditions, allowing you to enjoy one keg for several months. This is another convenient way to cool your guests down while entertaining outdoors, without requiring everybody to go inside.

For small parties, a mini-kegerator may suffice. They are easy to move around and hold just enough beer for a small get together. However, for large parties or beer enthusiasts, we would recommend a dual or triple-tap kegerator. This gives your guests the option to choose between multiple types of beer. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love the opportunity to taste multiple types of beer.

4. Air Fans

Air Fans

When it’s really hot outside, a nice breeze can help cool your guests down. When a natural breeze isn’t an option, we would recommend adding a portable fan to the mix. This is a easy and cheap way to provide your guests with a quick reprieve from the heat.

When the heat is really bad, a misting fan is guaranteed to provide some prompt relief. These fans work by expelling a delicate mist into the air, which cools the air flow coming from the fan.

More Outdoor Entertaining Ideas:

If you have the four elements above, then your outdoor party is just about guaranteed to be a success. But, if you really want to impress your guests, you should consider adding a couple more items to the party.

When it comes to outdoor entertaining, success is definitely in the details. Having cold drinks and a comfortable and relaxing place to sit are factors that will help to complete the space and allow your guests to enjoy the party or event in comfort. Remember, you can entertain at any time of year when you use the suggestions listed here, since even in the hottest conditions these drink-cooling gadgets will provide refreshing beverages.

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The Best Types of Drinks for Boating

Nothing beats the heat on a hot summer day like relaxing on a boat. Whether you are hanging out with friends and family, trying to catch a good tan or just taking in the breeze, everybody loves going out on a boat. For your day on the water, it’s important to stay hydrated with ice-cold beverages to quickly quench even the mightiest thirst. Read on to learn about the best drinks to ensure your boating experience is fun-filled and dehydration-free.

Water & Sports Drinks

For a quick cool-down, keep plenty of bottled water and electrolyte-replenishing sports drinks on hand. In order to avoid dehydration, it would be wise to drink an abundance of these drinks. Iced tea is another good choice, as it is both refreshing and water-based. Just be sure to stay away from drinking large quantities of high-citrus and sugary drinks, such as lemonade or soda, because they have a diuretic effect on the body. It’s important to keep you hydrated, and these sodas will do the exact opposite.

Beer & Wine

What is a day on a boat without an ice cold beer? Not only is it a tasty and refreshing beverage, beer is easy to find, easy to carry and goes down smoothly on a hot day. Compared to other alcoholic drinks, beer is also going to be your cheapest option. Cans of beer are probably going to be the easiest option, but you could always bring bottles or a mini kegerator on board.

If you love wine, however, all hope is not lost. The French even have a name for wines that are good on a hot day: vin de soif, which literally means “thirst-quenching wines.” Your best bets are light whites and pinks. If you prefer mixed drinks, easy-to-make sangria begins with a wine base combined with ginger ale or soda water, fruits and sugar. Mix up a pitcher of sangria, and serve over ice.

Blended Drinks

Blended tropical drinks, such as margaritas and blue Hawaiians, are perfect boat companions. In fact, these drinks are often referred to as “boat drinks,” from the classic song “Boat Drinks” by Jimmy Buffett. If this is the route you want to take, we would recommend mixing the drinks in pitchers in advance and store the pitchers in a portable travel cooler until you’re ready to serve.

To make sure that your drinks are always ice cold, invest in a portable ice maker. Affordable, portable ice makers come in electric, battery-operated and hand-cranked versions. With a portable ice maker, your cooler never runs out of ice and your hand is never without an ice-cold boat drink. When it comes to portable ice makers, there are plenty of brands for you to choose from, but for the best quality, we would recommend going with either Koldfront or Edgestar.

To ensure true boating nirvana, make sure to keep lots of extras of whatever you are drinking on board. As new cans or bottles are opened, replenish your cooler so you always have cold drinks available. Keep in mind, alcoholic drinks will dehydrate you, so make sure you and your guests alternate alcoholic beverages with water and other hydrating drinks. Whatever you decide to drink, just remember to be safe and drink plenty of water while you’re out on a boat.

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5 Margarita Recipes to Make Your Next Summer Party a Smash

Summer get-togethers are not complete without a tasty plate of food in one hand and a cold drink in the other. One thing that is sure to take your party from good to great is a fun fiesta theme – complete with margaritas. Here are some tips and a couple of recipes to make sure your summer fiesta makes Jimmy Buffett proud.

Your Margaritaville party deserves the best. But remember, Margaritas are only as good as their worst ingredient, so use quality, 100% agave spirits, real Triple Sec and freshly squeezed lime juice. For those who like salted rims, use coarse sea salt or kosher salt – never table salt. Make sure to run a lime wedge around the rim to make the salt stick.

The Classic Margarita

Before you go crazy with variations, first you must master the classic margarita.

What you will need:

  • 1 cup of tequila
  • 3 ounces orange liqueur
  • 3 ounces fresh lime juice
  • 1 ounce agave nectar (optional)
  • Yield: 4 Margaritas

Directions: Shake the ingredients with ice, and strain into a cocktail glass with a salted rim. If your mixture is too sweet, add more lime. If it’s too tart, add more agave or orange liqueur. The agave nectar is optional, but the earthy flavor adds an excellent touch. For a less strong margarita, cut back on the tequila.

The Ultimate Margarita

Much like the classic, the ultimate margarita possesses some of the same ingredients, but adds a few more for an extra kick.

What you will need:

  • 1 cup of Patrón Silver
  • 2 ounces Grand Marnier
  • 1/4 cup of Triple Sec
  • 1/2 cup of your favorite lager beer
  • 1/2 cup of fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • Yield: 4 Margaritas

Directions: Set the beer to the side, and shake the rest of the ingredients together with ice. Strain the mixture into a salt-rimmed glass and add a splash of the beer on top.

Watermelon Margaritas

Nothing says summer, like a wedge of watermelon. So, why not add that same summer taste into your favorite cocktail?

What you will need:

  • 1/2 cup of your favorite tequila
  • 3 tablespoons of Triple Sec (1.5 oz)
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 ounces of fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 3-4 cups of cubed watermelon (no seeds)
  • Yield: 4 Margaritas

Directions: Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until the mixture is at your desired consistency. Pour into a glass with a few icecubes to ensure it stays cold. For bonus points, be sure to add sugar on the rim of your glass.

The Spicy Margarita

To add some spice to the mix, try a margarita variation that simply swaps one citrus out for another. You can also sub in aged tequila like Reposado or Mezcal for the more typical blanco. Instead of adding ingredients, try this “less is more” margarita recipe.

What you will need:

  • 1 cup of 100% agave tequila
  • 4 ounces of Grand Marnier
  • 4 ounces of freshly-squeeze lime juice
  • 4 ounces agave nectar syrup
  • Yield: 4 Margaritas

Directions: Shake the ingredients with ice, and strain into your favorite margarita glass. For an extra spicy kick, garnish the margarita with a fresh-cut serrano or jalapeno pepper.

The “Morning After” Margarita

The “morning after” margarita is the perfect alternative to a mimosa or Bloody Mary.

What you will need:

  • 6 ounces of your favorite tequila
  • 3 ounces of Cointreau
  • 3 ounces of freshly-squeeze lime juice
  • 4 ounces of mango nectar
  • 4 ounces of fresh tangerine juice
  • 2 ounces of ginger juice
  • Yield: 4 Margaritas

Directions: Shake all of the above ingredients with ice. Strain and pour over ice in a glass. For garnish, skip the lime wedge and add a tangerine wedge.

Margarita Party Accessories

Margarita Machine

Whatever variations you choose for your margarita party, remember that quality, fresh ingredients make the most memorable margaritas. But why stop there? Make your summer party a real success with one of these margarita party accessories:

Do you have a favorite margarita recipe? If so, we’d like to hear in the comments below.

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3 Space-Saving Cooling Solutions for Small Homes and Apartments

Summer heat is miserable without the proper appliances to keep you cool. Compact living quarters often make it hard to find the right appliances for your cooling needs. Unfortunately, if you are renting, you oftentimes do not have the option of installing permanent air-conditioning units. If that’s the case, don’t worry. Here’s a few space-saving cooling solutions that will help keep you comfortable in your apartment all summer long.

Portable Air Conditioners

Portable Air Conditioner

Portable air conditioners are designed to move easily, allowing you to place them wherever they are needed. These air conditioners sit on the floor and they come with a window kit that is placed in the window. The window kit is easy to install and takes up little space in the window. The instructions for the window kit are simple to follow, and the initial installation process takes only minutes.

Consisting of four basic components, portable air conditioners are designed to sit on the floor and be moved rather easily. The window vent fits directly into the window. The exhaust hose attaches to an exhaust hose coupling and allows hot exhaust air to escape outside. To get your air conditioner set up, connect the exhaust hose to the back of the unit, install the window vent and connect the exhaust hose to the window vent. Your air conditioner is then ready to cool.

Portable air conditioners come in different sizes to cool large or small rooms. It’s important to know the differences in BTU ranges. 7,000 BTU air conditioners cool areas up to 250 square feet. 12,000 BTU air conditioners keep a room that is 450 square feet comfortable. A 14,000 BTU air conditioner is the largest one offered and is designed to cool a room that is 600 square feet. Knowing how big your room is will help determine which portable A/C unit is right for you.

Window Air Conditioners

Window Air Conditioner

Another great way to beat the summer heat, is to install a Window air conditioner in your apartment. Unlike the portable units mentioned above, these air conditioners are installed right in your window. Living in an apartment usually means you are limited to air conditioning units that are not permanently attached to the building structure, which is precisely why a window cooling unit is a great solution.

Not only are window air conditioners easy to install, but they fit most types and sizes of windows. To ensure compatibility, be sure to measure the dimensions of both the unit and the window prior. Additionally, window units can be uninstalled just as easily as they were installed. So, whenever your lease is up, you just simply take the unit out and take it with you.

There are plenty of brands to choose from, but Frigidaire and LG are two of the most popular. You can’t go wrong with either brand.

Personal Fans & Air Circulators

Air Circulator

Another popular option to help keep you cool in the summer are air circulators and fans. Just as the name implies, these devices will help cool down your living area by providing better air circulation.

The main benefits of using a fan is the ease of moving it around at your leisure and the lower cost of obtaining it. The downside, however, is that an air circulator is not going to cool you off nearly as fast as a window or portable unit.

Things To Keep In Mind

Portability and ease of installation are important characteristics when it comes to purchasing an air conditioning unit. Whether you’re wanting to cool an extra large room, cut energy costs or other limiting circumstances keep you from installing a window unit, portable air conditioners are practical and simple to use. Instructions booklets, user manuals and help numbers are all included with your portable air conditioning unit to make installing and using your unit as easy as possible.

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Beat the Heat: Choosing the Right Portable Air Conditioner For You

If you’re struggling to stay cool through the summer heat, there are plenty of air conditioning options that can meet your individual needs. If you’re sweating it out in a small enclosed space, portable air conditioners are going to be your best option.

Developed to make the small areas you inhabit cool and comfortable, portable air coolers are designed with either a single hose or a dual hose system. Let’s take a look at the differences between the two types of cooling systems.

Single-Hose Systems

Single-Hose Portable Air Conditioners

The single hose air conditioning system is the most fundamental option available to you. It works by using a compressor to suck air in, and then expels hot air and moisture out of the room. Because the warm air continually tries to seep back into the room to replace the negative air pressure, the single-hose air conditioners have to work harder to keep the room cool.

Depending on your living situation, the single-hose air conditioners are sufficient enough for cooling a small area and may the best option for you. However, the dual-hose system is usually the most efficient cooling system, thus it’s preferred by most people.

Dual-Hose Systems

Dual-Hose Portable Air Conditioners

As suggested by the name, the dual-hose air conditioning system implements two hoses. One hose pulls the hot air from the room, cools it within the unit, and then expels it back into the immediate area. Just like the single-hose design, a dual-hose portable air conditioner labors to perform its cooling function, creating heat inside the cooler. However, the difference with this type of system, the second hose pulls the cooled air from the room and uses it to cool the compressor and condenser coils. This allows your air conditioner to work more efficiently, providing better cooling in your small living or working space. While the price may be slightly higher than a single-hose cooling unit, the efficiency it provides is well worth the money.

Tips For Using Your Portable Air Conditioner

No matter which type of portable air conditioner you choose, here’s a few tips to get the most use out of your cooling system. Whether you’re cooling a bedroom or apartment, your air conditioner will work more effectively when you close all your doors and windows to the area you are cooling. It’s also a good idea to limit the overall amount of heat-producing sources, like electronic equipment and lights.

For optimal performance, turn your portable air cooler on early in the day when it’s still relatively cool. It’s far easier for your air conditioner to maintain a comfortable temperature, than to cool down a room that’s already reached high temperatures. Turning on a ceiling or rotating fan will also help boost the overall effectiveness of your air conditioner.

If you’re looking for a way to keep a small living or working area cool, a portable air cooler is an effective and economical way to do so. Review the pros and cons of the single-hose and dual-hose systems to select the unit that best meets your needs and budget. Follow the tips and recommendations to keep your unit operating at peak efficiency. You’ll soon see that portable air coolers are a great way to stay cool, even in small spaces.

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Win a $250 Visa Gift Card! It’s a Breeze Video Contest!

People hear the words “installation” and “venting” and get the willies. But understandably so. Your mind may conjur up frightening images of heavy equipment, lost parts and complicated instructions. When it comes to portable air conditioners, this is absolutely not the case. Portable air conditioners are easy to set up and easy to vent. So much so, that we go so far as to say “It’s a breeze!”

Have you or someone you know used a portable air conditioner? Send us a video of your set up process and you’ll be entered to win a $250 Visa gift card!

It is completely free to submit. Simply send your video to pacvideo@compactappliance.com and you’re entered! Entries must be submitted by May 8th and a winner will be announced on May 15th. Click on the image below for complete contest details.

portable air conditioner contest

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Austin Smarter Spaces Tour: 3112 Lafayette

After seeing all of the homes on the tour, I think we came to an unanimous decision that this next one was our absolute favorite. The color scheme, the decor, the landscaping, everything about this home was beautiful. As one of my coworkers put it to the homeowner, “I want to make out with your house.”

So, please enjoy our photos of 3112 Lafayette.

3112 Lafayette
4112 Lafayette

This home made us feel like we were no longer in Austin. I’m not quite sure what it was, but something about the home felt very eastern U.S. to us. We loved the gray color scheme. It was carried throughout the house and gave it a very tranquil feeling.

There were many small features of the home that we loved as well, like the bathroom tile, the doorknobs and the wall decorations. The backyard was another great part of this home. It had multiple seating areas where you could host a large group, lounge or enjoy a dinner outdoors.

You’ll also notice our mini kegerator on the kitchen counter top. Alright, enough of my yammering. Check out the pictures of this beautiful home!

 

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Austin Smarter Spaces Tour : 1715 Giles, Unit C

The first house profiled from the Smarter Spaces Tour was the home at 4813 West Park. Be sure to check out that post for more pictures and inspiration on how you can make great use of the room available in a small space.

Next up though, we have 1715 Giles, Unit C.

1715 Giles, Unit C

  

This place was actually 1 of 4 townhome units in a small development. It had a long, narrow hallway with a small half bath on the left and door to the garage on the right when you first walked in before it opened up to the living area and kitchen. The architect, who was actually using the home as an office at that time, told us they had decorated the home on a budget, but it wasn’t obvious at all. We loved the items they had chosen, especially the lighting fixtures and burlap ottoman/seat that you can see in the picture above on the right. All of the pieces felt eclectic but like they went together at the same time, not an easy task to pull off.

The ceilings are surprisingly tall for a small space and feature skylights that really open up the space up with natural light. My favorite feature of this home though was the backyard. It has a patio that faces a small creek and wooded area that is very serene and beautiful.

Both bedrooms were upstairs and each had its own bathroom, but the bedroom on the back of the house also featured a small balcony that overlooked the patio and same creek.

We were able to get a few of our products in this house to show off, including the EdgeStar stainless steel kegerator, Kamado grill and MicroFridge red mini fridge (one of my favorite products).

See more photos of the home below.

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Austin Smarter Spaces Tour: 4813 West Park

As we previously announced, we were the title sponsor of Austin’s first ever Smarter Spaces Tour which took place Saturday, April 14. There was a total of 10 homes on the tour and I believe around 500 people ended up attending. Pretty impressive for the inaugural run!

The first house on the tour was 4813 West Park.

4813 West Park
4813 West Park Home

4813 West Park is a 3-bedroom house located a little further north than most of the other homes on the tour. We had our Koldfront 4-bottle wine cooler on display in the kitchen.

From the outside, I really expected the home to have a second story, which shows you just how spacious it looks. I’m sure if there had been a second floor though, it wouldn’t have qualified to be on the Smarter Spaces Tour (homes had to be under 2500 sq ft). The first feature that really caught my attention was the teal-colored door. I love bright colors and teal isn’t one you usually see on the outside of a house.

When you first walk in, you can see across the entire home and right into the backyard thanks to large windows in the living room. The windows let in a ton of natural light and help the open floor plan seem even more open. The living room, kitchen and dining area are all in one giant room with an island providing a clear delineation for the kitchen.

This home was custom built by GnM Lohr Homes (you can see more high quality pictures on their site) and it was awarded 4 stars by the Austin Energy Green Star rating program.

See more photos of the house, including our wine cooler, in the gallery:

 

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Rice Cookers – Not Just for Making Rice Anymore

Rice Cooker

Many people shrug off rice cookers as a one trick pony, but in fact, they have many uses other than just making rice.  Rice cookers can definitely come in handy in many ways whether you want to make a dish without constant stirring or supervision, you want to cook several dishes at once and are in need of an extra “burner,” or you need to cook a meal in a place that does not come equipped with a kitchen.  In all these instances having a rice cooker would be a life saver.  Here are 12 different ways to use a rice cooker that you may not be aware of:

  1. No Stir Risotto – Sauté butter and onions in the open rice cooker.  Add your rice and liquid such as broth or wine.  Let cook for about 20 to 25 minutes depending on your rice cooker.  Then mix in grated cheese and herbs.  Some rice cookers only come equipped with an on/off setting while others have a “slow” or “porridge” cycle, and now some have even come out with a “risotto” setting.
  2. Steam Meat or Vegetables – Many rice cookers come with a steamer rack.  All you have to do is cut up the veggies or meat and steam.
  3. Oatmeal – To cook it takes a little less milk or water than cooking on a stove top.
  4. Beans – Rinse beans and place in rice cooker with liquid.  The exact time and amount of liquid will depend on your rice cooker but a good rule of thumb is 2 parts liquid to 1 part beans.
  5. Soups or Stews – With enough liquid and time you can make soups and stews.
  6. Poach Fruit – Simmer fruit in juice, wine or even maple syrup.
  7. Frittatas – Coat rice cooker with non-cook spray and add desired ingredients, mix well and let cook until eggs are firm.
  8. Spaghetti Sauce – Place desired sauce ingredients in rice cooker and cooker.
  9. Macaroni and Cheese – Place noodles and liquids into the rice cooker and cook. After pasta is done, add cheese and any other desired ingredients.
  10. Hard-Boiled Eggs – Place several wet paper towels in the bottom of the rice cooker. Next, place eggs in the rice cooker. Close lid and and press cook. Once done, let rice cooker sit with the lid closed for another 2 minutes. Open lid and you’re done.
  11. Jambalaya – Add all desired ingredients and cook.
  12. Cake – Yes, you can even bake a cake in your rice cooker!

Let us know if you try making something besides rice in your rice cooker in the comments! We’d love to see pictures and hear how it turned out. Do you know of any other recipes you can make in a rice cooker?

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Austin Smarter Spaces Tour: Title Sponsor

Smarter Spaces Tour Banner

That’s right. CompactAppliance.com is the title sponsor of the first-ever Smarter Spaces Tour happening in Austin, TX on Saturday, April 14, 2012!

The Smarter Spaces Tour consists of 8-15 well-designed houses that use creative ways to maximize space in under 2,500 square feet. These are realistic homes, some even currently lived in, that will offer inspiration and ideas to others looking to downsize or redecorate their small home. We will be placing some of our compact products in the homes to show how our products seamlessly blend into small environments and make compact living easier.

If you are interested in attending the tour, you can purchase tickets in advance for $25 until Friday, April 13 at 8 pm CST. After that, tickets will go up to $30 and can be purchased at any of the properties on the tour when it starts at 11 am on the 14th.

We might also be giving away some tickets to the tour on our Facebook page as the event gets closer, so make sure to like our page to stay up to date!

 

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