Unique Ideas for Your Next Picnic

Since these ideas are “unique,” they go above and beyond typical ideas that deal with blankets, food and baskets…well, one idea is basket related…but let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.  Anyway, since I’m a big fan of the outdoors, picnics scratch me right where I itch.  However, I’m not a big fan of picnic preparation.  That being the case, I usually find a good location and come up with activities, other than eating.

There are plenty of sites out there in internet land that provide you with thousands of picnic recipes, but there are far fewer that offer non-food related ideas.  So, with this post I am filling an underutilized picnic niche, that being picnic ideas that have little to do with food. Besides, you know where to get good food, right?

  • Location, location, location. Kinda a Jeopardy thing here with the answer coming before the question of “what are the three most important things when planning your picnic?”  A slag heap near a coal-fired power plant = a bad location.  The shore of a lake with water so clear it reflects the surrounding mountains = a good location.  Generally speaking, the better the view, the better the location.  A great place for an urban picnic is on a rooftop that presents a great view of your city.  Other great locations include meadows, along babbling brooks, in a rowboat on a calm lake, overlooking a ballfield in which your child is playing a game, or any place you consider to have a great view.
  • Time of day matters.  To avoid the heat of the day, how about a sunset or sunrise picnic after you’ve chosen your location.  Or better yet, how about a stargazing midnight picnic in a hilltop meadow far removed from the surrounding light pollution…just don’t forget the telescope.
  • Have activities planned…especially if a large group is involved, including  While the adults play Uno or poker, the kids will enjoy a rousing game of bocce, croquet, badminton, water balloon fights, or frisbee golf.  Board games on blankets is another great picnic activity as is exploring your surroundings with a hike or on bikes.  Fishing is another great group activity, especially if some of the attendees have never baited a hook.  Just remember to catch and release.
  • Consider crates…rather than picnic baskets.  Crates double as transportation devices and small tables after they’ve been unpacked and turned over.
  • Use nearby water to keep cool, both you and your beverages.  No, you don’t need to fully submerge to stay cool, simply dipping your feet will do the trick.  As for your beverages, the deeper the water, the cooler they’ll stay.  Just tie a rope to a six-pack and toss it in.
  • Mason jars aren’t just for canning.  Getting a bit off topic, why are jars used for “canning?”  Just curious.  Mason jars are great for carrying and serving various food items.  Those items include various salads (chicken, potato, macaroni, anti-pasta, just to name a few), baked beans, dip and veggies.  And yes, they can still be used to serve your lemonade as well.
  • Consider a picnic party.  Whether you’re celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or not guilty verdict, a picnic is a great way to party outdoors.  You could even have a theme for your picnic party, like a school’s out party (or back-to-school party for parents), a Stranger Things or Harry Potter theme, or whatever else you can think of.
  • Pack your own.  Rather than obsess over what your picnic members would like to eat, simply have them pack their own favorite foods.  Nice and easy, lemon squeezy.You know the old cliché; summer will be over before you know it.  Before it is, get out there and picnic like it’s 2099.

Summer Drinks to Beat the Heat

Subtitle: and get a wee bit tipsy, but not falling-down drunk.  And we all know the difference between the two, now don’t we?  These are cocktails that refresh AND have the ability to slightly inebriate.  Not to worry all you teetotalers and minors out there, I’ve included a few non-alcoholic selections just for you.  So, without any further fanfare, here’s my list of favorites…

  • Blood orange Moscow mule. The color of this cocktail makes the copper mug quite superfluous as the blood orange juice gives it a marvelous red sunset hue.  It’s also, like the other drinks on this list, quick and easy to make once you’ve acquired the necessary ingredients.  The combination of the mint, pomegranate juice, and ginger beer give this drink a delicious sweet, spicy and minty flavor.  Just don’t be too heavy-handed with the ginger beer.  While it’s similar to ginger ale, it’s also quite a bit stronger.
  • Strawberry thyme prosecco. What’s not to like here?  It’s got two of the main ingredients of any summer cocktail worth a damn: strawberries and sparkling wine.  Add the limoncello and thyme and voilà, perfect summer drink.  The bubbles from the prosecco (Italian sparkling wine) combine nicely with the limoncello, which provides a lemony taste without the sourness of lemon juice, and earthy/minty flavors of the thyme to produce a bubbly, lemony cocktail of the angels.
  • Cucumber-honeydew freeze. Adjectives to describe this awesome summer drink include, green, sweet, minty, cold, slightly salty, and heavenly.  The honeydew and cuke give this drink a certain lightness and the homemade sweet fennel salt mixes well with the sweetness provided by the honey.  Ensure you eat the honeydew and cuke garnish and you’ve just included a daily serving of fruit to your diet.
  • Porch crawler. As the name implies, this drink is perfect for taking on the road to visit the neighbors, just be sure to bring an extra for them.  Since every list of summer drinks requires one that includes rum, here’s mine.  What I love about this drink is the spice supplied by the serrano pepper, the sweetness provided by the cherries and the bubbles that come with the club soda.
  • Sparkling raspberry lemonade virgin mojito. Middle of the day?  Under21s at the party?  Not in the mood for alcohol?  Then this wonderful summer mocktail is for you and yours.  Sweet, tart and bubbly; the adults and kids will request this drink well into the autumn months.
  • Grapefruit kombucha agua fresca.  Good and good for you, primarily due to the grapefruit juice and kombucha (a black or green tea), this mocktail has a delicious tangy sweet flavor, depending upon how much maple syrup you add.  Utilize some sparkling water for a carbonated effect.  This drink, like most on this list, looks almost too good to consume, especially with the rosemary sprigs escaping from the rim of the glass.

Summer is the time to relax on the porch, deck, balcony, backyard, or around the fire pit with friends and family.  That relaxing should include a refreshing summer beverage that you otherwise wouldn’t drink except in summer.  Please utilize the above list to get you started.  Bottoms up!


Safe Fun in the Sun

“She had her drink in her hand.  She had her toes in the sand…” (Van Halen, Beautiful Girls).  Yes, the beach beckons and you’re answering the call this summer.  However, unlike those care-free boys (Beautiful Girls was released in 1979) from Van Halen, you’re older now and, as a result, you’ve become more safety conscious.  And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Because you have become older and wiser in the 40 years since “Diamond” David Lee Roth crooned about those beautiful girls, here are some tips on how to have fun in the sun while staying safe at the same time…

  • Guards matter.Lifeguards, that is.  They are there for one reason; your safety.  That being the case, never swim at a beach where none are present, ever.  Better yet, set up your beach camp near a lifeguard station and swim in close proximity to it.
  • Know what the flags mean.When you do set up shop near the lifeguard station, you’ll probably notice that there is a flag flying from it.  That flag represents surf conditions for the day and you should know what they mean.  Generally speaking, the colors are similar to a stop light.  A red flag represents strong surf or rip tides are present.  Yellow means a moderate surf, while green means conditions are good.  A blue or purple flag means there is dangerous marine life present, such as jellyfish or worse, sharks.
  • Beware the breakers.Or waves, as they’re more commonly called.  Be especially aware of large shore breakers, or waves that break close to shore, where many beachgoers spend most of their time, as opposed to those breakers from the awesome Tom Hanks movie, Castaway, where the waves broke far from shore.  Not only can waves knock you down, they can then roll you along dangerous rocks, sand, and reefs.  A good rule of thumb?  Never turn your back to the waves.
  • The ocean is not a pool or lake.  The ocean is so much more complicated than a calm lake or pool.  It has dangerous currents, breakers, rip tides, reefs, rocks, creatures, and its vast scale can be overwhelming or confusing.  Those currents can pull you offshore or down the beach, so be sure to have a reference point you can use to return to your point of origin.  Be sure that everyone in your group understands this fact, especially weak swimmers, first time beachgoers and children.  Also, no matter their swimming skills, be sure they never enter the water alone.  Always use the buddy system.
  • Beware the sun.Not only should a high SPF sun block be used at all times, but you should also have access to shade as well.  Remember, too much exposure to sun and high heat indexes can cause dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.  Drink plenty of cool, non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated drinks as well.
  • Protect your feet.Not only against hot sand, but also what lies beneath.  Remember, some people leave their trash behind, including sharp objects.  Also, crustaceans (crabs, clams, etc.) have sharp shells, alive or dead.  If you go for a walk along the beach, it’s always a good idea to wear flip flops or water shoes.

Yes, high on the priority list of any beach vacation is to have fun, but fun and safety are NOT mutually exclusive things.  They go together like, well, Van Halen and beautiful girls.



Fake it ‘til You Make it: How to Think Like a Thin Person.

OK, you might not currently be classified as a thin person, but that should, in no way, preclude you from thinking like one.  In fact, research has shown that it will assist you in becoming one with a little patience and re-configuring how you think about food, exercise and sleep.

Act and think thin now and eventually you will become what you envision, a thinner version of yourself.  In other words, fake it (pretend you’re thin) until you make it (you become thin).

But how do thin people think when it comes to food?  While everyone is different, researchers have found some commonalities regarding thin people’s relationship with food…

  • Change how you think about food.  What is the primary purpose of food?  Let’s start with what food is not.  Food is NOTmeant to provide comfort when we’re feeling depressed, lonely, angry or tired.  Food’s primary purpose for all living things is to provide us with the energy necessary for life.  It’s that simple.  Thin people tend to think of food in that simplistic manner.It’s not that they don’t ever use food as comfort, but they recognize the triggers and thus, recognize when it occurs and then either avoid or limit their emotional eating.  Some also substitute other activities for emotional eating, such as exercising, getting in touch with friends and/or family or reading.  Find your substitute.
  • Recognize the difference between full and satisfied.Research has shown that thin people tend to know the difference even if not consciously aware of it.  In other words, during a meal they don’t specifically stop and think, “I’m pleasantly satisfied and should stop eating.”  That thought pattern has become engrained and no longer needs to be contemplated every meal.  They just know.However, for some of us, we do need to stop during a meal and assess our “fullness level.”  If necessary, stop multiple times during meals to make that assessment.  Simply assess you fulness level on a 1-10 scale with 1 being starving and 10 being stuffed.  The “satisfied” level usually occurs somewhere between 5 and 7.  Do this often enough, and it will occur without thought.
  • Hunger doesn’t need to be “cured” immediately.Hunger isn’t a disease that needs to be feared, unless you’re Leo Dicaprio in The Revenant.  For the rest of us, hunger is a very temporary thing.  Thin people know and accept this fact.  They also, if they miss a meal for whatever reason, do not “make up” for missing that meal by consuming two meals in one when they next sit down to eat.
  • Exercise is inexorably linked to diet and a healthy lifestyle.Maybe I should use the term “physical activity” rather than exercise.  If you’re not physically active, you require less food to meet your energy requirements as discussed in the first bullet.  That being the case, most people who are not physically active consume more calories (in the form of food) than they require, which is the primary reason people become overweight.Again, thin people tend to be physically active without thinking about it.  Physical activity is part of their lifestyle, not separate from it.  Assess your activity level.  If exercise isn’t part of your daily routine, are you at least taking 10,000 steps per day as recommended by most doctors?  A pedometer will let you know…there’s an app for that, by the way.  Over time, those 10,000 steps will come without conscious thought.
  • Have a casual relationship with food.  Thin people tend not to obsess about their diets.  Once again, this is a lifestyle thing.  They generally eat healthy without actually thinking much about it.  Yes, they do eat some junk food, but they then do not beat themselves up about it.  Studies have shown that thin people eat, on average, two more servings of fruit and/or vegetables per day than their heavier counterparts.  And it’s not because that’s their plan.It just happens because it has happened for most of their lives.  Patience here is essential.  Rather than attempting to eliminate ALL unhealthy items from your diet all at once, just remove one for a few weeks and then move on to the next and so on and so forth.  Remember, this isn’t a temporary change to your diet, but a permanent change to your lifestyle.

So, to sum up, rather than waiting to think thin until you’re thin, start immediately and begin by adopting their habits and, dare I say, lifestyle.  It’s just like becoming an athlete in a new sport.  If you start thinking and acting like a good baseball player, before you know it, you are.


The Mediterranean Diet: Best Summer Meals

Or, The Mediterranean Diet: if you don’t know, you better ask someone.  For those of you that need to ask, the Mediterranean Diet has been around since the 1960s and stemmed from some research into why people from that region had lower instances of cardiovascular disease when compared to say, America.  The answer, we now know, is due to their long-term diet.  This diet is NOT some quick fix to your cardiovascular problems.  Perhaps “diet” is the wrong term, this is more akin to a long-term lifestyle change which is required to derive its full benefits.

That diet is centered around copious amounts of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, nuts seeds, olive oil, fish, eggs, and a moderate amount of poultry and dairy products.  Red meat is greatly limited and a glass of red wine with dinner, surrounded with friends and family, is encouraged.  As evidenced by its main pillars, the Med Diet focuses on healthy fats, like those found in nuts, seeds and olive oil, and avoids unhealthy saturated and trans fats from processed foods.  It also emphasizes omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon, sardines, herring, albacore tuna and lake trout.

If you are now curious about the Med Diet, or if you’ve been following it religiously for years and are looking for some meal options, here are a few to spark your Pavlovian reflexes…

  • Cauliflower couscous.  For those of you who have turned your nose up to cauliflower (including yours truly), this recipe will bring your nose back.  It is also the epitome of the Med Diet as it includes many of its staples, to include dates, olive oil, shallots, and is flavored with cinnamon and a dash of red wine vinegar.
  • Eggplant Parmigiana and polenta with spinach and roasted peppers. MagicKitchen.com’s take on this Italian classic includes a delicious tomato pesto sauce, whole wheat flour and roasted red peppers, all staples of the Med Diet.
  • Arugula salad with pesto shrimp, parmesan, and white beans.  This delicious salad can begin your dinner meal or serve as a stand-alone lunch.  It provides various vitamins, minerals and proteins in one dish and is a summer breeze (wonderful Doobie Brothers hit) to prepare.
  • Easy Greek chicken kababs.Since summer is grilling time, this meal is the perfect Med Diet recipe for summer.  The chicken is marinated in a traditional Greek marinate of lemon, garlic, Greek yogurt, and oregano.  Intersperse the cubed chicken with chunks of peppers, onion, and zucchini and you’ve got yourself one awesome, heart-healthy Med Diet meal.
  • Salmon caponata with orzo and spinach. We here at MagicKitchen.com can also help you experiment with or expand your Med Diet goals with pre-cooked meals delivered right to your door.  In addition to salmon, orzo and spinach, this meal also combines eggplant, tomatoes, onions, capers and basil to create a Med Diet tour de force.
  • Spanish Moroccan fish.  The fish, in this instance, is tilapia and it is served on a bed of garbanzo beans, red bell peppers, tomatoes, olives and carrots.  The tilapia is broiled over the veggies which have been flavored with cumin, paprika, and cayenne pepper.  My Pavlovian response just kicked in while typing.
  • Greek turkey burgers with spinach, feta and tzatziki.  A great substitute for beef burgers this summer, this recipe features a sauce (tzatziki) that most have never heard of and can be a bit difficult to find.  Not to fear, tzatziki can be made by combining some plain Greek yogurt with a dash of lemon juice, some dill or mint, as much minced garlic as you like, and grated cucumber (Salt the cucumber after grating, and then squeeze all the water out before adding to the yogurt).  Top your burgers with a slice of cucumber and red onion and enjoy!

We hope you enjoy these Med Diet meals whether you’re an experienced veteran or a Med Diet newbie.  Just remember, if you’re serious about making a change to your current, somewhat unhealthy diet, make Med Diet meals part of your everyday eating routine.


Top Ten Tips for a Successful Cookout

This just in from Captain Obvious: July is National Grilling Month…and, not surprisingly, National Hot Dog Month (my West Highland terrier agrees, July makes him one hot dog).  I usually look for the history behind “national” days and months.  However, in this case, no one seems to know the origins of National Grilling Month, just that it’s been celebrated for over a decade.  Anyway, since we are in the midst of National Grilling Month, here are ten tips to having a successful cookout, either in your own backyard or on the road at a local park.

  1. Safety First.  Yes, I understand that safety can be boring.  However, when you’re using food that can cause serious illnesses and messing with fire…well, safety first.  Prior to cooking, keep all your food cool and be certain to wash your hands.  Do not use the same plate to carry your raw meats to the grill and use it again to carry the cooked food away.  Be sure to cook all your food thoroughly and check it with a meat thermometer.  Next, ensure your grill is well away from flammable materials like your house, deck railings, overhanging trees, etc.  Finally, keep a working fire extinguisher on hand.
  2. Don’t be afraid of fish.  Grilled salmon and tuna steaks are just to die for, especially if they’ve been properly marinated (a nice southwest marinate is my personal favorite).  Other, smaller fillets can be successfully grilled using a wire trap to ensure they don’t fall apart and don’t forget to baste with lemon juice and/or olive oil for moistness.
  3. Don’t forget the vegetarians.  A large portobello mushroom cap makes a great substitute for a burger patty.  Just add some mozzarella and, viola, meatless burger.  Also, Beyond Meat and Impossible Burgers are “sprouting” up all over, even in traditionally carnivorous establishments like Burger King.
  4. Kabobs offer the best of both worlds.  Those two worlds being meat and vegetables.  It’s a sneaky way to promote healthy eating as it’s tough to resist grilled peppers, mushrooms, pearl onions, cherry tomatoes, and other, overlooked kabob ingredients like mango, pineapple, zucchini, and cubed sweet potatoes.
  5. Check the tank.  It’s good advice for a long summer trip and prior to hosting a backyard shindig (there’s that word again).  There’s nothing worse than being unable to cook meals for half your guests due to an empty propane tank.
  6. Marinate and baste your meat.  A few other bits of advice; always marinate your meat in the fridge and pat it dry with paper towels prior to putting on the grill to lessen flare-ups from dripping marinate.
  7. Use a clock to cook.  And no, I don’t mean time your cooking.  After placing your meat on the grill, rotate it clockwise (or counterclockwise, it matters not), from twelve o’clock to six, in small increments every 30 seconds.  Then, flip and repeat.  This ensures even cooking.
  8. Rest your steak.  If cooking steaks, let them “rest” (aka sit) 5-10 minutes prior to serving.  This actually keeps them tender and juicy.
  9. Cool your beverages.  With ice cubes made from cocktail mixers like lemon and lime juice.  Spice up those cubes even more by suspending small slices of lemons, limes or a few mint leaves within them.
  10. Cool your beverages v2.  With a variation on the traditional ice cube, in this case, frozen water balloons.  No, they won’t burst because the balloon will expand as the water freezes.  After you’ve frozen your balloons, fill a kiddie pool with the balloons and your favorite beverages.  Then, after the balloons thaw, have a kick-ass water balloon fight.

Hopefully, during the rest of National Grilling Month and beyond, you’ll use several of the above tips to make your next cookout the best it can be. And if you are looking for the perfect easy sides for your grilled feast, check out MagicKitchen.com! Bon appétit.    


20 Minute Workouts for Seniors

Come on, you’ve got a spare 30 minutes (5 minutes to get ready, 20-minute workout and another 5 to cool down) in your day for exercise.  Don’t lie to me, and, more importantly, don’t lie to yourself.  No one is so busy that they don’t have 30 minutes for exercise five or six days a week.  And by “exercise” I don’t mean high intensity, gallons of sweat inducing, make you want to vomit exercise.  Those days are behind us, if they were ever there.  Save that stuff or MMA fighters, the women’s World Cup soccer team, and Millennials.  All you need to do for 20 minutes or so is to combine a bit of cardiovascular activity with resistance training, i.e. weights.

With that in mind, here are some links to senior exercise videos to get you started:

  • This video from Go4Life is brought to you by the National Institute on Aging. All that it requires is a chair and a pair of low-weight dumbbells.  If you don’t have dumbbells, 16-ounce water bottles will suffice…full, of course.  This video works well because it works all the major muscles groups, upper, lower, and core and is designed for seniors of different mobility and strength levels.
  • Here at MagicKitchen.com, while are primary focus is delivering healthy, nutritious food, we also understand that diet is only half of the healthy lifestyle equation. The other half, of course, is exercise.  That is why we have an entire series of 14 exercise videos for seniors.  Our titles range from “Standing Exercises” to “Beginner Weights” to “Dance Along Workout.”  For more advanced seniors, we offer a category of moderate exercises that includes “Quiet Cardio Workout” and “Abs, Butt and Thighs” workout.  This allows you to progress and you get a variety of workouts that work different muscle groups.
  • As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become a huuuuuge fan of yoga. In my younger days, yoga was something for women, octogenarians, and people who didn’t like “real” workouts.  Well, I’m still not in any of those categories.  However, this video, “Yoga for Complete Beginners” which I discovered about three years ago, changed how I thought about yoga and its ability to improve flexibility and strength simultaneously.  And you’ll find Adriene to be a very soothing instructor.
  • This 20-minute workout video allows you to participate either seated or standing and incorporates weights and cardiovascular exercises. The instructor, Curtis Adams, hosts his own senior exercise show and is, shall we say, quite motivational.
  • This resistance band workout for seniors is a great way to strength train without weights. All that’s required is a double-handled resistance band (obviously!).  While it doesn’t really work your cardiovascular system, it will certainly provide your muscles with a gentle, yet effective workout.
  • Sometimes, it’s best to just get out there and walk for 20 minutes and enjoy the great outdoors. Just be sure to avoid excessive heat and choose terrain that you can handle.  Also, be sure to hydrate.  If you’d like to add some strength training, simply carry a set of dumbbells with you and perform various exercises (such as curls and over-the-head presses) as you walk.

Yes, we all have a spare 30 minutes in our daily routines, but what many lack is motivation.  That’s where these videos can help as you’re conducting your workout with a “partner.”  Or, you could perform these workouts with a friend or group of friends.  They tend to provide all the motivation you’ll ever need.


Are You Ready for Independence Day?

The Fourth, aka Independence Day, is only a few weeks away and if you’re hosting a family and/or friends cook-out or picnic or BBQ or whatever you call your summer get togethers, there’s a lot to do.  Let’s make a general “to do” list, shall we?

  • Clean inside the house…yes, people will be outside most of the time (weather permitting).  However, unless you’re renting port-a-johns and placing them in your backyard, folks will be using your indoor facilities, especially if the beer and wine is flowing freely.
  • Clean outside the house…especially the deck, patio, gazebo or wherever your guests will congregate outdoors.  This includes cleaning the outdoor furniture as well.
  • Manicure the lawn…and shrubbery (you could consult “Roger the Shrubber” of Monty Python fame).  With guests invited for outdoor activities, you’ll want your yard looking like Augusta National during the Masters Golf Tournament.
  • Shop for, prepare and cook the Fourth feast…make a list, head to the grocery store…hold on a sec, or you could simply have your Independence Day meal delivered to your door, already cooked and ready to eat once its been re-heated in your microwave.  If that sounds more appealing, then…
  • Visit MagicKitchen.com and order your meal…while wearing your pajamas, drinking coffee and listening to your favorite music, like Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd.  This way, you can save untold hours shopping, preparing and cooking your meal and spend untold hours cleaning the interior and exterior of your house and landscaping your yard.

I know what your next question is…Does MagicKitchen.com offer appetizing selections suitable for my July Fourth shindig? (where the hell does that word, “shindig” come from anyway)?  To answer the first question, yes, MagicKitchen.com has plenty of Independence Day-worthy foods to choose from (see my sample menu below).

To answer the second, parenthetic question: Most believe the term “shindig” is derived from the 19th century term, “shindy” which meant a loud, physical altercation between several individuals.  Also, the term “shin-dig” was used, primarily in the Southern states, to mean a kick to the shins.  It’s easy to see how a term for a loud brawl could be converted into meaning a loud, boisterous party.  As the say on NBC, now you know.

OK, back to the objective of this post…how MagicKitchen.com can assist you with your Fourth of July plans.  Below are just some of the choices offered by MagicKitchen.com for your Independence Day celebrations…or, shindig.

  • Entrees:  hickory smoked, lightly sauced, sliced beef brisket.  Or beef burnt ends in a Kansas City BBQ sauce.  Or pork burnt ends in Kansas City BBQ sauce.  Or apple smoked boneless pork loin.  Something for all the carnivores at your shindig.
  • Sides:  Choose from our famous magic mashed potatoes, rice pilaf, mac and cheese, fresh cut corn medley, French green beans with mushrooms and cream sauce, scalloped potatoes, stuffed (with bacon, sour cream, cheddar cheese, and butter) baked potato, and, last but not certainly not least, haluski kapusta which is a lovely Polish dish of egg noodles, onions, cabbage and kielbasa sausage.
  • Desserts:  Every dessert listed looks delicious and is appropriate for any shindig you have planned, including the Fourth of July.  Check them out

Just visit MagicKitchen.com and make all your Independence Day selections and we’ll take care of the rest.


The Seven Best Gifts for New Parents

As those of you with children can attest, there is a difference from being a NEW parent and being a parent for the second or third time.  When you’re a new parent, everything is, well, new (and scary).  Yes, you can read all you want about being a new parent, but reading/preparing and experiencing are two very different things.

By the time you have any additional children, the newness has worn off.  You no longer freak out about inconsequential stuff like projectile vomiting or having to change four diapers over the course of 45 minutes.

Thus, there are slight variations in the gifts you purchase for new parents as opposed to those for experienced ones.  Generally speaking, new parents might appreciate more practical items while experienced ones probably would enjoy some humorous or non-baby related items.  But that is not a hard and fast rule.

Anyway, I’ve wasted enough of your time.  Here’s the list of the best gifts for new parents.

  1. Hands-free baby sling.  Whether it’s Baby Bjorn or Baby K’tan, this item is essential for all new parents.  It keeps baby snuggled close to mom or dad (or an acceptable surrogate) while permitting the parent to carry luggage, groceries or fight off super villains.
  2. The Baby Shusher.  Yes, “Shusher” is now a noun.  Sample sentence: “The anxious new father heard his baby fussing, but the Baby Shusher calmed him down in seconds.”  This handy device uses the human voice to “shush” a sleep-fighting baby and mimics the “shush” sound of rushing blood and other in-utero sounds baby heard for months while inside mom.
  3. Burrito Baby.  Swaddling has been the rage for years in the world of new-borns with good reason.  It comforts an infant while being away from the soothing arms of a parent in a manner similar to a burrito.  Why not combine the two into a Baby Burrito?  This gift combines practicality and humor into a single item.
  4. A Baby Lounger.  Sometimes, you just gotta lounge and infants are no different.  This lounger permits baby and parent to lounge simultaneously as it prevents baby from rolling away during the lounge-phase.  Parents are on their own when it comes to the rolling problem.
  5. Delivered meals.  Look, harried new parents do not have time to shop for, prepare and cook a family meal every night of the week.  That’s why home-delivered meals from MagicKitchen.com make the perfect new baby gift.  As for the baby food, we’ll leave that to the parents and Gerber’s.
  6.  Yep, you can now turn a new-born into a respectable 19th century saloon bartender with the mustachifier pacifier.  Why calm and sooth a baby with a boring, everyday pacifier when you can have some fun at baby’s expense?
  7. Your time.  Present the new parents with a gift certificate good for a few nights of your baby-sitting services, assuming you know what you’re doing as new parents are notoriously anxious about leaving baby for the first time.  This way, the new parents know what they’re getting in their babysitter, unlike those baby-sitting apps out there.

You can’t go wrong with any of the new parent gift ideas listed above.  Simply tailor the gift to the perceived need of the new parents and their freak-out level about having a tiny, inarticulate, bowel-moving bundle of joy in the house.


All the Gluten-Free Info You Could Ever Need

Most people, (including you, I would assume) have heard of gluten and the gluten-free diet. However, hearing about gluten and knowing about gluten are two different things. If you’ve ever desired more info about gluten and the gluten-free diet, this wonderful infographic tells you everything you need to know.

It answers vital questions such as: What is gluten (proteins found in various grains) and where can it be found? What are the symptoms of a gluten allergy? What health issues are associated with gluten? What are the benefits and risks involved with a gluten-free diet? What foods are naturally gluten free? What are the best grocery stores and restaurant chains to find gluten-free products? After reading the information on this easy to read infographic you’ll feel like a gluten-free expert.  A huge shout-out to https://medalerthelp.org/ who put this amazing infographic together!