Top 11 Gifts for Your College Freshman

college dorm

So your child isn’t so little anymore, and the time has come for you to send him or her off to the exciting new world of college. While you might have a hard time containing your own nerves, you can help make the transition as easy as possible for your kid.

If you want to help set your freshman up with some of the comforts of home in their tiny college dorm room, there are some key items that can make their transition to self-sufficiency a little smoother. Because space and access to electricity might be limited, it’s best if you can carefully narrow down your list of potential gifts to the most practical and useful. Here is a list of the top 11 gifts for college freshmen to get you started.

1. Bedding


Your college student’s dorm room will more than likely come with a bed platform and a mattress. However, you’ll need to purchase your own sheets, pillows and blankets for your child. This is one of the best gifts you can provide your college-bound child because you know they will need them and use them every single night.

Be sure to choose a collection made of light, breathable fabric because you never know if the heating and cooling systems in the dorms will function properly. Also, see if you can find out if extra-long twin sheets will be needed. This often is the case for college dorm beds. Many students use their beds as places to study, so include several pillows of different sizes and firmness levels.

2. Computer


Although your student might have had a serviceable laptop that got them through high school, now might be the time to upgrade. A college student is likely to need more memory, computing power and certain software that an older machine might not come with.

When picking out a newer model, make sure to get something durable–multiple daily moves in and out of a backpack, plus routine bumps and bruises can really take their toll on the lighter versions.

3. Bicycle


For kids that will be attending a large college, a fast mode of transportation can be crucial for getting from one end of the campus to the other before the next class starts.

Unfortunately, bikes are one of the most stolen items at any university. Make sure you also provide a hefty bike lock, and consider a seat that has a quick release mechanism so that it can be removed between uses to help dissuade thieves. If your state has a helmet law for adults, new head protection should be part of the gift.

4. Mini Fridge

Mini Fridge

Where will your student store his or her leftover slices after a late-night pizza run? It’s times like these that a mini fridge can come in handy.

If there is space in the dorm room and an ideally placed electrical outlet, provide your freshman with an appropriately sized fridge so he or she can keep their soda and perishable foods cool and safe to eat.

5. Extra Storage

extra storage

Under-the-bed space and other nooks and crannies are prime real estate for additional storage in a small dorm room. Look for shelf or drawer units that will fit in these spaces in order to inspire organization in your student.

Consider getting something portable for your kid to use as storage. College students do a lot of traveling and always need a sturdy trunk to keep their belongings in. When they are not traveling or moving, they can use the trunk to store items under their college dorm room bed or in their closet. They come in all kinds of materials, but you want to purchase one that is light enough to carry up the stairs if necessary. In some cases, a trunk can be used as additional seating or as a coffee table in a pinch.

6. Small Appliances

Coffee maker

Depending on the rules of the dorm, you might be able to provide a variety of small appliances to help out your freshman. A coffeemaker or compact espresso machine might be vital to some students, while others may prefer a toaster oven or hot plate for times when they can’t make it to the cafeteria.

Irons and light vacuum cleaners could be smart options as well, depending what kinds of resources the kids can expect to be provided for communal use in their college dorms.

7. Comfy Chair

Desk Chair

Your freshman likely will spend a great deal of time at his or her desk, either working on the computer or studying for exams. Even on down time, you still want your child to have a comfortable place to be when hanging out with a roommate or other friends. A cushy rolling desk chair could be a good fit, or else they might want a large bean-stuffed loveseat for extra seating space.

Be sure not to get a chair or mini loveseat that is too big though–we all know that dorm rooms can be criminally small. Before your purchase, be sure to take thorough measurements of their room to make sure this item will fit.

8. Decorations

wall calendar

Help turn your kid’s dorm room into a home away from home with fun and festive decorations that match their style. However, there may be college dorm room regulations that dictate what kinds of things can be hung on the walls of the room, so it’s important to be aware of the rules before making any purchases.

You might also want to stick with serviceable wall hangings such as dry erase boards, rewritable calendars or hanging mirrors. There likely won’t be a lot of space for knick-knacks, so don’t choose those for gifts unless you know for a fact there will be a place for them.

9. Laundry Supplies


If they are lucky enough to live nearby, your child may visit home most weekends to get a good meal and do his or her laundry. However, that won’t be the case for every family. Help your college freshman be prepared for long hours in the laundry room by providing a kit that includes a compact laundry basket, detergent, bleach, dryer sheets and rolls of quarters.

If they don’t already know how, it might be a good idea to teach them how to do their laundry before they move off to their dorm. This can help them avoid bleaching the wrong items or shrinking others.

10. Basic Tool Kit


It may not seem likely that your child will need to make a lot of repairs in the college dorm room, but there will be times when a bike repair or broken chair can be remedied by having the right screwdriver on hand.

Having a tool kit allows students to be problem-solvers and take care of themselves in a self-sufficient manner. Tool kits may not be needed every day, but when you do need one, they are good to have on hand.

11. Reloadable Credit Card

reloadable credit card

You may want to believe you are done handing out cash all of the time to your student, but it may be a while before he or she gets used to managing money properly. In the meantime, it can be convenient to give them a prepaid credit card that you can load with money without a trip to the bank.

Be sure to let them know this card is just for emergencies, though, and won’t be refilled very often. Before you give them the card, it might be a good idea to set up a monthly budget or allowance for your freshman so that everyone is on the same page when it comes to their expenses.

Vaporizers vs Humidifiers: The Pros & Cons

Vaporizers vs Humidifiers

As you prepare your household for battling the discomforts of the impending flu season, you may question whether a vaporizer or humidifier is the best choice for your situation. Neither appliance prevents or cures illnesses, however, they do have the ability to deliver some much-needed comfort when the symptoms get rough. They just deliver that comfort in different ways.

Before you rush out and buy the first humidifying appliance you come across, be sure to weigh the pros and cons of each type to determine which one is the best pick for your family and home environment.
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5 Tips to Choosing the Right Refrigerator for Your Living Space

There are a lot of choices out there when it comes to buying a refrigerator, and if you have not been in the market for one before, you might not know what you should be looking for to find the one that fits your lifestyle and the space you have available.

Avanti Refrigerator with Door Open

Let’s take a closer look at the options available to you, as well as five tips to help ensure that you pick the right fridge for your situation.

Refrigerator Size Options

There are several different refrigerator sizes available for people with all different space considerations. These appliances generally fall into the following categories:

  • Compact Cube:
    These “office-style” refrigerators are small and provide only a little bit of space to store food and drinks. They range in size from about 1.5 to 3 cubic feet, and generally have room for a few cans of soda or water, today’s lunch, and maybe some condiments.
  • Compact Midsize:
    The next size up is a compact mini fridge, sometimes known as a dorm-style mini fridge. These appliances are designed to be very small and inexpensive, but have enough space to store enough groceries for a few days. These refrigerators generally have a very small amount of freezer space, but with between 3 and 5.5 cubic feet of total storage space they are often small enough to fit under a standard height countertop.
  • Combo Microwave/Fridge:
    For people who are looking for convenience and ease in small spaces, the combination microwave and fridge can be a great option. Combo fridges come in a variety of sizes, with fridges that range from 2 to 9 cubic feet of space, and microwaves that include everything from the basics or more advanced options.
  • Apartment Size:
    If you have a little bit more space, the next step up is the apartment-sized fridge, which offers slim style but is similar in height to more standard refrigerators. They generally range from about 7 to 15 cubic feet (about half the size of traditional refrigerators), but offer similar features to their full-size counterparts, such as drawers, dual-cooling air systems, temperature control, adjustable shelving, and more freezer space than compact models.
  • Full Size & Commercial:
    Of course, if you have the space for it, you can also choose from a wide range of full size and/ or commercial refrigerators. If you have a slightly smaller space but want the functionality of a full size fridge, many brands today offer extra narrow models of popular designs (24 to 28 inches instead of the standard 32 to 36 inches). There are a myriad of features, styles, and configurations to choose from, so it’s important to shop around before you decide on which full-size fridge is right for you.

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Espresso vs. Drip Coffee: Exploring the Differences

When it comes to the discussion of espresso vs. drip coffee, it seems that many people have very strong and differing opinions. While these opinions may vary widely, there are still many misconceptions relating to the difference between espresso and drip coffee.


From the nature of the grind to the cultural connotation of each, even the slightest of differences impacts the final product, and there is indeed a significant divergence between the ground, the flavor, and the boldness.

How Fine Is the Grind?

Due to the way that espresso is brewed, it is necessary for the coffee to be very finely ground. The espresso is made by forcing about 1.5 ounces of water through this finely ground espresso coffee, and how tightly the ground is packed will have an impact on the final product. The fineness will also impact the time it takes for the water to pass through the grounds, though it is generally accepted that the ideal shot of espresso takes about 25 seconds to pass through the grounds.

There are other variables, however, which include the following:

  • The temperature of the water
  • The pressure of the water
  • The consistency of the grind

Drip coffee, on the other hand, requires a ground that is much coarser. Because of the nature of the ground, the hot water remains in contact with the grounds for much longer than espresso.
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How to Clean Your Ice Machine: Step-by-Step Instructions

It can be easy to take some machines for granted. Ice makers are a machine that might get overlooked in the maintenance department. When you go and grab some ice from your machine, you might not think about how long it has been since it was last cleaned, or even notice that the quality of your ice cubes has gone downhill.

Ice Maker

Like any other machine that you own, regular maintenance and cleaning will help keep your ice maker in great working condition.

Why Cleaning is So Important

Water — especially hard water — naturally has many different minerals and microscopic sediment in it. If left unfiltered, these minerals can build up in your machine. Eventually, it becomes clear to the naked eye just what is in your water. Dirt and rust are two culprits that can clog up your machine over time. Lime scale and mold can also build up and make it difficult for your machine to produce ice.

If left unclean, all of this buildup can lead to unnecessary wear on your ice maker. Even if you use a filter, at some point your machine will need some cleaning. The good news, however, is that cleaning your machine will help it to maintain peak ice production and keep your ice looking and tasting great. It can also prolong the overall life of this important kitchen appliance.
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Top Slow Cooker Recipes

Who doesn’t love their slow cooker?  If you don’t have one, I would highly suggest you get one ASAP.  You can just throw all of your ingredients in, turn it on, and when you get home from work or just a day out having fun with friends or family, dinner is ready!  And as an added bonus, your home smells amazing.

The Nesco 6 qt Porcelain Roaster with Non-Stick Cookwell and Glass Lid is perfect for any size meal.  You can slow cook, cook, roast, bake and steam in this guy.

Non-Stick Cookwell Roaster

Nesco Porcelain Roaster


The Hamilton Beach Portable Slow Cooker is perfect for the holidays or anytime you are making something to take to a party or potluck.


Portable Slow Cooker

Portable Slow Cooker 


I’d like to share with you some of my favorite slow cooker recipes.


Chicken Tortilla Soup

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes

1 can (10 oz) enchilada sauce

1 medium onion, chopped

1 can (4 oz) diced green chiles

1 can (14.5 oz) chicken broth

1 can (15 oz) whole kernel corn

1 clove garlic, minced

1 Tb dried cilantro

2 cups water

1 Tsp cumin

½ Tsp chili powder

1 Tsp salt

¼ Tsp pepper

1 bay leaf

Dump all ingredients into the crock pot and cook on high 4-5 hours.  Remove bay leaf and discard.  Lift out the chicken pieces and shred.  Put shredded chicken back into soup.  Serve with tortilla chips and grated cheese, or your own favorite toppings!


One Pot Bean Dinner

1 lb ground beef

12 oz package of bacon, fried and chopped

1 chopped onion

2 cans pork & beans

1 can kidney beans

1 cup ketchup

1/4 cup brown sugar

3 Tb white vinegar

1 Tsp salt

Dash of pepper


Brown beef in skillet and drain fat.  Put in crockpot.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Stir together well.  Cover and cook on low in crockpot for 4 hours, or high for a shorter time.


Hawaiian Crock Pot Chicken

4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 (16.5 oz) can crushed pineapple

1 (16.5 oz) bottle archer farms Hawaiian style barbeque sauce (found at Target)


Place breasts in crock pot, pour pineapple on top of chicken and then pour sauce over all.  Cook on low for 6 hours.


Mexican Crock Pot Tacos

2 frozen chicken breasts

2 cans black beans, rinsed

2 bottles salsa


Throw above ingredients in a crock pot and cook on low for 8 hours.  Shred chicken and stir together.  Serve in hard or soft shells with taco toppings (lettuce, sour cream, etc).


Chicken with Black Beans and Cream Cheese

4-5 boneless chicken breasts

1 (15.5 oz) can black beans

1 (15 oz) can corn

1 (15 oz) jar salsa, any kind

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese


Well, writing this made me hungry.  Good thing it’s almost lunchtime.

I hope you’ll give these recipes a try.  And if you do, please let me know what you think!  I’d also love it if you’d share your favorite crock pot recipes.  Just leave a comment below!



Slow Cooker Recipe: Whole Chicken & Vegetables

slow cooker chicken

If there is one thing that I love when I want to prepare a no hassle meal, it is having a slow cooker.  Many people I know just use their slow cooker for making queso or other dips for parties and never realize the full potential of what you can prepare with them.  Slow cookers can cook just about anything from soups, stews and chilis to whole chickens, braised lamb and roast duck.  More often than not, you are able to just throw in your ingredients and let your slow cooker do all the work.  It’s definitely a way to impress your family and/or guests and let them think that you spent hours in the kitchen cooking, when really the only thing that was cooking for hours was your slow cooker.

My go-to meal in my slow cooker is chicken and vegetables.  I use a whole chicken and whatever vegetables I have on hand at the time.  It’s so simple and the chicken is so tender when it’s done it falls right off the bone.

Whole Chicken and Vegetables


2 cups broth or stock (chicken or vegetable)
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 8 oz package of mushrooms
3 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon paprika


1. Add a layer of vegetables to the bottom of the slow cooker.
2. Combine all spices.
3. Rinse the whole chicken and rub with spice mixture.
4. Place chicken in slow cooker on top of the layer of vegetables.
5. Add the remaining vegetables and garlic into the slow cooker.
6. Pour the broth into the slow cooker. As the chicken cooks it will add more liquid as well.
7. Cook on low setting for 5-8 hours.
8. Use a kitchen thermometer to check if chicken is done before serving. (The internal temperature should be 180 degrees in the thickest part.)

What’s your favorite recipe to make in a slow cooker?

Top Commercial Products: EdgeStar Mini Fridge Freezer

EdgeStar Compact Fridge Freezer

We have exciting news about our compact refrigerator / freezer! The restaurant corporation, OSI, that owns Outback, Carrabbas, Bone Fish Grill and Flemmings is currently testing our compact refrigerator in the Houston, TX, market. So far, the results are overwhelmingly positive!

OSI has developed a new frozen cocktail that is being introduced in their Carrabbas stores. They have chosen the sleek, compact look of our CRF150SS as the storage unit for this new drink. Over the next month, we will be rolling out our unit to the national chain of Carrabbas. This is sure to be followed by Outback, Bone Fish Grill and Flemmings. So if you are at one of these fine, popular restaurants, be sure to order one of their new cocktails and take a look behind the bar – chances are you’ll see the EdgeStar CRF150SS keeping the libations frozen!

Ice Cream Maker Recipe: Peach Frozen Yogurt

peach frozen yogurt

The Cuisinart frozen yogurt, ice cream & sorbet maker was rated by Consumer Search as one of the best ice cream makers available. This unit allows you to make ice cream in a speedy 15 to 20 minutes, and even watch the entire process through the transparent lid. According to reviews, consumers say that they enjoy the model’s ease of use, and consider it to be an excellent value. This isn’t a one trick pony though! In addition to making frozen desserts, this ice cream maker also lets you create your favorite frozen beverages, including  strawberry daiquiris and pina coladas.

Here in Texas, the summers mean two things: hot weather and peach season. Fresh peaches are hard to beat, but peach ice cream is without question the best thing about summer. Here’s a lightened version to share with friends and family:

Summertime Peach Frozen Yogurt*


2 cups fresh diced peaches
2 cups low fat vanilla yogurt
⅓ cup sugar


  1. Mix the peaches, yogurt and sugar together in a medium-sized bowl.
  2. Turn on your ice cream maker and pour in the ice cream mixture.
  3. Let your ice cream maker run for about 20-30 minutes.
  4. Serve with peach slices.

Makes eight ½-cup servings.

*Recipe adapted from the Cuisinart ice cream maker owner’s manual.

Is it Better to Make Baby Food from Scratch?

Baby Brezza Baby Food Maker

With celebrities like Kourtney Kardashian, Tori Spelling and others touting the benefits of making their own baby food, baby food makers are creating a huge buzz in the press lately. Most fads surrounding the Hollywood scene don’t have staying power, but this time they are definitely onto something.

Making your own baby food is great for your baby, because it allows you to know exactly what your little one is eating. You can maximize the nutrition count while avoiding the preservatives, additives and other potentially detrimental ingredients. In fact, the benefits of making your own baby food span beyond just health. In doing so, you are eliminating the use of all of the packaging, which ultimately reduces your family’s environmental footprint. And, possibly the best benefit of making your own baby food, you will end up with extra cash in your pocket! Recent studies show that you can save 50% or more on your baby food costs if you make it yourself at home.

The Baby Brezza baby food maker is an all-in-one solution, perfect for busy moms. Simply add your ingredients in the bowl, set your steam time and let the baby food make take care of the rest! The simple automated process steams and blends the food for you. Worried about creating a mess? Don’t be. Both the bowl and blade are dishwasher safe. Furthermore, the BPA and phthalate-free construction ensures that this product is safe for your kids.

Here is a great recipe from Baby Brezza for children 6 months & up:

Homemade Baby Food Recipe: Sweet Potato & Banana Puree


1 Medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice (2 cups, 10 ounces)
1/2 Small banana, peeled and sliced (1/3 cup, 1-1/2 ounces)
Optional: cinnamon or nutmeg to taste


1. Steam sweet potato for 20 minutes
2. Add banana and puree to smooth
3. Remove from bowl and add water, breast milk or formula to desired consistency
4. Optional: Stir in cinnamon or nutmeg to taste

Yields: 13 oz.