June 21st is the official First Day of Summer and we couldn’t be more stoked! It’s been a long, dark, wet Spring for us here in Oregon and we’ve been going a little stir crazy waiting for the sun to make its appearance. With all of this extra time indoors we’ve been able to plan and refine some ways to help maximize your summer and make it Aosom!
So yes, this is kind of a Duh! suggestion, but for those of you out there who are not cooking aficionados and grill masters, sometimes lighting a fire in your backyard and dealing with raw meat is a bit daunting. Here are a few tips for beginners and perhaps some reminders for the experts.
- Seasoning: While just throwing a raw chunk of meat onto the grill gets the job done, adding spices and flavoring to your meat can make a world of difference. Grilled foods can stand up to bold flavors, so be liberal with the salt, overzealous with the garlic, amp up the chilies, and don’t forget the fresh lemon juice. For more tailored seasonings, try mint marinade for lamb, a cherry cola glaze for ribs, and spicy-sweet brine for chicken. Check out some amazing grill ideas from bonappetit.com.
- Prepping and Cleaning your Grate: Cleaning and oiling your grate thoroughly before cooking will prevent food from sticking and it will give your food those classic, picturesque grill lines you see on all of the cooking shows. Use a stiff wire brush to clean your grill both before, and after, cooking. To oil your grill, dip a cloth in vegetable oil and run it over the grate.
- Technique Technique Technique: As with anything, technique is everything. Different meats require different cooking styles so be sure to research before you start. Here are a few different ways to cook different meats: Chicken (Rachel Ray), Fish (Weber), Steak (bonappetit), and just for fun Veggies (allrecipes)
- Safety! : BBQ’s can be dangerous. They are filled with fire and hot coals and injuries can happen. However, as long as you follow the rules and grill responsibly you should be fine. Always remember to have a fire extinguisher handy, wear eye protection (sunglasses work just fine), don’t wear nylon or clothing that can melt, and make sure you’re not grilling near anything that is highly flammable. Be sure to watch smaller children and pets around your grill as well.
- Heat Zones: Different foods require different heats to cook properly so it is a good idea to set up heat zones within your grill. The easiest way to do this is to stack all of your coals to one side of the grill so they create a slope down towards the opposite side. This will give you one heat zone that is very hot for ‘direct heat’ cooking (the higher side of the pile of coals) and a lower heat zone for ‘indirect heat’ cooking (the lower side of the coals) that is perfect for slower, longer cooking times.
- A few BBQ don’ts are to keep your grill uncovered when cooking, squirt water on flair ups, undercook your meat (get a meat thermometer), and don’t forget to just have fun.
Good luck! Before you know it you’ll be the greatest griller on your block (yes, you will be your own neighborhoods Bobby Flay).
Long summer days are the perfect time to get out and ride! You can take a solo ride, invite a few friends along, or find a group ride using Facebook or Craigslist. Exploration is the name of the game, and a bike is the perfect marriage of utility and ease of use when traveling short distances. Stay in town and explore new neighborhoods, or throw your bike in the car and head out to a more rural location (this is usually the more exciting option). Pack a day bag and see how far you can push yourself as you ride up a mountain or take a lazy back road and let your mind wander as you peacefully peddle yourself along.
But wait, you might be saying, I don’t have my own bike. Well, you’re in luck as bike renting is becoming a huge market within most major cities. Check out this Wiki-list of Bike Sharing Systems (this also includes a world wide list for those outside of the US).
So, grab a helmet, venture out, and who knows, you might find yourself happily indoctrinated into the world of cycling where donning a bright spandex bodysuit, aerodynamic accessories, and clip on shoes becomes second nature. However you experience the ride, remember that what really matters is that you just getout and experience the world around you.
Growing up, nothing encouraged more excitement and exhilaration than going to the fair!
Honestly at 35, I still get a warm, happy feeling whenever the smell of cotton candy, fried foods, farm animals, and axle grease mingle in my nose, taking me away in a nostalgic wave of comfort. Screams from the rides, the sounds and smells of livestock in the 4H barns, arts and crafts, and way too much food, all make for the perfect summer outing. Stay late into the evening as the lights come on and witness the beauty of the colored bulbs illuminating rides and games and even more food. Did I mention the food? Elephant Ears and cotton candy are the best (even if they do put you into a diabetic shock). So find a fair, prepare your senses, and enjoy the experience!
Check fairsandfestivals.com to find a fair near you.
Get out of town! Right now! No… really… Get out and take a hike!
Getting out into nature, walking down a dirt trail as birds sing and the wind rustles through the trees, is one of the most serene and calming experiences you can have in the world. If you live in a city, getting out into the hills, the mountains, along rivers, or out to the ocean is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself. Clean air, filtered through the trees and other plants will make breathe easier, while the sun will give you energy and make you feel invigorated. So find a day, turn your phone off, leave your laptop at home, and unplug, as you let nature do what it does best.
Day hikes are an easy way to slow down and reacquaint you with yourself. All too often we get wrapped up in the daily hustle of work and home life that we don’t take time to just be one with ourselves (the self-love gurus might be onto something after all). Public parks, nature trails, arboretums, and sanctuaries all offer shorter trails, while most state parks and forests offer more lengthy options. For more extensive hikes, a wonderful resource that I’ve found is alltrails.com. For those of you who want to do a multi-day trip, here’s a list from REI to get you started.
Living in Portland, Oregon I’ve been spoiled by the natural wonders that are all within an hour or two drive; Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, The Oregon Coast, The Tillamook Forrest, and the Gorge to name a few. I make it a point to get out each weekend and just let myself enjoy the great outdoors and get away from it all. I highly suggest this for anyone who is stressed, anxious, or tends to overexert themselves during their work week.
So pack a day bag, or plan a weekend on the trails, but whatever you do, just make sure you’re doing it outside and in nature!
And finally, the quintessential summer outing… the Road trip!
Like the Griswald’s famous foray, road trips are rife with adventures, excitement, and learning opportunities. Of all of the ideas on this list, the road trip takes the most planning, but can also be the most rewarding. For most people you should start planning your trip a few weeks to a few months before you plan on leaving (kudos to those of you who have the ability to just jump in your car and go; I envy you). For those of you who like to map everything out, get every little detail in place, Roadtrippers.com is super helpful. Google maps is also fun if you have a destination in mind. Just search your destination and then zoom in and see what landmarks pop up (this is the method that I usually use).
Road trips can seem scary at first, but this is your chance to let go, let loose, and let yourself explore. Be ok with deviating and doing the unexpected, because in the end, that’s what life is all about and those are the moments you will remember forever!
However you spend your summer, I hope this list can give you a few insights, instructions, and inspirations. Here at Aosom we want you to live your life to the fullest and enjoy some adventures along the way!
Have your Best Summer yet!
Let us know what your summer plans are in the comments!