Essentials of a Great Cook

Cooking as a hobby is more popular than ever. There are entire TV networks devoted to the avocation, not to mention a plethora of cooking competition shows, professional and amateur alike.

But what makes a great cook? We interviewed a corporate chef for some essential points. Based on his tips, we also have a few recommendations for unique gifts that will help you wow the crowd at your next dinner party.

  1. Be hungry. Have the desire to please your own palate.
  2. Have a good sense of taste. If your friends come back for more, you’re on your way. If your friends would be willing to pay for your cooking, you may have a career.
  3. Practice, practice, practice your knife handling skills. And remember that a dull knife is more dangerous to use than a sharp one. Keep all your smooth and serrated knives in top condition.86822_300x300
  4. Cook by technique, not by recipes. Recipes teach the mistakes of others, technique teaches you to make your own recipes. Respect the experience of those who teach you.
  5. 84850_300x300Be organized and clean. As much as 60% of cooking is prepping, chopping, and cleaning. Many professionals use a prep station to be efficient and organized.
  6. Have a good sense of timing. Try to guess time without looking at the clock or timer. An innate sense of timing is a unique gift, but with practice you can develop the skill. Know the proper time and temperature for the safe cooking of different foods.
  7. 12527_300x300Be bold and creative. Go to school and take a variety of classes and instruction. Don’t be afraid to try something different that will really get friends and family talking, even something like traditional Cuban Lechon Asado.
  8. Above all, have joy and fun! If you enjoy what you’re doing, it will show in the results. And make sure to relax and enjoy your guests with a tasty beverage served in a fun atmosphere.

Spring into Summer with a Beautiful Yard

Memorial Day is less than a week away. Is your yard ready for outdoor enjoyment in the unique gifts of summer warmth and sunshine? If not, we have some items that can help you make your yard beautiful and comfortable for your family and friends all season long.

84353_300x300Get your deck ready for a repainting or quickly clean winter’s debris from your patio and driveway. This electric power washer is a fast, effective way to remove built-up grime. In side-by-side evaluations conducted by The Hammacher Schlemmer Institute, this model was rated The Best because it cleaned more effectively and was easiest to use. Five quick-connect spray tips make it easy to adjust the power of the spray to the job, and its dual removable tanks let you clean with two different detergents.

87417_300x300Trim hedges easily, or perhaps indulge that urge to transform ordinary shrubs into beautiful topiary. This cordless hedge trimmer has a telescoping shaft to prune hedges up to 10′ tall while you stand safely on the ground. It also eliminates the hassle of running extension cords…the trimmer is powered by a rechargeable 18-volt lithium-ion battery for optimal freedom of movement.

87117_300x300Sufficient water is key to a bountiful and beautiful garden. Provide your plants good irrigation and they’ll reward you with the unique gifts of tasty and healthful homegrown veggies. Those daily waterings are easier with this sturdy steel hose reel cart that earned The Best rating from the Hammacher Schlemmer Institute because it quickly and smoothly retracts. And unlike lesser carts with flimsy plastic wheels that inhibited mobility, this model has four pneumatic tires for easy rolling all summer long.

84925_300x300Once your yard is in prime condition, keep your outdoor dinner party free of insects without the need for pesticides. This enclosure fits over a patio table’s umbrella to provide a protective canopy. Made from sturdy polyester netting too small for pests to penetrate, it fits over umbrellas up to 9′ in diameter while its 96″ length extends to stay flush with the ground.

The next three months will fly by, but with a little work and planning now, you’ll be able to make the most of your outdoor space so you can relax and enjoy the unique gifts of nature’s best season.

Pack Rats: Unleash Your Inner Neatnik!

Over a lifetime, it’s too easy to accumulate “stuff”. Favorite books, knick-knacks, old letters, financial statements…it all needs to go somewhere.

There’s even a day to recognize the human tendency to hang on to our things, whether they be sentimental souvenirs or important documents. This Sunday is National Pack Rat Day. For one day, you can embrace your inner hoarder. Come Monday, it’s time to get organized and clean out the excess. And we have some suggestions that can help.

86833_300x300Shelving is a convenient way to store books, objets d’art and all those unique gifts you’ve received through the years. Many bookshelves occupy substantial floor and wall space. But this space-saving vertical bookshelf stacks books flat on their covers, rather than upright on their pages, so it needs only 1.5 square feet of floor space to hold a four foot tower of texts.

12487_300x300Bills, forms, and other paperwork are less daunting when you have a dedicated space to work on and then dispatch all of it. This fold-away desk gives you a 30×20″ work surface, as well as shelves, file-holding compartments and a cork board to keep statements, notes and paperwork organized. When you’re done working, the desk folds to only 6″ and stores in an unobtrusive wall-hung cabinet. Thanks to its low profile, it makes an ideal and unique gift for a student or a city dweller in a small apartment.

84700_300x300Speaking of paperwork, financial records really have a way of piling up. The government has issued guidelines on how long various types of records should be kept and when they can be disposed. Of course, outdated documents should be shredded prior to disposal. This commercial-quality shredder was selected as The Best by the Hammacher Schlemmer Institute for its superior security and quiet operation. This shredder chews through 14 sheets of paper at one time, grinding it all into 1/4″ x 1/4″ unrecognizable confetti.

By focusing on the present and identifying the unique gifts of what is really important in your life, you can start to pare down your piles and embrace the joys of simplicity. You won’t be losing things, you’ll be gaining a cleaner, simpler life.

We’re Thrillin’ to Do Some Grillin’

It’s the season for seasoning…the spicy deliciousness of barbequing season, that is!,

There’s something about manning the grill that speaks to a primal instinct. It’s the aroma of an open fire, the crackling sound of juices meeting hot coals and the sight of a thick steak with perfect grill marks. And this year’s BBQ season promises to be one of the best ever, thanks to some new products that enhance the unique gift of being able to cook outdoors.

86107_300x300Why limit grilling time to the hours before sunset? The Grillmaster’s Cordless Task Light clamps to a barbeque lid or prep table, leaving your hands free for flipping burgers or checking a roast’s temperature. The weather-resistant lamp’s heavy-duty spring clamp also attaches to lawn furniture, tabletops, and headboards up to 3″ thick, making it ideal for bringing light to a campsite, workshop, or bedside.

87228C_300x300Taking a grill to a picnic is a great idea…except for transporting the messy grill. This is a portable charcoal grill concealed within a stainless steel briefcase. Instead of the traditional round design, this sleek briefcase model is easily carried by its handle and stacked among other tailgating gear thanks to its flat, rectangular design. The case stands up and opens to support a metal cooking grate. A removable ash basket catches debris for easy cleanup (without leaving behind evidence of a cookout). It’s the perfect unique gift for anyone who loves to tailgate.

84149_300x300A well-seasoned grill grate is good. A grate covered with burned-on chunks of last week’s cookout is not. This is the grill brush that uses steam to quickly and thoroughly clean grill grates. A chamber inside the handle holds water, and a spout set within the bristles releases water onto hot grates, creating steam that removes burned-on food and grease with little effort. The bristle heads remove and can be cleaned easily in a dishwasher.

So grab your tongs and get grilling. The season is fleeting and the time to enjoy the unique gifts of BBQ season is now!

Heart-strong Strategies for Cholesterol Control

This Sunday truly is a day for matters of the heart. Along with the love we give Mom for Mother’s Day, May 10 will also mark the first National Lipid Day. The day has been designated to raise awareness of high cholesterol and what the condition does to rob you of the unique gift of good health.

Your body needs some cholesterol, particularly the “good” high-density lipoproteins, but elevated levels of low-density lipoproteins – LDL cholesterol – can build up on the walls of your arteries and form blockages. This may lead to heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes.

Strategies for combatting lousy levels of LDL include eating a healthy diet, not smoking, 84153A_300x300exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight. Should your doctor deliver the news that your cholesterol needs to be brought into check, we have some ideas to help you get moving in the right direction.

First, get started with The Best Handheld Body Fat Analyzer we’ve found. It was rated The Best by the Hammacher Schlemmer Institute because of its accuracy and ease of use. The Best Handheld Body Fat Analyzer stores up to eight user profiles, making it a unique gift idea for an entire family. It was also the only unit that provided body mass index readings and explained whether the BMI measurements were in the normal, average, or high range.

81590_300x300Walking can form the foundation of a get-fit program. The Full Screen Pedometer displays five data points at once. With a single glance at the LCD screen, you can see steps walked, distance traveled, calories burned, time elapsed and the average pace, making it a swift, uncomplicated way to begin and end each exercise session.

83287_300x300Monitor your progress with this The All Day Fitness Watch that tracks resting heart rate, calories burned, and overall activity, and rates your fitness. The device compares your current resting heart rate to the average reading from the past week and assesses a fitness score. As fitness improves, resting heart rate decreases and the fitness score allows you to track progress and set goals. An integrated accelerometer detects all movement, automatically tracking time spent moving each day.

You can learn more about the dangers of high cholesterol and how to treat it from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fantastic and Frugal Gifts for Mom

Your mother likely taught you to live simply and be frugal with your money. When it comes to Mother’s Day, you want to pay her back for all the years of sage advice…but sometimes, extravagance just isn’t in the budget.

No problem…you can still treat Mom to a memorable and unique gift this year, no matter what your budget allows. Our customizable gift guide lets you select from an array of items in any price range. Here are some ideas that will cost you $100 or less.

87141A_300x300Looking for something that is on-trend and yet a completely unique gift? The Selfie Toaster indelibly brands its owner’s image onto a slice of bread. Available only from Hammacher Schlemmer, the toaster uses custom heating inserts crafted from a submitted headshot photograph. The toaster would also make a great gift for a grandmother, using a grandchild’s photo. This one-of a-kind toaster is only $69.95.

86408_300x300Another Hammacher Schlemmer exclusive, The Massaging Neck And Shoulder Heat Wrap is designed to simultaneously soothe sore muscles in the neck and shoulders, draining away any mother’s stress. The slightly weighted edges and magnetic closure provide a custom fit around the neck, shoulders, and upper back to deliver consistent, therapeutic heat in areas that are prone to tightness. Soothing relief for mom can be had for only $79.95.

83809_300x300For many fitness-minded mothers, a good walk makes for the perfect workout. Our The Smart Pedometer can upload data to a paired compatible smartphone to chart movement over time. The device tracks steps, distance, pace, length of a workout, fat, and calories burned, and stores up to 30 days of activity.  A push of a button transfers results to an app that displays data in easy-to-read graphics to monitor progress. The Smart Pedometer costs only $49.95 and the companion app is free.

Still can’t make up your mind? Get Mom a Hammacher Schlemmer gift certificate, available in denominations ranging from $25 to $200 that will let her choose her own unique Mother’s Day gift.

Ease the Pressure of Monitoring Hypertension

Today ushers in National Blood Pressure Education Month. Sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control, the event is intended to increase awareness of the impact elevated blood pressure can have on the unique gift of good health.

Hypertension increases the risk of strokes, heart disease, congestive heart failure and kidney disease. For those already diagnosed with the condition, the American Heart Association recommends home monitoring. While not a substitute for regular visits to your physician, home monitoring can help your doctor determine if treatments are working and provide a record of readings over time. And for those who suffer “white coat anxiety” in the doctor’s office, self-measurement can help determine if an elevated reading at the doctor’s was correct.

87180_300x300We feature several products that can help you home-monitor, and that make for thoughtful unique gifts for someone you care about.

This The Best Cuff Blood Pressure Monitor is The Best because it was easy to use and produced the most accurate readings in tests by the Hammacher Schlemmer Institute. When each monitor’s systolic and diastolic measurements were compared to readings taken by a cardiology nurse, The Best model’s results deviated from the nurse’s by an average of only 5 mmHg, making it superior to other models.

81575_300x300For easy portability, The Best Wrist Blood Pressure Monitor we’ve found earned The Best rating from the Hammacher Schlemmer Institute because of its accuracy and ease of use. The monitor’s readings were compared to those taken by a cardiology nurse, and The Best model displayed a 94% accuracy rate—the highest of any blood pressure monitor. Panelists lauded The Best model’s automatic inflating cuff because it “felt nice around the wrist and was easy to put on.”

86268_300x300Finally, this The Largest Display Blood Pressure Monitor displays clinically accurate readings on an oversized LCD display that’s easier to see than other monitors. The cordless device displays systolic and diastolic measurements in 1 1/8″-high digits, with the pulse reading shown in smaller digits below. The monitor uses the oscillometric method, a technique recommended by the American Heart Association for its ability to accurately measure readings for hypertension.

Unique Gifts for Extraordinary Mothers

Mother’s Day is less than two weeks away, coming on May 10th. Make this the year you pledge not to send a last-minute flower arrangement. Instead, let us help you choose unique gifts for Mom and then we’ll handle the rest of the work, while you bask in the glory of Mom’s delight.

Our online Gift Guide helps you find the perfect gift by filtering the selection to match her personality or your budget.

For example, if the mother in your life loves to entertain, you can filter to find gifts ideal for a party host. In this category, you’ll find handy gadgets such as The Bitterness Eliminating Coffee Maker and The Best Electric Wine Opener so she can relax and enjoy her guests.

86716_300x300Perhaps your mother loves to travel. Use our unique gift guide to filter for items for a 74035D_300x300globetrotter, such as our exclusive Sightseer’s Argentinian Leather Carryall or The Lady’s Superior Toiletry Kit that organizes all her favorite full-size bottles and folds flat for compact storage in a suitcase.

If Mom loves to be pampered – and really, what mom doesn’t? – find the unique gifts that indulge her every day of the year. She’s sure to love wrapping up in the luxury of our exclusive Genuine Turkish Bathrobe or letting the tensions of the day be soothed away by The Massaging Neck and Shoulder Heat Wrap.

For over 100 years, Mother’s Day has celebrated the woman who loves you 24/7. While there’s no gift that can ever repay that, shop our Gift Guide today for the perfect unique gift that will reflect how much you care.

Computer Evolution Sparks Gadget Revolution

On this date in 1981, IBM unveiled their first personal desktop computer, revolutionizing the concept of computers with off-the-shelf parts and industry standards. The new PC brought the unique gift of affordable computing power to everyone.

IBM’s earlier release of the 360, an innovative room-sized mainframe computer, coincided with the transition from the gray flannel “IBM look” of narrow lapels and thin ties to a new, hip generation of creative thinking and mod styling. Prior to this machine, many computers had to be custom-programmed for each application, costing millions.

Personal computing has continued to evolve exponentially, with Apple’s release today of the Apple Watch. Modern data storage will be a billion times larger than that used in the IBM 360 and that first PC. Shrinking chips and Jovian data storage has brought us the reality of the computer that is worn on the wrist.

87206_300x300As our computing power has evolved, so have the products that make personal computing easier and safer. Here are some suggestions for unique gifts that will enhance your use of your own PC, tablet or smartphone.

This pocket-sized device extends the range and improves the signal strength of a wireless network. The cordless device rebroadcasts the signal to provide a faster, more reliable WiFi connection at a hotel, airport or coffee shop. About the size of a smartphone, the device stores unobtrusively during travel and its rechargeable battery last up to four hours. The unit also converts a wired Internet connection into a wireless network via a built-in Ethernet 86371A_300x300port.

Tapping out a message on a smartphone or tablet can lead to some fat-fingered mistakes. This Bluetooth device projects a laser-generated keyboard onto any flat, opaque surface, providing an instant keyboard. An invisible infrared horizontal plane projected millimeters above the surface detects actual contact with “keys”, passing it along to a paired device.

86106B_300x300The Eye Scanning Password Authenticator confirms a user’s identity before granting access to secure websites and other sensitive digital data. Employing the same biometric technology trusted to verify travelers at international borders, the authenticator has a small camera that scans each user’s iris, creating an encrypted ID that cannot be forged, duplicated or acquired by a hacker. It can authenticate five separate users and comes with a carrying pouch for travel, giving you the unique gift of identity security wherever you are.

Simple Steps To Healthy Feet

These are the only pair of feet you’ll ever have. And during April, Foot Health Awareness Month, the American Podiatric Medical Association urges each of us to consider the impact foot health has on the unique gift of total body health. It’s a great time to focus on finding relief for those aches and pains below your ankles.

We have some suggestions for items that will improve how your tootsies feel. These products are a real shoe-in to provide the relief you’re looking for, or make for welcomed unique gifts for loved ones who are no longer so light on their feet.

83772_300x300These toe-aligning foot gloves have separate toe pockets and gentle arch compression to help realign toes, reducing foot pain. Designed like comfortable gloves, the socks reduce friction and moisture and ensure each little piggy has ample wiggle and breathing room. Spreading the toes also stretches foot muscles, promotes balance, and eases the discomfort of bunions, hammer toes, and other conditions.

86835_300x300Pressure on your feet day after day can lead to uncomfortable and unsightly calluses. Our exclusive callus-removing foot treatment is a natural therapy that removes layers of tough, dead skin in a single treatment to leave feet soft and smooth. The disposable booties are lined with a mixture of 18 natural moisturizers and exfoliants that slough away dead skin cells and help speed circulation.

84089A_300x300Using technology pioneered by NASA to heal astronauts’ injuries, this pain-relieving device’s 172 LEDs produce safe infrared heat to stimulate blood circulation, relieve swelling, and loosen muscles in the feet. Developed by Hammacher Schlemmer, it is the only of its kind made specifically for the feet. The safe and comforting LED light penetrates deep into tissue to help relieve the soreness common with plantar fasciitis, neuroma, and tendonitis.

So at the end of the day, if your dogs are barking, try these unique gifts for relief and you’ll feel toe-riffic in no time!