Posted on

7 Steps To Make The Perfect Vacation

Is it possible to get the perfect vacation? The realistic answer is probably no since the “perfect” anything seems unattainable. However, that does not mean that you can’t create a vacation so amazing and satisfying that it will seem perfect. To go on vacation is one of the most luxurious ways we treat ourselves and of course we want it to be an amazing time. But for a truly great vacation, it seems like so many things have to go right and only a few things going wrong can bring the whole thing down. Luckily, there are ways to ensure that every vacation you go on is as memorable as you could have hoped. Follow these steps and never have a disappointing vacation ever again.

Go by your own interests.

The very first thing you have to do in putting your dream vacation together is decide what kind of vacation you want. That sounds like a fun and easy decision to make, but put some real thought into it. Look back on some of the best vacation experiences you had in the past. What made them so great? Pick apart what you like and dislike about your vacations, and be honest. What some people might see as a dream vacation, like sitting on a tropical beach, might not be as appealing to you. This is your vacation, so you might as well make it as close to your interests as possible. You can think of the most extravagant vacations you can imagine, and while the actual trip needs to be realistic, it will give you a sense of what you want to be doing.

Research.

Yes, getting the perfect vacation does require a little bit of work. Once you’ve decided on what type of vacation you want, you can begin to look into how to build that dream getaway into a reality. Start by figuring out a budget as that will help shape the various decisions you have to make along the way. What city will you be visiting? When will you be going? What is the climate this time of year? What do you need to do beforehand? Doing an extensive look into what it’s going to take to put the vacation together will not only help prepare you, but it will also help to build your anticipation.

Plan ahead.

One of the big factors that helps to make a vacation work so well is that it is as stress-free as possible. A great way to ensure that is to plan ahead with your vacation needs. Some people like to fly by the seat of their own pants when travelling, and if you can handle the bumps in the road, then more power to you. But if you want your vacation to go as smoothly as possible, be sure to make the necessary arrangements before hand. Book your flights early, and be sure to factor in how much time you’ll need to switch planes if necessary. Also, book your accommodations ahead of time, even if you’re planning to hop around different spots. Even making an itinerary for each day is a good idea, even if you don’t follow it, just so you’re not stuck sitting in your hotel room trying to figure out what to do with the day.

Find the right travel companion.

Who you travel with can have a major impact on your vacation. Regardless of how close you might be to your best friend on a daily basis and how similar your interests might be, you might have different ideas for how you vacation. In that way, it’s not selfish or unreasonable to be a little picky about who you vacation with. You want to find someone you’re compatible with and someone who will approach this getaway the same way as you, be that a time for relaxation or adventure seeking.

Be comfortable.

What’s most important about making a vacation your own is that you are having as much fun as possible and taking advantage of every moment you can. However, that means different things for different people. While there are some who think a vacation is not worthwhile unless they move outside their comfort zone and do something new, for others, they want nothing more than to relax totally in their comfort zone. And neither approach is wrong. You don’t need to pay attention to other people’s perception of a good time. Only concern yourself with how you feel and what you want to do.

Be spontaneous.

This might seem like a bit of a contradiction to the last point, but it’s really not. There are certainly ways to be spontaneous no matter what you are doing, and when you’re on vacation, being able to adapt to certain circumstances is important for enjoying yourself. No matter how much you plan ahead, it’s unlikely things are always going to go your way, so being up to last minute changes helps you to keep the fun going even when plans change. Also, while having a schedule for the day is helpful, there’s no reason you can’t throw it out the window if something more appealing presents itself.

Capture memories.

While enjoying it in the moment is certainly the most important, be sure to bring back memories of your vacation when it’s over. Bring along a camera and document the trip. You might not feel like you’re the type of person who likes taking pictures, but when you come back to the real world and are reminiscing about what a great vacation you had, you’ll be glad you have a few visual memories to look back on as well.

Posted on

7 Tips For Grilling The Perfect Steak

Last week, in the spirit of barbecue season, we looked at some of the best tips for grilling the perfect burger. Most likely you’re seeing a lot of burgers this summer and there’s nothing wrong with that. They are an easy, inexpensive and delicious summer meal. However, on occasion it is nice to treat yourself to a little something more – to take a little more effort and spend a little more money to grill yourself a nice summertime steak on the barbecue. Now, a steak is a little different from a burger and demands a little more respect. Some people might not think it’s worth it to put in the extra effort and that’s fine. But if you’re looking to make a steak that will rival any restaurant, here’s how you can.

Go out of your way for the right cut.

You can find any old steak at your local grocery store and it won’t be too pricy either. Of course, it also won’t be all that good. For a steak fit for a king (or queen) you’ll have to go a little out of your way. Find a local butcher shop if you can, and if not the bigger grocery chain usually have such a section. Finding the right cut of meat can be tricky. The cut of you steak depends entirely on your own preferences, but if you’re new to this then a safe bet is to go with the ribeye cut. It offers a juicy flavourful piece of meat without having to tend to it too much.

Thickness is key.

Where steak is concerned, the most important aspect of the cut of meat is the thickness. It is the thickness that will determine how well a steak will grill. To thin of a cut and it will cook too fast with nowhere for the juices to hide. Too thick and you risk not getting an evenly cooked steak. Experts say that sticking to a two-inch thickness will allow for the best chances for a perfectly cooked steak.

Start it at room temperature.

When we spoke of the perfect way to grill a burger, we advised that having the burger cold before throwing it on the grill was a good way to go. However, the same technique does not apply to the steak cooking. We want the entire steak to cook as evenly as possible, so starting the with a cold steak means that each side will be grilled in drastically different temperatures. Leaving the steak at room temperature before you put it on the grill makes for a more even cook.

Keep it simple with the seasoning.

Steaks are very flavourful in their own right so there’s no need to help them out in that department too much. If you were dealing with an inferior cut of steak then you can go to town on marinating or seasoning it as you see fit. But if you’re splurging on a prime cut, the simpler the better. Really just a little drizzling of salt and pepper before grilling is all you need. You don’t want too much distracting from those wonderful natural flavours.

Prepare the grill.

For this step, we follow the same instructions as we did with our burgers. Yes, your grill needs more preparation than just a little heat. Firstly, clean your grill off between each cookout. A dirty grill can cause uneven cooking and you get bits of old, overcooked food in your meat. The temperature of your grill is also essential. Too hot or too cold and you’ll have a tough time cooking to perfection. Also, have the grill hot and ready when you are putting the steak on. This ensures there’s no fluctuation with the heat as you cook.

Watch the heat.

It’s recommended that you grill steaks over charcoal, although going out to buy a brand new barbecue just for a steak seems a little much so you can work with whatever grill you have. And whatever grill you have, you need to be weary of the heat. Keep it monitored and under control. In some cases, when juices drip down and cause some flare ups. Some people use a spritzer to calm the flames but that often sends ashes into your meat. Instead adjust the temperature and move the steak temporarily if necessary.

Let it stand.

Patience is a virtue in life and certainly when it comes to enjoying a steak. You might feel tempted to dive right into that delicious smelling meat as soon as it is off the grill, but if you’re willing to wait you’ll be rewarded. Not only will it be too hot to enjoy, allowing it to rest off the heat for a bit lets the juices and flavours build. In 10 minutes time, you’re looking at the perfect steak still on your plate ready to be enjoyed.

Posted on

9 Steps For Grilling The Perfect Burger

It is officially barbecue season so fire up the grills and let’s talk about some good cooking. The odds-on favourite of this wonderful time of year is the burger, and if you disagree, it might be because you’re cooking it wrong. There are a number of ways to cook a burger, and some would suggest the grill isn’t even the best way. However, using the right techniques and taking your barbecuing duties seriously can result in a burger better than any you’ll find at a fast food joint. So if you’re looking to master the grill this summer, here’s what you need to know for making the perfect burger.

Before the grill:

1) Choose the right meat.

Choosing the right meat for your burger can be a challenge. Firstly, you might just have to ignore your healthier instincts if you truly want to make the best burger. I know, that’s not the wisest thing to advise but let’s be honest, if you’re making a burger, you’re no all that health conscious. Lean meat is a great option for some meals, but for burgers, the more fat, the juicier the patty will be. Also, if you can find freshly ground beef then go with that. It’s much better quality and forms a better patty.

2) Mix gently.

When it comes to the spices and accoutrement you want to add to your meat, that remains completely up to your own preferences. However, when you are mixing all the meat and so forth together, you want to be as gentle as you can be. Mixing to harshly toughens up the meat and makes it more likely to break apart.

3) Save the salt for later.

Again, what you add to your burger is completely up to you. Many people like to simply stick to salt and pepper for seasoning, and that’s a great choice. However, don’t mix your salt in with the beef before you’re ready to start cooking. Adding salt to the beef dries out the meat and robs it of some of its natural flavours. Instead, add the salt last, once the patties are made and just before they are about to go on the grill.

4) Pack properly.

Packing the perfect patty is a bit of an art. You want to make sure the burgers will stay together on the grill and aren’t going to fall apart when you try to flip them, so you need to pack them solidly. Also, you need to be aware of the proper size. If you’re using fatty meat (which you should be) they tend to shrink significantly when on the grill so build them accordingly. A good technique to help prevent too much shrinking is to put a little dimple in the patty.

5) Keep things cold.

Once your patties are packed, avoiding throwing them on the grill right away. Put them in the fridge for a while before barbequing. Keeping the beef cold helps to keep them together and will allow them to cook better.

On the grill:

6) Prepare the grill appropriately.

While your patties are cooling down in the fridge, you can start to prepare your grill for cooking. Yes, your grill needs more preparation than just a little heat. Firstly, clean your grill off between each cookout. A dirty grill can cause uneven cooking and you get bits of old, overcooked food in your meat. The temperature of your grill is also essential. Too hot or too cold and you’ll have a tough time cooking the burger to perfection. Also, have the grill hot and ready when you are putting the patties on. This ensures there’s no fluctuation with the heat as you cook.

7) Don’t press the meat.

This seems to be the instinct of many cooks, but unfortunately it is a wrong instinct. Sure, you like flatter patties and your burgers tend to get a little bulbous on the grill. But when you press the burgers, you lose so much of those delicious and flavourful juices.

8) Flip minimally.

When you’re cooking away, knowing when to flip the burger is extremely important. What you want to aim for is one flip and done. It’s daunting, I know. You have to make sure you’re completely done on one side before flipping and finishing it off. Flipping it too often toughens up the meat, while flipping it too soon causes the burgers to stick.

9) Add cheese at the end.

Once more, what you prefer on your burger is totally your business. But if you’re not putting cheese on your burger you are missing out. Of course, you need to apply the cheese at the right moment. Putting it on too early can leave you with burnt cheese and unable to flip your unfinished burger. Once your burger is done cooking, move it off the direct heat and slap a slice of cheese on top to melt it without overcooking your burger.

Posted on

8 Tips For Being The Perfect Wedding Guest

Labour Day Weekend is fast approaching and for many, that means it will be a weekend full of wedding fun!

The three-day summer-ending weekend is a popular time for nuptials and it’s a pretty perfect time for outdoor ceremonies. Whether or not you’ll be attending this weekend or not, it’s good to remember that this is an extremely special day for the engaged couple and you want to make sure you aren’t in the way of that. Now that’s not to suggest you’ll misbehave and ruin the whole ceremony, but some people sometimes forget that weddings aren’t just a fun party to attend but a very important day for two people. No wedding will go off flawlessly but you can do your part to help the happy couple. Here are some tips for being the perfect wedding guest.

RSVP ASAP.

Let me know if this sounds familiar: You get a nice wedding invitation in the mail and you think that’s so nice and are so happy to be invited, then you put it away and think no more of it. What are you forgetting? Chances are the invitation has a big bold request for RSVP. I know you’re not being rude by not responding right away, but maybe you’re not considering way the couple makes that request. Without an accurate number of guests, the wedding planning can come to a standstill. Food, venue, drinks—all these decisions depend on the number of guests. You can’t control how other guest respond but you can at least make it a little easier on the couple and show them how excited you are for their big day. Take a few seconds and respond immediately.

Stick to the gift registry.

Getting the right gift for a married couple is a pretty hard decision. In the end it is the thought that counts but the wedding gift is simultaneously a ‘thank you’ for the party and a way to help them start their new life together, so it’s nice to get them something they need. That’s why gift registries are so helpful. Yet, for some reason some people find choosing a gift off the registry impersonal and elect to come up with their own gift idea. Don’t get too creative. These are the gifts the couple thinks will be helpful, so you’re safe sticking with something off the list. Alternatively, don’t turn your nose up at the thought of giving cash as a present. After a big wedding and getting ready to start a new life, a little extra money is often much appreciated.

Be on time.

Yes, I know, weddings infamously never start on time. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have a schedule to keep. No dillydallying on someone’s wedding day. It’s just common courtesy to show up on time or earlier. If the ceremony is a little late getting started, you can at least rest easy you won’t be one of those people entering as the bride is making her walk down the aisle. No one wants to be that guy.

Abide the seating plan.

It’s never fun to get seated at a table with a bunch of strangers when your friends are across the room. But as much as you might think it’s a little harmless fun to switch around name cards for the seating arrangement, you have to understand that a lot of thought and planning went into the seating plan. As much as you’re meant to enjoy the night, there are plenty of other people to consider. So make new friends at your assigned table and then mingle with the crowd at the reception. That goes the same for the ceremony as well. Stick to the seat the usher gave you. If there are no ushers, then you have a little more freedom, but use common sense. Do you really need to be seated upfront with the core family members?

Know when to participate and when to sit back.

A lot of weddings these days have activities as part of the ceremony in which the guests are meant to get involved to a certain extent, but as always, understand that this day is not about you. It’s not necessary to be in every picture, or to hang around the head table all night. Certainly don’t give a speech unless you were asked to. And, not to confuse the matter, be enthusiastic and outgoing when it’s appropriate.

Don’t post you own photos without asking permission.

It’s common that guests take their own pictures of the wedding. It’s only natural that you’ll won’t your own little reminder of the day. But in these days of social media, you need to be sure you have the couple’s permission before you post any pictures online. They might want to be the first to share images of their big day.

Go easy on the open bar.

If the couple in question are immensely generous (and considerably wealthy) the wedding reception may even have an open bar. Don’t go in expecting it, but show you appreciation if there is one. And you are meant to enjoy it, but go easy on it as well. That doesn’t mean you’ll be a drunken buffoon (although do avoid that), but treat the open bar as if a friend is buying you drinks. Don’t leave half empty drinks around the place and don’t get greedy. It can be one hell of a tab by the end of the night.

Have fun!

Hopefully these tips didn’t have you thinking that you have to be walking on eggshells the whole time. The wedding is a celebration and the couple want to see their guests having fun. So eat you fill, have some drinks, mingle and certainly dance. You know how to be a gracious guest so just keep this tips in mind and you’ll have a great time.