Pool & Spa Outdoor Blog

Aquamatic Introduces Artpoolcover Printed Pool Covers

Unique and Personalized Photo Pool Covers from Aquamatic Cover Systems


Printed Pool Cover

Above: Aquamatic Cover Systems’ exclusive Artpoolcover in Water #4 installed on a pool in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

Aquamatic Cover Systems, manufacturer of hydraulic swimming pool covers, has recently partnered with Artpoolcover, a European company specializing in safety pool covers, to bring their innovative imprinted pool covers to the U.S., Canadian, and Central American markets.

Imprinted with graphic images and playful designs, Artpoolcover printed covers offer an artistic and personalized way to cover your pool. They can be used in conjunction with Aquamatic’s EZ-Cover and Hydramatic swimming pool cover systems, and come in more than 140 patterns and themes, ranging from nature to sports to fabric and even candy. (Visit www.artpoolcover.com to view the collection of available designs.)

Personalized Photos

For a truly one-of-a-kind look, you can have your own photo printed on the cover. “We have a client in Hawaii that wants to install his cover with a photo he took of the Pacific Ocean,” says Tom Dankel, owner of Aquamatic Cover Systems.

Dankel mentions another pool owner in Colorado who plans to take a picture of his deck and have the pattern printed on a pool cover, camouflaging the cover as part of the deck.

In order to have your photo printed on a pool cover, the photo must be taken from a 15 MP camera at a minimum resolution of 300 dpi using a JPEG/GIF format.

Installation and Maintenance

Artpoolcover printed covers can be installed on virtually any shape or type of inground pool and require the same maintenance and care as a regular pool cover. The imprinted design will last the life of the cover—typically five to seven years—and the cover can safely be cleaned with mild soap, water, and a nonabrasive brush.

Contact Aquamatic Cover Systems for more information.

Browse other pool covers by Aquamatic Cover Systems >>


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7 Pool & Spa Designs for 2014

Top Trends in Pool and Spa Design

By Kimberlee Courtney

If your goals for the new year include a new pool or spa (or a pool renovation) then you’ve come to the right place. The seven pool and spa designs below feature some of the most popular and innovative design trends for 2014. Take a look to find inspiration and ideas for your own pool or spa project.

1. Backyard Resort

Pool and Spa Design for 2014, Backyard Resort, Pool with Waterslide

This natural, lagoon-style poolscape boasts a curvaceous custom waterslide, cascading waterfalls, rock grotto, and custom spa, offering endless hours of enjoyment for the whole family.

At-home resorts like this have been growing in popularity over the past few years and will continue to be a requested pool design in 2014 as more and more homeowners seek to recreate the look and experience of their favorite vacation spot right their own backyard.


Photo courtesy of Dolphin Waterslides; Creative Ponds



2. Overflowing with Options

Pool and Spa Designs for 2014, Pool with Overflowing Spa

For families big or small, a pool that offers multiple levels of enjoyment is always a necessity. The elegant pool pictured above has plenty to offer. A wading pool at the entry allows bathers to enjoy a quick dip between tanning and also provides a shallow area for younger kids to splash and play. Water bubblers and sheer descents add beautiful sight and sound to the stairs that lead up to the pool and spa, and transform them into a decorative fountain for all to enjoy.

When you’re ready to go for a swim, the large freeform pool offers plenty of space to swim laps, or delight in the soothing cascade of the rock waterfall. At night, relax and revive your muscles from all those laps with a warm soak in the custom spillover spa.

View more pool designs from Anthony & Sylvan Pools >>



3. Cutting-Edge Combo

Pool and Spa Combo Built into Patio

Every year, pool builders and designers are discovering creative ways to overcome unexpected site or construction challenges, giving more and more homeowners the opportunity to have the pool of their dreams. Such was the case for this infinity-edge spa designed and built by Tranquility Pools in New Jersey. Faced with restrictive zoning requirements, the designer came up with the idea for this 11-foot by 17-foot infinity-edge pool/spa hybrid built into the existing patio. The pool/spa is large enough to accommodate eight to 10 people and can function as a small pool where people can take a dip to cool off; with a few taps on his iPhone, the homeowner can activate the heater, jets, and bubblers and use it as a spa.

Patio with Infinity Edge Pool and Spa Built inWhat’s more, with the pool/spa built into the patio it becomes a prime part of the outdoor entertaining space, which also includes a recreation area, fireplace lounge with outdoor TV, and dining space.

Editor's Note: This pool and spa design received a Gold Award in NESPA’s 2013 Design Awards competition.




Photo courtesy of Tranquility Pools; Architect: Juan Ospina; Owner: Mitchell Knapp. Photography by Heather Knapp



4. It's Geometric

Geometric Pool and Spa Design

Just like fashion, pool trends come and go and come again. This year, geometric pool shapes are making a comeback. While some may consider geometric pool designs to be simple or utilitarian, the newest designs incorporate elaborate materials and design features, giving them an artistic edge.

Though basic in shape, the geometric pool and spa pictured above features a variety of sophisticated features, including sheer decent waterfalls, shimmering glass tiles, a sun shelf, and in-pool barstools. Colorful LED lighting gives the pool an exciting new look at night while maintaining its chic elegance.

Click to see more photos of this project, plus other pool designs >>


Photo courtesy of Anthony & Sylvan Pools



5. Disappearing Spa

Pool and Spa Designs 2014, Disappearing Spa

Now you see it, now you don’t. At the touch of a button, the circular spa and stone bridge magically appear from under the water. The flagstone bridge provides access to the spa from the deck, while an underwater tunnel lets swimmers enter the spa area directly from the pool. With the press of another button, the spa and bridge “disappear” by lowering below the water level.

As pool builders and designers continue to unlock the potential of new technology and construction options, we can only imagine what other exciting and sophisticated pool and spa designs will emerge in the next year.

Photo courtesy of Caviness Landscape Design; Photography by KO Rinearson



6. Focused on Fitness

swim spa in home gym

Swim spas—or swim-in-place pools—have been receiving a lot of attention lately thanks to the recent rise in health consciousness and the pursuit of fitness over the past year. Good for swimming, water workouts, and aquatic therapy, swim spas offer a great solution for small spaces, outdoors or inside.

Installed indoors, a swim spa becomes a piece of aquatic fitness equipment that can be used year-round. By moving your workouts to the water, you get a great cardiovascular and strength workout with little to no impact on your joints.

Browse more swim spas from Endless Pools >>



7. All-in-One Oasis

Pool and Spa Design, Pool and Outdoor Kitchen

Once designed as separate areas, the pool and outdoor kitchen are now being integrated into one central entertainment hub, as this backyard oasis demonstrates. By placing the outdoor kitchen next to the pool and adding a swim-up bar, one can dine, swim, and socialize all in one place.

The flow from the pool to the raised spillover spa to the attached outdoor kitchen and seating areas makes for one efficient outdoor entertainment space. A design like this is ideal if you have a small backyard because it allows you to maximum the use of the area.

See more pool designs from this builder >>


Photography courtesy of Elite Pools by Scott


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Outdoor Christmas Deck’orations – Lights, Garland, Planters & More

Merry & Bright Christmas Decorations for Your Backyard, Deck, and Porch


Outdoor Christmas DecorationsIf you love decorating your home for Christmas each year, don’t forget to spread the holiday cheer to your backyard deck or porch. The front of your home may get all the attention from passersby, but a festive display of holiday decor in your backyard is something you can see and enjoy whether you're spending time on the patio or viewing the yard from inside your home.

From bright lights and garlands to lawn ornaments and festive displays, here are some outdoor Christmas decorations and ideas to help you make your backyard patio or deck look festive and stunning for the holiday.




Photo courtesy of Brookstone



Christmas Garlands


Nothing signifies Christmastime like swaths of fresh evergreen garlands draped across outdoor fences and decks. One of the great things about Christmas garland is that it looks beautiful and festive on its own, but can easily be dressed up with lights and other decorative extras like ribbon, bows, berries, pinecones, and Christmas ornaments.

Christmas Garlands

Above: A simple and classic way to decorate your backyard fence for Christmas is with garland and bows. Attach big red bows to the posts of your deck or fence to add a pop of color that can be seen from miles away.

Lighted Holiday Garlands
Right: Lighted garland strands look stunning draped across the railings of a deck and quickly add holiday charm to the backyard. Best of all, the garland can be left up after Christmas to keep your backyard landscape bright and shiny all winter long. 


Editor's tip: If using pre-decorated or artificial garlands, be sure to check that they are designed for outdoor use.




Photos courtesy of Christmas Lights Etc.



Christmas Wreaths


Christmas Wreath on Backyard FenceWreaths aren't just for front doors and mantels. A beautiful lush wreath is a great way to add a festive focal point to your deck or fence. As with garlands, you can customize a purchased wreath with ornaments, lights, and other accents that coordinate with the rest of your outdoor Christmas decorations or theme.

Wreaths are often used in conjunction with garlands, but they offer plenty of Christmas charm when used alone. A large wreath placed between each set of deck or fence posts is a classic holiday look.

Photo courtesy of Foegley Landscape, Inc.


Editor's tip: Try decorating with wreaths in unexpected ways. For example, create a striking and festive wreath wall by hanging multiple wreaths in a zigzag pattern along the back section of your fence. Make this a fun family activity by having each family member decorate their own wreath!



Christmas Trees


Christmas Trees Give your backyard deck some real Christmas spirit with a brightly decorated tree. You can choose to buy a second live tree or purchase an artificial tree designed for the outdoors. Place the tree in the center of your deck or patio, decorate it with outdoor lights and ornaments, and add a few lighted present boxes under it to complete the holiday display.

Another way to decorate your backyard is with mini Christmas trees. Stake pre-lit artificial trees in the ground along the perimeter of your fence or deck, or line them along pathways. You can also put the trees in urns to add some holiday flair around the pool or patio.





Photo courtesy of Christmas Lights Etc.



Christmas Lights


Bright, colorful lights are a quintessential part of any home's Christmas décor and will help give your backyard deck or porch a fun and festive look. Outdoor Christmas lights come in every shape, color, and form—from traditional white twinkle lights to cascading LED icicle lights to large multicolor light bulbs to Christmas lights in festive shapes like snowflakes, stars, and candy canes.

Porch with Christmas Lights

When choosing Christmas lights, consider the holiday theme or look you wish to achieve. Also, don’t limit yourself to one type or color of lights; a creative combination of Christmas lights often creates the most eye-catching display.


LED Beaded Christmas Garland Lights
There are many ways to decorate your backyard, deck, or patio with Christmas lights: you can wrap lights around the railings and posts of your deck, hang them from the beams of a pergola or awning, weave them between fence pickets, drape them across tree branches, or string them around a trellis or gazebo.

If you have a covered deck or porch, try creating a shimmering wall of Christmas lights by running string lights up and down between the beams of the gazebo and the top rail of the deck.




Photos courtesy of Christmas Lights Etc.



Lighted Christmas Displays and Lawn Ornaments


Lighted reindeer Christmas display

Photo courtesy of Christmas Lights Etc.

From whimsical reindeer and snowmen to a life-size nativity scene, lighted Christmas displays, statues, and silhouettes can provide the finishing touch to your outdoor holiday décor. For instance, your backyard will look more like the North Pole when there’s a few lighted reindeer prancing around the patio. You can even turn your backyard into the Island of Misfit Toys with illuminated figures, including The Spotted Elephant, Charlie in the Box, and Dolly.

Besides festive Christmas characters, there are all sorts of lighted lawn ornaments and decor—metal trees, snowflakes, candy canes, present boxes—that can truly make your backyard shine bright for Christmas.

Outdoor Christmas Decorations














Pre-lit Gift Boxes and Metal Christmas Trees: Photos courtesy of Brookstone



Christmas Planters and Window Boxes


Hanging Christmas Planter
Bring new life to dormant planters and window boxes by dressing them up for the holiday.

You can spread Christmas cheer around your deck with hanging baskets or holiday window boxes. For a charming display of Christmas trees, arrange a row of Alberta spruce or boxwood trees in the boxes, wrap each tree with battery-operated twinkle lights, and adorn with miniature ornaments and/or bows. Another fun idea is to spray paint the window boxes red, then paint a thick black stripe around the middle of the box to resemble Santa's pants. Fill the boxes with flocked pinecones and faux poinsettias or holly leaves.


Photo courtesy of Brookstone

Christmas Planter in BackyardA few eye-catching Christmas containers can be all you need to make your backyard merry and bright.

Right: To create this shimmering floral display, fill large planters or urns with an arrangement of evergreens or hardy shrubs and insert lighted birch branches and twigs in the center using a Styrofoam ball; attach large Christmas ball ornaments to the evergreen branches with green floral wire.

In addition to the ornaments, you can incorporate a variety of other Christmas items, such as candy canes, gift bows, Christmas lights, and beaded garland to give your containers even more holiday panache. 


Check out more outdoor holiday decorating ideas  >>





Photo courtesy of Deborah Silver & Co.| Detroit Garden Works



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5 Haute Patio Heaters

Stylish Outdoor Heaters to Warm Up Your Patio


   
Stylish Patio Heaters
Patio heaters are becoming a popular outdoor heating choice thanks to their large heat output—most models can heat from six to 20 feet in diameter—and ability to extend your outdoor entertaining season a few extra months or even year-round.

Along with their growing popularity, patio heaters have expanded in design and now come in an array of placement, style, and fuel options, including decorative gas heaters that look like interior lamps and sleek wall-mounted electric heaters that keep your patio warm and open.

Whether you want to entertain family and friends on a chilly summer night, host a backyard tailgate party in the fall, or expand your holiday festivities to the patio or terrace, here are some stylish patio heater options to keep your outdoor room cozy and chic in cool weather.


Photo courtesy of B. Gordon Builders Inc.



Freestanding Gas Patio Heaters

Gas patio heaters, which use propane or natural gas, are easy and convenient options to heat your outdoor area. These chic patio heaters from Kindle Living provide an attractive alternative to the typical stainless steel standby. Plus, they’re made from eco-friendly materials!

Stylish Patio Heater with Lamp DesignResembling an oversize table lamp, this patio heater from Kindle Living adds whimsical warmth and mood lighting to outdoor gatherings.

Available in both natural gas and propane operation, this freestanding heater features a battery-powered light base that can be used independent of the heater and illuminated in any of seven colors. Its classic silhouette makes it a beautiful complement to any style setting, be it traditional or modern.




Natural Gas Patio Heater with Lamp ShadeThough slim in design, this natural gas-powered patio heater supplies powerful heat performance. As heat radiates from the burner flame, it is enclosed in the fireproof shade and directed downward, wrapping bystanders in a soft and pleasant warmth.

Paired with a smooth shade (pictured), this sleek and sophisticated patio heater harmonizes well with contemporary venues.



Combo Patio Heater Lamp
Featuring a gently curved base with vertical ribbing (and hidden propane tank), this posh combo patio heater/lamp exudes style and personality. Its graceful design meshes perfectly with the casual charm of a coastal cottage, yet works equally well in formal or modern environments.

It’s versatile in function too: along with providing heat and light, an optional cocktail table accessory (not shown) can be placed over the base of the heater to hold drinks or snack plates when entertaining or lounging by the pool.




(Editor's Note: Natural gas and propane heaters are safe for outdoor use only. NEVER place or use a gas or propane heater indoors or in an enclosed area.)



Photos courtesy of Kindle Living



Wall/Ceiling-Mounted Electric Patio Heaters

Pergola with Electric Patio Heaters
If you’re looking for a more subtle way to heat your patio, then an electric patio heater may be your best option. The quartz infrared electric patio heaters from Infratech can be mounted to a wall or ceiling—and custom colored to match—to warm up your outdoor space without interfering with its décor.

The electric heaters contain quartz heating elements that emit a medium wavelength of light that transfers heat directly to nearby objects—such as a person, table, or floor—rather than heating the air, providing a comfortable and quick warmth.

An electric heater was bracket mounted to the wooden beams of a pavilion to keep this veranda cozy in cool weather without detracting from the pleasant setting.



Photo courtesy of B. Gordon Builders Inc.



Outdoor Room with Electric Heaters Mounted in CeilingBecause electric heaters do not produce heat by combustion, they require less clearance than gas heaters and can be used in enclosed patio areas.

To complement its contemporary design, six Infratech heaters were flush mounted into the ceiling of this outdoor room, making it usable year-round. The heaters are configured to a solid-state control system which allows the homeowners to vary their output with the current climate.


Photo courtesy of Infratech

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8 Cozy and Cool Indoor Swimming Pools

8 Cozy and Cool Indoor Pool Rooms

An indoor pool has many benefits: year-round enjoyment, privacy, a comfortable and controlled swimming environment, regular exercise or physical therapy, and protection from the sun. While you may picture an indoor pool as a large rectangle similar to the one at your local gym, indoor pools have just as much design versatility as outdoor pools and can be suited to any size or style home.


From a cozy living-room lap pool to a serene spa retreat to a cool tropical escape, the impressive indoor pool rooms below showcase some of the most amazing design capabilities and features of indoor swimming pools.

Which one of these pools do you want to take a dip in? Let us know in the comments.



Lap Pool in Living Room1. Lap of Luxury


A pool in the living room has to be the ultimate in comfort and design. This elevated, indoor perimeter-overflow pool and spa features an all-tile finish and elegant Grecian shape—which is repeated in the mirrored tray ceiling. A big-screen TV and custom fireplace complete the space and give the impression that nothing is out of the ordinary.



Photo courtesy of Aquatic Consultants Inc./Brian Van Bower;
Photograph by Automated Lifestyles; Pool construction by Superior Pools



2. Evening Escape

Cozy indoor pool with lighting and fireplace

What better way to end your day than with a relaxing dip in this indoor pool? The pool’s deep blue lighting creates a peaceful and meditative atmosphere that encourages a sense of calmness and rest; the double-sided fireplace adds a warm glow and coziness to the room.

Notice how the pool is a natural part of the home, corresponding with the architectural style and interior design elements found throughout the rest of the house.


Photo courtesy of Goodall Pools

This pool is featured in the 2013 Aquatech Award-Winning Pools Gallery >>



Luxury Indoor Pool Room3. Indoor Retreat

This stunning indoor pool room is a statement of luxury. Large windows and an overhead skylight fill the room with beautiful natural light which causes the pool’s extravagant beach glass tile finish to sparkle. A detached whirlpool spa lies beyond the pool and provides a blissful solution to rainy days and the winter blues.



Photo courtesy of Alka Pool Construction

View more pools from Master Pools Guild's 2012 Award Gallery >>



4.Year-round Getaway

Tropical Indoor Pool Design
Take a break from reality and plunge into this indoor paradise, which was featured on HGTV’s Cool Pools series. Designed for both pleasure and fitness, this tropical indoor pool features an exhilarating speed-slide (concealed within the massive rock mountain) and a powerful swim jet for infinite swimming.

A 14-foot sheer waterfall, fiber-optic lighting, romantic cuddle cove, and panoramic sunset mural complete the feel of a private (indoor) beach retreat.

Photo courtesy of Shehan Pools

See this pool in the 2013 APSP Award-Winning Pools Gallery >>



5. Swimmer's Delight

Cool Indoor Pool and Spa Room

Just because a pool is indoors doesn’t mean it has to be isolated from the outdoors. Two stories of windows, sky blue walls, and several doors that open to the back patio connect the pool room to the outdoors (but honestly, who would want to leave?!). With its ample size, elevated spa, and exquisitely tiled deck, this indoor pool is a delightful and inviting place to go for a swim, no matter if it’s the dead of winter or the dog days of summer.


Photo courtesy of Platinum Poolcare, ltd.; Photo by Outvision Photography

View more winning pool designs by Aquatech >>



6. Pool with a View

Indoor Pool with Greek Key Tile Pattern
An intricate Greek key tile design adorns this magnificent indoor pool, which features an integrated perimeter-overflow spa.

The stately wall of windows plays in tandem with the pool’s graceful design and provides both an abundace of natural light and a spectaular view of the landscape.

See this pool in the 2012 NESPA Awards Photo Gallery >>


Photo courtesy of Ramapo Valley Pool Service, Inc.; Photo by Ed VanLuvender



Indoor Pool with Endless Pool Swim Spa7. Endless Exercise

Think you need a large space—and budget—to enjoy the benefits of an indoor pool? Think again! This compact room houses an “endless pool,” or swim spa, where you can swim in place against a current to your heart’s content.



Click to watch an Endless Pools swim spa in action >>




8. At-home Spa

At-home Spa Room with Pool - Cozy Cool Indoor Pools
A day of pampering at the spa is just a few rooms away for the lucky homeowners of this indoor sanctuary.

Offering a place for everyone to relax, the room features a 12-foot deep lap pool with a beautiful stone diving platform, a partially recessed mid-sized hot tub, comfy lounge area and flat-screen TV.

Browse more award-winning pools from Aquatech >>


Photo courtesy of Ramapo Valley Pool Service & Construction, Inc.; Photo by Douglas Gornall


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4 Ways to Enjoy Your Backyard This Fall

Enjoy Your Outdoor Living Space During the Fall

Just because your pool may be closed and the weather's a little chilly doesn’t mean you have to retreat indoors until spring. In fact, your outdoor living space is the ideal place to spend your time during the fall—and even winter—months. Here are just a few ways to enjoy your backyard this fall.

Enjoy your outdoor living space during fall

1. Fall is one of the best times to enjoy your hot tub. Spend a relaxing fall afternoon basking in the warm, bubbling water as you watch the colorful leaves fall around you. Check out the range of hot tub models available from Maax Spas.

2. Nothing says fall quite like gathering around a fire pit with family and friends, sipping warm apple cider and roasting marshmallows. Take a look at these stylish fire pit options.

3. Fall means football for many households across the country. Instead of huddling up indoors to watch the game, take a cue from Amy's Party Ideas and host a backyard tailgate party.

4. There’s no need to close up the outdoor kitchen just yet. Plenty of fall vegetables and fruits taste even better grilled, and are a great accompaniment to grilled pork and steak. Find delicious grilling recipes for vegetables, pizza, and ribs here.


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Outdoor Halloween Party - Ideas for Decor, Food, and Games

Wicked-Cool Ideas for an Outdoor Halloween Party



Outdoor Halloween Party

Don’t be afraid to host a Halloween party outside. A dark and chilly fall night provides the perfect eerie ambiance for a bewitching Halloween bash. Holding your party outdoors also gives you an array of options for festive decorations and games that would be difficult or impractical indoors. Create a hair-raising Halloween party with these ideas for décor, food, and games.

Halloween Party Décor
Outdoor Halloween Party Decor
Turn your outdoor living space from homey to haunted with these frightfully festive Halloween decorating ideas.

Send a chill down guests’ spines as they enter your backyard by playing scary background music and using a fog machine to create a creepy, graveyard-like atmosphere. Switch out your porch and landscape lights with black light bulbs to enhance the eeriness.

Make spooky silhouettes by drawing the outlines of ghosts and other sinister figures on pieces of plywood, then cutting out the shapes and painting them black. Prop the shadowy figures up against a tree, the fence, or the back of the house.

Photo courtesy of Party City

Drape fake cob webs or torn cheesecloth from tree branches, along the fence or deck, and from the beams of a pergola or gazebo to give the yard an abandoned and mysterious look.

Make party guests feel like they’re being watched by a scary beast lurking in the bushes with this idea for glaring monster eyes:
- Get a toilet paper or paper towel roll (if using a paper towel roll, cut it in half).
- Draw or trace a pair of devilish eyes on the roll (use the pattern below as a guide) and cut out the shape.
- Color the toilet paper roll black with marker or craft paint and use electrical tape to close one end of the roll.
- Grab a green, yellow or red glow stick, bend it to activate the light, and place it in the toilet paper roll through the open end; close the end with another piece of electrical tape.
- Stuff the glaring beast eyes in a bush or place them in the bark ridge of a tree.

Glaring Monster Eyes Pattern

Glaring Monster Eyes Pattern for Halloween Craft


Halloween Party Food


Halloween Party Food and RecipesScare up an appetite with a scream-worthy spread of gruesome grub and tricked-out treats. From “finger” foods to spooky sweets, here are some ghoulishly good Halloween recipes to serve.


Deviled Eyes – Prepare deviled eggs with avocado to give them a ghoulishly green hue. Top each egg “eyeball” with a sliced green or black olive to create a pupil. Add veins by arranging a few thinly sliced roasted red pepper strips around the olive.

Photo courtesy of Amy’s Party Ideas

Halloween Chex Mix RecipeHalloween Chex Mix – Set out this wicked-good mix of candy corn, pretzels, raisins, and white chocolate...and watch it disappear! Get this recipe & other festive Halloween desserts >>

Mummy Dogs – Preheat oven to 400° F. Open and unroll a can of refrigerated breadstick dough; separate at perforations. Cut each breadstick in half using a knife or pizza cutter to make two thinner strips of dough. Take two thin dough strips, one at a time, and wrap lengthwise around a hot dog. Leave a small space open around the top of the hot dog for the Mummy’s Face. Continue wrapping all the hot dogs and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Spray the Mummy dogs with cooking spray and place in the oven. Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until dough is light golden brown. Let cool for five minutes. Pipe eyes on the mummies using mustard or ketchup.

Apple Monster Mouths for Halloween PartyMonster Mouths - Core an apple and slice it into quarters. Cut a wedge from the skin side of each apple quarter to form a mouth. Place slivered almonds into the top and bottom of the apple for teeth. 

Fried Fingers – Use a bit of marinara sauce to attach sliced blanched almonds to tops of mozzarella sticks to make them look like severed fingers.

Photo courtesy of Amy’s Party Ideas


Trick or Treat Halloween Candy Buffet Trick-or-Treat Candy Buffet – You can't have a Halloween party without candy! Fill plastic cauldrons with different types of Halloween candy for guests to take home in goodie bags.

RIP Graveyard Cake – Layer chocolate pudding and crushed chocolate cookie crumbs in a large cake pan. Write “RIP” on oval or square sandwich cookies to make them look like tombstones and stick them in the cake. Top the cake with gummy worms to up the gross factor.


Bewitching Brew – Transform punch into a boiling witch’s brew or poisonous potion with dry ice. Place a few blocks of dry ice inside a large punch bowl. In a smaller punch bowl, prepare your favorite punch recipe. Carefully place the punch-filled bowl inside the larger bowl with dry ice. The fog from the dry ice will escape from the bottom bowl, creating a spooky vapor. IMPORTANT: Always handle dry ice with tongs or heavy rubber gloves to avoid freezer burn or frostbite on your skin. Keep the dry ice in a well-ventilated area and be sure not to breathe in too much of the gas.


Photo courtesy of Party City



Halloween Party Games and Activities

Here are a variety of ghostly games to make your outdoor Halloween party more terrifyingly fun and exciting.

Pin the Face on the Jack-O-Lantern – Give this childhood favorite a Halloween twist. Have each player cut out eyes, a nose, and mouth from black construction paper and stick a piece of double-sided tape on the back of each cutout. Get a large pumpkin and place it on a table. One at a time, each player stands with their cutouts about four feet away from the table with a blindfold on. After spinning around in a circle four times, the player walks toward the pumpkin and tries to pin the face on the pumpkin. Take a picture after each turn to see who pinned the best face.

Skeleton Scavenger Hunt for HalloweenSkeleton Scavenger Hunt – Purchase a plastic skeleton with detachable bones, separate it, and scatter the bones around the yard. Have guests search the yard to gather the bones and try to put the skeleton back together.

Guess the Body Part – For this classic Halloween game, gather an assortment of boxes with lids and cut a hole in each lid so that guests can fit their hand through it. Prepare food items for “body parts” and place them inside the boxes for guests to guess what they are. For example, Witch’s Eyeballs (peeled grapes); Dracula’s Teeth or Warewolf Fangs (candy corn); Frankenstein’s Ears (dried apricots); Dead Man’s Heart (large peeled tomato); Human Brain (cooked head of cauliflower).



Photo courtesy of Party City

Ghost Stories – This is a must for any Halloween party! Gather everybody around the graveyard and take turns telling spooky tales of the undead.

Trick or Treat Card Game – Create a deck of cards from orange card stock. On each card, write “Trick” or “Treat” on one side of the card. For each “Trick” card include an act to perform, such as Tell a Scary Story, Act Out a Scene from Your Favorite Halloween Movie, and Perform Your Best Evil Laugh. To play, have guests sit around a table and place a bowl of candy in the middle. Shuffle the deck of cards and fan them out around the candy bowl. One at time, go around the table and have each player draw a card. If they pull a “Treat” card, they get to select a piece of candy from the bowl. If they pull a “Trick” card, they must do what’s on the card in order to get a piece of candy.





Fun Ideas for a Fall Barbecue - Fall Party Themes and Ideas

Fall Outdoor Party Themes and Ideas


Summer may have ended, but the fall season offers just as many opportunities to entertain outdoors. With cooler temperatures, gorgeous foliage, delicious crops, and fun festivities, autumn is the perfect time to invite friends and family over for a backyard barbecue or bash. Here are three fall party ideas to keep guests entertained all season long.

Fall Harvest Party

Celebrate all of the wonderful things the fall season has to offer by throwing an outdoor harvest party. Invite friends and family to bring their best autumn-inspired dishes or consider having a harvest swap! Prepare for the crisp weather and shorter days by adding a fire pit and outdoor lighting to your patio or deck.

Harvest Party Décor

Decorate Your Yard for a Fall PartyWith all the natural colors and bounty of the season, it’s easy to decorate your yard for fall. Create a rustic harvest setting with these easy décor ideas:

Welcome guests and set the stage for your party with a festive display that illustrates all of autumn's natural splendor. Dress up a pergola or arbor with fall leaf garland, mums, and a couple scarecrows.

For a harvest-themed tablescape, purchase a piece of velvet or burlap from your local craft store and use as a table cover or table runner. Arrange a mix of gourds and potted mums down the middle of the table for a simple and festive centerpiece. You can also paint letters on the pumpkins or flower pots to spell out “HAPPY FALL” or “HARVEST.”



Photo courtesy of Frog Prince Paperie

Decorate your yard for a fall party with seasonal touches like pumpkins and mums
Decorate the rest of the outdoor space with seasonal touches. Pile pumpkins and mums around trees; place bales of hay around the patio (cover the hay bales with a blanket or fabric so guests can use them as seats); bundle dried cornstalks together and tie them to the posts of a pergola or gazebo.

For evening gatherings, add charming candleholders to the tablescape by cutting the tops off of small gourds or apples, then carving out circular pockets and placing tea lights inside. Drape throw blankets or afgans in fall hues or motifs (think plaid, leaves, owls, pumpkins, etc.) over chairs; guests can use them to keep warm at night. 


Photo courtesy of Worthing Court,
www.worthingcourtblog.com

To add more festive flair, make a garland of Indian corn to hang along the fence or deck: Plot dried ears of corn* (with the husks attached and pulled back) about 6 to 8 inches apart on a piece of twine or raffia. Once in place, use pieces of twine or floral wire to attach the ears of corn to the twine, tying it around each piece where the husk meets the cob. (*Dried ears of corn can be found at your local farmer’s market or grocery store. You can also dry fresh ears of corn by placing them in a mesh bag and hanging them outside or in an area with low moisture and humidity. Corn will dry in approximately three weeks.)



Harvest Party Food


From apples to pumpkins, the fall harvest offers a bountiful buffet of sweet and savory flavors. Create a party menu that embodies the season with these autumn-inspired foods and recipes.


Food for a Fall Harvest PartyCrudités - Visit your local farmer’s market and buy an array of seasonal fruits and vegetables. They not only make for an easy appetizer but add tons of fall color to your buffet table.

Editor's Tip: Dress up your buffet with mini pumpkins, leaves, acorns and pinecones. Include decorative food labels so guests can easily identify dishes (check out Frog Prince Paperie for printable party supplies).

Photo courtesy of Frog Prince Paperie

Harvest Chicken Salad – Give regular chicken salad an autumn makeover my adding chopped apples, pecans, celery, and pomegranate seeds (arils) to the mix. Serve with whole grain baguette slices or crackers.

Apricot-Dijon Pork SaladApricot-Dijon Pork Salad – This is a perfect transitional dish between summer and fall. Summer apricots and tart cherries add beautiful fall color and natural sweetness to the salad, while the Dijon mustard and ginger dressing lend a warm and spicy flavor. Get the recipe >>

Fall Ratatouille – No harvest party would be complete without this quintessential fall vegetable dish. This recipe features a medley of late-summer/early fall vegetables, cheese, and sun-dried tomato vinaigrette. Get the full recipe >>

Caramel Apples – Combine food and fun by setting up a caramel apple-dipping station: Display skewered apples on a bale of hay for easy picking. Use a disposable chafing dish to keep the caramel warm and ready for dipping. Set up a line of plastic bowls (with spoons) at the end of the table and fill with yummy toppings like chopped nuts, chocolate chips, candy bar pieces, graham cracker crumbs, sprinkles, and crushed cookies.

Recipe and photo courtesy of National Pork Board

Apple Cider – Serve this delectable fall drink in a pumpkin punch bowl: Hollow out a large pumpkin, removing all the seeds and scraping out the pulp from the sides. Pour in apple cider and garnish with apple slices and cinnamon sticks. Use mason jars for drinking glasses to add a rustic touch!




Harvest Party Games and Activities

Complete your harvest party with a host of festive fall games that feature the bounty of the season.

Harvest Party Games and ActvitiesCorn shucking contest – Divide ears of corn evenly among guests and see who can finish shucking their pile the fastest. Award the winner with a homemade treat, such as apple cranberry granola bars or a loaf of pumpkin cornbread. After the game, throw all the shucked ears of corn on the grill for a tasty treat.

Bobbing for Apples – You can also go for a twist on this classic game. Hang apples from tree branches by tying a string around the stems. Guests then have to try and bite the apple without using their hands. The first one to eat their apple wins.

Pumpkin bowling – Use a pumpkin as a bowling ball (pick one that’s not too heavy or too big) and use soda bottles as pins (fill them with some sand to weigh them down).

Pumpkin Bocce – Use a medium-sized pumpkin as the pallino and small gourds for the bocce balls. Very the type or color of the gourds among the different teams to keep accurate score. 

Photo courtesy of Frog Prince Paperie






Backyard Tailgate Party - Fun Ideas for a Fall Barbecue


Fall Outdoor Party Themes: Backyard Tailgate Party



Backyard Tailgate Party

Fall and football go hand in hand—and with it comes tailgating! Instead of heading to the game or stadium parking lot, give yourself the home-field advantage with a backyard tailgating party. Put on your best game day gear, fire up the grill, and invite fellow fans (and non-fans) over to enjoy a pleasant fall day of fun, football, and food.

Tailgate Party Décor

Whether you root for your alma mater or local NFL team, here are some ideas for creating a fun football atmosphere everyone will cheer for.

Ideas for a Fall Backyard Tailgate PartyCreate an authentic tailgating ambiance by decorating your truck or car with your team’s insignia and parking it on the back lawn. Add a pop-up canopy and portable chairs to complete the tailgating vibe.

Show your team spirit by hanging pennants, banners, and streamers that display your team’s colors and/or logo.


Photo courtesy of Amy’s Party Ideas


Football Paper Lanterns for Tailgate PartyFootball paper lanterns (pictured at left) and tissue paper pom-poms are another fun decoration: hang them at varying lengths from tree branches or pergola beams.

Put a football twist on seasonal items to liven up your décor:
- Use mums to display your team’s colors
- Carve pumpkins to look like football helmets and paint your team’s logo on them
- Transform a tall oval pumpkin into a football by painting the entire pumpkin pigskin brown and adding white laces down the center
- Make a scarecrow that resembles your favorite player, your team’s coach or mascot

Photo courtesy of Party City



AstroTurf Buffet Table for a Tailgate PartyFor a festive food display, turn your buffet table into a football field with this fun AstroTurf table runner idea from Uncommon Designs. Artificial turf can be purchased at your local home store, or you can use dark green felt as an alternative. To complete the look, use white athletic tape to add yard lines.

Include yourself (and your guests) in the décor by sporting festive football apparel, jewelry, and accessories like party beads, wigs, and foam fingers.

Photo courtesy of Uncommon Designs

Since the game is the main attraction, tune in to the pregame show while you pregame with an outdoor TV. Make sure the TV is positioned where everyone can view it. You can also rent or buy an inflatable outdoor screen if you’ll be entertaining a large crowd—or just want to really impress your guests!



Tailgate Party Food


A simple, self-serve menu of finger foods, hearty sandwiches, and quick-cooking fare will keep fellow football fans fueled from kickoff to the final touchdown—and prevent you from getting sidelined to the grill or outdoor kitchen. Tackle any appetite with these tasty tailgating food ideas and recipes.


Roasted Red Pepper, Ham and Parsley Torte – This delicious appetizer is perfect for a crowd, easy to make, and can be prepared a day ahead.

Football Themed Deviled EggsDeviled Eggs – Turn this classic finger food into football-shaped food by topping with pieces of chives in the pattern of football laces.

Grilled Sweet Potato Salad – This recipe is a delicious fall alternative to traditional potato salad and will pair well with any type of game day grub. Get the recipe >>

Sub or Sandwich Tray – Subs are filling, tasty, and easy to make. Wrap individual subs or sandwiches in napkins so guests can grab both and get back to watching the game.

Photo courtesy of Party City

Burger Bar for a Tailgate Football PartyBurger Bar – Burgers are a tailgating staple and easy crowd pleaser. Set up a build your own burger bar with an assortment of condiments and toppings to satisfy everyone’s taste buds. Take a tip from The Frog Prince Paperie’ s Touchdown Slider Bar and include labels so guests know exactly what they are trying—and don’t confuse the pickled peppers with the hot peppers!

Beer-Grilled Chops – You’ll score major points with these juicy and tender pork chops. Get the recipe >>

Photo courtesy of Frog Prince Paperie


  Find more crowd-pleasing football party recipes >>




Tailgate Party Games and Activities

Keep guests entertained before kickoff with a variety of tailgating games and football activities.

Quarterback Toss – Hang a 30”, a 36,” and a 40” hula hoop from a tree and write a point value on each one (the smaller the hoop, the higher the point value). Let each player have three turns at tossing a football through the hoops. The player with the highest amount of points wins.

Football Face Painting for Tailgate PartyFootball Fan Face Painting – Fans young and old will have fun putting on their game face. Make sure you have paint colors to represent each guest’s favorite team. Along with face paint, provide an assortment of football themed stickers, temporary tattoos, and colored hair spray–and see who gets the most creative!

Touchdown Bean Bag Toss – Form a small football field on the patio or lawn with masking tape. Divide players into two teams and have them take turns tossing bean bags onto the other team’s side of the field. Keep score for each team by tallying the yardage points where the bags land (touchdowns count as 0 points). The team with the lowest yardage points wins.

Photo courtesy of Party City

Football Bingo – Create Bingo cards with football terms and phrases (such as “touchdown,” “false start,” “field goal,” and “interception”) and have guests try to fill out their cards as they watch the game.




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Labor Day Recipes: 5 Festive Appetizers

5 Festive Appetizers for Your Labor Day Barbecue

By Patti Plummer

Labor Day may be the unofficial end of summer—but that doesn’t mean the party has to end! There are still plenty of warm days ahead, which means there’s still time for a barbecue or two by the pool. Here are five great appetizer recipes that are sure to be a hit at your Labor Day barbecue or any end-of-summer party.

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Deviled Eggs with California Avocado

Recipe Provided by the California Avocado Commission


Deviled Eggs with California Avocado RecipeServes 12

12 eggs
½ cup mayonnaise
4 tsp. prepared mustard
½ tsp. salt ¼ tsp. pepper
½ medium onion, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 ripe, Fresh California Avocado

*Large avocados are recommended for this recipe. A large avocado averages about 8 ounces. If using smaller or larger size avocados adjust the quantity accordingly.



Hard boil and cool eggs. Remove shells, slice in half and remove yolk. Set aside white to be filled.

Sauté onions and celery until tender. Place sautéed onions and celery into food processor (or blender) and puree. Add yolks, mayo, mustard, salt, pepper and avocado and blend well.

Fill egg whites and sprinkle with paprika (if desired).

Recipe and photo courtesy of © California Avocado Commission



Grilled Spicy Watermelon

Grilled Spicy Watermelon RecipeServes 8 – 10

1 tablespoon lime zest
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons garlic chili sauce
Pinch salt
1 watermelon, medium sized
1 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro


Preheat grill to high. In bowl, whisk together lime zest, juice, 3 tbsp. (45 ml) of the honey, garlic chili sauce and salt.

Cut watermelon into 1-inch (2.5 cm) thick wedges. Lightly drizzle each side with remaining honey and place on grill. Grill until just browned, about 2 minutes per side.

Place watermelon slices on a plate and drizzle with lime dressing. Garnish with cilantro.

For something sweet, try one of these delicious grilled desserts >>

Recipe and photo courtesy of National Watermelon Promotion Board



Classic Guacamole

Recipe Provided by the California Avocado Commission


Classic Guacamole RecipeServes 8

4 ripe, Fresh California Avocados, seeded and peeled
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tomato, finely chopped
¼ cup finely chopped onion
⅛ tsp. ground cumin
3 drops hot pepper sauce
Tortilla chips

*Large avocados are recommended for this recipe. A large avocado averages about 8 ounces. If using smaller or larger size avocados adjust the quantity accordingly.


Using a fork, coarsely mash avocado with lemon juice and garlic. Stir in remaining ingredients to blend.

Recipe and photo courtesy of © California Avocado Commission



Roasted Red Pepper, Ham and Parsley Torte

Roasted Red Pepper, Ham and Parsley TorteServes 32

4 ounces smoked ham, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups butter, divided
3 3-oz packages cream cheese
3 tablespoons Madeira, or Port, divided
White pepper, ground, to taste
2 cups parsley, firmly packed, stems removed
1/2 cup green onion, chopped
1/2 cup roasted red peppers, drained and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup ham, cubed


Place 1/2 cup butter, 3 ounces cream cheese, the 4 ounces chopped ham, 1 tablespoon wine and white pepper to taste; process until smooth. Remove to small bowl, cover and chill.

In processor, process another 1/2 cup butter, 3 ounces cream cheese, the parsley, green onion, 1 tablespoon of wine and white pepper to taste. Remove to small bowl, cover and chill.

Process remaining butter, cream cheese, the red peppers, remaining wine and pepper to taste until smooth; remove to small bowl, cover and chill. Line a glass 2-quart bowl or glass 9-inch pie plate with plastic wrap; sprinkle in cubed ham; spread the ham mixture, spread the red pepper mixture, and top with a layer of the parsley mixture. Cover and chill overnight. Unmold onto serving plate; let sit at room temperature for an hour before serving.

Recipe and photo courtesy of National Pork Board



Festive Stuffed Figs and Celery

Created by: Almond Board of California


Festive Stuffed Figs and Celery with Almonds RecipeServes 55 (1 fig each)

2 packages (3 oz. ea.) Neufchatel cheese
3/4 cup creamy almond butter
1/2 tsp. brandy or orange juice
1/4 tsp. grated orange peel
1/4 cup diced green chilies
1/4 cup chopped, toasted almonds
Fresh celery stalks
25-30 dried figs
25-30 whole natural or blanched almonds, toasted


Beat together Neufchatel cheese and almond butter. Divide mixture in half. Stir brandy or orange juice and orange peel into one mixture; chill. Stir chilies and chopped almonds into remaining almond butter mixture.

Stuff celery stalks with chili-cheese mixture; cut into serving pieces about 3-inches long. Chill until ready to serve.

Slit figs partly down center. Pipe or spoon 1/2 to 1 teaspoon chilled orange-almond butter mixture into opening. Press one whole natural or blanched almond into center. Repeat with remaining figs. Chill until ready to serve.

Recipe and photo courtesy of Almond Board of California


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