Summer is at its peak and there are still a few weeks to go before school starts. With just a bit of planning- and a new gadget or two - you can make the most of your days at home.
There are gadgets to make it easier to keep your house cool, create refreshing and healthful treats, or make entertaining outdoors a breeze. Some can help infuse the spirit of an exotic vacation into your backyard, and one can help you save money so you can travel to your favorite getaway place next summer.
And, with a bit of imagination, you can get that summer state of mind anytime of the year.
Lennox makes keeping your house cool as easy as selecting a song on your iPod. With its new icomfort thermostat, the manufacturer of air conditioning and heating systems lets you keep track of - and change - your home's temperature with an easy-to-use innovative and interactive program.
"People are really intimated by thermostats," said Bobby DiFulgentiz, director of product management-controls for Lennox.
He said the company's research revealed that only about 70 percent of those with a programmable thermostat actually programmed the device, primarily because it was too difficult to use.
The new icomfort Wi-Fi touchscreen thermostat is designed to work and act just like smartphones and tablets, allowing people to control the temperature in their homes without having to thumb through a 100-page instruction manual, DiFulgentiz said. In addition, it interacts with smartphones so you can set your air conditioner to come on a few minutes before you get home from work each day or turn it off if you are away from the house and forgot to program it.
"We redesigned our thermostat to work like products people already know how to use," he said.
And, if you don't want the tablet-looking device to stick out on the wall, you can get a special customizable "skin" that coordinates with your home's décor or looks like a photograph.
Currently available only with Lennox premium systems, the icomfort is expected to be designed to work with any company's unit early next year.
If you like ice cream and bananas, Yonanas is the gadget for you. The machine transforms bananas - particularly the overripe ones you would normally not eat - into a sweet, creamy and healthful summer treat. A half-cup serving has about 100 calories.
Just place a frozen banana, or other frozen fruits, into the Yonanas chute, and out comes a cold dessert the consistency of soft-serve ice cream. You can add chunks of chocolate or nuts, if you like.
The machine comes apart easily and is dishwasher safe to make cleanup a breeze.
Yonanas is available at a variety of local retailers and has a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $49.99.
The Drink-N-Plate allows you to juggle your beverage and plate while still keeping one hand free. The combination plate and drink holder is durable, reusable and dishwasher safe.
It comes in white, several bright colors or with a variety of outdoor and special occasion themes. It even can be personalized with your school or favorite team's logo.
Drink-n-Plate is sold in packages of six from $24 or in packages of 24 for $60.
To order, visit drinknplate.com.
How many times have you found yourself sitting under your beach umbrella and needing a place to set your sunblock out of the sand? Or needing a place to keep condiments in the shade on your patio table? Now, thanks to the UpShelf, there's a solution.
UpShelf is a detachable shelf that attached to round and square umbrella and canopy tent poles. Just place the shelf around the pole, close it and take advantage of the extra space. It installs in just seconds.
The shelf is slightly less than 12 inches in diameter and can hold as much as 10 pounds. It also is dishwasher safe and offered in three colors: chocolate brown, granite gray and deep evergreen.
It is priced at $19.95 and is available at www.upshelf.com.
Soirée Home's newest offering, tilt, gives new meaning to the term chill out. The stainless steel chilling sphere keeps food or drinks cold longer, without the worry of diluting or changing the flavor, which commonly occurs when using ice.
Tilt is simple to use: Just place the chilling sphere into the freezer, leave it there for four to six hours and insert into your favorite drink or dish. It will keep cold for about 30 minutes.
The spheres are made of food-grade stainless steel and are weighted so they always remain upright. They are easy to remove with an included retrieval hook that is disguised as a cocktail stirrer or garnish stick.
To clean, just hand wash with soap and water. The spheres can be stored on the included silicone base.
Tilt is available at Nordstrom's; a set of two retails for $34.99