How to Be the Smartest Dad in the Neighborhood

Connect with your family, your home, and the wild outdoors.

There are 72 million fathers in the United States, but growing up, it seemed like there was just one dad in the neighborhood who knew how to do everything: build the best fire, have the greenest lawn, throw the best party, and fix anything from a twisted bicycle spoke to a broken heart. If you're that dad, we salute you. If you're secretly wondering how to become that guy, read on. 

How to Build a Fire

First, find out if you need a permit, and make sure there are no fire safety warnings in your area, whether that's a campground or your own backyard. Dry conditions can increase the risk of accidental fires, so check with the local fire department before you start rubbing two sticks together. 

Next, clear a patch of bare, dry earth for your fire ring and collect dry wood for tinder (small twigs, needles and leaves); kindling (sticks less than an inch in diameter), and fuel wood (dry, downed wood about as wide as your wrist). You’ll lay these materials in a teepee or log cabin shape: 

Teepee: Assemble kindling in a cone shape over a pile of tinder in the center, leaving space on the side your breeze is blowing into so it blows flames into the kindling. Add a layer of larger pieces around the structure and light a match under the tinder to direct the flame up into the kindling, which will spread to the outside fuel wood. 

Log cabin: Assemble kindling in a cone shape over a pile of tinder in the center, leaving space on the side your breeze is blowing into so it blows flames into the kindling. Then layer strips of fuel wood on opposite sides of the tepee, and stack slightly smaller, shorter pieces over them in layers (just like Lincoln logs) to form a cabin or pyramid. Light the tinder. 

When it’s time for little doggies to trot off to bed, make sure your fire is completely out by gently pouring a bucket of water over the fire and stirring all the embers with a stick or shovel until the ashes are soaked and the fire pit has cooled completely. It takes about 20 minutes to completely extinguish a fire.

When in doubt, look to a scout! Check out some more campfire tips and tricks from the guys at Scouting Magazine:


How to Host the Best Backyard BBQ

If all that sounds like too much work for a couple of s’mores, try a new outdoor grill. Electric grills are designed with a heating element built in below the cooking surface that eliminates the need for firewood or charcoal. Most models have easy clean surfaces and a removable drip pan that can be drained into a proper disposal container once the grill has cooled. Charcoal grills and smokers require placing charcoal briquettes underneath a wire rack, opening vents to allow oxygen to fan the flames, and letting the briquettes burn until they’re covered in white-gray ash. Stacking more coals on one side allows for two different cooking temperatures: ideal if cooking a variety of dishes for a crowd. Clean your charcoal grill or smoker rack with a stiff wire brush while the surface is still warm to remove food residue. 

Prep your party area so the grill is placed away from any items that could melt or burn and your guests have a comfortable seating and dining area outside the path of smoking food, electric cords, and other hazards. Place an ice-filled tub or chest near your guests so they can help themselves to cold drinks while watching you grill steaks, burgers, and veggies to absolute perfection. 

Preheat the grill to about 400 degrees and check your grill manufacturer’s guide for recommended cooking times. Gas grills need to heat up for 10-15 minutes; electric grills take 10-20 minutes, and charcoal grills require 20-30 minutes to achieve optimum temperatures. Check internal temperatures with a wireless grill thermometer for instant accuracy.

Delegate a few tasks to make sure every part of your meal comes out right every time. You can set multiple timers for cooking a variety of foods using an Alexa device or Google Home Assistant. Simply say “set a 20 minute timer for chicken” or “tell me in 10 minutes the asparagus is ready” to keep track of simultaneous tasks. The device speakers can play a pre-selected list of party tunes or stream sports games or music while you’re cooking and they’re counting down so your guests are comfortable and entertained while waiting. Sample a new summer playlist from Spotify, Pandora, or Amazon Prime.

Choose the perfect gift this Father's Day.


How to Have the Greenest Lawn
Make your neighbors green with envy when they see your gorgeous lawn. Water early, mow late, and keep your grass trimmed a bit taller than the buzzcut of a football field. Adjusting your mower’s settings to cut grass neatly (but not too short) will allow roots to have a little shade and a lot of moisture. Stressing a lawn by mowing too close and too often can limit grass roots growth, making lawns more susceptible to pests, predatory weeds, and harsh environmental conditions.
Spread fine grass clippings across your lawn to recycle nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous back into the soil and reduce the need for slow-release fertilizers. The most critical factor in keeping your lawn clean and green is water. When rainfall is scarce or unpredictable, sprinklers are a must. Basic models range from $8 to $10 single hose units that localize water in one area with low flow and a stationary, pulsating or oscillating pattern that covers a circular patch or long strip of lawn to investment in-ground systems that water the lawn in zones on a predetermined schedule with sprinkler heads that pop up when in use.
Now’s the perfect time to treat yourself to a smart irrigation controller that works with your existing irrigation system and can be adjusted any time you like from the app on your smart phone. The Rachio Wi-Fi Smart Sprinkler Controller system covers up to 16 zones and adapts not only to the season, but to wind speed and the daily local weather forecast, so it can optimize your irrigation system for maximum coverage and energy efficiency whether you’re home or away.
The U.S. Department of Energy suggests adjusting automatic sprinkler systems at least once a month, depending on changing weather conditions. You can find the government’s recommended energy-conserving landscape strategies at
How to Make the Best Man Cave
Any room with light-blocking shades or curtains has the potential to become a man-cave. Add at least one comfy sofa, recliner, or overstuffed chair and you’re halfway there.
The primary focal point is ideally an enormous screen for watching movies, streaming media, and playing games. Try a 4K Ultra HD Smart TV from a respected manufacturer such as LG for a refresh rate and rich visuals that let you get lost in virtual worlds for a brief vacation from the everyday. Unless you enjoy setting up extensive audio visual equipment in your private arena, keep it simple and let technology take the reins. Smart TVs with content discovery are literally plug-and-play. Learn which TV features mean the most to you in our Neighbor Notes blog.
A home theater system enhances the movie watching experience whether you’re taking some time alone or watching a favorite film with buddies on the weekend. Streaming soundbar speakers partner with all your media devices to produce immersive, Dolby digital sound. Wireless systems like the Enclave CineHome WireFree provide surround sound with 6 distinct speaker enclosures with 14 speaker drivers, delivering HD audio without requiring a single wire.
Smart Blu-Ray players let you watch oldies but goodies as well as the hottest new theatre releases, and simple streaming devices like the Roku and the Skystream provide endless hours of streaming media.
Enjoying entertainment with little effort is key to the perfect man cave day. Hide a Google Home Mini or Amazon Echo Dot in any corner and you can order a pizza, ask for a ride to a buddy’s party, get a traffic report so you know how soon others are arriving home, and command a robot vacuum to clean up every last cookie crumb.
For the ultra ambitious, head to our friends at the DIY network for inspiring examples of themed man caves:
How to Choose the Perfect Father’s Day Gift
This one’s easy. Check out our Father’s Day collection on or just take the time to say thank you to all the fathers, grandfathers, and that dad from your neighborhood who made it all look easy.

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