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June
24

How to Plan the Perfect Picnic

A summer picnic is always a fun way to enjoy time with friends and family and soak in a beautiful day, whether it's at your favorite park, beach or lakeside, at the top of a lovely overlook or even in your own backyard. You can simply grab a few items and be on your way.

Here are a few fun and inspiring ways to help you plan the perfect picnic this summer.

First, you're going to want to make sure you have something to carry your food and beverages in. There's something really nostalgic and charming about those classic woven style picnic baskets. But don't worry if you don't happen to have one, a cooler, backpack or large tote will also do the trick. Whatever you choose, you'll just want to make sure that you can keep food and drinks cool.

When you think about picnics, you most likely think about an outdoor blanket that you can sit, eat and relax on. If that's your preference just make sure it's durable and can be rolled and unrolled easily. If you want to make sitting on the ground a little more enjoyable, then pack some decorative pillows to add both comfort and style to your picnic. Another great option is to bring along a few folding chairs that are easy to transport and set up.

You may also want to consider bringing a grab-and-go style picnic table. These lightweight, easy-to-carry tables feature folding legs – some even include handy slots for wine glasses. And lastly, you don't want to forget utensils and dinnerware. Make sure you they're durable and can withstand being packed and dropped.

When it comes to the menu, you can keep it light and simple. Easy sandwiches, chips or pretzels, some cheese and fruit and refreshing drinks like homemade lemonade help complete the perfect picnic. Or you could go all out and get creative with a beautiful charcuterie board with your favorite meats, cheeses and chocolates. You can even add some decorative greenery and flowers to make it a little more Instagram-worthy.

Sunny warm days are the perfect excuse to ditch the dining room and dine alfresco, just don't forget to bring a book or a frisbee!

June
15

Make the Most of Your Outdoor Space

We all want to spend as much time as we can outside during the summer months. There's nothing quite like a relaxing summer day in the backyard with friends, hosting a barbeque or enjoying an evening under the stars around the firepit. Summer is made for chilling and breathing in the fresh air and just unwinding after a long day. So this month, ramp up your outdoor space and bring your indoor style right to your backyard.

Bonus Living Spaces
More and more, people are treating their backyard spaces as an extension of their living space. From outdoor pergolas to string lights, trendy rugs and comfy, weatherproof sectionals and lounge chairs, homeowners are creating stunning open-air outdoor living spaces. You don't even have to have a huge space, you can add smaller pieces to your deck or patio to create a relaxing, cozy sanctuary. Whatever your indoor style is, you're sure to find similar outdoor pieces.

Inspirational Botanicals
The right plants, flowers and planters can make all the difference when it comes to creating a warm, inviting and colorful outdoor space. With so many stylish planters available, you can easily find ones that match your style and fill them with a variety of herbs, flowering annuals, cactuses, plants and shrubs. If you live close to a farmers' market, be sure and check them out as they typically have a huge variety of cost-effective flowers, plants and herbs to fill your yard, patio or balcony.

Small Space Solutions
There are tons of creative ways to transform a small space and make a big impact. Start with some lively décor, potted plants, outdoor pillows, candles and small scale furniture. Consider a vertical garden where you can plant your favorite herbs and vegetables. Adding string and solar lights can also help make a space feel extra cozy. And when it comes to furniture, think about a bistro set for casual dining, foldable and stackable chairs or a small loveseat and ottoman. There are tons of creative ways to make a big impact in a smaller space.

If you're limited on outdoor space, don't let that stop you from creating the perfect outdoor oasis. Infusing your personality and style to your backyard, balcony or back porch is the perfect way to gain more living space and enjoy a place where you can enjoy more fun in the sun all summer long.

June
3

If you want a relaxing sanctuary to luxuriate in every day, it can be found as near as your bathroom door. Follow these do-it-yourself tips to convert your primary bathroom into a spa-like retreat, and your relaxed body, mind and soul will be glad you did.

Give a Jacuzzi Tub a Whirl

To transform your bathroom into a home spa, install a modern soaking tub for a total immersion in the therapeutic benefits of bubbling water. If a do-it-yourself bathroom remodel isn't in the offing, convert your tub into a hydrotherapy whirlpool with equipment that fits over the side to whip your water into a healing frenzy. There's also the simple fix of installing a spa-like massage showerhead that melds relaxation with hygiene to make you feel and smell good all over. When you're done, finish the spa experience with a warm wiping, courtesy of you freestanding electric towel warmer.

Speaking of Smelling Good

Scent contributes to the mood you are in, so make sure aromatherapy is part of your bathroom spa experience. Hang eucalyptus from your shower head for a refreshing scent. Place reed diffusers on your bathroom countertop. Or finish up a hard day's work with a treat for the senses by adding aromatic essential oils to Epsom salts for an in-home mineral bath.

Make It Music to the Ears

Spa music should transport you to a Zen-like place of peace and tranquility, and good choices are acoustic tunes and the sounds of nature. Or, go Simon and Garfunkel with your own "Sounds of Silence" smartphone playlist and listen to it through waterproof Bluetooth speakers while relaxing in the tub.

With a sprinkling of ingenuity and a smattering of inspiration, you can easily convert your primary bathroom into a modern-day spa worthy of the ancient Romans!

May
20

There's something magical about watching a movie on a warm summer night under the stars with friends. If you're not close to one of the few drive-in theaters still in existence, no worries – you can easily transform your backyard into an outdoor home theater. Here are five tips for turning your backyard into a pop-up movie theater.

Projector and Screen

If you want to capture the essence of the drive-in theater, there's no substitute for a good projector. An outdoor projector should be at least 1,200 lumens, a measurement of how much light a device emits. Another must-have feature are HDMI ports, so you can connect items such as Blu-ray DVD players. If you don't want to invest in a projector, bring your TV and DVD player outside.

Comfy Seating

Provide your guests with a range of comfortable seating options, including patio furniture, lounge chairs, blankets and outdoor pillows. Of if you have a pool, even better. Host a raft-up party and invite guests to bring their own pool float to relax on while the movie plays.

Snackage

Step up your game by creating a popcorn bar for guests. Fill small decorative bags with popcorn and offer an assortment of candy treats, marshmallows and other sweet mix-ins. And, of course, a movie night wouldn't be complete without offering some classic movie-theater candy like Raisinets, Jujubes and the perennial favorite – Junior Mints!

Soft Lights

While your yard needs to be dark enough to see the movie, you also will need a little light so guests don't trip over each other on the way to the snack bar. String lights and luminaries are a nice inexpensive option, casting a glow over your yard without distracting from the movie.

De-bugging

Spray the backyard before guests arrive, or, if your backyard isn't generally buggy, offer them insect repellent. There is quite an array of natural bug-repelling options available to keep the swatting to a minimum.

Hosting a backyard film fest isn't as challenging as you might think. With just a little planning ahead and some creativity, you can bring the drive-in movie theater experience to your backyard… possibly even better.

May
13

4 Ways to Cool Off Your Energy Bill

Gear up for summer by giving your air conditioner a break and lowering your energy bill at the same time with these home cooling methods. Alternatives like energy-efficient windows, doors and electronics, filters and shading can help chill your home with less energy use, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Dress Your Windows

During peak daylight, it's a good idea to keep window coverings closed to block the sun's heat. Consider window awnings or roll-down shades for the outside of your home that can be operated remotely or put on a schedule. For your home interior, opt for insulated cellular shades or blinds that block out the sun and have reflective backing. Even fitted drapes that cover the interior blinds can help reduce heat in your home.

Fans for Cooling

A great way to help your air conditioner is to run ceiling fans at the same time. This circulates the cool air, so your A/C doesn't have to work quite so hard. A whole house fan is an entire air system that's installed in the attic to pull in air from the windows and push it out through the attic vents. This not only cools your whole home fast, but it also gives your attic, which is a major source of heat, better ventilation.

Adjustable Thermostats

No matter what the temperature is outside, you can always pre-set your thermostat according to the weather report and your schedule. Many new thermostats let you repeat daily settings or even control the temperature with an app. Check out this energy saver video for quick tips on what the optimal house temperateive should be.

Door Draft Stoppers

Consider adding door draft stoppers to your interior and exterior doors. These fitted plastic, magnetic or fabric pieces are placed at the bottom of entrances to stop heat from escaping. They provide the flexibility of being able to cover slight openings and cracks under the door. And don't forget the sliding glass door — there are extra-long options available to stop the draft before it starts.

Now that you know more ways to stay cool for the summer, you can see what works best for you and your home to make sure you have a nice, cool summer.

May
11

Sellers: Why You Should Upgrade Your Outdoor Space

Whether you're thinking of selling soon or you plan to stay in your home for the long haul, your outdoor space is more important now than ever before. With the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic still fresh in our minds, most homeowners are re-evaluating their space and re-prioritizing what's important to them.

Today, many buyers are focused on making the best use of all available space. This has created a strong trend towards all types of outdoor upgrades. It's now one of the most sought-after features among home buyers, and we don't see this trend going away any time soon. Still not convinced? Here are three reasons to consider spending some of your time this summer upgrading our outdoor space.

1. Increased Home Value

Many outdoor upgrades increase the amount of usable living space on your property. According to a January 2021 survey conducted for the International Casual Furnishings Association, people spend more time outdoors doing things like grilling, dining, gardening, and spending time with their children and pets.

People want outdoor spaces that complement both their homes and their lifestyles. They want privacy, relaxation, and comfort when they're spending time outdoors. Since this is so desirable right now, you can expect upgrades that support these goals to earn you a solid return on your investment.

2. Improved Curb Appeal

Upgrades to your driveway, front entrance area, and landscaping will all improve your curb appeal. This will make your home more attractive and inviting. It will also go a long way towards making it more desirable when you decide to sell.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so don't miss out. You'll be surprised by how much even small upgrades like replacing your mailbox or house numbers can improve your home's curb appeal.

3. Long-Term Enjoyment

Even if you don't plan to sell your home any time soon, it's worth considering moving forward on the outdoor upgrade you've been dreaming of. Countless studies tout the benefits of spending time outdoors.

Creating a space where you can relax and enjoy your time off without ever leaving the comfort of your home will do wonders for your physical and mental health. You'll also have the peace of mind that comes with knowing you're making smart moves and keeping your home on-trend.

2021's Top Outdoor Upgrades

Outdoor kitchens top the list of desirable outdoor upgrades. This can range from a covered grill with some cabinet space to a full gourmet kitchen complete with pizza ovens, dishwashers, and more. Other desirable features include outdoor heating (ex. fire pits), outdoor bars, and comfortable outdoor seating areas. In some locations, inground pools are also making a comeback. Decks, patios, and outdoor gazebos are also growing in popularity.

It's important to note that you don't have to break the bank to follow this trend. Even a simple landscaping update can make a major difference in the value of your home. Other simple upgrades to consider include replacing your garage door, installing a sprinkler system, updating your front door, and adding landscape lighting.

May
4

Tech To Smarten Up Your Household Cleaning

Need a little help around the house? Today's technological gadgets can clean gutters, mow lawns, vacuum floors and even clean your toilet bowls. This real-life tech is accessible for everyone to make life a little easier. Check out these cool ideas for some smart home cleaning gadgets.

Say Goodbye to the Pool Boy

Robotic pool cleaners can brush, scrub, vacuum and filter your pool's surface, making them just as handy, if not more so, than your typical pool maintenance company. Say goodbye to pesky leaves, dirt and grime on the pool walls with a touch a button. Top-of-the-line models let you set daily or weekly schedules with hassle-free cordless options. 

Lawn Time Coming

The days of fighting the lawn (and the H.O.A.) are over. Robo lawn mowers are rapidly evolving to become even more efficient, streamlined and even quieter for painless grass cutting. That way, you can focus on spending time with family and friends instead of mowing your lawn under the hot sun. Many models can be scheduled to cut when you want them to and offer easy control, so you can take the work out of yard work.

Toilet Talk

Smart toilets offer amazing technology such as ultraviolet light for sanitizing, night lights, self-cleaning nozzles and deodorizers. These thrones give you more than the traditional toilet. Newly added comforts such as a heated seat, automatic opening and closing lid, front and rear warm water sprays, auto flush and warm-air dryer make your bathroom a high-tech experience.

Pet Products Save The Day

Tired of constantly cleaning the litter box? There's a robot for that. Check out this awesome list of smart pet products, including a remote-access automatic feeder, glow-in-the-dark collars, automatic pet door, treat tossing camera, GPS trackers and of course, the self-cleaning litter box. You and your furry friends will be glad you did.

Smart Starts in the Garage

If you've ever been locked out of your garage, you know the feeling. That's why smart garage door openers have been popping up everywhere to give homeowners access to easy-to-use tech. From Amazon deliveries to letting family and friends inside, these clever openers don't just click to close. They let you have control from your phone with daily notifications, custom schedules and even home lighting accessibility while you're away.

Let's not forget gadgets that wet mop, clean windows, scrub barbecue grills, offer companionship and even teach the kiddos. With so many options today, new technology can be a reality of modern life and can make yours so much easier!

May
2

Downsizing Isn't So Bad: Why Less Can Be More

Downsizing frees you from the time, energy, and effort required from living in a larger home.

People have become obsessed with the idea that bigger is better. You see it everywhere: bigger burgers, bigger cars, and bigger houses. It's time to set the record straight — selling your house and downsizing your home might actually be a better lifestyle choice for you.  

Choosing to buy a smaller home often has to do with the desire to live a more simple life. If you're trying to decide whether downsizing is the right move for you, here are some benefits to consider before taking the plunge. 

  1. Increased Cash Flow.
    Smaller homes are less expensive to buy and less expensive to maintain. If your monthly mortgage and utility payments are lower, chances are you'll have more money every month to invest, travel or pay down your mortgage sooner than expected.

  2. More Time.
    The larger the home, the more you have to maintain. A smaller home reduces the time spent on household tasks giving you more hours in the day to do something else more enjoyable.

  3. Reduced Consumption.
    Buying smaller forces you to pare down your belongings and regularly keep what's important and used. If there is no room for it, you probably won't buy it.

  4. Reduced Carbon Footprint.
    A smaller home requires fewer resources because it uses less electricity, heating, and cooling. Building a smaller home also requires the use of less lumber and other wood products.

  5. Less Stress.
    Downsizing definitely has its perks. Less work, more money, and greater flexibility — all these add up to reduced stress. Homeowners who have downsized their homes seem happier when they're no longer overwhelmed by the demands of a larger home.

Downsizing your home is about doing more with less. Rather than spending your time and energy maintaining a larger home, you may enjoy your life more by living in a smaller one.

April
22

Earth Day is on April 22, and there are so many ways to join the movement including these 52 tips to invest in our planet. Looking to celebrate and help at the same time? Here are five tips that you can try from the comfort of your own home.

Reuse and repeat. Plastic bags and single-use bottles often end up in landfills or in our oceans, rivers and lakes. Reusable bags and bottles offer a stylish and eco-friendly alternative that you can easily refill and reuse. Find the perfect spot to store them in your home or car, so you can take both on the go to grocery stores, running errands and to your kids' soccer games.

Hit the great outdoors. With so many distractions today, it can be hard to find time to get outside. Earth Day is simple reminder of just how beautiful our planet is. Spend an afternoon on your backyard patio with friends or family, take a long walk around the neighborhood or visit a local hiking trail — you can even register to be a part of the Great Global Cleanup in your community.

Try an organic garden. It feels good to be self-sufficient. While we can't always be that way, a little starter garden doesn't take up too much space. You can even have a portable garden on your porch or balcony. And with pollinator gardens, the kiddos can see how bees and other pollinator populations are crucial to our habitat.

Plant a tree or twoDid you know trees can reduce a household's energy consumption for heating and cooling by up to 25%? By adding a small tree to your local neighborhood's tree canopy, you can help save money and provide a vital wildlife habitat for years to come. Studies have shown that trees are great for our stress levels and mental health, too. So, plant one!

Window shop instead. Shopping secondhand or simply reducing your purchase volume is a great way to reduce your environmental impact. When it comes to home décor shopping, it's easy to fill up on new and mass-produced items that often end up in a landfill when you tire of them.  This year, discover something new that's old while at consignment shops or vintage outdoor markets.

However you choose to celebrate Earth Day this year, try it at home with friends and family. Spending time with loved ones can remind us just how lucky we are. And treating the planet like your home is a great way to give back.

April
15

Easy Renovations for Your Laundry Room

One of the best things about being a homeowner is being able to renovate your space. You're not stuck with someone else's ideas about what you need or what looks good. You can improve the functionality of the space, or just opt for something with more personality or style.   

If you've been thinking about undertaking some renovations or upgrades to your home, the laundry room is an excellent place to start. Lots of the solutions you can do for the laundry room are quick and easy fixes. In many homes, the laundry area was built as a very basic space. So giving this room some added functionality and style can make a big difference. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Add some color. This is a good place to start, especially if your laundry area is tucked into the corner of a dark basement. A fresh coat of paint can do wonders. Other options are bold patterned wallpaper or window treatments.
  • Change the light fixture. Many laundry rooms don't have enough light. And basic builder-grade light fixtures are almost never stylish. Changing out the fixture can make the area more functional and more appealing.
  • Change the look of cabinets. There are a few options for changing the look of your laundry room cabinets. Of course, you could paint them a different color. But if you don't want to do that, you could remove doors so you have exposed shelves and add baskets or bins. You could also swap out the doors for ones that have glass fronts. Changing cabinets to have drawer pulls is yet another option.  
  • Add a folding area. This can be a countertop built over the top of front-loading machines or along another wall. It could also be a table that folds up against a wall. In a very large laundry room, a regular table or an island in the middle of the room is an option as well.
  • Change the flooring. Many laundry rooms have unfinished or concrete slab floors. That situation is uncomfortable under your feet and unpleasant to look at. Or maybe your laundry room floor is just looking a little dated and out of sync with the rest of your home. Floors are one of the biggest surfaces in the room, so an update here can make a big difference.
  • Add more or better storage. If you don't have shelves, cabinets, or cubbies of course you can add them. But there are other ways to add storage too. You can add a fixture to store the ironing board and iron on the back of the laundry room door. A drying rack that folds up against the wall when not in use is another example. Adding baskets or bins and hooks can increase your storage options. A screw-in closet or shower rod can be used to hang clothes on. Making sure everything has a place will keep things looking neat and tidy.
  • Add some artwork. If your laundry room lacks a little personality, a few well-placed pieces of artwork can add some flair. This can be a fun DIY project. Otherwise, there are plenty of inexpensive prints available online. Or you can check out the second-hand store or flea market for something vintage.

Doing a few quick and easy renovations to your laundry area can take it from boring to amazing. It will also give you a sense of accomplishment, and it might make doing the laundry just a little more fun!

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