Monthly Archives: August 2015

This Labor Day Giveaway is For You: Double Rocking Chaise Lounger!

Imagine lying back in this sleek Double Rocking Chaise Lounger (valued at $499.99) to enjoy the perfect fall temperatures with a steaming cup of coffee. That divine daydream could become your reality if you enter our Labor Day giveaway. Cozy up with a warm blanket or your special someone this fall in style!

For a chance to win, do any of the actions in the widget below.

Want to boost your chances of winning? Get additional points when you do things like visit our Facebook page, follow us on Pinterest, or share this contest on Twitter. You have until September 4th to enter, but don’t wait! Enter now!

Check out the Double Rocking Chaise Lounger here!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Features Include:

Zero Gravity design provides a most relaxing seating experience.

Sling is made of woven PVC mesh material.

Quick-drying, weather-proof and fade-resistant.

Matching removable headrest included.

Safety rated to 400 pounds.

Polyurethane stops, on the back side of the frame, prevent the chair from tilting uncomfortably backward.

Dimensions and Details

Dimensions:

71″ L X 62″ W X 26″ H

Weight Capacity:

400 pounds

Materials:

Powder Coated Steel

PVC Mesh Fabric

7 Simple Tricks to Make Eye-Catching Outdoor Centerpieces

By now, you’ve been to a few barbecues this summer. It’s hard to get bored of endless watermelon and savory steaks, but the typical evening gathering is starting to lose its luster.

Still, the perfect summertime temperatures are far from over, so don’t give up on BBQs just yet!

Next time you host a delectable outdoor dinner, use the outdoor decorating ideas in this post to bring new life to the average barbecue. Attendees will feel like they’re walking into an event, not just a dinner, which is sure to liven attitudes and lift spirits.

Simple outdoor decor like string lights and tablecloths do wonders for dressing up an event, but to really make the evening feel special you need a little more. Adding creative centerpieces to your outdoor dining tables will make the barbecue feel like a special occasion.

Unsure about your crafting abilities? Don’t stress. We’ve got a few simple tips to make designing centerpieces a breeze.

Check out these easy tricks for making outdoor centerpieces everyone will love.

1. Get Inspired by Nature

Outdoor centerpieces don’t need to be extravagant. In fact, a collection of flowers, leaves and twigs from the yard arranged in a simple vase could be the perfect centerpiece your table is missing.

If your garden doesn’t have many pickable pieces, head to the store for inexpensive plants, like cacti or fresh herbs, and place them in interesting vases to add a little flare.

2. Strike a Match

Lit candles add an air of ambience to any environment, and the earlier-setting sun makes nighttime lights essential.

Float small candles in glass vases filled halfway with water or decorate the candles to be stand-alone pieces. Some glitter or ribbon goes a long way when making a simple object seem special. For a more eclectic look, arrange a handful of candles of different heights in the center and surround the collection with twinkly garland.

Pro Tip: Use citronella candles to decorate your tables. You’ll get the added bonus of keeping bugs away while your tables glow through the night.

3. Open the Junk Drawer

You’d be surprised what junk items can become with a little imagination. Tin cans, mason jars and bowls all make great vases. Use some twine or paint to spruce them up if these items look a little worn.

Other items can be used for vase or table decoration. Rubber bands, wine corks, newspapers and lace are a few examples of items that can be repurposed into your next great centerpiece.

4. Give Items a Fresh Coat

Simply adding a little paint can breathe new life into shabby materials. When painting glass vases, paint inside the glass instead of outside for a cleaner look. Or, use items around the house to add interesting patterns, like bubble wrap to create polka dots or tape to make stripes.

If you want to have a little more fun at your next barbecue, splatter glass jars with glow-in-the-dark paint. The centerpieces will come alive as the sun sets, exciting guests of all ages.

5. Light the Way

Lighting is key to creating a stellar backyard ambiance.

And if the wind is a concern where you live, forgo the candles and opt for LED lights. Find battery-powered string or individual lights so guests don’t have to worry about tripping on a cord.

LED lights come in all shapes and sizes. Liven the event with colorful lights that flicker through the rainbow or choose flickering white lights to create a moody atmosphere.

6. Embrace the Unusual

Sometimes the best centerpieces are those created with completely unique items. Books, knickknacks or fruit and veggies can be organized in artful ways to make stunning centerpieces.

If you are throwing a themed dinner, creative outdoor centerpieces are a great way to decorate without spending too much money. Fill cowboy boots with flowers for a southwestern supper or load a sliced globe with foliage for a worldly feast.

7. Work With Water

Float objects in water to add a clean, mystical look to your centerpieces. Candles, flowers and fruit float well and look pretty in glass containers.

Use food coloring to turn water a light, graceful blue or eye-catching red. Drop in marbles or glass beads for a unique look or light the jars to create multi-colored lanterns.

Conclusion

The heat of summer can get monotonous, but your barbecues shouldn’t. Take advantage of the last few weeks of warm nights this year by throwing a dinner for your friends and family.

Creative decorations can spark conversation and make the evening memorable. What is your favorite way to spruce up a drab backyard picnic?

5 Outdoor Decorating Ideas to Get You Through the Summer

We feel your pain.

It’s bright. It’s hot. It’s August, and it’s hard to think about anything other than iced tea and air conditioning.

But you’d be surprised what a coat of new paint can do to a room, or in this case, what a set of new furniture can do for your summer morale.

Infuse new life into your yard, and yourself, with these cool outdoor decorating ideas that continue to be some of the most popular designs at RST Brands.

1. Utilize Cool Colors With a Charcoal Grey Set

To give the appearance of a lower temperature in your backyard paradise, try using cool colors for your patio furniture.

Cool colors, like blue, green, grey and purple, have a calming effect. They can make you feel refreshed and serene, something we all need in the dead of summer.

The contemporary style that accompanies this Deco 8-piece Sofa and Club Chair Set is just what you need to lower the temperature in your backyard. Its Sunbrella fabric protects from sun and water damage, so it won’t lose its rich color no matter how hot the sun gets.

Accent this set with soothing blues or deep purples for the perfect backyard escape.

outdoor decorating ideas

2. Curate a Place to Have a Drink

How would we survive summer without the help of refreshing lemonades and thirst-quenching teas. Just imagining the slow drips of condensation rolling down a frosty Coke sends chills down my spine.

Create a comfy space to enjoy these revitalizing beverages, as well as morning coffee and barbecued dinners, with a sturdy yet stylish outdoor dining set. Cannes Woven Dining Set in Moroccan Cream is the perfect place to relax with your favorite frosty beverage.

Take advantage of the table’s umbrella hole and provide extra shade above the dining set so you always have a cool place to sit outside.

outdoor decorating ideas

3. Use Light Colors to Combat the Sun

It’s basic physics. Dark colors absorb more visible light, which is re-radiated out as energy. Energy equals heat, making dark colors feel warmer than light colors, especially after sitting in the hot sun all day.

Apply this rationale to your outdoor furniture for a cooler place to sit when you’re outside. Sink into this Portofino Signature Set’s 5-inch pillows and relax with your favorite book on a mild summer night.

This 5-piece Sofa and Club Seating Set is constructed from SolarFast all-weather resin wicker created for outdoor use. It’s hand woven for excellence, so you have furniture that lasts summer after summer.

outdoor decorating ideas

4. Light, Moveable Furniture Gives You Room to Breathe

A minimalist style that allows for plenty of mobility and airflow can really cool down your outdoor space. Instead of trapping heat with heavy, blocky furniture, find a backyard set that makes it easy for that summer breeze to come through.

The Portofino Comfort 6-piece Sectional is made of lightweight components that are easy to rearrange. Put the pieces together for the perfect daybed or pull them apart to maximize seating for your next gathering.

The simple design of this sectional pairs perfectly with a soothing hammock or refreshing outdoor bar, adding even more cool to your backyard space.

outdoor decorating ideas

5. Use Airy Furniture for Natural Cooling

Eliminate the issue of sweaty backs with furniture that breathes. Take advantage of natural shade and that summer breeze with open furniture designed for airflow.

The pretty Delano 5-piece Cafe Set transforms your backyard into a French bistro, inviting long conversation on casual afternoons. The comfortable powder-coated aluminum chairs are perfectly proportioned to fit your body and designed to last for years to come.

Place this set next to a water feature to receive the extra cooling effects of a gentle fountain or glassy pond.

outdoor decorating ideas

We can’t guarantee that doing a rain dance will bring an end to this heatwave, but we know these outdoor decorating ideas paired with smart design can cool you down.

Stop standing in front of the AC and turn your backyard into that paradise you’ve been dreaming of.

3 ways to beat the heat in your backyard

Summer isn't over yet – There's still plenty of time for backyard barbecues and pool parties. While the season's warm weather opens the door for tons of fun outdoor activities, that doesn't mean you need to embrace every aspect of it. After all, that afternoon sun can get pretty hot, and being constantly exposed to ultraviolet rays can be uncomfortable and harmful to your skin. Be sure to furnish your backyard with the right shading equipment so the heat doesn't stop you from enjoying these last few weeks of summer.

Patio umbrellas
Umbrellas designed to beat the heat come in all sizes, colors and styles, meaning you can effortlessly find one to fit the look of your backyard. If you're searching for a shady setting while you eat dinner, opt for an umbrella that slides right into the center of your outdoor dining sets. For more versatile coverage, go with a patio umbrella, which uses a weighted base to secure the umbrella on the ground. The larger canopy of this style umbrella provides a wide area of shade, perfect for poolside lounging or just comfortably enjoying your backyard.

Pergola
The structured archway of a pergola doesn't provide a lot of shade on its own (the space between the beams lets in a lot of sunlight), but you can easily dress it up to provide shelter over your backyard patio in style. For example, create a romantic, Italian vineyard look in your backyard by covering your pergola with ivy, such as the Virginia creeper. Add a starry-night touch with twinkling string lights. Or, set up an intimate, island escape by weaving white curtains through the archway. When you want to let in more sun, simply bunch the curtains together with seaside-esque rope.

Canopy
If you're planning on inviting a few friends over in your backyard or having a full-blown barbecue extravaganza, a canopy may be your solution for keeping everyone protected from the sun. Supported by stilts with a canopy overlay, this shade tool can be propped up right on your patio over some of your furniture. Not only does this method provide shelter over a commonly used area, but it also creates a more intimate setting. Or, if you're hosting a party, you may benefit from setting up a larger canopy in your backyard over the dining furniture and food. This way, guests will stay comfortable and cool while they eat dinner.

Don't let the summer heat stop you from enjoying your beautiful backyard. Use these shade tools to keep the party going all day long.

How to attract hummingbirds to your backyard

Many people stop dead in their tracks when they see a hummingbird fluttering in the backyard, and it's no surprise. These teeny, tiny birds are elegant, quiet and whimsical, and spotting one is usually a rare occurrence. It doesn't always have to be the case, though – many folks have hummingbirds flitting through their backyards all season long.They live all over the Western Hemisphere, and their requirements are simple: They just want somewhere they can eat, drink and hang out. The one caveat: They tend to form feeding (and resting) patterns, so it's a good idea to start now – before the warm season has really begun. Here's how to do it: 

Plants 

To attract hummingbirds organically (see what we did there?), opt for nectar-rich flowers. Tubular flowers technically hold the most nectar, but there are many great options: 

  • Honeysuckles
  • Bleeding hearts
  • Petunias
  • Bee balm 

To up the ante even more, opt for flowers in red – hummingbirds find the color attractive. One important thing to note: Planning for a continuous blooming schedule means that these guys will always want to spend time in your backyard. Some flowers come ready to hang, while others take time to grow. Picking a mixture of both is your best bet. 

You can also add in a few vines to help expedite the process. A few examples:

  • Morning glory
  • Coral honeysuckle 
  • Scarlet runner bean 

Fun fact: Hummingbirds have no sense of smell, so they rely on sight to tell how nectar-laden a flower is. 

Feeders

And then comes the more obvious tactic: feeders. They're usually filled with some sort of nectar mix, though you can fill them with your own, as well. Whichever kind of mixture you use, it's best to go all-natural so as not to harm the birds. Here's a helpful recipe:

  1. Mix one part sugar with four parts water
  2. Boil for 60 seconds
  3. Cool the liquid
  4. Voila!

That's it – just make sure you always keep the feeder halfway full so it doesn't mold. Spacing a few feeders out in your yard will help make sure the birds don't fight for food. 

Nests

Hummingbirds aren't keen on birdhouses, but they will build their own nests if you give them the right materials. Think cotton, string and plenty of shelter. The more comfortable they feel in your backyard, the better. 

Ribbons

Strange as it may seem, simply tying red or orange ribbon around the trunks of trees and bushes can be enough to catching a passing bird's eye. 

Insects

Avoiding the use of pesticides will help populate your backyard with insects – another hummingbird favorite. They particularly like spider webs, which they use to make their nests. 

A few additional things you can add to your yard to attract these tiny birds? A fresh source of water (like a fountain or a mister), and something to perch on. Things like clotheslines, plant vines and shrubs all offer them a place to hang out. Some people even plant entire hummingbird gardens that surround their feeders to maximize the effects of all these. So sit back on your outdoor sofa and watch the hummingbirds flock to your backyard! You'll have a spring show to remember. 

Swimming pools through the centuries

For many of us, swimming pools are the hallmark of our childhood summers, whether we visited the community pool each weekend or had our own in our backyard. Splashing our parents with cannon balls, eating lunches while clad in towels at picnic benches and patio tables, laying out in the sun – these all paint a picture of summer vacations and being young. Swimming is such a defining activity, in fact, that it's tough to remember that pools weren't always popular. Pools have a particularly lengthy and tumultuous history, though, and it took thousands of years for them to become what they are today. Ready to dive in? 

3000 B.C.

The settlement of Mohenjo-Daro, located in Pakistan, was home to the first pool-like water tank in the world. Technically referred to as a "great bath," it was only a couple meters deep, though it was as long and wide as a modern pool. It was difficult to make it totally water tight during this time period (before concrete mixers and modern pavers), but the citizens were able to achieve this by using gypsum plaster and natural tar. This wasn't a pool for swimming, but for religious rituals.

800 B.C. 

Pools from ancient Rome and ancient Greece are closer to the kind we know and love today. This was the first time in history that humans could afford luxury items – or had the time to dedicate to them. These pools were still frequently used for religious purposes, but they were also used for bathing and relaxing. Aesthetic appeal became important to pool owners. In most societies across the globe, primitive or modern, bodies of water are considered to be very beautiful. Some of the most wealthy Romans and Greeks had personal pools filled with live fish. 

100 B.C.

In this century, the Romans ushered in the first heated pools. Built by Gaius Marcenus, the very first of their kind brought pool building too a new level of innovation. During this time period, many Romans began to try to chemically sanitize their pools.

300 A.D.

The Romans upped the ante with one of their most famous pools in 300 A.D. It was an immense structure at 900,000 square feet, designed for the same purposes as previous pools, but there was one major difference: The pool was heated from beneath with fires. 

After the fall of the Roman Empire, swimming pools dropped from popularity. Perhaps it was that many similarly advanced civilizations didn't have the optimal weather or soil, or perhaps existing pools were constructed of other materials that degraded quickly. Regardless, it wasn't until many centuries later that swimming pools regained popularity. 

1400 B.C.

Public bathing is deemed immoral by the church. What was left of public bathing and swimming centers becomes even more rare, as modern "swimsuits" had not yet been invented. 

1800 A.D.

It wasn't until the 1800s that swimming itself became a popular activity. Swimming competitions became prevalent in Great Britain, and so the development of pools began again. The first swimming clubs were established during this century. Some were used for sport, and some public pools were once again used for bathing (clothed, this time). 

1900 A.D.

Modern water treatment begins, starting with sand filtration and chlorination. This meant that pool water could be reused, saving time, money and resources – and making usage safer for everyone. After World War II, a great deal of the U.S. population spread into suburbs, buying larger homes with more land. This is when private pool became insanely popular – and interest has only grown since. 

Today, there are thousands of pools across the U.S. alone. They're one of the most popular backyard features around. (Hey, we're not mad about it.)

How to turn your backyard into an Italian villa

With summer tapering off and fall slowly arriving, the cooler night temperatures are a perfect time to spend with friends hosting barbecues or late-night dinner parties. You have nice outdoor dining sets and outdoor furniture sets, but how do you create the perfect ambiance around these patio essentials? If you've ever pictured yourself sipping wine and eating olives in an Italian villa as the sun goes down, then here are just a few decorating suggestions to lend your patio some Old World charm:

La dolce vita
Once the sun sets you'll need the perfect style of lighting to keep the festivities going. Outdoor string lights, especially yellow globe ones, can give any space an Italian courtyard feel. To create a canopy effect, string several lines in a zigzag overhead. Pair the lights with a patio bistro set and you'll feel like you're dining in Tuscany. You and your guests will be able to dine and celebrate al fresco into the wee hours thanks to these romantic lights.

Pergola
A pergola is a pair of poles with crossbeams over its top, and even though it won't shelter you from rain, its beauty makes up for what it lacks in utility. You can purchase these garden and walkway coverings at most home supply stores or you can make your own out of cedar wood. Whichever route you decide to take, these wooden structures are great to hang vines and other plants off of. A pergola will give your backyard a bit of shade and an Italian Renaissance look. 

Add a chair under the pergola to create a perfect and peaceful place to escape with a great book or a glass of wine. 

Flora
Besides vine-like plants, other flora can really add to the villa atmosphere. If you want plants that will complement your outdoor chaise lounge or other lounge seats, then consider planting a few Mediterranean plants and trees. Cypress trees, succulents, lavender and rosemary plants will give your patio and backyard a beautiful and sophisticated vibe. Add even more greenery near your tables by planting some ferns in clay pots and arranging them around your deck or near your pool.

Games
Villa settings are all about relaxing and taking in the joys of everyday life, but that doesn't mean lying around all day. If you want to provide some entertainment for your guests but also keep your Old World-style theme, consider buying a bocce ball set. The Italians modernized and popularized this ancient sport, and it's a fun and relaxing outdoor game that you and your partygoers will instantly fall for. 

If you're looking for another classic game – one that will work your brain instead of your throwing arm – then treat yourself and a guest to a game of chess or backgammon. These board games never go out of style and can be a wonderful way to while away the hours. 

Food
What Italian villa would be complete without food? Wine and cheese plates are a great way to go. Serve a selection of red and white wines or prosecco, a few light Italian beers and a charcuterie plate, and you and your guests will be dining in style at your "villa."

Knock Their Socks Off With These 7 BBQ Hosting Secrets

BBQ Hosting Secrets

It’s BBQ season and when it comes to throwing the ultimate backyard party everyone will be talking about, you want to make sure you come out as the hostess with the mostess. With enough propane or briquettes, a little moxie and our expert tips, your fete is sure to be the talk of the neighborhood.

Here are our super-easy BBQ hosting secrets to take your skills to expert level without spending a fortune or having to take a week of work to prepare.

1. Master the Grill

First things first—give your grill a top-to-bottom scrubbing and oil the grates to keep food from sticking.

Next, stick to a menu that features items you already know how to make. A party isn’t the time to try out new recipes. Instead of turning your friends into guinea pigs, offer up your signature ribs or that killer cheeseburger everyone’s always begging for.

Above all, keep the menu simple. There’s no need to be a short-order cook. Pick a limited menu and stick to it. And don’t forget to include options for vegetarians or anyone with other dietary restrictions.

2. Dress Things Up

You don’t need to go overboard to transform your patio into a BBQ paradise. Help the occasion feel special with colorful table cloths, clever lighting, splashes of wildflowers displayed in rustic containers or bright, outdoor cushions and pillows that provide additional, comfy seating.

You can also augment seating by throwing shabby chic quilts or fun beach towels on the lawn.

3. Set the Mood

Everyone will be in the mood to relax and have a good time when you provide a killer playlist and patio lighting.

Create a playlist on a streaming service like Pandora or Songza. Test out BBQ-themes or pick a genre that keeps the energy high. If your crowd is in their 40s, pick an eighties soundtrack or choose a country theme if you’re hosting a rural crowd.

When the sun goes down don’t leave your guests in the dark. Hang a few strings of decorative white lights or scatter mason jars with tea lights throughout your backyard space. Citronella candles will also help keep mosquitoes and other pests at bay.

4. Pick a Signature Drink

It’s fun to throw a bunch of bottles in a galvanized tin with ice, but take your BBQ to the next level with a signature drink.

Try adding berries or mint to lemonade, along with some flavored vodka. This mixture also makes a special virgin beverage for those underage. Drinks you can serve in pitchers or punch bowls are a great choice and they leave you free to mix and mingle and keep your guests’ drinks full.

5. Keep Everyone Entertained

Make sure guests of all ages stay engaged and have such a great time they won’t be able to stop talking about it. Paint a Twister mat on the lawn and see if the kids or the grown-ups are more limber. If you have any kind of sports net you can play a variety of games from water balloon volleyball to badminton.

Other activities like bubbles, water guns or an impromptu hillside water slide can lead to hours of fun—just be sure to provide plenty of towels so your guests don’t have to eat in soggy drawers.

6. Prep In Advance

As the host, you need to be calm, cool and collected once the party starts. To make sure you’re not running around in circles when guests arrive, do as much as you can the night before.

Get that meat marinating, chop those veggies and whip up your famous potato salad early in the day. The only thing you want to worry about during the party is what you’re putting on the grill and making sure every guest has a smile.

7. Serve Up Something Sweet

Dessert is often overlooked at a BBQ, but you can really blow your guests away by planning a star-gazing s’mores cookout or setting up a serve-yourself banana split bar.

If you’re feeling ambitious make a tasty Dutch oven fruit cobbler or grill up some sweet and savory fruit kabobs. Pineapple, bananas, mango and most berries are great on the grill. Offer some creative dips for the kabobs like brown sugar, yogurt, sour cream or whipped cream.

With these amazing outdoor entertaining tips you have no more excuses for putting off the annual BBQ. And thanks to these tips you can pull off the best shin-dig yet with half the stress!

Sources
http://www.redbookmag.com/food-recipes/entertaining/advice/g1179/bbq-hosting-tips/
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marlo-thomas/tips-for-the-perfect-barbecue_b_3359926.html
http://www.julep.com/blog/how-to-throw-a-summer-bbq/
http://www.samplehouseonline.com/national-bbq-month-host-hostess-tips/

How to protect your pets from your yard

Yes, you heard us right – protecting your pets from your yard might seem a little backwards, but it's just as important as protecting your yard from your pets. Creating a pup-proof backyard isn't as tough as it may seem, though. Here's how to do it: 

Smooth it out

Those misshapen rocks may look great in your garden from an aesthetic perspective, but they aren't so great for your pet's paws. Instead, opt for a smoother variety – or better yet, ditch them altogether. Small stones can be ingested even by little dogs, and can potentially be a choking hazard. 

Use a fence in your garden 

For your actual garden, it's important to fence it off entirely, as many plants are poisonous for dogs (and meant for human enjoyment, of course). You can choose from a variety of decorative options, such as a traditional lattice fence or plain old chicken wire. Regardless of which one you opt for, make sure it's not too short or easy to knock over. 

Be careful with your fertilizer, bug repellents and pest poisons 

Some of the things you spray on your plants and leave in your bushes can be incredibly dangerous for your pets, such as fertilizer, rat poison, or bug repellents. What's worse, dogs often confuse fertilizer for food, meaning they don't just accidentally eat it – they seek it out. It can be tough to nix these things when you're seeking a gorgeous garden, but they aren't worth the potential harm they could cause your pup. 

Don't leave the grill open 

There's nothing better than grilling in the backyard, but it's dangerous to leave your pet near a hot grill unattended. To mitigate the risk of something going awry, make sure the grill is always closed when you're not actively putting on or flipping meat. 

Get a good fence

This one is a no brainer – the fence surrounding your yard as a whole should be high enough that your pup can't hop over it or slip through one of the cracks. You can even use an additional fence to surround a small area of your yard for your pet to hang out it when you're not able to keep an eye on it. 

Long live the dog house

"Dog house" might have a negative connotation when it's used colloquially, but dog houses are actually great for pets, especially in bad weather. To get the most out of your backyard dog house, it's a good idea to choose one that is insulated for the cold and entirely protected from the rain. As a bonus, this will also give your pup some shade when it's super hot. 

Keep them off the outdoor furniture

OK, so this tip isn't exactly for your pet's safety so much as it is for you sofa's, but you get the idea. Training your pets to stay off the outdoor furniture means they won't do any damage to those cushions – and they won't fall off, either. 

How to create a pet-friendly backyard

If you have a dog you probably treat it like another member of the family. Fido is always there for you whether you have snacks or not … but mostly when you have snacks. However, just because he's an important part of your life doesn't mean you want him dirtying up your outdoor seating. Here are just a few suggestions that can help you keep your yard tidy and your dog occupied when guests come over to a backyard party:

Ice lick
Having an outdoor get-together but worried that your dog will bother guests while they're eating? Consider making a doggie ice lick that'll keep your pooch busy while you and your party attendees enjoy one another's company. It sounds odd, but your dog will be busy for hours with it. Just fill a cake mold with chicken broth, dog bones and toys, and freeze it for a few hours. Present the ice lick to your pet in the backyard once your friends start arriving and be bothered by a hungry puppy no more!

If you'd prefer to make something smaller for your pet to chew on, then fill an unused ice tray with chicken broth and chopped up apple slices. This method will help keep smaller dogs busy while you enjoy the day lounging in the yard.

Designated potty spot 
Are you still training your dog when it comes to going to the bathroom? If your pup regularly uses your yard to do his business, you might forget to clean up after him all the time. Also, if you're a gardener, you probably don't want your pet going to the bathroom over your prized flowers and bushes. 

A great work-around to this problem is to create a small fenced-in area of your backyard as a dedicated potty training zone. Make sure the area is far enough away from your outdoor furniture sets and guests. 

Dog bowls
Does your backyard furniture and design have more of a Mediterranean style? If you think the chrome of your dog's food and water bowls clashes with your design sense, there's a simple way to fix it. Find a pair of planters or pots that the bowls can easily fit into that will make a nice facade.

Water fountain
If your dog is thirsty but you want to keep his water bowl inside the house, then invest in a dog-activated water fountain. The outdoor kind usually hooks up to a hose, and dogs can step on the fountain's mat to start the water stream themselves. 

For small dogs
A fenced-in backyard can keep most pups from running off and getting lost. Do you have a particularly small dog and want him to be able to enjoy the comforts of playing in a yard? An escape-preventing harness could solve the problem. Made by a number of companies, it features a fabric crossbar over the top that's wider than your dog. It'll keep him from slipping through any narrow bars.