Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Benefits of the Outdoors: How Going Outside Can Fend Off Winter Blues

Sunshine: our year-round fickle friend.

In the summer, the sun shines bright and hard, threatening our skin with burns and disease. In the winter, the sun evades us, leaving our minds unhappy and restless.

But, no matter your personal relationship with the sun, you need it. The sun is the best source we have to take in vitamin D, which is essential to living a happy, healthy life.

In the summer, you can fend off the sun using long sleeves and sunscreen, but getting more sun when temperatures are frigid and clouds pervade is much more difficult.

Regardless, it’s a challenge anyone who lives through regular winters must accept. Getting outside and soaking up some of that precious vitamin D is the biggest defense you have against the winter blues.

If you’ve been feeling a little down these last few months, you’re not alone. Roughly 10 million Americans suffer from winter depression, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Another 10 to 20 percent of the population may have mild SAD.

The good news is the sun is always out there, even if it’s sometimes hard to reach. Use this advice to get your daily vitamin D and discover how the outdoors that you’re so hesitant to brave are the best cure for your winter blues.

What’s So Great About Going Outside, Anyways?

Have you ever thought about how much your daily activities change between summer and winter? In the summer, you inadvertently get sunshine all the time. You go for a morning jog and evening stroll, you eat lunch outside, you spend your weekends basking in the sunshine at barbecues.

During winter, that all changes. You work out inside a dimly lit gym, you eat lunch in shabby break rooms, you spend your weekends in dark movie theaters. Although your body only needs 15 to 20 minutes of direct sunshine a day to stay chipper, you can easily end up getting zero because of the late sunrises and early sunsets.

Sound familiar?

The problem with never getting outside in the winter is that your skin doesn’t get any UV rays. UV rays get a bad rap in the summer because they can be harmful if your skin is exposed for too long, however, you need them to produce vitamin D.

UV rays get absorbed by your skin and retinas, and your body and brain use them to promote vitamin D and serotonin production.

The key word here is actually serotonin. Serotonin is a happy chemical in our brains that makes us feel significant and important. When serotonin levels are low, loneliness and depression start to creep in. So that sad, lonely feeling you have in the dead of winter can be blamed on absent serotonin.

One of the best ways to increase serotonin production is to get some vitamin D, and that’s why going outside is so important, even when it’s cold.

Besides giving our brains a serotonin boost, having sufficient levels of vitamin D has also been shown to help prevent osteoporosis, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, high blood pressure, diabetes, and it may slow the aging process.

All of that from just 20 minutes of sunshine a day!

How to Get Outside During Winter

Knowing how to keep from getting SAD is one thing, actually doing it is another. It’s hard to get outside during the winter months when all you want to do is curl up next to a warm fire, but it isn’t impossible.

Remember, you only need about 15 to 20 minutes of sunlight a day to get your daily dose of vitamin D, plus going outside can have numerous other positive effects on the mind and body that will make winter even better. Give these tricks a try and wave good-bye to those winter blues.

1. Simply, Do It!

Fifteen minutes isn’t that hard to swing if you really try. Park farther away from your office or grocery store so it takes an extra few minutes to get inside, sip your morning coffee on the porch, go for a walk (and bring your pup, animals need vitamin D too!), visit an outdoor mall on the weekend.

To help you keep track of the vitamin D you need, you can use a smartphone app like D Minder Pro. It will help you track how much vitamin D you need, and how much you’re getting, so you know if you need to take an extra walk around the block to hit your mark.

2. Exercise Outside

Getting a workout outside does double duty for your happiness levels. Not only can you boost serotonin from vitamin D intake, you can release endorphins, another happy chemical in your brain that is released during exercise.

Endorphins help alleviate anxiety and depression. They’re responsible for that euphoric “runner’s high” and can help reduce your perception of pain. Bundle up and move your running or cycling routine outside, or take a trip to the mountains and give snowshoeing a try.

Endorphins are also released when we laugh, so if you’re not up for a hardcore workout, you can still get a boost by listening to a comedy record and going out for a walk around the neighborhood.

3. Bundle Up

Numerous studies have shown that being cold makes us feel lonely and unhappy, which is the last thing we need during the winter months.

Motivate yourself to go outside by splurging on some great winter gear. Find practical items that have many uses, like cozy long johns and smart-touch gloves that let you use your smartphone while keeping your fingers toasty.

Go big on a spendier item that really excites you, like a nice winter coat or snow boots. You’ll be more motivated to go outside so you can show off your new threads.

4. Take Up a New Hobby

Like many of these tips, learning something new works two fold. Dopamine, another happy chemical in the brain, is linked to setting and achieving goals. When you accomplish something you set out to do, you get a flood of good feelings, which you can harness and use to accomplish something else.

Combine this drive to achieve with the outdoors during winter. It’s easy to sit inside and stick to your routine, but you end up depriving your body of both happy chemicals when you do that. Find an outdoor activity that you can stomach and make it a priority. Try snowshoeing, learning to ski, winter camping, or landscape painting.

Chances are you have a friend that needs a mid-winter boost as much as you do, so rope them into going with you and learn something together. You’ll get a crazy high from going outside, learning something new, and experiencing some camaraderie all at once!

5. Get Out of Town

If you can, take a vacation and head south. Research has shown that SAD is seven times more common in Washington state than Florida, so get below the 37th parallel (basically anywhere south of Los Angeles) and enjoy some vitamin D.

If you can’t swing a long-distance trip and live in a valley, try heading to the mountains. A valley traps air pollution and cloud cover can be extra depressing, so get to a higher altitude to enjoy some uninterrupted UV rays.


The hardest part about going outside in the winter is convincing yourself to do it in the first place. But once you step outside and feel the sunshine on your face, you’ll realize the outdoors aren’t that bad, even in 30-degree weather. And who knows, maybe you’ll lose some weight, live longer, and find a new hobby because of it!

How to Keep Your Herb Garden Going Through the Winter

It’s easy to rush out to your herb garden in the summer and pick fresh herbs to spice up your favorite dishes, but those herbs tend to be scarce in the winter.

It’s a shame because many winter dishes pair so well with fresh herbs, and the light, summery flavor can bring some warmth into drabby winter days.

Whether you’re considering bringing in your garden during fall, or are already in the thick of winter, you can follow these tips to keep an herb garden going inside during the chilly months.

Tips for Growing Herbs Inside

Pick Hardy Herbs – Not all plants can thrive indoors, some need more warmth and sunlight than a kitchen sill can provide. However, there is an array of fantastic herbs that will do just fine inside over winter. Perennial herbs, such as chives, oregano, and thyme do well in pots during the winter months.

Acclimate Herbs – If you are potting herbs from your garden, it’s important to acclimate them to their new home before bringing them inside full time. Before the first big freeze, pot herbs in 6-inch deep containers with drainage holes. Leave the pots outside in a semi-shaded area so that the plants can get used to their new home and less sunlight. After a few weeks, bring them inside

South-Facing Sunlight – Finding a place for your herbs inside that gets enough sunlight will be your biggest challenge. Ideally, you want to place by a south-facing window that gets at least five hours of sunlight a day. Make sure the plant leaves don’t actually touch the window, however, as that can damage the leaves and stunt your herb’s growth. You may need to use a fluorescent light to supplement your herbs if natural light is insufficient.

Humidity – Herbs like humidity. Group them together inside to increase their humidity and mist particularly picky plants like rosemary using a squirt bottle twice a week. If you bring your plants in from outside, make sure they didn’t bring any critters with them. Keep them separate from your other houseplants for the first few days to make sure no creepy crawlers followed them inside.

Harvesting – Because indoor conditions can restrict your herb’s growth, harvest with caution. Make sure you only harvest a little at a time, but do it regularly, so the plant can grow and stay healthy. You never want to harvest more than one-third of a plant at a time, especially with slow growing herbs like rosemary. Other herbs, like oregano, flourish from frequent trimmings. Make sure you always leave two to three inches of growth at the base of the plant, above the soil. Don’t trim your herbs any shorter.

Soil and Fertilizer – Whether you bring your plants in from the garden or home from the nursery, use potting mix and plant food to keep them vital indoors. Many herbs respond well to soil that is part potting mix and part sharp sand. Cactus potting mix also works well. Don’t over-feed plants with faux-food. Start with half-strength liquid plant food and monitor your plant before altering the dose. Fertilizer can also be used to give your herbs a boost. Feed them liquid seaweed or use compost in late winter as daylight increases.

Best Herbs to Pot During Winter

Chives: Chives do well indoors and pair great with just about any dish. Make sure you keep soil moist by watering chives at least twice a week.

Oregano: This herb is very stable inside and goes well with any Italian dish. Oregano is susceptible to root rot, so don’t overwater it. About once a week should be fine.

Rosemary: Rosemary can survive in a pot for many years, if cared for properly. It likes to be on the dry side, so let the top of the soil dry out before watering the herb, then water thoroughly.

Thyme: This powerful herb goes great with almost all meats and crockpots really bring out the flavor, making thyme a perfect winter herb. You can condition the plant to be drought resistant by allowing the top of the soil to dry out and then watering thoroughly.

Parsley: Parsley adds a splash of summer to your winter dishes, making it perfect with chicken, fish, and vegetables. Water twice a week and cut stems at the base so they can keep growing.


Enjoy your herb garden all year long by bringing in some hardy potted herbs. With light, water, and a little TLC, your herbs can become a staple in your kitchen, no matter what season it is.

5 Ideas for Using Your Patio Furniture All Winter Long [Poll]

Whether or not you’re ready to accept that we’re going to have colder weather for a while, it’s happening. Warmer days are long gone and snow, ice, and cold temperatures are the norm.

Most outdoor furniture should be winterized either using covers, or stored to preserve the quality. However, just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you have to stop entertaining, and what better way to provide additional seating than your beautiful and comfortable outdoor chairs.

Here are 5 ideas to make use of your patio furniture all winter long.

1. Invest in a heat source

This may seem like an obvious solution, but gathering around an open fire is a great way to make use of your outdoor furniture all year round. Use a patio heater, fire table, or chiminea to create a warm conversation area around your heat source. As the temperatures drop, turn up the heat and share some hot chocolate, tea, or coffee with your friends and family. If you decide to keep your furniture outside to use around a fire, make sure you cover outdoor furniture when it’s not in use.

2. Use furniture in garage

Even if you live somewhere that drops below freezing from January to March, you can still use your furniture inside. If your garage is filled with boxes and junk, take some time to relocate the boxes to one side and make use of your furniture in there. Sitting areas in the garage can be a fun place to send the kids when you want some peace and quiet.

3. Create a new space in shed

In 2015, we saw the rise of the women’s equivalent to the man cave: the she shed. These feminine dwellings can be used for crafting, writing, sewing, sleeping, or to get away for a little while. She sheds are unique to the interests and hobbies of their occupants. Spruce up your shed by incorporating comfortable patio furniture, throwing down a cozy rug, adding some heating, and a light source to make the space your own to relax and unwind from the busy holiday schedule.

4. Bring it into the covered patio

If your furniture is primarily used in an uncovered space and you have a covered patio, bring the furniture in, under the covered patio, to protect it from the elements and prolong its life. Sometimes getting a little fresh air is just what you need during a long winter, even if it’s not under the stars. Bundle up, grab a blanket, and relax in the great outdoors, without getting wet.

5. Warm up in the sunroom

Not everyone has one, but if you do, placing your outdoor furniture inside a sunroom can be a great way to use it during the cold months. A sunroom combines the views of the outdoors with the comfort of being inside. Most sunrooms are small, but can still accommodate some additional seating. If, you do decide to bring it into your sunroom, it can be an excellent place to entertain and relax through the holidays and in the new year.

Even with the cold weather here, you can still enjoy your outdoor furniture throughout the winter months. When you buy quality furniture, it’s nice to use your furniture as much as possible. This year, regardless where your outdoor furniture is located, you can continue to enjoy your furniture all winter long.

Make Sure Your Furniture Will Fit! [Infographic]

Ever worry that the new furniture you just bought won’t even fit through the doors of your home?

You’re not alone. And before you buy anything, you have to make sure your furniture will fit. Our “FURNITURE FIT 101” infographic will help!

Your key considerations include:

Halls and Doorways


Planning a Pathway

Companies like RST often list furniture dimensions on their website.

Make Sure Your Furniture Will Fit

Your Much-Needed Mud Room Ideas for Winter

During the colder seasons, our decorating and home-making missions move inside. And sometimes, being trapped indoors all winter can make you feel like your whole house needs a redesign, but that isn’t always the best move.

If you are feeling frustrated with your inside decor and can’t seem to banish encroaching clutter, turning your attention to this often-forgotten space is key. It can help soothe your decor nerves until your outdoor furniture becomes front and center once again.

This space goes by many names. Some call it a mud room, others simply refer to it as the entryway or front hallway. Founder and CEO of Apartment Therapy, Maxwell Ryan, calls this area the landing strip, and he dubs it the most important room in your home.

This space becomes especially important during the winter months when our houses get cluttered with wet boots, soggy gloves, and mountains of holiday cards. So, if you’re jonesing to redesign, this is a great place to start.

Here are a few mud room ideas to make one of the most important rooms in your home stand out this season.

1. Determine Where Your Landing Strip Should Be

For a lot of homes, the entryway is pretty obvious, but for others finding the right space for your landing strip is difficult.

Ryan describes the landing strip as the space where the outside world gets filtered before you come inside. It’s where all your extraneous items like coats, keys and mail go before you fully enter the home.

For houses with two often-used entrances, determining this space is challenging. Some people use their front door as well as their garage or side door. If that’s the case, where do you put the landing strip?

Remember that this area is the filter between the outside and inside of your home. If you don’t want to build two landing stip areas, which is totally fine, choose the entrance that gets the most stuff dragged through it. When you come home with coats and scarves or mail, which entrance do you usually walk through?

The most important thing is to have one place where you put your keys. Having a landing strip in your home is to help you stay organized and leave the house with ease, and that purpose is defeated if you’re running between entryways to find your keys every day.

2. Five Items Needed to Complete the Space

Ryan outlines five key elements you need to complete your landing stip. You might already have an entryway area, but do you have all these pieces there? If not, would adding them add value to that space?

Here is what Ryan suggests.

Doormat – The doormat keeps the outside, outside. Dirt, leaves and snow should all be wiped off and left at the door. This becomes especially important during winter when salt used to melt ice can easily be tracked into your home and dirty the floors.

Coat Hooks – Whether these are hidden inside a closet or out in the open, having hooks to hang your coat, purse or dog leash is essential. Coats easily take up valuable closet space and get wet from snow and rain, so you want to keep them far away from your bedroom closet.

Side Table – A side table goes in the landing strip to keep clutter off other places like kitchen counters and dining room tables. This space should be small; just big enough to hold your keys and a mail organizer. If it’s too big, you’ll end up stashing other stuff there and making the clutter worse, instead of better.

Waste Basket – Somehow, that walk from the doorway to the recycling bin feels extra long when we get home from work. Save yourself the steps and keep a waste basket in your landing strip so you can instantly toss junk mail instead of creating a stack of papers you meant to throw away weeks ago.

Mirror – This isn’t an essential, but once you put a mirror in your landing strip area, you’ll never want to live without it. It’s good to double check your appearance before you leave the house and guests will appreciate a quick look before the dinner party.

Other items you may want to include in your landing strip are a shoe rack, lamp, or storage bins or drawers. Just make sure this space doesn’t become a doorway-sized junk drawer by designing it with just enough room for the essentials, and no more.

3. Design with Summer in Mind

The front door is not the only portal your home has to the outside. When the weather starts to warm up, the door to your backyard might get used more often than your entryway!

This landing strip serves the same purpose, keeping the outside from coming in, but may need some different design elements. This space could be a backdoor or the door to the garage, so think about the items that will be coming in those doors.

Although coat hooks and a doormat are still important, you may want to trade out the side table and wastebasket for a more robust storage system that can handle sports equipment and gardening tools.

It’s also important to consider your outdoor design. The landing strip can be the place where your outdoor and indoor designs mingle to create a seamless transition between the two spaces. Find creative ways to tie in design elements from both, like a colorful vase or patterned lamp that links the two areas together.


We know you miss your backyard furniture, but summer will be here before you know it! Choose to spend this time wisely by amping up those indoor spaces that will help you be better prepared when the seasons do change.