Author Archives: Jessica Silvera

Steamed Artichokes with Siracha Lime Aioli

Steamed Artichokes
with SRiracha Lime Aioli


Learn how to cook artichokes perfectly to create a delightful shared appetizer or snack.


· 2 Artichokes 

· 4 tbsp lemon juice 

· ¼ cup mayo 

· Zest of one lime 

· 1 tsp. lime juice 

· 2 tbsp of Sriracha


1. Using a steaming pot, bring 4 cups of water and 3 tbsp of lemon juice to a boil

2. Prepare artichokes for steaming: Snap off tough outer leaves. 

Using a serrated knife, cut off top 1/3 of artichoke.

Snip remaining sharp or spiky tips using kitchen shears.

Trim stem so artichoke stands upright.

Rub cut surfaces with lemon to prevent discoloration.

Repeat with remaining artichokes and lemon.

If you wish you can cut the artichokes in half and remove the chok

3. Place artichokes in steamer basket and close the lid.

Allow artichokes 35 minutes to steam.

4. While artichokes steam, add mayo to a small bowl.

Add the zest of one lime and 1 tsp. lime juice into mayo and whisky thoroughly.

Slowly whisk in Sriracha to taste.

Feel free to add depending on your tolerance of heat.

5. Remove artichokes from steamer and plate immediately.

Dip the end of each artichoke end into aioli and eat before discarding the tough part of leaf.

Slowly whisk in Sriracha to taste.


Best Rocks For Inside Your Fire Pit [Expert Insights & Safety Tips]

Fire pits are great for spending a cozy night by the fire with your family, entertaining with friends, or just providing a relaxing evening for two. While there are many reasons to add a fire pit to your backyard, one of the best reasons is that a well-built fire pit can add value to your home and improve the usability of your backyard landscaping. If you have been looking at re-doing your landscape for a while and thought about adding some new additions to your backyard, like a firepit, as well as faux stone exterior panels, new grass, etc., then it can be a great way to make everything look new and stylish.

Before starting construction on your fire pit you will need to consider a few things like local ordinances regarding fire pits, location, what kind of fire pit you want, how to build your fire pit, and even what to put in the bottom of your fire pit. Learn about the best rocks for inside your fire pit, including how to use lava rocks for a fire pit, and how fire pit glass rocks can add an extra touch to your backyard feature. Then light a fire, grab a book, pull up some outdoor furniture, and enjoy your new backyard addition.

Browse a specific section by clicking on any of the quick links below:

1. Research Your City Code

Different cities will have different building ordinances when it comes to backyard fire pit construction. Make sure you know the local requirements before you build or you will end up wasting time and money when you have to move your fire pit to a new location in your yard.

Depending on where you live you may not be allowed any kind of open fire pit at all. Check your city code to find out if all open flames are banned or if using some kind of cover or screen on your fire pit would make it possible to comply with regulations. You can call your local fire department or Google fire requirements for your area to learn if there are restrictions on the size and location of fires as well.

If you’re going to build an in-ground fire pit, a quick 811 call before you dig can save you the headache and expense that would come with disrupting underground utilities. Also, make sure the pit is built at least 10 feet away from any trees, overhanging branches, fences, bushes, or flammable structures on your property.

2. How Are You Going To Build?

The first thing to consider when planning a fire pit is to decide how portable you want your fire pit to be. If you want it to be a permanent fixture in your backyard landscaping, a traditional in-ground fire pit is the perfect option. However, if you want to move it around, you might consider purchasing a pre-built portable fire pit or a fire table. You will also need to decide whether you want an above-ground or below-ground fire pit, and how you are going to build it.

Once you’ve decided on the type of fire pit you’d like to build you can start purchasing the materials you’ll need. You’ll need to know the best rock for inside a fire pit and how deep to make it. Most DIY fire pits are below ground because they are the most basic and easiest to build.

Some tools and materials you’ll need to build your fire pit are:

      • Wheelbarrow
      • Shovel
      • Garden rake
      • Tape measure
      • Work gloves
      • Hand tamper
      • Garden hose
      • Level
      • Firebricks
      • Retaining wall blocks
      • Lava rocks for the fire pit
      • Construction adhesive

There are great guides on DIY construction for backyard fire pits, with step-by-step instructions to help you get started.

If you prefer an extravagant fire pit design or want something more complicated, a contractor is a faster and easier option than building a fire pit yourself. Hiring a contractor to build your fire pit is also a great idea if you’re looking to add more value to your home, because of the quality of the craftsmanship. However, you have to be mindful of hiring the right people for the job as the process involves quite a bit of risk and labor. Research the company you are planning to hire from, and enquire if they are equipped with Readington NJ Construction Insurance (or one at your place of residence) which often includes workers’ compensation too. Further, see to it that all safety measures are adopted by the people who come to work on your home’s fire pit.

3. Does A Fire Pit Need A Liner?

Fire pit liners have several benefits, such as preventing underground root fires, and providing essential structure and support if you want your fire pit to be permanent. A good liner will give your fire pit the structure it needs to last for years to come. There are different kinds of liners such as stainless steel, mild carbon steel, concrete, tile or stone, copper, and cast iron. The most common fire pit liners are made of stainless steel or fire-rated bricks and are designed to withstand high temperatures.

4. Fill Your Pit With The Right Materials

Learning what to put in the bottom of your fire pit takes more planning than you may have considered. Some materials like hard rock, gravel, or sand weren’t meant to reach high temperatures and can spark and explode if your fire gets too hot. Instead, use lava rocks for your fire pit or lava glass beads as a filler for your fire pit. They are a safe way to create drainage and make your fire pit look nice.

While some people choose to forgo a fire pit filler and simply use a concrete or stone base, filler adds a nice aesthetic to your fire pit that can enhance your backyard landscaping. Place a thin layer of sand on the bottom of the fire pit and add the recommended 2-6 inches of filler on top of it. If you don’t have a preference for what kind of filler to use, irregular crushed lava rock or small volcanic ash tends to cost less overall.

Sandstone, river rocks, natural rocks, and gravel are not ideal fill for fire pits because they are more likely to crack or explode under high heat. No matter what type of fill you use, make sure the fill is dry when you light the fire. Rocks can absorb a lot of water, especially river rocks, and rocks that get too hot near a fire can (and sometimes do) explode. Even wet lava rock can explode.

5. What Kind Of Rocks Explode In Fire?

Nearly any kind of rock has the potential to explode-especially if it is porous and wet. When wet rocks heat up the trapped air and water expands very quickly, and forcefully breaks the rock apart, or makes it explode. Some of the most common rocks that should be avoided in fire pit construction include sandstone, limestone, pumice, gravel, and river rocks because of their porous nature and tendency to hold water.

Hard rocks like granite, marble, or slate are much denser, and therefore less likely to absorb water and explode when exposed to heat. Other rocks that are safe to use around and in your fire pit include fire-rate brick, lava glass, lava rocks, and poured concrete. This is one area where you can use lava rocks for fire pit safety.

If you have rocks in or around your fire pit, be cautious when lighting fires after it has rained. Wet rocks are much more likely to explode than dry rocks. If you frequently use your fire pit, you may even consider covering your fire pit in adverse weather to keep it dry and keep yourself safer.

6. How Deep Do Fire Pits Need To Be?

For in-ground fire pits, it’s generally recommended that you dig down 6 to 12 inches. Make sure the ground is as level as possible before adding in your layer of lava rocks or fire pit glass. If you decide to dig a deeper fire pit, make sure you have some kind of ventilation so your fire gets enough air to burn. You may need to use a fire bowl on top of your stonework to keep the fire elevated.

Higher walls around a fire pit can be especially handy if you have small children or pets and want to keep them protected from the flames. Of course, a higher wall is no substitute for a watchful eye, but it can certainly create an extra level of safety for families.

7. Distance Your Fire Pit From Possible Dangers

Fire safety is of paramount importance when selecting the location of your fire pit. You should always keep your fire pit at least 10 feet away from any trees, overhanging branches, fences, bushes, or flammable structures on your property. Clear away any dry brush around the fire pit and always make sure your fire pit complies with local regulations before building. Also, be sure to call 811 to check for underground utilities before you dig.

One of the most common dangers to watch out for is root fires. While you might think you’ve built your fire far enough away from a tree, it’s important to remember that the roots of a tree spread out, and building a fire too close to a tree can cause the roots to burn long after the embers in your fire pit have died.

If you decide to keep your fire pit on your deck you will need to purchase a fire pit specifically made to be used in a patio setting. You may even want to consult with a contractor to prepare a fireproof surface under your patio fire pit, and you will need to keep a screen on your fire pit as often as possible to prevent sparks from causing any fires. Wherever you place your fire pit, make sure it works well with the flow of traffic in your yard so it’s not a tripping hazard for guests and family members.

When enjoying your outdoor fire pit you should always keep safety in mind. Keep your fire contained and always keep a bucket of water nearby so you can put out any stray flames. Always make sure your fire is cold before you leave it for the night.

8. Gas vs. Wood

There are benefits to both gas and wood fires, and while you won’t enjoy the classic smell of a campfire, a gas burning fire makes it easy to start up your fire pit and enjoy a night outside, whereas gathering and lighting wood every time you want to use your fire pit is time-consuming and labor-intensive.

However, you should also take into account what you intend to use your fire pit for. If you plan to cook, a wood fire is hotter and helps food cook faster. If you simply want a warm area to chat with friends or enjoy a night outside, a gas fire has a consistent flame and heat level, without smoke blowing in your face or your fire dying down. You can easily enjoy a full evening of entertainment with a simple 20 pound tank of propane that will fuel your gas fire for up to 4 hours. Gas fire pits can also be more decorative and use fire pit glass rocks that won’t be faded by smoke and soot.

If you can’t make up your mind you might consider a dual-fuel fire bowl that can use both gas and wood. Keep in mind that they tend to cost more and require a complex construction to build. Whether you go with gas or wood, always keep safety in mind and keep a fire extinguisher handy. Regularly check gas fires for leaks, make sure you add the best rock for inside your fire pit, and to keep you and your guests safe, never add additional fuel to a gas fire.

9. Size Up The Space

After you’ve found the perfect place for your fire pit and decided what materials you would like to use in its construction, you will need to decide how big of a fire pit you want. Keep it proportional to the size of your backyard or porch so it doesn’t feel like it’s taking over your space. Your fire pit should suit the design of your backyard landscaping, and you should provide enough space for the type of outdoor furniture you want to use around your fire pit.

When it comes to the size of the fire pit itself, it’s typically recommended to plan for a bigger fire pit, rather than a smaller one. Small fire pits are usually around 3 feet wide, whereas large fire pits are up to 6 feet wide. Fire pit dimensions are measured from the outside of the ring, so keep in mind that the interior of the fire pit will be smaller than 3-6 feet, depending on the thickness of your fire pit ring.

Whatever kind of outdoor furniture you use around your fire pit, you will want to make sure you have at least three feet of space between the seating and the fire. Sitting too close can be unsafe, because of sparks and flames. Leaving extra space and planning for a larger fire pit also allows you to upgrade your furniture or pull up a few extra chairs when visitors come over.

10. Prepare For The Cost

The type of fire pit you decide on will have a great impact on your wallet. Complex designs built by a contractor can run into the thousands, whereas portable fire pits typically run between $50-$200. However, if you’re really looking for a high-quality design at low cost, a DIY fire pit is your best option. There are even fire pit kits you can purchase for around $100-$200 to make your job easier.

To keep up the value of your outdoor fire pit make sure you fill it with fire pit glass or fire pit rocks and surround your fire pit with good quality outdoor furniture. Although good quality outdoor furniture can cost more, it’s worth the investment because it lasts longer and maintains its value.

11. Can You Put A Fire Pit On The Grass?

Temporary fire pits can easily move from one place to another. If you intend to move yours frequently, you don’t want unsightly dead patches of grass all over your lawn or the danger of dried grass starting a fire. Thankfully, there are ways to keep your grass protected from portable fire pits.

Before you start your fire, you will need to prepare the ground underneath and around the fire pit. Clear away any dead grass or vegetation within 10 feet of your fire pit and wet down the grass underneath the fire pit. Once the grass is wet you can start your fire, and the water will protect your grass-to a degree. If your grass needs additional protection you can simply place brick pavers on top of your grass as a heat shield. They will help protect your grass from high temperatures and keep your grass from drying out.

12. Get That Added Value

A beautiful, well-built fire pit adds a lot of value to a home and backyard. Patios with a fire pit are especially valuable because they create a beautiful space for entertaining and visiting with guests-especially if that space is not available inside the home. Fire pits remain popular with home buyers and really don’t cost much for the value they add.

To get the most value from your fire pit, make it a central feature of your backyard and invest in quality landscaping and outdoor furniture, that adds to the overall design of your space. There are even stand-alone fire tables and fire table and chair sets that create a quick and easy focal point if you prefer a more temporary option. If you want your outdoor space to feel like an extension of your indoor space, make sure to use similar design elements as you make the transition from inside to outside. It will make your home feel larger, especially when entertaining guests.

13. Complement Your Fire With Ambient Lighting

With ambient lighting, you can create the ideal outdoor entertaining space. You could also go on to build a wooden deck in your backyard by contacting experts from companies comparable to Iron River Construction. While your lovely fire pit may provide enough light in the deck area, once the sun goes down, you’ll wish you had another light source. Additional light may allow you to check on the status of your marshmallows as you make s’mores-unless you like them burned to a crisp.

Simple string or bulb lights are the perfect accompaniment to a deck entertaining area. If string lights don’t suit the style you’re looking to achieve, you can always opt for torches or light posts instead. Remember that a good light source will also increase safety for your family and guests because they are less likely to trip over something they can’t see.

14. Find The Right Furniture

The outdoor furniture you choose really helps dictate your outdoor design. To make your home feel larger, make sure the design from inside the home flows over into the design of your backyard furniture. This will make your space feel more cohesive and more like one large space from inside to outside.

You should also consider the quality of materials your furniture is made of. By far the best (and most popular) material is aluminum. High-quality outdoor furniture will last you for years to come. No matter what kind of outdoor furniture you purchase, make sure it is safe for use around fire and is non-flammable. Remember to keep all furniture at least 3 feet from your fire pit for added safety.

15. Don’t Forget the Extras

It’s the extras that really make a fire pit area special and a great place to relax. If you live in an area with lots of bugs and mosquitoes, citronella candles are great for keeping them at bay. A couple of roasting sticks on hand at all times makes whipping up some s’mores a breeze. For safety purposes, you should always have a fire extinguisher and fire pit cover on hand to tame any adventurous fires.

Wood fires require a fire stoker to safely move logs without risking burns, and you should keep a cleaning broom on hand to clean around gas fires. Once you’ve compiled the basics you can kick back and enjoy your firepit in safety.

16. Conclusion

Your backyard fire pit is a great addition to get-togethers, parties, and family events. Some proper planning on how big to make your fire pit, the best rocks for inside your fire pit, and what kind of outdoor furniture to use around your fire pit, can help you fire pit add a lot of value to your home. Don’t underestimate how fire pit glass and fire pit glass rocks can impact the look of your outdoor fire pit.

Now that you know what to put in the bottom of your fire pit you can enjoy the outdoors year-round and create memories that will last a lifetime. Don’t forget to add in some high-quality outdoor furniture from RST Brands to complete your outdoor landscaping look and environment.

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2016 Outdoor Furniture Styles to Fall in Love With

Summer is almost here, and that means you will soon be lounging by the pool with a cold iced tea or pulling out your apron to barbecue some of your famous ribs.

New Year’s celebrations have long passed and that means summer is on its way. Get your living space ready with one these beautiful 2016 outdoor furniture styles you’re sure to fall in love with.

Natural Elegance

Keeping it natural allows your outdoor furniture to blend in with the world around you, and connecting with nature is a huge trend in 2016. Try this wicker look to keep the natural elements alive in your outdoor space.

Wicker is a great addition to any patio because the woven design won’t diminish its surroundings. However, that doesn’t mean wicker can’t be elegant. A dark, espresso color will keep your outdoor space stylish and classy. Pick a neutral color palette to accompany your wicker set so the style stays consistent with your lush surroundings.

We love this Deco 9-Piece Dining Set. Its sleek frame brings a classy touch to any outdoor space, while the wicker and wood tabletop will flow well with your backyard environment.

Traditional and Bold

Sometimes it’s fun to stray from the natural by adding a bold color to your outdoor space. If you’re looking for something more petite to fill your outdoor lounge, why not think about choosing a minimal furniture design with a bold hue to complement your space.

With summer fast approaching, it’s hard not to get lost in bright, citrus colors that abound in many backyard setups. But, those that really stand out in 2016 are the bold, yet more demure colors. Choose dark, deep accents over the flashy “look-at-me” colors to give your patio a unique, on-trend touch.

This Astoria 6-Piece Lounge Set is the perfect addition for anyone looking to keep their space traditional, while the navy cushions add that touch of modern we love. The set offers sleek curves and a light frame that doesn’t overpower the surrounding elements.

Astoria-6pc-Loveseat-Set-Navy-Blue_main-1 2

Modern and Natural

Do you love both modern and natural? It can be hard to choose between the two different styles, but 2016 is all about finding a balance between the two.

Mixing the two styles doesn’t have to be eclectic. Instead of mixing random pieces together, choose pieces that combine textures. This offers a unique style without introducing competing patterns.

For outdoor spaces, consider mixing wicker and aluminum. This combination creates a contemporary look for any patio. The Vistano 7-Piece Lounge Set engenders both a modern and timeless feel. The combination of the aluminum frame with clean modern lines works with wicker, which adds that elegant, natural look. The cushions are kept a soft cream so the interesting frame can stand out on its own.



Natural, demurely bold, and eclectic textures: these are the 2016 outdoor trends that you will see time and time again featured in the pages of your favorite magazines and on the patios of your friends.

Is your outdoor furniture on-trend or outdated? If your furniture is a few years old, it may be time to upgrade. Find all of the styles you want made with lasting, quality materials at RST Brands.

Subtle Simplicity: How to Bring Minimalism to Your Outdoor Design

Minimalism has always existed as a design theory, but it’s really taken over in the 21st century, with brands like Apple and rising niche products embracing the simplistic style.

Regardless of its current popularity, minimalism is more than a passing fad. Minimalist design is gender neutral and provides a clean marriage between male and female styles as the genders mix and mingle more in the modern age. It also highlights art and creativity, which are rising priorities as millennials climb up the socioeconomic ladder.

To help you embrace this rising trend with your indoor and outdoor furniture, alike, we’ve compiled a list of best practices in minimalist design. Keep in mind, you might have to fight some of your natural inclinations to over-crowd or multi-color your space while your eye adjusts to the simple design. But stick to these basic principles and you’ll have an outdoor patio worth Pinteresting about in no time.

7 Commandments of Outdoor Minimalist Design

1. Define Your Color Palette

Minimalist design isn’t about getting rid of color and replacing it with empty, white spaces. Color actually plays a very important role in minimal design.

Before you start redecorating, define your color palette. A minimal space will have a lot of neutral colors, and an accent color that defines the space. Obviously, you can have more than one color in your minimal space, but keep all colors from the same family.

Choose tonal variations of your main accent color that add visual variety to the space, but keep your use of color tight. To do this, forget the notion that accent colors are reserved for small decor pieces like pillows and vases and use color for larger items like the sofa, with neutral colors taking over those accent pieces.

2. Replace Color with Texture

Introducing a rigid color palette to your space means you need to establish variety in other ways to keep it from looking like a boring showroom. In minimalist design, this is often done through textures.

Although your colors are few, you can add variety with velvets, corduroy, and fur. These textures come in singular colors so your design stays simple, but the various textiles draw the eye from piece to piece, keeping the design interesting without over-burdening it.

3. Eliminate Ornate Detail

Unlike shabby chic design where colliding chaotic details create an odd calmness, ornate details just equal chaos in a minimalist design. Be careful with vintage pieces featuring intricate patterns in your minimal space.

Instead, opt for simple lines and shapes. This doesn’t mean your design needs to be rigid and boxy, but the eye should be able to easily move from object to object without getting too caught up in tiny details.

4. Less Is More

We don’t mean to be cliche, but this adage is especially true in a minimalist space. To keep your outdoor space from being busied by knick-knacks, make a rule that you need to remove an element every time a new one is introduced.

If you get a new rug, eliminate some throw pillows. If you add a piece of art, replace those three flower pots with one. A minimal space needs to breathe, so don’t over-design it, no matter how cute that old vase is.

5. Embrace Art and Plants

It might feel silly at first to bring art outside and add plants when there is a lush backyard just beyond the deck, but these two design elements are essential to balancing the minimal space in your backyard design.

Eradicating color and detailed patterns gets rid of pieces that are probably bringing personality to your current space. Replace them with art that has personal meaning and introduce curated plants around the patio.

These pieces add a whimsical element to stale, minimal designs and re-introduce those personal touches that really make the space your own.

6. Consider Lighting

Minimal spaces really shine in bright, natural light. If you need to, trim the branches that block the sun over your patio and do what you can to open up the space as much as possible.

To keep your patio from looking busy, get rid of small Christmas lights and replace them with large, vintage bulbs to illuminate the area. When it comes to outdoor lighting and minimal design, bigger is often better.

7. Consistency, Consistency, Consistency

The true key to unlocking an outdoor minimalist design is consistency. Bring design elements from inside your home to your outdoor decor in an obvious way.

Instead of limiting your design vision to the patio, think bigger. Apply minimalist principles and decor to the whole backyard or your entire home. When you find a signature tick that really suits your style, it will be easy to pull it into all aspects of your home design.


Have fun experimenting with this hip design style. Once you’ve mastered the basics, embrace minimalist design because of all the benefits it offers: gender neutral, clean, and happy spaces.

What motivates you to try minimalist design?

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.

Resolve to Have an Amazing Backyard in 2016!

Are you one of those kind of people who sees your backyard as just an annoying lump of space that your HOA forces you to take care of? Unfortunately, many of us see our backyards that way.

Do you even know how to have an amazing backyard?

We often fail to realize that the backyard can be a specialized space unlike any other in the home.

When we take the time to give our backyards a special purpose, keeping up with maintenance all the sudden becomes a lot easier. We become more motivated to keep our backyards nice so that we don’t lose that dedicated space.

This year, resolve to transform your backyard into a space that you can feel comfortable spending time in. Have you always wanted a place to escape from the busyness of everyday life? Have you always wanted a dedicated play space that doesn’t pose a threat to outdoor furniture or accessories?

Here is a list of different ways you can transform your backyard into the space you always wanted:

Social Space

Many of us dream about turning our backyards into the ultimate social gathering space where we can invite friends and family to mix and mingle. Do you want your backyard to be where all the July Fourth or Memorial Day parties are held? Then here are some ways you can do it.

Fire Pit – A fire pit is a great way for you to keep your outdoor parties lasting into the night. Even during the colder months, a fire pit can keep your guests warm and happy into the evening hours. Who doesn’t love instant access to a classic s’more making? Tip: Check with your local fire department to make sure you are following proper safety regulations before you install your fire pit.

how to have an amazing backyard

Decks – There’s nothing better than being able to enjoy the sun during a barbecue on a spacious and comfortable deck. Many of us have nice outdoor furniture that sometimes goes to waste because we don’t have a deck to put it on. Putting a nice outdoor table on grass can be unstable and totally eliminate the table’s entire purpose. Give your outdoor furniture what it really needs and build that deck you’ve always wanted.

Outdoor Table – Speaking of an outdoor dining table, what good would it be to have a barbecue party without a place for people to gather and eat? A quality outdoor table on your patio or deck can be the ultimate social gathering tool that your outdoor parties need.

Recreation Space

Family game night doesn’t always have to involve board games. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could walk right out your back door and challenge your spouse to a game of outdoor bowling? If you’ve always wanted your backyard to a place of recreation, then here are some things your can do this year.

Outdoor Bowling – There are plenty of outdoor bowling sets that allow for easy setup and take down. Unfortunately, many of them don’t work very well on grass, and who has a long stretch of concrete in their backyard? Instead, invest in wooden or concrete construction that is more permanent, that way you can choose a location in your yard that is most convenient.

Horseshoes – You can find a horseshoe game kit for $40 at any store, but by digging the pits, filling them with sand and building the backboards you can give yourself the true horseshoe experience. Horseshoes is a great game that facilitates a healthy social and competitive atmosphere everyone wants from an outdoor game.

Relaxation Space

Your backyard can easily become your fortress of solitude. A place where you can get away from everything and unplug for a while to let your brain recharge itself. If you aren’t able to feel some level of relaxation in every space in your home, then there is something wrong.

Transforming your backyard into a relaxing space is easy with these suggestions.

Hammock – If you’ve never taken a nice long nap outside during a spring or summer day, then you’re really missing out. A hammock is the ultimate outdoor relaxation tool. We promise, if you lay out in your hammock and start to read a book, if won’t be long until you are gently rocked to sleep by a soft breeze. If hammocks are the ultimate outdoor relaxation tool, then an RST hammock is the Rolls-Royce of hammocks.

Outdoor Chairs – Picture this. It’s a nice spring day. You’ve got a cool glass of lemonade and your favorite book. You walk out onto your new deck to enjoy the sun and you settle into a clunky metal chair. Wait, what? Who relaxes in a cheap metal fold out chair? No one does. That’s why if you want to enjoy your outdoor relaxation space, you need a nice comfortable set of outdoor chairs.

how to have an amazing backyard

Outdoor Couch – Maybe a hammock isn’t your thing. Some people just don’t like moving with the breeze while the lay down and relax. Don’t worry, there’s a solution for that problem. A nice outdoor couch or sectional can make your relaxation space a second living or family room. What makes an outdoor couch even better is that you don’t have to worry about getting it dirty by putting your feet up because it was meant for the outdoors.

Kid Space

How many of us have wished that we could send the kids off into a nice protected space where they can play by themselves without having to worry about keeping an eye on them? A backyard can easily become that kind of space. When the kids are bored, they can go outside in the backyard where they can have endless fun in the sun.

In-Ground Trampoline – What kid doesn’t love jumping on a trampoline? What gets some parents nervous though is the thought of their child jumping over the edge and getting injured. You can solve that problem by digging a pit for the trampoline to sit in. The kids can still jump high and you won’t have to worry about any broken bones. Plus, it makes mowing the grass a lot easier because you won’t have to shove the mower underneath the trampoline.

Outdoor Playhouse – Most of us cringe at the thought of installing an outdoor playhouse. The chief complaint is that playhouses make it harder to mow the lawn. However, if you take the time to construct a play area that covers all the square footage on the ground, it makes cutting the grass a lot easier.


You didn’t buy your house with the thought of never doing anything with your backyard. You’ve saved the money for your down payment. You’ve made the interior what you want it to be. This year, you deserve to upgrade your house into your dream home. Why not transform your outdoor space into what you’ve always wanted it to be?