Category Archives: Culture

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: 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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.)

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, fire up the gas to get the grill nice and hot. If you are using propane powered grill, check whether you have enough fuel for the party. If not, you can contact a fuel company such as FSI Oil and Propane or similar others near your location.

Additionally, ensure that you adopt safety measures as well. Including fire safety equipment can guarantee that your stay safe. Remember, if you have any small children at your BBQ, keep the gas safely stored away in a cabinet like those you can find here. BBQs might be fun, but they can also be dangerous!

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!


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. You should also remove any barbed wire using a micro wire cutter to ensure your pets don’t get caught or cut. Be careful whilst removing it and always wear gloves, then dispose of it safely to ensure wildlife doesn’t become entangled in it.

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. Fertilizers can also be damaging to your pet’s paws so you may want to ensure their paws are well protected. One way you could potentially do this is through protective items such as dog boots which can be found at sites like, Walkee Paws as well as other reputable websites that focus on the care and protection of your pet. Alternatively, you could invest in specially manufactured fertilizers that are pet-friendly and therefore designed to be gentle on your dog’s paws.

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. You can check out some custom vinyl fences so you can have it matched to your specifications, helping you protect your garden and animals.

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.

9 Outrageous Outdoor Decorating Ideas for Small Patios

outdoor decorating ideas for small patios

Look around, it’s easy to see the urban landscape booming all around us. Quaint neighborhoods are becoming busy epicenters, and more and more people long for a metropolitan lifestyle.

Apartment living has a lot of perks. It puts you walking distance from almost anything you need, it creates close relationships with neighbors, and it can be an affordable way to live in the city. But, apartments often lack extra space for patio furniture that ground-floor homes afford us.

If you live in an apartment and have given up on your patio space, it’s time to reopen those sliding doors with these space-maximizing techniques. The patio doors on a house can give a contemporary look and extra space to your home. For this, you could consult professionals from or similar companies who tend to install long-lasting patio doors. There are lots of tricks and petite patio pieces that are designed to open up your outdoor space and create a cozy oasis you’ll love to escape to.

Here are a few outdoor decorating ideas for small patios that won’t overcrowd your lovely little balcony.

1. Give Yourself a Place to Sit

Because your patio space is small, outdoor chairs should be the focal point. If you can’t relax and enjoy your balcony, what’s the point?

This will most likely be the largest piece of furniture out there, so finding a multifunctional piece is a plus. An ottoman that doubles as a coffee table, or extra storage that masquerades as a bench are perfect pieces to put on your small balcony.

Also, find see-through furniture to maximize your space by giving the illusion of more room.

Small, iron bistro furniture or a glass table create more transparency within your space, letting the eye flow between pieces instead of getting stopped by bulky furniture.

2. Bring the Green

Plants are essential to any outdoor space, but they especially liven up apartment patios. Adding some fun foliage to your 10th floor balcony can create a revitalizing sanctuary no matter your elevation.

If you’re worried about potted plants overtaking your space, try vertical gardening. Hanging plants on the wall maximizes your vertical space and leaves the floor open for furniture. Even if you don’t have a green thumb, there are plenty of desert plants that require little maintenance and will really bring your balcony to life, like ferns, calla lily flowers and the moon cactus.

3. Create Some Privacy

It’s great to be close to your neighbors, but sometimes you need some alone time. Creating privacy on your balcony will help you relax and keep out noise and light pollution.

By hanging a simple tapestry or adding a folding room divider, you can create a temporary wall that can be used or removed when needed. For something a little more permanent that will still let the breeze flow through, put up a trellis latticework or bamboo screen.

4. Let There Be Light

Lighting is crucial to decorating any space, your balcony included. When using such a compact area, the ambiance you create is essential to giving that room the atmosphere you desire.

Again, maximizing vertical space is key. Hang battery-powered LED lights or twinkling Christmas lights around your patio walls to give your balcony a mystical feel. Imitate fireflies with lighting to immediately transport you to the midwestern countryside or hang pulsating lanterns for that campfire feeling.

5. Have Room to Sip Your Coffee

In a small space, you’re twice as likely to knock over that delicious cocktail you just made if it’s sitting on the floor. Protect your beverages, phones, and books from getting trampled by having an easily accessible spot to put these things when you relax outside.

This is where an outdoor bistro furniture set comes in handy, but there are a few other options for adding a table to a tiny space. Nesting tables take up a small corner when stored, but can be pulled out to create multiple table tops and even a footstool. Or you can build a folding table into the wall, which can fold out at a 90-degree angle when you need extra space.

Additionally, you can free up a bit more space on your balcony by using a bifold door instead of a regular one. You can explore various options available online, for instance, aluminum bifold doors at doorwins, or look for another company situated near your location. With the door consuming no space, you can have more area to get creative with your patio furniture.

6. Mirror, Mirror On the Wall

Mirrors are a great decorating trick used in small spaces inside or outside. The reflective surface maximizes your visual space, so it gives any room the appearance of being bigger.

Hang small mirrors to reflect surrounding greenery or larger ones opposite your busiest corner to extend the feeling of your sitting area. Eclectic mirrors that reflect your lighting can also brighten up a dark corner.

7. Get a Rug or Carpet

Finding the right fabric to cover your balcony floor can make or break the space. A rug or carpet ties the interior and exterior of your apartment together, making it feel more comfortable and homey when you’re outside. Carpets can cover up less-than-perfect balcony floors and keep the area clean for walking out with bare feet.

Rugs can also work as a great accent piece. If you need to add a pop of color or want to introduce a fun, lively pattern, a rug is a great way to do it. Just make sure to buy a rug or carpet designed for the outdoors as you will need something that can withstand the rain and sun. It may also be necessary to clean them frequently to prevent any permanent stains or marks. You could do the cleaning yourself or hire professionals from companies like Crown Colony Chem-Dry to do it for you.

8. Go For Texture

To liven up your balcony, find interesting, comfortable textures to fill the space. A velvet pillow or fluffy throw will beckon you outside so you can take full advantage of your outdoor space.

A soft blanket to cuddle up with when the sun goes down is necessary for any outdoor sanctuary, but make sure none of your comfy textiles are permanent fixtures. You will need to take cushions and cover-ups inside during bad weather, so make it easy for yourself and choose textured pieces that are light to carry.

9. Be Bold, But Sparing

The trick to decorating small spaces is to be minimalistic with materials, but bold with items like outdoor accent tables. A collection of small items make a bitty balcony feel cramped and overloaded. But a select few larger items with bold statements open up the space and bring it to life.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with bright colors or interesting centerpieces. You can also decorate the wall with abstract art in bold colors that can keep the decore simple yet attractive. If interested, you can explore big size canvas prints by CanvasDesign UK or another art company. Keep micro-decorating to a minimum by eliminating small items on the floor or along the railing. Let the furniture speak for itself instead of bringing in themed trinkets to define the space.


Creating a dreamy, outdoor space can really open up your apartment and break up the monotony of skyscrapers and busy streets. You’ll quickly find yourself rushing home to your outdoor oasis for some rejuvenation and tranquility from the busy urban landscape.

If you haven’t been spending time on your balcony this summer, you are missing out on what could be your favorite space in the house. Add value and personality to your apartment with a beautiful balcony you’ll never want to leave.


Pint-sized gardens can still pack some serious punch

The benefits of eating locally sourced food are touted by farmers and nutritionists everywhere. Not only do homegrown veggies have higher vitamin content, but they're also significantly cheaper (not to mention really pretty). That said, it can be tough to carve out a full-sized garden in your backyard, especially if you've never had much of a green thumb. Luckily, all families can grow at least some of their own vegetables. 

When you're working with a small space, there's one principle to always keep in mind: Grow what you like! If you eat the produce you're growing regularly, you're that much more likely to appreciate and invest time in your garden. Whether you have a full-on plot of land, are opting for a raised bed or only have a few hanging baskets, you have plenty of gardening options. You simply need to choose vegetables that take up little growing space. It's also a good idea to grow things that are relatively expensive to purchase in stores, as you'll be able to enjoy them for just a few dollars at home – and expand your palate in the meantime! 


Herbs are among the easiest (and most compact) plants to grow, and basil is one of the most flavorful. While it's best eaten fresh, you can also freeze and dry out basil to keep for the colder months. 


Are they onions? Are they garlic? Shallots are an interesting and incredibly delicious vegetable (and yes, they're part of the onion family – along with garlic). One bulb yields five or six shallots, meaning they require little planting space for a significant reward. 


Speaking of garlic, it's also a great option for small-space gardens. As we said, it's a member of the onion family as well, and only requires you to plant a single bulb. 


Tomatoes are usually a mid-sized plant, but they grow well with other produce and won't take over your entire garden. The best part? One plant will last you the entire summer. (Just make sure it gets plenty of sunlight.) Cherry tomatoes are a particularly good option, as they will even grow in hanging baskets. How cute is that? 


Kale is so "in" these days, and for good reason. It's incredibly nutritious and surprising beautiful to grow. Part green, part purple, kale looks great and is long-lasting, particularly when you harvest just a few leaves at a time. 

French beans

French beans take up little horizontal space but a great deal of vertical space, as they're climbers. (No, really – they will climb everything within reach, including your outdoor furniture.)


Like kale, lettuce takes up little space and usually tastes much better fresh than it does when you buy it in stores. 

There are also a few plants you should flat out avoid if you're trying to conserve space, such as potatoes, Brussels sprouts and squash. Even the smallest garden is rewarding, though, and even if your first try is unsuccessful, you'll still enjoy the view. 

Tree-pruning tips for newbies

Trees tend to add quite a bit of property value to backyards, and it’s easy to understand why. They’re beautiful, for one, and provide fantastic shade when you’re hanging out on your outdoor sofa or sitting at the patio dining table. They also add an invaluable amount of character to your home, and many people hunt down homes with tall, old trees just for this reason. Whether you’ve planted your own small trees or were lucky enough to purchase them with the house, all trees take a little pruning. Some folks are quite sure how to tackle these guys, though.

One rule of thumb: If you’re going to need a chainsaw, the tree is too big to trim yourself. And that’s OK – that’s what professionals are for! Smaller trees, luckily, can be tackled without the pros. Here are a few other principles to get you started:

Don’t overprune

While pruning is beneficial for aesthetic purposes, it can be detrimental to your trees if you go overboard. (Unfortunately, tree limbs are not like your hair in this way.) When in doubt, don’t cut off more than a third of the tree’s growth at a time.

But don’t underprune either

That said, there are a few reasons trimming your tree branches is important. They can grow too close to utility lines, obstruct an otherwise beautiful view of your house or pool and can get infected, spreading disease to the rest of your trees. In these instances, the branches need to go. If the job gets too complicated, you can call in a Tree Removal service who can do the pruning for you, and maybe also get any old trees removed in the process. Pruning stimulates growth (they are kind of like hair in this way), so it’s an important part of keeping your trees healthy!

Look at the angles

Generally speaking, tree branches have two different shapes: V-shaped angles and U-shaped angles. Us indicate strength and sturdiness, while Vs indicate weakness. Try not to trim branches with U-shaped angles.

Leave the branch collar intact

When you’re totally removing branches, don’t chop off the branch collar. (It’s that ring that circles the branch and lies against the trunk of the tree.) While, yes, removing the branch in its entirety may be gratifying, it’s pretty unhealthy. The collar will also grow over the stub eventually.

Watch for branches that might rub

Every once in awhile, branches will start growing the wrong direction, rubbing up against other nearby ones. This can hurt the tree over time and prevent leaves from growing, so they are among the most important to clip off.

Use the three-part cut

With branches thicker than 3 inches in diameter, you’re going to want to use an approach called the three-part cut. If you were just to attack these branches from one side, they would eventually rip off under their own weight, totally undermining your tidy pruning. To mitigate this, start cutting 6 inches from where you’d like the final cut to be, cutting into the wood from underneath (or the way you’d like it to fall) until the blade is almost halfway through the branch. Next, saw into the branch from the other side, meeting in the middle and chopping off the branch entirely. Then all that’s left is cutting off the stub – above the branch collar, of course!

Whereas, this does not apply if a tree fell in your yard as a result of a severe storm and only the tree stump remains in that place. And, the tree stump is usually left in the garden because you may believe there is no harm in having that stump. However, dealing with the tree stump that has been left behind can be difficult. Although a tree stump could appear to be harmless, it is strongly advised that it be removed as soon as possible because it can pose a safety hazard on your property. Unwanted visitors to your yard can be attracted by a tree stump. Carpenter ants, termites, and other wood-boring insects are naturally drawn to tree stumps. Healthy trees and shrubs that become infected are vulnerable to infestation and disease. Worse, these dangerous pests may cause costly structural damage to your home’s wooden components. Hence, it might be a better idea to get the stump removal done in your backyard as soon as possible.

Get rid of those awkward stems growing from the base

You’ll occasionally find stems growing directly from the base of the trunk, and they can sap nutrients directly from the rest of the tree. Clip away all of them!

Anatomy of a backyard picnic

There are two kinds of picnics: the-PB&Js-in-a-plastic-bag variety, and the goat-cheese-and-pesto-crostini kind. There's nothing wrong with either one, of course, but when it comes time to host a midday backyard bash, which sounds more appealing to you? A picnic might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of hosting a party outdoors, but it's a fun, quirky opportunity to take a time-old tradition and make it totally fabulous. Need a few pointers? 

Layer up 

With blankets, that is. Even if you have the softest grass in the world, you're probably not going to want to sit directly on it for an extended period of time, particularly if you're entertaining guests. Find a few blankets you don't mind getting dirty (bonus points if you have outdoor blankets on hand already), and layer them as your picnic base. The more varied your selection, the more beautiful and elegant your picnic party will appear. 

Or you can just comfortably sit at your patio dining table. Your call. 

Get your game on

What's a picnic without a few great games? Bust out the bocce ball, the badminton rackets or even just a deck of cards. It's a great way to keep the event going all afternoon long and can be awesome for breaking the ice if not all your guests know one another. 

Crank up the music

The best thing about having a picnic right in your own backyard? Setting the mood is as easy as turning on the surround sound. While you can certainly play anything that strikes your fancy, it's fun to match your music to your food. Delicate hors d'oeurves pair well with Edith Piaf, while brisket sandwiches are awesome with a little AC/DC. This is a crucial part of creating a fun atmosphere, so spend a little extra time putting together the perfect playlist. 

Make it a potluck

Hosting a picnic for an extra large group? Ask every attendee to bring a favorite dish, and you'll have way more food than you even know what to do with. And trust us – that is never a bad thing. If you're trying to stick to a theme and worry the smorgasbord will be a little too random for your taste, simply let your guests know ahead of time. 

Find a tree 

A little sun is a great thing, but it can get really hot really quickly, especially during the dog days of summer. Your best bet for long-term picnic survival? Setting up shop underneath a big tree – or a nearby umbrella. Don't forget the sunscreen! 

Think outside the box 

Picnics might traditionally be a lunchtime activity, but that doesn't mean you have to stick to midday meals. These events are just as fun during brunch, at dusk or even after the sun is long gone. To set the mood when it's darker outside, just put up a few strings of twinkle lights.

Ultimate Guide to Throwing a Backyard Party

No season screams “PARTY!” quite like summer.

Beach bonfires, pool parties, and neighborhood BBQs are essentials during this hot, festive season. But you don’t need a beach, a pool, or even a grill to throw one of the best bashes of the year. All you need is a backyard, a hefty dose of enthusiasm, and our ultimate guide to throwing a backyard party your friends will be talking about for days!

Here’s everything you need to know to make your backyard soiree an outstanding summertime success.

Planning Your Party

Before you send out those invites, you need to pick the perfect day and time to maximize the friends, fun, and frivolity.

Keep in mind that there are several holiday weekends in the summer months where people travel because they get bonus days off work. Avoid scheduling during Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, or Labor Day.

To make sure most of your friends can make it for some outdoor dining, ask them in advance about travel plans and pick a day or evening when the most people will be in town.

If you live in a hot region be mindful of the weather and avoid the hottest times of the day. To keep your party guests cool, think outside the box and consider throwing a sunrise brunch or putting on a star-gazing, s’mores get-together.

For those of you lucky enough to live in more moderate locales, take full advantage of the nice weather and schedule your party during the middle of the day – think lawn games followed by dinner al fresco, or a light lunch before an afternoon of sunbathing. If you are keeping a dinner party, then maybe you can even consider booking a spectacular dinner theatre show, such as The Dinner Detective murder mystery, for the guests. Now, wouldn’t that be fun?

Prepping the Yard

Since the backyard will be the venue for your rendezvous, you want to make sure that it not only looks great, but that it can accommodate the people and activities you have in mind.

Take a quick inventory of your outdoor furniture – if you don’t have a seat for every bottom, consider using this as a great excuse to add to your collection.

But if shopping for furniture isn’t in your budget, you can add seating with dining room chairs, oversized cushions, blankets, and even beach towels or tablecloths. Use items with similar color schemes to give your gathering a unified look that adds style to function.

Once you know how to make everyone comfy, you want to consider the flow of the party. Since there will be unusual usage of the toilet, you must make sure the toilets are in good condition. If not, it can result in a seriously unwanted surprise, which can lead to a big mess during the party. Although your plumbing may be in good shape, you could still contact a plumbing services company before the party in order to perform maintenance work and ensure that no blockages arise.

Additionally, make sure to group seating in small clusters that invite your guests to mix and mingle. Centralize the food, and if you have games or other activities planned make sure that they won’t interfere with people filling their plates or hopping from one group to the next.

Finally, consider safety.

Look for potential hazards in your yard and get them out of the way. Put away all tools, fertilizers, potting soil, and anything else you might be “storing” behind your house. You don’t want your bestie’s daughter accidentally dipping into the MiracleGro.

In addition to removing obvious hazards, make sure any fire or grill is secured away from where games are being played and can’t be accessed by curious little ones. If you’ll be partying after the sun goes down, make sure you have sufficient lighting. String lights, paper lanterns, and candles can all add a magical glow to your midsummer night’s merriment.

Putting On the Ritz

One of the best parts of throwing any party is decorating. And it’s easier than you might think to transform your backyard into a patio party oasis. Create a cottage feel with mismatched vases and jars of wildflowers strewn on tables and buffets.

Take your friends on a mini-vacation by creating a beach vibe with small beach balls either hung overhead or used as centerpieces. Make your décor interactive by placing bubbles, sparklers, or paddleballs on the tables – and the bonus is these can double as party favors.

Umbrellas or tarps aren’t just great for keeping your guests cool – they can also be decorated with lights, lanterns, or fun cut-outs of images like starfish, anchors, seashells, or flip-flops. Use beach pails filled with sand to hold party favors like glow sticks, flags, sunglasses, or fireworks.

And don’t forget your dishes and utensils are part of the décor as well. Pick fun but sturdy paper plates and wrap up colorful plastic utensils in napkins tied up with string or ribbon. You can even add a flower or other whimsical item to make the event feel even more special.

Be Prepared

Make sure you’re prepared for anything by setting up a station with sunscreen, insect repellant, towels, hand sanitizer, and first-aid items like Band-Aids and antiseptic wash. These items can be cleverly displayed in colorful or galvanized buckets and your guests will be beyond impressed that you thought of absolutely everything.

Keep drinks cool and easy to find by grouping different types of beverages in separate ice buckets or coolers. By having dedicated places for water, soda, and alcoholic beverages you’ll make it easy for everyone to find the perfect solution to their thirst. If you can’t find someone to buy the alcohol for you then you could buy the best fake ID you can find on the internet to be able to supply your party with the best drinks for your guests.

If you’re serving bottles that require an opener, tie a couple bottle openers to the handles on the bucket to make popping those tops a breeze.

Do as much of your food prep as possible in advance. That will leave you all the time you need for adding last-minute touches.

Start bagging ice from your ice maker days in advance to avoid needless runs to the convenience store for ice. Homemade salsas and potato or pasta salads taste better after giving the flavors a couple days to blend and reach their full potential.

Create a menu full of fruit and veggies and other items that don’t easily spoil or need to be served hot.

Add fun and variety by adding kale or veggie chips to your usual array of Cheetos and Doritos. But most of all, keep it simple. If you’re serving a full meal, limit the number of salads, and other side dishes. Or skip an entrée all together and offer a variety of fun finger foods like shrimp cocktail and veggie kebabs.

Kick Back and Enjoy

Thanks to your party-planning diligence you can actually sit back and relax during your party. Instead of running around after forgotten items or panicking that you will run out of drinks, you can mix and mingle with your pals. In the event you do run out of alcohol, you can call up an alcohol delivery Denver service (or a similar one in your location), and have them drop off the extra booze your guests need.

Be sure to make the rounds and personally welcome each guest, make sure they don’t need anything, and most of all share a few smiles and a lot of laughs.

Place several ample waste receptacles in easy-to-access areas to make sure everyone knows where to put their refuse. Put extra liners in the bottom so that if you do need to make a run to the dumpster mid-party, it’s seamlessly easy to keep every can in commission the whole time.

Take leftovers straight from the table to the fridge by serving foods in containers with lids. The easier your cleanup is, the more likely you’ll still be excited to throw another party when this one is over. And don’t be shy about getting everyone into the cleanup action. Make cleanup and tear-down (if you have tables and chairs to take down) part of the fun. Form committees and give a prize to the group that finishes their task first.

So, forget the beach or even the pool – your backyard is the perfect place to party.

Even if you’ve never thrown a party before in your life, with these tips and some entertaining gusto you’ll be able to leave everyone thinking you’re a party-planning pro.


Make your garden a little more … green?

With summer upon us, most of us are done with our spring planting and are enjoying the fruits of our labor from the comfort of our outdoor furniture. (If not, don’t panic – there’s still plenty of great stuff you can plant this season!) That said, maintaining a garden often takes just as much work as planting one. A lot of materials go into the process, and it can have a negative impact on the environment and your backyard if you’re not careful. To make sure you’re nurturing the environment (and not destroying it), try using a few green tips the next time you’re exercising that green thumb:

Opt for organic fertilizer 

The type of fertilizer you use may not seem like it would make that much of an impact on the sustainability of your garden, but the organic variety is void of the harmful chemicals the man-made kind has. Some folks fear that natural alternatives won’t be as effective when it comes to deterring pests, but that’s usually not the case. Besides, the environment is well worth the sacrifice! 

Use as many native plants as possible

One of the cool parts about many gardening stores today is that they allow you to choose from plants you can find all over the world. The only downside? These plants can introduce a wealth of diseases (not to mention pests that might crawl into your house, which would, in turn, require professional help from firms like Pest Authority of Chattanooga or nearby places). Water consumption also plays into this – native plants typically don’t need much extra watering, as they are able to grow in your region on their own. When you choose shrubs from other regions of the world, you risk needing to put in a lot more work – and resources – to maintain them. 

Grow your own food 

This might not have a “green” effect on your backyard specifically, but it does reduce your carbon footprint overall. Growing as much of your own fruits and veggies as possible means that less food-related shipping and packaging is done in grocery stores.

Bring in the birds 

Birds eat all sorts of harmful bugs and pests, and incorporating a bird bath (and potentially a nesting box) into your backyard decor can attract them to your garden and help keep your plants healthy. As a bonus, birds are also pleasant to look at when you’re sitting on your outdoor sofa

Reuse your green waste 

Recycling isn’t just for paper and plastics – you can also repurpose your green waste, which is biodegradable waste high in nitrogen. One way to do this is by putting it in a container and routinely having a green waste company come collect it, or you can opt to turn it into your own compost and use it to fertilize your garden. Consider it plant inception. 

Recycle your packaging

Last but not least, make sure you’re recycling all of your plant and gardening material packages after you’re done using them. You can also recycle plastic containers from other areas of your home, like the kitchen, and use them to protect seedlings or serve as pots for other plants you might be growing.