5 Quick & Easy Ideas to Perk Up Your Patio

2014-05-18 18.54.47Suddenly, the weather has turned nice, spring…and Memorial Day weekend…is finally here.

How did that happen?!

Maybe you’re hosting a graduation party this weekend, planning a barbecue, or simply just spending some time at home. Or maybe your space is small, or your deck needs staining, or a host of other little projects need completion and you’re thinking that there’s no point in ‘prettying it up’ until you get those things done.

Whatever the reason, this post is for you.

If you’re planning to entertain, you’ll love these quick ideas for brightening up your space. Lightning fast and easy to do, they’ll spruce it up and give you a lift.

And if you’re thinking simply there’s no point in doing it because [insert reason here], I disagree.

YOU are reason enough to brighten up your deck or patio and make it look nice. Think how much pleasure it will bring you to simply look outside and see a nice space! It makes whatever you’re doing outside more enjoyable. You may find you’re using your outside space even more!

1. If you have an umbrella, open it!ย 

Every weekend there’s nice weather and we’re going to be home, one of the first things I do on Friday night or Saturday morning is open my umbrellas. Even if we aren’t going to be outside. Your space looks nicer, and they add a little pop of color.

Look at the difference between the picture above. Such a little thing changes the whole look. (Obviously, if a storm’s coming, you’ll want to lower your it…but otherwise, leave it open in it’s full glory!)

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2. Pick up a new mat for your front door.

2014-05-18 18.59.32A new mat works wonders. I can’t tell you how many times I walked through the front door yesterday and smiled inside when I looked at this mat.

This mat was on the higher end price wise, but I still only spent $20.

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Hmmm, apparently I had supervision.

That’s her “If I really look sad, maybe you’ll let me out so I can be with you” look. Of course, it also means “when you aren’t looking I’m going to take off searching for Mr. Groundhog and deer poop to eat” so I didn’t fall for it.

3. Add some plants.

There are several options for adding plants. Color is always nice; you can add some pre-made color bowls or hanging pots.

I picked up a couple yesterday, because I am lazy. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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But it’s not hard to add some plants to a pot you already have. Be creative if you need a pot, and look in your garage. What could you turn into a planter? I have an old ice cream maker bucket that is someday going to be a pot.

2014-05-18 19.00.58If you don’t have the time or your budget is limited, move your houseplants outside. As I mentioned around this time last year, it’s a great way to spruce up an outside space. (Just be careful they don’t get beat with too much sun.) Up against the house is usually a good spot because the sun isn’t so harsh there.

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One of my plants and a color bowl are coexisting peacefully outside my back door.

Or, plant some vegetables. This is my little ‘container garden.’

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We have too many deer around to have a serious garden, so this year I decided to do it a little differently.

We have herbs, lettuce, onions…

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and tomatoes.

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And they are all on our back deck where we can enjoy them every day.

4. Add some lighting.

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These are lanterns I bought several years ago. This year, I moved them outside from my bedroom because I was tired of them there. But if you don’t have lanterns, get creative.

String some lights around your deck, or weave them in ย your plants.

No outside receptacles? Place candles in Mason jars. (Please be sure to blow them out before you go to bed!) I’m a half-wit and I know this, so my outdoor candles are flameless.

Or use some small galvanized buckets or clay flower pots to add a soft glow. Bet creative!

5. Contain your crap.

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This my current favorite container. It’s simply a galvanized bucket with a lid. I picked this up for $18 at Tractor Supply. It holds a 30-pound bag of dog food, so I always know how much I have. It’s mouse-proof and rain-proof.

We bought a new barbecue grill yesterday, and if you grill much, you know that grills always require accessories. Jimmy also has a smoker, so we invariably have little bags of wood chips laying around.

I’m going to get another one of these to put all the grill stuff in to keep it dry and easily accessible. If galvanized isn’t your style, be creative. What could you repurpose to hold all your outdoor gear in? A fishing tackle box perhaps? Just containing the clutter will go a long way in making your space look neat and tidy.



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Some of you may notice that my front deck has more muted colors this year.

There’s a reason for that.

We are going to attempt to install a stone flower bed this weekend directly in front of the deck. (This has the added bonus of preventing groundhogs, skunks and other such animals from getting under that deck.)

I plan to fill it with a riot of colorful petunias, which is why I went with more muted colors on the deck.

Speaking of decks…

Don’t let the fact that your decks (or patio) may need staining or repair keep you from beautifying your space. Assuming the deck is safe for you to use, dressing it up a little bit accentuates the positive and makes the negatives less noticeable.

Yes, I am a professional stager. But I’m married to a contractor who has no desire to work at home. And while we may also be partners in a building construction business, my own projects have to wait until there’s time available.

My decks need stained.

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All of them. You can see this one is partially done.

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Home projects, like everything else, are a process.

We are really enjoying our outdoor spaces right now, and eventually we’ll get them stained. Then, we’ll enjoy them a little more. ๐Ÿ™‚

Don’t put off living until you get everything done. Life is in the details!

“Enjoy the little things for someday you will realize they were the BIG things.” ย (I have no idea who said this, but it’s on a sign in my office at home.)

Have a wonderful summer enjoying YOUR outdoor spaces! ๐Ÿ™‚

Highlights From Our Crazy Kansas Race Weekend

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We just got back yesterday from a NASCAR weekend at Kansas Speedway.

We had a terrific weekend with good friends and the usual drama on (and off!) the track. Here are a few of my favorite memories, in pictures:

JanineI met the Hound Around Hotel ‘Bus’ on Thursday morning. I felt like I was dropping my kids off at the Bus Stop! Janine already had one dog on board, and we loaded up Ekko and Charra. As I was leaving, three more people met the ‘Bus’ with their dogs. I was amused by this.

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About 15 miles from home, we had a blowout.

Actually, let me rephrase that.ย The blowout happened approximately 11 miles from home.

We stopped to change it 15 miles from home. We didn’t stop before because one of us happened to be on the phone, and ‘shushed’ the other who said, “I think we had a blowout!” When the person disconnected from the phone, they opted not to stop because it was probably a bump.

Shortly thereafter, the tire shredded. OOPS. I hate it when that happens.

The shredding tire did minor damage to the skirting and cut the wiring to a couple of clearance lights.

Fortunately, Jimmy had the foresight to bring a regular-sized jack and the air wrench he bought prior to Florida last year. With an onboard generator, we were able to get the tire changed relatively quickly.

I supervised and documented it for future torture. Like now. ๐Ÿ˜€

The next day, Jimmy headed straight for the tire store to get a new one so we would have a spare. (This was our 3rd blowout either en route or returning from Kansas City in the years we’ve been going. Aside from almost-brand-new Brighton watch which I lost somewhere on I-35 several years ago, we’ve never lost anything, no one ended up bleeding, and we never had any damage.

Kathy and I


I love this picture of me and my friend Kathy. I should probably wear this outfit more often. Black really IS slenderizing! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Three couples in our Kansas NASCAR family didn’t arrive until Friday, so it was just Dan and Kathy and Jimmy and I.

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And the possibility of severe weather.

This is a shot of the clouds over the speedway on Thursday night. I tweeted this to the National Weather Service, who then retweeted my tweet. Six other Twitter accounts then retweeted the NWS tweet which was originally my tweet.

It’s really twue, I swear! (Sorry I couldn’t help myself!)

I felt important. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Fortunately, other than a few sprinkles, the system split and passed us by on either side, and the sky cleared.

2014-05-08 19.56.25Dan made this fire pit from a washing machine tub welded onto an old disc and painted black. Is that not the coolest recycling idea ever? The firelight looks neat in the little holes, and all your ash is contained. Groovy!

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The National Anthem flyovers always bring tears to my eyes, and make me proud to be an American. And you can’t get much more American than NASCAR.

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The weather was beautiful for the truck race. Because they averaged a caution every ten laps, it went way longer than it should have and got a little chilly at the end. But it was fun.

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There was a baby bird in a little nest on the ground (see him under the clump of grass?) Momma Bird hung out on a large boulder across the road trying to draw attention away from baby all weekend, or swooping down on some people if they got too close.

We were all terrified he would end up mashed, as one of its siblings had who was in the road. After much discussion of whether to put a marker so people would avoid him or try to move him, we collectively decided his best chance was to leave him be and not draw anyone else’s attention to him.

I’m pleased to say when we all left Monday morning, he was still there. Whew!

Rayna and I


Saturday morning Rayna and I did 2.5 miles of running intervals in the campground (she pushed a 50-pound stroller!) It was great! And it was the last healthy thing I did that day. ๐Ÿ˜€

2014-05-10 12.06.02Meanwhile, the guys had Bloody Mary’s using Zing Zang. I tweeted this picture with the caption “The Boys are Back in Town. Zing Zang!” without an @ or even a # and Zing Zang retweeted it. I thought that was cool. I love Twitter.

And once again, we forgot to take a group picture of the girls. Dadgummit!

This is a good time to mention that shortly before we left ย home, we discovered our water pump was malfunctioning.

When you’re dry camping as we were, the water pump moves the water from your fresh water tank to your faucets. Over the years, they’ve improved them enough that you can turn the pump on when you set up camp, it will stay primed, and then you can just shut it off when you break down camp.

Because it wouldn’t stay primed, we had to only turn it on when you used it, and shut it off immediately after, or it would keep running and overheat.

This meant going to the bathroom, coming out to turn the pump on, going back to flush, then coming back out and shutting the pump off.

I tried to look at it from the benefit that I burned more calories. ๐Ÿ˜‰

2014-05-10 13.24.51The guys played a rowdy game of corn hole. (Don’t you like the custom Black Dog Saloon boards?) ๐Ÿ™‚

2014-05-10 18.21.08We’d been watching the weather all afternoon. And, of course right about race time, ominous clouds rolled in and the threat of severe weather loomed.

We should be good at this by now. The last three races have all involved severe weather and taking shelter of some kind.

Right after I got to our seat, I began receiving texts and Facebook messages from friends at home making sure we were watching the radar. Thanks guys!

Often at these events, there’s enough people with phones and computers that it’s almost impossible to get a phone signal, much less access to internet and radar.

My lesson learned is to take my Hot Spot with me and a portable phone charger next time; my phone was dead before the end of the race.


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Just as the race was getting ready to start, the Speedway announced there was lightning in the area. Because I got soaked in Daytona, I had no desire to do it again. Jimmy stayed in the stands, and I went up to the mezzanine underneath the upper rows.

2014-05-10 18.51.32So did a lot of other people.

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I appreciated a firefighter friend who messaged me updates through Facebook. It was easier to access those messages even though I couldn’t get a consistent signal to get the radar. He was able to watch and give me details, and tell me that it was going around us and that we were in the clear. For now. Thanks Chris!

I received a text from another friend that made me chuckle: “Are you in a safe place?”

“If she only knew,” I thought to myself. ๐Ÿ˜€

My response: “There is no safe place!”

My options were to go to the Speedway, or to stay at the camper by myself. ย While one of the storms that passed over us later spawned the tornado that hit Orrick, Missouri, the race was still running on time and we hadn’t received any messages from the Speedway indicating that severe weather was imminent.

And while I was concerned about the weather at the Speedway, I was more concernedย about the weather as we traveled home on Sunday.

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Fortunately, the storm went around us, it only sprinkled a little, and the crowd went back to the stands.

It turned out to be an exciting night of racing, and we were happy for our friends who are Jeff Gordon fans. It’s nice when your driver gets a win!

Sunday morning we packed up and hit the road around 9:00 ish. We were excited that we’d be home around noon.

And then, that familiar sound, just east of St. Joseph, Missouri: POOM.

This one actually didn’t lose air, it just shed the tread.

And took out the fender skirting, the brake line (on that side), mangled our sewer house and wrapped the wiring around the axle.

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This one was more dangerous to change by virtue of it’s location on the driver’s side. With the flashers on, I stood on the shoulder behind the trailer to motion people to the outside lane.

Every single vehicle but ONE changed lanes. One little car driven by a man who was well enough to know better ignored me and stayed fastened in that lane.

Using sign language, I educated him that was poor etiquette and not appreciated.

Two Good Samaritans who passed us turned around and stopped, parking their pickup halfway out into the traffic lane. The gentleman, who happened to be wearing an orange shirt, signaled traffic while Jimmy changed the tire. We appreciated their help very much.

Our tire guy tells us that you never wear out an RV tire. The trailers bounce so much on the road that the steel belts simply wear out. And most RV manufacturers don’t put high quality tires on them in the first place.

At this point, Jimmy decided the safest option was to travel no faster than 50-55 miles an hour to ensure we got home without another blown tire.

Sure, we have emergency road service, and my brother offered to drive and bring us a tire if we needed him to. But fortunately, we didn’t have to call either one.

We rolled into our driveway about 2:00 p.m. from the longest drive home from Kansas City ever.

One thing I can say for sure: just like NASCAR, camping is never dull! ๐Ÿ˜€

5 Easy Tips to Organizing Your Closet


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Welcome to my closet.

While I have been blessed with many things, a large walk-in closet is not one of them. It is extra deep, so I love that part about it. It just doesn’t afford me a ton of space.

Really, I’m good with that. After all, it is human nature to want to fill up a space. I’d just end up with more crap that I really don’t need.

See, limitations CAN be good for us. ๐Ÿ˜‰

So anyway, I have a routine I do twice a year to get ready for the upcoming ย winter/summer season.

This routine serves several purposes: It gives me an opportunity to clean my closet and organize things where I can find them easily. (If you’ve ever head a Closet Crisis when getting ready for work which has brought you on the verge of a Morning Meltdown…you know what I’m talking about.)

Personal time, free time, is at a premium for all of us these days. Whatever the reason, so many hours of our days/weeks/months are obligated to others. It becomes increasingly difficult to find time just for YOU.

My friend Tim said it best: “I bust my [bum]ย to be lazy.”

Besides giving me a feeling of inner peace, the satisfaction of seeing my space organized and neat just makes me feel good. I know where everything is; I feel pleasure opening the door to all my favorite things!

This is so much better than opening the closet door and the first thing every morning that catches your eye is the outfit you bought two sizes ago with the prize tags still on it. Or that you bought for a special event 20 years ago and never wore again? Or an outfit that you bought which has bad memories associated with it.

For instance, this year I weeded out the suit that I wore to both my parents funerals. It had the added bonus of being too big, but really, do you think I’ll ever wear it again without thinking about where I wore it last? My point exactly.

And if you happen to be considering selling your house, this project has the added bonus of making your closet seem spacious to buyers. Nothing screams “This house doesn’t have enough storage space” louder than one with closets stuffed to the gills.

I’m actually proud of my closet. For a half-wit like me, who knows it and has to plan accordingly, it’s almost idiot-proof. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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If you follow these tips, your closet CAN become a friend and filled with all your favorite things.

Don’t feel like you need to do all this in one sitting.ย I’ve done this so long that I have it down to almost a science. It’s become a ritual that I almost look forward to, closing the book on one season and welcoming the next. I can do it in a couple of hours.

But if you’ve never done it, I don’t recommend that.ย 

Start small. Do a little bit at a time, and eventually you’ll get it done. If you pull everything out at once, you run the risk of getting burned out or running out of time and ending up with a bigger mess than you started with. I don’t want that on my conscience! ๐Ÿ˜€

1. Examine your closet. Remove anything that doesn’t make you feel happy or feel good about yourself wearing it. (I’m serious!) Let.it.go. If you have a large closet or you haven’t sorted through your things in years, attack this task a few minutes at a time. (You can get a ton done in ten minutes! You’d be surprised.)

While I’ve read you should get rid of something you haven’t worn in a year, I admit I don’t follow that advice. I have things I love that I haven’t worn for a couple of years or more, but I still love them and they still fit.

So I prefer the “I love it/it makes me feel fabulous” strategy. If it doesn’t meet either of those criteria, get rid of it. And if you currently don’t like anything in your closet, I’m sorry. I would suggest trying it another day. Sometimes my attitude makes all the difference!

Anyway, place the things you’re purging in a bag or box. If they are in good shape, donate them so someone else can feel good in them. If they are stained or have holes, toss them. (Yes, really. No one else wants these items either!)

It’s at this point I end up with 3 piles: the “trash” pile, the “needs mending or washed” pile, and the “what the samhill was I thinking” pile. ๐Ÿ˜€

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2. Remove the seasonal items that you know you like and will wear the next season.

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Like this sweatshirt I have, for instance. I love it. But so far the only memory I have of wearing it is the day I spurted BBQ sauce all over myself. But that’s another story for another day. ๐Ÿ˜€

If you’re spacing out this project, work on this a few minutes at a time, pulling out things you love but know you won’t wear again this year.

At the actual time I did this project, there was still some chilly weather ahead. I removed all the heavy winter items, but left my long-sleeved cool weather items to wear through the transition to summer.

I already feel better, just having done this. Honestly, as much as I love some of my clothes, I just get tired of looking at them all the time! I need to be away from them to fall in love again.

3. Swap out shoes. Because my closet is extra deep, (it used to be an alcove off a hallway until a prior remodel) I installed shelves all the way up the back for my shoes. Then a couple of years ago I realized I was getting tired of dusting all my shoes off before I wore them. That was annoying.

I bought clear plastic shoe boxes, and labeled them so I could find the shoes easily. (It saves time and is less stressful.)

My scarves are folded on the upper shelves, and a box with holiday/sentimental/keepsake jewelry that I don’t wear all the time.

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Hey, Inner Peace takes work I tell ya. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Because my clothes hang in front of the top shelves, I move my winter shoes up on the higher shelves, and move the summer shoes down on the lower shelves.

We don’t have a traditional dresser, so shelves along the bottom hold folded shirts and shoes I wear daily. (It’s just to the left, mostly out of sight.)

A dear friend of mine lives with several animals, and bad things periodically happen to her shoes. If you have that same problem, this would fix it and certainly lower your aggravation level. AND the cost of purchasing new shoes over and over.

Oh, and check out the super cute shoes I got recently at my favorite retail therapy spot in our downtown. I could hardly wait until it got warm enough to wear them! They are so bright they just scream SPRING!

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SQUIRREL! ๐Ÿ˜€ Sorry.

3. Clean the floor and dust the baseboards of the closet, if you can reach them.

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Well that was scary. I can promise you my dogs weren’t in this closet.

And speaking of dogs….

“There was nobody in the room when I started.”

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I have lots of help.

And look! Titan was still here, so it’s been a couple of weeks since I did this.

As you can see, he was in a supervisory position and sleeping on the job.

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4. Fold everything you are removing from the closet neatly and place it in clear totes.

I store mine in my basement. A climate-controlled storage place is best, as excessive heat may dry out elastic, but it’s not necessarily critical as long as you are careful where you store them. Just make sure everything you store is CLEAN.

This fall, when you get them out again, it will be almost like Christmas! Or welcoming old friends home again. ๐Ÿ™‚

As happy as I was to see my spring and summer stuff (especially this year) I know I’ll be ready to see them go again when the time comes.

Within the last year I’ve begun the practice of removing and donating something from my closet I love lessย anytime I buy something new. Not only does it help me keep from building up an excess of clutter, it makes the purging process easier.

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5. Arrange your clothes on nice hangers.

If you are using wire hangers, purge those from your closet. Like, yesterday.

Even if you have to purchase a few at a time, invest in hangers nicer than wire. Wire hangers (like the ones that come from the dry cleaner) are not meant to leave your clothes on. They will create “hanger nipples” in your tops, will stretch out sweaters, and will leave wrinkles in your pants.

Plastic tube hangers will work, these are very inexpensive at big box stores, or the hangers that look like dress store hangers. They will keep your close nicer…and if you’re investing in clothes, you want to keep them nice for as long as possible.

I hang my clothes in groupings by color. You’ll notice I have mostly black, cream, and white, with just a few colored items. Besides being my color preference, it makes packing for a trip almost idiot proof: everything matches! And I always have shoes. ๐Ÿ˜€

If you hang your clothes sorted by color and item, it really makes getting dressed in the morning so much simpler. Simpler translates to happier. And you’ll love your closet, and your clothes again. ๐Ÿ™‚

You’ll take on the day feeling good about yourself! And isn’t that the best way to do it? ๐Ÿ™‚