outdoor

Outdoor living: Simple, colourful, and inviting

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The forecast may not look great for the weekend, but it is sure to warm up as we get further into July. Until then, it’s time to get your outdoor living space ready for you to relax and enjoy! Whether you only have a deck or a huge backyard, there are a few key tips to keep in mind when you’re putting your outdoor space together. There are many different decorations, accessories, and objects you might be enticed to buy, but keeping your style simple and practical will not only create a welcoming feel but also keep your outdoor space from becoming cluttered and disorganized.

Multi-functional pieces

When you’re picking out furniture for your space, consider pieces that can serve multiple purposes, especially if you are working with a small space. For example, a bench seat can also be used to store cushions, and coffee tables can be used to set food and drinks out as well as store toys or smaller cushions. An ice chest can also be used to store ice and keep food and beverages cold while also acting as a side table.

Keep décor minimal

Sticking to neutral pieces will extend their longevity, but colour can be brought in with cushions and throw pillows to make the space more vibrant. When you’re purchasing cushions and pillows, make sure that you purchase fabrics that are durable and don’t over-purchase throw pillows. Only buy the number of items that you actually need. Remember, all of these items will need to be stored over the winter and in bad weather.

Consider what works with your space, and what works with our weather. For example, wrought iron furniture is durable but heavy, and might not be easy to move and store. Whicker is weather resistant but some pieces can be bulky and may not work with your space. Sectional couches can maximize space while still offering a lot of seating, and may be a good option if you don’t have room for multiple couches and chairs. Weather resistant carpets are a great way to protect feet and keep your patio or deck clean while also bringing some style to your space.

Add some greenery

Make use of your natural outdoor surroundings and add a pop of colour with planters or a small flower bed. Planters come in all shapes and sizes, so you can use one that fits your space, whether it’s around your backyard or a simple pot on an outdoor coffee table. If you’re tight on space, you can create a “hanging” garden but planting flowers or herbs on a wall-mounted planter on the side of your house or shed. However, you’ll need to keep in mind that these plants will have to be watered and looked after all summer. Try to keep all of your gardening tools close by with a gardening caddy or storage bench. This way, you will have easy access to regularly used items like watering cans and gardening gloves.

Let there be light

Lanterns or string lights can provide much needed light to a space, especially when you’re enjoying a beautiful evening outside with friends and family. String lights and lanterns can also provide a decorative element to your outdoor space, and many can be used as decorations inside during the off-season. String lights are also relatively easy to store, and can be wrapped up like Christmas lights to prevent tangling. Try making your own storage system or purchase a storage container like this option.

Your outdoor space can be warm and inviting without over cluttering your yard. By using simple and practical pieces with a few pops of colour or greenery, you can transform your deck or patio in time to enjoy the warm weather ahead!

Spring is here - get outside and enjoy it!

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After a long and (very) cold winter, it looks like spring is finally upon us! The days are longer, and the weather is a lot warmer – so why not take advantage and spend more time outdoors with your family! There are many free activities you can organize that everyone in your family can participate in. From exploring Calgary’s parks to having fun in your own backyard, you and your family don’t have to break the bank to enjoy the season.

Decide on an activity

It isn’t easy trying to decide what activity to do, especially if multiple people are involved. Why not start by getting together with your family and allowing everyone to share what activities they would like to do throughout the spring and summer. Everyone can be tasked with coming up with one or two ideas, which can be recorded on a board or sheet of paper. Once a few options have been decided, you can start putting them in to action. It is a good idea to go through all of the activities and make sure they are possible to accomplish. Are there any age limitations? Is distance or cost an issue? Do they require equipment you don’t have? Depending on what activities have been chosen, you can either decide to randomly draw an activity each weekend or every couple of weeks, or you can plan out activities for the next couple of months (especially if they are time sensitive or require special planning).

Plan your experience

For free activities like visiting city parks or natural areas, the only factor that might prevent you from visiting is the weather or renovations. Check the weather a couple of days before to get a more accurate idea of what the conditions might be and plan accordingly. Some events might take place at certain times throughout the summer and can only be experienced on certain days. If you need to book time off work, make sure that you are able to take that time, and make any other arrangements, like transportation, as soon as possible.

There are many activities that you can even plan in the comfort of your own backyard, like sports, scavenger hunts, tag, and campfires. These activities may require a visit to a local grocery or recreation store, but there are not many other tasks that need to be completed ahead of time. During periods where they weather is more unpredictable, activities like this are more ideal because they can easily be scratched or changed as needed.

Pack a bag (and bring some snacks!)

Before you head out, put together a day bag with plenty of sunscreen, bug spray, and water. Don’t forget to bring hats and sunglasses on particularly sunny days. For parents with younger children, a few snacks should also be packed for full-day activities. Snacks do not have to be anything extravagant, just enough to satisfy any hunger cravings, and prevent you from having to spend money on pricier items at stores or restaurants. Multiple snacks can even be combined in one bag to make a fun-looking treat!

  • Fruits and vegetables

Not only is this snack easy to put together, it’s healthy and easy to carry around as well. Cut up carrots, slice an apple, or wash a handful of grapes and store in a plastic container or recyclable plastic bag. When you’re choosing fruits and vegetables, choose ones that don’t have extra peels, stems or pits, and pre-cut anything that can’t easily be eaten on the go.

  • Cheese and crackers

This is another simple snack for shorter excursions, as the cheese should not sit out for a full day, especially if you don’t have a cooler or cold place to store your bag. Consider placing the cheese slices on the crackers before placing them in a container or plastic bag for each child for a more efficient snack break.

  • Energy balls

With so many different variations, energy balls are also a delicious and easy snack that can be made up ahead of time. They can be sweet or savory, and you can bring a couple of different kinds to a weekend activity, so your family can pick and choose which ones to have. Putting the energy balls together can be a fun activity on its own, as everyone in the family can help roll them out.

Have fun!

Sometimes, even the best plans can fail, so always be prepared for weather, injuries or other obstacles that may impact your spring activity plans. Whatever happens, make sure that you make the most of the warmer season enjoy the warm weather with your family!

How to organize and store your holiday decorations

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With many people going back to work or starting school again next week, the holiday season can be declared official over. Unfortunately, this also means that it’s time to put away your holiday decorations – and with the weather so nice for the next couple of days, why not take down your outdoor decorations too?

No one likes to take decorations down, clean them and organize everything, but it is a necessary and helpful step that you will appreciate in the future. Below, we’ve outlined some organization and storage solutions to help you properly store your holiday décor:

 

Declutter your décor

Before you put away all your décor for the year, go through your ornaments, lights, wreaths and ceramics. Throw away or fix anything that is broken – don’t put away anything that is cracked, torn or ripped until it is repaired. If light bulbs are burned out, replace them or test the lights to see if they are still working and replace them if needed. Any loose branches, leaves or decorations from wreaths should also be cleaned up and tossed before they are placed in storage.

If you have noticed that there are some decorations you don’t seem to use or have the space for, consider giving them away to friends and family, or donate them. There is no point in storing items that won’t be used – the chances are good someone else would appreciate it!

 

Keep similar objects together

Avoid having to open all of your storage containers looking for garland or a stocking. Instead, make sure all of your similar décor items, like ornaments, or candles, or lights, are all stored together in one place.  Not only will this make it easier for you to find the items you need, it will also make it easier to store items if they aren’t all different shapes and sizes. Wreaths can be hung or placed side-by-side in a plastic bin or cardboard box. Instead of storing ornaments in their individual boxes wherever you have room, keep them together. There are special ornament storage containers that you can buy, or you can make your own by using plastic cups and cardboard or egg cartons.

Try and keep all of your holiday décor stored together in the same space. If you have the space, try and clear out one area in a closet, garage or shed to store any containers, lights or other items that you use during the holiday season. If you don’t have room to store everything together, try keeping all outdoor décor together in a place that is easy to access like a garage or shed, and all indoor decorations together in your basement or closet. Since holiday décor is seasonal, you can easily store your décor on the top shelf of a cabinet or closet, or another storage space that is more out of the way.

 

Room By room Decor storage

If you have a large home, or like to decorate the same year by year, pack away and store your seasonal decorations by room. Label clearly "living room Christmas decorations". That way your living room decor will end up all together and you will have an easier time remembering where things belong one year to the next. 

 

Label, label, label

Regardless of how you store your items, make sure whatever they are stored in is clearly labelled. This way, you can grab the items that you want when you need them. This is especially helpful for people who don’t put out all their decorations at a time, and prevents them from pulling out all of their boxes to determine what is in them.

While labelling storage containers seems obvious, there are other décor items that are also important to label. If you use an artificial tree, label each tier of the tree. Once the tree is fluffed out it is easy to determine what part goes where, but when it is packed away in a box or bag with the rest of the layers, it may not be clear. Labelling will make it easier to put the tree together next year. If you store your lights in plastic bags or boxes, make sure the label includes what colour(s) they are, and if they are smaller or larger bulbs. It may also be helpful to label what the lights are for, like the outside of the house, the tree, the back deck, or wherever else you put them up.

 

Untangle your lights

Lights are always tricky to take down, and even more complicated to put up because the cords so often tangle when they are put away. However, there are many different methods to neatly organizing your lights so they won’t get tangled. Consider using a piece of cardboard from a gift box or parcel to wrap the lights around. If you have any left-over ribbon, use it to bundle and tie together each strand of lights. Alternatively, you can purchase storage containers that will wind up your lights.

Make sure to cushion your lights with a softer material, like used tissue paper, newspaper or paper towel to prevent the bulbs from breaking. This is especially important if you are planning on storing your lights in a cooler place like a garage or shed where they could become cold and brittle.

 

Take down the tree

Many people do not have space to store their tree fully-assembled, so cut down your storage space by storing parts of your tree in separate containers. Most boxes and containers aren’t big enough for larger artificial trees, so store each layer in a storage tube. These containers will easily fit the length and width of the layers once they are folded down. For small artificial trees, the entire tree could easily fit into one container. While many may store their tree in its original box, the cardboard starts to break down and bend over the years, and it isn’t always easy to store or take out every year. By using separate containers, you can minimize storage space and keep your tree safely stored.

For people who do have the space to store their whole tree, there are many options available to easily bring it in an out of storage each year and protect it while it is not in use. For starters, consider using a tree stand that has wheels on it. When the tree is up, you can lock the wheels in place, and unlock them when it is time to put the tree in your garage or shed. When you store your tree together, you can keep any lights or garlands on your tree, and protect them by covering the tree with a large plastic or storage bag.  

 

Cleaning up and organizing your décor after the holidays is an essential task that can save you time and space for the year ahead!