5 Ways to Shade Your Backyard

Entertain outside even when the sun is at its peak with a shade structure you made yourself. Here are some creative ideas.

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Creative Summer Table Settings

Outdoor fetes demand creative centerpieces, particularly if you’re entertaining to a theme. Happily, there’s no need to spend a fortune, during blooming spring and summer evenings. Even the least expensive homemade items look festive, from mini Mason jars holding homemade lemonade in a country-themed dinner to an all-green-themed spring dinner, with a green centerpiece (or several) plucked from your own garden and doing double duty as decoration and seasoning. Here are some ideas:

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Make sure you check with guests about their allergies, particularly if you’re throwing a hoedown-themed party. Guests might be allergic to stray weeds within hay bales. Look for alternatives if your guests have sensitivities.

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  1. Try a festive Moroccan theme

    Moroccan parties are relaxed and breezy, and the effect couldn’t be easier to duplicate at home. Load the patio with pillows and fabrics (make sure to have some floor cushions around for lounging) and don’t worry about being matchy – you’re going for a bohemian effect. Torches and pressed tin lanterns add to the effect, as does a simple outdoor fire pit. Bring out some low tables; you can even bring the indoor coffee table out. Do a simple menu of meat and vegetables on skewers, and lots of communal goodies, like dips. Plus, pluck lots of mint from the garden and make homemade mint tea with boiling water and lots of sugar for after dinner.

  2. Create an outdoor oasis

    Create a summer oasis from the sun, outdoor pests, and chilly nights by shading the patio with a giant umbrella – or even a portable fabric gazebo – to start off your summer party while the sun is still up. Hang lanterns from your shelter for when the sun goes down (consider flameless LED candles inside for safety) to illuminate your dinner. Surround your oasis with citronella candles to keep pests away. If you want to try a fire pit to keep guests warm as the chill sets in, consider burning a wood like juniper or pine that’s a natural insect repellent.

  3. Make a Low Country boil

    Nothing is as festive or fun as eating with your hands, but you don’t have to live in the coastal Carolinas or in New England to make a Low Country boil or traditional New England clambake. Dress up your picnic table with a red and white checked (wipe-off or disposable) tablecloth – or just piles of newsprint for authenticity. Get a good recipe for a crab or crawfish boil (they usually include sausage, potatoes, corn and lots of seafood, cooked in one giant kettle). If you’re ready to get your hands really dirty, drain the mix and overturn it right on the table for people to help themselves with their hands. Not as adventurous? Use galvanized metal buckets both for serving and for discarding shells.

  4. Go green

    Your party doesn’t always need a theme; sometimes a color scheme is just enough. A fun way to harvest your herbs is to use them in big bunches in jars or wood boxes as a table centerpiece (make sure they’re washed), letting guests break off pieces of dill, mint, oregano and parsley to season their foods. Have big bowls of salad on hand with a neutral dressing; big chunks of herbs will go beautifully in it. A few minor investments, like green fabric napkins can dress up an otherwise natural decorating scheme – like a burlap table cloth (buy it in rolls at the hardware store).

  5. Go country

    Stage a hoedown party that still has plenty of high design elements. Paisley bandanas can serve as napkins and/or placemats; railroad lanterns and big Mason jars full of sunflowers create a brilliant table setting; galvanized buckets are perfect for holding ice and glass-bottled drinks. If you don’t have enough seating, visit a local farm; bales of hay make perfect extra chairs.

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Make Your Own Trellis

There are countless ways to train climbing plants up a wall, over a garden gate, or even into a decorative shape. If you have plenty to spend, you can have decorative year-round trellises built that will look pretty on your property (particularly if you live in a warm-weather area where your vines will be green in the winter). Or build inexpensive and portable trellises that can support your climbing plants.

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Upcycling Craft Ideas

Turn the things destined for your recycling bin into creative crafts! It’s a cost-effective way to show off your creativity and turn trash into treasure.

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Give That Old Table a Spring Makeover

It shouldn’t cost a fortune to perk up your kitchen. A bright coat of paint on your kitchen table will give the whole room a quick but dramatic makeover in time for Spring.

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Show Your Love with Your Own Valentine’s Day Cards

Learn how to make a personalized card for your loved ones. Start with our tips, and learn more with Fiskars designer Tania Willis here.

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Finding Space for Fitness in Your Home

You can get great exercise without the pricey gym membership: dedicate a room to fitness! Here’s what to consider.
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Breezy, Beachy Summer Living Rooms

A few quick fixes can spruce up your living room for the summer months

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When planning your outdoor party, consider these suggestions from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology:



1. Although a hot, dry day might seem like the best choice, a cloudy and windless day should be better for your allergies.

2. Don’t mow your lawn—which can stir up pollen—before the party.

3. Monitor pollen counts in your area, and select a date when the forecast predicts lower levels. You’ll find Zyrtec’s forecast tool here.

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When the weather warms up and the parties move outdoors, spring allergy sufferers want to be a part of the fun too. But spring often means spending as much time in filtered indoor air as possible. Allergies are no reason to miss out on outdoor entertainment. Try these simple ideas:



Luau

Nothing says festive like a tropical beginning to the spring and summer.

  • Greet guests with a lei of colorful tropical flowers or leis of shells or leaves.
  • Fill a basket with silk flowers for girls and women to wear in their hair.
  • Make it extra festive with tiki torches – filled with citronella oil to keep mosquitoes and other pests away.



Derby Party

This year, the Kentucky Derby falls at the beginning of May but you can celebrate the Preakness Stakes in May and the Belmont Stakes in June.

  • Everyone loves a great Derby hat. On your invitations, tell guests about your “derby hat competition.”
  • Hook up your big-screen TV to an outdoor power source so people can watch the action during the party.
  • If your guest list includes allergy sufferers, trim the lawn and trees a few days before your guests arrive.



Cowboy Cookout

  • You can’t go overboard on decorations: red-checked tablecloths, Mason jars for drinks, fun details like wagon wheels - they’re all fun
  • Bales of straw can be fun seating – but make sure you have alternatives for people who could be sensitive.
  • Arrange a traditional game of horseshoe throwing.
  • Have an allergy kit handy, including eyewashes, Zyrtec, and washcloths for compresses.
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Five Tips for Sneeze-Free Spring Cleaning

Can cleaning be sneeze-free? Stacy Champion, founder of Phoenix-based environmental consultancy Champion Indoors, shares her top tips for reducing indoor allergens.
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Dust mites, pets, mold, and pollen that blows through windows can contribute to your allergy symptoms. Keep your windows closed to help reduce allergens.
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  1. Use natural cleaning products when possible

    There are many natural brands to choose from, but if you can’t pronounce the ingredients, reconsider using them. You can also search for “natural cleaning product recipes” to make your own.

  2. Don’t kick up dust – absorb it

    Use washable, micro-fiber cleaning cloths. Get them slightly damp to minimize the dust in the air. If your home has hard-surfaced flooring, use a micro-fiber push sweeper before mopping.

  3. Take care with carpet

    If you have carpet in your home, invest in a HEPA vacuum cleaner. Try to vacuum in all four directions to clean the carpet thoroughly.

  4. Don’t forget the filters

    Replace your homes’ air intake filters regularly—or upgrade to HEPA filters. Consider a portable air cleaner or HEPA filtration system to reduce particles and dust.

  5. Check, and check again

    When cleaning your home, make it a habit to check for visible leaks or moisture, which could lead to mold growth problems - a huge allergen for most people.

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Four Ways to Refresh your Home

Want some ideas on how to easily refresh your home? We asked design journalist and DIY blogger, Jean Nayar, about simple ways to help freshen up your space.

Four Easy Home Refreshers
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Many of us think of cleaning windows as a matter of getting the glass shiny and clear. But the Mayo Clinic advises allergy sufferers not to neglect frames and sills, which can harbor mold and condensation.

An easy, low-cost way to update a room is to change up your pillows. Whether it’s by replacing them with brighter, indoor-outdoor pillows, or updating the pillow covers with new textures or patterns––a burst of color may do the trick.

Cleaning your windows is a simple way to brighten a room. Save money by cleaning them yourself with a squeegee and soapy water. Professional window cleaners are a good bet if you have second-story or tall windows.

This is an easy one! Go green with fresh herbs like basil, thyme and chives, planted in small containers and placed on windowsills. They add color and a fresh scent to your home.

Yes, because it’s a great way to reduce allergens. When was the last time you vacuumed behind your couches or refrigerator, or scrubbed your bathroom grout, cleaned exhaust fans and vents, or replaced HVAC filters?

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