Picture-Perfect Patios

We all dream of having our very own backyard oasis -- a place to retreat when you need to take a beat from lunch-making, day camp drop-offs and, well, everything else. So why not make your own outdoor sanctuary this summer? We found the most inspiring patios on Pinterest to help you. Get ready to discover how to turn your dream into a reality.


Patio Lust: Greek Chic

White concrete and outdoor accents bring your backyard to Greece in an easy and stylish way. A neutral backdrop enhances the surrounding nature, whether that’s the ocean, pool, or trees and potted plants.

For a Santorini-like oasis, hang white outdoor curtains around your patio. They look beautiful when blowing in the breeze while providing some shade from the sun’s rays.


Patio Lust: Bright and Bold

Bright flowers perfectly capture the sunny season. Outfitting your outdoor space with pops of color will spruce up your lawn, deck or patio instantly.

Don’t have a lot of space for flowers? Consider growing vertically: Hang potted flowers to your fence. Bright blooms will create a contrast of wood and whimsy.

Patio Lust: Mod Minimalist

The key to a modern outdoor space begins with some sleek patio furniture. Look for pieces with interesting shapes and materials. Bold colors set against a neutral setting also makes for a contemporary look. We love the contrast of bright orange, lush greens and wood slate.

While a cool modern space may fit your personal style, achieving the minimalist look can still be taxing on your wallet. When shopping, keep your dimensions in mind -- a small table and chairs may be better-suited (and less expensive) than a large piece. Spray-painting your existing patio furniture with a chrome finish can also give your old set an updated modern edge.

Patio Lust: Moroccan Hideout

Where better to escape than your own Moroccan-inspired paradise? You’ll feel worlds away from everyday worries while lounging on comfy cushions and sipping on some tea. 

Lanterns are a perfect way to add some Moroccan flair to your deck or patio. Make a fun project out of personalizing them to your taste – add gems, colored candles or glass-painted designs.  


Patio Lust: Rustic Glam

To dress up your outdoor area, think shabby-chic décor. Pretty pinks and crystal accents paired with rustic wood furniture creates a homey setting.

Make a glamorous statement by hanging an outdoor chandelier. If you don’t want to run an extension cord through your yard, hang it from a tree and trade out the light bulbs for fake candles.


Patio Lust: Tropical Tiki

What says summer fun more than a tiki-inspired backyard? If you’re ready to dance the summer nights away with a drink in hand, set the mood with a tropical touch. Lanterns, palms and -- of course – a tiki bar can elevate a ho-hum patio to tropical status. 

While a large deck and barbecue is an ideal setting for a tiki bar, you can also transform smaller spaces. Try adding exotic accessories, potted plants and a small free-standing bar. Grass skirts are optional!

Top 10 Great-Smelling Houseplants

Houseplants are a great addition to any home -- they look nice, they give your rooms a bit of green during the cold months, and if you choose the right ones, they can make your home smell great as well. Here are the 10 best indoor plants for an aromatically pleasing home.

1.    Scented Geraniums

Geraniums are hardy plants with a unique “fuzzy” texture. The plant will produce small flowers and it comes in a variety of different scents, says Kim McKelvey, a greenhouse expert at Hicks Nurseries in Westbury, NY. Plant varieties come in lemon, chocolate, orange, and even nutmeg.

2.    Mint  

Mint is one of nature’s miracles; it smells terrific, you can use the leaves in cooking or drinks -- or even chew them for fresh breath. Because of mint’s aggressive root system, you’ll need to replant on occasion to allow the roots to spread. “It really shoots up and goes crazy,” says McKelvey. Mint likes sunlight and loves water, so try to keep the soil moist at all times.

3.    Lavender

“Relaxing” is the best way to describe the scent of this common houseplant. Don’t worry if you forget to water it from time to time, because lavender is a resilient plant. But be sure to give it plenty of sun, and don’t forget that even its dead blossoms retain their scent for a long time. Just remember to clip off dead flowers to induce the growth of new ones.

4.    Arabian Jasmine

This elegant plant will flower year round, provided you give it enough sunlight and humidity. These snow-white flowers have a beautiful star-shaped appearance and produce a lovely scent that can be used for making jasmine tea.

Giving it a small trellis to climb will produce even more flowers.

5.    Gardenia

“It may not be very colorful, but it’s very fragrant,” says McKelvey of the white-flowered gardenia plant. It has been known as a challenging houseplant that requires lots of sunlight and humidity. Luckily, the powerful scent means you only have to baby one plant.

6.    Eucalyptus

This iconic plant best known as Koala Bear food is actually a very good beginner’s houseplant. It’s extremely low maintenance and produces lovely grayish-blue leaves (that are toxic if ingested, so be mindful). Keep eucalyptus in a brightly-lit, moist environment to enjoy its distinctive smell.

7.    Orange Jessamine

You really begin to notice the fantastic scent of this plant as its flowers bloom. The aroma they produce is long lasting, with a lovely blend of flowery and citrus scents. Tip: If you like the flowering version of this plant, keep it in a brightly lit area, rather than in low light.

8.    Plumeria

Ever wonder what flowers Hawaiian leis were made from? Plumeria comes in a range of cheerful colors and they emit a truly tropical smell that will fill the room. It’s not the easiest houseplant to grow -- it needs very warm and humid conditions -- but if you manage it, the big beautiful flowers are well worth it. 

9.    Basil

Basil is one of several kitchen herbs that “smell great and are great for cooking,” says McKelvey. “They are great to grow in small pots on a sunny windowsill, and in the summer you can move them outside.” Give basil a regular pruning and watch out for flower buds! While its delicate flowers look pretty, the plant will die once it flowers.

10. Citrus

The iconic aromas of orange, grapefruit, lime and lemon are popular in everything from candles to soaps -- just be careful not to overwhelm your senses with too many plants. “Citrus plants have a very strong aroma,” says McKelvey. Buying a dwarf variety that is 2 to 3 years old will give you flower blossoms and fruit right away. Be warned: Citrus likes 12 hours of sunlight each day, so you might want to supplement it with a grow light during short winter days.

How to Speed Clean Your Living Room

The living room is often one of the main gathering spaces during holiday parties, but its typically larger size can be intimidating when it comes to cleanup. Fortunately, you don’t need to carve out an hour to clean this room. Instead, follow these step-by-step cleaning tips provided by Debra Johnson, training specialist for Merry Maids, to speed clean up your living room in a flash.

Step 1: Product Preparation

Before you start, gather all your cleaning products in a caddy or placed in one location. This will help prevent precious time from being wasted running back and forth. For this room, Johnson suggests the following products:

  • High dusting tool
  • Dry microfiber for dusting
  • Damp microfiber for removing smudges
  • Box to gather items not belonging in living room
  • Extra cloths for washing floors
  • Trash bag
  • Multipurpose cleaner, glass cleaner, floor cleaner
  • Multifunctional vacuum with upholstery attachment
  • Floor washing tool

Step 2: Straighten

Place any items that belong elsewhere in the box to be moved to other rooms. Fluff throw pillows, straighten picture frames and stack coffee table books.

Step 3: Go Top to Bottom

“Working from the top down will prevent repeating steps,” says Johnson. Remove any cobwebs from the room using a high dusting tool. If time allows, vacuum any window treatments, lamp shades and baseboards. For rooms with a fireplace, vacuum the hearth area.

Step 4: Dust

Use a dry terry microfiber cloth to dust items such as doors, window sills, door knobs, ceiling fan blades, light switch plates and outlet covers. “ The ends of the microfiber are open and attract and grab dust rather than spreading it around,” says Johnson. Dust furniture from top to bottom, and clean glass surfaces. “Avoid overusing glass cleaning product, which can result in residue and extra work to remove the product,” says Johnson. Dust and dirt will then just stick to the residue.

Step 5: Vacuum

Vacuum upholstery with an upholstery tool, then vacuum area rugs. Depending on your floor type, vacuum the hard surface or carpet. “Vacuum floors rather than sweep,” says Johnson. “The sweeping motion will stir dust in the air, and then the dust will need to settle.”

Step 6: Maintain

Color code your microfiber cloths for each cleaning task: one color for dusting; one for glass; one for floors. “A cleaning cloth for each function will assist in better cloth use and cloth maintenance,” says Johnson. Each evening, straighten up the room and return any items that don’t belong in the living room to its proper place.

Pet-proof Your Home for Holiday Safety

Owning a cat or dog is a joy, but like with most joyful things in life, taking care of them requires a bit of sacrifice. With the holidays fast approaching, you want to keep your pets in mind as you begin creating a festive atmosphere. Keeping your pet safe should be your main concern, as there may be hidden dangers lurking in your decoration box that can be harmful to your beloved animals. Plus, you want to keep your precious family keepsakes and expensive heirloom holiday decorations safe from curious pets. Follow these holiday safety guidelines to keep your pet safe this season.

Lights and Electrical

As any cat or dog owner knows, animals are prone to chewing things. Cats, in particular, can’t resist attacking dangling cords and strings. Make sure your holiday lights and cords are out of your pet’s reach. A cord protector or coating the wires with a chewing deterrent should also do the trick. Non-toxic, foul-tasting sprays are sold at most pet stores.

Pets love to be involved in whatever you’re doing, so prepping your holiday lights may be difficult with a dog or cat sniffing around and swatting every bulb that comes out of the box. While you’re unstringing and testing holiday lights, keep pets in a closed room or behind a safety gate.

The best thing you can do is to give your pet an acceptable alternative for chewing and playing. Make sure your dog has plenty of chew toys or other healthy chewables. To exhaust your cat’s hunting instincts, have a daily play session with a toy on a string, or simply leave its favorite toys around the house.

Christmas Tree

Protect your pet by keeping lights and breakable ornaments on higher branches, and beware of climbing kitties. You don’t want shattered ornaments littering the ground where your cat or dog can injure their paws. Tinsel is dangerous when ingested by animals, but if you love the sparkle, place it in out of reach locations. Finally, be sure to sweep up pine needles often, as they can damage your pets’ intestines if swallowed.

Holiday Poisons
Your favorite holiday items may be poisonous to your pet, so keep this checklist in mind when planning for the festivities.

  • Mistletoe: Ingesting small amounts of mistletoe can cause your pet to drool, vomit or have diarrhea, but ingesting large amounts can cause more serious complications.
  • Poinsettia: The milky sap of poinsettia plants -- a holiday favorite -- can also make your pet sick. While usually not life threatening, your pet may still have uncomfortable gastrointestinal issues.
  • Chocolate: Even a small amount of this tasty treat can be potentially fatal for dogs when ingested. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate and seizures.
  • Potpourri oils: Liquid potpourri and essential oils can harm your pets’ stomach and skin, causing irritation and redness. Instead, opt for holiday-scented candles in cinnamon, peppermint, wintergreen and pine, placed in stable, out-of-reach locations.
  • Turkey and chicken bones: These can be choking hazards for dogs, so choose a healthy rawhide bone instead.