8 Tips to Help You Host a Stress-Free Holiday Party

stress-free holiday party

It’s the most stressful time of the year?

From gift-giving and party-going to visiting with people you maybe see a handful of times a year, it’s no wonder why most people are seeking peace on Earth during the holidays. This is especially true if you’re planning on hosting a holiday party. Hosting can be taxing in itself, but add another layer with all the hall-decking and festivities, and it can become downright hectic.

This doesn’t have to be you. Host your holiday party without the stress with these 8 handy tips!

Make a List – Lists are lifesavers. Start making them now to help preserve your sanity and keep your holiday spirit intact! Nail down a timeline of all the tasks you need to complete and the food you need to purchase. Don’t be afraid to delegate tasks to your family members or friends to make it all come together!

Stock Up on Snacks – Everyone loves snacks, so be sure to have plenty on hand! We suggest loading your pantries with a variety of crackers, chips, and cookies. Nuts are also a great choice. Mix your favorites in a small bowl for everyone to enjoy! Keep it on the healthy side by serving up fresh fruits, veggies, and slices of cheese.

Start Cookin’ – Take it from us – do as much as you can right now to avoid extra stress! Stews and soups can be made ahead of time and feed several people. Quiches, tarts, and rolls can also be kept in the freezer until it’s party time.

Quench Their Thirst – Good hosts know to keep a wide range of drinks on hand for their guests to enjoy. Aside from keeping your fridge stocked with soda and mixers, try to have a variety of coffee, tea, and hot chocolate available. Don’t forget the sugar, creamer, and marshmallows!

Crank Up the Tunes – Create a playlist of your favorite holiday songs and play it throughout your home to keep everyone in a joyous spirit! Just remember to keep it at a low enough level that people can converse.

Keep It Cozy – Hosting a casual holiday party? Try a buffet! They’re efficient and offer guests a variety of foods to try and savor. If you can, situate the food on a table or surface that guests can access from all sides so no one has to wait in line for long. Oh, and don’t worry about a seating chart. Just let your guests sit wherever they like around the table!

Spruce Up the Guest Room – Even if no one is planning on staying the night, it’s always wise to make sure your spare room is straightened up just in case. You never know when the weather might turn nasty or if a friend needs a place for a quick nap. Besides, it’s always nice to offer a place to stay for any out-of-town visitors after the party!

Ready Some Disposable Containers – If you don’t want to keep the food you’ve made, there’s no need to toss it out. Purchase and wash a set of plastic food containers and divvy up your leftovers for your guests! They will appreciate the extra food in the busy days to come. Make sure that you send them home with containers you won’t want back to keep the stress low!

Have you always wanted to host holiday parties but don’t have the space for it? Worry not – The Massey Team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Elite Properties can help you find the perfect home for you! Call us today at (618) 791-5024 or (618) 791-9298 to get started or check out our listings at www.dianamasseyhomes.com.

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8 Smart Tips to Keep Holiday Decorating Safe

holiday decorating safety tips

No matter what you’re celebrating this holiday season, there’s just something special about putting up decorations. The trouble is that you don’t want to get so caught up in the merriment that you put your safety at risk. If you’ve ever seen National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, you know just how hazardous holiday decorating can be to your health!

Before you go decking the halls or adding a superfluous amount of lights to your roof, be sure to check out this handy list (and maybe check it twice) to keep you and your loved ones safe when you’re decorating:

Take Extra Precautions with Live Trees – There’s nothing like that fresh pine smell to put you in the holiday spirit. Even though live trees can make a fun, temporary addition to your home, you’ll need to take a few extra steps to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. Place your tree away from heat sources. Live trees are incredibly flammable, so they should stay far away from heaters and fireplaces. Also, ensure that you water it frequently. A dried out tree can go up in flames much more quickly than a hydrated one, so be sure to check the water level daily.

Check the Label First – Want to just stick to a fake tree? There’s nothing wrong with that! Before you buy one, however, you’ll want to see if the tree is fire resistant. Nearly all trees are, but it’s always wise to check first before making the purchase!

Reach New Heights as a Team – If you’re itching to string up lights outside or hang garland or mistletoe just a little higher this year, don’t go it alone! Have a friend or family member help you. Make sure he or she is supporting the base of the ladder and that it’s on even ground. Also, be sure to keep your cellphone with you, just in case something happens that results you in being stranded on top of the roof with no ladder (or no one) to reach you.

Keep an Eye on Those Candles – The small burning flames can really help us feel cozy and at-home; however, they should be enjoyed under supervision. Keep your candles on a sturdy base so there’s little risk of tipping, and never leave it unattended. Don’t place candles on or near a Christmas tree or other flammable decorations, and remember to extinguish them before you leave home or head off to dream about sugarplum fairies.

Examine the Lights – Before you go through all the trouble of stringing up the lights, go through and check for any frayed wires, broken bulbs, and loose connections. There’s nothing more soul crushing than taking hours out of your day to hang up lights that wind up malfunctioning! Besides, it can be a fire hazard. If you come across any issues, throw the lights out and update them with newer ones.

Be Kind to Your Circuit Breakers – All of us have a breaking point, including our hardworking circuit breakers. Don’t overtax these unsung heroes of the holidays! Adding too many lights or electronic devices to them can pose a greater risk for fire and surges, which is a present that no one wants.

Try Unbreakable Ornaments – If you don’t want to recreate the Home Alone scene where Marv painfully walks through Kevin McCallister’s living room barefoot on breakable ornaments, you might want to avoid using fragile ornaments. If that’s out of the question or if you want to display a few older glass ornaments, make sure that they’re out of the reach of curious children and pets.

Shut It Down for the Night – As tempting as it is to leave your tree and outdoor lights on for all the neighbors to admire at night, it’s smart to turn off everything before you head to bed. This will help you avoid experiencing a short or an electrical issue, which helps decrease your chances of having a house fire.

If the perfect home is still at the top of your wish list, we can help make it a reality without asking old Kris Kringle for help! Just call your friends at The Massey Team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Elite Properties at (618) 791-5024 or (618) 791-9298. Get a head-start by viewing our listings at www.dianamasseyhomes.com.

6 Easy Ways You Can Give Your Home More Personality

ways to give your home more personalityThe homes in our neighborhood can say quite a bit about the people who inhabit them. The neat and tidy façade of the ranch next door may suggest that the owners are classy, detail-oriented, and take great care of their home. The bright blue door of the bungalow across the street may indicate a sense of playfulness and adventure. Oh, and that lake house tucked away from it all with the pool and beautiful gardens? We’re willing to bet that homeowner loves being outside (and maybe hosting some fun parties!).

Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a lot to give your home that bit of charm you want! Here are 6 easy, cost-effective ways you can make your home shine:

Paint the Front Door – What’s one of the first things you notice about a home? The front door! Take a look at your home’s exterior and landscaping to determine which color suits the door best (and brings out your personality). Bright colors like cerulean, mint green, and vermillion can show visitors that you’re fun and adventurous. Darker colors like plum or even black can show off your style and class. You have countless options to choose from, so select the best for you!

Add Artwork You Like – Life’s too short to hang works of art you don’t like in your home. Find pieces that fit you and your home to adorn your walls such as a fun painting you found on vacation or a work from your favorite artist. If you’re artistic, display some of the pieces you created for all to see!

Update a Fixture – Do you enjoy cooking? Treat yourself to a modern looking faucet or a sleek appliance. Do you find yourself spending most of your time writing or sketching in your spare room? Update the lamps or overhead fan to something whimsical with good lighting. There are several types of fixtures out there with a variety of features, and they’re usually very easy to install yourself!

Embrace Pops of Color – The colors you choose throughout your home can really show off your personality. Find ways to combine your favorite colors with your furniture with paint. Even something as simple as mixing various throw pillows is a great way to introduce more character into the space!

Customize Your Hardware – Even minor changes can make a big difference! Switch out your older furnishings with ornate drawer pulls and stylish outlet covers. You can find just about any style possible at your local hardware stores or craft fairs.

Display Your Travels – What better way to bask in your vacation memories than by decorating with them? Turn a decorative box or a cabinet into a collage of photos and phrases that defined your favorite trip. Adorn a bookshelf with a classy vase filled with sand from your favorite beach. Display seasonal fruit in a bowl you picked up from your journeys. You’ll add unique décor and be able to relive your travels at the same time.

If your current home doesn’t fit your personality or lifestyle, then it might be time to look for your new dream home. Let the Massey Team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Elite Properties lend a hand! Call us today at (618) 791-5024 or (618) 791-9298 or check out our listings at www.dianamasseyhomes.com.

Get Out and Vote This Tuesday!

Get Out and Vote!

Election Day is almost here – have you registered to vote yet on (or before) November 6? There’s still time to get out there and be more involved in your local community this year!

Not sure where you can vote? You can find your nearest polling place on Madison County’s website. Here are all of the polling locations in Madison County at a quick glance:

Edwardsville – Madison County Administration Building at 157 N. Main St.
Alton
– Alton Law Enforcement Center at 1700 E. Broadway
Granite City
– Township Building at 2060B Delmar Ave.
SIUE
– Willow Room at Morris University Center
Bethalto
– Bethalto Village Hall at 213 N. Prairie St.
Collinsville
– Collinsville Senior Citizens Center at 420 E. Main St.
Godfrey – Lewis & Clark College: Ahlemeyer Atrium at the Trimpe Advanced Technology Center
Highland
– Latzer Memorial Public Library at 1001 9th St.
Madison
– Madison Fire Station at 1800 3rd St.
Troy
– Troy City Hall at 116 E. Market St.
Wood River
– Township Hall at 33 S. 9th St. in East Alton

Before you cast your vote, remember to read up on all of the candidates and what they stand for! You can find plenty of information online, including www.ballotready.org and also in the Belleville News-Democrat.

After you vote, don’t forget to sport your “I Voted!” sticker. Post a selfie on social media for everyone to see. You never know – you really could influence your friends and family to get out and vote as well!

So what are you waiting for? Make sure that you’re registered to vote and make your voice heard in the ballots this November!

10 Non-Candy Halloween Items Trick-or-Treaters Will Love

non-candy Halloween items trick-or-treaters will love

It’s hard to believe, but Halloween is just about here! If you’re like the majority of us, you probably haven’t bought anything yet for the trick-or-treaters in your neighborhood. If you want to stand out from the crowd this year, you can always opt to hand out treats that aren’t totally laden with sugar! Here are 10 non-candy options that will make you the most popular house on the block:

Glow Sticks – There’s no doubt that Halloween is a spooky good time, but it can also be dangerous. According to the National Safety Council, children are more than twice as likely to be struck by a vehicle on Halloween than any other day of the year. Why not help protect the children in your neighborhood with glow sticks? Kids of all ages love them, and they’re great at increasing visibility!

Small Spooky Toys – Give something your trick-or-treaters will enjoy long after their candy is gone! Little cars, bendable Halloween characters, yo-yos, small stuffed animals, and Halloween-themed bouncy balls are all winners in kids’ books.

Stickers – Youngsters will love receiving stickers in their Halloween bags! These little festive adhesives are perfect when it comes to decorating coloring pages, notebooks, cards, and just about anything else kids might be working on.

Temporary Tattoos – What’s safe, easy to use, and fun for days? Temporary tattoos! Hand some out this Halloween, and the kids in your neighborhood are sure to be sporting them the next day.

Mini Pumpkins – These small gourds are sure to put a smile on anyone’s face! Feel free to hand out a real mini pumpkin, which you can find in supermarkets or at your local farmer’s market, and maybe even surprise parents or guardians with a mini pumpkin stress toy.

Snack Bags – If you still want to hand out food but don’t have much time on your hands, packages of individual snack bags will work wonders. Fruit snacks, pretzels, and crackers will all be hits with your trick-or-treaters!

Play Dough – Play dough is fun for kids of all ages. Hand out miniature tubs of play dough in shades of black, orange, or purple. Get in the spirit by dressing the tubs up with little fangs and googly eyes!

Halloween Rubber Duckies – Who can resist a cute rubber ducky? Pretty much no one! Surprise trick-or-treaters with these fun little toys this year. They’re sure to love them!

Pencils, Erasers, and Pencil Toppers – Halloween pencils, pumpkin and ghost erasers, and ghoulish pencil toppers will be a hit with anyone who comes to your door. These fun school supplies will be useful long after the holiday ends!

Drink Packets – Going from house to house all dressed up can be tiring work for little trick-or-treaters. Keep the children in your neighborhood hydrated with miniature bottles of water, or give them something to look forward to after their night out with packets of hot chocolate or other drink packets!

How do you like to celebrate Halloween? Do you enjoy going the traditional route by handing out candy and homemade treats, or do you like surprising your visitors with unique gifts like the ones we mentioned above? Tell us in the comments below!

6 Important Tasks to Help Prepare Your Garden Now for Spring

fall garden tipsWhen we think about fall, we tend to think of all things cozy and comforting. One of the last things on our minds is getting out and working in the garden. But if you want to enjoy a beautiful, healthy garden next spring and summer, you might want to spruce up your yard a bit before winter arrives.

Here are 6 important tasks you should accomplish in your garden this fall:

Clean Up Flowerbeds – The autumn leaves are certainly a sight to behold, but they can become a nuisance when they start piling up in your flowerbeds. Carve out some time to clean up leaves and other debris from your garden. You can then mulch the leaves and use them as compost to provide next year’s plants with nutrients!

Cut Back Perennials – To promote healthier plants for next spring, grab your clippers and trim back the old dead growth of your perennials like hydrangea and yarrow. Take the dead foliage and dispose of it rather than composting it. Don’t forget to take cuttings now before a frost hits!

Bury Some Bulbs – Fall is the perfect time to plant springtime bulbs like daffodils and tulips. Make sure to plant them 6 to 8 weeks before the first hard frost arrives for a welcomed display of color in the spring. Shrubs and evergreens are perfect for planting in the fall, too!

Bring ‘em Inside – Plants that are sensitive to the weather will want to come inside your home for the winter. Remove dead foliage, break up hardened soil, and inspect for pests before bringing any plants indoors!

Spend Time in the Soil – Go digging in the dirt to find any insects that might be looking for a nice place to take a nap for the winter. If you have issues with Japanese beetles, this is one of the best ways you can reduce their numbers!

Clean Your Garden Tools – Now that you’re done in the yard, it’s time to take care of your tools. Clean, sand, and oil them before you put them away for the year. This will help prevent spreading any diseases in your flowerbed and will keep them nice and sharp for next spring!

Did we miss any important tips? Tell us in the comments below!

6 Classy Ways to Welcome Fall into Your Home

fall homeIf you haven’t gotten the memo from all of the stores carrying pumpkin-spiced-everything, fall is here! The heat that once gripped the Greater St. Louis region has now broken, and residents everywhere are beginning to break out their seasonal décor. You might really like fall, but maybe you’re tired of seeing so many pumpkins, hay bales, and signs adorned with words like “thankful,” “blessed,” or “gather” every where you turn.

If you want to welcome fall into your home without being totally over-the-top, try these 6 ideas this season:

Bring in Hints of Color – Just because there’s an array of colors outside now doesn’t mean you have to bring them all into your home! Choose more muted colors like burnt orange or neutrals like brown, gray, and beige. These colors can work well with almost any color scheme you may already have in your home.

Switch Out Pillows and Throws – It’s time to start upping the cozy factor! Bring out some of your favorite blankets and throws and drape them over the backs of your couch, recliner, or bed for those cooler autumn nights. Exchange the brightly colored summertime pillowcases with seasonal shades like rustic red, slate gray, or even something more subdued like mauve.

Add a Few Wooden Accents – Create a cozy yet subtle fall feeling by adding a few wooden pieces into your home. Wooden bowls, boxes, trays, and platters work wonders when it comes to making any room a welcoming yet elegant space!

Try Caramel – We’re not talking about the food (although that isn’t a bad idea)! This buttery hue will add a touch of warmth wherever you place it. We suggest the kitchen – who knows, it might even inspire you to whip up some tasty seasonal desserts!

Play Up the Scents – This is probably the easiest way you can introduce fall into your home. Switch out your candles and hand soaps to scents that hint at the new season such as cinnamon, nutmeg, or even ginger!

Use a Bit of Plaid – Fall doesn’t demand that you must cover everything in your home with nothing but plaid! Throw in a little plaid here and there to allude to the cooler nights spent around the fireplace, cup of hot cocoa in hand. Try using a footstool clad in plaid or break out your favorite plaid throw to recreate that feeling!

How do you like to decorate for fall? Tell us in the comments below!

7 Tips to Help You Turn Your Attic Into a Gorgeous Living Space

attic inspirationAttics can be tricky spaces for homeowners to navigate. On one hand, it can be a handy spot for extra storage; on the other hand, that empty space is practically begging to be converted into a cozy living area.

If you have an attic and want to create a warm little reading nook, a welcoming guest room, or an additional play area, check out our 7 tips to help you make the most out of your extra square footage:

Start Measuring – First things first, take a look at the space and determine what you’re working with. You’ll want to measure out the attic and every nook and cranny it has before you begin moving any furniture upstairs. Don’t let low eaves or narrow passages change your mind – there are plenty of ways to work with these odd features (we’ll get to that later)!

Think White – Usually, attics are cramped, somewhat creepy spaces that nary a soul visits. Make your attic inviting and appear larger than it is by choosing white for the walls, ceiling, bedding, and décor! Of course, we’re not suggesting that your attic should resemble a stark and sterile environment; even just a bit of white somewhere will open up the space and make it more inviting.

Dress the Windows – Let’s face it – if you have windows in the attic, they’re going to be tricky to cover. You may choose to use no window treatments, which is totally fine. But if you want to use the newfound space as a bedroom, you should consider covering the window somehow. Customized window treatments or even motorized shades can work wonders in your attic!

Leave Your Bed on the Floor – Create an incredibly cozy space by keeping your mattress on the floor. Depending on the size, you can squeeze it into a hideaway nook. Give it a comfy vibe by adding lots of pillows in different sizes!

Make the Space Work for You – Don’t let your attic’s awkward spacing stop you from making a great living area. Use all of the nooks to your advantage! Turn the low structural points as decorative shelves or create a semi-built in desk under the eaves to maximize the space.

Stay Low to the Ground – Unless your attic is incredibly tall, this is not the place to try fitting in bunk beds or massive bookshelves. Instead, keep your furnishings lower to the ground for a cozier feel. A low coffee table, sofa, and bed will make the attic seem larger than it actually is!

Make ‘em Look Up – You don’t have to live with the dim lighting that typically accompanies attic spaces! Boost the fancy factor by adding pendant lighting or a beautiful statement chandelier to the room. Make it bright and cheerful by supplementing the look with fun but functional table lamps!

Of course, before you begin fleshing out your space and hauling up the furniture, you should call a building inspector to make sure your attic is strong enough to support the changes you want to make. The inspector should be able to give you the go-ahead to create your fun living area or if you need to make any renovations first.

Does your attic (or home) leave something to be desired? Let the experts at The Massey Team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Elite Properties help! Call us today at (618) 791-5024 or (618) 791-9298 to get started, or view all of our listings online at www.dianamasseyhomes.com.

13 Fun Last-Minute Trip Ideas Before School Starts

Starved Rock State ParkSchool might be in session soon, but that doesn’t mean that the summertime fun has to stop. Adventure is still out there waiting for us in our own backyard – and beyond! Whether you have time for a daytrip or a weekend getaway, there’s still plenty of time to have one last hurrah before school starts.

Here are 13 fun Illinois trip ideas for you to squeeze in before time runs out!

Local Adventures

Visit Cahokia Mounds – If you haven’t visited Cahokia Mounds yet, you’re really missing out. It’s one of only 22 World Heritage Sites in the nation and is home to the most sophisticated prehistoric native civilization north of Mexico. Check out the mounds and the site’s interpretive center for a fun journey back in time. Don’t forget to visit Monks Mound, the largest pyramid north of Mesoamerica, for a beautiful view of Madison County and St. Louis!

Hit The (Great River) Road – Soak up the sun and enjoy the beautiful sites on the Great River Road. Take a pit stop to check out the painting of the legendary man-eating Piasa bird just north of Alton (you can’t miss it!). While you’re headed north, be sure to stop by Grafton for a bit of shopping and visit Pere Marquette State Park to hit some trails and take in spectacular views of the Mighty Mississippi.

Fun a Hop, Skip, and a Jump Away

Go Sailing at Carlyle Lake – Get away from it all and head to this beautiful, 26,000-acre manmade lake for some nautical adventures! Sail to your heart’s content, enjoy a picnic lakeside, or stay the night by booking one of the rustic cabins.

Skydive in Greenville – Want to really feel the wind blow through your hair while you get a bird’s eye view of Carlyle Lake? We recommend visiting Gateway Skydiving Center in Greenville! Experience a thrill of a lifetime as you leap out of a plane and free-fall for 45 seconds before opening your parachute and descending to the ground below.

Zip Through the Trees in Kinmundy – Get lost in the wild by visiting the American Obstacle Adventure Park in Kinmundy! Feel like Tarzan as you zip-line through tree canopies, or duke it out with your friends and family in the outdoor laser tag area.

Check Out Balloon Fest in Centralia – Mark your calendars for Saturday, August 18 to stop by Centralia Foundation Park for their annual Balloon Fest! Gaze in wonder as the dozens of hot air balloons light up during the Balloon Glow, check out the craft stands, and split a funnel cake with your friends (or have one all to yourself!). It’s a magical event you won’t want to miss!

Excitement a Few Short Hours Away

Explore Starved Rock State Park – Did you know that the Prairie State has waterfalls? You can see a majority of them at beautiful Starved Rock State Park, just south of the Illinois River. Hike your favorite paths to see towering canyons and gorgeous wildflowers tucked away within the flat fields of Illinois farm country. Make the trip complete by stopping by nearby Ottawa to check out historic Washington Square and find a one-of-a-kind gift at Starved Rock Hot Glass!

Get Lost at the Garden of the Gods – Although it’s located far away in southeastern Illinois, this state park is a must-see. Discover extraordinary rock formations and untouched swathes of wilderness as you blaze your own trail on foot or on horseback. The stunning views are unlike anything else you’ll see in the Midwest!

Let Superman Steal Your Heart in Metropolis – Are you a Superman fanatic? You’re gonna want to visit Metropolis! Their museum includes more than 20,000 items of memorabilia and the famous giant Superman statue that stands proudly outside. Photo ops and plenty of fun will be in store for you in this little Illinois metropolis!

Quirky, Off-the-Beaten-Path Ventures

Go Back in Time in Kaskaskia Island – Journey to Kaskaskia Island, the only location in Illinois that’s located on the west side of the Mississippi River, for a trip back in time. The state’s first capital, Kaskaskia is home to the Liberty Bell of the West, which is even older than Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell! A once thriving community, the little village suffered from several floods that wiped out countless houses throughout the years. Be sure to visit the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church to see artifacts from the 1800s before you leave!

Watch Out for That First Step in Woodstock – Who doesn’t love the movie Groundhog Day? If you’re a real fan, take the trip up north to Woodstock, Illinois where the movie was filmed! Check out Woodstock Square Park where Bill Murray broadcasted Punxsutawney Phil’s forecast in Gobbler’s Knob, step in the infamous puddle (which has its very own plaque that says “Bill Murray Stepped Here”), or visit the Royal Victorian Manor, which was used as the inn in the film.

Hunt Planets in Peoria – For an adventure that’s out of this world (sorry, we had to make the joke!), visit the world’s third-largest scale of our solar system’s planets in Peoria! Become a self-proclaimed interplanetary explorer and track down all the planets in and around the city. You can find out more here!

Visit the Infamous Cave-In-Rock – It may look like your average cave, but Cave-In-Rock holds several stories and legends dating back to when it was discovered in 1739! It’s said that it was once home to plundering river pirates, outlaws, and counterfeiters for many years. Local legend even contests that Jesse James himself and his gang once took refuge here. Although it sits empty, you can explore the cave and pretend like you’re a baddie hiding from the law!

Wherever your adventures take you, we hope that you have fun, safe travels before school starts! Did we miss any fun Illinois destinations? Tell us about them in the comments below!

Enjoy Your Patio to the Fullest This Summer with These 8 Tips!

summertime patio

The dog days of summer are here, and if you haven’t gotten outside to enjoy the great weather we’ve been having lately, then you’re missing out! It’s time to get out there and soak up what’s left of the season before the cold creeps in.

You don’t have to go very far either – your patio, deck, or porch will suffice! Just follow these 8 tips to get the most enjoyment from your outdoor living area this summer:

Choose Cozy Seating – No one wants to sit on stiff, uncomfortable chairs and sofas. Treat your outdoor room as you would your indoor ones by placing thick, comfy cushions on your chairs and selecting seating you would practically never want to leave.

Outsmart the Weather – You might not be able to control Mother Nature, but you can certainly stay a few steps ahead of her! Make wind less of an issue by keeping your table bare and weighing down any dishes you may have with small bowls filled with fresh fruit or other yummy snacks. Hide from the sun under a freestanding umbrella, shade trees, or handy lattices.

Set the Right Mood – You’d be surprised how even the simplest outdoor space comes alive with the right lighting! Best of all, you don’t need a lot to achieve the feel you want. Paper lanterns or repurposed white Christmas lights draped over tree limbs work wonders. Make decorating even easier by using battery-operated flameless candles. They’re just like the real thing but without the mess and fire hazard!

Keep Bugs at Bay – No one invites these pesky critters to our outdoor get-togethers, but they always manage to crash the party. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can keep them away. Light citronella candles or use insect repellant, for starters. Get rid of any standing water and turn on the ceiling fans to deter mosquitoes and other insects. And of course, you can also screen in your porch to enjoy the outdoors without the bugs – permanently!

Stoke the Fire – There’s nothing like gathering around the fire on chilly summer nights and making s’mores. Break out the fire pit and call some friends over to roast marshmallows and share spooky ghost stories!

Bring the Music Outside – Create a relaxing oasis in your own backyard by bringing the tunes to you. If you don’t have any outdoor outlets, grab some wireless speakers and connect them to a sound system in your home to play your favorite songs. If that doesn’t work, a decorative running water piece can create the same effect!

Make an Outdoor Dining Kit – Maybe you like the idea of dining al fresco, but the thought of getting everything together and taking it outdoors is exhausting. Make things easier on yourself by having a handy kit ready and waiting to be taken outside! Include some of the essentials like unbreakable plates and glasses, napkins, silverware, a carafe for your favorite beverage, and a bottle opener.

Keep Blankets Handy – For those chilly evenings, it’s always smart to have a few lightweight blankets or throws nearby. Stow them in an outdoor ottoman or drape them over chairs to use them as soon as you catch chill.

If you’re one of our readers who doesn’t have a porch, deck, or patio, then what are you waiting for? Find your dream home – complete with the outdoor space you want – with the help of The Massey Team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Elite Properties! Call us today at (618) 791-5024 or (618) 791-9298 to get started today!