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!

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5 Tips to Keep Your 4th of July Safe and Fun

fireworks

Break out the grill, ready the yard games, and don the red, white, and blue – Independence Day is just around the corner! As you prepare to celebrate our nation’s birthday with delicious food and great company, take the time to follow these 5 important tips to keep you safe and the festivities fun.

Leave the Fireworks to the Professionals – No July 4th is complete without oohing and aahing at a masterful display of fireworks. Come out to one of the many displays that towns in the Greater St. Louis region will be hosting. Stay at least 500 feet to enjoy the show safely (They’re better from a distance anyway!).

Grill Like a Pro – Cook up amazing food, not a recipe for disaster! Supervise your grill whenever it’s in use, and make sure that everyone else stays away until the food is ready and the grill is off. Remember to use long-handled tools to keep your hands safe and burn-free!

Say No to UV Rays – Speaking of getting burned, you’ll also want to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays this 4th of July. The sun is at its strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so remember to apply sunscreen half an hour before heading outside and wear a protective hat and sunglasses as well. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, too!

Be Smart Behind the Wheel – Did you know that Independence Day is the most dangerous day to drive in the United States? If you have to be out on the road this July 4th, be extra cautious. Don’t use your cell phone and always wear a seat belt. Make sure that children are properly buckled in the correct seat and that they are never left in an unattended vehicle. And of course, never drink and drive!

Take Care of Your Pets – Dogs and cats aren’t the biggest fans of the 4th. Many of them are terrified of the loud noises and bright bursts of light that fireworks bring. Keep your pets indoors and consider keeping a radio or television on to distract them from the commotion. If they do go outside, make sure that they’re wearing a collar with an up-to-date ID tag.

From all of us at The Massey Team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Elite Properties, we wish you a happy, fun, and safe 4th of July this year!

10 Smart Ways to Stay Safe During Summer Storms

cellar door

A rumble of thunder, a bolt of lightning, a sudden change in the atmosphere – these are telltale signs that a storm is a-brewin’ and could be heading right your way in the near future.

While you might feel the desire to reenact Twister and go chase down the storm to make your Instagram a little snazzier, we’re here to tell you that it’s a really bad idea. In fact, we want you to stay safe during inclement weather, so we’ve taken the liberty of putting together a list of 10 handy tips to keep you and your loved ones protected from those wicked seasonal storms roll around:

Keep an Eye on Your Trees – Have you noticed that some of the trees in your yard have a few dead or rotting limbs? If so, take the time before any storms come to take them down. If one of your trees appears to be rotting or is dead, remove it before a storm does that for you (and causes some unnecessary damage to your property).

Prepare Before the Storm – Any thunderstorm can cause damage to your home or belongings. If a storm is on the way, take the time to shut any open windows and secure all outside doors. Don’t forget to tie down or relocate anything that could be blown away outside, and unplug your electronics to avoid a possible surge.

Beware of Flash Flooding – According to the National Weather Service, flash flooding is responsible for more fatalities than any other thunderstorm hazard, and it’s also the leading cause of weather-related deaths in the nation. If you notice that the road ahead is covered with water, turn around and take an alternate route.

Invest in Surge Protectors – When lightning strikes your home, it can surge through your power outlets, which can damage any appliances attached to them. Take care of your electronics by investing in a surge protector, especially in rooms that use a lot of electricity. These handy devices help redirect excess electricity toward a grounding wire and neutralizing it, keeping your home and everything within safe!

Stay Away From Metal and Electrical Equipment – If you paid attention in your earth science class, you probably remember that metal conducts electricity. Should you be handling metal or electrical equipment during a storm, you run a real possibility of electrocution. Don’t use telephones, laptops, or computers unless it’s an emergency. Stay away from other dangerous objects like aluminum bats, golf clubs, bicycles, and any devices that are plugged in for recharging until the storm passes.

Delay That Shower – It’s also dangerous to come into contact with water whenever a storm is in the area. While using the restroom and washing your hands is minimally risky, taking a bath or shower and doing the laundry is unsafe. That’s right, we’re giving you a real reason for you to put off doing the laundry! Pay close attention to the weather to make sure that it’s safe to begin your chores or take a shower.

Stay Inside – We know. You just want to go outside on the porch and watch the storm roll on by, but the safest thing for you to do is to head back inside and to stay far away from the windows and doors. Your body carries a slight natural electrical charge, which can attract lightning if you’re the strongest charge in the area. We recommend staying inside near the center of a ground-floor room, especially during a particularly nasty storm system.

Avoid Storm-Damaged Areas – After the storm, it’s best to keep away from any areas that have fallen branches and downed powered lines in the streets. If you happen to see any live power lines on the ground, report them to the police immediately.

Steer Clear of Trees – Should you find yourself outside when a storm arrives, maintain a healthy distance from natural lightning rods like tall, isolated trees. You should also avoid being near small structures in open areas. These objects can increase the likelihood of lightning striking near you!

Take a Storm Spotter Class – They’re fun, educational, open to the public, and free! You’ll learn how to look at cloud formations and identify potentially dangerous weather situations. Besides learning how you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe during inclement weather, you can also become a volunteer storm spotter for the National Weather Service! Learn more and find a class near you here!

We hope that these tips will help you stay safe during those summertime storms. If we left out any handy pieces of advice, be sure to let us know in the comment below!

10 Easy Ways to Have Fun Around St. Louis This Summer

School’s out, the sun is back, and everyone’s sporting shorts and sandals. That’s right – summer’s back in the St. Louis area, and we are loving it! Of course, you don’t need to have a beach and an ocean to get the most out of the season. There are plenty of fantastic things to do in your own backyard!

Enjoy summer to the fullest with these 10 fun ideas:

Visit a Farmers Market – There’s nothing like fresh produce, and summer gives us some of the best. You can find all of the berries, peaches, corn, tomatoes, and peppers you want at your local farmers markets! Pick out your favorites, along with some farm fresh eggs, local honey, and delectable bread, as you listen to live entertainment. Oh, and you could find some fun gifts for your friends or yourself, too – there are plenty of crafts, handmade soaps, jewelry, baskets, and more! Just head over to Alton, Edwardsville, or Jerseyville to get started.

Catch a Game or Two – It just isn’t summer without some baseball! Enjoy America’s favorite pastime at Busch Stadium, around the local ball field, or in your backyard playing catch with your family and friends.

Check Out Local Homecomings – Summers call for fun times out in the local parks eating corn dogs and funnel cakes while the kids have the time of their lives on the Scrambler and carousel. Celebrate Highland’s Swiss heritage with plenty of hot food, cold drinks, and fun games at the Schweizerfest. Get lost in carnival games and karaoke at the Glen Carbon Homecoming, or watch a tractor pull, demolition derby, and more at the Madison County Fair.

Go For a Spontaneous Drive – What better time of year is there for grabbing your friends and driving somewhere beautiful with the windows down? Whether you’re marveling at the beauty of the Great River Road, revisiting the tale of the Piasa Bird, or blazing your own trail on your favorite back roads, you’re sure to enjoy the wind flying through your hair as the music blares from your speakers.

Play a Set of Washers – While many of us do whatever we can to stay out of the hot summer sun, we tend to make an exception when it comes to playing a rousing game of washers. Of course, if you want to do ladder golf, Frisbee, cornhole, or any other sport instead (or in addition to) washers, we say go for it!

Meet Your Friends at the Muny – The Muny is celebrating their 100th season this year! Now’s the time to head out to Forest Park and catch one of your favorite shows with your family and friends. Shows this year include Meet Me in St. Louis, Singin’ in the Rain, Jersey Boys, Annie, and many more. Get your tickets here and get ready to have a blast!

Savor St. Louis Classic Foods – Whether you’re cooking up some pork steaks or horseshoes at home, demolishing a plate of toasted raviolis with your best friends, or splitting a St. Louis-style pizza at a party, you can’t go wrong with enjoying some local cuisine throughout the season. Don’t forget to top it all off with some delicious gooey butter cake, no matter what the occasion!

Consume a Healthy Amount of Frozen Custard – When dusk rolls around, it isn’t uncommon to find your neighbors or people you’ve gone to school with lined up and waiting to sink their teeth into some fresh frozen custard. Enjoy a classic concrete at Ted Drewes, savor Annie’s Frozen Custard’s Flavor of the Week, or order your favorite concoction of flavors at Bobby’s Frozen Custard.

Be Dazzled by Fireworks – No July 4th celebration is complete without a fireworks display! Fortunately, St. Louis has some of the best shows in the nation. Prepare to be left awestruck whenever you check out the fireworks in the city, Edwardsville, Alton, Highland, Troy, Granite City, and anywhere else you may go in the Metro East St. Louis region!

Soak in the Music at the Muny Band Concerts – Head on over to Highland, Edwardsville, or Alton (or all 3!) to sit back and enjoy some beautiful live music with your friends and family! You just need to bring a lawn chair or a picnic blanket – these weekly municipal band concerts are free.

How do you like to celebrate summer? Tell us in the comments below!

How to Decorate with Succulents (and Keep Them Alive) Like a Pro

succulent terrarium

Have you been thinking about adding some pizzazz to your home décor? Maybe you’ve seen people decorating with those oh, so adorable, seemingly omnipresent little succulents. Maybe you like the idea of adding these no-fuss plants around your home, but you have the cursed brown thumb and every plant you touch seems to wither and die under your care.

Never fear. We’ve put together a handy list to help you not only decorate with these spiky little gems but also keep them alive like a regular pro. Read about them below!

Decoration Ideas:

Leave ‘Em Hanging – Indoors or out, some succulents hanging around in pretty planters can really add some life to your space. Add a bit of personality by securing the pots with some sturdy twine.

Greet Them at the Door – They say that first impressions are everything, so make it count by keeping a few cute succulents in the entryway. We think they look especially nice next to a pretty picture frame or a small stack of books!

Keep Your Thinking Sharp – Succulents are great little plants to keep on your desk. They don’t need too much attention and are happy to give your workspace a little bit of life while you work from home.

Make a Centerpiece – Cacti and other succulents make a colorful, unique centerpiece on your kitchen table, coffee table, or any other spot of prominence in your home. Whether you group a few of them together in one planter or purchase a handful of various succulents in their own pots, you really can’t go wrong!

Pretty Up Your Windowsills – Are your ledges begging for some decorative attention? Succulents are the perfect little touch for any windowsill! Put them in fun planters and watch them soak up the sun!

Place Them on Shelves – Add some green to your bookshelves with some potted succulents. Aside from looking perfect next to your favorite pieces of literature, these plants will take care of themselves with very little upkeep!

Now that you know what to do with your succulents, here are a few quick pointers to help keep them alive for more than a few weeks:

*Give them some room – Most succulents like being outside in warm, dry climates and like to have a little space. When you plant them, be sure to give them a bit of breathing room so they can grow and flourish.

*Provide shade – Believe it or not, some succulents can get sunburn. While we don’t recommend slathering on the sunscreen, we do suggest placing them in a spot that gets at least a little shade throughout the day.

*Water them right – These plants have learned to live a very long time with little water, but that doesn’t mean they can’t go without it entirely. Give your succulents a healthy rain shower every few weeks to keep them hydrated and happy.

*Drainage is essential – Succulents don’t like water hanging around – after all, too much water at the roots leads to rot. Make sure that your planter has some sort of drainage so that water can be diverted away from the plant, and remember to water them lightly.

*Don’t forget to feed them – When it comes to succulents, a once-a-year meal is just enough. Feed them organic fertilizer at the beginning of their growing season for the best results!

Guess where these adorable plants would look best? The home of your dreams. We can make that happen! Just call the experts at The Massey Team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Elite Properties at (618) 791-5024 or (618) 791-9298 to get started today!

5 Simple Tips to Make Your Yard Pet-Friendly

labrador looking over fence

We know you love your pet. After all, you’ve made sure that their world inside your home is filled with plenty of water and healthy food, treats, a cozy bed, and their favorite toys. But is your backyard equally as safe and fun for your four-legged friend?

Whether you’re bringing home a new pet or just want to make life even better for your furry best friend, here are 5 easy tips to help make your backyard a paradise for your dog or cat:

Give Them a Steady Water Source – Your pet needs plenty of water, especially during the hot summer months. Keep a large bowl filled with lots of fresh water, or go ahead and add a water feature to your landscaping that your pet can access such as a stream or a splash fountain. Have a water-loving pet? Keep a small pool out for them to frolic in. If you have a pool made for humans, however, make sure that it is securely covered whenever your pet is outside.

Fence Them In – Keep your pets safe by creating a safe enclosure, whether you fence in your entire yard or an enclosure for them to enjoy. Make sure that it’s strong enough to keep your pets inside and intruders outside. If you have a cat that enjoys the great outdoors, create a cat-proof fence with an inward angle of 45 degrees at the top.

Provide Shade and Shelter – Like people, dogs can get sunburn and suffer from sunstroke, and cats enjoy having privacy. Trees and large shrubbery should give your pet sufficient shelter and shade. If your yard lacks trees, outstretched tarps, a patio umbrella, or a doghouse could do the trick (no pun intended).

Avoid Toxic Landscaping – Pets can get into trouble sometimes when they explore. Prevent accidental poisoning by ensuring that your garden is free of any toxic plants and flowers or create a small fence around the perimeter of your garden. Remember to check which plants are poisonous to dogs and cats before you plant anything!

Make It Fun – An exercised pet is a happy pet. Make sure that your yard has plenty of space for your four-legged friend to run, chase balls, play fetch, and safely explore their territory. Get a little creative and construct an obstacle course for your pet to enjoy or designate a spot for the two of you to play together!

Don’t have enough space for your pet outside? The Massey Team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Elite Properties can help with that! Call us today at (618) 791-5024 or (618) 791-9298 to find the perfect home for you and your furry friend. Sniff out your future dream home by visiting our listings page at www.dianamasseyhomes.com!

4 Easy Ways You Can Flood-Proof Your Yard

rain barrel

As the saying goes, April showers bring May flowers; however, seemingly endless springtime rain can herald some serious damage to your yard, and fast. Flooding isn’t just an eyesore – it can also kill any overly saturated grass and, depending on the proximity to your home, may also cause water damage in your basement.

Don’t let the springtime storms rain on your parade. Protect your home and yard with these 4 easy tips!

Create a Rain Garden – Have a low spot in your yard that tends to become your own private pond after heavy rains? Bolster it with some colorful, water-loving plants! Rain gardens are environmentally friendly and they can give you beautiful curb appeal. Choose native plants that soak up water like Stokes aster, Louisiana iris, Black-eyed Susans, sweetspire, and spider lily. When you create your rain garden, be sure to place the plants with the highest wet soil tolerance in the center to allow the rain to percolate the ground slowly and evenly.

Use Heavier Mulch – How many times have you had to head outside, rake in tow, to clean up the mulch chips that heavy rainfall scatters? Well, you can put a stop to that by using heavier mulch in your garden areas! We suggest avoiding pine mulch and trying something more akin to hardwood mulches. Some brands create chips out of man-made materials, making it a low maintenance choice for homeowners.

Divert the Rain Creatively – While you can certainly divert the rain away from your home by using a long downspout, you can always feel free to get a bit more creative. Good with landscaping or looking for a new side project? Try making your very own waterfall or stream. Looking out more for the environment? Installing a rain barrel might be more up your alley!

Install Permeable Pavers – Have you noticed water sitting for days on your walkways, patio, deck, or driveway? Then we have the perfect solution – permeable paving stones and grout. This type of landscape will help drain the water back into the ground and keep your walkways puddle-free!

How do you keep your yard safe from flooding? Have we missed any tips? Be sure to tell us in the comments below!

7 Tips to Make De-cluttering a Breeze This Spring

decluttering

When it comes to spring cleaning, some tasks can look more challenging than they appear. We’re not talking about cleaning behind the refrigerator or tidying up the garage. There’s one particular task that looks easy at first but can easily overwhelm anyone who decides to undertake it – de-cluttering.

You might feel prepared to tackle the messy junk drawers and the disorderly closets, but how often do you get started only to find yourself giving up and shoving everything back where you found it? Now you don’t have to let those piles of clutter intimidate you any longer. Just follow our tips below to help you de-clutter like a pro!

Sort by Categories, Not Rooms – Often when homeowners begin the process of de-cluttering, they will start in one room and work on it until it’s finished before moving on to the next. Instead of working room by room, we suggest sorting things categorically. For example, find all of your clothes or all of your books, compile them all in one spot, and sort through them there. You’ll be surprised how much easier the process is when you do this!

Ask Yourself One Important Question – As you begin sifting through your items, take a good look at each thing and ask yourself this one question: does this item make you happy? If it does, keep it and give it a home of prominence for good use. If not, simply discard it by donating it or throwing it away.

Kick Guilt to the Curb – During the de-cluttering process, you might come across items that make you feel, well, guilty. Maybe it’s that shirt you bought on clearance but never wore. Perhaps you found that old tea set that you never used from your mother-in-law. Don’t let guilt force you into keeping things you don’t want or need! If anything, tell yourself that you will make someone else much happier by donating these items.

Give Yourself Permission – Do some of your items not fit your style or way of living anymore? Give yourself permission to let them go! This goes for uncomfortable dresses, books you no longer like, and accessories that no longer serve a purpose. Be thankful for the fun times you enjoyed with these items, give them to someone who could use them, and move on.

Keep the Kitchen Counters Clean – When it comes to de-cluttering your kitchen, sticking to the basics works the best. Don’t be lured by the siren’s cry of the sales rack. Just keep the things you need and use frequently on the countertops. You’d be amazed at just how clean and open your kitchen will look with fewer items on the counters!

Create Dividing Lines – Before you put everything back in its rightful place, take the time to compartmentalize everything – literally. Divide your nightstand into sections for the remote, notebooks, pens, and a notebook for easy access. Neatly fold your clothes vertically in your drawers (shoeboxes are handy for this!). When you make separate sections for your items, you will find that you can find what you want more easily.

Speed-Clean Clutter Nightly – Each night before you go to bed, take 15 minutes to tidy up your home. Wipe down the kitchen countertops and take care of the dishes, straighten up blankets and pillows on the couch, and put away your clothes and accessories. Your home will seem much cleaner and enjoyable when you wake up the next day!

De-cluttering can be tough work, but it’s always worth it in the end. After all, it’s a scientific fact that a clean, orderly house is good for your mind!

How do you de-clutter your home? What secrets have you learned throughout the years? Let us know in the comments below!

5 Steps to Help You Plant the Perfect Herb Garden

herb garden

As winter officially comes to a close this week, many homeowners have spring on their minds. Maybe you’re feeling the itch to break out the spring decorations and breathe new life into your home. Perhaps you just can’t wait to get outside and start digging in the dirt and planting flowers again. Or maybe this year you want to do something totally different like start your own herb garden.

If that last option sounds like you, then you’re in luck! We have 5 handy tips to help you start your very own herb garden. Check them out below!

Determine How You’ll Begin – There are two ways you can begin your herb garden: with seeds or with grown plants. If you choose seeds, you may come out with more plants to glean your herbs from. For beginners, basil, dill, parsley, chives, fennel, and cilantro are quite easy to grow. Want to buy small plants instead? That’s perfectly fine, especially if you choose to plant perennials. While the plants may take a bit more time to settle in, they will last you for years and years once they take root.

Choose the Right Herbs – It probably goes without saying, but we have to say it anyway: plant herbs that you will actually use in future dishes. For instance, if you enjoy relaxing with a calming cup of tea before going to bed, mint is a great herb to choose. Pick a few of your favorites and add more throughout the years.

Find the Right Soil – If you’re preparing a spot in your yard for your herbs to grow, you’ll want to break up and loosen the soil with a large garden fork so the plants can take root more easily. Prevent drainage problems by adding some compost to the soil, too. Planting a container garden? Make sure you purchase an organic potting soil mix that is designed for containers. Your plants will appreciate it!

Plant in the Right Place – To have a garden full of healthy herbs, put them in a spot that is good for both you and the plants. You’ll want to place them in an easy-to-access location so you won’t forget about them. Most herbs will prefer a setting that has full sun, so long as the temperatures don’t rise above 90 degrees in the summer. Remember to check the soil often and water them when they get dry!

Prune Them to Productive Perfection – Keep your herbs neat and productive by snipping off the tips of their shoots frequently. Doing so will make them produce more for a longer time. By the way, you can eat the flowers, seeds, and plants of your herbs!

So, did we miss any pro-tips that have helped you in the past? Post your advice in the comment section below!