7 Ways to Make a Cozy, Creative and Kid-Sized Hideaway Spot!

1024px-Cotsen_Childrens_Library_PrincetonKids and hiding spots go together like nooks and crannies or peanut butter and jelly. They love exploring and finding tiny spaces to create little worlds of their own, read fun books in peace, or dabble with their artistic skills.

Give your kids their own little world with one of these 7 ideas for child-sized nooks, hideaways, and corners!

Put Tiny Nooks to Good Use – Got a small space like a closet or the space underneath the stairs that isn’t being used? Take advantage of this space and create a private little oasis for your child to enjoy!

Create a Top-Secret Tepee – Move over, blanket forts. Tepees are a way more awesome addition to any play space and give plenty of room for your child’s imagination to take wing! You can purchase one at a store or create your own version with some twine and bed sheets.

Don’t Forget Window Benches – Who doesn’t love a nice window bench with a beautiful view? Even if you don’t have the most beautiful settings outside, a window bench can easily act as a cozy place for your child to enjoy some “me time.”

Set Some Lofty Relaxation Goals – If you want to save space and give your child their own mini-paradise, loft beds are a good way to go. Your child can count sheep on the top bunk while playing, doing homework, or reading on the bottom bunk. It’s as easy as that!

Put Tiny Crawl Spaces to Good Use – Is there an awkward closet or crawl space (complete with a little door a la Coraline) in your home that you have no idea what to do with? This can be the perfect little getaway for your youngster!

Make a Cozy Corner – Corners can be the place that your child plays or reads without getting in the way of your main living space. All you need to do is angle furniture or bookshelves against a wall, add some floor cushions, pillows, or beanbags, and voila! You’ve created a fun space that can give your young one hours of fun!

Cover It With a Canopy – There’s something so private and cozy about a canopy. Drape one over your child’s bed, and you will create a sanctuary in an instant! Much like the tepee, you can buy a canopy at many stores or create your own by suspending fabric from curtain rods above his or her bed.

What were some of your favorite hideaways as a child? Tell us in the comments below!

10 Fun Indoor Activities to Do When It’s Too Hot Outside

four children stare at sand tiger shark

If you’ve been paying even the slightest bit of attention to the weather lately, you’ll know that it’s really hot outside. In fact, it’s so hot that the National Weather Service has issued an Excessive Heat Warning for the rest of this week in the Greater St. Louis region and the Metro East. With heat indexes reaching between 105 and 113 each afternoon and early evening, it’s wise to stay indoors, but that doesn’t mean you have to be bored!

Here are 10 fun things you can do indoors when it’s too hot to be outside. Enjoy them by yourself or with your friends and family!

Enjoy a Movie Night – Grab your friends, some popcorn, tasty snacks, and cold drinks and enjoy your favorite flicks! Jazz it up with a themed movie marathon, catch up on your favorite Netflix series together, or take turns picking out your favorite movies.

Splash Around at an Indoor Pool – Don’t want to swim outside? Try hitting up a local indoor pool instead! Try the YMCA or another gym in your area, especially if you have a membership. Don’t forget to bring a towel and a bag for your clothes!

Savor a Sweet Cold Treat – With this sweltering heat, we think it’s the perfect excuse to have an ice cream night! Grab a carton of your favorite kind or go out to a local ice cream parlor and try something totally different. It’ll keep you cool and it’s delicious! Oh, and snow cones and milkshakes count, too!

Visit an Aquarium – While it might mean braving the heat to get in and out of your car, visiting an aquarium is a great way to stay cool! Besides, you’ll get to see lots of really interesting sea creatures and maybe even learn something new. Looking for something local? Try the World Aquarium on Laclede’s Landing!

Get Creative – Host a coloring book night with your buddies and unwind together as you create something beautiful. Don’t want to color? Try making your own scrapbooks, sketching something, or coming up with a fun comic to draw out together!

Host a Marathon Gaming Session – Boot up your favorite gaming system, invite your friends over, and start playing your favorite multiplayer games! Make it even more interesting by hosting a tournament, or choose to play any type of game with your friends, whether they’re on the couch with you or playing with you virtually. There are plenty of great games out there, both old and new, to tear into and enjoy!

Put a Puzzle Together – Put your brain to work and construct one of your favorite puzzles or play a brain game with crossword puzzles or Sudoku. Make it even more fun by having your friends work on a puzzle with you. Challenge mode: get two puzzles out, split into teams, and see who can complete their puzzle faster!

Enjoy a Book – Want some quality you-time during these sweltering summer days? Grab your favorite book and a cold beverage, curl up somewhere cool and comfortable, and get lost in some wonderful literature!

Go Bowling – Head over to the closest bowling alley with your buddies and see who can get the highest score. Make it a little more interesting by having the loser buy a round of cold beverages for everyone!

Check Out Your Local Library – Libraries are so underrated and are a true hidden gem in our towns and cities. Venture over to this air conditioned-oasis to check out the collection of books, magazines, DVDs, audiobooks, and more for free!

How do you like to beat the summertime heat? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page!

5 Outdoor Fire Safety Tips to Keep Your Party Fun

skewered marshmallows roasting over a charcoal grill

As you probably know from reading our previous blog, outdoor parties and summertime go hand-in-hand. Whether you’re relaxing with friends in front of a fire pit, roasting marshmallows over an open fire, or partying by the light of tiki torches in the background, it’s always smart to be prepared in case a fire breaks out.

Here are 5 helpful safety tips to help keep your outdoor activities fun for everyone this summer:

Use Caution with Open Flames – There’s nothing like using tiki torches, outdoor fireplaces, candles, and sky lanterns to create the perfect ambiance. If you choose to use these items, however, you need to be careful. The majority of home damage and fire-related injuries can happen when torches or candles are knocked over or if the flame is placed too closely to something flammable. Make sure that your candleholders are sturdy, and keep flames at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn.

Keep a Watchful Eye – It’s always smart to leave a responsible adult in charge, especially if there are children or pets around. Make sure that at least one adult is supervising any children or pets present at the party and to keep them away from open flames.

Be Smart With Campfires – Making a campfire? We suggest that you build it in a fire pit to help prevent fire from spreading. And of course, never leave your campfire unattended. When you’re finished telling spooky stories and roasting hot dogs and marshmallows, make sure to extinguish the campfire. Keep a water source nearby as well, just in case the flames get out of hand.

Try Faux Flames – If you want to take the danger factor out of the picture but still want to keep the romantic, outdoorsy ambiance alive, flameless candles and solar-powered patio torches work just fine. Battery-operated flameless candles and patio torches are safe alternatives that can put your mind at ease so you can simply enjoy your party with your friends and family!

Be Careful with Your Grill – Want to grill up some delicious brats, hot dogs, burgers, or vegetables? Go for it! Just keep the grill at least 10 feet away from structures so they won’t catch on fire. Also, be sure not to turn on the gas while the lid is closed.

Outdoor parties, campfires, and pool parties are fun summertime activities that can leave you and your guests with wonderful memories. Just make sure that you follow our 5 fire safety tips to keep your parties fun for everyone!

Don’t have the space to throw an outdoor party? Looking for your very own oasis complete with pool? Find your dream home by calling the experts at The Massey Team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Elite Properties at (618) 791-5024 or (618) 791-9298! Don’t forget to check out our listings online at www.dianamasseyhomes.com.

7 Essential Tips for the Best Outdoor Summer Parties Ever!

493317904_51952aefc5_bIt’s officially summer, which means it’s time to get outside, soak up the sun, and enjoy everything the season has to offer! What better way to do that than with a fun summer party with all of your friends and family?

Check out our 7 essential tips to help you host an amazing outdoor party this year!

Spread the Word – While you don’t have to send physical invitations if you don’t want to (but please feel free if you do because, well, it’s fun!), make sure your guests know what’s going on. Tell them when you’ll be eating (say, between 6 and 7 p.m.), let them know if they should bring their swimsuits, and tell them what to expect if it rains (game night inside, anyone?!).

Provide Enough Seating – Check out your outdoor furniture. Do you have enough seats to accommodate your guests? If not, it’s time to get creative! Grab picnic blankets, lawn chairs, stools, and anything else that might serve as seats. Renting can also be a surprisingly feasible (and stress-free) option if you’re planning a big-time bash!

Dazzle with Ambient Lighting – Don’t let the party stop once the sun sets! Just add a little ambient lighting to keep your guests in the light. Hang strings of lights on the deck, on tree branches, or even on your fence. Add tea lights, globe string lights, and hurricane lanterns to give your party a warm, inviting glow. This will help your guests navigate their way around outside once nighttime arrives!

Keep Mosquitoes at Bay – Mosquitoes can put a damper on any party. Don’t let them stop you! Just attack their weaknesses. Get rid of any standing water the week before the party, and offer guests any bug spray or bug wipes when they arrive. Also, mosquitoes aren’t very good flyers, so plug in some fans around seating areas and the food to keep the little bugs at bay!

Cover Food Strategically – You may have other insects to contend with than mosquitoes during the summer months. Make sure to cover up any food, including appetizers, salads, and desserts with glass domes and cake stand covers to keep the bugs away (and preserve the food’s freshness). Your guests will thank you!

Stay Cool – Don’t let the heat keep you indoors! You can beat the heat with handheld fans like classic accordion fans or battery-powered fans. You can also create homemade ice-cold compresses by purchasing inexpensive washcloths, rolling them up with a rubber band, and tossing them in a cooler of ice.

Make a Killer Playlist – Who doesn’t love music at a party? Create a fun playlist of party-friendly music that will last for 5 or 6 hours. Choose classics and toss in a few newer tunes here and there to keep your guests dancing. Remember, don’t blare the music – you’ll want your guests to be able to hear each other easily when they talk!

What tips do you have for a successful summer party? Tell us in the comments below or on our Facebook page!

Turn Your Backyard into an Exotic Paradise with a Koi Pond!

25074502855_f8441cf1e7_bAre you tired of staring out at the plain stretch of grass in your backyard? Feeling fresh out of ideas for increased curb appeal? If you’re looking for something unique and fun to do with your yard, a koi pond could be a great addition to your property!

A koi pond will take some work and know-how to start, complete, and maintain, but it’s definitely worth the time and effort. Here’s how you can get started with creating your exotic water garden:

Find the Perfect Spot – First, look around your yard and find the perfect spot for your koi pond. You’ll want to have enough room for these fish to swim in, and you’ll also want to opt for a shadier location since it will keep the water temperate for the fish and keep algae at bay. A good rule of thumb is to plan for a surface area of 50+ square feet for your exotic water garden.

Gather the Necessary Materials – Next, you’re going to need the right materials to help get the job done. We recommend putting sand, a polyvinyl chloride liner, an aquarium sealant, spray-foam insulation, and a water pump on your list. These items will help give you a great koi pond. Worry about acquiring your fish later.

Start Digging – Now it’s time to start digging! Aim for a depth of at least 2 feet, if not more, to help give your fish enough room to move around and to keep any predators like raccoons at bay. Of course, it doesn’t have to be one big pit; you can dig a deeper hole near the middle and keep the sides more shallow to keep the aesthetics more interesting!

Line the Hole – Unfortunately, dirt doesn’t retain water very well. That’s why you’ll need sand and a polyvinyl chloride liner to line the hole with! Be sure to line both the bottom and the sides of the hole with 2 inches of wet sand, followed by the polyvinyl chloride liner. Make sure that the liner’s edges extend above ground, too. This, along with using extra pond liner material, an aquarium sealant, and spray-foam insulation, will help ensure that your hole is sealed properly for your koi to enjoy!

Install the Pump Equipment – Don’t let this step worry you! Installing pump equipment isn’t as tough as it sounds. You can often purchase the equipment you need at local pool and pond supply stores, and the equipment should come with installation instructions. You can choose to hide the pump under rocks, beneath plants, or on the side of your house. Want a waterfall? Make sure that you choose a pump that will circulate half the pond’s capacity every hour!

Add Some Landscaping – It’s time to think about the landscaping around your koi pond! Find some beautiful plants, stately rocks, or even some decking to complete the look. Once you have it looking just the way you want it, add water! Just be sure that you check the chemical balance and temperature before you add any fish.

Add the Koi – If your water’s pH and temperature are adequate, then it’s time to add some koi to your pond! These fish are gorgeous and are very fun to feed. If you’d prefer a cheaper option, fancy goldfish are a good choice, too. You can also add snails, frogs, toads, and even a few turtles to your pond – they’ll help control insects and algae in and around the pond!

Keep in mind, if you live in an area that experiences severe winter weather, you’ll want to take your fish inside during the winter. If you live in a milder climate, your fish can live under a foot of ice as long as a pond heater creates a little air hole for them.

Adding a koi pond can really amplify your home’s curb appeal. Learn more tips about how you can put some pizzazz back into your home and yard by reading more of our fun blogs! Got questions about finding your dream home or selling your current home? Call The Massey Team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Elite Properties at (618) 791-5024 or (618) 791-9298!

The Pros and Cons of Adding a Pool to Your Property

Original_Pool-Environments-outdoor-kitchen-and-pool_s4x3.jpg.rend.hgtvcom.1280.960.jpgSchool’s out and summer is just around the corner – are you having visions of lazing about in your very own swimming pool yet? We wouldn’t blame you if you did! After all, who doesn’t love having a swimming pool in their backyard?

If you don’t own a pool but have been dreaming about it for a while, you will need to do a little bit of homework to determine if this addition is right for you and your lifestyle. That’s why we’re here! Here are some pros and cons to having your own swimming pool:

Pro – It’s a Lot of Fun: There’s no doubt about it – pools are just plain fun! You get to host plenty of fun summertime parties and cookouts with your family and friends, and you also get to enjoy playing and relaxing around the pool. Besides, it’s a great way to get some exercise and soak in the sun!

Con – It Can Present an Element of Danger: For children or for those who don’t know how to swim, pools can be dangerous. You can also be held liable for any injuries that occur in or around your pool when your neighbors or friends are over. If you do decide to install a swimming pool, we recommend having the right safety fencing complete with locks to secure the area.

Pro – It Can Be Appealing to Potential Homebuyers: Like we mentioned earlier, who doesn’t love having their own pool? If you ever do decide to sell your home, a pool can really attract potential homebuyers to your property. That can be a real plus!

Con – You Might Not Receive Your ROI: When selling your home, you can’t simply tack on the price that you paid for the installation of your pool onto the asking price. That means that you will more than likely not receive the amount that you invested in the feature, also called return on investment (ROI). Just keep in mind that all upgrades and renovations will correlate with the current market trends and demands in your area.

Pro – It Can Add Great Curb Appeal: When done properly, a landscaped pool area can really add some amazing curb appeal to your property, making it a beautiful focal point in your backyard.

Con – It Will Need Maintenance: Let’s face it – pools will need proper maintenance. If a pool is neglected, your health and safety could be in jeopardy. You will need to use the right amount of chemicals to keep the pH levels accurate and to keep algae and other bacteria at bay.

Swimming pools can no doubt be a fantastic addition to your home, but like with everything else, it’s best to do your homework to determine if a swimming pool is right for you.

Looking to buy a home with a pool? The experts at The Massey Team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Elite Properties can help! Call us today at (618) 791-5024 or (618) 791-9298 to get started today. You can also scope out our listings by visiting us online at www.dianamasseyhomes.com!

7 Tips for Throwing the Perfect Graduation Party at Home

University Student Hats Graduation PhotoMay is finally here, which means that students in high school and college will be graduating and embarking on a new chapter in their lives. If you have a child who is about to graduate from either high school or college, you may want to celebrate his or her achievements by throwing a graduation party! From the decorations to the refreshments and everything in between, there is a lot of work that goes into planning and preparing the perfect graduation party. But don’t worry – it doesn’t have to be overwhelming!

Here are 7 tips to help make your graduate’s party a wonderful day to remember!

Choose a Date Now – Before you do anything else, set the date for the party. Then tell your graduate’s friends and your family so they can put it on their calendars right away. Since many graduation parties seem to take place near the end of May, you might want to consider having your party in early June.

Get Creative with the Decorations – Of course, you’ll want to deck your home out with balloons and streamers. You can decorate in your graduate’s school colors, in his or her favorite color, or with a fun color scheme that fits a certain theme. We also suggest adding in a poster or a scrapbook that your graduate’s friends and family members can sign and personalize at the party!

Fix the Perfect Food – Your graduate’s guests will more than likely be wandering around and socializing, so finger foods will be the best way to go. We’re thinking finger sandwiches, trays of fruits and veggies, tasty skewers, mini sliders, chips and dips, and pizza! Try having a few different food stations around your home so guests can avoid waiting in long lines.

Don’t Forget Dessert! You’ll also want to make sure that you have some delicious desserts on-hand for your graduate and guests to enjoy! Cupcakes, cookies, and even indulgent Chex mixes are always good choices. Don’t forget the graduation cake to top it all off!

Create a Memory Wall – Bring your graduate’s memories to life with a cool memory wall! Display photos of his or her first days of high school or college, all the fun times that happened in between, photos from football games and band concerts, and the day of their graduation. Your graduate will enjoy laughing and reminiscing over these photos with their friends!

Set up Some Outdoor Games – If the weather looks like it will cooperate, try bringing your graduate’s celebration outside, too! Set up a couple of outdoor games for everyone to play and enjoy. Cornhole, oversized wood dominoes, washers, and oversized Jenga are all great choices!

Pump up the Jams – Don’t forget the music to set the mood for the party! Ask your graduate to create a playlist of his or her favorite songs to play throughout the party. The playlist could also include songs that serve as a reminder of fun times, the school’s fight song, and other fun tunes!

How will you be celebrating your graduate? Tell us in the comments below or on our Facebook page!

6 Steps to Help You Have a Successful Post-Move Garage Sale

imagesYou never really know how much stuff you’ve accumulated through the years until you move! This is a saying that many who have moved into a new home know to be true. If you’ve recently relocated to a new abode and you weren’t able to purge any of your unwanted or unneeded items, you’re probably wondering where to even begin with your towering boxes of possessions you no longer need.

While it may seem daunting at first, you can get rid of all the things you don’t need successfully, one step at a time, by holding a garage sale. Garage sales (or yard sales) can help clear out all that clutter while helping you score some cash in the process. Here are 6 handy steps to help you organize a successful garage sale after you move:

Dedicate a Space – Before you begin gathering your garage sale inventory, it’s best to dedicate a temporary home to store all of your items in. You can set aside your garage, an unused guest room, or a portion of the basement to help you store and sort through your unwanted belongings. Make sure that your space has enough room for you to assess, clean, and price your items!

Start Compiling Your Sale Items – Now it’s time to gather everything you don’t want or need anymore. As you go through your boxes, ask yourself if you’ve used it, worn it, read it, displayed it, or cooked with it within the last year. If not, put it in the for-sale pile! Try to group like things together to make the process even easier.

Begin Pricing – Once everything is sorted, start pricing all of your items. Avoid coming up with general prices for like items – it’ll be easier on you to remember what your price is per item, and your buyers will be more apt to buy when they can see the price. Use masking tape or small adhesive stickers to label your items properly. Not sure how much to ask for your items? Look around in garage sale ads in the local newspaper, on Craigslist.org, or by visiting a few garage sales in your neighborhood to get a good idea.

Don’t Forget to Advertise – A successful garage sale is one that is advertised! Set the date and time for your sale – Saturdays are typically the best. Plan to advertise your garage sale on your social media pages, in the local newspapers, and even on Craigslist. Don’t forget to put up garage sale signs to help direct would-be buyers to your event!

Set Yourself up for Success – When you start setting up your garage sale, try to think like a storeowner or a shopper would. You’ll want your customers to be able to move around and browse freely and comfortably. You will also want them to be able to see all of your items easily. Display your things in a way that intrigues your buyers, and make sure that your big-ticket items are positioned near the front. Remember, you’re trying to display unique treasures, not your unwanted junk!

Have a Game Plan for Leftover Items – If you find that you have some leftover items after your sale (and you probably will – don’t worry!), make sure that you know what you want to do with these items. The easiest actions to take are to either donate your items to a thrift shop or give them to a charity. If you know a friend or family member who is having a garage sale soon, see if you can try selling those unwanted items at their sales.

We hope that these tips help you organize a successful garage sale that will give you more space (and more spending money!) in your new home. Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page!

8 Easy Ways to Make Your Patio a Private Paradise

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Relaxing on your patio is a great way to get out and enjoy the sunshine this spring and upcoming summer! While you may pass the time chatting with friends around the table, lounging in a hammock, or reading a book in your favorite chair, you could feel as if you are exposed to your neighbors and passers-by, which can take away from the comfort you seek.

Fortunately, there are ways that you can give yourself some privacy tastefully and inexpensively. Check out our 8 tips here!

Outdoor Privacy Curtains – You can treat your patio as an extension of your home and obtain the serenity you seek by investing in a few privacy curtains made out of outdoor fabric. You can also create DIY drop cloth curtains by spray-painting a few drop cloths in a unique pattern, giving you privacy and shade in style!

Lattice Panels – Lattice isn’t just lovely to look at – it’s also very versatile for nearly any space! Use a traditional white piece of lattice, spray paint it to reflect your personality, or grow some trailing vines to add a bit of nature to the panels.

Fast-Growing Privacy Plants – Although you will need to wait to enjoy your living privacy screen, plants are an attractive solution to giving your deck or patio some solitude. We recommend tall, bushy plants for the greatest amount of privacy from evergreen trees and oleander to Italian cypress and gold cone.

Outdoor Privacy Screens – A privacy screen or two can be a real asset to your patio. They look great and can be moved around to any location that you’d like! You can purchase one in just about any material you’d like, or you can make your own with old shutters, doors, or other materials.

Bamboo Plants – Bring some exotic charm to your patio with some bamboo! This plant can create a fabulous, tall, dense, and natural privacy screen to the outdoors. It’s especially handy in areas of the yard that has high exposure from the road or close proximity to neighbors.

Tall Garden Pots – For an immediate yet still natural solution to your privacy problem, we suggest placing some tall garden pots in strategic spots on your patio. Plant your favorite plants, flowers, or shrubs in these pots, and place the pots close together to create an eye-catching privacy wall wherever you need it!

Pop-Up Gazebo – Don’t want to spend a lot of money on creating your own gazebo to relax in? Invest in a pop-up canvas gazebo! They’re easy to set up, give you four walls of privacy, and can be moved easily into storage once whenever you choose!

Fountains – We’ve talked a lot about visual privacy, but what about auditory privacy? Sometimes, you just don’t want to hear your neighbors chatting or the cars driving by. If that’s the case, a fountain can help solve that problem! Not only can it help mask the noise you may hear (or the noise others could hear from your yard), but it can also add a lovely element to your curb appeal. Find a small plug-in fountain to place on your table, or go bigger with a multi-tiered fountain near your patio!

Is it a dream of yours to own a house that features a patio or a deck? The Massey Team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Elite Properties can help make that dream a reality! Give us a call today at either (618) 791-5024 or (618) 791-9298, or check out our listings online at www.dianamasseyhomes.com.

4 Fresh Spring Decorating Trends Your Home Is Begging for This Year

16841996946_04187a2427_bIt’s March, which means that spring will be upon us very soon! As the weather warms up, you’ll probably get the itch to put away those heavy throw blankets and winter decorations in favor of items that speak to the season of renewed life. Spring is a wonderful time to decorate because there are countless possibilities to help you bring the feeling of the season indoors.

Here are 4 of our favorite decorating trends for this spring. Try one (or more!) out in your home!

Pastel Romance – Love is in the air this spring, so welcome it in your home with plenty of pretty pastels! We’re seeing a lot of lavenders, soft pinks, and light greens this season, and we just love it! Combine these colors with a crisp white or a bold neutral to create a bright and cheery space.

Hello, Yellow – Yellow is really in this season, and we can’t get enough! Bring in the sunshine with yellow accents, throw pillows, or wallpaper. You can also drape a buttery yellow throw over your favorite armchair or breathe life into your mantelpiece with yellow flowers like daffodils! Pair yellow with pretty much anything – grays, blues of all shades, lavender – really, just about anything goes!

Welcome to the Jungle – For a different take on the spring season, go for a deeper, richer pop of color with dark shades of green! From a bold splash of color as an accent wall in your study to small pops in décor items, this wonderful color will bring a new, vigorous depth into your home.

Springtime Blossoms – What says “spring” more than flowers? Don’t be afraid to bring flowers – real, fake, or a bit of both – into your home this year. You can keep freshly-cut blossoms in a vase in your living areas, place fake flowers inside decorative rain boots by the front door, or admire a bunch inside a few cute mason jars!

How will you decorate for spring this year? Take photos of what you’ve done in your home and share them with us – we love hearing from you! Happy spring!