Monday, June 27, 2016

How to hang outdoor string lights

Hey there! How was your weekend? We worked hard outside and it's looking so beautiful! A few of you have asked about the backyard tour this summer and I'll have it up as soon as I can. We're so behind this year because we've been working on getting bigger projects done that only happen every few years (like deck and playset staining). We still have to have the house trim painted and then we will mulch, then I'll be sure to share it with you! We've been working so hard but there's so much to be done. Having outdoors spaces is WONDERFUL but a lot of work!

We've used the backyard more that ever this summer because it's turned out so beautiful. We absolutely love it. I shared our new outdoor dining room with you a couple weeks ago:
Outdoor lights under pergola

I LOVE having the table up under the pergola. We already use it so much more now and I love that we don't have to worry about soggy cushions to enjoy it. 

One of the smaller projects we got help with out here was one I've planned for a year now, since we added those pretty lights you see up there under the pergola. I shared more about those lights here and they are still holding up incredibly well, even through the winter. They are the best we've found and I highly recommend them. They are industrial quality -- I see the same ones at restaurants all the time. 

I bought three strands last year and planned to use the third one for this project. I really wanted to string another set out between the trees around our patio, but the river birch aren't strong enough for these heavy lights. Like I said, they're industrial quality so the cords are thick and would weigh down the trees and break them, especially in stormy weather. 

So we asked our guys who help us out with projects what they recommended and it was just what I had in mind -- using wires. When I see these strung over patios at restaurants they are usually hung on wires. I believe it's because they are so heavy -- just stringing them alone would pull on the cord too much and they would sag quite a bit. 

They ended up getting wire from the hardware store and large eye hooks like this one: 
Tips to string outdoor lights

They used some kind of bracket to close down on the wire to keep it taught. These
look like an even better option:

These come with the eye hook and I believe you tighten the wire by twisting. 

One end went into the pergola and then they strung it way out to our bigger trees in the back. It was quite a span -- I'd say a good 15-20 yards of wire at the longest section? We have more mature trees back there and they won't bend with the tension. They took another wire over to some bigger trees on the side of the yard as well. 

Then they were able to hang the lights buy using zip ties -- as long as you get them tight the the lights won't move anywhere. Here's a closer look at a corner: 
Using wire to string outdoor lights

See the wire going over through the trees? 

And here's a wider shot of the wires and lights:
How to string outdoor lights

I actually wanted a more "droopy" look then what we ended up with, and was almost going to take a few of them off the wire to give that look, but decided against it. I think the more support the better, and the straight look has grown on me. I think it looks clean and keeps them out of the way. 

If they couldn't get the wire out to the bigger trees I was going to have them place some poles in the ground, but that would have been a lot more work. (You'd have to dig and use cement -- but it's an option if you don't have strong trees.)

Sometimes you can see the wires a lot and sometimes barely at all. They don't bother me though because they made it possible to have a truly dreamy space underneath. The first night we sat under the lights and giggled like little kids because it was just SO pretty. It's just silly how gorgeous it is lit up. 

I was going to take a photo from under the lights for you but we had storms last night. I may update this if I can grab one tonight. For now this is the finished result from further back:
How to string lights over patio

We have quite a grade to our yard so getting high enough in the trees was going to be difficult -- that's why we hired this one out. If you have a flat backyard and something to attach the wires to it would be a pretty easy DIY project. 

Just when I think it can't get any better out here, it does! :) They add so much ambiance out here, we just love the look. 


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Friday, June 24, 2016

How to stop unwanted junk mail in three easy steps

Hello my friends! I hope you had a great week! We just got back from a great week away in North Carolina. Our son did the Duke basketball camp and we can't recommend it enough. It was a fantastic program and we'll be back next year for sure. 

It was so great to be away for a week -- my husband and I truly relaxed and just enjoyed not doing much of anything. Except eating, drinking and taking naps. :) 

Now we're back home and I'm refreshed and ready to tackle stuff at home again. I have a new energy about a lot of projects and my mind is swimming with things I want to get done. 

Today though, I'm talking about another aspect of the huge purge I completed weeks ago. My biggest nemesis when it comes to clutter has always been PAPER. Can I get an amen? It's the thorn in my side, the pain in my neck, the fly in my ointment:
how to stop paper from coming in the house

But you know what? Over the past couple of years I've mostly conquered it. Almost. Enough that I don't feel like it takes over our kitchen table and my car anymore. 

These are my tips on mail specifically -- when it comes to papers from school, good luck to you my friend. :) No really, I do try to handle that stuff immediately, and whatever we need to address hangs on the command center in the mud room. That process does work well for me. 

This is for those of you who want to try to control the paper and lessen what you bring into the house. These tips work and I promise your paper load will lighten if you try them yourself. I will address what I do after all of this in a future post. 

Step 1: Go electronic for bills

If you can go electronic -- do it. We have already with many companies, but still have a list to go.

I'm slowly going through the utilities, investment companies, bank statements and everything else we get on a monthly basis. I used to hesitate when it came to not getting a paper statement, but I'm slowly getting with the times. I realized, how often do we really look at them? Bank statements more so than anything else -- but I think it's far more secure to keep them virtual than on paper. (I know that can be argued but in general, yes.)

Also, it takes mere seconds to log on to see a specific statement. I used to keep them all in the file drawer and that took a lot more time to dig through. Most companies will gladly switch you over and I find it far easier to keep up with. And LESS MAIL. That is our goal folks!

Step 2: Unsubscribe from catalogs and junk mail

I looove a good catalog. They are my jam. But sometimes we grow out of them, I just don't care to get them anymore, or we get on a list we don't want to be on. If this is the case for you, try Catalog Choice. I've used it for years and it works. 

You have to create an account and then you can search literally hundreds of catalogs to unsubscribe. It's awesome and within a couple months they will stop coming to your door. 

I made the mistake of signing up for Restoration Hardware once…and if you get them you know that their catalogs are RIDIC. I feel like I kill a tree every time they send them out. This is a great option to lessen the load in your mailbox and in your house. 

Also, did you know you can opt out of all kinds of offers and junk mail? Many don't realize this but it helps lessen the paper you'll bring into your home tremendously. I use DMA Choice for many marketing mailings. Sign in and you can opt out of catalogs, credit offers and magazine offers.

Then you can go and unsubscribe from pretty much anything else at the National Do Not Mail list: 


As you can see, I don't want any of it (that I don't specifically ask for)! You can get pretty specific with this one too. Can you imagine not getting a million political mailers this fall? The dream may be realized. :)

Remember you'll need to do this for each of you in the home who get mail. Marketers focus primarily on women in the household so even if just the woman does it, it will help tremendously. 

Step 3: Get rid of it before you walk in the door

I keep three bins by our door in the garage -- one for recycling plastic and metal, one for paper recycling and one for shredding. My goal is to get rid of 90 percent of the mail before I even walk in the door. Sometimes it's 100 percent. ;) 

I use similar bins from the Container Store: 
Ours are white, not clear, and IKEA has nearly identical ones for a lot less. I like the ones with lids so they keep the items contained. 

When I keep up with this -- getting rid of most of it before I even walk in the house, the paper clutter is kept to a minimum. 

All of these tips work to bring you less mail and paper to begin with. You can tailor them to what you want and can alway go back and edit most of them if you change your mind. I can guarantee the paper you'll bring into your home will lessen within two to three months. And that is the first and most important step to getting control of it. 

Do you have any tips when it comes to mail? I'd love to hear them! 

Have a great weekend. :)