Has spring officially sprung in your neck of the woods yet? Here in the Austin area, we’re getting some truly beautiful weather, and my little family has been soaking up as much of it as we possibly can.
These last couple of months have been weird, right? I think many of us are feeling so many different emotions. Anything from stressed, to anxious, to grateful for the extra family time, and sometimes all of those feelings in one day!
Well, one of these days we’ll all be able to start reuniting with our friends and loved ones, and what a glorious day that will be, so we’ve been trying to set our sights on looking forward to the good times ahead while also embracing as much family time as we can. I wanted to share a few things we’ve been enjoying in our home lately that will also be perfect for when life returns to something resembling normal again. Because it’s gotta happen eventually, right?!
I mean, we’re all at home all the time anyways, we might as well make sure every inch of our property is as useful as possible, right?!
Add Some Space to Play
One of the first things we did at the very beginning of this whole quarantine adventure was purchase a small clubhouse for the backyard. We knew we’d be spending a lot of time at home and that our neighborhood playground would be off-limits, so we set a priority to make our backyard a little more fun for our two small boys.
Of course, we wanted to make sure it also looked great, so the first order of business after getting it put together was sealing and painting it! Most wooden playsets come un-sealed so that you can choose the right sealant for your specific climate – and it’s vital to get it sealed (or painted) as quickly as you can to ensure it lasts for years and years!
We also have been getting creative with other fun things to add to our yard. My parents dropped off my old (25+ year old) dollhouse, and I painted it to give it a fresh look. It used to be pink and blue, but with some spray paint (I used Rust-Oleum’s 2X line which is meant for plastic!) it has a fresh look that my boys love – they’re having a blast with all their action figures on it! I also put together some simple wooden yard dice for family Yahtzee games, and we are working on some DIY cornhole boards with scrap wood that is in our garage. I even have plans to whip up a little fence chalkboard like one that we used to have at an old house!
My favorite part about all of these little changes is that they’re providing us with lots of fun things to do now while we’re staying home, but they’ll also be so great for the boys and their friends once we can resume social activities again! We love hosting other families for dinner or play dates at our house, and it’s always a good idea to make the backyard a play kids want to be so things can stay a little quieter indoors!
Bring In Some Greenery
Another super simple way to make your backyard space feel more welcoming and exciting to hang out in is to add some plants! It seems like an obvious and almost too easy thing to do, but you might be shocked at how big of a difference it makes!
Many of your local nurseries are still operating even during all of the shut downs – I was able to place an order for a few new plants for my patio via email and do a curbside pickup. It was quick and easy and within a couple of hours I was able to add a lot of life to our little patio and it suddenly became a much more fun place to hang out!
There’s just something special about a big, leafy plant that draws you outside.
Another option to consider is planting a tree or two in your yard. Now would be the perfect time to add some shade to the yard and a tree goes a long way towards making things feel even more special and beautiful. We’re in the process of getting that ball rolling at our own home, and I’m VERY excited to dive in.
Bottom line? Even if you think you have a black thumb, a few new plants will do wonders for your backyard. Start small and work your way up, and pretty soon you can have a lush, cozy plant wonderland right outside your back door!
Spruce Up What You’ve Got
The last big thing we’ve been doing in our yard is getting creative with what we already have to make it work!
We whipped up this cute little patio coffee table from some scrap wood we had lying around, and we already had some cozy outdoor lights that were just waiting to be hung up. We even stained our fence in the last few weeks!
There’s nothing like a quarantine to get you moving on knocking off those little lingering to-do’s, right?!
The basic idea here is that we have a nice little patio area, but it wasn’t all that usable before. We wanted to make it a place that we actually wanted to spend time in, so we did our best to cozy it up with things we already had laying around.
Of course, if you’ve got the budget or the desire for a whole new set of furniture for your yard, that’s awesome too! But for us, we didn’t want to jump into anything major in the middle of a pandemic (especially since we’ve lived in our home for less than a year and are still learning how we’ll use our spaces), so it felt wiser to just make the things we already have work a little harder and a little smarter for us.
With just a few small changes, our patio is now a place I love to be (whereas before this whole thing started, I never spent time out here). It’s so lovely to come out in the mornings with my laptop and get some work done while the boys are playing in the clubhouse, and I love lounging in my cozy chair with a glass of wine and my feet up on the coffee table after they’re settled for the evening.
Basically, we just gained a whole new room in our house and we hardly spent a dime!
And, once again, I’ll point out that one of the biggest benefits of all this work we put into our patio is that the moment the social distancing guidelines are lifted and we can resume normal activity with our friends, we’re ready for a party! I love knowing that our little patio is all spruced up and just waiting for its big debut the first time we can have some friends over again – it will feel even more special since we’ve basically been prepping for weeks!
Speaking of our first hosting gig once all this is over…
I’ve been dreaming of what food we’ll serve the first time we can have friends over again. Is that weird? Pretty much all of our favorite social gatherings revolve around food, so it only makes sense that we’ve been thinking about our first meal reunited with our loved ones a lot.
And, just because we can’t have them here right now doesn’t mean we can’t practice, right?
Here are a few favorite quick & simple recipes that I’m dying to share with my friends again once things are normal.
Soft Pretzels and Beer Cheese Dip
We love to buy frozen pretzels and pair them with this simple homemade beer cheese dip. Of course, you can make your own pretzels too, if you’re feeling adventurous!
- 1 tablespoon of flour
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- 1 can of beer or cider
- 2 cups of shredded cheese
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and mix the flour in to form a roux. Allow it to cook for about 1 minute, then pour in the can of beer. Whisk until the flour is mixed in completely. Add the cheese, and continue to cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, until the cheese is melted.
I love to mix up this quick and easy homemade sangria anytime we have a large group coming – it’s always a crowd-pleaser, and it tastes delicious for a few days afterwards, too, if you happen to have any leftovers!
You can get the full recipe right here!
Combine those two recipes with a grilled pork tenderloin or some wings and you’ve got yourself a feast!
I’d love to hear from you about your plans for your first post-global-pandemic gathering. What are you dying to do with your friends?!