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5 Tips For Hosting The Perfect Backyard Cook Out


We love to host cook outs at our house with family and friends. I guarantee we will be hosting one almost every single weekend this summer with various friends and family attending. It’s what we do. Over the years we have perfected the art of hosting the perfect backyard cook out, or as we call it here in the South- the BBQ. 

1. Do the food pot luck and buffet style. This is very important or you’ll end up in the kitchen the entire time. I usually send out a mass text to all the friends and family we’re inviting with details about what we need. For example, last weekend I sent out a text saying we were cooking pork chops and hot dogs and asking for people to bring side dishes, hot dog buns, and sodas. We had a lovely spread with pasta salads, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, and cake! It was great. And so easy. I lay everything out in the kitchen in stations to make it easier. One counter has plates, napkins, cups and silverware. The next has all the side dishes. And the last has the desserts. Everything flows clockwise to avoid congestion and I don’t have to worry about serving people. 

2. Provide lots of drinks. I keep one of our outdoor fridges fully stocked with drinks- kids drinks, sodas, water, gatorade, beer, and adult beverages. When we’re ready for our cookout I transfer kids drinks, water, and sodas to a big ice filled tub and then beer and adult drinks go into another ice filled bucket. I periodically check to see what needs to be refilled throughout the cookout. 

3. Plan a variety of activities. We always have the hot tub open with the jets on. We have corn hole in the yard and depending on the temps and the time of day we have the gas fire pit going. When our cookout runs into the evening we fire up an outdoor movie for the kids. 

4. Always have shade and sunscreen. I keep a can of spray sunscreen in the drink bucket for guests to use. It’s chilled and feels so good when you’re hot. We have 2 big umbrellas on the deck for shade and we keep the AC down low for people who need to cool off inside. It gets really hot here- up to 102-106 during the summer- and the last thing I want is guests dropping from heat exhaustion.

5. Consider the ambiance. You want your guests to feel relaxed and the best way to do that is to consider the ambiance you’ve created. We always blast tunes through a wireless speaker from my Summer Fun playlist. If it’s dark enough outside I toss some glow sticks in the hot tub. We have solar string lights around the hot tub and the deck railings that don’t attract as many bugs. And I light tiki torches in the yard. 

 Hosting the perfect backyard cook out doesn’t take much work, just some planning. And all the planning ensures you get to have as good a time as your guests! 


40 Bags In 40 Days

Today is March 1st, which marks the first day of Lent. This year I have decided to do a 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge to clear out my house. Lately I’ve been feeling out of sorts and overwhelmed with the state of my house. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to get all the stuff on my to do list done and the house is suffering. The purpose of the 40 bags in 40 days challenge for me is to be purposeful and mindful of what I’m choosing to keep in the house. I’ve never done this challenge before so I’m excited to get started. I’m hoping that this challenge will put me in the mindset of asking myself “do we really need this?” before I buy or bring something new into the house. I know we will never be minimalists but we can definitely do with less stuff! 

We spent last weekend doing some work in the kids bedrooms. Like I mentioned yesterday, Tyler’s futon broke so we had to do some bed rearranging. It was eye-opening, shocking, and downright appalling to see the amount of clutter and crap in the kids rooms. I mean, seriously! 


All of that came from underneath Zoey’s loft bed. And that’s not all of it. That’s just one side of the room. See? Appalling. And I don’t even know what half of that junk is or where it came from. That’s embarrassing. Mason’s closet was scary and there are so many things in there that he doesn’t want or care about anymore. 

I have quite a few areas that I want to focus on- closets, pantries, laundry cabinets, master bedroom, kitchen cabinets, bathroom cabinets…the list just goes on and on. I start today! In fact, I already have my first bag filled and ready to donate! I’ll keep you updated on my progress and hopefully in 40 days I’ll feel better about the state of my house.


Managing My Household Hot Spots

After a couple of months of diligent searches, we’ve identified the neighborhood that we want to live in when we move. It’s the perfect location (about 15 minutes closer to the kids new charter school), the style that we like best (modern craftsman-ish), the amenities that we desire (2 pools, cabana, large playground, walking trails, tennis courts, etc), and offers the size of house and layouts that we want. We hope to build new because right now they are still building phase 1 of 4 planned phases. But it’s more expensive than what we originally intended to spend so we know that we will have to stay in our current house for at least 3 years in order to be able to afford to move to this neighborhood. Unless we win the lottery. *fingers crossed*

So based on our revised timeline I decided to identify and remedy the hot spots in our current house. What are hot spots? I’m so glad you asked. Hot spots are those areas in your house that drive you insane. Either they are cramped and cluttered, or they are non-functional, or they encourage chaos. We have several such areas in our house and if I have to live here for 3 more years then I need to fix these spots. Knowing that I’m going to be spending a good portion of my days in the car driving kids to and from school, and practices, and everything else then I need every inch of this house to function in an organized manner. 


Our current hot spots:

1. The Front Entry Closet. We did a semi-custom locker system in the closet years ago when we only had a few kids but it’s not functional anymore for a large family. Shoes are just everywhere. There’s nowhere to put hats, mittens, scarves, etc. I’m not sure exactly how I’m going to fix the situation but it will be fixed.

2. The Garage Staircase. I’m not sure what it is about a set of stairs that makes my kids think they should pile stuff there but our garage staircase is so cluttered that I almost fell down it last week. I’m going to take everything off the stairs and start over. I think I’m going to paint the stairs and railing too. Might as well make it look pretty. I want to move the dog leashes out there to free up space in the front closet. I have a general idea of what I want so now I just need to execute it.

3. The Laundry. Dear Lord, the laundry. It’s out of control. Right now each kid has an individual laundry basket in their rooms. Thanks to my new extra large capacity washer and dryer I could fit all 3 younger kids dirty laundry into one load. But the separating colors and whites and darks and jeans….it’s killing me. I need a central hamper system that can be in the upstairs hallway for all 3 kids to use. It’ll have to look nice because that area can be seen from the front door. I’m on the lookout for something.

4. The Shoe Clutter. The kids keep school and nice shoes in the front entry closet but all their play shoes are in a canvas bin beside the back door. It’s not working. They dig through the bucket and just dump out other people’s shoes all over the place. I need a shoe cabinet by the back door. I found one at IKEA so I just need to make it happen.

5. The Linen Closet. Right now it’s just a disaster catch all closet upstairs. I have extra school supplies, bags of clothes to donate, kids books, and a whole lot of linens in there. Oh and medications too. And Bailey’s dog food. And extra toiletries. I need to pull everything out, donate what we don’t need, and organize the heck out of that space. It’s just not functional right now. 

Those are the top hot spots in my house right now. There are others. Boy are there others. But I know if I try to do them all at one time I’ll get overwhelmed, annoyed, and stop halfway through. So these are the 5 I’m going to focus on before school starts up again in August. Then I’ll make another list. 


2016 House Tour: Family Room

The room we spend the most time in is the family room. Last year we bought an amazing sectional U-shaped couch that is finally big enough to fit our whole family plus a couple of extra people for movie nights! The couch is huge, y’all and it takes up a lot of room so I’ve spent some time in the last few months simplifying this room and re-arranging stuff to make it as open as possible. 


This is the view from the hallway. The dining nook is over to the left with the kitchen and the back deck is through those french doors. This room is so hard to photograph with all the light coming in, this is the best I could get from this angle. 


This is the view when I’m standing in the kitchen. I love being able to prep dinner and watch TV at the same time. Man this couch is huge. It doesn’t seem that big when I’m standing in the room but it’s huge in pictures. Ha! 


I finally did away with the huge family command center that took up the whole wall on the left of the fireplace. I just got tired of it and needed a change. I found the narrow bookcase on sale at IKEA and snapped it up for $29. All the decor came from around the house so it was a great change that cost me less than $30! We also redid the fireplace surround this year. If you look back at the last family room tour you’ll see the awful gold & glass 80’s fireplace doors that were so ugly. We removed them and added a free-standing fireplace screen instead. Instant update for less than $60!


This is the view from the french doors. Through that doorway is the second family room. Don’t mind the baby gate, it keeps the dogs from trying to run out the door whenever the doorbell rings. They’re like a herd of stampeding elephants when that door bell ding dongs. 


I moved the black cube unit to the long wall, added some lamps that used to be in the master bedroom and that big silver mirror came out of our master bathroom when we did our big remodel a few months ago. It works perfectly in this space and adds so much light to the room!


A couple of months ago I added the indoor/outdoor rug from Target and found some awesome cushion covers on clearance at IKEA for $1 each! I love all the light pouring in from the kitchen and dining nook but it sure does make it hard to get any decent pictures. See how massive the couch is? But it’s so comfy! I’m about ready to change up that gallery wall but I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet. 


The colors in the space make me so happy. I love the teals and aquas with the orange accents. They’re just bright and cheerful and they make me smile. I’m enjoying them while I can because I know when we put this house on the market in a couple of years I’m going to have to tone it down.

You can see past family room tours: 2015, 2013, 2012, 2010, 2009


The Differences Between My Dream House & His


Matt and I spent another weekend driving around to various neighborhoods and checking them out. We’ve begun to narrow down our choices with regards to which areas we want to focus on and that’s a start. We also have been talking a lot about what we want in our next house. I know what I want- everything. Clearly I am so easy to please. But honestly, this will hopefully be our last move. I don’t want to move again. Ever. I want this next house to be the house where our kids bring their own kids to visit at the holidays. I want a forever house. That means I have some requirements. And Matt and I don’t seem to be 100% on the same page with those requirements. Let me give you a taste of what I’m dealing with here.

My Wish List:

Mudroom or space for a landing zone off the garage
Lots of natural light & bright spaces
All hardwood flooring on main level
Large laundry room
Master on main level
5 bedrooms & 3 full baths
Master with large closet & soaking tub in bathroom
Flat fenced backyard with space for a hot tub (a pool would be awesome)
A bonus room or loft
A foyer (I hate walking right into my living room now)
Great amenities in the neighborhood

I don’t think that’s an unreasonable list. Now here is Matt’s wish list:

A man-cave
A wall big enough for a 73″ TV
A 3-car garage

Anyone see a discrepancy here? Basically he wants a frat house. I’m thinking about what will work best for how our family functions. Matt’s thinking about where to store his toys. I married a man-child. So needless to say, our home search might take all 2 years that we’ve allotted ourselves. Of course, those are the things on our wish list. I know I might not get everything on my list. But I do have a few items that I consider to be non-negotiables such as the laundry room, 3 bathrooms, hardwood floors on main level, flat fenced yard, natural light, and great amenities. Matt’s only non-negotiable is the 3 car garage. Which if this house hunt plays out the way I see it going in my mind might not be a bad idea because I’m going to make him live in that extra garage space.