Category Archives: Outdoor Entertaining

When the weather warms and your parties move outdoors, try these simple ideas. Entertaining doesn’t demand any elaborate decor, just simple food, good company, and your patio.

Outdoor Wood Furniture Care and Maintenance

Folding Dining Table Set

Tips On How To Keep Your Outdoor Wood Furniture Looking Like New

Often, the most attractive Outdoor Patio and Deck Furniture is made from wood. Wood is a natural product, but when exposed to moisture and changes in temperature and humidity, wood reacts in a number of different ways. Proper maintenance of your Wood Patio Furniture will provide a long life over many years in a variety of weather environments.

Teak Furniture is perhaps the most desirable, and arguably the most expensive, outdoor wood furniture on the market. Teak is a beautiful, honey-colored, dense, tropical hardwood that is resistant to insect infestation and contains natural oils which make it resistant to rot and decay. Unfortunately, teak trees grow very slowly and take at least 60 years to reach harvest-able size, and because teak furniture is in such high demand, teak is not as easily acquired as woods like cedar, oak, or pine. With supplies not able to meet demand, the price of teak has increased dramatically. The advantage of teak, though, is that, with proper maintenance, it can last for more than 50 years, which makes the initial investment worth it for many homeowners.

While cleaning teak is not mandated, it is not a bad idea to clean outdoor teak furniture each year to remove any buildup of pollen, sap, or mildew. Do not use any bleach solutions because this may damage the coloration. Clean the furniture with water and/or neutral soap and a soft brush. Follow each cleaning with a coat of teak oil (optional) if you wish to keep the wood its original honey color.

Other tropical hardwoods, like Eucalyptus, have gained in popularity as the price of teak has grown prohibitive for many homeowners. Eucalyptus wood, like teak, is alluring, durable, hardy, and resistant to rot and insect infestation. The fast maturity of eucalyptus trees makes them more readily available and more easily affordable. Like outdoor teak furniture, outdoor eucalyptus furniture can be treated with teak oil following an annual cleaning to help preserve the wood’s natural color (if desired).

Varieties of other outdoor wooden furniture include cedar, redwood, oak, and pine. These woods, though (especially pine), must be treated with a preservative to prevent decay, which can occur rapidly if exposed to harsh weather environments. Protecting this wood furniture with a water-resistant stain, protective oil, or polyurethane is also recommended. Your local home and garden store will have many options from which to choose, and a store associate should be able to assist you in selecting the most appropriate product to be reapplied regularly (check manufacturer’s instructions for details).

Outdoor wood furniture should be cleaned once a year. Mix one tablespoon of bleach, five tablespoons of a gentle dish washing liquid, and a gallon of water, and softly rub the surface of your wood furniture with a soft bristle brush. Wash the solution from the furniture, and allow it to dry completely in the sun. Repainting or restaining wood furniture could be indicated at this time to cover and protect any worn or damaged areas.

All woods are susceptible to rot and decay if left in damp, humid, and shady areas for a long time. Wood that becomes saturated with rain water is more likely to warp and rot, so using protective covers when your furniture is not in use is strongly advised to keep your wooden patio furniture in good shape. The bases of furniture legs are definitely the most susceptible when it comes to water damage. If wood furniture is kept in the grass, at the poolside, or on a surface that collects even a small level of rain water, the legs can become easily saturated and damaged. Covering the bottoms of each furniture leg with rubberized material or small sections of cedar fencing material will help protect your furniture from rotting from the bottom up.

Finally, exposure to chemicals including solvents and chlorine, and exposure to common items such as alcoholic beverages, plants and flower nectar, and hot items (off of a grill, for example) can permanently stain and damage wood surfaces. Additionally, it is vital to prevent plastic objects, like plastic table cloths, toys, placemats, and appliance covers, from lying on wood furniture for a long period of time because plastic can discolor wood. Plastic can also stick to and damage a wood finish.

The lifespan for any wooden patio furniture depends greatly on the type of wood used and the weather it is exposed to. Properly maintaining your outdoor wood furniture can make it last for many years and maximize your investment. Outdoor wood furniture makes a quaint, charming, and nice addition to any backyard, deck, patio, or garden, and with care, it will continue to make a great impression for years to come.

History of the Umbrella

black_umbrella_clip_art_20394“History of the Umbrella”

Excerpt from RL. Chambers’ Book of Days, Vol. 1 (1864) at 241-44  and his view of  umbrella history at that time.

The designation of this useful contrivance (from umbra, shade) indicates the earliest of its twofold uses. Johnson describes it as “a screen used in hot countries to keep off the sun, and in others to bear off the rain;” and Kersey many years before (1708) had described it as “a kind of broad fan or screen, commonly used by women to shelter them from rain; also a wooden frame, covered with cloth, to keep off the sun from a window.” Phillips in his New World of Words, edit. 1720, describes the umbrella as “now commonly used by women to shelter them from rain.”

As a shade from the sun, the umbrella is of great antiquity. We see it in the sculptures and paintings of Egypt, and Sir Gardner Wilkinson has engraved a delineation of an Ethiopian princess, traveling in her chariot through Upper Egypt to Thebes, wherein the car is furnished with a kind of umbrella fixed to a tall staff rising from the center, and in its arrangement closely resembling the chaise umbrella of the present time. The recent discoveries at Nineveh show that the umbrella (or parasol) “was generally carried over the king in time of peace and even in war. In shape,” says Layard, “it resembled very closely those now in common use, but it is always seen open in the sculptures. It was edged with tassels, and was usually adorned at the top by a flower or some other ornament. On the later bas-reliefs, a long piece of linen or silk, falling from one side, like a curtain, appears to screen the king completely from the sun. The parasol was reserved exclusively for the monarch and is never represented as borne over any other person. On several bas-reliefs from Persepolis, the king is represented under an umbrella, which a female slave holds over his head.”

From the very limited use of the parasol in Asia and Africa, it seems to have passed both as a distinction and a luxury, into Greece and Rome. The Skiadeion, or day shade of the Greeks was carried over the head of the effigy of Bacchus; and the daughters of the aliens at Athens were required to bear parasols over the heads of the maidens of the city at the great festival of the Panathenea. We see also the parasol figured in the hands of the princess on the Hamilton vases in the British Museum. At Rome, when the veil could not be spread over the roof of the theatre, it was the custom for the females and effeminate men to defend themselves from the sun with the umbrella or umbraculum of the period; and this covering appears to have been formed of skin or leather, capable of being raised or lowered as circumstances might require.

Although the use of the umbrella was thus early introduced into Italy, and had probably been continued there as a vestige of ancient Roman manners, yet so late as 1608, Thomas Coryat notices the invention in such terms as to indicate that it was not commonly known in his own country. After describing the fans of the Italians, he adds: “Many of them do carry other fine things, of a far greater price, that will cost at least a ducat (5s 6d), which they commonly call, in the Italian tongue, umbrellaces; that is, things that minister shadow unto them, for shelter against the scorching heat of the sun. These are made of leather, something answerable to the form of a little canopy, and hooped in the inside with divers little wooden hoopes, that extend the umbrella into a pretty large compasse. They are used especially by horsemen, who carry them in their hands when they ride, fastening the end of the handle upon one of their thighs; and they impart so long a shadow unto them, that it keepeth the heate of the sun from the upper part of their bodies.” It is probable that a similar contrivance existed, at the same period in Spain and Portugal, whence it was taken to the New World. Defoe, it will be remembered, makes Robinson Crusoe describe that he had seen umbrellas employed in the Brazils, and that he had constructed his own umbrella in imitation of them. “I covered it with skins,” he adds, “the hair outwards, so that it cast off the rain like a penthouse, and kept off the sun so effectually, that I could walk out in the hottest of the weather with greater advantage than I could before in the coolest.” In commemoration of this ingenious production, one species of the old heavy umbrellas was called “The Robinson.”

The umbrella was used in England as a luxurious sun-shade early in the seventeenth century. Ben Jonson mentions it by name in a comedy produced in 1616: and it occurs in Beaumont and Fletcher’s Rule a Wife and Have a Wife, where Altea says:

“Are you at ease? Now is your heart at rest?

Now you have got a shadow, an umbrella,

To keep the scorching world’s opinion

From your fair credit.”

In those days, as we may infer from the passage in Drayton, the umbrella was composed exteriorly of feathers, in imitation of the plumage of water-birds. Afterwards, oiled silk was the ordinary material. In the reign of Queen Anne, the umbrella appears to have been in common use in London as a screen from the rain but only for the weaker sex. Swift in the Tatler, October 17, 1710, says in “The City Shower:”

“The tuck’d up seamstress walks with hasty strides,

While streams run down her oiled umbrella’s sides.”

Gray speaks of it in his Trivia; or the Art of Walking the Streets of London:

“Good housewives all the winter’s rage despise,

Defended by the riding-hood’s disguise:

Or underneath th’ umbrella’s oily shed,

Safe through the wet on clinking pattens tread.

Let Persian dames th’ umbrella’s ribs display,

To guard their beauties from the sunny ray;

Or sweating slaves support the shady load,

When Eastern monarchs shew their state abroad;

Britain in winter only knows its aid,

To guard from chilly showers the walking maid.”

This passage, which points to the use of the umbrella exclusively by women, is confirmed by another passage in the Trivia, wherein the surtout is recommended for men to keep out of the drenching shower.

“By various names, in various countries known,

Yet held in all the true surtout alone.

Be thine of kersey firm, though small the cost;

Then brave unwet the rain, unchill’d the frost.”

At Woburn Abbey is a full length portrait of the beautiful Duchess of Bedford, painted about 1730, representing the lady as attended by a black servant, who holds an open umbrella to shade her. . . .

Cantilevered Umbrellas have a Post on the side

Side Post Cantilevered Umbrellas

. . . The eighteenth century was half elapsed before the umbrella had even begun to be used in England by both sexes, as we now see it used. In 1752, Lieutenant-Colonel (afterwards General) Wolfe, writing from Paris says: “The people here use umbrellas in hot weather to defend them from the sun and something of the same kind to save them from the snow and rain. I wonder a practice so useful is not introduced in England.” Just about that time, a gentleman did exercise the moral courage to use an umbrella in the streets of London. He was the noted Jonas Hanway, newly returned from Persia, and in delicate health, by which, of course, his using such a convenience was justified both to himself and the considerate part of the public. “A parapluie,” we are told “defended Mr. Hanway’s face and wig.”  For a time no others than the dainty beings then called Macaronies ventured to carry an umbrella. Any one doing so was sure to be hailed by the mob as “a mincing Frenchman.” Once John Macdonald, a footman, who has favoured the public with his memoirs, found as late as 1770, that, on appearing with a fine silk umbrella which he had brought from Spain, he was saluted with the cry of  “Frenchman, why don’t you get a coach?” It appears, however, as if there had previously been a kind of transition period, during which an umbrella was kept at a coffee-house, liable to be used by gentlemen on special occasions by night, though still regarded as the recourse of effeminancy. In the Female Tatler of December 12, 1709, there occurs the following announcement: “The young gentleman belonging to the Custom House, who, in the fear of rain borrowed the umbrella at Will’s coffee-house, in Cornhill, of the mistress, is hereby advertised that to be dry form head to foot on the like occasion, he shall be welcome to the maid’s pattens.” It is a rather early fact in the history of the general use of the umbrella that in 1758, when Dr. Shebbeare was placed in the pillory, a servant stood beside him with an umbrella to protect him from the weather, physical and moral, which was raging around him.

Much of the clamour which was raised against the general use of the umbrella originated with the chairmen and hackney-coachmen, who, of course, regarded rainy weather as a thing especially designed for their advantage and from which the public were entitled to no other protection than what their vehicles could afford.

In all the large towns of the empire, a memory is preserved of the courageous citizen who first carried an umbrella. In Edinburgh, it was a popular physician named Spens. In the Statistical Account of Glasgow by Dr. Cleland, it is related about the year 1781 or 1782 the late Mr. John Jameson, surgeon, brought with him an umbrella on his return from Paris, which was the first seen in the city and attracted universal attention. This umbrella was made of heavy wax-cloth, with cane ribs and was a ponderous article. Cowper mentions the umbrella twice in his Task, published in 1784.

The early specimens of the English umbrella made of oiled silk, were, when wet, exceedingly difficult to open or close; the stick and furniture were heavy and inconvenient, and the article generally very expensive; though an umbrella manufacturer in Cheapside, in 1787, advertised pocket and portable umbrellas superior to any kind ever imported or manufactured in this kingdom; and “all kinds of common umbrellas prepared in a particular way, that will never stick together.” The substitution of silk and gingham for oiled silk, however, remedied the above objections.

The umbrella was originally formed and carried in a fashion the reverse of what now obtains. It had a ring at the top, by which it was usually carried on the finger when furled (and by which also it could be hung up within doors), the wooden handle terminating in a rounded point to rest on the ground. The writer remembers umbrellas of this kind being in use among old ladies as lately as 1810. About thirty years ago, there was living in Taunton, a lady who recollected when there were but two umbrellas in that town; one belonged to a clergyman, who, on proceeding to his duties on Sunday, hung up the umbrella in the church porch, where it attracted the gaze and admiration of the townspeople coming to church.

Bases for Umbrellas

Umbrella Bases

Parasols or Umbrellas Today

The word “umbrella” evolved from the Latin word “umbra“, meaning “shaded.” The word “parasol” is from “para” meaning “to shield” or ” to stop” and from “sol” meaning “sun”. Umbrellas are now usually made some kind of fabric canopy that is either hand held or fixed to a stationary wood or aluminum pole,  and used primarily to protect us from the elements like rain, sleet, snow or the sun’s rays.     Fabrics for the canopy can vary quite a bit.    SunBrella (acrylic) holds up well to the elements, but olefin, nylon, Coolaroo are common too!     Canopies are held out  in place by wood, aluminum, and now fiberglass ribs.      There are also a large variety of  bases and stands for umbrellas.

Unique Gift Ideas for the Backyard Enthusiast

Dragon Fly Glass Lantern

Reduce the Environmental Impact of Gift Giving

If you or someone you love is conscious about environmental issues, then gift giving times can be less than joyful occasions. Wrapping paper, ribbons, packaging materials, and even the gift idea itself often demonstrate our wasteful tendencies when it comes to giving gifts. Being more environmentally considerate about what we give as gifts and how we present those gifts can go a long way to show our loved ones that we care about them as well as about the environment. Here are a few unique gift ideas that are, in themselves environmentally friendly, but that would also appeal to anyone who loves spending time outdoors.

Decorative Solar Lanterns

Affordable and practical, decorative solar lanterns make a beautiful addition to an outdoor dining table or sitting area. Powered by the sun’s rays during the day, most high quality solar lanterns can illuminate their surroundings with an energy-saving LED bulb for up to 8 hours after the sun goes down. No operating costs means no impact on the environment, and that is beautiful, indeed.

For small gifts such as solar lanterns, consider replacing traditional wrapping papers with cloth wrapping. Secure the cloth wrapping to the gift with a color-coordinated fabric ribbon. Whether you purchase a cloth bag, or use fabric you already have in your home, cloth wrapping is durable and can be re-used multiple times. Your friend will appreciate this additional gift.

Solar Fountains

Solar fountains for the patio or garden are other unique gift ideas for your environment-loving outdoor enthusiast. The gentle sound of running water is soothing to the mind and spirit, and it can help your friend unwind and relax at the end of hectic days. In addition, a solar fountain adds an attractive focal point to a garden or patio without requiring a nearby electrical outlet to power the water pump.

Depending on the size of the solar fountain you plan to give as a gift, you may wish to consider no wrapping whatsoever. Instead, add value to the gift by assembling it beforehand, choosing a location outdoors, and presenting it to your loved one so that it can be enjoyed right away. Because there are no electrical cords to worry about, the solar fountain can be relocated easily if desired.

Recycled Rope Hammock Swing

hammock swing is a gift idea that is rarely considered, but it’s one that many people would love to receive. Unlike a traditional hammock, a hammock swing allows you to sit up comfortably and enjoy reading a book, having a conversation, or just taking in the surroundings. Hammock swings can be constructed from weather-resistant outdoor fabrics or woven with rope materials, but the most environmentally-friendly hammock swing is one whose ropes are made from 100% recycled polyester fibers. These ropes are extremely durable and resistant to harsh weather, but they are also soft to the touch like cotton.

While you may not want to install a hammock swing gift before presenting it to your loved one, you can add value to the gift by installing it yourself once a location is chosen, or you can hire an installer to do the work. No wrapping is necessary for a hammock swing, but tying a decorative fabric bow around the gift before you present it can provide a festive touch.

Gift giving doesn’t have to continue to be as wasteful as it has always been. Creative and re-usable wrappings, or no wrappings, and gift choices that are sustainable as well as attractive and useful are some of the simple ways we can reduce our impact on the environment. By paying a little more attention to what we give and how we give it, we can make a big difference. Environmentally considerate gifts add value and joy to the giving, and to the receiving.

Finding Patio Furniture Inspirations in Your Indoor Spaces

Lexington Set from Tortuga

When choosing patio furniture to fill your outdoor spaces, it’s important to select a style and material that best suit your personality and preferences. Living with your choice is easier when you love what you have. Choose furniture that you will want to spend time using, not just when guests come over, but every day and for no special reason at all.

When faced with the wide variety of furniture options available for patios and decks, choosing the right style can be as easy as looking to your indoor spaces for inspiration. Do you love your indoor furniture? Does it capture your sense of style? Do you enjoy coming home to relax on your sofa or lounge chair? You can easily duplicate that indoor success in your outdoor living spaces by choosing patio furniture with similar qualities as the indoor furniture you love. Ask yourself what you enjoy most about your indoor furnishings. Is it the comfort, the elegant design, the natural materials? When you determine what features you love most about your indoor furnishings, you can begin to narrow the field of outdoor furniture possibilities and zero in on the most suitable choices for your home.

For example, if you love the elegant and romantic feel of your indoor furnishings, you should consider metal furniture for your patio or deck. Wrought iron and aluminum furnishings are available with intricate designs and curvaceously flowing lines that bring a touch of elegance. If, on the other hand, you love that your indoor furnishings are deliciously comfortable, then resin wicker patio furniture may be the best choice. Resin wicker furniture not only comes with sumptuous cushions, it is incredibly easy furniture to care for, and it is beautiful enough to use inside. Other outdoor furniture choices are available, too, including traditional wood and environmentally friendly recycled plastic furniture. Each has its own set of unique qualities that can help you determine whether it is the right choice for you.

Too often, homeowners choose a style of furniture for their patios and decks that is in direct contrast to what they might choose for their indoor spaces because they feel that outdoor spaces should look like outdoor spaces, quite different from what they’ve accomplished inside. Unfortunately, outdoor furniture that doesn’t coordinate with your personality and sense of style quickly loses its appeal. Homeowners who have this experience usually find themselves searching for new furniture before long.

Whatever your personal style, you can create an outdoor living area that is just as inviting and satisfying as your indoor spaces. Paying attention to what works for you indoors will allow you to choose the right patio furniture and bring the same qualities outside to your patio or deck.

Small Decorating Ideas That Make a Big Impact

Outdoor Rug

Decorating Ideas on a Budget Using Paint, Plants, and Outdoor Rugs

Small decorating ideas can make redecorating a room very inexpensive. Before you dip into your savings, though, consider making a few smaller and less expensive changes first. You may find that a couple of small, but meaningful, changes to a room can give you the update you’ve been seeking.


There’s a reason why decorators and designers often suggest paint as a first step in redecorating. A fresh coat of paint, especially when it is a different color, can make a dramatic statement in a room. Changing the wall color of a room changes the mood and the way light is diffused throughout the room. Taking a dark room, for example, and making it lighter through the application of paint can make that room feel larger, fresher, and more serene. On the other hand, applying a darker hue to light-colored walls can add drama and a sense of romance to a room. To keep costs down, choose a color that is already present in the room and that will coordinate with your existing decor. Use fabrics or accent pieces in the room as inspiration for color choices.


Another easy and inexpensive change that can be made to any room is to add plants. Whether living or artificial, plants bring warmth and natural beauty to indoor spaces. They make a lush and visually appealing addition to areas that can be challenging to decorate, such as ledges, shelves, and empty corners. For best effect, choose pots or baskets for your plants that coordinate with the style of the room.

Area Rugs

The floor may be one of the most neglected areas when it comes to decorating. Adding an area rug to the floor has just as much impact on a room, though, as adding a fresh coat of paint to the walls. Area rugs define a space more effectively than furniture alone, and they help tie together the various elements in a room to make it feel like a unified whole.

Consider using an outdoor rug for your indoor redecorating. Outdoor rugs are an ideal choice to use as indoor area rugs, especially in high traffic areas of the home. Outdoor rugs are made with durable materials that can stand up to all kinds of abuse, but they are just as beautiful and soft to the touch as traditional indoor rugs. They are much easier to clean than indoor rugs, which gives them yet another advantage over standard indoor area rugs.

Updating your home doesn’t always require spending loads of money. A decorating ideas and small changes, like paint, plants, and outdoor rugs, may be all that is necessary to freshen a room and give it new life.