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Embracing A Small Yard & Making It Cozy

Outdoor-Slow-livingOur spring here in the midwest seemed to take forever to behave and warm up.  The last couple weeks are finally warming up and I’m loving every second of it.

Our yard is quite small which honestly I have grown to love and appreciate.  Keeping the yard looking nice is quite a chore, so I could not imagine having a big yard!  My mother-in-law loves the outdoors and has a huge serving heart, so she has been over many days the last few weeks getting weeds out of the rock area of our play set and in all our planting beds around the house.  She is amazing! Thanks to her work I have been super inspired to get out there and add my own touches to making the yard great.

I have embraced the tiny yard size and have been taking steps over the last few years, to making it a great family space, one with lots of atmosphere and coziness.  It is working, as our family is finding ourselves out their together more evenings than not lately.  This is such a great reward for me personally, as it is what I have dreamed of as I have slowly added elements to draw my sweet family outside to enjoy!

Here are a few things I have done over the last few years to make it cozy:

Water Feature– we had a bit of landscaping done when we moved in over 5 years ago.  I knew I wanted a small sitting area and I have always loved the sound of water.  I asked our landscape guys if there was a simple, inexpensive way to add a water element to our small backyard.  They knew just the thing and made it happen within hours.  Basically, they dug a 2×2 ft hole that was about 18-24 inches deep.  They lined it with thick black rubber lining & added a water pump in it.  They put a metal rack over the hole, so the pump stuck out of the top just a bit.  They covered it with 3 large stones and then scattered slate-colored river rock around those large rocks.  We had our electrician put an electrical outlet close to the fountain, and now all we have to do is plug it in.  I add one anti-algae tablet to the water each spring when we first start it, and that is it.  It is the most loved feature in our yard and makes the sound of a running brook.  I love the natural look of it, & I love how low maintenance it is. You can see it if you  scroll down to the image of stringed lights, it is in the left bottom corner.

{my 2 youngest  back in 2009 dancing and singing in the rain.  This video shows the chairs I talk about below. I talk about the pots and my love for funky plants here.}

Lots of Chairs–we bought a bunch of chairs at Target during one of their end of season sales.  They are a neutral color which I love because I can add any color pillow to them for color.  I bring color to my yard with pillows and flower pots.  We bought about 10 of them, knowing there would be times we would want seating for friends.  I made sure they stacked nicely before purchasing because our storage is limited and our garage is just a single car size.

Fire Pit–I’ve pinned a bunch of fun fire pit ideas on Pinterest, but have never gotten around to any DIY fire pit projects.  A year ago my daughter and I took part in Black Friday shopping at Target, and they had a crazy deal on fire pits that I could not resist.  I’m so glad I didn’t.  We have had many fun family nights sitting around that pit, roasting marshmallows for apple s’mores or just using it to warm us up on chilly spring or fall evening.

A Place to Set Our Drinks–I’ve dreamed of a table and chairs for us to eat outside as a family on, but that is just not in the budget or practical in such a small space.  We do have a single driveway connected to our backyard, but now it is used as a basketball court and a table and chairs would just get in the way.  I have let go of my dream for now, although I do have my eye out for a foldable table to set out on the driveway with an umbrella and foldable chairs.  Something we could store away easily and only bring out when we want to eat as a family outside.  For now, I make do with a small table used to set beverages on.  We often eat outside, just with our plates on our lap or on a spread blanket picnic style.

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Hanging Lights--these are another fav touch of mine.  There is something so whimsical about a string of lights and the glow they bring.  It adds an instant atmosphere!  I just bought one set, but would love to add more!

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Torches–We have one table top torch that found at a garage sale, and my favorite torch sculpture that I wrote about here.  I love them both.  I keep oil on hand, but they really only need filled once a year.  We light them any evening we are out there.  Tiki makes a citronella oil that works really well to keep the mosquitos away, and the element of fire always bring coziness.  I love that I don’t have to make a pit fire every night to have the element of fire.  I have had to replace the wicks about once a year, but they are so inexpensive (less than $2!) and can be found at any hardware store or garden center.  I stocked up and always have them on hand.

Cozy Blankets— I have 2 blankets used only for outdoors.  One is a white, thick comforter that I use to lay on the grass.  It never fails, if I lay it out, within minutes there is someone with a book laying on it.  It is also great for when my niece and nephew come over to play.  We just lay there and look up at the leaves in the trees or gaze at the clouds.  I have another lightweight blanket for those nights that are chilly and the fire is not lit. I’ve been eyeing this great picnic blanket made for the outdoors with a waterproof bottom to keep you dry.  I love the colors in it.

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Potted Plants &  Flowers–I keep this simple and minimal. Years ago I spray painted some cheap plastic pots with Hammered Black Spray Paint by Krylon-made for plastic. They are lightweight and look great. Right now I fill my pots with annuals every year, but I am wanting to take a couple and put some perennials in them.  I don’t like spending cash on flowers that are going to die every season, and if the majority of my pot is made of a perennial, then I can add a touch of color with some annuals which will really cut down on the cost each year.

Playset{the only photo I could find of our swing set, from last year}

Swingset--we have kept our swing set even though it takes up the majority of our yard.  My 11 year old still plays on it.  Just a couple weeks ago she and 4 friends had a fun picnic up in the tower of it.  I also have a 1 1/2 year old niece and a 4 year old nephew who adore it , and even the sand box gets used when they come over.   I even find my big girls sitting on a swing while on instagram or reading their kindle, so it is worth it.  We paid a pretty penny for it over 12 years ago when Teagan was a young.  It has held up beautifully over the years and I am glad we invested in a quality set. (Childlife Playsets)

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Basketball Hoop–I know, I know, the sound of balls bouncing isn’t quite cozy, but this hoop definitely has added to the coziness we feel as a family in our back yard.  Maybe coziness is not the best word.  Maybe togetherness is better.  Regardless, even though we didn’t have a huge driveway and a bigger space would be ideal for basketball, we make do with the single car driveway and it has worked out just fine.  I have you all to thank for our hoop as it was purchased with money I made last year from sponsored posts.  If you all didn’t support this blog by reading it, we would not have a hoop!  Thank you sweet readers.

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As you can see, even in a small yard it takes time to make it what you want it to be.  Each spring season I try to add a little something, always keeping in mind to keep things simple and meaningful.  When I invest into our little yard to make it cozy, I am investing in an area where slow living as a family can take place.  THAT, my friends, is priceless!

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