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May 20, 2017 |

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Backyard Living Trends

Imagine Backyard Living

The humble backyard was once thought of as a mere patch of grass and a slab of patio where the kids could run freely and parents could host the occasional family barbecue.

But my, how times have changed.

The modern backyard can easily be expected to serve as a playground, waterpark, chef’s kitchen and gourmet dining facility, as well as a meditative retreat. Since it takes plenty of supplies to turn the average backyard into a homeowner’s outdoor paradise, we’ve reached out to some of the experts to find out what consumers will be purchasing this season to make their backyard living dreams come true.

A beautiful backyard is of little value if guests have no place to sit. That’s why consumers will be spending plenty on patio furniture this season.

Cyndi Delcher, co-owner of Pinch a Penny Pool Patio and Spa in Pensacola, Fla., has noticed a resurgence of cushioned backyard furnishings, although she says that sling furniture (non-cushioned) still has a strong fan base. And those who choose the cushion route have been leaning toward durable, comfortable fabrics, she says.

Cushion furniture customers are also using their backyard seating to add pops of bright color to their outdoor spaces, says Jessica Harkins, co-owner of TLC Outdoor Living in Katy, Texas. She reports that light blue and red are some of the most sought-after colors.

“I think people have a lot more fun with the outdoor living area because … it’s more playful,” says Harkins.

She believes that decorating an outdoor area gives consumers an opportunity to step outside the neutral color palette of their homes and be a little adventurous.

Patio furniture in bright shades of orange, green and blue also are reigning supreme at Imagine Backyard Living in Scottsdale, Ariz. In fact, the store special orders furniture for customers who are not satisfied with the brown and neutral color palettes that they find at other backyard furniture stores in the area, says David Ghiz, president/owner.

Backyards also have begun to reflect the homeowner’s dedication to the environment. Reclaimed wood is becoming a huge eco-friendly trend, and it’s popping up in items such as coffee tables, side tables and planter boxes, says Jason Larson, president of Lars Remodeling Design in San Diego.

In addition to the eco-friendly benefits, consumers in his area gravitate toward the distressed look of the wood and are being influenced by the creations of HGTV show host Joanna Gains, who uses a lot of reclaimed wood in her projects, he says.

Grills and Kitchens
Many barbecue enthusiasts would propose that a backyard’s primary purpose is to provide enough space to grill.

And no well-dressed backyard would go without the perfect barbecue vessel. “[Grill] sales have been picking up over the past year,” says Harkins. Her store carries gas and ceramic grills as well as pellet smokers, but she’s noticed that gas grills are the most popular. They heat up much quicker than charcoal grills and the units are much easier to build into an outdoor kitchen, she says.

Aside from the basic aspects, such as price, warranty and heat conduction, Harkins’ grill customers also show interest in the little extras. Some grill brands feature an LED light that illuminates when the gas knob is turned, and her customers often request specific colors for their knobs. The most popular shade in her store is red. “It’s a small feature, [but] it’s something that people really care about,” she says.

Gas grills may be heavy hitters in Texas, but at the Backyard Barbecue Store in Wilmette, Ill., charcoal grills are in high demand — specifically smokers, says owner Dan Marguerite. He attributes charcoal’s current reign with the popularity of slow-cooked barbecue, which is done over wood or charcoal.

“[People] just love the old-school flavor of cooking over charcoal,” he says.

He also credits some of barbecue’s popularity to grilling shows on the Food Network.

Bigger also seems to be better when it comes to grills. Marguerite sells gas grills as well, and his customers want as much cooking space as they can get, because they’re preparing entire meals in the backyard. Additional features, such as sear burners, are popular as well, he says.

And those large grills are just one part of the complete outdoor kitchens that are quickly becoming a must-have feature in many backyards.

“People are asking for bigger [kitchens] with more appliances, such as [refrigerators], pizza ovens and storage,” Marguerite says.

In fact, the 2017 U.S. Houzz Landscaping Trends Survey revealed that one in 10 outdoor renovators is investing in outdoor kitchen equipment, such as a grill and either built-in cabinetry, a sink and/or a refrigerator, says Nino Sitchinava, Houzz’s principal economist who led the survey.

Ghiz attributes this outdoor kitchen phenomenon to his customers’ desire to create a complete outdoor room in the backyard — a place where homeowners can cook, eat, relax, watch TV and soak in the hot tub. “They want a space out there that’s a major extension of the home,” he says.

Imagine Backyard is also doing big business creating custom cabinets that house all of the outdoor kitchen appliances.

And what kitchen area would be complete without a proper bar? “Seated bars are always popular for the backyard,” Larson says. “[They] not only [provide] a place for everyone to hang out together, but … a place for families and friends to sit after a barbecue and share drinks.”

Shade Structures
Spring and summer make up the prime season for backyard enjoyment, but it also brings high temperatures and sunburns. That’s why consumers are investing in shade equipment and structures that not only help them beat the heat but also add a design element to the backyard.

The quickest and least expensive line of solar defense is oftentimes a simple patio umbrella. But instead of selecting run-of-the-mill umbrellas that open in the center, Harkins’ customers are requesting cantilever umbrellas. These sun shades keep those pesky poles out of the way and offer plenty of relief from UV rays. They’re also being used to create colorful backyard landscapes. TLC Outdoor Living patrons have a tendency to learn toward bold shades of red and dark blue, says Harkins.

Shade sails can offer the colorful look of an umbrella, but bring a more structured and somewhat nautical look to a backyard. These canvas covers are available in ready-made or customized shapes and sizes, and can be tensioned between trees, porches or poles to shade a specific area, says Craig Jenkins-Sutton, co-founder of Topiarius, a landscape design firm in Chicago. It’s believed the style originated in Australia to provide shade at playgrounds, parks, schools and day-care centers; the look then popped up in Florida and is just now becoming a hot trend, he says.

Shade sails are thin so they take up very little visual space, and some fabrics are translucent, which allows homeowners to watch the clouds go by as they relax in their backyards, Jenkins-Sutton says. But they are not for penny pinchers.

“When attachment points are easily available, the ambitious DIY-er can handle the installation,” says Jenkins-Sutton. “However, when attachment points need to be calculated or constructed, a professional is required. A typical backyard patio will start at $4,500 and will increase, depending on size, complexity and attachment points.”

Customers also are stepping up their backyard game with pergolas. These structures create shade but offer a look that a simple umbrella just can’t provide. Ghiz reports that homeowners are choosing alumawood for these structures, which is aluminum that looks like wood. The material is lightweight and easy to maintain, as it does not require staining, he says.

But the ultimate hide-from-the-sun method is to simply build out the roof. Consumers are attaching shingled structures to their homes that can sometimes run the length of the house, Harkins says. They provide shade while adding value to the house, she adds.

Lighting and Accessories
Now that phones have been labeled “smart,” lighting fixtures were beginning to feel left out of the loop.

The 2017 U.S. Houzz Landscaping Trends Study found that nearly half of outdoor-renovating homeowners are updating lighting, and most are choosing LEDs. And one in five homeowners are choosing “smart” lighting that can be controlled via a mobile device or computer, Sitchinava says. Last year’s U.S. Houzz Smart Home Trends Study found that reducing energy consumption was the top motivation for upgrading to smart lighting devices. Other incentives include flexibility in monitoring and crime prevention, she says.

Homeowners put an awful lot of time, energy and money into creating the perfect backyard, so it’s no surprise that they’re willing to go to great lengths to get as much use out of that space as possible.

Marguerite has been selling plenty of electric heaters to consumers who want to make use of their outdoor living area when temperatures start to descend. Ghiz, on the other hand, has seen an uptick in sales of outdoor cooling systems. His business specializes in systems that combine misters with fans that can drop the temperature of an area by 25-30 degrees, he says.

“When it gets to be 110 [degrees] here, they still want to use the outdoor space that they designed and built,” he says. “It turns that space into a year-round usable area.”

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Take a virtual stroll through the all new 109 Cheese and Wine

Everything about the all new 109 Cheese and Wine will tantalize your taste buds and inspire a DIY food experience within you! If you haven’t been to the new shops yet, make it your mission to stop in. You will be inspired: to create, entertain, and make your next meal unforgettable.

Thank you to owners, Todd and Monica Brown for having the vision, and bringing it to life in Ridgefield. 109 Cheese and Wine is a true gift.

Here are just some of the amazing items you will find on the shelves, farm tables, and in the frig:

Wine glasses

From picnic to backyard party, and every outdoor experience in between, the attractive (and large) wine glasses are a summer must-have! They are no-break, no-fear, crystal-clear, scratch-proof and – dishwasher-safe!


Created using farm-fresh ingredients, the healthy, tasty soups are made in 109s Kent store. The attractive mason jars reflect the wholesome goodness of each house-made soup.


109 now carries quality cookware, cooking utensils, ceramic strainers as well as items to assure a pleasing presentation. French “De Buyer” pots and pans are so attractive that you might want to display them. Light cast iron make them durable, and food-functional. 109 also carries a beautiful copper cookware some of which is induction friendly.


A backdrop of stone and rustic, repurposed materials makes 109 Wine is more than a place to purchase boutique wines, liquor and beer – it’s a place that calms your senses, inviting you to sip, stay, and savor.

Cheese, gourmet products and hostess gifts

All you have come to know and love about 109 and more – now with room for more browsing, tasting, and shopping. Choose from artisan cheeses, gourmet crackers, spreads as well as dishes, bowls, platters (that make great hostess gifts for your foodie friend).

Visit 109 Cheese and Wine online here or, better yet, stop by to check out the beautiful new wine and cheese shops.

109 Cheese and Wine is located at 109 Danbury Road, The Marketplace at Copps Hill.

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Smash Therapy: Breaking through stress and pain

The sounds of breaking glass, loud music and emotional release echo inside an old Cheerwine warehouse in Salisbury, North Carolina.

“Giving people a place where they could just let go of whatever’s bothering them,” said Elysia Demers, owner of Grievous Gallery.

Glass bottles, ceramic mugs, porcelain plates are all unlikely sources of mental and emotional relief.

“We encourage people to scream into them, cry into them, write on them, whatever it is to literally and figuratively fill that cup up with emotion before they let it go,” said Demers. And shatter it into pieces against a brick wall.

Since Grievous Gallery opened last year, owners Tim and Elysia Demers have seen a lot of pain come through the doors. Depression, cancer, divorce, addiction, death. The reasons inked on the dinnerware and on a nearby table can be deep, painful and as dark as the atmosphere inside here.

“To be able to see it before they let it go and just watch it disappear, I think there’s something very cathartic about that for people,” said Demers.

“It’s like quick therapy,” said Emily Soward. The Salisbury woman comes here often. She’s in addiction recovery and enjoys the release.

On this trip, she brought her younger sister. “It was exhilarating but also relieving at the same time, you know what I mean? Because it’s like a physical way to take out how you’re feeling emotionally,” said Soward.

LEARN MORE: Grievous Gallery

The inspiration behind the business comes from similar pain and heartache for Tim and Elysia.

“It caused for some real life-changing moments.,” said Tim Demers. He suffered a traumatic brain injury while on the job in 2012.

“It really just changed our lives,” recalled Elysia. “One day it’s dad going off to work, a few hours later he’s being resuscitated in a parking lot.”

He was in rehab for 6 months.

“There was a lot of frustration on both of our ends because I was trying to be the brave one and hold the family together,” said Elysia. “He’s frustrated because he’s trapped in a body he no longer can control.”

“I was just very frustrated, I couldn’t do these things anymore and well, you kind of start breaking things,” admitted Tim.

That’s when the Demers thought maybe others could use a similar release. It didn’t take long to see just how many people needed it.

From a couple with infidelity issues…

“They were able to put those on the plate and work through that together and leave it here,” remembered Elysia.

…to a mother grieving the loss of her son to suicide…

“There were screams and cries and it was heart-wrenching to hear a mother go through that,” said Elysia.

This place can help heal. But for the Demers, it can also haunt.

“It’s hard to come back here sometimes when we sift through the glass and we send it out,” said Elysia. “You see people’s hurts, you see people’s deep down secrets that they don’t share with their spouse or they don’t share with their pastor or their best friend, but they share it here.”

But it’s a weight they say they’re happy to carry if it helps others who could use a lighter load.

“The one thing I’ve learned is that everybody’s pain is exactly the same,” said Elysia. “It doesn’t matter if they lost their dog or they got laid off or their boyfriend broke up with them, it’s all exact same pain, it’s just in a different form.”

Copyright 2017 WFMY

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Titanic artifacts may be auctioned off – Houston Chronicle

Titanic artifacts may be auctioned off

May 19, 2017


The Titanic may be under 2½ miles of water, but wreckage from the doomed ship could fetch close to $220 million at an auction this year.

Premier Exhibitions proposed the sale last week in a filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Jacksonville, Fla. The Atlanta-based company and its RMS Titanic unit filed for Chapter 11 protection in June, amid a fight over artifacts it recovered from the vessel with the help of the French government. 

Starting in 1987, Premier Exhibitions worked with the French government on dozens of dives to recover artifacts including jewelry, clothing and dinnerware from the ship.

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Skillet’s Back from the Dead to Appear in Syfy’s Blood Drive – Dread …

Hard rock band Skillet has announced that their track “Back from the Dead” will be appearing in the upcoming Syfy grindhouse series “Blood Drive.” The episode with their track is the premiere, which will be airing on June 14th.

“Blood Drive” stars Alan Ritchson, Thomas Dominique, Christina Ochoa, Marama Corlett, and Colin Cunningham.

Related Story: We’ve Got an Exclusive Behind-the-Scenes Look at Skillet’s Zombie Video Back from the Dead

The “Blood Drive” series is from Universal Cable Productions and executive producers John Hlavin (Underworld Awakening), David Straiton (“Bates Motel”), and Frederik Malmberg (Let Me In), along with producer Mark Wheeler (“Becoming”). James Roland (“Weeds”) created the project and is a co-executive producer on the series.

Los Angeles in the near future: where water is as scarce as oil and climate change keeps the temperature at a cool 115 degrees in the shade. It’s a place where crime is so rampant that only the worst violence is punished and where Arthur Bailey (Ritchson) — the city’s last good cop — runs afoul of the dirtiest and meanest underground car rally in the world, Blood Drive. The master of ceremonies is a vaudevillian nightmare, the drivers are homicidal deviants, and the cars run on human blood.

Buckle up, lube up, and prepare for everything you know about cable television to blow up!

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Home design trends from the International Home and Housewares Show

What’s most popular in home design these days? It depends who’s answering the question.

CHICAGO — Housewares goods that are simply cheap and operational don’t really cut it in American homes anymore, as there’s a growing appreciation for aesthetics and quality.

Over the past few years, there’s been a shift in perceived value: Homeowners are willing to pay a premium for products that last longer and look as sleek as they are functional. And as technology advances, electronic housewares are adding more customization to individual products. All of these trends were on display recently at the International Home and Housewares Show.

Richard Joseph, co-founder of Joseph Joseph — a leader in creating stylish housewares — said the 14-year-old British company starts with the idea of improving a common product, whether it’s using better materials or tweaking shapes to make something more compact or more intuitive.

“Nothing is better to hear than when someone says, ‘Why didn’t I think of that before,'” Joseph said.

Architectural design and fashion are influencing common household products, he said, and floral designs and color are becoming more popular, while established trends, such as Scandinavian design, continue to be mainstays.

Paolo Cravedi, managing director, USA and Canada for Alessi USA, said consumers are beginning to have a better understanding of design, and that’s filtering into the housewares industry. An aesthetically pleasing product evokes emotion, which adds to the appeal, he said.

The Italian firm was established in 1921 and is known for its collaboration with designers like Philippe Starck and Michael Graves. Cravedi agreed that consumers are willing to pay for longer-lasting, higher-quality products. Also, environmental impact is becoming a bigger concern, especially with younger buyers.

Customer feedback helps improve products, said Hanna McPhee, brand manager for Fellow, which makes accessories for coffee connoisseurs. Fellow started on Kickstarter in late 2014, and the brand became established in 2015. McPhee said customer feedback led it to change the lid on one of its popular kettles from plastic to metal.

In the electronic housewares category, consumers are interested in convenience and customization, which is leading to products like smart rice cookers that can not only differentiate among different types of rice, but also have settings for different grains like oatmeal and quinoa. Many of these electronic housewares look good on the counter, too, including electric kettles that retain the beauty of a traditional stovetop kettle but have different heat settings for various types of tea.

Many electronics are Wi-Fi-enabled, and some link to voice-controlled systems like Amazon’s Echo.

Joseph said consumers see aesthetics as being as important as the functionality of housewares, but improving how a product works is ultimately the goal. The company has moved from its early designs, such as multicolored, all-in-one sets of nesting mixing bowls, sieves and measuring cups, to other kitchen utensils and storage items.

But there are some limits. It may be impossible, for instance, to improve some tabletop items. “I don’t know how we’d design for a better fork,” he said.

Carley Knobloch, smart-home expert for IHHS, said excitement over smart technology is high, but just adding Wi-Fi capability doesn’t necessarily improve function. That’s where function takes precedence over aesthetics.

“If a smart product doesn’t make it more convenient, why bother,” she said.

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Anonymous inventor created a DIY KitchenAid Bouncer device for their baby

  • Anonymous inventor created a DIY KitchenAid Bouncer device for their baby 
  • A GIF showing the baby sleeping while being rocked was posted to Reddit 
  • It has since been viewed over 750,000 times – and has been criticised by some

Esra Gurkan For Mailonline



A multi-tasking mother has come up with a novel way to rock her baby to sleep. leaving her free to get on with other tasks.

The unknown woman used a thick elastic band to secure a KitchenAid to the mobile attached to her child’s bouncer chair. 

When switched on, the motion of the food mixer gently rocked the chair back and forth. 

A GIF of the device, nicknamed the ‘KitchenAid Bouncer’, was shared on Reddit, where it’s been viewed over 750,000 times. 

While it’s possible the clip was posted as a joke rather than a recommendation, it didn’t stop viewers jumping to condemn the makeshift bouncer as ‘dangerous’

Meanwhile, Colleen Driscoll, the executive director of the International Association for Child Safety (IAFCS), told Femail that parents and caregivers should always follow manufacturers’ instructions when using any device, and pointed out that modifying products can lead to injury. 

People have claimed the DIY ‘KitchenAid Bouncer’ shared by a mother on Reddit is ‘dangerous’ and said they wouldn’t trust it 

‘Many “parent hacks” can be found on the internet,’ she said. ‘Some might be clever but not follow safety practices. 

‘Please consult safety experts to learn more and take the time to carefully review instructions.’ 

Responding to the video several Redditors also raised concerns over the makeshift bouncer, with one describing it as ‘actually a pretty stupid thing to do’.

Another wrote ‘Good lord this seems like such an incredibly bad idea. I can’t really even come up with a positive thing to say here. At least they aren’t using an extension cord on the mixer I guess?’

Somebody said it was an invention that most people would realise right away was ‘stupid’ 

Another agreed, adding: ‘This is one of those ideas we all have and then most of us immediately realise it’s a really stupid idea. This person doesn’t have that part of the brain.’ 

Other users were more measured in their criticism, saying it would be unlikely to cause serious harm.  

‘If the band were to catch, it would wrap around the paddle until it becomes taught and comes to a stop,’ one commented. ‘The baby wouldn’t be caught in the paddle.

The anonymous inventor decided to customise a standard baby bouncer with an entirely new function (stock image)

‘I have one of these Kitchen Aid mixers and they are pretty powerful (they need to be to knead bread dough), but they’re not on nearly the same level as a woodworking lathe.

‘This is monumentally stupid because the baby will likely get hurt given a long enough time. 

‘But it’s not gonna get an arm/leg caught in the paddle and be thrown about like a ragdoll until it dies.’ 


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