Christine Koh

Hello!

I'm Christine Koh, a music and brain neuroscientist turned multimedia creative. I'm the founder + editor of Boston Mamas, co-author of Minimalist Parenting, co-host of the Edit Your Life podcast, and creative director at Women Online. Drop me a line; I'd love to chat about how we can work together!

How To Make The Most Of Small Backyards

How To Make The Most Of Small Backyards

This post reflects an editorial partnership with Backyard Farms during their 2nd Annual #BackyardStyle Sweepstakes. All ideas about backyard entertaining and the impact of Irish proverbs are, of course, my own.

A couple of months ago, I saw the following Irish proverb as I was scrolling through Instagram: “May your home always be too small to hold all of your friends.” I saw this at a time when I was lamenting the usability of our living area, and how it’s not the greatest for entertaining and I immediately thought back to one of Jon and my first apartments. We were renting a tiny one-bedroom apartment in Canada, yet one weekend we decided to host a dinner party with 15 or so friends. We were jammed in like sardines but it was basically the best time ever, thanks to the wonderful company and the tasty food.

That proverb served as an excellent reminder that both indoors and outdoors (we have a tiny urban backyard and I used to long for a bigger space for entertaining and play), a space is what you make it. Nothing will be perfect and the most important thing is to be in your space with your favorite people, and also enjoy good food (food is really important to us!). And an added bonus? Small living spaces not only are easier to take care of, but little changes have a bigger impact.

Today, in partnership with Backyard Farms, I wanted to share some of my favorite ways to make the most out of small backyards and how to stay focused on the fun and the food. But first, let me tell you something very cool Backyard Farms is doing:

The #BackyardStyle $2500 Sweepstakes

Do you already know about Backyard Farms? You’ve probably seen them at the grocery store and if you haven’t tried their tomatoes yet, I highly encourage you do! Here’s a primer video on them -- the expansiveness of their greenhouses totally blew my mind!

In addition to producing delicious tomatoes, this month Backyard Farms is hosting their 2nd Annual #BackyardStyle Sweepstakes, through which one lucky winner will receive a $2,500 Pottery Barn gift card to spruce up their summer space! They’re also offering weekly prizes (this week it’s a Spikeball game). So hop on over and enter to win -- it only takes a second and entry is open until June 30, 2016.

7 Tips To Make The Most Out Of Small Backyards

Now, I want to talk about small backyard ideas. This has been so timely during our spring spruce up and truly, one of the most amazing things is how these small little additions go such a long way!

1. Add color with flowers

Especially coming out of the brown dreariness of winter, one of my first orders of business when the weather warmed up was to buy flowers to put in planters around the yard. I bought a few petunia plants and the peony bushes we planted a few years have been popping, which has been AMAZING. A little color goes such a long way in a small backyard!

Image credit: Christine Koh

Image credit: Christine Koh

2. Plant herbs

One thing that drives me nuts is the waste factor that invariably happens when I buy herbs at the grocery store. Planting herbs help add visual interest to a small backyard and allow you to pick as you need. This spring I planted our most-use herbs: basil, mint, and cilantro.

Image credit: Christine Koh

Image credit: Christine Koh

3. Add lights

Lights are next on my to-do list. They’re so wonderful for ambience but outlet placement is a bit challenging in our yard. We do have two small trees though, and my friend Christina recently recommended these solar powered copper string lights. I ordered them last week and can’t wait for them to arrive so I can set them up!

4. Have some picnic blankets on hand

Given the size of our backyard/patio stone area, we can only fit a four-top table. We’ve improvised by bringing other chairs outside (or even using drink coolers as seats!) but we also rely on the power of picnic blankets. Target has a really cute collection of affordable picnic blankets, like this striped option from the Threshold collection.

Image credit: Target

Image credit: Target

5. Get outdoor dinnerware

We don’t have room for a bar cart or bench to hold plates, so one small purchase that helped me stop worrying about broken plates was buying outdoor dinnerware. I bought 8 stoneware-style white melamine plates last year from Pottery Barn; they’re not available this year, but these coral and starfish melamine plates would be a pretty option!

Image credit: Pottery Barn

Image credit: Pottery Barn

6. Keep activities simple

Obviously, you can’t set up a huge water slide in a small backyard but it’s incredible how much fun kids can have with simple activities. We make it work with a box of sidewalk chalk (the other week I also made Violet a batch of chalk paint to shake things up), a sprinkler, a whiffle ball set, and a soccer ball and pop up net.

7. Keep the food simple

This tip really is applicable to any setting but I think it fits the theme of simplifying and small acts! I like experimenting with fancier recipes from time to time but one thing I have learned about entertaining -- especially spring/summer entertaining when you want to get out of the kitchen and OUTSIDE -- is that it’s key to keep the food simple so you can enjoy your guests, not be relegated to the kitchen. Last week I bought a slew of Backyard Farms cocktail and beefsteak tomatoes and went to town. Here are 3 lightning fast examples that were a huge hit:

Corn + tomato salad: Boil and shave the corn off 8 ears, quarter a box of cocktail tomatoes, and season the corn and tomatoes in a bowl with olive oil, coarse salt, and pepper. Toss in chopped basil (ideally from your backyard plant!).

Image credit: Christine Koh

Image credit: Christine Koh

Classic bruschetta: Toast slices of baguette and layer with fresh mozzarella, sliced beefsteak tomatoes, and chopped basil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Image credit: Christine Koh

Image credit: Christine Koh

Easy panzanella: Slice red onion thinly (if you want to take some of the sting out of the onion, let soak in ice water for 10 minutes or so). Fry bacon and chop. Cube baguette and toast until lightly browned. Cube cucumbers and quarter cocktail tomatoes. Toss onion, bacon, baguette, cucumbers, and tomatoes in bowl and season with olive oil and salt and pepper. Sprinkle in chopped basil and feta cheese crumbles.

Image credit: Christine Koh

Image credit: Christine Koh

OK, so are you excited to embrace the awesome of your small backyard? I hope so! And don’t forget to hop over and enter to win the $2500 #BackyardStyle Sweepstakes gift card to Pottery Barn!


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Weekly Blueprint