Easy entertaining tips, how to save water in the bathroom, advice on transforming your carport into an outdoor entertainment area, and more.

Decorating Tip: Easy entertaining tips for any occasion

Do you love the idea of entertaining but feel like getting your home ready for a social event requires too much time and attention?

There are a few easy things you can do to make sure your home is always ready to host guests and they may not be as difficult to accomplish as you think.

1. Decide what type of ambiance your event needs and embrace it. If you are having an evening event, indulge in deep colors, soft lighting and upbeat music. If it's a daytime event, go bold and bright with your color scheme.

2. Versatility is key. Make considerations when stocking your kitchen cabinets -- consider cookware and serving dishes that can be used both for smaller and larger occasions, as well as casual and formal ones. Adjustable furniture like expandable kitchen tables can accommodate a group or just a couple.

3. Accessorize your home. Any little knick-knack can be reused and repurposed when decorating for events. Think candleholders out of mason jars, a menu with a chalkboard and centerpieces using old pitchers. Your stash of unused items could be useful when entertaining, and it may save you that extra trip to the store.

4. Use nature to your advantage. When decorating, use sprigs and blooms grown near your home to add life to your table settings. Various shades of colors found in wildflowers often create an organic energy making a table setting more inviting for guests. Arranging flowers in different sized vases can be visually appealing on a long table.

5. Accumulate a beverage collection. Nothing makes your visitors feel welcome like offering them a drink when they walk in the door. Rather than going out and stocking up on wine, liquor or soft drinks before you host, gradually accumulate a collection. Your guests will be impressed by your selection when you have an assortment to offer.

6. Be prepared for overnight visitors. Always keep clean sheets on your guest bed and be sure it is made, as you never know when someone might stop by for an overnight visit. If you really want to make your guests feel welcome, impress them with soothing products in the bathroom or on their nightstand along with a sweet treat on their pillow.

-- ARA

Home-Selling Tip: Accentuate the positive

When marketing your home, think about its unique features. Create an information sheet that lists your home's best qualities, especially those that others might overlook.

-- RE/MAX

How To: Save water in the bath

You may be hesitant to add a low-flow showerhead to your shower, but there are ways to save water without having to endure a weak flow:

- Buy a quality low-flow fixture. Check consumer rankings to find one that’s rated well.

- Check out available incentives for low-flow toilets and faucet accessories.

- Use a model with a shutoff button. One study showed that equipping a home with a shower that includes a shutoff button led to a 28 percent reduction in water use.

- Take showers instead of baths. And limit showers to 5 minutes or less.

-- Consumer Reports

Did You Know …

If your fridge dates from the 1980s, replacing it with an Energy Star model can save you more than $100 each year. – energystar.gov

Home Improvements: Transform your carport

A carport that goes mostly unused during the summer can be transformed into an outdoor gathering place. Here are some suggestions:

- You shouldn’t grill underneath the carport, so extend the area with pavers to create a patio space that houses the grill.

- Add comfortable seating, tables and accessories that encourage guests to hang out and talk. Stick to lightweight items can be easily stores over the winter.

- An outdoor carpet and potted plants can add stylish details. One creative idea: Hang blinds from the threshold of the carport facing the street; it provides a bit of privacy.

-- Lowe’s

Garden Guide: Add color for fall

Your garden may be at its peak now, but come fall, gardens often need some help in the color department.

- The Japanese anemone makes a statement with its size (2 to 4 feet tall), glossy foliage and abundant flowers that can range from pure white to pink to dark red.

- Liatris, or gayfeather, produces a 1- to 3-foot tall spike of bright purple-pink or white flowers on top of a plant with very narrow, fine textured, grass-like foliage.

- Goldenrod, considered a nuisance weed by some and a good-looking plant by others, produces rich yellow clusters of flowers.

-- University of Illinois Extension

Backyard Buddies: Why are birds extra hungry?

If you’ve noticed an increase in activity at your birdfeeders, it might be because our feathered friends are preparing for their winter migration.

As the days shorten, many birds begin to molt into new feathers and become increasingly hungry. Stocking up for winter, birds gain weight by supplementing their diet with additional food sources.

Soon, it will be time for them to begin their long journey.

-- Cornell Lab of Ornithology

GateHouse News Service