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EZ Ideas for your home, garden and life!

Using Neutral Colors Effectively

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We’ve seen the 2018 colors and you want to re-paint but splashing Behr’s “Spirit Warrior” or “Life is Good” all over your walls is just not you. You’re more the … neutral type.

Neutral doesn’t have to mean boring. Neutral colors aren’t all “builder beige.” Today’s neutrals are soft greens, grays, and blues with black, navy and white used as well. They may not make the same dramatic impact as walking into a room with turquoise walls and coral furniture (thinking about being in the Bahamas here — those colors work there all the time) but there are some real benefits to having neutral backgrounds.

If the background colors are neutral then you can use accessories like pillows, artwork, lampshades, towels and shower curtains to add your color and style. When you start seeing red over all the red you have in your house start swapping out some pieces for another color that suits your new mood. Towels and throw pillows are a lot less expensive then couches and so much less time-consuming than painting a room.

I already talked about using gray and brown so we’re going to skip those. (See “Gray is the New White” if you need to catch up.) Those are the most common neutral colors but they aren’t the only ones. Most of us don’t think of a soft blue as a neutral but look how beautifully it works in this living room.

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Again, here is a soft blue with crisp white cabinets in the kitchen. Very nice!

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One doesn’t often see neutrals in the bedroom unless the home is going on the market. We want to make the bedroom space very personal. Here a soft rose is being used. It feels fresh and feminine without being overbearing. A great neutral to use in a girl’s room. – but wouldn’t drive the boy that might be sharing it with her crazy.

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This living room is using a combination of ivory on the walls and white on the trim. It’s unusual but it works.

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Most modern rooms have very white walls. This modern living room is using a soft green instead. It highlights the modern furniture, the plants in the room and outside the windows, and the painting on the wall.

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This is a favorite of mine. Using soft blush in various shades is becoming a top neutral. It’s warm, clean and friendly without being too beige.

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I love this photo because you can see the neutrals used in three rooms: green, brown and yellow. Great job in all three!

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I hope this helps as you think about your painting project for this spring. Please let me know what you decide to do.

My Thanks to the folks at www.diyhomedesignidieas.com for the use use of their photos.

How to Clean in THIS Century

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So most of you know I have fibromyalgia which means no energy, sensitivity to chemicals, scents, smells of any kind, loud noises, and temperatures. How exactly am I supposed to get anything clean around my home? Very creatively. Since my ways would work great for just about anyone I’m going to share them with you:

  1. Stop scrubbing things by hand. This was an absolute necessity for me. If I tried to scrub my bathtub or really yucky kitchen counters (think after making waffles) I was in bed after less than 10 minutes. So after a great deal of trial and error I found this scrubber that helps me clean things.
    CUH Cordless Power Scrubber
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    Here’s why:  The scrubbing pad is AMAZING on tub, tile, shower, counters, etc. The brushes work great in corners and on tougher surfaces. The handle is very comfortable.  No, it doesn’t have a super-extender but I don’t find that it’s a bad thing.  I like the control of the grip where it is.  This has been a lifesaver.
    If you do like a telescoping handle the most popular kind seems to be the Hurricane Spin Scrubber.
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    I did try this one. I loved the power it had and the way it got into crevices and corners where other devices never seem to reach, like the corners of your kitchen floor under your cabinets. The downside for me was that it didn’t have a scrubbing pad and I really wanted one.  You might prefer the telescoping handle over that. I personally think these two are the best ones out there.
  2. If it can go in the dishwasher, use the dishwasher.  I used to think dishwashers were only for well — dishes. Then I saw I spring cleaning show where this guy was  putting EVERYTHING in there he could. If it was dishwasher safe and it fit it went in. He put in the brushes from the facial cleansers in the bathroom, the soap and toothbrush holders (assuming it wasn’t liquid soap), any vases, platters, fruit bowls, the organizers for the flatware, the drawers in the refrigerator, ANYTHING that was washable went in. While it was washing he mentioned that these loads don’t have to be dedicated. You can — and should — put your kitchen sponge or scrubber in the dishwasher every day to sterilize it.  Facial scrubbers and shower puffs should be cleaned every week (unless you LIKE putting bacteria on your kitchen counters or body. Just saying.) Anything that goes in with the dishes will be cleaned as thoroughly as the dishes are. Since they all get cleaned and sterilized let’s use the space and water as efficiently as possible.
  3. Update your cleaning cloths/sponges. I’ve been using green scrubbers and regular microfiber cloths forever. But I found this sponge that is a scrubber on one side and next-gen microfiber on the other and it’s amazing
    nanosponge
    I can clean, scrub and polish just about anything with this and when I’m done I just toss it in the dishwasher and when it comes out it’s ready to go another round with me. It’s so great the manufacturer claims it can clean with only water. I haven’t tested that part out yet but it does make me feel better when I’m in a hurry and I don’t spray as evenly as I should.
  4. If it’s not here you don’t have to clean it. For the past couple of years I have been working on – and encouraging my family to – remove those things from the house they don’t need and don’t use. The hardest barrier to overcome by far I think is emotional attachment. I had a wonderful professional wardrobe but after I got sick (well, after like 2 years. This is HARD!) I realized that my previous full-time career was never going to be a part of my life again. So why hang on to clothes that someone else could be using? Boy, it was painful but my closet is now half the size it used to be and there is that much less to worry about storing, cleaning and taking care of. Most of us have WAY too much stuff and no time to enjoy it or take care of it. So take a few minutes each week to go through a drawer or box or corner and see what you don’t need or use anymore.
  5. Clean what you can, when you can. When I was growing up Saturday was cleaning day. We all had our chores but that was the day we made sure the house was clean for the week.  These days I don’t have a day to clean my house.  I don’t have a day to clean anything.  Schedules are so crazy we fit in what we can. I rely on my family to do the heavy stuff – vacuuming, mopping (you’d be amazed how much energy those take!) and I use my tricks to keep the germ goblins away as best I can.

Well, there you have it.  A snapshot of my dysfunctional life and how we try to survive anyway.  I know from talking to my family and friends that many of you are in the same boat.  You may not have my disease but you have your own problems and they bring their own challenges. I hope these tips help you a bit and if nothing else, help you feel that you’re not alone in your struggles to keep your home and life clean and organized.  We just do the best we can — and that’s good enough!

Please let me know if you have any cleaning tips or other comments. I’d love to hear from you!

2018 Ideas for Home and Gardens

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It’s winter and we’re looking around the house and yard and thinking “this could use an update!”

Let’s face it – 99% of us do not belong to the 1% club. We actually HAVE budgets and bills and timelines so tearing out everything we don’t like and starting over just isn’t an option. To help you know how to get the biggest bang for your buck here are the biggest trends in 2018 in home and garden design from the experts all over the world:

  1. Bolder Colors – unless you’re about to sell your home go ahead and get dramatic with those colors. Here is Behr’s 2018 color pallete:
    behr 2018 colors
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    Blues and grays are big this year with a few reds thrown in too. But you don’t have to keep to these colors. If you want a sunshine yellow bedroom, go for it!
  2. Mixed metals everywhere – move over brushed nickel, stainless steel and rose gold. This year just about anything can be used anywhere.  Black is big in kitchen fixtures because it’s dramatic and doesn’t show fingerprints. Gold seems to be the trend in bathrooms. Copper is seen everywhere from walls to sinks to lighting fixtures. If you see something you like go ahead and use it.  There are no rules this year!
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  3. Flowers anyone? – Florals seem to be everywhere. Couches, pillows, walls, bedding – there is definitely a trend to bring the garden into your space.
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    And speaking of gardens….
  4. Turning homes into greenhouses – there is a definite trend for more plants in the home. People these days are saying goodbye to grandma’s fern and hello to fun and functional plants like aloe, aluminum, indoor herb and salad gardens and creating terrariums. With all the benefits plants bring to a home this is a great trend to embrace. Just make sure the plants you purchase are child/pet safe if that is a concern in your home.
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  5. Wallpaper – this has been an emerging trend that is hitting big this year. Forget the tiny patterns and stripes of the 1900’s. Today’s wallpaper can be customized to  be anything you want. Florals are huge (of course) but so is using wallpaper to create an agate focal wall. Very cool!
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  6. Extending living spaces outdoors – our homes can only be so big so the trend is on making our yards more functional by providing outdoor living rooms, dining rooms and compact kitchens. None of these have to be big or expensive – in fact, this may be the best way you can update your home.
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  7. Groundcovers – there is a plant that grows in my area that has round green leaves and purple flowers in the spring. It has replaced about half my lawn. I’d love to say it was intentional but this is a horrible weed nicknamed “Creeping Charlie.” Why am I telling you this? Because the trend this year is to replace some or all lawn space with groundcovers – low growing plants that permanently protect the soil and look good. I’ve tried to pass this weed off as a “groundcover” but I don’t think anyone is buying it. 

    Time to plant some phlox. It will look so much better than the Creeping Charlie!
    creeping-phlox

  8. Creating quiet places – the trend for water features is still hot, hot, hot but it no longer requires you to create a waterfall, stream and koi pond. The trend this year is on smaller water features, often homemade, in a place in your yard that is off the beaten path (if there is such a thing.) Adding a bench or chair may finish off this space and make it a place you would like to retreat to.
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  9. Edibles, bouquets and more – This year’s trend seems to be all about practicality. We are growing more of our own food. If you like fresh flowers in  the home you are planting tulips, gladiolas, lillies, dahlias and coneflowers. You are thinking about bees and planting flowers you love to pollinate. Plant milkweed for butterflies. Gardens are much more earth-friendly and sustainable this year.
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  10. Bring character to your space – gardens these days are becoming personalized, transformed beyond a lawn and border of flowers and trees. Homeowners are introducing unique water features, sheds, play houses, decks, gates, arbors — whatever you can imagine.
    whimsical-playhouse-garden-playhouse-garden-design_12188Purchasing many of these custom items can very expensive but if you are just a little bit adventurous you can learn to build just about any wooden item or structure you like.

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at these trends. If you’ve found inspiration for a project this year, please let me know. I’d love to year from you!

Maximizing Storage Space

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So, it’s back to school time so I’m trying to sort through the summer stuff and the fall stuff and figure out if my kids have enough clothes to make it through the first week without going naked.  (“Do you really need 32 T-shirts? Are ALL of your pants 3 inches too short?  How did you grow 3 inches in 3 months???”)

As the CEO of my home I’m not only in charge of MY closet, I have to worry about the closets of everyone else in the house. My sweetheart is a hoarder who still has T-shirts from high school days. My teenagers like to keep everything they own on the floor. You get the idea. So how do you keep track of everything, keep it clean and in working order, and store it accessibly? I don’t have a super-solution, but I’ve got a few ideas:

  1. Go by the numbers: I’ve found this works for everyone. For my pack rat sweetheart, there is a limit to the number of shirts in the closet. (Hint, it’s less than 125.) For my shopping-addicted teenage daughter (aren’t they all?) it’s “no more than” – X number of T-shirts, shoes, sunglasses, whatever. For my ADHD youngest, it’s establishing a bare minimum of acceptability: X number of clean underwear that fit, X number of pants he can wear to school, etc.

  2. Go with the flow: you know those 124 shirts? Well, there are about 20 he actually wears on a regular basis and he tends to keep them somewhere between the laundry hamper and the dryer. I finally figured out that he likes them out where he can see them, not tucked away in a closet. (As if a closet you walk back and forth in front of is “tucked away”. Go figure.) So he has a standing closet rod in the bedroom for his everyday clothes. The advantage is that if we have company over we can clear it off and let them use it for their clothes. Going with that same logic, my youngest won’t keep anything in a drawer. He can’t see it there so it doesn’t exist. I got tired of seeing everything on his floor all the time, so we put in some shelves for his stuff instead. His folded shirts, shorts and pants go great here. As for socks and underwear? A couple of baskets (suitably male) corral these and still leave them visible enough for his piece of mind. What works for them works for me as long as it keeps things neat and clean and cared for.

                            

  3. Make your space do double-duty: we’ve all seen those lovely closet-organizing systems but most of us live in homes built somewhere between 1940 and 1990. Huge walk-in closets just weren’t in the blueprint. So what do the rest of us do? Well, a lot of the closet space we DO have isn’t being used. Even if you aren’t into a total makeover (and most of us aren’t) you can install a second closet rod underneath – I recommend at least half – of your existing rod. Hang slacks beneath shirts or shirts beneath shirts and skirts – whatever works. If you aren’t very handy, these hanging rods will work for some.

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  4. Use the floors: for most closets floors are a missed opportunity. If they are filled with piles of shoes, install a shoe rack so you can add in other items. What other items? For my son it’s sporting goods – a big tub full of his basketballs, paintball weapons, frisbees, and whatever else he’s got in there. My daughter has all her “accessories” stored on her floor. Bags, sunglasses, and some jewelry all find a place here.

    coat-closet-clothes-short-longPhoto by Bob Hiemstra courtesy of Real Simple.com

  5. Raise the bed: my last challenging item to keep clean and stored were blankets and other linens. We have cold winters and hot summers, so blankets need to be kept somewhere during the summer. So, I put my bed on stilts. Keeping blankets in vacuum storage bags underneath my bed keeps them clean and makes them easy to find when the temp drops in the fall.

    storage underneath the bed:

I hope these help. What tips do you have for maximizing your closet?

Wonderful Water Garden

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The Minnesota Water Garden Society has an amazing tour each summer of some of the member’s water gardens.  This year I saw gorgeous ponds, waterfalls, streams, fountains — you name it.  I’ll try to share a few with you over the next few months.  Here’s my first.

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So here we have a beautiful waterfall and koi pond. Very simple and low maintenance.  The plants make this feature so lovely to look at, and the owner says the koi are like pets — they come up when he walks up to the pond, will eat from his fingers, and he’s given them all names.  But there’s more to this garden than just a bowl full of water:

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Here’s the pond when you walk around the back side.  You can see a bench to sit on at the back of the path.  One of the best things about having a water garden is the noise of the moving water.  It’s important to have a place where you can enjoy it if your garden isn’t set up close to the house (or even if it is!) I love how tranquil they have made this garden.  Can’t you just see your stress melting away the second you step onto the path?

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The owners made sure that beauty wasn’t just around the water garden.  This carved owl sits in the middle of a sunny flower garden on the other side of the property.  I loved that when you were done sitting in the shade, you could spend some time relaxing in the sun!

I’ll share more great gardens soon.  In the meantime, do you have a wonderful water garden?  I’d love to see the photos!

My Parent’s House

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So, I’m on vacation at my mom and dad’s. Because of how spread out my siblings are this is the first time in six years we have all been together. It’s been wonderful!  But equally wonderful is my parent’s home. I grew up in a log cabin (well, log home really – and I moved in my senior year of high school.) Let me show you:

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Here is my parent’s front porch. You’ll notice they have FOUR (had to cut one out) swings across the front – each seating two people. Yes, there are green things everywhere. My mom can make rocks grow. It’s amazing.

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Here is the main floor bath. The walls look like stucco, but it’s a faux paint finish. My mom took drywall compound and sprayed it on the drywall, then smoothed out the top rough edges with sandpaper. The next step was the primer coat, then the light paint coat. Once that was thoroughly dry, she painted the darker coat and wiped it off with a rag leaving it in the crevices left by the compound. Ta-da! Amazing looking stucco bathroom!

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Here’s a wall of my parent’s kitchen. My dad found this old stove, then searched for replacement fixtures until he was able to completely refurbish it. So yes – it’s a working stove. Mom even bakes pies in it for Thanksgiving.

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Here’s the other side of the kitchen. The guy who installed the granite counter top said it was the largest piece of granite he had ever installed. In keeping with the country look of the home, she has custom bar stools made of oak and cedar, cupboards that are both glass and wood – painted a warm ivory with gold trim and satin nickel hardware. The stove, microwave and dishwasher are stainless, but the refrigerator was ordered in ivory to match the cupboards and to blend in.  Those flowers?  Not from a florist. They came from her garden.  Yeah I know – I wish she’d deliver!

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Here is the upstairs loft. My sisters and I put in the carpet. We used carpet samples that had been discontinued, and glued then stapled them to the floor. It gives the room an awesome patchwork quilt look I have never seen anywhere else!

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My parents created a lovely rock bench under a pine tree just as you pull into their driveway. What a welcoming look!

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Here is a peek into their back yard. The arbor has a chandelier hanging from the center top, a bench on one side and a fountain on the other. Yes, the chandelier can be turned on with the flick of a light switch. In the back is a children’s play set, ample seating for a crowd, and a gazebo with a full kitchen – refrigerator, sink, and barbecue. It is also fully lit, as well as floodlights for the entire back yard so the party never has to end at dark!

So, there is a brief tour of their amazing home. I hope you enjoyed it. Please share photos of amazing homes you have seen (with permission, of course!)

Best Kitchen Cleaners

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So, here’s the thing: I love having a clean kitchen, but I don’t have the time or energy to be scrubbing it down every day. Do you? I’m also not going to have 16 different cleaners for one kitchen. I’d rather have just one that is good for everything, including glass. Is that too much to ask in the 21st century? Oh, and I have a few other criteria to mention. I have fibro, so I’m very sensitive to well, everything. So, no harsh chemicals, smells, fumes, or anything. I am also a total wienie now and can’t scrub for long, so the stuff has to actually work and I do mean WORK. And it would be really nice if it disinfected too so I don’t have to do a separate step for that. Am I asking too much? Surprisingly, I’m not. I took a look at a bunch of reviews, from Good Housekeeping to Consumer Reports to Real Simple and Wisebread (and others). Several cleaners seemed to make the top 5 in most lists. In no particular order, here they are:
  1. Mr. Clean Multi-Surface Cleaner, Lemon: Versatile formula is effective on virtually any hard, washable surface, so you don`t have to go searching for the right product. After cleaning, formula leaves no dulling streaks, just a great-looking surface. Lemon scent will make your surfaces smell great.  Kills 99% of bacteria.
  2. Method All Purpose Natural Surface Cleaner – Pink Grapefruit: Put the hurt on dirt with Powergreen Technology, pioneering chemistry that harnesses the strength of naturally derived, non-toxic ingredients to break down dirt naturally. Corn-based cleaning salts bind to dirt to wipe it away while coco oil-derived surfactants remove grease and grime, so every spray leaves nothing behind but a fresh scent and gleaming clean. And the biodegradable formula is safe for most surfaces: tile, sealed wood and marble, and metal.
  3. Windex Vinegar Multi-Surface Cleaner: Use to gently clean almost everything to a streak-free shine. Works on: countertops like corian, silestone, sealed granite, sealed marble (real or synthetic), formica; glass; windows including factory-tinted auto windows; appliances like microwaves, stovetops, toasters, etc; kitchen fixtures; stainless steel; ceramics; enameled paint appliances; ceramic tile; plastic; vinyl; and more.
  4. Spic and Span Cinch Cleaner:  Ammonia free. Safe on granite. Streak free. Cuts grease.

All descriptions come from the manufacturers.  So, there you have it.  I have my favorite.  Which one works best for you?  Or, do you have a fab fav that isn’t on the list?

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