Friday, August 29 , 2014

Easy, Inexpensive Dishwasher Gunk Remover

Is there strange gunk on the walls of your dishwasher...or a slightly foul smell emanating from within? Don't seek out a pricey special dishwasher cleaner. Use this instead...

Sprinkle three tablespoons or a small packet of a lemon- or orange-drink powder (such as Tang, Kool-Aid or Crystal Light) inside your empty dishwasher or fill the dishwasher's soap dispenser. Run the empty dishwasher for a full normal wash-and-rinse cycle. Any powdery drink mix that contains citric acid will remove gunk, lime and rust stains as well as odors.

More help around the house...


Wednesday, August 20 , 2014

6 Clever Jewelry Organizers

We have one or two very nice jewelry boxes, but they're not quite deep enough to store our long heirloom necklaces. Also, who wants to hide beautiful jewelry away? What better way to brighten the corners of your bedroom than with sparkling jewels and gems! Here are some ideas to do that while keeping your baubles well-organized.

Store and display your bracelets and watches on the branches of a coffee-cup tree. These cup stands come in all sorts of styles, from rustic to contemporary, and are available at places like Bed Bath & Beyond, Crate & Barrel, Macy's and, of course, online. You might even find a nice old one in an antiques store.

You can also use a tie rack as a neat way to store your necklaces. (We have an old tie rack that came with our closet. We purchase necklaces sometimes just to keep it filled!)

Keep your earrings paired up and organized in empty ice cube trays—no, not ugly new plastic trays. Keep you eyes open for retro-style metal ice cube trays at flea markets or yard sales. Or old metal muffin baking trays—the more beat up, the more rustic they look. Wherever you keep you earrings, you can keep the pairs together by sticking each post in a pair through a hole in a large vintage button. Pretty!

Speaking of ties: Choose a cute, colorful necktie (that the man in the house won't miss too much) and then tie it onto your closet rod using a necktie knot (we favor the half-Windsor). Then use the tie to hold brooches and pins. You can even push through pierced earring posts. It's a neat way to hold the jewelry and to see it all at a glance.

More great ways to decorate and organize...


Wednesday, July 30 , 2014

Cool Way to Keep Track of Your Paint Colors

What a nice paint job! Now your friends will want to copy your color choices. And you yourself may need to touch up a room with the same colors in the future. Today’s creative paint names (Seafoam Pearl, Ballet Slipper) are so easy to forget! Here’s what to do…

To ID leftover paint cans: The labels on paint cans often are either not very informative or get covered up by drips of paint. On a 3-x-5 index card, write the paint brand, color name, color number, sheen name (such as flat, semi-gloss or eggshell) and the room you used it in—you might even want to paint a color smear on the card. Then attach the card to the paint can or laundry-detergent bottle (see below), sticking it in place with transparent tape.

To catalogue paint choices throughout your home: While you're at it, paint a sample on an additional index card or dip half a Popsicle stick into the paint. When it is dry, write the paint brand, color name and the room you used it in on the card or stick so you will have the color handy for matching and decorating purposes. Keep your index cards or Popsicle sticks in a small photo album with plastic sheathings and, bingo, you've got a portable decorator's helper.

Great way to store leftover paint: Cleaned-out plastic laundry-detergent bottles make great containers for leftover paint—much better than the original cans with their gooped-up, difficult-to-open metal lids. Laundry-detergent bottles have dripless pouring spouts and handy handles and, if you close them tightly, your leftover paint won't dry out.

More help with home upkeep...


Tuesday, July 29 , 2014

Make Your Patio Furniture Look Like New

If you have an outdoor area to hang out in (especially with a pool), consider yourself a lucky duck! Here are a few tips to keep your outdoor living space cleaner longer.

Protecting outdoor furniture: After wiping the dust and dirt off plastic, wood or metal furniture frames—not chair seats or any other parts that come in contact with people’s skin— buff the frames with liquid car wax. It will protect your furniture from pollution, bird droppings and anything else that may cause erosion.

Cleaning patio and poolside umbrellas: While you're at the auto-supply store buying liquid car wax, pick up some cleaner for a convertible car top. Use it to clean your sun-beaten patio umbrella and give it a revitalized look.

Pool: You'll have a cleaner pool if you keep a tennis ball floating in the water. The ball serves to absorb body oils and suntan lotion residue (although if you have a lot of swimmers, it's a good idea to have the divers shower off lotion before entering the pool).

More help with your backyard...


Monday, July 28 , 2014

Fix Cracks in Your Fine China

Is it tea time at your house? Oh no! There's a crack in one of your china pieces, and now you have an odd set of saucers. Here's what to do...

Put a cracked china cup or plate in a pan, and pour in enough whole milk to cover it—and then some. Let it simmer on the stovetop for 45 minutes. That allows enough time for the milk protein (casein) to do what it needs to do, which is to fill in the fissures. When the time is up, take the china off the stove and let it cool. Then rinse and marvel at the restored piece.

For more easy home fix-its...


Thursday, May 22 , 2014

Give Your Geraniums a Boost

Geraniums are easy-to-grow perennials that bloom beautiful, bright colors. And, according to the National Gardening Association, deer pass them by! But geraniums are picky about one thing…

They love lots of water! But, as with any plant, you have to careful not to overwater—the roots should never sit in standing water.

Here’s a way to keep them happily hydrated without overwatering: After preparing your morning coffee, rinse off the coffee grounds to cool them and remove any residue. Then distribute the grounds in an even layer on top of the soil surrounding the geraniums. The grounds become a marvelous mulch that helps keep in moisture. Note: Be sure to use coffee grounds on full-grown plants only. Geranium seeds have a hard seed coat, and the grounds can inhibit germination.

More help with plants and gardens…


Tuesday, May 20 , 2014

Make Fleas Flee the Natural Way

Cats and dogs love to romp in the grass and bushes...and then they bring stowaways into the house. Fleas love to settle in your carpeting and furniture. If you have fleas in your home, this is a chemical-free way to get them to go...

If you have fleas in your home, vacuum (at least once a week) all the areas where your pet hangs out. Then sprinkle common table salt in all of those same places, and after 48 hours, vacuum again. Repeat the procedure—sprinkle salt, and 48 hours later, vacuum. Hopefully by then, the vacuum will have sucked up all the original fleas and those that hatched during the four-day salting.


Monday, May 19 , 2014

Easy, Nontoxic Weed and Patio Moss Killer

Personally, we think it's charming to see a feisty plant pop up through sidewalk cracks or in between patio stones. But if you're not charmed by pavement weeds and green stuff growing on your patio and want to get rid of it all without harsh chemicals, here's what to do...

Pour distilled white vinegar on the weeds—enough to get them good and wet—but don't hose it off. Let it stay there, and in a few days the weeds will be dead. Vinegar will also get rid of patio moss. Splash on a half-cup wherever you see green growing where it's not supposed to. This is safe and effective for wood and slate patios. Reapply as needed, usually after a heavy rainstorm.

More garden know-how...


Wednesday, May 14 , 2014

Weird Stair-Painting Trick

Spring and home spruce-up go hand in hand, and a staircase often is one of the first things seen by visitors entering your home. So spruce up those scuffy steps with a fresh coat of paint! How do you do that considering that paint needs time to dry and you have to walk on those steps every day? We have two clever ways to do it...

If you want to paint steps to which people must have continual access, take two days to do it. The first day, paint every other step. When those steps are dry enough to walk on a day or two later, go ahead and paint every other other step. While every other step is wet with paint, you use the staircase by stepping over those, taking two steps at a time.

What if people in your home can't manage climbing over every other step? Paint the entire left half or right half (every step on one side), allowing people to use the unpainted half to get up or down the staircase. Make the painted halves slightly uneven so that there isn't a rigid middle seam when you eventually paint the other half (although modern paints usually blend well with dry, just-painted sections). When the first half is dry (usually after two days), paint the other half of the steps. (Be sure to let people know which half is wet and which is dry!) Voila! Now it feels like you live in a new home.

More tips for home renovations…


Friday, May 09 , 2014

Plagued by Pigeons?

Birds (such as pigeons) are nice, but they can make such a mess! Here's what to do if some feathered friends refuse to leave your porch, terrace, deck or patio the way they found it.

Glop up the birds' landing strip—the railing or ledge of your outdoor space—with petroleum jelly or a generous amount of powdered chalk. Those substances will make it uncomfortable for them to land…and the powdered chalk contains calcium carbonate, a natural pest repellent  (You can purchase powdered chalk that climbers and gymnasts use, or make your own by crushing up blocks or sticks of chalk. Just be sure that you don't use powdered paint chalk.) You should have to apply the jelly or chalk only once or twice—birds actually have good memories, and one or two bad landings should keep most of those in your neighborhood away for good.

When the birds have permanently flown the coop, wipe off the excess petroleum jelly and sweep away the chalk. If the outdoor surface is wood, rub the jelly into the wood evenly throughout the area.

More help with pests…