Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Pinspiration: Rhubarb - No Longer Just for Pies

It's that time of year when berries are in season and people start to think about making jams or pies.  One of the usual ingredients in summer desserts is rhubarb, but this tart veggie has a wide range of uses beyond the pie tin.

If you've never cooked with rhubarb, the stalk should be bright and have crispness similar to celery.  Rhubarb cooked without a sweetener is very tart and only a few select people in the population find it tasty. Instead of just adding sugar, consider honey, maple syrup, agave or even a seasoning such as orange peels for a touch of sweetness.

Here are a few of our favorite recipes we have found on Pinterest to inspire your next rhubarb kitchen creation!

Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce
Who doesn't crave a little tang with their sweetness? Barbecue sauce is a bit sweet and sugary by nature and the perfect complement to fresh stalks of tart rhubarb.  This recipe by Dinner with Julie is the ideal condiment for your next summer backyard get together.

Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce
Recipe: Dinner with Julie

Rhubarb Salsa
Bring a new flavor to your dinner table with rhubarb. This tasty recipe from pairs the tart veggie with crisp cucumbers, cilantro and lime for the perfect complement to chicken.

Rhubarb Salsa - Chicken Thighs Recipe

Rhubarb Smoothies
Looking for a cool way to celebrate summer! Rhubarb contains Vitamins A and C along with calcium and potassium - making it the perfect ingredient to your morning smoothie, like this one from Marie Claire's website.

Rhubarb Smoothies - Smoothie Recipe
Recipe: Marie Claire

Rhubarb Clafouti
Looking for a baked dish? According to The Kitchn, "Clafouti is that brilliant French dessert made by pouring an eggy batter over fresh fruit. This bakes into a soft, vanilla-scented custard that is firm enough to serve in slices but soft enough to eat with a spoon." Add a bit of rhubarb and you have a tangy dish sure to please.

Rhubarb Recipes
Recipe: The Kitchn

Here's to a sweet and tangy summer!
-- Weegee Sachtjen

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Design Tips: Finding Small Spaces for Exercises

Ever have those days where you really want to in a workout, but it just isn’t happening? Your meetings at work ran long, the kids had a birthday party, traffic, whatever… it’s hard! Sometimes you just need 30 minutes of movement to feel rejuvenated.

Prevention Magazine had a great article, “7 Slimming Workoutsfor Small Spaces” that has some really good tips for shaping up and slimming down. If you’re starting an exercise program, consult your doctor first, and spend time with a class or a personal trainer to learn proper form and techniques for any exercises.

Working out at a gym is great, but not always possible. Here are some ideas on how to find a small space in your own home for emergency or quick workouts!

No room in your house for a gym? If you have enough floor space to lie down, you have enough space to do a quick workout. It doesn’t need to be big. A corner of your guest room, living room, dining room, even your garage or laundry room will do. Any place but your bedroom, that’s for relaxing and sleep, and getting your heart rate up in other ways besides working out!

A staircase can be a great place for step-up exercises! Use the bottom step, or the lowest two steps as you get stronger. Look for step-up exercises like these.

Dedicate a large, very sturdy laundry or wicker basket to hold a few workout supplies out of sight when not in use, and you’re ready to go.

Buy a yoga mat. A beach towel over carpet makes a great pad for sit-ups and basic stretches, but it’s not grippy enough for yoga moves. And, over a hard floor, you’ll need some padding anyway.

A kettle bell (shown above) will give you some amazing options for workouts. A selection of sizes will come in handy, but if you’re really crunched for space, buy just the one you’ll use now. See this article in Prevention Magazine for workout ideas!

A couple of lightweight dumbells with a soft, grippy coating in cute colors will make curls and tricep presses fun for anyone!

Adjustable ankle and wrist weights will give you a range of weights for exercises without owning a whole rack of dumbells. Once you outgrow your 2 lb dumbells, add wrist weights to increase the weight by a tiny amount, even as small as a quarter pound, instead of jumping up to a 4 or 5-pounder.

Foam roller. How would you like a free massage every day? If you’ve never used a foam roller to help with sore muscles, back and neck, you will be amazed. It’s more of a stretching routine rather than a full workout, but it will make you feel better and your workouts more effective. Try this routine for starters.

Let us know your workout ideas, we’d love to hear what you think!

Until next time!
-Elaine Bothe

Photos and workouts courtesy of Prevention Magazine’s website, and The Sports Authority.

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Setting Up a Kids Study Area

Article by Jennifer Adams

Having a comfortable, dedicated place to study is really important for kids. Their grades may improve and they may build confidence because they’re more organized. School papers won’t get lost or destroyed by art projects. They (and you) will save time by not having to clear a table of dishes or hobby supplies. A successful study area will be calming, quiet and clean, but not so remote the child feels exiled from your family’s activities.

Provide a study space outside a child’s bedroom. Just like us adults need to keep our computers and bill paying out of our bedrooms, kids’ rooms should be free of stress, too. Carve out a corner near the kitchen or family room. Or, use the dining room that you never eat in! Those are usually near the kitchen and all the activity, but far enough away to feel calm.

Each child should have their own space, and limit loud music or TV. Keep a chair for yourself handy, so you can help with homework as needed. As a child gets older, he or she may need a space separate from very young siblings.

Furniture should include a desk, a good quality chair and task lights, a comfortable lounge or armchair or even bean bag for reading. And a window. We all need to take breaks, including kids. By having something far away to look at we rest our eyes. A neat place for books and supplies would be helpful, but store toys and messy hobbies someplace else.

Color is a part of making a peaceful, quiet yet interesting atmosphere for quality study. Calm, comforting colors such as light blues and greens help us stay focused. Neutral, monochromatic schemes can be too boring. Bold colors such as red and orange are exciting but are distracting. Yellow is certainly warm and cheerful, at least for a little while. Some studies show, however, that yellow can increase aggression set off tempers! Purple is an interesting color, because darker tones can be bold and exciting but moody, yet lighter purples are calming.

An ideal study area or work space would be mostly white or off white, pale blue or green, with accents of brighter colors to create interest. Variety is important, in both color, light and furniture arrangements. Use bright colors such as red, orange, bright blues, purples and yellows in artwork, fabrics, throw pillows or in an area rug. If there is not a lot of wall space, neutral colors such as mocha, tan, eggshell whites, or gray would look and feel nice. Break up a big wall with bold art, and keep other clutter to a minimum.

Try the colors before you paint. Often, what you think are pale blues, greens or purples end up too dark or bright to feel calm. Some blues even look gray in different light, which would be fine as long as that’s what you’re expecting. Grays are hot right now, and are a good choice for study areas. Tape the paint swatches to the wall, and look at them during different times of the day, and, ideally, in different weather to see how the colors look in a variety of conditions.

For the most part, the same principles of creating a pleasing, safe, and interesting environment for any room works well for a study area with a few exceptions. While bedrooms need to be very calm, kitchens, living rooms and dining areas can be more exciting, studies should be a little of both.

What do you think? Send us your thoughts on how you set up study spaces for your kids!

 Photos courtesy of Land of Nod, Pottery Barn Kids and PBTeen.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Summer Gift Ideas Under $25

From backyard barbecues to sandy beach parties, it is easy to find your calendar chock full of sun-filled socializing.  As Jennifer Adams states, it is a good idea to have a few gift bags on hand for hosts or unexpected summer celebrations. Here are a few ideas for under $25:

1) For the Bartender
Fill a decorative vase or container, such as a lantern designed to hold a candle, with items for a summer cocktail mixer. Be sure to include fun conversation napkins, decorative straws, produce masher and margarita mix.

2) For the Movers
A great housewarming gift idea is to fill a large round glass canister, which can later be re-purposed into a cookie jar or pantry storage container, with various household products your friend or family member may need once they move in.  These helpful items can include a couple of sponges, a tape measure, Crazy Glue, a small screwdriver and even hand sanitizer.

3) For the College Student
Creating a graduation gift or a care package for the student in your life is easy and simple to do but comes in handy at the dorms. Select a basket that could be used as a shower caddy and fill it with supplies and fun items for the room.  Some ideas include instant noodles, journal, room deodorizing spray, shower slippers, highlights and a coffee mug.

4) For the Grill Master
One can't go wrong with a barbecue gift basket. Everyone has a friend or family member who enjoys grilling. Whether it is by a lake, in the backyard or at a sporting event, this gift basket idea is great for men and women. Simply place some of your favorite barbecue accessories such as tongs, an apron, seasonings and barbecue sauce (homemade?) inside a vegetable grilling tray.

5) Summer Girlfriend Gifts
Whether it is as a thank you or just for fun, creating a few gift bags for your close girlfriends is a thoughtful and fun idea. Using a beach-friendly bag, fill it with spray-on sunscreen, a floppy sun hat, a water bottle and their favorite magazine for some downtime at the beach or poolside with friends.

The key is to keep an eye out at the grocery store or when you visit a discount outlet and purchase the items as you come across them.  This will save you the time and energy of trying to incorporate a store run into your busy day for the upcoming event.

Have a great summer!

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Monday, July 8, 2013

Design Tips: Clever Wall Mounted Bike Storage

Puzzle time! What do all these beautiful, sculptural objects have in common? They hold bicycles! And they
all look great empty or with a bike.

Though they’re skinny, bikes actually take up a lot of room. Higher end bikes don’t have kickstands, and need to be hung on a wall or lean against something. If you have more than one, the bike you want to ride is usually the one in back. If the bike is too hard to access, you won’t ride it.

So, especially if you live in a small apartment, a hook, rack or specially designed shelf will hold your bike(s) safely. And possibly, help to corral some of the extras such as a helmet or gloves. 

Consider the shape of your bike, not all bikes have the classic frame with a flat top tube. Mountain bikes and step-through frames for women are two examples.

Home Depot and many local bike shops have utilitarian solutions ranging from inexpensive rubberized big metal hooks that screw into a stud to wall racks and even pulley-based systems that mount to ceilings. Though effective, these options are pretty blah if the only place you have for your bike is the living room.

We found these handsome solutions to be a much more elegant solution. I really love the Cycloc ones that look like crazy flower pots, pictured at the top. Angle them to fit your bike, and the colors add punch. You can also put a helmet on top and stuff your gloves inside.

This beautifully crafted walnut one is made by The Knife and Saw is pictured second. It’s also a shelf for other objects as well as a place for your bike, and it comes in two sizes. CB2 has a less elegant, but inexpensive solution. 

Other nice wood ones are often handmade and available on sites like Etsy or Supermarket. This creative one, above, is by Cantilever and Press. 

For other wonderful ideas and extensive shopping information, check out these articles from Blog Roominations and Apartment Therapy.

How do you store your bikes and sporting equipment? We will be featuring several articles on storing sporting goods this month, let us know!

Until next time!
-Elaine Bothe

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Six Easy Summer Decorating Ideas

 Article by Jennifer Adams

Summer is here! We’re lathering up in sunscreen and taking to the outdoors, eating a little lighter, planning our exercise and gardening for early in the day and drinking lots of water.

Prep your house for summer, too. Here are some other quick, easy ideas that will help transform your house from winter warmth to fresh, cool and casual for summer.

Use slipcovers over furniture for a fresh look. Cooling fabrics in light colors transform a formal, dark colored sticky leather or scratchy wool covered sofa or chair into a much more comfortable perch. Cotton and linen are ideal. This casual draped look from Pottery Barn is washable and light in a soft cotton twill.

Change out your towels, throw pillows and blankets to lighter colors, bright patterns and comfortable fabrics. Also, as you remove blankets from your bed, add a lightweight coverlet or bedspread instead of heavy or textured ones. Cool colors work well for summer. Light grays, pale yellows, blues and greens with ivory and white are refreshing and inviting.

Remove heavy drapery panels at windows, leaving just the sheers or blinds for a light, airy look. Store until the fall, and get the drapes cleaned right before you want to rehang them for a renewed and freshly pressed look.

Change out plush area rugs for flat weave ones in lighter colors. Sisal, jute and coir rugs look summery and feel great underfoot. Consider getting your area rugs cleaned, too.

You won’t need the firewood unless you’re outside. Move the wood from next to the fireplace to reduce clutter and mess. Or, creatively display it in a new way for texture, as this article in House Beautiful' website suggests!

 Reduce clutter, edit knick knacks, take out those extra magazines that have been accumulating for a while. Remove dried flowers and wreaths, especially if they’re dusty.

What’s your favorite way to prepare for summer? Let us know!

Photos courtesy of Pottery Barn and West Elm.

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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Pinspiration: Independence Day

It's time to shake out the checkered tablecloth, fire up the grill and invite your friends and family over to celebrate the Fourth of July. From a "Stars and Stripes" motif to a simple red, white and blue theme, bring the spirit of Independence Day to your festivities can be easy and simple.

Adding a Patriotic touch can be as simple as red, white and blue candies in a dish or festive cupcakes with Fourth of July inspired sprinkles and red napkins.

As far as food ideas go, here are a few of our favorites from Pinterest:

Frozen Chocolate Bananas
This recipe from Just a is festive and super-easy to make.

Patriotic Stain-Glass Jello
The Brown-Eyed refers to this recipe as " fun, festive, easy to transport and eat, a sure-fire kid pleaser, and will make the adults wax nostalgic about the good ol’ days of Jello Jigglers." We couldn't agree more!

Instead of berries and cream cheese, this recipe from Mommy and Things blog adds a twist on the patriotic display with cake pops.  The recipe is easy, kid-friendly and looks spectacular! 

Celebrate the Fourth with the perfect scoop of ice cream -- bar that is! This idea featured on Ginger Snap Crafts is easy to make ahead of time and pull out during the fireworks.

Happy Fourth of July!
-- Weegee Sachtjen

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Monday, July 1, 2013

Design Tips: Caring for your Area Rugs

I love area rugs! My house has beautiful hardwood floors, and I love those, too. But area rugs really finish a room, “ground” a seating arrangement and add color and texture. Without area rugs, the wood floor would be slippery and feel cold and stark, especially in the winter. But area rugs require some care.

Generally, regular vacuuming and spot treating work well for any type of area rug, just the same as wall-to-wall carpeting. Check the label or ask the retailer about rugs for care recommendations, some may require a special type of vacuum cleaner that is less damaging. If possible, clean the floor under the rug and pad as well as vacuuming the back side of the rug by folding it on itself. Small rugs may be turned over for vacuuming.

High end, handmade rugs require professional cleaning no matter how big they are. They may not even have a label, so it’s best to leave even spot removals to the pros. Mop up what you can as quickly as possible, by blotting with a clean cotton cloth. Vegetable dyes may fade easily. 

For other rugs, an effective spot removal system is the WoolClean kit, which has worked well for me on nylon carpets as well as wool. Always read the instructions and test first however! If you have any doubt, call the professionals.

Unless your area rug is over another carpet, always use a high quality rug pad under your rug. This will prolong the life of the rug as well as keep the rug from slipping. Inexpensive rubberized mesh pads work well for a couple of months, and aren’t a permanent solution. They deteriorate and lose their grip quickly.

Rotate your rugs periodically. This will even out wear and fading from sunlight.

How do you use area rugs in your home? Send us a picture!

Until next time!
Elaine Bothe

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Summer Décor Ideas: White on White Done Right

Article by Jennifer Adams

Summer heat and stickiness is a great time to think about whites and light fabrics in your home decor. No other color scheme feels as fresh, airy and light as beautifully done white on white! But you have to go all in. Even if you want a very light palette and go for pale blues, greens, yellows or pinks, a fully pulled-together look takes some planning.

Poorly done, white on white rooms can look cluttered and busy, which defeats the whole purpose. Pure white rooms can look sterile, and if you have just one dark colored item, like a TV, your eye will be immediately drawn to the contrasting black hole.

It’s nearly impossible to get white materials such as walls, wood,  fabrics and flooring to match exactly, so don’t even try. Celebrate changes of texture with slight shifts of color. Just make sure all your whites are in the same range. Look carefully at the white color chart at your favorite paint store. They’re not all pure white. You’ll see how some look ever so slightly warm yellowish, eggshell brown, gray, or the palest peach, blue, pink or green.

Pick your favorite to be your white theme. Consider your flooring and other items you won’t be changing, for example, if you have some warm brown wood furniture, stick to the eggshell range of whites. Got a pale blue sofa? A warm white theme will play that up beautifully.

Start with the easiest: white paint. Sure, it’s just white, but get a test quart and paint a swatch in your room. The light might make it look too gray, yellow or blue or something you can’t even imagine until you see it! If you have medium to dark paint, use a white primer first for the best coverage and purest white color.

Keep it real, avoid white floors and carpets! They sure look great in the magazines. But even if you are a true modern purist with a lot of time to clean, have no kids or pets, don’t drink coffee, tea or red wine and never entertain, your floors will eventually get dirty. Even a light shade of gray or tan will keep your room light and yourself sane.

 Accessorize with objects that are mostly white, too. Or, accent with a color, making sure you use several items in that color for a cohesive look. Group like-colored items together, or tie them together visually and use many throughout the room.

What do you think about white color schemes? Do you have a good story? I want to hear about it! Photos courtesy of Elle Décor, PotteryBarn, DWR and Restoration Hardware.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Summer Floral Tips

Flowers are a great way to freshen up a home and add a pop of color to the decor. Here are a few simple tips to save you time, money and keep your house looking beautiful.

One Flower, One Color
When it comes to arranging blooms for the home, one option is to keep it simple and fresh by using one type of flower per container or vase. To help position your flowers in the vase, use making tape to create a grid along the top of the container. Then insert your flowers and arrange them to your liking.  The grid will help keep the blooms in position.

Mix and Match with the Same Color
Single color flower arrangements have a high impact on your decor and can easily coordinate with the room's color scheme. Choose flowers with interesting shapes, giving the arrangement a bit more texture and depth. Be sure to cut the stems at varied lengths; this will create more of a flowing appearance than a mound of flowers. Also, don't be afraid of brilliant colors. A pop of color in a neutral room will have a beautiful impact.

Get Extra Life Out of Your Bouquet
Extend the decorating life of your flowers by breaking the bouquet apart and putting individual buds in separate glass jars. A good way to incorporate this into your room is by using different shapes and sizes of jars or vases. If you have roses, a cost-saving tip is to scatter the petals of the rose in a single glass jar. Use the left over leaves to decorate the tabletop around the vase, adding depth and texture to the display.

Flower arrangement doesn't have to be intimidating. It can be a fun DIY project that adds a touch of seasonal flair to your home decor. Experiment with colors, blooms and positions -- you will love the results.

Have fun!
-- Weegee Sachtjen

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Design Tips: New Trends in Dishwashers

Once upon a time, my house had two dishwashers. Me, and my husband! For water savings, we turned off the faucet. To make it quieter, we stopped talking. For automatic drying, we left the dishes in the drying rack overnight. Wow, what an upgrade when we moved to a new house and there was one already installed in the kitchen.

That was a wonderful, quiet and water efficient one by Asko. In the years since, technology in dishwashers has kept up with everything else. They’re quieter than ever, wash great, and use less water. You do still have to load and unload it yourself, but a good quality dishwasher will do practically everything else these days.

The most exciting thing I’ve seen lately is Bosch’s new Third Rack system. They found room at the top of the dishwasher for a slim, but very useful rack for all those tiny things you’re trying to find a place to set. Measuring cups, utensils too big to go in the silverware compartments, prep bowls, and, silverware. There is still plenty of room for wine glasses in the middle rack, and plates on the bottom.

Bosch claims the Third Rack adds 30 percent more capacity. In my house, that could be the end of leaving a few things out because there is no room, no matter how cleverly you stack things.

And, you don’t even have to shell out for their top of the line model. The Third Rack is available on many, including the affordable and quiet 500 and 800 Series, both frequently well rated by Consumer Reports.

My latest Bosch dishwasher is now nearly 10 years old, the average lifespan for a dishwasher. I was already wondering if it is time for something new, so I can donate it to a good cause while it's still running great. At least I won’t need to look far, I know what I'm getting! For additional buying information, see the Consumer Reports Dishwasher Buying Guide, published online in May of 2013.

What’s your favorite dishwasher story? Let us know!

Until next time!
Elaine Bothe

Photos courtesy of Bosch and Consumer Reports.

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Friday, June 21, 2013

Design Trends for Dining Rooms

"The Architectural Digest Home Show" is one of the places where a high-end designer's ideas become trends. It's where the magazine lays out its pages for the rest of us to drool over at the supermarket checkout. Our design expert, Jennifer Adams, offers affordable tips on how to spruce up your dining room without shelling out a small fortune.

Anything Goes in Tabletop Decor
Why stop at the traditional fruit bowl or candle and flower arrangement when your dining table can incorporate a bit of your hobbies or tastes? A fish bowl with your swimming pet will add a touch of the exotic to the center of the table.  Have some leftover wallpaper? Use it on the table or even the floor underneath to connect the room.

Add a Color Pop to Black & White Decor
The best way to tie together the sleek look of black and white is to incorporate a pop of color in the center.  This can be a simple flower arrangement or a brightly colored collection of knick-knacks.

Paper Lantern Chandeliers
Dare to go bold with one of this year's hottest lighting trends, paper lantern chandeliers. These fixtures add a fun glow to your dining area and come in a variety of colors and prints. The pretty pendants can also be purchased with interesting cut-out patterns that will transform your next dining experience.

Mix Up Your Chairs
Take the pressure off your entertaining my mixing up the seating. The chairs don't have to match in color or in style. Incorporate lounge chairs, benches, ottomans and bar stools. The only thing to keep in mind is that you can eat comfortably at the table from the chair.  The rest is up for grabs.

Glass Lamp Centerpiece
Shine a light on your next dining experience with a glass lamp in the center of your table. Be sure that the base of the lamp is see-through so you can maintain conversations with people across the table. For an added pop of color, consider putting potted flowers around the bottom.

Exposed Bulbs are Hot
A popular trend in home decor is the exposed light bulb. It is reminiscent of the early days of electricity and offers an industrial, minimal tone to the room.  The filament bulb, one of the more popular ones, tend to mimic the effects of candlelight and creates a warm glow in the dining room.

Bring the Outdoors In
In an episode of the British sitcom "Keeping up Appearances," Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced "Bou-quet") organizes an "outdoors indoors luxury barbecue" in which she purchases a wide range of flowers and trees to overfill the interior of her house.  While this may be going to the extremes, adding a bit of nature inspiration to your next dining experience is easy to do.  You can hang a wooden garden trellis from the ceiling and hang lighting (exposed or paper lanterns!) from it along with butterflies, birdhouses or other outdoor inspirations. For added panache, incorporate the decor from above into accent pieces on the tabletop.

Dress Up Place Settings
Sometimes the simplest designs are the best.  To create a layered look at a place setting, purchase some inexpensive chargers, place a napkin tied with a bow and add a stem of fresh flowers.

The takeaway: Incorporate your likes into the room and have fun doing it.

For more inspirational ideas, watch Jennifer Adams' "New Design Trends" from The Better TV Show.

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Decorating with Books –In or Out of the question?

Article by Jennifer Adams

In this age of e-readers and online newspapers, does anyone read real books anymore? Yes! Of course they do! But attitudes have changed quite a bit recently about having walls and walls of books everywhere in the house. Decorating trends are heading toward a more minimal look for all styles, even traditional ones.

Rarely do we see books in every room in the house lately. The days of decorators ordering “80 feet of red books” from used bookstores are pretty much over. In-home libraries have generally dwindled to token but meaningful stacks of beautiful books and favorites. Too many books, especially inexpensive ones or worn paperbacks add clutter, not beauty, to a room.

A home completely without books feels sterile, however. Books work well as accessories, adding a lived-in feel in a few well-chosen titles artfully arranged. CDs and DVDs replaced books in the family room for a while, now even those are going away.

Here are my favorite ways to include books in today’s home.

Don’t be afraid of getting rid of books. If the book is ratty, the cover’s not pretty, you’re not interested in the topic any more, or haven’t looked at the book for years, time to toss it. Used books still find homes at charitable organizations like Goodwill and lending libraries for the homeless, and many paperbacks are recyclable! Or trade with friends for a constant stream of new titles. Same goes for magazines! See the Moneycrashers website, here, for some great charitable organizations accepting books.

Favorites and well-worn hand-me-down cookbooks in the kitchen are a comforting sight. Food stains, handwritten notes and dog-eared pages indicate a rich food history. Store the ones you use often in your kitchen, the rest can go someplace else handy enough for you to use as reference.

Place two or three classics on the nightstand, including one you’re reading. More than that is clutter.

Store reference books in the home office. Software manuals, keeper magazines, dictionaries, extra cookbooks, are all useful. Additional books that you like but aren't as attractive can be stored here, too.

Children’s rooms are great places for kids’ books. Keep a low bookcase and replace favorite titles as they wear out.

Books make great accessories in the living room and family room. Stacks of several beautiful books on topics that interest you look wonderful on the coffee table, low shelves on carts or tables, and even on the floor. Mix with artful artifacts and sculptures, but don’t stack too many vases or heavy objects on top of the books in case someone actually wants to look at one of the books.

If you really love the feel of a classic library, go for it! A full wall of shelves in a dining room like this shown in a Crate and Barrel photo at the top, or a dedicated library room with books mixed with wine storage or art can still work beautifully. Mix in artifacts with the books for an airy, modern feel. Take notes from bookstores, and treat your favorites like a work of art, like in this photo at right.

What is your favorite way to store books in your home? Let me know!

For more tips, see the article “Decorating with Books” article on the Better Homes and Gardens’ website. Photos courtesy of BHG and Crate and Barrel.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Homemade Mashed Potato Salad

In my blog entry last week, I mentioned a couple of DIY gifts for Father’s Day for the man who likes to grill.  This got me to thinking about barbecuing  (yummy!) and my favorite dish – homemade potato salad.

Everyone seems to have an opinion on how they like their potato salad:  more egg, less mayo, bigger chunks. And like most children, I like the way my mother made it best.  Instead of chunks, my family makes a mashed potato salad.

I know what you are saying. “Mash the potatoes!?  Cold mashed potatoes?  Something just didn't sound right about that.”

It might sound a little weird; it was the best potato salad I've ever tasted.  In my opinion, one of the most common problems with potato salads is when you get large flavorless chunks of potatoes swimming in mayo or dressing.   With mashed potatoes, you get the perfect distribution of oil, vinegar, onion and all the other tasty tidbits in every bite.

However, this recipe wasn't written down per say for our family does it by taste.  When I requested a written how-to, I was given an ingredients list and nothing more.  It was a few trial and error experiments before my husband and I came up with the first Mashed Potato Recipe in actual recipe form.

The other good thing about potato salad is that it can be scaled to fit your serving needs, which is why I think it was never written down.  All you need is the key ingredient, potatoes, and you can add the rest of the ingredients to taste. I have made batches for two people up to 22 guests.

Without further ado . . .

Mashed Potato Salad

Boiling potatoes whole will take longer to cook than if they are chopped up into large chunks, but a chopped potato will absorb water and leave the potato slightly water logged.  When I'm in a hurry I will chop my potatoes before cooking, but most of the time I boil them whole with the skins on.

For the perfect hard-boiled egg, start with the eggs in cold water and bring to a boil.  Boil for 10 minutes and then immediately submerge eggs in ice water.  Prolonged cooking will cause a green layer between the yolks and the whites.

Prep time 40 minutes
Serves 6

4 large potatoes
4 hard boiled eggs
1/2 medium onion
1 stalk celery
1/4 cup pimento or roasted bell pepper
4 tablespoons pickle relish
1 cup mayonnaise
4 teaspoons vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
dash cayenne

Directions: (print this recipe)

1) Scrub potatoes clean and cut out any eyes, sprouts, or blemishes.

2) Place whole potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Simmer until potatoes are soft, about 40 minutes.  When a parring knife easily pierces the potatoes, they are done.

3) Hard-boil eggs by placing in a medium pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Cook 10 minutes and then transfer eggs to an ice bath.

4) Chop onion, celery, and pimento to a small dice.

5) Dice 2 of the hard boiled eggs.

6) Drain potatoes and chop into large chunks (mostly just to break up skins)

7) Mash potatoes.

8) Add onion, celery, pimento, pickle relish, diced eggs, mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, and pepper.  Stir to combine.

9) Transfer salad to a serving dish.

10) Slice remaining two eggs and arrange on top of salad.  Dust with cayenne.

That’s it! Dig in and enjoy!

Until next time!
--Weegee Sachtjen

Photo and recipe courtesy of Mike and Weegee Sachtjen

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posted by Jennifer Adams Design Group Blog @ 3:00 AM  0 Comments
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Monday, June 17, 2013

Design Tips: High Quality Pet Doors

One day, years ago while I still let my cat outside, I got a phone call. “Your cat is sleeping on my bed!” Oh? I replied. “Yeah. And he ate all my cat’s food. Again. What are you going to do about it?”

“Um. Do you have a cat door?” I asked. Yes was the answer. I thought hard what to say besides “How is that my problem!” But instead, I asked what kind of food she fed her cat, and I agreed to buy the same brand, so he wouldn’t need to roam to find food he liked better than his own.

These days, pet doors are a lot better than a simple hole cut into a door with a piece of flimsy plastic or carpet stapled over it. Keep the neighbor’s cat, raccoons and other unwanted creatures out, while letting your own pet come and go.

Modern pet doors are insulated, more secure and look pretty good, especially if all your trim is white. They can be installed in a door or even the wall or a glass door. Mount through a wall, and have a contractor or DIY a handsome wood surround to match your wood trim for a finished look.

High tech electronic doors are programmable to the time of day, and the animal wears a “key” tag on its collar. But they are pricey, from $150 for the Endura flab shown below on up to $400 for a large opening one for dogs on! But if you need the security, this is the way to go. Burglars can often fit through a dog door for a medium to large dog.

A more moderately priced version for cats has a magnetic key goes for around $65 on the PetSafe website.

Pet doors are great for indoor use, too. If you have a cat and a dog, you can place your cats’ food and water inside a room, and keep the dog out. You won’t need thermal properties or security unless your dog is the same size as your cat! Basic locking cat doors, suitable for interior doors like this one start at around $13.

Check out Frontgate for this attractive tension pet gate fordoors, complete with a cat door if your cat can’t jump very high…

Let us know your ideas, we’d love to hear what you think!

Until next time!
-Elaine Bothe

Photos courtesy of Frontgate, PetSafe and PetDoors

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posted by Jennifer Adams Design Group Blog @ 12:01 AM  0 Comments
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