September 15, 2014

Covering an office chair

I have this old office chair I got on sale several years ago. Honestly, I hate how traditional office chairs look and those that are nicer tend to also be much more expensive or simply too big for little me. So I end up with those rolling task chairs that never hold up or are boring gray or black when I yearn for a pop of color.

This was my task chair. My husband took the back off since I don't really use it, but it was still kind of blah.

This was my task chair. My husband took the back off since I don't really use it, but it was still kind of blah. In my stash, I found a yard of striped home decor fabric, which looked to be more than enough to cover the chair seat.

Now, there are plenty of proper ways to cover or reupholster a chair. My way is not the most durable or neatest, but it's quick!

1. Set the chair upside down on the fabric. Since it was a wavy stripe pattern and I knew I wouldn't get a perfect straight across doing this quickly, I set the chair on the bias. That way if the stripes don't go across perfectly, it's not obvious.

2. Pull at the fabric in all directions to make sure there aren't any big wrinkles.

3. Loosely cut the fabric around the chair leaving a lot of excess in case it has to be adjusted.

4. Staple on one side a few times, then staple on the opposite side (keep it taut). I worked around kind of back and forth around the chair to make sure I was pulling evenly on all sides. Around the corners, I folded the fabric like I would for a bed corner and most of those wrinkles are underneath where no one would see.

5. When it's all secure, cut off the remaining excess. I used pinking shears to hopefully keep the fabric from fraying over time. Since it's not getting washed, this is not a huge concern.

6. Flip the chair back over and see if any fabric hangs down where you could see sitting or standing near the chair and trim that back.

That's it! Less than 10 minutes and it's a whole new chair that looks way more awesome in my office.

Now, if you don't often sew and don't have a stash of fabric, you could go to the local big sewing store, but you'll have more selection and greater access to nice home decor fabrics at a low cost by looking online. My favorite site is Fashion Fabrics Club. Shipping isn't cheap but they have really sweet deals on fabrics in their discount section and have a huge variety of home decor and apparel fabrics.

September 6, 2014

Upcoming reviews: Roomba, Jimmy Dean, Furreal Friends, & Paula's Choice

This fall, I have some exciting reviews planned! Here are just a few of the interesting products I'll be trying out in September and October:

iRobot Roomba® 870

We are on our second Roomba and it's about 6 years old so it's not terribly efficient anymore. We've also got a Neato, which works just fine but needs a new battery. I hate how loud it is so I can't wait to try out the new Roomba, which has a unique new brush style that makes it WAY easier to clean the robot and their new battery lasts twice as long. Since our first floor is nearly wide open and almost 1500 sq ft, I want to test if it can handle our space without kinking out. Thanks to iRobot for a substantial discount to buy and review the 870!

Paula's Choice Resist C15 Super Booster
You guys probably know I love Paula's Choice. I trust their reviews and expert advice on other brand products and since I also enjoy reviewing C serums, I definitely can't wait to try this one out. Paula's Choice is providing a free bottle to test.

Furreal Friends®: Get Up & Go-Go, My Walkin' Pup™
I'm really quite done reviewing this but need to come up with a decent post to explain how I feel about it. It's a toy dog for kids with a phone app that offers some additional play features that go along with the real toy. I wasn't impressed but haven't come up with a good way to explain why just yet. Soon though.

Jimmy Dean Lunch & Dinner Entrees
I have some coupons for free Jimmy Dean entrees. It's not my thing but my husband definitely wants to try some. We just can't find these in stores around here, so I'll keep looking and hopefully they'll pop up at Hy-Vee or Walmart soon.

September 3, 2014

Helping butterflies and bringing back the prairie

I live in Minnesota. Those of you who live elsewhere may think of us as cold and snowy, but there's much wonderful green and beautiful parkland to enjoy during the warmer months. Minnesota's prairie is what sold me on moving here, but less than 2% of the native prairie is left! Farming, like in many states, has taken a toll on natural landscapes, as has city expansion and housing developments. In the early 20th century, preserving and restoring the native landscape became a "thing," but it takes far longer to restore than it does to destroy. Farming is necessary and critical to our livelihood, but there are steps that everyone can take to help the environment and keep certain species from becoming extinct.

We have a tiny plot of land that is mostly house with a steep hill and tiny front yard. When we bought the house, there were a few simple plants, but most weren't a good fit for their location and either died off or aren't thriving. We need to do a good deal of landscaping in the next couple of years to prevent erosion of our hill and better handle runoff, but it's expensive. Add to that the cost of plants, even native plants, and we're looking at a very long and slow process.

While we save for the bigger projects, we're taking tiny steps to help butterflies, bumblebees, and to reduce the amount of water we use in our non-edible gardens. Eventually, we're planning to install a raingarden with help from a local grant to reimburse some of the costs, but for now, it's baby steps.

There were two huge prickly bushes along the sidewalk in front of the electrical boxes. They had to go, both for safety and for aesthetic reasons. After we pulled them out, I amended the soil and put in several young native plants.

Since it could be 2-3 years before they're full and lush, I added three gayfeather plants for a pop of color. When they're all grown, it will be pink and purple and a mecca for our bumblebees and butterflies.

The area around our tree is the beginning of a butterfly waystation. We have a basking rock, lots of flowers, shade areas and sunny areas, and places for caterpillars to do their thing. It's still an immature garden, but I expect it will look pretty full by next July. Some of the natives are from just after I bought the house, so nearly two years old and finally getting full. I'll be moving some flowering plants from elsewhere to fill out the area in front of the rock before the cold sets in. The only thing we're not adding is standing water for butterflies to drink. I'll probably spritz the flowers for water beads on hot days instead.

If you want to learn more about creating a butterfly garden, there are great resources through the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Zoo.

Here a few plant types if you'd like to get started:

  • Aster
  • Sunflowers
  • Black-Eyed Susan
  • Violets
  • Phlox
  • Lavender
  • Milkweed

These offer a nice variety of color and size. Be sure to plant several of each type so the butterflies will notice their preferred plant. Different butterflies each like certain plants more than others, so a nice variety will bring in more species.

September 1, 2014

Best stylist in Southern Minnesota

Ok, so I didn't take a survey to find out who is the best stylist, but I've certainly been to several and with really difficult hair to style, when I find someone awesome, I stay loyal. Since moving to Rochester and finding Kristan at City Looks, I haven't been anywhere else. She always gets my hair smooth and healthy, understands the craziness that is my texture and thickness, and suggests products without being pushy.

A year ago, I started taking Penny to have her hair done by Kristan because it's rather thick for a kid her age and most cuts we would get at the chain salons looked kind of blah or inappropriate for her face shape. Kristan gives Penny the real grownup experience with a kid-like twist (see the cute apron).

 I usually bring a giant sucker or other treat to distract from the less fun stuff like hair washing and sitting still for the cut. We don't have a kid-focused salon in our area, but the big lollipop usually works out well.

Penny's latest appointment was scheduled on the day of her first walk/run event (Mayo Clinic Healthy Human) so I let Penny scour Pinterest for some hair ideas. She picked a cute star braid and asked Kristan if she could come up with something similar. Penny's hair was a lot shorter than the girl in what she picked, but Kristan came up with a nice solution that looked adorable and held up all day. She got a lot of compliments while jogging around downtown Rochester.

If you live in Rochester or the surrounding small towns, definitely look for Kristan at City Looks. She treats Penny like a real, grownup customer, which means Penny feels like she has her own stylist, which makes her feel really proud.

August 30, 2014

I used to be a plugins kinda girl

We had a lot of Glade and Airwick plugin things around the house. When you have three pets, one of whom is a dog who spends his days frolicking with horses and goats, you gotta have something to mask the smell of manure and dog sweat. I got tired of how quickly they run out, failed attempts at home refills, and what seems like a chemically stink of the ones from dollar stores. I love the look of reed diffusers, but I didn't know if they really add scent to the room so until recently, I never thought to buy one.

When I helped my sister move into her first apartment, I got her a nice diffuser for her bathroom and was wowed by not only the pretty look, but the great, noticeable scent. So next trip to Target, I took my husband through the smelly stuff aisles and we picked diffusers for our bathrooms. 

We have a larger one in the master bath, but chose this cute mini one for the guest bath. My husband selected Bonfire Nights from Nature's Wick as a scent he was comfortable with and I set it next to some old potpourri and waited for magic to happen.

It took a full day before the scent was really noticeable but it did happen and weeks later, it's still going strong. The scent is perfect for a bathroom, like sandalwood, kind of earthy. It's not overpowering, which is good since the room isn't huge, and the look is cute, yet subtle enough that it's not the focus of the room. That means, people notice the scent but not the scent-maker. The plug-in I used to keep there is long gone.

We still have plug-ins in the cat box room (aka laundry room), dining room, and by the front door, but I'm going to wean off those soon and put a diffuser on my dresser and the laundry room. With our crazy cats, I can't try it in the dining room or living room unless I can find something that won't spill if tipped over, but for now we'll see how things go with one room at a time. I don't want to overpower people with scent. I just want to mask the smell we get in the summer from our musky hound dog.

August 29, 2014

Painting with little kids

On an old blog, I shared a post about my daughter painting when she was 2-1/2 years old and thought I might share it here. I'm a huge believer in art education, especially for young children. Art helps with critical thinking skills, focus, creativity, and helps with an emotional outlet before kids are able to effectively communicate verbally.

Kids don't need to paint in the lines or be neat and tidy. Messy is just fine. With Penny, we have times where we have shorter art activities with more focus to guide her fine motor skills (trying to get her to want to write letters and numbers vs type them on the iPad), but we also like to let loose. 

It's summer, so get outdoors with a big canvas or piece of cardboard. Grab some washable paint and cheap brushes and let your kids play with color. You can show them how certain colors work together and what happens when you mix them all together. Demonstrate what happens when you paint on wet color compared to when the first layer has dried. Just have fun with it!

Painting outside is a fabulous summertime activity because it's easy to hose off to keep the paint from getting on floors and walls inside, and the summer sun dries the paint fast so artwork can come right inside.

Penny had an old canvas painting she never finished so I gessoed it and let her create something from scratch with a box of paints and brushes. One afternoon, we set everything out on the lawn and she had a blast experimenting with color. Penny takes her painting seriously, deliberately selecting brushes and colors, but she also likes to have fun painting herself and me.

For back-to-school, we picked an Igloo Creatures lunch cooler

During a quick trip to Menards, Penny noticed this adorable lunch box on a shelf in the Halloween decoration section. It was lonely, sitting there by itself, probably misplaced by a customer. So, of course we brought it home.

Now, seriously, we were looking to add another lunch box to the collection so I can rotate through and have a clean one on hand at all times. This wasn't quite my plan, thinking I would have preferred something bento, hard plastic, or machine washable. However, it was Igloo brand, which I trust for all things cooler-related, and easy to carry, appears durable, and while it may be a bit annoying to clean out the inside, Penny will love it and that matters most to me.

The outside is kind of a relief sculpture. It's not just a printed design. The size is good for a growing kid, meaning if it lasts, we should be able to provide a filling lunch for years to come, not just while she's in Pre-K.

Inside is roomy and can be cleaned with a wet cloth. The way Penny tosses her food containers back in her lunch box, though, I expect this will be quite a mess when we send warm-up meals.

When I was looking for info on this line of lunch coolers, I learned that Igloo is revising the product line for 2015, with a couple of their characters moving forward, some getting a face-lift, and new ones releasing next year. We probably found the only one left at the store. Sadly, it looks like this guy isn't on the list to continue in 2015.

For those of you who need to send a drink with lunch, this cooler has a side pocket just for that - or for a thermos of soup. We don't send drinks but the idea of adding a soup to her lunch is quite nice. Then I can just put a sandwich and carrots inside. It's really big enough to fit it all inside at Penny's age, but when she's a couple years older, that outside pocket will be quite useful.