Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Easiest Way to Clean a Lambskin or Sheepskin Rug

Cleaning a Lambskin or Sheepskin Rug
Mommy problems: My son puked on my lambskin rug.

Before the "incident" - My Lambskin Rug
So what now? Granted, the think probably needed to be cleaned anyway, but puking on the lambskin rug changed the scenario from probably needing to be cleaned to MUST be cleaned.

Now, you can take your rug down to the dry cleaners and pay a fortune close to the cost of the actual rug itself, OR you can follow this easy process for cleaning it yourself.

How to Clean and Lamb or Sheepskin Rug

1. Shake out the rug.  This will require two people and a sticky brush to get all the fuzz off you afterward.  Take the rug outside, each grab an end, and "shake it like a Polaroid picture!"

Hang to dry, stretch, and brush like the devil
2. Jam it in your washer.  I read a bunch of blogs that said it should be soaked in a bathtub with baby shampoo.  I did this and all it got me was a furry bathtub that smelled like a wet dog for a week afterwards.  Then I had to take the sopping wet mess and transfer it to the washer after I figured out soaking it wasn't working, so just skip that whole step and put it in your washer.

3. Replace detergent with baby shampoo.  Add a generous (like 1/2 a cup) of baby shampoo directly to the drum.

4. Use a delicate, but water-heavy setting.  I have a high-efficiency, front-loader that I set on warm water, low-spin, and bulky load.  Just let the machine do it's business and you will be shocked how clean and beautiful your rug will get.

5. Hang to dry.  I set a clothesline up in the garage and hung it (in half) to dry.  You must hang it to dry or the leather side will shrink and it will become mis-shaped.  Also, be aware that anywhere you hang it will smell like death for weeks, so the laundry room is out!

After Cleaning - Rug looks like new!
6. Brush it like you are Rapunzel's hairdresser.  Every couple of hours, brush out the hair, giving the leather a good stretch as you do this.  Once dry (about 2-3 days later), give it one last good brushing and it should fluff back to it's store-bought condition.

7. Don't let your child puke on it again for 12 - 18 months. With care, your rug will look as good as new until the next disaster.

*A little mommy humor bonus: While soaking my rug, my child rushed in and started freaking out when he saw the limp pile of sopping white fur because he thought I was drowning our white dog.  Then he ran out and tripped over the dog.  I couldn't stop laughing at this mommy moment!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Red and Co-Ed: Creating a shared kid's room

When we moved into our house in 2010, we had two parents, and Auntie, a son, and a dog.  Now, three years later, we have two parents, no Auntie, a son, and a daughter.

I think a house is really always a work in progress.  A standing piece of work that reflects your place in life at that very time. Just think of how much a house says about a person.  Is it neat and organized? Comfortable and loungy? Modern? Void of live things? 

So when our daughter was born, we had to figure out just exactly where should would fit into our work-in-progress home. 

Though large, our house is only a three bedroom, and the third bedroom is a second master which doesn't make much sense for a toddler.  We had two other options: convert the loft to a livable bedroom, or have my son share his room. So, we asked our son where he thought she should go, and he was thrilled with the idea of having a roommate.

The only problem? Well, our son is ALL BOY, and we wanted this room...
To look like these rooms...

Here's where my mistakes have been made in the past: I always choose a theme that the kid's outgrow.  For Noah, first we did the monster theme...

 And then we did the Cars theme...

But this time, the theme was going to much simpler: RED. Yes, just a color.

So, here's how we turned a boy room, into a red co-ed shared room...

First, we had to make more room, so we turned the "L"-shaped bunk beds into stacked bunk beds.  This freed up a lot of floor space - AND - bonus! after the conversion we were left with practically a whole other bed frame which we put into to the loft thanks to hubby's handiwork.
The beds had to be retrofitted to go from a "L" shape, to a stacked set of bunk beds
Once stacked, there was so much more room!
I really like older homes because they have so much character.  That's so hard to find in a new home. I noticed that a lot of the rooms I liked so much had sort of a barn-like feeling from painted paneling, so I thought, "we can fake that!"  I found sheets of plain paneling at Lowes for about $9 a panel and had my husband nail them to our bland drywall walls.
Paneling was $9/sheet. Perfectly cheap, but it did require sanding and a primer in order to get the paint to stick.
We cut the paneling 7' tall, and added wood trim to the top and seams to give that sort of barn/attic look.  The wood trim was from the fencing department at Lowes, and only cost about $1.50 each.

Paneling and trim is up and ready for paint.
Great find!  This corner shelf was at Goodwill for $7.00 and fit perfectly in the corner.
Once the walls were finished, we sanded, primed, and painted the paneling and trim to match the antique white satin trim that already exists in the room.

A red candy-cane-striped rug became the inspiration for the decor.  I spotted it for $129 at Home Goods and couldn't resist.
I started placing items back in the room but noticed it still felt a little crowded.  The configuration of the room does not allow for a bed without at least partially covering the window (and, incidentally, it's the best view in the house). I experimented with a few things...
By pushing the bed away from the window a couple feet, I found that there was a whole new open feeling.  The room now gets more light, and the view is much less blocked.
Pushing the bed away from the window made a huge difference in the way the room felt and how much light comes in.

The final touch was adding the details.  I bought some pre-cut wood letters in both a girly font (for Nicollette) and a boy-ish font (for Noah) and painted them red.  Since Nicollette has 10 letters, this was a pretty spendy part of the makeover--almost $20 just for Nicollette's name.

 I finished off the look with two Pottery Barn comforters I found on Ebay, some flannel holiday pillowcases, a festive throw pillow, and two lanterns from Lowes.

Add some red canvas toy bins and some old-school antique toys, and you've got yourself a co-ed room that both kids can grow into.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween Pasta Night with Pumpkin Sage Sauce

Well, it's that time of year again...Pasta Party Time!  Every year, I host a quick and easy dinner before trick-or-treating by hosting a pasta bar.  What's great about the pasta bar on Halloween is:
  1. You can make all the sauces ahead of time and just re-heat and boil your noodles in a flash on Halloween night.
  2. You aren't a slave to your kitchen while being distracted by door-ringing trick-or-treaters.
  3. Everyone loves pasta.
  4. Your guests can use a selection of noodles, sauces, meatballs and toppings to create their own personalized dish.
This year I'm opting for the following pasta bar options:

Wheat-enriched thin spaghetti
Harvest-colored pumpkin shaped noodles
Mushroom-stuffed tortillis

Fresh basil
Black olives

Elk meatballs
Turkey meatballs

Traditional marinara sauce 
Sage Pumpkin Sauce

Now, for those of you who are just reading this blog, let me tell you...THE SAGE PUMPKIN SAUCE IS TO DIE FOR!  It's so easy to make (20-30 mins) and is a great Autumn twist on the classic.  So...here's the recipe.  Promise to try it!

Pumpkin Sage Sauce
 Pumpkin Sage Sausage Sauce


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
1 pound sage-flavored sausage (Johnsonville)
4 TBSP fresh garlic
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
4 to 6 sprigs sage leaves, diced
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup cream or milk
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Coarse salt and black pepper
1 pound pasta
Fresh Romano/Parmigiano blend

Heat a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and brown the sausage in it. Remove sausage from pan (drain if desired). Add to pan the remaining tablespoon oil, and then the garlic and onion. Saute 3 to 5 minutes until the onions are tender.

Add bay leaf, sage, and wine to the pan. Reduce wine by half, about 2 minutes. Add stock and pumpkin and stir to combine, stirring sauce until it comes to a bubble. Return sausage to pan, reduce heat, and stir in cream. Season the sauce with the cinnamon and nutmeg, and salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer mixture 5 to 10 minutes to thicken sauce.

Return drained pasta to the pot you cooked it in. Remove the bay leaf from sauce and pour the sausage pumpkin sauce over pasta. Combine sauce and pasta and toss over low heat for 1 minute. Garnish the pasta with lots of shaved cheese and sage leaves.

PS - The side of meatballs were a real hit!  I highly recommend making your meatballs from turkey, as they absorb the taste of the sauce better than red meat.  Plus, they are so much healthier and the leftovers freeze well.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Creepy, Classy Halloween Decor for $15

Some candlesticks, rats, ravens and spiderwebs spook up the mantle
I have a pet peeve. Ok, I have LOTS of pet peeves.  But one of them is tacky holiday decor.  You probably know this since I did a whole article last year on How to Un-Tacky Your Christmas Decor.  Well...here is Part II: How to Un-Tacky your Halloween Decor.

Let me start by saying I'm not perfect.  I've had my share of flickering strobe lights, sagging spider webs, and stuffed witches. But practice helps, and every year I seem to get a little less tacky.  Here is what I've learned about holiday decorating over the years:

Five Lessons Learned About Decorating for the Holidays:
  1.  Start with the pros. Pottery Barn has designers and I do not.  So...browse, find, copy, repeat.  I love their holiday issues because they have such subtle and beautiful ways they decorate.  The sled propped outside the entry door, the stack of Christmas music on the piano, and the black candlesticks above the mantle.  Which brings me to point No. 2...
  2. Less is more.  The more decorations you have, the more confusing the message.  Your home goes from holiday decor to fun house with just one too many decorations.  So, to avoid this, pick one or two "themes" (for example, ghosts, witches, or skeletons for Halloween and either snow, woodsy pines, or Santa for Christmas) and stick with that. Once your theme is decided, chuck the stuff that doesn't fit with your theme.  This gives you a clean, unified look.
  3. Put up, and put away.  Since you are putting more decor into your home, that means some decor must go away.  I seasonally trade out the contents of my bookshelves and replace it with holiday decor so that I don't get that messy, overdecorated feeling.  Otherwise, I begin to feel claustrophobic in my own home.
  4. What doesn't match, can. I have this ceramic pumpkin that I absolutely love.  But every year I put it up and I can never find anywhere for it to go because the orange clashes so bad with my home.  Then it dawned on me: why don't I just paint it to match!  Problem solved!
  5. Pick your own color palette.  One thing I've realized by looking at home decor magazine is: they throw tradition out the window.  They work with the style and colors of the home, and fit the holiday decor to that.  No more orange and black for Halloween, and red and green for Christmas.  Now anything goes.  So my Halloween colors are black and white, and my Christmas colors are ivory, brown, and crimson.
Well, I am really proud of this year's decorations.  Not only do I think they are cohesive with the house and win in the "spooky" department, but I made almost all of them myself.  What I didn't make, I picked up at the Dollar Tree for $1 each.  So my total decor budget came in around $15.

A pumpkin and some snakes from the Dollar Tree painted black and white to match.

I saw the vampire pumpkin on Pinterest and I couldn't resist. Pumpkin and teeth both Dollar Tree finds.

The Dollar Tree skeleton on the bike makes me laugh daily. The ghost gourds are from our garden.

The black horn candelabra is a staple in my decor.  Looking at the skull I tried to think what to do with it. My son placed it there and I thought, "Yah, that works!"

The pumpkin I couldn't part with...formally orange, I painted it white to match.

Every fall, I fill my antique pilgrim bowl with harvest decor.  The only thing I did for Halloween is add the black crow to the stem of the pumpkin.  I think the difference is always in the details.

Add $1 worth of spiderwebs and BAM! Instant spooky hurricanes!

One more $1 to add a little spook to the wine rack.  Too bad I couldn't fill the rack with Halloween-inspired wines.  Maybe someday...

The creepy black and white piano...and the inspiration for my black and white theme.

I uploaded these head-less black and white photos from the Pottery barn website and put them into some old frames painted black.  Some of them broke while in storage but then I thought, "That's kinda creepy...I'm keeping them!"

A creepy entrance inspired by Pinterest.  I found the snakes in the kid's aisle at the Dollar Tree and painted them black.

A goodwill find--the lantern--with a touch of Edger Allen Poe.  Hence, the Raven.

The Entrance