Jul 25, 2009

Paint: Color Choice Made Easy!

Deciding to introduce a new color to your home is easy. Deciding the actual color can be intimidating - there are so SO many choices!

The following process has been fail proof for me over the years.

1. Spend some time in the area you'll be painting. Decide the feeling you want to create in the room: cool/warm/neutral, calm and quiet, light and airy, bold and dynamic, fresh and clean, etc. Having an idea of the gestalt you want to bring to the space will help you focus when you're in front of thousands of choices. Think about the feeling you want in the rest of the house as well. Whether you are looking for continuity or diversity for your house as a whole, will effect your choices. For example: a cool-toned, bold and dynamic bathroom may be a refreshing change in a house that is primarily neutral. But it might clash with a home that is solely warm in tone. These are matters of personal taste, and only you can decide whether it is appropriate for your home or not.

2. Take a trip to the local paint store, armed with the fabric, art and/or furniture stain that the paint must compliment.

3. Take samples of your safe, obvious choices . . . . . as well as shades that are lighter and darker, less and more intense in tone and shade. This is because although many paint stores use color correction bulbs above their swatches, the light in the store cannot mimic how light uniquely plays in your own home.

4. If you still have the energy for it and your eyes aren't seeing spots, play a little. What if you strayed over to the complementary (opposite) side of the color wheel? What if you picked out a tiny splotch of color found in the fabric, and what would happen if you gave it new emphasis by putting it up on the walls or trim? What if you chose analogous colors to your fabric samples? ('Analogous' meaning any three colors that are in close proximity to each other on the color wheel, i.e. dark greens/lighter greens/yellow greens/, reds/orange-reds/bright pinks, etc. For a computerized versions of a few color wheels, click on these links: http://www.realcolorwheel.com/colorwheel.htm, http://www.colormatters.com/colortheory.html.)

5. Don't buy any paint today. Take your swatches home and tape them up around the door frame to live with them for a day or so. You need at least a day to see the samples in daylight, bright sunlight, and evening lamp light. Each time of day you look at the samples, eliminate ones that don't work. Eventually you will narrow down the choices and you can feel confident that the ones that are left are the best of the best.

6. While you are choosing, glance at the rooms beyond. Do the colors work together, or will the new color create a Fun House effect? If you are changing all of those rooms eventually anyway, skip this step.)

7. If you simply cannot choose after all the above, call in someone whose opinion and style you trust.

8. Take your sample(s) with you and get your paint!

(Check back soon for 'Paint: Choosing the Right Finish')

Photo courtesy of http://www.realcolorwheel.com/colorwheel.htm.

Jul 17, 2009

Pets: The BEST Litter Scoop Ever!

If your cats treat the litterbox like a dig site to reach China, all that excavating results in a thick, sticky, definitely non-clumping mess that electronic devices like the LitterMaid cant handle. We use clumping litter, but it only works if they evacuate with a layer of litter below the puddles. Even the most sturdy plastic litter scoops are no match for this stuff stuck to the bottom. They crack and the handle breaks off, which can leave you in a pickle if you dont have an extra scoop.

When I was in Petco looking for cat treats, I saw the end-all-be-all scoop of scoops, with a light shining over like a beacon from cat heaven. Why hadnt I thought to look for one like this before? It's metal. It's tough. It's oversized. It has an eronomically designed handle. And for the last month has worked like a charm! It cuts thru the gooey messes like nobody's business, lessening your time spent over the box exponentially. It doesn't crack, break, bend or flip litter outside the box. This is Litter Scoop Nirvana.

The price at Petco is $14.95 but perhaps you can find it for less on the Internet, or at PetSmart. Compared to $1.99 plastic jobbies, it may sound a little pricey. But I can almost guarantee, it's the last scoop you'll ever need to buy!

(If you have this product/have a different product that works for you, readers could benefit from your feedback if you choose to leave a comment. )

Jul 12, 2009

Less Kitchen Mess Series, Part 1: "Crusty Stuff"

My husband and I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. A LOT. We love trying new recipes and experimenting with cuisines around the world, but clean up can be brutal. Thanks to a few 'duh!' moments we've experienced along away, as well as helpful tidbits learned from Mom and friends who have worked in restaurant kitchens, we've found a few ways to cut cleaning corners. Our goal is to get out of the kitchen sooner, and on to something more interesting.

Some ideas are more for preventative maintenance and will save you chunks of time later . . . . other ideas will save a little time now, but it all adds up.

"Crusty Stuff" is dedicated to caked-on, baked-on, should-I-just-throw-this-out? kind of messes. See if any of the ideas below can help save you some time and trouble (and feel free to add your own tips and tricks in the Comments section!)

  • Soften baked-on goop on stove tops and pizza stones by topping it with a rag(s) full of hot soapy water . Let it sit for 15-20 minutes or longer, then scrape off with a scrubby pad or moistened steel wool or plastic scraper. Stiff brushes wont harm the surface of a pizza stone, and for ceramic cooktops, follow manufacturer's instructions.

  • Boiling water can break down baked-on and burned concoctions that stick like an epoxy. I'm not a fan of scrubbing a pan more than a few minutes, so I found the best way to tackle a tough one is to pour boiling water in the pan and let brew with some dishwashing soap to cut up the grease. It usually works on the first try, but sometimes requires repeated applications.
  • (Hint: if you're interested in efficiency, let the soapy rags and boiling water do their thing while you're cleaning up the dishes or other parts of the kitchen. By the time you're done with that, the offending ick should be sufficiently softened.)

  • Does your microwave look like This is Where Food Goes to Die? Spiff it up by filling a medium-sized, microwave-safe bowl half-way with water. Add a 1/4 cup of white vinegar to the water and set on high for 4-5 minutes. Leave the door closed for a few minutes while the steam softens the crud and the vinegar gets rid of the odors. The bowl will be hot, so be careful when you remove it. Wipe down with soft cloth and clean the glass plate. (The smell of vinegar dissapates in a few minutes but if you cant stand the fumes, a dish rag soaked in water and dishwashing soap accomplishes the same thing. The cloth must be dripping to avoid a fire hazard.) Oh, and if you can get into the habit of loosely covering dishes with paper towels, napkins, wax paper or food container tops turned upside down, you can avoid the mess in the first place.

  • Safe yourself a few minutes of scrubbing egg'ed up or starchy pans by throwing them immediately in a hot soapy sink, or by pouring hot water into the pans (with dirty utensils resting inside) to cool on the burner while you eat. The water breaks down the starch before it hardens into something worthy of the MOHS scale.

  • If your grill burners are so black with burnt food they look like foam insulation has been sprayed on them, it's time to get serious. Remove the burners from the grill, knock the biggest chunks off, spray copious amounts of oven cleaner outside, and let them sit for a half day or so. Rinse with the hose and cleanup the stubborn parts with a wire brush. This also works on gas grill burners and oven racks. Stay ahead of the game by oiling your grill burners before throwing on the meat. Clean gas grill burners frequently with stainless steel wool pads to avoid the big mess later on.

  • Avoid tedious poking around with dirty muffin/cupcake pans: use paper/foil cups, and spray the top of the pan with cooking spray for easy removal and cleanup.

Now get out of the kitchen - life waits for no one!