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Shelterpop

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    Each week, bring a new bloom into your home and garden with our gardener's favorite floral find.

    Fall anemones are starting to bloom now. Photo: Marie Viljoen


    As August eases into September we need something in the garden--or on the fire escape--to remind us that cool weather is still far away.

    Fall anemones are one of the most delightful plants to grace a late season garden. Happy in dappled shade or even full sun if they have enough water, their long slender stems support cup-shaped flowers that dance in the slightest breeze. Plant them in groups of five or more for the best results. But if space is limited, play them off against lime-green liriope or lavender-blue plectranthus to make them pop.

     

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    The designer known for his polished style and his love for mixing high and low blogs about simple ways to jazz up your bathroom and his new line of towels, on sale September 18.


    Designer Thomas O'Brien; photo courtesy of Thomas O'Brien.


    From the very beginning of my career, I've been interested in collecting and designing textiles for the home. I have always liked the ability to adapt a room by simply switching a set of towels or bedding, a living room's pillows or a dining room's tablecloth. Using these items, you can layer and transform with color and pattern in many different styles, from understated and solid to intricate and graphic. Home textiles are one of the easiest and most affordable ways to create change, and they are a great group of practical things to put together over time.

    I design bedding and towels for my Target collection, Vintage Modern, and these are always among my favorite things to work on. For me this is about helping people build up the very nice tradition of a linen closet with pieces to be mixed or interchanged. I believe that's how most of us really collect and use our linens, with a set of options that can express different moods, especially in the colors we like. It's not so different from putting together a wardrobe of clothes, and that's exactly how I approach designing these items.

    In the bathroom, a fresh new set or color of towels can completely reinvent the space. And the quality of the towels can make the biggest difference on a daily basis in your bathing experience. This season we've improved our classic towel to be extremely plush, soft, and also the most absorbent cloth we've ever introduced at Target. We've also developed a special new bath mat with a subtle yet stylishly textured stripe.

    The colors are modern neutrals, spanning rich and dark hues to soft, pale tones that can mixed and matched or used in solid sets. Shades of blues, golden browns and grays, with additions of shell, scarlet and deep violet express both masculine and feminine point of views. These colors also draw quite a bit on classic menswear and suiting traditions, adding a tailored, crisp look to any combination you choose.

    Courtesy of Target

     

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    When paint gets on windows, glass or doors, it's seemingly a lost cause. But actually the solution is quick and simple. Use hot undiluted, white distilled vinegar against the paint. Give the solution some time to break down and soften the paint, and then finish by gently scraping off the paint with a razor edge tool. Be careful when scraping as to not scratch the surface, and the paint should peel off nicely.


    Have a cleaning tip to share? Let us know at Twitter.com/ShelterPop.

    Daily Clean-Up tipsChiot's Run, Flickr

     

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  • 09/05/11--09:50: Decorating With Green
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    green bedroomPhoto: David Prince/Real Simple

    I was flipping through Real Simple's April 2009 issue when I found an article on something that had never occurred to me: decorating with one color.

    Real Simple showcased the color green, not only because it's unexpectedly pretty but also because it's calming and soothing. Notice how they use mossy greens as well as shades of chartreuse and darker greens to layer the room. Patterned pillows, rugs, blankets and sheets help provide breaks in the monochromatic color palette.

    Here are a few suggestions for achieving the look from the Real Simple team, along with a few tips of our own.

    1) Add an area rug for a big burst of green.
    2) Try various shades of green accessories to brighten a space without feeling overwhelming.
    3) Don't forget the blossoms. Be sure to add plants or flowers to the space.
    4) Choose a more neutral shade of green for the wall color, then select accents in more vibrant greens.
    5) Mix a few different patterns together to add interest while maintaining balance. Try a large-scale motif, like oversized blooms, with a smaller-scale one, like a checkered pattern.
    6) Couple rich fabrics with lighter ones to create texture. For example, try mixing velvet and linen. To get you started, we pulled together some items to fuel your greenspiration.



    decorating with green

    From left to right, clockwise: Thomas Paul Zinnia Rug, $270-$1,464, Design Public; Terra Aviary Pillow, $29.95, Crate and Barrel; Vintage Murano Lamps, $2,300, Swank Lighting; Ceramic Garden Stool, $159, Pottery Barn; Hour Glasses, $9.95-$29.95, cb2; Dwell Studio for Target(R) Birds Damask Bedding, $39.99-$99.99, Target; Rustic Block Side Table, $84, West Elm.

     

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    Explore some of the best home boutiques around the country with us. This week: Violetas, 223-A Miracle Mile, Coral Gables, FL.

    Jetsetter and stylesetter Patricia Anton-Himmel brings her worldly finds from the Far East and beyond to Violetas, a newly opened home boutique along tony Miracle Mile in Coral Gables, Florida. Plush upholstered seating, lacquered screens, and faux-bamboo tables are mixed with elegant tabletop, colorful decorative pillows, and other eclectic accessories. Scroll down to see our chat with Patricia about her travels and what visitors have been buying at the shop.

    Courtesy of Violetas

    Courtesy of Violetas

    1. What was the inspiration for this store?
    I come from a generation of family retailers, one of the largest retailers in Ecuador. I spent much of my childhood traveling with my parents, admiring the individuality of other cultures from China, Korea, Taiwan and Japan as well as Italy and Germany. During these travels, I developed an eye for beautiful design trends and the appreciation of unique atmospheres and architecture. I also learned the business inside and out. I wanted to combine my love of exotic cultures, knowledge of design, and entrepreneurial skills to open a store in Miami where I can offer one-of-a-kind and unexpected treasures that give interiors personality and radiance through artfully selected accessories and decor.

    2. Are there any highlighted pieces that are specific to this store?
    We have unique pieces from all over the world, lots of them are handmade and special rare pieces that can't be found in Miami, let alone the US, such as amber vases with real coral and turquoise stones, carved boxes from Shanghai, scarves from India, antique sterling tea sets and carpets from Nepal.

    Courtesy of Violetas

    3. What's been most popular with visitors at the store?
    Many things, from one-of-a-kind jewelery and amazing decorative pillows to Asian-inspired stools.

    4. What keeps visitors coming back?
    A great variety and reasonable prices. Some customers purchase $5 dinner napkins and others buy a Baccarat chandelier.

    5. Do you have a favorite item in the store?
    That's hard. They are all my favorite--I only carry pieces that I would showcase in my own home or personally wear.

    Courtesy of Violetas

    Courtesy of Violetas


    6. What do you like most about this store?
    The eclectic variety. We carry 5,000 different items and once they are sold out, we continue to buy different inventory.

    7. Fun fact:
    My daughter and I have fun in everything, from buying to selling. We love what we do and my daughter is a great salesperson--by texting her friends about the shop.


    On Shelterpop's Wishlist: Butterfly-footed bowl, $138, violetashomedesign.com

    Courtesy of Violetas






     

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    Don't have time to browse all the online sample sales everyday? You're in luck: We searched them all and brought back the best.

    Editor's Pick:
    Patent-leather-bound books by Decorative Leather Books, $99, One Kings Lane.

    Nothing adds instant elegance on a bookshelf like a set of leather-bound books. These English books have been rebound in white patent leather by the designer-favorite bookbinder, Decorative Leather Books, and are perfectly chic. Put them alongside your favorite novels on your bookshelf of your desk, or simply use them as a pretty accent atop a side table.


    Want to snap this up? Move quickly. Sale ends Sunday, 11am.

    Check back tomorrow for the next Daily Sampling!

     

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    If you're smelling strange odors in the bathroom, chances are it's from the toilet. The quickest way to freshen up the air and deodorize the toilet is to pour three cups of white distilled vinegar into the bowl. Let the vinegar sit for approximately 30 minutes, and then flush.


    Have a cleaning tip to share? Let us know at Twitter.com/ShelterPop.

    Daily Clean-Up tipsChiot's Run, Flickr

     

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    Smart ways to keep every room in your home clean and clutter-free.


    Check out these great tips by our friends over at Real Simple!




    Try Real Simple's easy strategies to help turn your house into a place of order.



    Mudroom Stuck in a Rut?

    The goal: To create an organizing system even the kids can maintain.

    The solution: If the kids use the mudroom to get ready for school, transform the area into a way station. Real Simple organizers turned Expedit shelving units ($70 each, ikea.com) on their sides, then slid labeled Nostalgisk boxes ($15 for two, ikea.com for stores) onto the shelves. Each child has a column of storage, and extra columns contain miscellaneous items. Lockers roll out for easy access to kids' shoes.



    Kitchen a Dumping Ground?

    The goal: To create a more functional work area and free up the countertops and other work surfaces for cooking.

    The solution: Real Simple turned a makeshift office into command central with an array of wall-mounted tools: a magnet board ($25, umbra.com), a magnetic calendar, a magazine pocket, a mail bin, and a multislot organizer. A rolling file cabinet (it slides into the adjacent pantry when not in use) keeps paperwork in order. With the surfaces clear, the island and the counter to the left of the stove can be used for food prep.


    For more ways to tackle clutter in the different rooms in your home, hop on over to Real Simple.


    Also check out these stories:
    The Worst Cleaning Jobs Made Easy
    How to Solve 19 Kitchen Cleanup Conundrums
    Essential Everyday Forms

     

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    These simple, fast upgrades use items you already have on hand to transform candles into show-stopping centerpieces. With these quick fixes, you'll be able to boost the glow factor, unify mismatched candles or scent a room. And did we mention that these ideas cost nothing?

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    We obviously use our sense of sight to identify a mess...but what about our sense of hearing? And taste? Trust us, it's not as weird as it sounds. Being aware of your other senses while gearing up to tackle chores can help you work faster and better, according to environmental psychologist Sally Augustin, PhD.



    The sense: Sight
    How it affects cleaning: "A visually complex mess can trigger a psychological reaction, namely stress," says Augustin.
    How to work with it: Focus your attention on one component at a time, in order to feel less overwhelmed. Then, call on storage items that contain...and hide...clutter. "Just keep it from directly confronting you," Augustin says.
    The sense: Hearing
    How it affects cleaning: Whether it's the scream of an infant or the sitcom laugh track in the background, the ambient noises of your home can be distracting.
    How to work with it: Crank up the music. "Your heart can actually start to beat to rhythmic sounds-you can sync up to a song with a fast beat, which in turn energizes you," Augustin says.

    The sense: Smell
    How it affects cleaning: "Scent has an significant effect on us--a really strong, trash-type scent can either motivate us to clean or, if it's really strong, can be overwhelming," says Augustin.
    How to work with it: Spritz a minty scent. According to Augustin, "Peppermint produces a physically energizing reaction that can strongly motivate you into action."

    The sense: Taste
    How it affects cleaning: Yes, there is a relationship between taste and cleaning. And you can thank your salivary glands for it. Dry mouth is physiological response to stress, which can produce an "off" taste. And anytime you feel "different," you are less likely to pick up the broom and clean.
    How to work with it: "Chewing peppermint gum will make cleaning seem less of an effort," says Augustin. Because taste is so closely tied with scent, you'll get the same benefits as tasting peppermint as you do smelling it: Namely, a boost of energy. Chewing gum also stimulates the salivary glands, fighting dry mouth.
    The sense: Touch
    How it affects cleaning: "Stickiness (and greasiness) are distasteful to experience," says Augustin. "But it physically decreases our control over the environment and also psychologically signifies a lack of control."
    How to work with it: It's time to bust out the cleaning gloves.

    To learn more about the impact design can have on your mood and mind, visit Sally Augustin's website, Place Coach.

     

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    Combining our obsession with interiors with our love of fashion into a shoppable room.

    This Weekend's Pick: Zoe Saldana

    The gorgeous actress was recently spotted wearing this shimmering gold-tinted dress and shiny golden heels at the Teen Choice Awards. We love the beautiful texture of the dress and Zoe pulls it all together in a simple but super chic way. And to salute Zoe's dazzling look, we dreamed up a luxurious and comfortable bedroom inspired by it.

    Zoe SaldanaJason LaVeris/FilmMagic


    And you can get the look in your home with these products:

    Clockwise from top left:
    Upcycle pendant lamp, $249, CB2.
    Woven floor mirror, $329, West Elm.
    Yalova tray table, $548, Anthropologie.
    Cobble Hill Prospect tufted bed, $2,295, ABC Carpet & Home.


    And if you haven't yet, head over to see this week's Well-Suited Room inspired by our favorite best dressed men.

     

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    You've seen our Fashionable Room column where we look to some of the best-dressed starlets for decor inspiration. Now we're turning to the best-groomed men for some pointers.

    This Weekend's Pick: Ryan Gosling

    We wanted to take a step back this week to applaud the handsome actor's outfit at the premiere for Crazy Stupid Love. This shiny metallic, checkered suit would've probably been a fashion disaster on anyone else, but Ryan really pulled off a sleek and stylish look (as he always does). To match, we dreamed up a bar area for him that's anchored by a luxurious leather-covered console.

    Ryan Gosling RoomJim Spellman/WireImage


    And you can get the look in your home with these products:

    Clockwise from top left:
    Industrial bulb pendant, $99, West Elm.
    Beatrice mirror, $1,000, Williams-Sonoma Home.
    Preston console table, $1,950, Jonathan Adler.
    Turner barstool, $229, Crate & Barrel.

     

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    Maureen Viljoen's Cape Town garden in mid summer. Photo: Marie Viljoen


    Maureen Viljoen gardens in Cape Town, South Africa. She is a member and 2013 chairperson of The Constantia Valley Garden Club, which raises funds biennially via an Open Gardens Weekend for Abalimi bezekhaya and Soil for Life, two non-profits providing financial and practical support to enable underprivileged South Africans to grow their own food. The club's 2010 Open Gardens Weekend raised over $12,000 for these organizations.

    She is also my mother, the woman who taught me to garden and to love plants almost as much as she does.

    1. Why do you garden?
    I garden because I absolutely have to. There is nothing I enjoy more, nothing more fulfilling, more pleasurable...It makes my life good.

    2. What inspired you to garden?
    When we built our first home in Bloemfontein in 1957 I was presented with an empty piece of ground. We'd had a lot of rain that year and it was a morass. My mother had always had a garden, and my sister had a garden. And as my garden grew, so did my interest.

    Chartreuse and orange. Photo: Helen Garrett, Walking the Cape.


    3. What was the first plant you grew?
    My first garden was in Pinelands, Cape Town, where I was a little girl. I constructed a small house of bricks and made a tiny garden. Most of the plants were weeds pulled out of my mother's garden.

    4. How often do you garden?
    Every day! The garden has a lot going on in it and is not low maintenance.

    5. What is your garden's climate?
    Mediterranean [winter rainfall]. But in Cape Town we have this chunk of rock - Table Mountain - in the middle of the city, which dictates the climate, so my garden has its own microclimate.

    6. What size is your garden?
    A little less than half an acre.

    7. What plant has most disappointed you?
    I'm tempted to say roses, but they looked gorgeous last year because I fed them a lot. Broad [fava] beans. They haven't grown well here in Cape Town. In Bloemfontein where I had a big, sunny vegetable garden I had wonderful broad beans. And the tomatoes here get blight.

    Agapanthus in Maureen Viljoen's garden. Photo: Marie Viljoen


    8. What plant has made you happiest?
    There are so many...I'm looking at the garden as I speak. Maybe the Agapanthus. I have so many different kinds, now, all sorts of hybrids and cultivars.

    9. What do you love about your garden right now?
    It's green, it's peaceful, spring is springing. The sky in the evening is faintly pink as the sun goes down behind the mountain. And there are lots of arum lilies in bloom which just came up by themselves; I didn't plant them.

    10. What do you feed your garden?
    Lots of compost, lots of organic stuff. I use Bounce Back - made from chicken manure, in pellet form. I have 80 bags of compost delivered three times a year. I use the compost I make in my own bins as a mulch - they are not in a warm enough spot in the garden so the compost breaks down slowly.

    11. What would you like to grow that you can't?
    Vegetables. But I would have to knock out a whole flower bed. I do have cabbages and baby marrows growing in pots.

    12. Food, flowers, native or ornamental?
    Flowers. With a little bit of food.

    13. Most inspiring garden writer, thinker, blogger, personality?
    My daughter! You often plant things and then I think, I must do that, too. And Christopher Lloyd, because of his flowers. He put the most amazing colors together. Great Dixter - I saw a photo of his patio there: He had everything crammed in there - those big aeoniums, like beacons, they were beautiful!

    The garden in early summer. Photo: Helen Garrett, Walking the Cape


    14. What plants do you dislike?
    Oh! Jasmine. Not the Trachelospermum jasminoides, but the other one [Jasminum officinale], because here it is so invasive. Once you plant it, you just can't get rid of it. It goes everywhere. It smells nice, but it gives me hayfever, too. When it flowers I have terrible sinus trouble.

    15. Would you like more sun or more shade?
    More sun. If I chopped down a lot of shrubs and trees I would get it, but that is not going to happen. Trees become very important.

    16. Where is your favorite public garden?
    Wisley, in England - the headquarters of The Royal Horticultural Society. In Cape Town, Kirstenbosch, of course, and the garden at The Cellars-Hohenhort Hotel. Jean Almon created the sort of garden there that I aspire to. Fabulous roses with interesting groundcovers beneath them. It's a garden that has been put together with love.

    To read more of my interview with my mom and to see a slideshow of her garden, visit 66 Square Feet.

     

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    For its second annual Urban Oasis giveaway, the network is offering up a chance to win this high-style apartment designed by Vern Yip in the Trump International Hotel & Tower.

    Calling all city slickers and Chicagoans ready for a lifestyle upgrade! HGTV's Urban Oasis Giveaway is back and this time the network is offering one viewer the chance to win this luxurious high-rise apartment located on the 35th-floor of Chicago's Trump Tower.

    The 1,000-square-foot, one-bedroom and 1.5-bath apartment was designed by well-known designer Vern Yip who tricked out the space with state-of-the-art amenities by KraftMaid and Cuisinart, midcentury and vintage pieces such as Mies van der Rohe lounge chairs and Wegner-style seating, as well as furnishings and accessories by local artisans. But the highlight of the apartment is perhaps the sweeping views of the Chicago skyline just beyond the windows.

    We have an exclusive sneak peak into the apartment with a personalized video tour of the space with Vern. Check it out below and then head on over to HGTV and FrontDoor.com to enter the giveaway!


     

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    If there's a bad stench that's taking over a room or specific area in your home, try dousing baking soda on the carpet or leaving it out overnight in dishes around the problem areas. It's one of the spectacular properties of baking soda to absorb any bad odor. As soon as your room is free of the overpowering odor consider bringing in fresh flowers to infuse the room with more pleasant scents.


    Have a cleaning tip to share? Let us know at Twitter.com/ShelterPop.

    Daily Clean-Up tipsChiot's Run, Flickr

     

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    The proportions in this narrow Manhattan bedroom were all off. But thanks to designer Ondine Karady the space gets a bold upgrade that makes it look balanced in size and eclectic in style.





    Homeowners: A Manhattan couple with two kids.

    The Dilemma: Although this bedroom is narrow, it has good bones. The walls run up high and the gentle arches on the ceiling provide an interesting architectural detail for the room. However, the homeowners placed a low bed in the center of the room, which diminished--rather than highlighted--the overall height of the space despite the large-scale painted trompe l'oeil panels that span the walls. Another point of contention? The low bed shares space with a pair of big, beautiful antique dressers, which ultimately made the bed seem smaller and the room seem emptier than it actually was.

    The Fix: Step in makeover designer Ondine Karady whose challenge was clear: Draw the eye upward. Karady spotted the problem right off the bat and decided that the vertical space in the room and the high-ceilings needed to be utilized in a better way to create a balance in proportions.

    First off, Karady opted for a canopy bed, which solved many of the problems that the low-lying bed had presented. The tall bed frame immediately created a strong focal point in the room that not only took advantage of the vertical space but also balanced out the furnishings with a more composed look.

    Then to warm up the room, Karady outfitted the room with an eclectic mix of colors and modern patterns to offset the traditional trompe l'oeil detailing and antique furnishings, from a graphic textile for the canopy bed to vibrant pillows for the bench to a Rococo-style mirror set on top of a dresser.

    The result? A bedroom where old meets new...and a lot of eclecticism.


    Looking for more Minute Makeovers? See how you can spruce up a bedroom by switching up your pillowscape or changing your bedding with the seasons. Or check out how you can turn an extra room into a guest bedroom.

     

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    To combat odor in your home without using expensive air fresheners that turn out to be overwhelmingly scented, there's a simple, chemical-free formula for a natural spritzer made up of baking soda, water, and essential oil. Combine 4 cups of hot water with 1/4-cup baking soda and mix well. Then, you can add in real lemon juice or your essential oil of choice such as lavender and grapefruit. Just make sure that when you're choosing oils that you select pure essential oils, and not synthetic ones.


    Have a cleaning tip to share? Let us know at Twitter.com/ShelterPop.

    Daily Clean-Up tipsChiot's Run, Flickr

     

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    It's never to early to start thinking about books you want to snuggle up with during the upcoming autumn season.


    Check out this roundup of interior design books by our friends at CasaSugar!


    h&m home

    Say Hello to Fall With 8 New Interior Design Books


    While it's hard to say goodbye to the lazy days of Summer, the Fall season is made all the more sweeter thanks to some fantastic new interior design books. These eight titles will all be released in the next few months, and I'm having a hard time choosing a favorite. From DIY-oriented decorating titles to books showcasing celebrity homes, there's almost too much to enjoy this Fall season. Now, which book will I start with?


    To see some of the best reading picks for this season, head on over to CasaSugar!

    Also don't miss these stories:
    A 19th Century New Orleans Shotgun Gets a Modern Addition
    Can You Guess These Modern Scandinavian Home Products?
    DIY Custom Herringbone Wood Dining Table DIY Project

     

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    Take a peek inside the spaces where some of today's authors write, ponder, and procrastinate. This week: A Life In Stitches author Rachael Herron's cluttered desk, which inspires her to be creative.

    As much as I hate to admit it, I lead a cluttered life. In my ideal world, I would write at a small desk overlooking an ocean shore, nothing on the table but my laptop, a lamp, an antique fountain pen, and a Moleskine.

    In reality, I write surrounded by "things"-yarn, photos, sweaters still on the knitting needles, a loom. On top of my desk is my beloved MacBook Air which is raised to ideal eye-height by my mother's old writing box. I write using the Post-it system (every stray thought collected onto a small colored square), and when each Post-it problem is solved, I stick it inside the wooden box. Someday I expect I'll have so many I'll have to decide what to do about them, but with five books written, there's still some room left.


    On the strip of wall between the windows is the first piece of physical fan mail I ever received, along with a map of Venice and a postcard of Oakland, my two favorite cities in the world.

    The blue plaque to the right of my desk is a sign that says "Mrs. Rachael Herron, Published Author," given to me by a friend before I was, indeed, published. The fan helps me stay at the desk when it's warm. The stack of books to the left of the desk are every version (so far) of my books. When I'm stuck, I like to look up and think, "I wrote those. Keep going, for cripe's sake."

    To the far left, surrounded by the pictures hung so crookedly (it's the wall, I swear) is where I stand when I can't (or shouldn't) sit any longer. To the right, perched on a box of books, is my accordion. I've never had a lesson, and I don't play that well, but I can make pretty sounds, and late on Thursday nights, I like to put away the words, have a glass of wine, and sing along with my own joyful accompaniment.


    Behind my computer is one of my most prized possessions: an African violet I found in my old bedroom, the room where my mother had done her writing. Six months after her death, it was almost completely gone; just one last slightly green leaf remained. I nursed it back to health, and now it blooms almost year round. Mom didn't live to see a published book of mine, but I like to think that she knows that I'm caring for her plant as it rests near the bound copies of my work. She'd approve. She didn't mind a little clutter, either.


    Rachael Herron is the creator of Yarnagogo.com, which receives over 90,000 hits a month, and the author of the novel How to Knit a Love Song. She lives with her better half in Oakland, California.

     

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    Sometimes, no matter how clean you keep your house, you can still have a roach problem. And when an exterminator delays an appointment, you become desperate for ways to get rid of roaches. Here are a few common methods that work...and a few commonly-suggested methods that don't work.
    Admitting that you have a roach problem is on par with admitting that you have an embarrassing rash. People assume unkind things. In the case of the roaches, they imagine you living in complete squalor. And I was guilty of this thinking, too, until I found a small committee of roaches living in my otherwise spotless kitchen and bathroom.

    Immediately, I called an exterminator.

    "Sorry, I'm booked until two weeks from now."

    "But I have roaches now," I pleaded.

    "Sorry," he said.

    Repeat this scene 8 times. Was there an exterminator convention coming up? An exterminator group vacation? (I picture a group of them in bathing suits and cleaning gear.)

    The answer to that mystery wasn't as fun.

    "You on Green Street?" The last exterminator asked. I confirmed.

    "Yeah, big problem on your block. They're doing a teardown of a building and the roaches and rats are migrating."

    First of all: Rats. Second of all: Migrating. Now the roaches were like the Joad family, roaming the streets with handkerchiefs tied to sticks, their belongings in tow. I had no sympathy.

    The exterminator agreed to come in a week and a half, until then, I was on my own with my new roommates.

    "Just be sure not to smash 'em...if you do that, then others come out and eat the remainders."

    It took me two days to regain my appetite after that pearl of wisdom.

    In an attempt to make my life easier (or at least less horrifying), I decided to put up a fight with the roaches. I couldn't necessarily go the chemical route, because I have dogs and a cat who seems to be doing her best to be the first animal to win a Darwin award. Instead, I went the homemade, natural route. All I had to lose were roaches.

    Here's what worked...and what didn't:

    -Coffee grounds: Writers live on coffee, so I had plenty of exhausted grounds to experiment with. My assumption is that the acid in coffee acts as a poison. In a few days, my bathroom smelled like an airport Starbucks and there was no evidence that the roaches went near the traps. The weight of the grounds was the same and there were no dead roaches in the traps. But I also hadn't seen any roaches in the bathroom since. Bottom line: Might be useful as a repellant, especially outdoors.

    -Bay leaves: Crushed and left in discreet corners, bay leaves allegedly scare off roaches through scent. I weighed an ounce of bay leaves in a small cup, placed it on top of a cabinet, then returned to the trap a few days later. Still an ounce. And I spotted a roach near it. Bottom line: Does not work.


    -Soapy water: Allegedly, a mix of soap and water "puts roaches to sleep." I made a mix of 2 tablespoons dishwashing liquid mixed in 1 quart water, and chased after a sprinter as if it was an interspecies Olympics. The solution did not seem to slow the roach down, nor kill it. Bottom line: Does not work.

    -Citrus Floor Wash: A neighbor recommended washing the floor with juice of 4 lemons in 1/2 gallon of water. The thinking is that roaches hate citric acid. But, this did nothing except make my home smell like lemonade. Bottom line: Does not work.

    -Boric acid + Sugar: The exterminator recommended this mix (3 parts borax to 1 part sugar) because the borax acts similarly to commercial roach killing sprays by dehydrating the pests' exoskeleton. The sugar just acts as a bait. Though borax is a pretty safe product, I erred on the side of caution and sprinkled the mix only in high up places. A few hours later, there were dead roaches galore. Bottom line: Amazingly effective.

    -Fabric softener sheets: I saw a roach scurry to the sheet, then slow dramatically. And then get stuck to the sheet. It did not die. Bottom line: Not really effective.

    -Fabric softener + water mix. Inspired by the way the fabric softener sheet slowed down a wayward roach, I decided to make a solution of fabric softener and water...and got my spray bottle. The solution was pretty thick, 3 parts fabric softener to 2 parts water. A roach sprayed in this stuff immediately stopped and keeled over. (Mental note: Switch to a natural fabric softener.) While effective, cleaning up what is essentially diluted fabric softener is a pain. Bottom line: Effective, yes. Efficient, not really.

    -Cucumber trap: Another folksy suggestion by a neighbor was to place fresh cucumber peels inside of an empty aluminum can. The explanation was that the cucumber will react with the aluminum to create a cloud of stink that kills roaches. And if roaches could laugh, it would be because I thought this could actually work. Bottom line: Does not work.

    A week and a half later, the exterminator arrived. He examined the house and declared that I did not have a roach problem. So, a success. He still charged me for a consultation, though.

    But at least I didn't have rats.

    Want to find out more editor-tested homemade ways to get rid of common household pests?
    Testing: 8 Odd Ways to Get Rid of Ants
    Testing: 10 Odd Ways to Get Rid of Flies
    Testing: 8 Odd Ways to Get Rid of Fruit Flies

     

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