Saturday, September 26, 2015

Common Kid Messes and How to Clean Them

New parents are always asking, "Why does my toddler make such a mess?" A better question might be, "How soon can we open a bottle of wine after the kid goes to bed?" Kids are going to make a mess. That's their mission in life at this stage of development. 

You can fight it or embrace the mess. Thankfully, there are plenty of tried-and-true methods for cleaning up the most common of kid messes. This is one blog post you'll definitely want to bookmark!


The hope of every parent is that children find a way to express themselves. This usually starts with a handful of crayons and a coloring book. Good luck with getting the crayons to actually show up on the book. Instead, once a kid learns crayons are for drawing, you can expect those drawings to show up on just about any surface of your home. That includes walls, countertops, floors, televisions and furniture.

Thankfully, crayon makers have heard the cries and answered the call by coming up with washable crayons. At least, that is the theory. Often those crayons will end up on a fabric sofa or carpet. If they aren't wiping up, then blast them with a hair dryer. That will soften the wax for more efficient removal. It's always best to attack the crayon stains as soon as they happen. Of course, snap a picture of the art first.

Spilled Milk

This is nothing to cry over. Actually, spilled milk is only a problem when it gets on fabric. If left to dry, that old milk can create a sour smell. Blot the spill on a carpet. For extra absorption, try lemon juice on the stain but test a small area first to make sure it won’t discolor anything.

Permanent Marker

Permanent marker isn’t so permanent when you know these few tricks. For marker on wood, use toothpaste to get it out. If your child (or you, because we know that’s happened) gets permanent marker on upholstery use rubbing alcohol or non-oily hairspray.

Juice Spills

Just because it comes in a box doesn't mean it won't end up on your rug. As with most messy fabric stains, it is best to blot as opposed to rub. Once the blotting is complete, whatever is left behind can be treated with one quart water, a tablespoon of white vinegar and a teaspoon of laundry detergent. Let the mixture sit on the juice stain for several minutes then rinse with water.

Chewing Gum

Once your child has mastered the concept of chewing gum without swallowing it, they will begin to find other ways to dispose of the confection. That will usually involving putting it in a sibling's hair, on a car seat or in the carpet. When that happens, it's time to break out the ice pack. Freeze the gum and it will be easier to pull up. If there is some residue, then freeze again and use an old toothbrush to scrap it off.


As soon as your kid discovers the simple joy of stickers, you can count on them showing up everywhere. To get them off the things they shouldn't be on, try rubbing them with baby oil or WD-40. That should help with the gluey residue.

A rapid response to these common kid messes is vital. However, sometimes those stains can go unnoticed or you don't have the time to tackle them right away. For a stubborn stain on the carpet you might need to bring in the heavy guns. Professional carpet cleaning extractors will certainly get the job done. They're also easy to rent on an as-needed basis.

Once you tackle those stains and get the kids to bed, you can finally relax with that bottle of wine. Just be sure not to spill any on that clean carpet …

BIO: James works in construction and blogs in his free time at Homey Improvements. He also enjoys hiking, photography, and buying new gadgets. Follow him on Twitter @DIYfolks.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Bring Your Lawn and Garden Into Balance: How to Measure and Correct Soil pH

Since the Neolithic Revolution, which occurred 10,000 years ago or so, human beings have been struggling to help plants grow. Sometimes, this has led to a bountiful harvest. Other times, there has been terrible drought. Even with 10,000 years of experience under our belt, humanity has had a difficult time in farming and gardening. This is largely because there are so many factors interacting at the same time.

Plants require water, sunlight and food – typically in the form of nitrogen. But they require these three elements in precisely balanced quantities, usually formulated by the plant’s evolutionary history in a given environment. Plants from tropical rainforests, for example, will require daily watering, while a cactus may not. We’re all basically familiar with those concepts of ample water and ample sunlight.

The story is different when we start talking about plant food. Many people – even professional farmers and gardeners – are unsure how much nitrogen any given plant should receive. And here’s where things can get even murkier: Adding too much nitrogen in the form of fertilizer can alter the pH levels of your soil, and that can have disastrous consequences for crops and gardens alike.
In a nutshell, the pH level of your soil is how acidic or non-acidic it is. In chemistry terms, high pH means high alkaline, also known as “basic” (the opposite of acid), while a low pH level means the substance is acidic. Citric acid, for example, has a pH level of roughly 2.2. This explains why you pucker when you drink lemon juice. But not everyone knows how to test pH levels in soil.

To be sure, over-fertilizing is not the only way to lower the pH levels of your soil. Much depends on local geology and agricultural activity, in addition to topography, history and other factors. In other words, there are so many variables that sometimes it can be difficult to pin down precisely what might be causing your acidic soil.

Luckily, that doesn’t mean you’re helpless to combat it, especially if you use lime for soil pH control. There are several ways you can decrease the acidity of your soil and restore balance to your garden or fields. This is good, because controlling soil pH is essential for the health of your plants.

James White has a lot more to say on this subject. For more click here.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Rammed Earth: Affordable, and Relatively Unknown

Back in 2009, I wrote a piece about my discovery of construction using Rammed Earth. James White has re-visited the topic in Rammed Earth: Affordable, and Relatively Unknown.

They are comprised not of stone or brick, but of a material called rammed earth. Considering that both structures have been standing for well over 1,000 years, doesn't this process deserve a second look?

Rammed earth is created when clay-rich soil is mixed with lots of water and a natural construction stabilizer. In ancient times, stabilizers often included animal blood, urine, bitumen and even certain plant fibers.
Structures designed with rammed earth can be further reinforced and supported to optimize sustainability. For instance, various timbers can be used to offset heavy weight and offer additional stabilization. In modern day, one only need to substitute cement for those aforementioned stabilizers, and the structure is made exponentially more secure. This new mixture—referred to as cement stabilized rammed earth or CSRE for short—has the same strength ratings as cement. For reference, that means it can withstand about 6,000 psi of pressure.

Read More - See more at:

Thursday, July 16, 2015

5 Creative Ways to Upcycle Pallets for Home Décor

If you’re looking for a unique way to add personal touches to your home décor, look no further than your garage. Many people have a décor gem stored there: pallets. Wood pallets are incredibly versatile and can lend a hand in projects that are DIY-friendly but look professionally done.

Upcycling a wood pallet – or using it for something new – is a great way to recycle used materials.

Here are five creative ways to upcycle pallets for your home décor:

1.    Book Shelf

It seems like there’s never enough space for book lovers to store all their favorite reads. Pallet bookshelves are a great addition to any room, and can be made to be the perfect size for housing and organizing thick novels, magazines or children’s stories. Plus they make a great conversation piece.
2.    Towel Rack

Tired of wet towels on the floor? A pallet towel rack – easily made from one piece of wood sanded down from a pallet – is the perfect solution. You can customize the piece with hooks and a coat of paint to turn it into a truly one-of-a-kind – and functional – part of your bathroom or kitchen.
3.    Coffee Table

Finding the right coffee table for your décor may be as easy as stepping into your garage and grabbing an old pallet. All right, so it may not be quite that easy, but you’ll have a good jumpstart on the materials needed. The project can be as simple or as elaborate as you’d like, but this double-decker pallet coffee table is a perfect meeting point. With enough storage for electronics, magazines and books, you can’t go wrong adding this piece to your home furnishings.
4.    Pallet Wall

For small spaces that could use a little texture, a wall of pallet boards can be just the right touch. The wood can be stained different colors to warm up a cool-toned room, and you can easily add pegs to give it just a little more function for hanging up hand towels, washcloths or even pictures. This project may need a little assistance since an indoor renovation of your walls can be tricky.
5.    Bench
If you’re in need of some additional seating in your living space or outdoors, try putting together a pallet bench. There are so many different styles and types to consider, depending upon how the bench will be used. A pallet bench propped up against a wall in a mudroom, for example, would have no need for a back to be built on, as the wall would support the person using it. A bench outside, though, may need a back, so it’s readily available for lounging. 

Pallets are an excellent asset to have around, as they can be used in many home décor projects. The options are nearly endless. Try tackling one of these five upcycling projects, and bring an old pallet back to life. 

Note from Mike, here in San Miguel, there’s even a very good restaurant whose walls are made from pallets.

BIO: James White works in construction and blogs in his free time at Homey Improvements. He also enjoys hiking, photography, and buying new gadgets. Follow him on Twitter @DIYfolks.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Home Décor Portland Oregon

The Irwin Real Estate Group (IREG) at Keller Williams Realty Sunset Corridor, has a blog that today gives us a peak at Home Decor for 2016 from a Chinese perspective.

"Each year as we view the old year in our rearview mirror, we anticipate the start of the new year. What will 2016 bring for home décor Portland Oregon?

"Just like fashion designs and hair styles, home décor trends are constantly changing and evolving. Each new season brings a new must-have feature for your home, new colors and new materials. In order to keep your Portland home looking fresh and chic, what are the hot trends that you can incorporate into your décor?"

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The tabletop as art display space: Ceramic mosaic tops by Furthur

The LA Times today reports that for some time "...tables with ceramic-tiled tops have often been relegated to patio and pool areas — strictly outdoors.

But that's changing, says Michelle Arias, who, with her husband, Raymond, opened Furthur on Sunset Boulevard 20 years ago. Tables adorned with 4-by-4-inch Mexican azulejos (ceramic wall tiles) are now in-home worthy because the quality of the tiles that she gets in Dolores Hidalgo, about a 40-minute drive north from San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico, has so vastly improved.

Azulejos can be traced to Moorish influences in the Iberian peninsula. Both there and in Mexico they became an obvious status statement — ornamental wall art that also functioned as a temperature moderator. Azulejos turned up on walls, floors, ceilings and were featured in churches and royal mansions

Read More Here

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Screen Door Will Open For Brunch and Lunch Seven Days a Week

The Screen Door has been added to my itinerary for next visit to PDX land.

Image: Allison Jones

A massive bombshell from weekend brunchmaster Screen Door. Starting June 11, the Southern fried East Burnside restaurant will  open for brunch and lunch seven days a week.That's right: chicken and waffles on a Monday, all the grits and Spicy Creole Bloody Marys you can handle Tuesday, Friday, Sunday, whatever—just throw your calendar away entirely. Also, the restaurant will debut a huge new lunch menu, built around a line-up of 13 Southern sandwiches (muffaletta and brisket to po’boys served on custom Alessio French bread). “It is kinda nuts,” says co-owner David Mouton with a laugh. “But we are so excited.
Along with that big sandwich roster, expect a half-dozen appetizers and a heavy emphasis on salads and veggie specials at lunch to balance out the restaurant’s meaty eats; a nod to the fact that every Screen Door meal need not be a gut-busting challenge.
Screen Door has had the market cornered on weekend brunch for nearly a decade now, with parody-worthy weekend wait lines creeping around the block and a crack team of 50+ staffers, including a handful kitchen pros whose sole job is to handle the 2,200 pounds of chicken the restaurant fries up each week.

The expanded hours and ambitious new menus have brought their own challenges—first and foremost, a lack of space. In addition to the restaurant’s own kitchen, Mouton and wife/co-owner Nicole now rent a commissary kitchen where the crew does all its batch cooking--like stewing collard greens and gumbo and butchering chickens. They also renovated the Screen Door’s garage to make space for a second “micro-kitchen,” where their baker can churn out fresh biscuits and daily shortcakes and its chefs can whip up dinner specials. 

With August marking the restaurant’s 10 year anniversary, Mouton says it was the right time to make some big changes. “Over the last couple of years we’ve been tempted to open another Screen Door over the river or open different concepts. But instead of taking our eye off the ball, we’d rather expand our hours here and maintain our institutional status,” he says, crediting the restaurant’s staff for giving him and Nicole confidence to undertake the expansion. “The sentimental reason is that I really want to respond to the neighbors. They’ve been asking us to open for brunch on weekdays for years. You know, we didn’t open the restaurant with fried chicken and waffles [on the menu], that was a customer request. In fact, all of our main menu items were customer requests. We just respond to what people ask for.”

“Screen Door is its own beast,” Mouton laughs. “It’s taken on its own life—we’re just here to steer it."
Screen Door's new hours:
  • Weekday brunch 8 am-2 p.m; lunch served 10:30 am-2 pm (Mon-Fri)
  • Dinner 5:30 pm-10 pm Tues-Sat; 5:30 pm-9 pm Sun-Mon
  • Saturday & Sunday brunch 9 am-2:30 pm
2337 E Burnside St

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

From Mukava, the World’s First Egonomic Reading Table.

From Mukava, the world’s first ergonomic reading table. 

Designed by multi-award winning industrial designer Hiroshi Ono, Mukava is compatible with all mobile and tablet devices as well as books and documents. Mukava features our patented hinge system that adjusts to more than twelve possible positions, making your reading or viewing experience comfortable wherever you are. Feel free to watch their new promotional video highlighting its versatility and design:

Mukava currently offers three revolutionary products which are listed below

3) Mukava For Monitor Arm (

All of their products are currently in production and they will begin taking pre-orders on May 25 in preparation for a full product launch on 1 July, 2015.

Mükava is about more than selling the world’s best reading table. They are about helping communities at home and abroad to learn to read. Mukava's Project for Adult Literacy and Schools, LLC is focussed on two causes; adult literacy in America and building a school for homeless children in Jakarta, Indonesia. Twenty percent of the total profits of their company go to their causes.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

How to Choose Paint Colors to Complement Furniture

Most people already own furniture before deciding to paint and repaint. Choosing a color that complements the furniture you already have only makes sense. Knowing how to choose the right color, texture and pattern of paint can be quite a challenge, though.

Complementary Color Matching

The first step to choosing color for your home should be to find a family of colors that complement your furniture colors. If you’re lucky enough to have neutral colors for your furniture, such as tan, white or black, then you can choose almost any color scheme.

For everyone else, you’ll want to visit your local paint store and choose some sample color strips in a variety of choices. Find one that is as close to the color of your furniture as possible. Now, turn to a color wheel to find complementary colors.

If you have an accent chair or pillow in the room, choose one of the minor, lighter colors in the pattern to paint your walls. The best colors will be directly across from and in the same row as your color. Remember that you want contrast. Everything shouldn’t match exactly or your room will look flat.

Opposites Attract

If you have darker furniture, brighten up the room by adding lighter or “happier” paints. However, there are a few neutral dark colors that don’t dampen a room’s ambience when there is dark furniture as well. Grey is a versatile paint color that coordinates well with many hues and adapts to different lighting.

Choosing an adaptable paint color for your walls makes it easier to change your furniture whenever the need (or want) arises. You can still add personality to your room with splashes of color through throws and pillows.

When and Where to Use an Accent Wall

Is there a wall in your home that you want to draw attention to?

Make sure the color you choose doesn’t clash with any art or furniture on that wall.

This is also a good opportunity to use more than one paint color and add glossy stripes in the same color, texture, sponge painting or other specialized techniques.

In a larger room, it can be tempting to add a lot of special details, such as a textured wall. However, this can be quite time consuming on a large wall. Instead, consider adding these details to just a small area, such as over a fireplace.

Just keep in mind:

·         If your furniture is modern, stay away from antiquing styles or texture. Stick with smooth surfaces and geometric patterns.

·         If your furniture is antique, stay away from geometric patterns and modern designs.

Keep Your Lifestyle in Mind

Ultimately, the paint you choose has to fit in with your everyday life. For example, it probably isn’t a wise decision to choose paint that doesn’t wash easily if you have small children. Maybe you even want to consider using chalkboard paint for kid’s room walls.

Consider all the factors involved in making your house look great, including using multiple textures, complementary colors and adding detail to draw attention. If you take your time and choose based on all these elements, you’ll have freshly painted walls that you’ll enjoy for years to come.

BIO: James works in construction and blogs in his free time at Homey Improvements. He also enjoys hiking, photography, and buying new gadgets. Follow him on Twitter @DIYfolks.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Karttell Stuns Me

I wrote last about the 10 most expensive furniture brands. This morning I received an email with this picture:

When I previewed the email, Bev was standing right by me. I saw the breasts and "eros" and thought, "Whoa someone just sent me porn."

Like any male, I waited to look until Bev moved to another room.

It was an arresting ad from Kartell about the new egg-shaped chair named Ero/s/. They got my attention:

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Most Expensive Furniture Brands in the World

Insider Monkey has a list of the ten most expensive furniture brands in the World. The list contained two surprises for me. How about you?

#10 - French Heritage - Each chair and tables are crafted to perfection to match up the mood of your home. French Heritage gives you a taste and feel of casual contemporary style. No wonder why they priced a chair for $4,173. Smooth and silky chair.
#9 - Christopher Guy furniture offers a wide wild variety of luxurious deals: from headboards to gold-worth sofas, from trendy office furniture to luxy upholstery
#8 - Henkel Harris - Mary and Caroll Henkel put up a small manufacturing pant together with their designer friend, John Harris. They pledge to create only a masterpiece of design.
#7 - 
Fendi Casa - Offers an iconic collection perfected with a feel of contemporary era.
#6 - 
Kartell - It’s about time where creativity and glamour meet innovation.
#5 - 
Boca do Lobo - By getting their limited-edition products, sure that you’d feel all the passion and love of the designers with the work of art they have completed.
#4 - 
Poliform - They revamped the classy style to the modern age, making the best of both worlds when it comes to getting your furniture done! 
#3 - 
Edra - Their best practice is combining the traditional to modern which is just way too cool. It was founded in 1987 in a city full of art appreciation and traditional culture
#2 - 
Restoration Hardware - Surprised? It’s known for providing comfortable yet pleasurable designs of furniture. 
#1 - 
Henredon - I knew the furniture was high-priced, but one of the most reliable and yes, most expensive furniture brands in the world? No.

Can any of these brands be found in Portland, Oregon? 

French Heritage - J. Garner Home Seattle
Christopher Guy - Neiman Marcus
Fendi - Saks San Francisco
Poliform - Architectural Resources Ketchum, ID
Restoration Hardware - 315 Northwest 23rd Avenue
Henredon - Parker Furniture

Incorporate Interesting Decor for Vacation Getaway Spot

Photo By ep_stock

Jennifer Kimrey shares in the Houston Chronicle that"Decorating and furnishing a vacation home can be very different from decorating and furnishing your first home or primary residence.

A prevalent trend that has lasted years is decorating your second home to honor its location, but that doesn't mean everything has to be "beachy" everywhere - moderation,please.

A great way get more enjoyment out of your second home is upgrading the outdoor areas. Cozy outdoor sitting areas, for example, allow homeowners to extend their indoor living space to the outdoors and have become a popular focus of second-home redecorating.

"Patio furniture trends have shifted away from traditional iron patio furniture to contemporary plastic wicker furnishings. This style is very popular. For a more 'designer look,' many of my clients purchase their outdoor furniture and have custom pillows made to match their decor.

The outdoor kitchen is another popular feature. "In addition to your standard grill, it's also very popular to have an ice maker, refrigerator and smoker as fixtures in your outdoor kitchen. We also see many homeowners choosing wood-burning pizza ovens. Another popular feature is a built-in fireplace or fire pit.

Ultimately, the best decorating decisions you can make for your second house are ones that make you happy and give that property a cozy feeling of home.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Your Clients Are Getting Younger

More than one-in-three American workers today are Millennials (adults ages 18 to 34 in 2015), and this year they surpassed Generation X to become the largest share of the American workforce, according to new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

What’s Hot in Outdoor Furniture

Kim Cook at the The Reporter describes what's hot in outdoor furniture "Outdoor living spaces have come a long way from the days when “outdoor furnishings” meant a few inexpensive folding chairs around a flimsy plastic table. 
"...manufacturers are offering new furniture, textiles and materials that resemble indoor furnishings yet can withstand the elements.
What will we see in 2015?

  • Vintage modern and ultra-modern - Watch for midcentury modern styling in outdoor pieces to coordinate with this popular interior style. Luxe looks evoking old Hollywood are also in.
  • Global Style - Asian, Moroccan, Mediterranean motifs, and Silk Road accents
  • Flexible use - a trend toward “chat and chill” configurations of furniture used both indoors and outdoors or comfy seating for both areas; portable fire pits.
  • Color is in - Deep indigo looks fresh and new, and so does coral and dark blue. The natural neutrals — sand, mocha, charcoal, cream — stay strong for 2015. Their versatility makes them good choices whatever the climate.
Brown Jordan’s Marin lounge chair in flame suede with leather pillow, designed by Michael Berman, is an example of an outdoor furniture piece that could easily work indoors. The blurring of lines between indoor and outdoor furnishings continues to be a strong trend for spring/summer 2015.Courtesy Brown Jordan, Roger Davies
  • Patterns - all kinds of bright patterns
  • Rustic Contemporary -  like chicken-wire doors and weathered-look metals with contemporary seat materials and colors.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Chris Soderberg Chosen For Pearl Re Design

photo by Amy Ouellette 

Realtor Sasha Welford of Debbie Thomas Real Estate (402 NW 13th Ave, 503-226-2141), who sold Scott Showalter, the new president and CEO of the Oregon Symphony, his 11th-floor condominium, then referred him to Chris Soderberg Design (1110 NW Marshall St, 503-206-4096). Debbie Thomas and Soderberg have collaborated many times over the years. Both were part of developer John Carroll’s team during the Pearl’s first building wave, nearly 20 years ago. And recently, Soderberg remodeled Thomas’s Pearl District real estate offices, as well as the lobby of one of Carroll’s first buildings, the McKenzie Lofts.

“We’re seeing a whole second generation of Pearl buyers,” Soderberg says, “many of whom are making Portland their second home. They’re tearing things up—getting rid of granite and adding quartz—and they want to customize their spaces.”
Soderberg and Showalter hit it off immediately. “We walked through together and were both speaking the same contemporary language,” she says. “I felt strongly right away that we needed to go in a gray direction. His art has a lot of color.”