• Even if you're lucky enough to have a dishwasher, there are plenty of times when you're going to need to hand-wash pots and dishes-which naturally seems a straightforward enough chore, and we all have our own process for completing the task. But while it's easy to assume you know all there is to know on the subject, there are actually all kinds of little tricks and shortcuts to getting things spotless. Here, via Martha Stewart, a re-cap:

    If you've got several things to wash at once, use a plastic dish tub rather than washing items individually under the tap which saves time, energy, and water. Fill the tub with really hot water and a squirt or two of dish soap (it's more economical than applying and re-applying soap onto a sponge). The hotter the water, the better shot at your glass and silver drying streak-free.

    Wash goods in order of fragility-and filth. This means starting with glassware, and moving onto plates, cutlery, serving pieces, and last your pots and pans. Drain

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  • I stumbled on the following microwave cleaning method this morning that's so ridiculously simple and so good I can't believe I hadn't known about this sooner:

    To get out all the splatters and spots that end up caking the interior, fill a microwave-safe bowl with a cup of water and a few splashes of vinegar, or wedges of lemon or lime (which of course have the added benefit of smelling terrific). Zap it on high heat for a couple minutes until the water starts to boil and the window gets steamy. Wait 15 minutes for the bowl and water to cool, and for all that steam to penetrate the stains, before opening the door. Follow up by wiping down the interior walls and rubber door gasket with a clean cloth or sponge (and if the window is still grimy, use a half water/half vinegar solution to get it shiny). That's it-so easy, right? I just tried it and am deeply satisfied with the results, the fact that I didn't need to use any chemicals, and the whole process in general, which kind of

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  • Kitchen sinks take such a beating everyday-all those dirty dishes, pots and pans, and rinsing of who-knows-what by every member of your family, all day long, can take its toll. And even with all the cursory rinses and sponge downs you probably do on a daily basis, over time, despite the fact that it's called "stainless" you'll probably start to notice all kinds of little spots and scratches that won't just wash away. So it's a good idea to give yours some love every now and then, and it's easy, too-no fancy (or expensive) cleaning tools or agents needed. In fact, chances are, you've already got everything you need to get the job done in your pantry.

    On Apartmenttherapy.com I found the following handy guidelines. First, you'll want to clean it. Mix a paste of baking soda and water, spread it all over, and use a very fine steel wool scrubber to buff out all the hairline scratches before rinsing.

    To tackle water spots, splash some white vinegar onto a sponge to remove them. If

    Read More »from Weekend project: make your stainless steel kitchen sink sparkle
  • For a myriad of reasons, I've started hanging my clothes on a drying rack outside instead of tossing them in the dryer. First, because it's a lot gentler on fabrics, so your stuff actually lasts a lot longer. Second, because it doesn't cost anything-and this is particularly relevant for those of you out there who cycle through the linens in your household every day or two-all the gas/electric it takes to power your dryer can actually really add up. And much as I get a lot of satisfaction out of the crisp, sun-dried scent of clothes that have been aired out naturally, and also love knowing I'm saving both energy and money in the process, there's one issue I've been running into that I definitely don't like: my clothes are stiff.

    I finally decided to do some research and figure out if there was anything I could do about this problem, and as it turns out, there are a couple potential culprits. For starters, I could be using too much detergent. We've covered this before in this

    Read More »from How to line dry your clothes (so they don’t feel stiff!)
  • Hip-Hop legend, fitness fanatic and successful actor, Todd Smith (aka LL Cool J) can do it all. Now InStyle magazine's October issue gives us a unique tour of his New York home.

    The Tudor-style five-bedroom is spacious and comfortable.
    The living room has deep and rich colors everywhere you look. That's if you can take your eyes off the stars abs in a portrait hanging on the wall. LL says he wanted his master bedroom to look like a luxurious presidential suite. The light furniture and glittering accents really give the room life.

    The family's kitchen is large, but warm and cozy at the same time, thanks to the dark kitchen cabinets and earth tones in the counter tops. The gym clearly gets a lot use and so does the family's home theater. A few of the star's prized possessions include his trophies, his antique armor and his fish tank. For a closer look inside LL's world, pick up the October issue of InStyle magazine.

    Related links:

    Inside More Celebrity Homes

    Stars Show Off Their Read More »from Famous Haven: Inside LL Cool J's home with InStyle magazine
  • I'm sort of joking about the life-change, but not really. Since my family moved into our Victorian San Francisco flat three years ago, I've been on a quest to make it feel like a home--a warm, cozy, serene, organized home that my husband and daughter and I can really make a life in. It's a big, drafty place with high ceilings and, being on the first floor, not a ton of natural light-so there are definite challenges. Still, there are great things about it-the character that comes with an old house, the wood floors, the view of palm trees out the front windows (to remind me I'm in California), and our lovely, family-friendly neighborhood.

    I'd long been coveting a table for my entryway-something nice to look at when I walk in after a long day, a place to put my keys and sort the mail, and maybe even put a vase of fresh flowers. I felt like if I could just tackle this one area, I'd be on my way to organizing our big, chaotic house. I'd looked through Pottery Barn catalogs (too

    Read More »from Finally, an inviting entryway--how a furniture purchase changed my apartment (and my life)
  • We're just at the beginning of cold and flu season, and now's the time to put a little extra thought and effort into minimizing sickness-inducing germs and bacteria from spreading among your family members and throughout your home. And one of the simplest and most straightforward ways to do this is by keeping your linens spic-and-span.

    Though how often you wash your sheets is clearly a personal decision, there are scientific arguments for washing your bedding weekly to benefit your health. According to ehow.com and examiner.com, laundering sheets weekly (in hot, 130-or-more degree water) gets rid of the dead skin cells (fodder for bacteria) and allergy-inducing dust mites that accumulate after a few nights' sleep. If you or someone in your family is prone to sweating-or if you've got Fido cozying up with your in bed-consider washing every couple days to rinse out dirt and pet dander. Don't ignore your mattress pad either-it's a good idea to wash it bi-weekly or at least

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  • I recently interviewed an interior designer on the subject of bathroom décor, and when talk turned to the number of towel sets one should have, her take is we should all have at least four sets per person in your household. Which to me seems really excessive. The argument for this number is that it's good to have sufficient towels so that at any given time you could have one in the hamper, one in the wash, and one hanging on your towel bar (plus a spare for good measure)-which I suppose makes sense if you're someone who washes your towel after every use. Which I, for one, do not.

    This also got me thinking and researching whether or not, from a germs perspective, I ought to be washing my towels more than my usual 5-7 days. According to Discovery Health, bathrooms-which are generally warm and humid-make an excellent breeding ground for bacteria when coupled with the dirt, oils, and dead cells from your skin. Washcloths are especially risky territory, since they're actually used to

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  • Making your space more inviting for fall can be as easy as apple pie -- an apple-pie-scented candle, that is. From autumn colors that will warm you to scents that will make your mouth water, discover some easy ways to refresh your space and revitalize your outlook without breaking the bank.

    Fall fruit bowlFall fruit bowl


    If your fall décor is wearing last year's colors, simply update with a few accent pieces in new hues. Adding just a hint of the latest and greatest fall colors will make your pieces look fashionable for a fraction of the cost of a makeover.

    Some of this season's best choices are russet, copper, pomegranate, chocolate brown, pumpkin and asparagus. Introduce these shades in pillar candles, pillow accents, lampshades, tablescapes, picture frames, bath towels and bath accessories.

    >> Cozy home décor: Warm up with textiles


    Cooler weather usually means shorter, darker days, and one way to brighten everyone's spirits

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  • A linen closet is one of those easy-to-ignore spots in your home-the kind of place that can quickly turn into a crazy jumbled mess before you know it. Every so often (I suggest doing this annually) you're going to want to take stock and get things back on track. Here's what to do when you're ready to give yours an overhaul (having just gone through this myself and despite dreading the task, it really was a more fast, painless, and totally gratifying undertaking than I would have guessed).

    First things first: Start by pulling every last item out of your linen closet, separating the contents into "keep" and "donate" piles.

    You may want to use this opportunity to adjust the height of your shelves. 10 inches is a good amount of space for table linens and sheets, while 12 to 16 inches is better for towels, and 18 inches or more is ideal for bulky blankets and comforters. Give sheets and towels the prime, easiest-to-reach shelves, since you'll be accessing them most frequently.

    Read More »from Tricks to whip your linen closet into shape


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