Saturday, October 25, 2014

11 Ways to Steel Your Nerves and Prep Your Kitchen For the Holidays Ahead

By Amber Matheson

Mt. Rushmore has already seen snow this year, and my Pinterest feed is festooned with holiday decorations. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Are you ready?


  1. Set the mood. A lovely bed-and-breakfast owner I met recently signs her correspondence “with a sparkle.” The woman is renovating and running a small mansion, yet she’s always got that sparkle. Why? Because she’s having so much fun. She loves waking up at the crack of dawn to bake homemade pecan sticky buns, bicker with the contractor and repair broken coolers. Take a lesson from her: Set your attitude before you set your table. Pour yourself a glass of wine or a mug of tea, and try to enjoy preparing your home for the people you love and the events you’re anticipating.
  2. Audit your spices. This one is like taking a trip around the globe without leaving your kitchen. Settle in and open each of your spices. If you can’t smell them, toss them.
  3. Ditch expired food. After you’ve reacquainted yourself with that cache of cinnamon sticks you forgot you had, move on to the rest of your edibles. Clean out cans and boxes long past their prime, then take 10 minutes to clear out your freezer and fridge. When considering what to toss, ask yourself this vital question: “Would I rather have room for leftover pecan pie, or save this mysterious casserole of unknown provenance?”
  4. Prep your servingware. If your china or good flatware only graces the table a few times a year, chances are it’s spending the other 360 days gathering dust. Literally. Pull out your prettiest pieces to clean and shine now, before that dark day comes when the guests have arrived — and you can’t find grandma’s antique gravy boat (the horror).


  1. Commit to the thermometer. So you’ve always meant to buy an oven thermometer and double-check that your oven heats up properly, but you’ve just never gotten around to it? Make a deal with yourself: While you’re at the grocery store, buy the thermometer and a package of break-and-bake cookies. Use the temperature check as an excuse to bake and eat most of them before your family finds out.
  2. Stock up on baking staples. Whether you’re reading this in October or next July, now is the time to stock up on baking supplies (unless your tendencies lean mostly toward break-and-bake, I suppose). Butter can be frozen, and most pantry staples last a year. You’ve cleaned out the old, now bring in the new before the baking aisle starts to look like the baggage claim at O’Hare Airport.
  3. Remember the non-food necessities. Check out this great list from This Old House. More people and more food means more storage and more cleanup.
  4. Go semi-homemade. Stock up on some easy-to-serve snacks for impromptu guests; if you don’t have time to make these amazing Barefoot Contessa crackers from scratch, your friends and family will be just as happy noshing on store-bought munchies that you’ve stashed in your pantry.


  1. Do a dry run. Go wild: subject your holiday guests to brand new recipes straight from your test kitchen. Or be a polite host and cook new dishes ahead of time to ensure everyone actually enjoys the meal.
  2. Steam and sanitize. You’ve sorted and stocked, now make your kitchen shine. Use the SteamScrub 2-in-1 to clean the most neglected corners and attack the nitty-gritty areas of your stove.
  3. Enjoy your company. Remember, these people like you. They’re your friends and family. Spend a little less time trying to impress them, and more time enjoying the time you’re spending with them.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Find Your Floor: Pros and Cons of Bamboo Flooring

Bamboo floors are growing in popularity. Have you considered adding them to your home? Here's some info to help you decide if this eco-friendly flooring is the right choice for your home.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Floor is Yours: How to Choose the Right Updates for Your Bathroom

By Amber Matheson

My grandma used to direct a little offensive old-fashioned ditty to me every morning when I stayed with her during summer vacation, and it applies to bathrooms as much as it does to adorable little grandchildren:

There was a little girl, who had a little curl,
right in the middle of her forehead.
And when she was good she was very, very good,
and when she was bad, she was horrid.

Every bathroom can be good, and even very, very good. Even if you’re not about to tear out plumbing or knock down walls, there are a few surprising ways you can change the way you feel when you step into your bathroom. We know you’ve got questions. Luckily, we’ve got some answers via the always stylish, always fabulous Kim Myles. Make your bathroom more of an oasis (and less of an “oh no!”) with these simple ideas.

Of course you can swap out towels, change your shower curtain and jazz up your bathmat. But there are some superhero transformations that even mere mortals can do to get beyond the usual swaps.

Try hanging your shower curtain from the ceiling. You can even use drapes instead of a shower curtain — just be sure to add a plastic liner into the mix. “You get that really glam, floor-to-ceiling effect,” explains Myles, and it’s super inexpensive.

Another transformative but doable project is to swap out that old, grungy wall-mounted medicine cabinet. “That is one of the easiest things to switch,” says Myles. “They’re bolted into the studs by two screws. Max, three screws.” And if you don’t have the cash for an entirely new cabinet, try cleaning and painting the one you do have. Myles modernized a faux golden-oak cabinet (“why would you pretend to be golden oak?” she asks in mock horror) by simply spray painting it with a high-gloss charcoal gray. “It changed the look completely,” she says.

Before we answer that question, here are two for you:

  1. How handy are you?
  2. How comfortable are you living with mold?

“If you’re a weekend warrior, and you love DIY — and you’re willing to do it right, then go for it,” says Myles. But be aware that tiling a wet space properly requires a few extra steps. “You do not want to be the one who did it in a weekend, and two years later, you have rot,” she points out.

If you want to get your feet wet (or, rather, keep everything mostly dry), start small with a backsplash behind your sink. “It’s totally decorative, and that is absolutely something people can do,” she says. Plus, Myles notes, because you’re only tiling a small area, you can splurge on really distinctive tiles, or even a hand-painted mosaic.

When you have the luxury of working with a contractor, keep in mind they’re your expert resource. Myles purchased inexpensive, square white tiles from a home-improvement store, then had her contractor cut them all in half. Voila: an offbeat version of subway tiles that everyone notices when they use her bathroom. “Now it’s custom tile,” she notes, “and people loved it!”

If you’ve watched HGTV lately, you’ve undoubtedly seen the frameless glass showers and endless miles of subway tiles being installed in homes across Canada America. But are these fly-by-night trends or classic elements that won’t go out of style?

The default, says Myles, should always, always be to go with what you love. That being said, “I have personal opinions,” she laughs. “I’m not the one who wants to squeegee down my whole shower.” Glass showers can quickly get cloudy and dirty looking, so there’s a commitment level involved, not just to the trend itself but to maintenance.

Vessel sinks are also on her only-if-you-love-‘em list. “It looks like a great idea,” she says, “but they are not that functional. If you’ve ever tried to wash your face in a vessel bowl, all the water ends up on the counter!” If you have your heart set on a vessel sink, she suggests installing one in a lesser-used powder room, where guests will get to appreciate it, rather than in your main bathroom.

One trend she does appreciate? Subway tile. It’s sleek, it’s simple and it’s relatively timeless. Will house-hunters 20 years from now recognize that they’re in a bathroom updated between 2009 and 2014? Yes. Will they still like the look of it? Probably. “The reason it’s trendy is it’s classic,” Myles says. “It has that throwback appeal. It’s always going to work.”

For a big statement piece, try swapping out your cabinetry. “When it came time to do the under-sink cabinetry in my house, I phoned it in,” says Myles ruefully. “That was an opportunity: I could’ve customized a really cool chest of drawers, I could’ve gone totally modern with a floating console, mounted to the wall.” Instead, she chose an uber-ordinary piece from the store. “Anything can be converted,” she explains. “Even if you’re super traditional in style, think about how beautiful an actual raised console would be, or a vintage chest of drawers.” Your contractor can cut a hole for your sink in just about any dresser, or even help you convert a piece of furniture into a modern trough sink.

“Think outside the box,” encourages Myles. “Tile is a beginning. Tile is the gateway drug!” She suggests reconsidering linoleum or vinyl, pointing to a house reno where the owners used linoleum printed to look like slate tile, and it fooled virtually everyone who saw it. In her own bathroom, she installed coin grip rubber flooring. It’s often made out of recycled materials, and comes in a range of colors. Plus, it’s anti-slip and water-resistant — and it’ll blow your guests away.

One other option? Cork. It’s durable, and naturally hypo-allergenic, anti-microbial and anti-fungal. They’re unusual options that will turn a few heads, yet they’re easy to live with. A Hoover FloorMate Deluxe, with its spinscrub brushes and compact profile, makes cleaning your bathroom floors fast and painless. You can also use a hand-held lift-away steamer to attack germs wherever they’re hiding.

Surprisingly, soothing shades of pastel green or blue may not be the best option for your main bathroom, says Myles. Those colors can reflect on your skin in a way that makes you look a little sick when you’re facing the mirror; not the best look first thing in the morning. Instead, choose an earthy tone, or a white with a hint of pink. “Do yourself a favor: paint the room pink,” she says. “It’s almost like candlelight. Everyone looks better.”

Want to go wild? Save it for the guest bathroom or powder room. “You can truly go nuts,” says Myles. “Do wallpaper! It’s not going to be attacked by steam.”

Want more tips and tricks from Kim Myles rule-free handbook? She employs her fabulous, funky approach to design on "Home Made Simple" every Saturday morning at 9 a.m. ET on the OWN network. You can also follow her on Twitter or visit her website (where you can even book your own personal Skype call to ask her your specific design issues!), and of course you can always find her on Facebook, too.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What’s the difference between a Vacuum and a Carpet Cleaner?

They each remove dirt, so why do you need both?

The primary difference between a vacuum and a carpet cleaner is one uses water and the other does not.

Vacuuming is a regular piece of living with carpet. Even if you don’t clean anything else, your house looks a whole lot better after a few passes with a good vac. There is an immediate pay off and sense of accomplishment.

If you vacuum regularly, the surface of your carpet may look clean, but the layers beneath may tell a different story. Even the best vacuum will leave some debris behind. Dirt and grime clings to the base of your carpet fibers like Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton gripping those irrigation pipes at the end of “Twister.”

That’s where a good carpet cleaner — or carpet shampooer or carpet washer as they’re sometimes called — can really come in handy. They’re similar to vacuums in that you still push a cleaner back and forth across your floors, but these machines are actually putting water and cleaning solution onto your carpets, then using extraction to pull the dirty water back up into a separate tank.

They reach some debris that a vacuum does not. Hoover carpet cleaners all use a two-tank system, meaning your dirty and clean water never mix.

You’ll need both a good vacuum and a good carpet cleaner to clean your carpet effectively.

Need help choosing a carpet cleaner? Compare a $99 cleaner to a $299.99 cleaner, and everything in between, here.

Not sure how to use a carpet cleaner? We created a tutorial to help you get started.

Have more questions? Let us know — we’re here to help.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Luxury Vinyl Tile: Pros & Cons

When you think hard floors, you probably think wood or tile. But these days there are some really cool new options that mimic the look of these classic materials and offer a range of benefits and unexpected features. Check out this infograph to see if luxury vinyl tile (LVT) is right for you.

Vacuum Maintenance: How to Clean Your Brushroll or Change Your Belt

Your cleaner is a machine, and it requires some basic maintenance once in a while. Here are some quick tips for any work you might need to do under the hood.

1. Address the Screws
2. Off with the Base Plate!
3. Pull out your Brushroll (clean off any debris)
4. Off with the Old Belt, On with the New
5. Reverse Your Steps
6. Maintenance Complete!

More questions? Just ask! We're here to help.

Plush Carpet: Pros and Cons

Are you considering Plush Carpet? Take a look at this chart to see if it's right for your home.