Archived Ideas for ‘Home’




Sometimes a good idea in one part of your life applies perfectly to another. I was inspired by Kathy Hanson’s little “Backpocket” video about “chunking”, taking a big task and breaking it into manageable chunks. (Watch Kathy here). She was applying it to business. But I realized I have been doing just that to stay on top of keeping my house clean.

I fully admit I am NOT a natural master of house cleaning. But I do something that helps me tremendously. Once a week, I take 15 minutes or a half hour at the most to do one extra cleaning thing. This thing has to be the kind of thing that you normally never get around to.


For example, at the back edge of our bathroom sink where it meets the tile wall there is a stripe of caught-up gunk. It just gets there over time because it is a crevice. Who knows what-all settles there, and regular sink cleaning just doesn’t reach it. So my task this week will be to take the grout brush that I bought at Target and some cleaner with bleach and scrub that line. And that’s it. If it takes less than 15 minutes (which it will, except the part where I have to remember where I put that brush) that’s OK. I’ve fulfilled my “one extra” this week.

Another really cool thing you can buy for your One Extra are these “Magic Erasers”.


If you haven’t tried these you HAVE to get some. Just DO NOT let your little kids use them as they are deceptively strong and can hurt tender baby skin. They clean walls and things like white woodwork and cupboard surfaces. And they are addicting, I’m not kidding. Get some, and clean the dirty areas around the light switches of just one room for your One Extra. (BTW I’m not organized enough to be plugging this product for compensation. This is a complete freebie).

You will be amazed at how these little One Extras add up. Last week I took the grout brush to the shower tiles. The week before, I just cleaned the greasy layer form the pot rack. I might even clean a window sometime–one window will suffice for my One Extra. We don’t want to go overboard.

I first thought of this idea when I started having babies. Honestly, it was all I could do to get one thing done, so that’s just what I did. If I wrote a thank you note one day, I would look for a stamp the next. And I didn’t worry that I couldn’t do more. Nowadays, I’m not as time-stressed, but there is still always something more enticing than cleaning to distract me.

So, I do my best to get things clean enough, and do One Extra. Try it, and see what you think.





Anyone who has been keeping track of the Never-Ending-List-Of-Very-BellaPamella-Ideas knows that I love a great idea for using kid art. If you have kids, this art resource is abundant, and every once in a while you score a piece that is absolutely priceless. This fantastic idea will add to the other terrific ways to put kid art to use.

You may have already discovered this wonderful site set up to let you print your own fabric, called Spoonflower.

This site allows you to design as small as one yard of fabric and they will print it for you! I tried this once and was completely hooked. Then one day I realized, this was a perfect way to produce an amazing keepsake of my children’s art!

You need a scanner so you can scan your child’s art. Save it as a jpeg, and follow the instructions on the Spoonflower website to make sure your scan is the proper size. You can choose from a variety of fabric types, but for these pillows I selected Linen-Cotton Canvas.

One yard of the linen-cotton Canvas is 56″ wide, so I was able to fit several pieces of art in my one yard.


Upper right is my young daughter’s “self portrait”. Then, counterclockwise, there’s some beautiful pink flowers, an angel (or is it a butterfly?) and a Chinese New Year dragon parade. And this is only half the yard.

You could also “repeat” the art and it will automatically fill the yardage. This would be perfect for curtains or bedding.

From the fabric store, I bought some simple linen in a neutral color for the backing and piping. Whatever you buy, get enough for the pillow back and to cover the store bought piping, or you can use the ready made Wright’s piping if it comes in a color that works.


To cover piping, cut strips of your fabric on the diagonal (use a 45 degree triangle if you have one. If not, fold a piece of paper in a triangle. If you bring two consecutive edges together you’ll get a 45 degree angle. You only need this as a guide to get you started on the right angle).


You don’t have to use piping on your pillow, you can just sew the front and back together, right sides together, and turn it inside out, stuff, and stitch the remaining edge closed. But I like to add piping and a zipper. Choose the method that closest matches your sewing prowess. The point is not necessarily the fanciness of the sewing, but the sweetness of your child’s artwork, now on a huggable pillow.


And I’m sure I don’t have to say how incredible a grandparent gift this would make. OK, now get going! I’ve given you plenty of time to get this done by next Christmas!




Sometimes, during the holiday season, it’s all we can do to get the dang tree into the house. As the Big Day draws near, we start eliminating things from our To-Do list, aware of the fact that we just can’t get it all done. Then, other years, we look around and realize we’re pretty much ready, with days to spare. And somehow in our emotionally-charged state we can feel let down, wondering, what’s everyone else up to?


It’s times like this we need to take charge. We need to buy some molasses (because that’s usually the only ingredient we don’t already have) and make some gingerbread cookie dough. Why? Because we can.


If you don’t have a bucket full of various cookie cutters, it’s time to start collecting!


I love to bring out the animals, as well as my perennial favorite, the pear.


Cooking the cookies will fill the house with an awesome aroma. And decorating can be done very simply: with white icing (1 cup powdered sugar, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, 4 or 5 teaspoons milk) and the occasional cinnamon red candy. Snip off the corner of a plastic bag and squeeze the icing out in a thin line or dots.


If you have a kid around they may come up with something more complicated, like this incredible, tiny gingerbread house made by my daughter.


No matter what you do you should feel creative, and practical, since you can eat all mistakes and be amazed that they taste just as good as the masterpieces.


Have a lovely, simple, happy, wonderful-smelling holiday this year!




Those who shop Nordstrom’s may be aware of their policy not to “deck the halls” until the day after Thanksgiving. Shoppers who grow weary of tinsel and lights weeks before Christmas find Nordstrom’s policy a breath of fresh air. I hold a similar view. The day after Thanksgiving, all bets are off. But until that time I like to give each holiday it’s day in the sun.

The only problem is that it can be confusing (or wasteful, or just a lot of work) to treat Thanksgiving completely separate from the festivities to come. Case in point, the well-meaning homeowner (below) I spied this morning.


Some might remember my blog entry a couple years ago on how to take a simple decoration and transition it from Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas. This year’s idea is even simpler. Because after all, celebration makes the world go round, but in my book, simplicity keeps it sane.

I’m having a big crowd for Thanksgiving, so I wanted to doll up the front of the house. I scored a great deal on two pots of spruce tips from the grocery store, complete with “sugared” red berry branches. I love the sweet look, but just not quite this early, so I temporarily removed the red.

I’m kind of a pear freak, and I just happened to have a pear wreath purchased a few years ago from Target.


A quick trip to the craft store produced a spray of mini pears and some gorgeous taupe, and pear and colored ribbons.



And, “Voila!” my front porch is ready to welcome my family and guests.

So here’s the funny part. My intention was to doll up Thanksgiving with an updated cornucopia-type theme using pears. But the resulting motif, with the pears, ribbon and wreath, form a fresh holiday look that may just take me through to Christmas!

(And I can always add in the sugared berry branches on Friday).




One of my favorite national magazines just did a contest. People sent in their ideas for using something that was meant for another purpose as an organizational tool. Of course I didn’t hear of the contest until it was in print. But if I had, I would have sent in this great idea my daughter had.

Most art supply stores have these posable figures meant to aid an artist doing figure drawing. My daughter fell in love with one and bought it for her room. Now she uses the perfect, posable arms to hold her rings and necklaces.

And, thus, she has begin to discover the art of “home dec”. She’s found not just a handy way to organize and display her rings, but something that does it in a personal way, that speaks to the artist within her.





Birthday parties with small children in the house can be amazing events. Kid parties are, at best, a fulfilling creative outlet, and at the very least a heartfelt celebration of life. If you have children, you are probably compelled to do something special for each and every birthday.

And then one day you look around and see that all those kids have grown up. And they have different ideas of how one should celebrate a birthday. In a busy family, it’s easy to find that you’ve allowed life to drift away from some of your old traditions. Kids that once had a hard time falling asleep the night before a holiday now may seem not to really care too much about it. And as a mom you do your best to morph, to go with the flow. And that’s really just fine and no one should spend a single second worrying about it.

But even if you don’t feel like the ringleader you once were, guess what. You still are one. And you may be surprised that although a few of the rules have changed, these people are still your family and they really do respect your wises to make things happen.

This was evidenced to me when my middle son was turning 19. Our dinner table, once used to hosting our family of five almost every evening of the week, is now lucky to see three. With the kids’ jobs, school, activities and friends, most nights we are missing one or two. My son turning 19 was not going to be home for dinner on his birthday and I was resigned to lose this last vestige of childhood birthdays, the family birthday dinner. I was busy, and maybe a little bit of me was afraid if I pushed it, I would be disappointed to realize no one really cared. By letting the busy-ness be the culprit, I’d be able to avoid feeling silly, or let down.

What I wasn’t prepared for was how bad letting it go would make me feel. And in poignant contrast to all the emphasis I put on communicating, I couldn’t think of a way to bring it up to my family.

So, I surreptitiously asked around to find a night when everyone would be available. And when I found one, I decided not to leave it up to chance. I created a sign inviting everyone to the birthday dinner on that night, and posted it where I was sure everyone would see it.

Then I made a cake. My daughter made a cake. My other son and his girlfriend made two pies. And we had our party. It wasn’t such a big deal, (although we did have enough desserts for a week). But it was just exactly right.

And here’s the best part. That 19 year old really had a great time. We opened cards and small gifts and stayed at the table long into the night. And I see now that I wouldn’t have been the only one who would have felt a loss if we had decided we had simply outgrown the family birthday dinner.





I have had teens for a few years now, and if you have small children, I will tell you, things really don’t slow down one bit. In fact I think they speed up. And it really does seem like five minutes ago these giants were toddlers. One day, you look around and realize there are all kinds of things that somehow you forgot to tell them.

The good news is, it is never too late to talk to your kids. And a great way to do it is to post some House Rules. Now, these rules will vary widely depending on the ages of your kids, and what’s going on at the moment. So it’s not a bad idea to see this as an ongoing thing. Maybe renew the rules each year at the same time, like school’s end.

I came across this idea when we were having what I felt was an uncomfortable dialog at the dinner table one night. Sometimes we buy different snacks for each kid to take in their lunches. One kid’s bag of chips was raided by another kid’s friend who was over. And Kid #1 was grousing about it to kid #2. I knew the discussion was making me uncomfortable but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. Then it occurred to me. Our house is supposed to be one of grace and cordiality. I would not expect a kid to tell their friend they can’t snack on something any more than I would be rude to one of my guests. And my feeling was fundamental enough that I felt I should declare it in writing. These kids were almost old enough to fly the coop–how could they not have picked up this oh-so-basic doctrine? Instead of ruminating on that one, I just posted the rules.

When I began addressing the first issue, I thought of others that bared recognizing at this juncture. But I felt the need to keep it short. Four rules. As it turns out, we have not had to renew or revise the rules yet. But if and when we do, they will be amended.

Here are our House Rules, that I printed out and taped to the kitchen cupboard. Yours will probably be different. But I will say that I’m glad I spoke up. And every one of my family members, including my husband, thanked me for doing so.


1. We treat guests like guests.
Any guest in this house has first priority when it comes to sharing. No one is obligated to tell a guest they can’t help themselves to something. At the same time, guest or not, we do not tolerate anything illegal, hurtful, or damaging to the house or things in it.

Example: Someone is drinking a liquid near the piano. Please say: My mom will kill me if we have liquids near the piano, drink it over here.

Example #2: Guest is munching on a snack that you realize belongs to someone’s lunch. Rather than actually taking it out of guest’s hand, apologize (LATER) to sibling. Note: In future, mark all lunch stuff as such so any dummy can see that it’s off limits. And stow it somewhere that’s not right out there in the open. Do not force your family mates to be the food cop around their guest. It is totally not cool.

Example #3: Guest thinks it would be a good idea to find and drink alcohol in the house. Tell guest that is SO not happening.

2. Respect others and yourself.
Think for a half second before you say or do something. How would that sound or feel to you?

Example: The kitchen is clean. You create a new mess. Clean up after yourself.

Example #2: The kitchen is kind of a mess. You add a little to the mess. Now, before you leave the scene, clean up not just your mess, but some or all of the previous mess. Others have done it for you plenty of times. Just a little hint of what it’s like being a grown-up.

3. Always call for a ride. If you are in any kind of trouble, call us. If you think there may be trouble, walk away and call us. Do not ever drive drunk. Do not ever get in the car with a friend who thinks (s)he can drive drunk. Don’t buy into your friends saying you’re better off not going home. You are always better off coming home. And we will vow to keep that promise.

4. Act, live and speak with love in your heart. It shows.





The beautiful heart shaped boxes that valentine candy comes in have always appealed to me. Years when I didn’t have a Valentine, I would have no qualms about searching for the perfect, small, heart shaped box of chocolates for myself. And over the years I have kept many of the empty boxes. They are simply too beautiful (and in some cases too sentimental) to throw away.

So here’s what I consider a perfectly delicious idea: Turn one or more of those pretty boxes into a jewelry box! If the inside is fitted with a plastic tray like the one shown, it provides perfect little compartments to house pairs of earrings.


You can have just one, or stack two or three in graduating sizes. One for earrings, one for rings, etc. You get the idea. And if you don’t have a heart-shaped box that you’ve saved? What a great excuse to go out right now and buy one!





I have a feeling I’m not the only one out here completely mesmerized by HGTV and all the home improvement shows. There’s just nothing quite like watching someone take a sledge hammer to a corroded bathroom wall and within minutes transform a nightmare into a dream space. Like everyone else watching, I have a few rooms of my own that could definitely use the treatment. But also, like most people watching, I have neither the funds nor where-with-all to do anything about it. Well, not yet, anyway.

When my parents came to visit for the holidays and my mom asked me what I really wanted, my answer of a new bathroom didn’t exactly fit what she had in mind. But she gave me a couple days of hers and my dad’s time and some very clever solutions. It inspired me to remind us all something that former generations knew by necessity. That you don’t always have to tear things down and start fresh, sometimes some good old fashioned elbow grease is just the ticket.

So here’s how it went down:

Our upstairs bathroom is shared by four members of the family. It is a 1950s dream, complete with all kinds of tiles, including a little border of gray and burgundy “wave” tiles. When we moved into this 1912 house eighteen years ago, I painted the walls above the tile a deep cabbage red. Over the years the deep red paint seemed to sweat, causing the walls to develop an odd sort of drip texture which went ignored, along with the cracked sink and a tub that was so old, it refused to come clean.

Add to this the fact that there was no counter space or drawers so my teenage daughter and I became experts at balancing small items all around the edges of the sink. You’d be amazed how many make-up and hair products will fit, as long as no one knocks into them. My husband complained, but it had pretty much become just one of those idiosyncrasies of living in an old house. Oh, and since there was only one towel bar we alternated between periods of all of us using the same towel and then discovering it, and over-compensating by throwing every towel in the wash after only one use.

Last year the faucet in the cracked sink went kaput, so we were forced to replace it, and rather than diving in to do the whole project, we found a dandy specimen from the original era of the house at a salvage yard and installed it. The bathroom got de-cluttered for about a week, but it wasn’t long before the miscellaneous items returned to the edges of the new sink.

So, my mom and I gave ourselves two days, one to plan and shop and one to work. We bought mostly cleaning supplies, and found two perfect-size matching small shelf units. We got four beautiful “robe hooks” so each person has their own dedicated towel hook.

I think the real ah-ha came when my mom donned gloves and washed the red walls from top to bottom. I had planned on a coat of stain blocker paint to try to cover the red, and a new paint job, but simply washing the walls made them look brand new. The shower/tub got the cleaning of it’s life while my dad assembled the shelves.


With some very basic lightweight basket inserts from the home improvement store, the two little units are incredibly efficient. There are surfaces to work on, and they actually stay clear because it’s so easy to drop everything back into the basket when you’re done.

We all know that eventually the bathroom will get the big remodel. But in truth, it will probably be years before that happens. And I can’t think of a better gift than working side by side with my parents AND getting a groovy bathroom out of the deal. I say, we should still watch home improvement shows and continue to collect ideas for our future rooms. But in the meantime, try applying just a tad of elbow grease to the problem. For the results, you can’t beat the cost!




Do you ever get just a little bugged by the amount of holiday wrapping that ends up either in the fireplace or the trash? Does it kind of gnaw on you to have to add extra money to your holiday budget to buy gift wrap and ribbons? I’ll admit it. Both those things kind of bother me. So, here’s something I’m doing this year.

If you read the last post, you saw the groovy brown paper roll I keep for oodles of practical purposes. And I just wrapped up a bunch of gifts in that simple paper. I got the boxes from a stash in the attic (three of these are shoe boxes), and used fabric ribbons, also from my stash. I like to use satin or grosgrain ribbon because I re-use them year after year. Yes, really I do. I leave a lot of them cut quite long, and don’t necessarily cut them again. And on Christmas morning the ribbons go in a basket and the brown paper will go in the fireplace. If you’re halfway decent at gift wrapping you could even leave off the tape. But I won’t hold it against you if you don’t.

The other thing I collect is little fake berry bunches from the craft and floral store. These get tucked in the bow and also saved year after year. And both the embellishments and ribbons are always purchased either off-season or after the holiday at drastic discounts. One thing I like about buying off-season is you can pick up less-expected looking ornamentation. Another is that I can find things at my leisure, rather that settling for whatever I can find at the last minute.


That’s it. Just a quick simple idea from an self-described cheapskate!