A butterfly perched on a plant.

4 Simple Tricks for Keeping Pests Out of Your Garden

April showers have come and gone. The May flowers have bloomed and are beginning to wilt. Now, it’s time to continue your green thumb into the summer months by planting more flowers and homegrown vegetables you can enjoy right from your backyard. The taste of the first homegrown tomato is just within sight and daydreaming of your favorite recipes to incorporate them into fill your head. But, wait! You head to the garden to reap the rewards of your hard work and you immediately see half-eaten tomatoes! Some are still even green right on the vine! In this article, we will go over 4 ways to keep all those pesky critters out of your garden, without resorting to harsh pesticides and chemicals.

1. Bring in the Spiders!

While spiders can be downright awful to find in your home, having them take residence in your garden is a near ideal scenario. Why is that you may ask? Because spiders eat all the pests that are bent on destroying all the hard work you’ve put into your garden. Look at spiders as the 24/7 guardians of your pants, seeking out and hunting down the very creatures that make running a successful garden so challenging.

So how do you go about actually attracting them your garden? Many critter-eating spiders prefer dark, shadowy hiding places near the ground, making a small pile of mulch or a low, dense plant such as St. John’s Wort. If your main problem is with flying insects, planting taller plants such as blackberries and bell peppers will allow spiders to form large webs that are able to catch these critters before they wreak havoc on your garden. Just as nature intended, spiders serve as a remarkably effective natural garden bug repellent.

2. Supplement Your Garden with Plants that Attract Predators & Prey Alike

As an addition to item 1 above, there are several other natural predators of the worst offenders when it comes to destroying your garden. Bugs such as aphids, mites, leaf hoppers, and other insects that can avoid spiders may still prove troublesome. In these cases, what you can do is add different plants to your garden that can help to both eat these pests and distract them by providing them a decoy food source, thus saving the rest of your garden.

Plants such as sunflowers, marigolds, goldenrod, and cosmos can draw in lady bugs, which are harmless to your garden but act as machines when it comes to eliminating the small, numerous plant eating bugs that left unchecked can act as a plague to your garden. Furthermore, plants such as dill, parsley, and cilantro can act as more attractive options for invasive bug species, with added benefit of acting as a breeding ground for beautiful butterflies that use these plants as nesting areas for their larva. Especially for house plans that include a central atrium for the garden or other layouts that keep the garden close to the home, the site of butterflies in the garden is always such a delight.

A butterfly perched on a plant.
Certain plants can distract pesky bugs while attracting beautiful butterflies to your garden.

3. Create Your Own, Non-Toxic Bug Spray

Using simple ingredients from around your home, you can put together a diy garden bug spray that helps to keep invasive bugs out without causing any harm to your plants or introducing any consumption risk to your garden. Garlic-based recipes tend to be very effective at repelling bug infestations entirely and can be added to a homemade fertilizer for plants, whereas a vegetable-oil based solution can serve as a very powerful insecticide that coats the insects’ bodies in the oil and suffocates them to death without the pungent smell that garlic is known for. I have included recipes for both solutions below:

Garlic-based Bug Spray:

  • 2 Whole Bulbs of Garlic
  • 1 Quart of Water
  • 1/2 Cup of Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Tsp of Liquid Soap

Puree the Garlic and water in a blender and leave it to sit overnight. Strain this mixture into a container, add the rest of the ingredients, and dilute it 1 cup of mix to one quart of water to use. Easy and Simple!

Oil-based Bug Spray:

  • 1 Cup of Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Tbsp of Liquid Soap

Simply mix the ingredients together and dilute the mix by adding 1 quart of water to every two teaspoons of mixture to use. Homemade bug spray for plants in less than 5 minutes!

4. Use Natural-Grade Diatomaceous Earth as a Natural Soil Additive

Diatomaceous Earth is available in most gardening sections as serves as a cheap and effective soil additive that creates a dry, abrasive texture that pesky bugs can’t stand. Simply add a bit of Diatomaceous Earth to your top soil after every watering, and watch your critter problem simply disappear!

Do you know any other tricks to keeping your garden bug free? If you have a secret way to keep all those pests at bay throughout the summer, please share. Even the most seasoned gardener often meets their match when it comes to critters and insects. Share your garden successes right here!

A clean, modern style bathroom

The 3 Most Effective Spring Cleaning Tips

After a long winter indoors, it’s just about the time for cabin fever starts setting in. But before you know it, there’s that one day when the outside temperature reaches something closer to Spring than the usual Winter days you’ve been experiencing. The windows fly open and chilly, yet refreshing breezes fill your home and rid it from the stagnant stuffy winter air inhabiting your living spaces. It’s just about that time we take a look around and decide it’s Spring Cleaning time! In this article, we will go through the 3 top spring cleaning tips to make sure you have a nice, tidy home that’s ready to shine for the warm, sunny days ahead.

1. Break down cleaning into 10-20 minute intervals

Some people are blessed with an incredible ability to get into “the cleaning spirit” and lose themselves in the task of tidying up. For the rest of us, the big, deep clean that springtime brings can be quite the daunting task.

In order to make things easier for yourself, break your cleaning into small tasks that can be accomplished 10-20 minutes at a time. It’s much easier to re-organize the cupboard as you clean your after dinner dishes, or mop kitchen during a small midday break than it is to dedicate the entirety of a Sunday afternoon and evening to task you don’t necessarily enjoy. By breaking up your spring cleaning tasks in this way, you can easily accomplish the beautiful, clean house you desire while avoiding the enormous time sink that getting your home spring ready normally requires.

2. Create Your Own All Natural Cleaning Product

Another big obstacle when it comes to getting your home spring time ready is the spattering of chemical cleaning products that comes with it. Will you need to air out your kitchen after using harsh stove cleaners? Will you have to wear gloves as you clean bathroom, ensuring you switch to different ones to clean the next room? Let’s not forget about the issue of needing multiple cleaning clothes for your different surfaces as well. A quick and easy way to get around all these issues is to simply mix up your own all-purpose cleaning solution! A quick mix of hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, Dawn disk soap, and rubbing alcohol provides a nice, all surface cleaner that allows you to both power through the harsh build-up common to bathroom and kitchen areas and quickly spray off high touch surfaces. You can even add a few drops of peppermint, orange, or other essential oils to reward your hard work with a nice, fresh fragrance of clean. Take a look at the picture below for the recipe!

A bottle of homemade shower cleaner.
A quick, easy homemade cleaning mix can save you a multitude of time and frustration during your Spring Cleaning

3. Clean Your Bathroom, without the Disgust

One of the best home cleaning tips we have ever heard addresses one of the least pleasant areas of the home to clean: the bathroom. If you also flinch at the thought of giving your toilet some TLC this spring, try simply using a swivel head mop with a disposable pad (like this one) to take care of it! You can distance yourself from the grime and build-up around your toilet and bath areas, while still achieving the immaculate level of clean you desire when welcoming in the warmer months. This is especially helpful for house plans that contain multiple bathrooms (even more so if one of them is the “kids'” bathroom).

A clean, modern style bathroom
Achieving a nice, clean bathroom like this doesn’t have to be dreadful

What sort of cleaning rituals are a must for you as Springtime rolls around each year? Do you have any tips for Spring Cleaning that you have discovered by chance? Or, is there something “tried and true” that your family has passed down through the years?

Many people swear by cleaning your windows with newspaper to avoid streaking. Or, what about using coffee filters? These are the kinds of tips we’d love for you to share as we gear up for Spring and get our homes ready for warmer weather!    

See more great ideas on Pinterest!

framed shopping bags

DIY Master Closet Decor Ideas

One of the most overlooked parts of modern interior design is closet space. In the excitement of getting your house to feel more like home, its easy to consider closets a simple “utility space” that serves no other purpose than to house your favorite clothing. But if you are anything like me, your master closet is going to be a invaluable part of your everyday life. Luckily, there are few closet design ideas you can take advantage of to drastically liven up your morning routine.

I saw this cute idea on Pinterest for decorating your master closet. I had a little wall space above my jewelry armoire in our master bedroom closet and I thought this would be fun and colorful. I just waited until there was a sale on frames at Michael’s and then bought some floating frames, but really any frame you like works. You might decide to get all the same size or mix up the sizes like I did.


Then, I selected some of my very favorite shopping bags. We always have plenty of leftover shopping bags that I hold onto if someone needs a bag for any reason, so I had plenty to choose from. Just be sure it isn’t too wrinkly or torn. 

Next, in order for the frame to shut, I cut off some of the bag especially the thickest part. Once I was able to get the frame shut and the bag was level I hung them up. You will want to be sure to pick bags that show off your personality and add a strong aesthetic dimension to the space. When it comes to interior design styles, using bold, contrasting accent colors against neutral colored walls has always been a personal favorite of mine. Its one of those little tricks that lets you add a huge amount of warmth and livelyhood to your space without spending a great deal of time, money, or effort on making it happen.

Various shopping bags inside picture frames in a closet.
Using a variety of styles and colors in your bag selection adds flair and personality to your closet space

When it comes to wall decor ideas, this may be one of my personal favorites! A fun afternoon and less than $50 later I have a great addition to my closet space that is volumes better than the simple blank wall that was there before.

As you can see, decorating walls with designer shopping bags is a fun and inexpensive way to add a little pizazz to your closet! Its especially effective for the more open closet designs that are typically accompany suite-style master bedrooms. If you decide to do this project, send some photos so I can see how it turned out! 

A table full of drinks for a New Year's Eve Party.

The Guide to Throwing A Successful New Years Eve Party

New Year’s Eve always gets a bad rap. People’s expectations of the last and biggest celebration night of the year has a lot to live up to. How many times does somebody ask you about your new years plans? Probably almost as many times as years you are old! Last year we decided to throw our own New Years party and do a nicer sit-down dinner for close friends and family. I think it really was a fun night, and we definitely learned a lot about how to celebrate the new year at home. I was also more than happy not to be driving around on a night known for reckless drivers.

Get Festive

Because people will probably be hungry again after dinner on New Year’s (unless you eat very late), we made sure to have plenty of New Year’s party foods such as appetizers and other things to snack on. We also have vegan family members and I like to put out extra fruit and veggies whenever possible. Since people may be consuming alcohol, it’s a common courtesy when hosting a party to ensure there is enough sustenance to counteract that. Scattering goodies from room to room will make snacking more tempting while watching television or watching the ball drop in Times Square. 

A fruit and vegetable tray on a kitchen island.
A decorative fruit tray can serve as an excellent, edible addition to a fun New Year’s party

Cater To All Guests

We also set-up a bar table with plenty of alcohol and non-alcohol options. We had plenty of garnishes, so people could have fun creating their own special recipe. Be sure to have champagne ready to pour at midnight for a special toast, and for those underage sparkling white grape juice makes the ideal substitute.  You can even include an assortment of juices, so the champagne isn’t as strong. Cranberry, orange, mango, or even raspberry puree are great options. Include both sparkling and still water, so everyone stayed hydrated.

A table full of drinks.
Having a plentiful drink table set up with a variety of options keeps the festivities going strong

I love to have the table already set because as soon as guests start arriving, they can tell you prepared for the event and it looks inviting and festive. For maximum effectiveness, you should set the table up in a room of the home near the front door, a trick that starts the party spirit off right and is especially effective in homes with grand front entryways. Party horns, hats and other noisemakers not only are fun for all ages, they really add some fun to the table-scape. Ring in the New year right, and bring out the formal china and crystal if you want the event to feel a little more special. I like everyone to feel special and dressing up the table with nice linens and beautiful place settings makes everything more memorable. 

Preparing for The Dinner

The key to having a successful New Years party is definitely planning! About a week before, once you know who will be attending, plan your menu for the perfect new years party foods. You should wait until you have your guest list finalized before choosing a menu in case any guests have dietary restrictions or allergies. Seeing that we almost always have a few vegans attending, I take that into account and make sure to offer plenty of vegan options, so they don’t have an empty plate in comparison to the other guests.

Although the table is set, I usually leave seating assignments to the individual. Sometimes people get wrapped up in conversation with each other and want to continue during dinner. I feel it should be the guests’ decision, which I think makes everyone feel more comfortable. 

A table full of Fine China.
A well set and decorated table brings an air of class of significance to your New Year’s party dinner

Once the meal is ready, I like everyone to grab a plate and we serve buffet-style. That way, people can go back as often as they like, and they can choose how much or little they want to eat. Plating the meal and serving it to guests at the table is nice, but if a guest is watching their calories, or doesn’t like a certain food, it’s harder to avoid ending up with things on your plate that you don’t want if someone else puts it on there for you. Let the guest determine how much, and what type of food they want prevents wasting food, too. 

Once the meal is over, get the dishes off the tables and areas where guests are lingering. You don’t want anything too nice being broken and the mess will be an eyesore. 

Bringing in The New Year

Then, set the stage for a fun game suitable for all ages. Play a game where you draw a name from a hat and then the person has to “act out” or give clues so people can guess who the person is.  Surprisingly, this is quite fun, and everyone has a ton of laughs. And, it seems to make the time until midnight go by much quicker than just sitting around watching television or carrying on conversation.

Having your favorite playlist going in the background instead of keeping the television on also promotes all will play. Then, about 30 minutes before midnight, open the champagne and start pouring into glasses. It’s nice to have a glass in hand for a toast when the clock strikes midnight. Have a bunch of champagne poppers and other noisemakers that everyone can enjoy at the big moment. Then, we ended the night with a group photo so we could always remember who we celebrated with.  With this guide on how to celebrate New Year’s, you’re all set for a fun, safe evening that will be filled with memories! These are just some of the fun ideas and tips from Pinterest.

granite countertop

How To Clean All Types Of Home Surfaces

Before we moved into our new home, our builder had our home cleaned numerous times so it would be absolutely perfect. Don’t you want your home to always look that perfect? I know I do! House plans with open floor plans like ours allow you to see almost the entire home from just about anywhere. As nice as that is, it does mean you can’t hide your messes in the other room. If the kitchen is dirty or piled with dishes, then it’s not just the kitchen’s problem, but our main living area and breakfast room’s problem too. I’m typically fairly neat, but these new house plans being built today are often open layouts like ours, so a few tips on keeping the spaces clean can’t hurt. And, many of the surfaces we selected for countertops and flooring are different than what we’ve had in the past, so it’s important to know how to handle these materials so they last forever.

fireplace in great room

Almost our entire home has real wood floors, which are for the most part pretty low maintenance. We try to Swiffer the floors a few times a week, or if the dogs track anything into the house. Our builder mentioned that a damp towel is best for removing any marks, paw prints, or spills. He said that we definitely don’t want to get the floor extremely wet and use floor cleaners or soap on it. We made the mistake in the past of putting floor cleaner on our previous floor and from that point forward it always appeared a little cloudy.

We opted for vinyl flooring for our laundry room and bathrooms. Although, I’d love to have wood in these areas, I honestly was afraid of the moisture in the bathrooms, and the laundry room floor is the first floor people typically step onto, so it gets a ton of wear and tear. We also gate our dogs in the laundry room when we leave the house, so the vinyl flooring is much easier to clean if there’s an accident. The vinyl flooring our builder uses is amazing. It looks so much like ceramic tile I remember rubbing my foot across it to feel the grout the first time I saw it in one of his spec homes. It is a very neutral color that looks fantastic and it’s textured unlike vinyl flooring of the past, so if a scrape occurs, it’s much less visible. Although many homeowners may feel vinyl is subpar in quality to wood or carpet, new house designs that feature vinyl flooring like ours don’t appear to me to be finished in a less expensive way. If you decide to add vinyl flooring to your home, just remember that if you drop something with a sharp edge it could puncture your floor. And, once again we try to stick with water and a little disinfectant to make sure the floor is clean. It is recommended that you refrain from using ammonia based cleaning products on vinyl flooring because over time it can cause cracks because it tends to break down the material.

granite countertopAnother new surface in our home when it comes to cleaning is our granite countertop. The builder mentioned it was sealed, but he also said it can’t hurt to reseal it every now and then to protect it. I’ve noticed that granite is definitely porous, so always be mindful of spills and clean them up as soon as possible, especially anything with a bright color. Also, if possible try not to use ammonia, vinegar, lemon or orange cleaning products or bleach, these are all too harsh. And, always use trivets for hot pots and pans to protect your granite from harsh temperatures. Although granite is a tough surface, it does require a little TLC.

Another new surface we have is our stainless steel appliances and sink. The delivery person who brought in our stainless steel refrigerator shared some important information about hot to clean stainless steel. Little did I know you should never use a product like Windex on it. In fact, it can make the stainless steel appear dull and often darker in color where applied. He also mentioned that it is best to use a soft towel or shammy type cloth to clean with as opposed to paper towels, which can also make the stainless steel look dull. Although I have a multi-surface cleaner I bought that mentions that it’s OK to use on stainless steel, I try most of the time to just use water and it tends to work just fine.

checking sink at new home walk-through

Although we have many other surfaces throughout our home, these surfaces were new to me and learning how to clean them so they last was very important. I’m still aiming for our home to be as clean as our initial walk-through!

One last tip, I always find shower doors to be difficult to clean. It seems after one use, those ugly watermarks cover the surface and no matter what you do, they never go away. Well, I found a great shower door cleaner that worked perfectly. Although the original solution called for equal parts Dawn dish soap and white distilled vinegar, I did half as much Dawn dish detergent than vinegar. Believe it or not, heat the vinegar in the microwave for a couple of minutes until it is warm, and then add the dish soap. I put the solution in a spray bottle and then sprayed it all over the shower doors. Yes, it is soapy and it seems like it will leave a soapy residue that will be even less attractive than the watermarks. But, after I used a towel to scrub the doors covered in this solution, I used a wet towel to get most of the soapy solution off the doors. Then I used dry paper towels for the remaining solution still on the doors. Amazingly, the doors look terrific! You must give this a try if you find yourself always disappointed in the appearance of your glass shower doors.

Do you have any cleaning tips you’ve learned for any of the surfaces I mentioned above? Do you agree that stainless dulls when cleaned with paper towels? Please share the cleaning tips you use for your home!

Check out our Pinterest Boards for more inspiration!

dogs on patio

Tips For Adjusting Your Pet To A New Home

If you’ve been following this blog, then you already know that one of the main reasons we decided to move was so our two dogs could have a yard. We were coming from one of those duplex home plans without our own backyard, and we decided it was time to make things easier for them and us.

Although we’re making the situation much better for the dogs, how will they respond to the move? It took us some time to feel comfortable and at ease after our move, so I’m sure it’ll no different for our furry friends. But, here’s some ideas for keeping the pets in the family less stressed in their new environment.

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