16
Sep

The Pet Friendly Home is an occasional series where we will show you our tips for how to make your home friendlier and safer for both pets and people with pets.

Comforters in our house take a beating. Our dogs often sleep on our bed. And while I’d rather them not play tug-of-war with their toys on the bed, it sometimes happens. As much as I discourage our lab James from grabbing a corner of the comforter with his mouth, it can happen quickly when he and Libby are playing.

Multiple tears appeared in our bedding. I tried microfiber comforters, which worked better than most. But after a while we started considering even those comforters to be disposable. Then I stumbled across the Dogproof comforter on Orvis.com.

It is pricey at $249 for a king size, and we wondered if it would live up to its promises of resisting dog claws. Customer reviews on Orvis.com gave overall great reviews on the comforter for its quality and ability to take a beating from large dogs. I decided to take a chance on the Dogproof since Orvis does guarantee their merchandise. We found that we could return it to our local store if the dogs managed to tear it. Orvis also offers free shipping if you order in-store.

The Orvis.com reviewers revealed that we would likely have to have the king-sized comforter dry cleaned because it is too large to fit in a standard washing machine. We have found this to be true. One day we hope to buy a larger front-loading machine that may be able to accommodate it, but until then we’ll be stuck with dry cleaning.

The top is made of soft, woven chenille, and the bottom is cotton. It is also water-resistant. We chose the Blue Mist, a nice muted blue with a hint of grey. Love this color!

After using this comforter constantly for the past few months, we liked it so much that we just bought a second comforter, in green. It’s supposed to be “fern green” but is actually a brighter yellowish green (almost chartreuse). At first I wasn’t sure I liked it, but it’s kind of fun to try out a new color. It gives a sort of 70’s retro vibe to the room. I pulled out a couple of our living room pillows for the photo:

The Dogproof comforters are the first comforters that our dogs have not managed to rip or tear, which we find…well, comforting. We also appreciate that it is truly a king-sized comforter, as many others run a bit too small. It is heavier than most comforters, but even hot-natured Eric finds it very cozy. Libby and James appreciate it too. Now that we’ve found a comforter that’s not disposable, we can start coming up with a more developed color scheme for the master bedroom. I’m thinking wild honey paint for the walls…

How do you make your home pet-friendly? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

9
Sep

Our old vacuum cleaner sucked. Or rather…it didn’t suck.

Let’s just say it did a poor job of cleaning up hair, both pet hair and human hair. I could sit on the floor after vacuuming and see all the debris that was left. The vacuum was over 6 years old, and it had seen better days.

My mom was raving about her Dyson DC24 vacuum cleaner that she had purchased through a special promotion at Target. She’s pretty frugal, so we figured if she bought a pricey vacuum cleaner, it was probably worth it. The next time Eric and I visited my parents’ house outside of Raleigh, NC, I had to try it out. I was amazed by the amount of pet hair and debris that came up when I used the vacuum on their rugs—and they had just vacuumed recently, and they only have one dog! The vacuum was much lighter than our heavy old vacuum, and the Ball Technology made steering the Dyson in different directions very easy.

When I got back home, I did some research on the different models of Dyson vacuums. I knew I wanted one with the Ball Technology, as the easy-peasy steering made vacuuming almost fun…or at least, less of a chore. With 4 pets in the house that shed to various degrees, I knew I wanted a vacuum with the highest possible suction. That narrowed my choices down to the Dyson DC25 Animal and the Dyson DC25 Multi floor. The difference between those two models is the mini turbine head that comes with the Animal, which is an attachment that is supposed to work well on upholstery and stairs. I chose the DC25 Animal model because I wanted the mini turbine head. Since we got the vacuum, I’ve found that I actually like the stair tool better than the mini turbine head for vacuuming the couch, but it may depend on what type of fabric you have.

One nice surprise with the Dyson (yep, it’s good enough to have a “the” designation before its name) is being able to see how much more hair and dirt it picks up compared to our previous vacuum. Because we live in a new home, the vacuum is also still picking up extra fibers from the new carpet in some areas of the house. When the canister fills up, we empty it over the trash can with the push of a button. The Dyson is quieter than our previous vacuum, so our dog Libby doesn’t hate the noise quite as much. It’s also significantly lighter. I used to dread carrying our old vacuum up and down the stairs (I’m a weakling, I know), but the Dyson is significantly lighter, weighing in at 16.12 pounds.

We’re very impressed with the power and convenience of “the” Dyson, and we actually enjoy vacuuming a little bit more (gasp!).

What is your favorite tool to help keep your home clean? Feel free to let us know in the comments.

Image from 3kidsandus.com

7
Sep

I had been using a version of a weekly cleaning list on paper for myself, but I found that Eric and I were doubling up on some tasks while leaving others completely undone. I wanted to find an easier way to keep up with what tasks we had completed each week. When we saw this silver dry erase board at Bed Bath & Beyond for $6, we picked it up right away. It’s magnetic, and it came with 2 magnets and a dry erase marker with mini eraser.

It blends in nicely with our Caledonia granite and stainless steel appliances. No need for a cleaning list to stand out too much.

Here is our current cleaning list (with checkboxes for how often each tasks is done each week):

  • Vacuum/sweep floors (each week we rotate floors, so the upstairs is done one week and the downstairs is done the next)
  • Clean litter box
  • Laundry
  • Thorough cleaning of 1 room (rotates between office, kitchen, bathrooms, bedroom (master), and living room/dining room)
  • Clean 1 additional area (helps us keep up with those “hot spots” where clutter accumulates)
  • Empty all trash
  • Swish & swipe toilets
  • Hand vacuum
  • Do all dishes in sink/dishwasher (clean and put away)
  • Clean cooktop

With the dry erase method, we can easily check off each task as it’s completed. For tasks that rotate each week, such as the floors and the thorough cleaning of particular rooms, we use a magnet as a marker for where the focus is for that week.

Yes, there are chores and entire rooms that are not covered by this list. But these are the tasks that we strive to do every single week to help keep our household running smoothly. Your cleaning list may look very different from that of our 2-adult, 2-dog, 2-cat, no-kids household. One good thing about using a dry erase board is that we can add or edit tasks anytime as our needs change.

I thought about sticking a strong magnet on the back of the board and hanging it on the fridge, but we like being able to take it down easily and write on it. Also, it would be less visible hanging on the fridge, since it would be on the side, where we would have to look for it specifically. For now, we like the board next to the “landing pad” in our kitchen where we put our keys when we come home.

How do you keep up with your cleaning tasks? How do your priorities for chores differ from ours? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

3
Sep

I was sick and tired of the carafe on our old coffee maker, which leaked down the side and all over the counter if I didn’t pour my coffee at just the right angle. As you might imagine, my primary criteria when I started my search for a new coffee maker was “does not leak all over the counter.”

As I started reading more, however, I learned about other important features to look for. I found that coffee connoisseurs favored thermal carafes. The average coffee maker uses a glass carafe over a hot plate, which can give the coffee a bitter or “off” taste. The water temperature as the coffee passes through the grounds and the length of time the grounds are exposed to the water are also important factors. Studies cited by Cooks Illustrated showed an ideal water temperature of 200 degrees Fahrenheit and a brew time of 6 minutes for drip coffee makers. If the coffee brews too quickly, it will be weak. If it brews too slowly, it will be bitter.

After much research, I decided to buy the Technivorm Moccamaster coffee maker. Although it is pricey, it has some unique features and has won many accolades. The heating element is made of swanky copper, which can reach a higher temperature more quickly than the aluminum used in most coffee makers. The water heats up to the correct temperature range and remains there throughout the brewing cycle, allowing for a more consistent cup of coffee. The machines are hand-built in Holland and have a setting for extra strong European coffee if you prefer.

Although it is not programmable, a full pot brews in about 5-6 minutes. Some Amazon.com reviewers complained that it has some plastic parts, and there is minor leakage of coffee sometimes after removing the carafe. Although both are true, I find a smooth brew and easy-to-use carafe to be much more important.

We are really enjoying this coffee maker. Our coffee tastes smoother, and second cups no longer have that mildly burnt taste we experienced with our previous coffee maker. The Moccamaster comes with a brew-through lid as well as a lid that seals the carafe to keep the coffee hot. The bottom of the carafe is cool to the touch, allowing us to transfer it to the table for serving if we wish. It also sports a unique look on our countertop. Best of all, the carafe has a tall “lip” at the edge, and I no longer make a mess when pouring my coffee.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy coffee? Feel free to let us know in the comments.

29
Aug

The title of this post comes from an embarrassing-but-funny story from one of my colleagues that involves a man smelling garlic on her breath through a glass window barrier at a convenience store.

We do like garlic, and we were disappointed when we found that our garlic press had been lost in the move. Because we use garlic on a regular basis in our cooking, I wanted a garlic press that would perform well. Our old garlic press was okay, but it often left part of the garlic clove unminced.

According to Cooks Illustrated, a quality garlic press produces fine, uniform pieces. It is comfortable to use, solidly built, and pushes the garlic completely through the sieve.  The two “recommended” garlic presses were both made by Kuhn Rikon. The Kuhn Rikon Easy-Squeeze garlic press was favored for its ergonomic design and the consistency of the garlic. The other favorite, the Kuhn Rikon Epicurean garlic press, is an all-stainless steel, easy-cleaning powerhouse of a garlic press.

We chose the Easy-Squeeze due to its smaller price point. We chose black, but it also comes in red and lime green. The curved plastic handles are very easy to squeeze together, making pressing garlic a breeze. Cooks Illustrated noted that the garlic sometimes oozed out of the sides of the press—something that I have noticed, but it does not bother me. This has become a staple in our kitchen and was a great buy.

We were not paid or perk’d for this post; we just love sharing our enthusiasm for kitchen tools.

26
Aug

After The Great Ink Disaster, fixing the office door that didn’t latch all the way became an urgent project. I even stayed up after my overnight shift to get it done.

As a new house settles, there may be a door or two that no longer latches properly. Loose hardware or changes in the weather can also cause this problem.

First, we made sure that the screws in the strike plate on the door jamb were tight, and that the plate was still flush with the edge of the doorframe. Then, we checked to see that the screws to the latch plate on the door were tight. In our case, all of these were still in place.

Then, we checked the hinge screws. Tightening the hinge screws can fix a sagging door, while loosening the screws slightly can fix a door that is too tight at the top. After examining where the latch hit the strike plate, we determined that the screws needed to be loosened slightly—in other words, our door needed to sag just slightly more. We loosened the screws at the top of the door slightly, and the latch was fixed!

If this hadn’t worked, the next step would have been to adjust the strike plate. This would have involved chiseling out enough wood to accommodate the new plate position and enlarging the hole for the latch, then reinstalling the plate.

We were happy to have an office door that latched again. No more ink disasters for us (we hope)!

Have you had any problems similar to our ink disaster? What was the solution? We’d love to hear from you!

23
Aug

I left for work at around 5:15pm, and Eric arrived home about an hour later. James was very excited, and Libby had her “I’m in trouble” posture, which is always bad news.

First, Eric saw a few sheets of paper on the floor. As he walked up the stairs, he saw more paper, envelopes, and staples. Then he found this mess (excuse the iPhone photo and Eric’s foot, which he included to demonstrate the size of the disaster):

Yep, that’s black ink, all over the carpet. The door to the office was no longer latching all the way closed, and James had broken into the office, shredded paper and envelopes, and punctured multiple ink cartridges—two black and one yellow. As usual, Libby helped.

James was rolling around on the carpet, foiling Eric’s clean-up plans. He brought James to my work, and then continued scrubbing the carpet. Eric first saturated the area with Folex carpet cleaner. Most of the ink came up with the cleaner, paper towels, and elbow grease. A couple days later, he steam-cleaned the carpet using our Bissell ProHeat carpet cleaner. First, he pre-treated it with Bissell Tough Stain Precleaner, then he used the Bissell brand cleaner. We had tried using generic carpet cleaner at our house in NC, but it left weird green spots on the carpet.

After Eric’s cleaning efforts, the stain is barely noticeable. We can only see it a little bit if we lie on the floor and look at the tips of the carpet fibers. I may go back and try the Folex again to see if we can wipe out the rest of the stain.

And James? He’s still our goofball.

In our next post, we’ll show how we fixed the office door, with hope that a disaster like this will never happen again.