help! suggestions for a shag rug alternative?


Our cheap Ikea shag rug met its demise a few weeks ago (the tale is too sad to share, but lets just say it involved an incredibly sick kitty), and I am determined to replace it before the weather gets a chill a in the air. Perhaps it’s time for an upgrade and something a little different. Shag rugs seem so…. 2004. I’d love to find an alternative, but one that is still soft under the feet and relatively easy to clean up spills. There are a couple at West Elm I am eying (the pebble rug or the sweater rug) but I’d like to visit them in person before ordering. Why don’t catalogs offer rug swatches? Does anyone else have suggestions? Remember we have a toddler in the house and — shhhh — there’s talk of a puppy in our future. Thanks for your help! — Angela M.

From our partners

end of summer craft ideas: what to do with popsicle sticks?


As you know from previous posts, it’s been a summer filled with popsicles. And as the last long weekend approaches, I feel the need to suck every sweet drop from the end of the popsicle stick. Then, I’m gonna take a pile of those popsicle sticks and do something crafty with them and a bottle of glue. Of course, Martha Stewart has some serious suggestions. I love the little house, above, from their site, and suspect our daughter will, too. But there are some grown up ideas out there as well (after all, not just the little ones like popsicles). On Etsy, I spotted this adorable cutlery holder. (The lazy can buy one for $10.) And Reader’s Digest offers these ingenious uses for popsicle sticks. Be warned though. There are some heated debates on gardening forums about how using the leftover wooden planks for plant labels is a bad idea. Apparently, they get moldy? Yuck.

What about you? Got any fun projects to keep us busy over the long weekend? I sense rain in the forecast. — Angela M.

From our partners

neighborhood fun: sidewalk swings for summer


One of the things that stood out to me when we moved to Portland was how, besides all the chicken coops,  all the neighborhoods had one common element: sidewalk tree swings. After growing up in New Jersey, and then living in DC and Denver as an adult, I have never seen the “median” space between the sidewalk and street used in such a playful way. Even our neighbors, who have no small children of their own, put up a tire swing and tether ball for the neighborhood kids to use. Sadly, we don’t have a tree out front to install our own swing. But if you do, here are a few easy-to-hang options:

• Disc swing from Wood Tree Swings, $55, includes a hanging kit that prevents rope from cutting into tree limbs and makes set-up a breeze.

• Sassaras Ladybug Rope Swing, $25.

• IKEA EKORRE hand rings, $10. Nope, not a swing. But the neighbor two doors down from us put this up, and it’s a magnet for older kids.

• And then there’s always the classic: a swing made from an old tire sitting in your garage.

Are sidewalk swings and play things a typical neighborhood feature where you live, or are we a bit of an anomaly out here in the Pacific Northwest? –Ginny F.

Yellow swing image by Flickr user Yume Photo

From our partners

help me throw a couples’ baby shower!

My very good friends are having their first baby this fall, and I’m throwing them a couples-shower next month. We know that their little one will be a girl, but I do not want to throw an overly-girly shower since I plan on inviting both ladies and gents to our event. Right now the plan is to have a garden party with small drinks and eats (but not open presents which, in my experience, can drag on too long). I would also like to do maybe a funny game with the couple, like test the new dad’s diaper-changing skills, and the new mom’s ability to work the baby monitor. Other than that, I’m a little at a loss for fun ideas that aren’t too girly (or silly). Anyone have any couples’ shower ideas to share with me? – Rebecca F.

From our partners

kinda genius: aqueduck faucet extender

Aqueduck faucet extender

Even without children of my own, I can instantly identify with the need for a contraption like the Aqueduck. Definitely one for the Why-Didn’t-I-Think-of-That file, the gadget extends almost any faucet so toddlers can reach the water with ease and avoid the old hoist-and-balance routine. Though an initial glance at the simplistic design might elicit some doubt in its value at $12.99, the five-star rating on seems to banish the notion, as many reviewers write that being able to reach the water (with the help of a step stool in most cases) not only eases the strain on little tummies and weary adult muscles, but also encourages hand-washing for the little ones. Another great find for my list of unexpected, but highly-functional gifts for parents. — Sarah C.

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