what should we do on our trip to portland?


Folks, it’s my anniversary this week, so to celebrate, my husband and I are packing up the mastiffs and heading to Portland, Oregon for a couple days. We’ll be staying at the Ace Hotel, a cool chain of boutiques that accepts animals (I’ll write about that next week) but other than that, Portland is a clean slate for me. Any suggestions on places we should go, stores we should visit, or food we should try while we’re there? Dog-friendly ideas are encouraged, too, of course! –Mary T.

From our partners

help! is there any fixing this couch leather?


The cat above is our girl Griffin, who is going on 18 years old and has an inoperable tumor. We’re more than willing to sacrifice a little beauty for her comfort, which is why we’ve not tried to bar her from her favorite spot on the couch. But she uses her toenails to help herself up — which is evident in the condition of the leather. We tried to get her to use steps to the couch, but she wasn’t having it. We’ve tried a blanket, but it’s difficult to tuck in because of the way the couch is sewn, and Griffin manages to get her claws under it anyway. I’ve recently started to wonder what the best way will be to minimize all those tiny claw marks. (They’re in a small area, just in the middle of the couch.) Should I trim off the little edges that stick up? Use saddle soap? Give up and pretend it’s a Ralph Lauren-esque “weathered” look? What do you think? –Mary T.

From our partners

oh, hay — my yard is really muddy


Two mastiffs, Seattle’s rainy season, and a yard already half-dead before our second dog moved in added up to a mud problem that I’ve alluded to before. So we finally went with a hideous yet gratifyingly effective solution: we covered the yard in straw.* We purchased four bales from a farm and feed store for $15 apiece and covered the yard to about an inch thick. (The remaining grass underneath it was already dead, trust me.) I’ve since watched the dogs play, run, and roll around for hours, and yet they’re tracking in just a tiny bit of straw and, amazingly, almost no mud at all. Once a week we’re using a rake to redistribute the straw evenly; we’ll mulch or compost it when we’re ready to work on the yard in the spring. And as an extra bonus, I really enjoyed the trip to the feed store. (Now I’m dreaming about keeping chickens!) –Mary T.

*Yes, it’s straw, not hay (as Karen in comments pointed out). But “straw” doesn’t rhyme with “hey,” so I took some editorial liberties.

From our partners

d.i.y. catshelf cubby


Recently my old man cat found an empty bottom shelf in our kitchen and made it his own. In his younger days, he may have been tempted by this cozy looking bookshelf cubby space. I spotted it on moderncat, which has all sorts of appealing catware. All you need to is a little curtain on a rod and a soft blanket to attract them. These two fellas, Ben and Stu seem to be loving theirs. Would your felines rest on a shelf like that? — Angela M.

From our partners

help! what sort of rug does this room need?

Even though we’re in more of get-rid-of rather than buying- stuff mode, there is one thing I’d like to get before the weather gets any more chilly. A rug for our Catskill cottage. The wood floor is nice, but a little too cold when winter hits, and too hard for Isadora’s exploring kneepads. But I’m totally stumped about what kind to get. As you can see in the above photo, there’s not a lot of color in the room right now, except for the chairs we reupholstered in a deep red pattern. I’m thinking a braided round or oval rug would be nice, if I could find the right palette. Or maybe a solid color would be best? It’d be easy to do a natural toned wool, but that’d be a it boring. What do you think? Chartreuse? Teal? Buttery yellow? Help! — Angela M.

From our partners