keeping the dogs busy when you are, too


We are blessed with two extremely loveable yet mildly neurotic mastiffs. I’ve written before about the lengths we’ve gone to to soothe our male dog Sofa’s anxiety issues. One huge help has been hiring someone to stay with our dogs in their home when we go out of town. The only problem is, each of our two dogs weighs 100+ pounds, so unless she has a friend available to help, our dog sitter has to walk them one at a time. So to help alleviate the dogs’ stress of being alone in the house or having the routine changed a bit, this is what I devised:

1) Two words: Kong Wobbler. Our dogs are pretty crafty and mighty chewers, so normal Kong toys weren’t much of a challenge for them. The Wobbler is a whole ‘nother story. Instead of rubber like regular Kongs, this one is made of thick, hard plastic that unscrews so you can put treats inside. The bottom is weighted so that the toy wobbles (of course) and rolls, and the small opening makes it a lot more challenging for our dogs to get to the treats. We did a test run with the Wobblers before we left town, and our dogs were positively obsessive about them. They chewed them furiously without doing much more than putting a few grooves in the plastic, and because the toys are a bit slippery in addition to being wobbly, our dogs actually got a lot of exercise jumping up to chase after them. One note: when the hard-plastic Wobblers hit the floor, they are loud. So unless your home is fully carpeted, don’t give out these toys if you plan to take a nap.

2) This may convince you that I’m a little neurotic, too. There’s nothing that makes our dogs happier than a new toy, so I bought new versions of several of their proven favorites, plus two all-new toys to try. After removing all the tags, I divided the toys up into bags labeled with days of the week. On the designated day, our do sitter can simply open a bag and hand a brand-new Doggles MonsterPull, Kong Plush Snake or JW Pet iN Action toy to each dog. Presto, occupado!

Nothing can replace a lot of love, some human playtime, or a good long walk, but so far it appears that these strategies are keeping my dogs sane—and our dog sitter, too. –Mary T.

P.S. The iN Action toy is new, so I don’t know yet how that one will work out, but all the rest of these toys have been proven to stand up to extremely vigorous play and chewing.

cataloguing the holidays:




You have my apologies for posting about Christmas before Thanksgiving (even though the local big box stores were crowding out the Halloween costumes with lights and tinsel prior to October 31), but for once in my life I thought I’d get a (slight) jump on holiday shopping. I’ve been subscribing to the mailing list for awhile. If you’re not familiar with Fab, it’s another site featuring limited-time online designer sales, only Fab sticks with modern design. And unfortunately, you’ll need to sign up to be a member to see the goods. But they are good — for instance, a modern take on holidays in the Design Decor Shop. Alas, my favorite item in the shop, the Mistletoe Garland, is already sold out, but as of this writing, still some cool stuff to liven up your modern holiday pod, like this chevron table runner by the same designers, or this tree stand by Pascal Charmolu. If you’d rather shop for presents than for decor, check out Fab’s gift ideas, all under $100. — Mary T.

small space living: the tumbleweed tiny house company


Living in a city full of small spaces for big price tags has at times led me to scorn small-space living (remember my tiny bedroom, anyone?) but recently I’ve learned to value the unique challenges that frugal floor plans present. With the right furniture, some research and an inventive, enterprising attitude, anyone can make even the most miniscule space into a cozy, uncluttered haven. No one knows that better, perhaps, than Jay Shafer, owner of an 89 square foot home, and founder of the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company. Purveyor of adorable box bungalows, portable homes and cottages ranging in size from 65-837 square feet, the company specializes in small space living without skimping on style, detail or functionality. Perfect as (very) tiny weekend homes, the units also boast footprints small enough for use as guest houses on an existing property, or, my personal favorite, as free-standing office or studio spaces like the ones we’ve been dreaming about. How cute are these? — Sarah C.

where’s the pollen? another good reason to buy local honey


We heard some troubling news last week. A study from Food Safety News found that most of the stuff sold as honey on our grocery store shelves has been filtered so much that it no longer contains pollen. What?! Honey without pollen? Isn’t that why we buy honey in the first place, for all those antioxidants, nutrients and unique flavors. Also, as we read on, “without pollen, it is impossible to trace where honey comes from and guarantee its purity.”

Ever since our foray into beekeeping (that’s one of ours, above), we’ve have made a point of always buying honey at local markets. It’s also a great souvenir to bring back from travels. We’ve stocked up in the golden stuff from Martha’s Vinyard, Maine and California. During our recent visit down South, we stopped into a Savannah Bee Company store. After taste tasting their current offerings, we settled on a bottle of Sourwood, which has a rich, nutty flavor.

The good news from Food Safety News, is that honey from Trader Joe’s contained proper amounts of pollen. Just be sure to read those labels carefully when shopping elsewhere! — Angela M.

blogwatch: where we’ve been clicking this week


DIY-up these fabulous urchin-style ornaments to augment your holiday decor, at Curbly

Over at the New York Times, Mark Bittman extols the virtues of brown rice, and gives a myriad ways to use it, from salads to pancakes.

A Shelterrific shout-out, at Picnics in the Park. Blogging makes the world a smaller place, indeed!

This home in Nigeria is constructed from plastic bottles, and it’s bulletproof, and climate controlled to boot! At Archinect.

The Style Files has us wanting rolls upon rolls of this faux boisscrap wood wallpaper.

How to set the perfect formal Holiday table, at CasaSugar.