How do you ask your friend to clean-up when you visit?

By on Nov 27th
smudge

By: skampy – CC BY 2.0

My best friend lives 5½ hours away and we love to visit. Every time we visit, though, the house is a complete disaster — you trip over the abundance of shoes upon entering, then it's navigating through the crumbs, toys, and papers. The stairs are littered with clothes. The kitchen counters are so cluttered you wonder how they cook. Laundry room doubles as dining and kitchen with baskets of "are they clean or dirty?"

This last trip, I had a moment alone in her house, and, while watching her kids, I cleaned up so that I'd feel better.

I don't know how to approach her about this because I am not comfortable staying there anymore unless it's cleaned up. I love her like a sister, we've been friends for 12 years, and I don't want to stop visiting. But I don't want a fight because we have different priorities.

Anyone have advice on how I can broach the possibly-sensitive question of asking her to clean up before I visit? -Emily

Oof, that's toughy…

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Keeping it classy with a wine jelly recipe from 1896

Guestpost by Tamara Kraft on Nov 26th
vintage wine jelly recipe

Baguette with goat cheese and Merlot Ice Wine jelly with Black Pepper. By: craighatfieldCC BY 2.0

There's a popular saying, "Coffee keeps me going until it's acceptable to drink wine." Wouldn't it be nice to enjoy your morning with your favorite red, along with your coffee and toast?

This may sound extravagant, but this recipe published in 1896 was originally intended for those with very little appetite or who had difficulty keeping more substantial foods down.

Wine jelly is tasty on top of toast, biscuits, roast beef, turkey, spooned from shot glasses, squeezed from paper cups, and licked from spoons. It's not overly sweet, and it keeps in the fridge for months.

It's simple to make, but will take some planning, as it has one uncommon pantry ingredient that will need to be acquired in advance…

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Throw this party: "T. Hanks-giving"

Guestpost by Dootsie Bug on Nov 25th
Image courtesy of Neatorama!

Image courtesy of Neatorama!

Forget Thanksgiving. It's time to celebrate all that we've been given by T. Hanks.

T. Hanks-giving is a wonderful pre- post- or alterna-Thanksgiving celebration that gives thanks to Tom Hanks, Patron Saint of American Film.

No one is quite sure where this mysterious holiday got its start. A quick internet search indicates that the pun really started to catch its footing in 2011 and 2012. Sometimes shortened as Hanksgiving, it's a perfect thing for that awkward time on Thanksgiving Eve when everyone's gathered together but no one has anything to do. It's also a wonderful alternative to Black Friday or something fun to do with your framily if you don't celebrate Thanksgiving.

If you tend to watch any television during Thanksgiving time, you've probably participated in this holiday ritual without even realizing! Many Tom Hanks movies are the exact sort of feel-good stuff that TV networks push during the season.

So why not make it A Thing? Here's how to throw your own T. Hanks-giving…

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10 gift ideas the teachers in your life REALLY want

Guestpost by Jacqueleen Hale on Nov 25th

gifts for teachers

If you are a human and live on the planet Earth, then there is a fair chance that you may know a teacher that you may be shopping for. Whether this teacher is related to you by blood, marriage, or association (when spending eight hours a day with your offspring), this person is appreciative that you've thought of them at all.

If you're anything like my mom — the sweet woman who toiled endlessly in the kitchen making purposefully ugly-DIY-worthy cookies, so that my teachers would believe that they were the thoughtful product of a 3rd grader's labor — then you probably have also found yourself weeping into the bowl of M&Ms at 2am on a weeknight and whispering, "There has to be a better way…"

And there is, my friends. There definitely is.

This year, whether it be a holiday, birthday, or end of the year "thanks for dealing with my kid for nine months," get Teacher something they will cherish for always instead!

I present to you, the top ten gift ideas for the teacher in your life…

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Friends are the family we get to choose for ourselves

Guestpost by Liz Gubernatis on Nov 24th
Wedding quilt square

Thanks to Chacksy for uploading this quilt square photo to our Flickr pool.

My family is like a quilt. An old, used, well-loved quilt. That's, of course, the kindly, gentle way to smooth over the rough patches, the split seams, and the threadbare spots. There's me, of course. Then there's my husband, Kevin. We're a family of two, and plan to remain child-free. We're also neatly stitched in to a larger quilt, mostly of friends, their families, and the occasional extended family shindig.

There are a couple of clichés that get that way because they're so damn true. Some that have been true for our family of two is that friends are the gods' apology for families, friends are the family we choose for ourselves, and friends walk in when everyone else walks out.

Like many people in a weary world, we each grew up with rough stuff. Different flavors, but same crazy Kool-Aid. Like many people, we placed premiums on the relationships with others who showed us kindness, who cared for and about us, who returned our earnest affections, who befriended us. We're both lucky enough to have made best friends whom we love and who are like siblings, without the rivalry. Kevin calls my BFFs his sister-in-law and brother-in-law. I think of his besties as friends and brothers-in-law, too. We're family.

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The tiny, colorful studio apartment, that taught me a lot about who I am

By on Nov 24th

Lots of light

The offbeat occupant: Ruth, Middle School Math Teacher
Other occupants: Chloe the carpet slug
Approximate square footage: Under 650 sq. feet
How many bedrooms? 0/studio
Lives in: Salem, Oregon

Let's start with the neighborhood. What's it like where you live? I live adjacent to downtown Salem, OR, our state capital. I am on the edge of two distinct areas, just a few blocks in one direction is a gorgeous private college and the Capital with gardens, lawns, and other government buildings. It's a very nice, clean part of town, with many cute shops, cafes and some decent bars which pass for night life in Salem.

Street View of Devereaux

The other direction is a more run-down and seedier part of town. There are several half-way houses, old homes, and cheap rentals. It's an area of town where crime is high, and my male friends advise me not to walk alone at night.

It feels a little funny being right between those to dichotomies, but that is a good snapshot of the two sides this town has. In this in-between place I am just blocks from quite a few amenities, we have a park, the Willamette River, an amazing brunch place, grocery, mini mart (boasting the best beer selection in town!) and bank.

Capital Market, Beer Drinkers Wanted

Capital Market, Beer Drinkers Wanted

What makes your home offbeat? I am a performer and artist, I sing, play a few instruments, act, dance, and I'm a production technician. I am also a math teacher, and genuinely love to geek out about math-y things, scientific discoveries and progress (OMG SPACE, WE HARPOONED A COMET!). I live in Oregon, and my parents were (well, are) hippies, so I grew up with that type of culture. Environmentalism, buying organic, shopping local — social justice, these are all fully integrated elements in my life.

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How to gift Christmas ornaments that will make humans, pets, and trees happy (plus a special discount) from Susabella

By on Nov 21st
Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas with Susabella's ornaments.

Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas with Susabella's ornaments.

It's Christmas tree time for me! I always get mine the week after Thanksgiving. Then it's time to break out my ornaments and be all like "Oh hey, I forgot about this one. This is the one we got on our honeymoon! Aw, your mom gave us this guy, I'll put it in a special place…" For some peeps (like me), one of the best parts of the holidays is decorating the tree.

Why not gift your loved ones an awesome, loving addition to their favorite holiday tradition? That's totally easy to do with our longtime sponsor Susabella. Susabella specializes in personalized, handmade ceramic items for gifts, and home decor.

Check out this Christmas ornament gift guide complete with special discount from Susabella…

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DIY is magic: Make your own My Little Pony plushie

Guestpost by Stephanie Segall on Nov 20th
All photos/pony wizardry by Stephanie.

All photos/pony wizardry by Stephanie.

When I asked my brother if there was anything I could make for my niece for the holidays, I was a little overwhelmed when he suggested a My Little Pony — Friendship is Magic plushie of Pinkie Pie. I'd never sewn a stuffed animal before, and I'd be a pony newbie creating something to give to a pony expert!

I let the idea brew in the back of my mind for a while, as I tend to do for all sewing projects, until one day when a box full of gorgeous recycled felt arrived from a friend. Two shades of pink? Check! The project was on! I planned an entire weekend of sewing, but ended up adding two evenings so I could add pony clothing to the gift.

The felt was purchased from FeltForLess on Etsy. I will say that the thickness is similar to the wool blend felt I get from American Felt and Craft. It seemed to stretch a bit easier than the wool, and didn't have the subtle color variations that make wool felt so rich. But the colors were bright and it cut like a dream. I had no trouble working with it. It did lack that subtle "wool sweater feel" love so much about wool felt, but I'd use it again!

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