Urban gardening is about to get easier

IKEA, the Swedish master of innovation in affordable home designs, is going to unveil their new hydroponic counter top garden kit next month.

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Here’s an example of a DIY hydroponic garden. flickr photo by J Wynia 

It’s OK, we didn’t know what hydroponic gardening was before this either. Hydroponic means growing plants in water instead of soil. The advantage seems to be that it can be done in a much smaller space—and it can be done year-round! There’s no price yet for IKEA’s KRYDDA/VÄXER, but we are definitely intrigued by the possibilities.

Now, as it turns out, people have hacked other IKEA products into hydroponic gardens long before the company came out with their own. So for anyone interested in an even more DIY option, check out ELIOOO.

Now that we know that hydroponics exists and seems to be fairly simple to DIY, we’re excited to start growing our own veggies, no matter the season, no matter how busy we are, no matter how much space we may or may not have.

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An Ode to Vinegar

We’ve touted the wonders of white distilled vinegar as a natural cleaner on many occasions. Today, we’d like to share something new that we’ve read: vinegar can help prevent mold growth! We’re not sure if it’s true, but since it seems to be true that it prevents mildew growth, why can’t it do the same for mold?

natural cleaning
Baking soda and vinegar just keep showing up in cleaning tips. If you haven’t tried this pet safe, environmentally friendly cleaning method, it’s time you did. Image attribution: By katerha (http://www.flickr.com/photos/katerha/5703151566/) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
This is how it apparently works: if you find mold growing, clean it up by soaking it in vinegar for an hour then wiping the area clean. After it’s all cleaned up, spray some more vinegar and just leave it there. Reapply every few days. Because vinegar is safe and non-toxic, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to give this a try.

Now, obviously this is no substitute for finding and repairing the source of the moisture that’s allowing the mold to grow in the first place. It is, however, a nice way to give yourself peace of mind that you’ve done everything you can to stop mold from growing.

Have you heard of this trick? What other uses do you know of for vinegar? Share in the comments below.

So you have a new home to fill: Where should you shop?

Moving into a new home can be daunting, especially if you’re also on the market for new furniture for that new home. The good news is that there are plenty of options for saving money, and those options just keep getting better.

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We found this futon at Walmart. Its black faux leather is just the right look for extra seating in a home office. Plus, it lets the room double as a guest bedroom.
  • Ask around. Most people have stuff they don’t use. From surplus silverware and china to old dining sets, if you ask enough friends and relatives, you can cobble together almost an entire household. If you have a trustworthy source, you could go so far as to get a mattress for super cheap. (Maybe even for free!) Though you shouldn’t accept upholstery without first giving it a thorough inspection. After all, your Aunt Marge might have an old sofa that she’ll give you if you’ll just come pick it up, but you might show up for it and realize it smells worse than her ash tray.
  • Go thrifting first. Spend a weekend visiting garage and estate sales, check your local Goodwill, visit flea markets. Any place that sells used items is going to have at least some of what you need for cheaper than if you were to buy it new. But thrift smart. Haggle for a lower price when possible, and don’t buy anything that’s so worn out that it’ll cost more to fix it than to buy the same thing new.

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    This desk is from IKEA, and the chair–believe it or not–is from Costco!
  • Buy new upholstery. Yes, coffee tables and shelving units are easy to find on the cheap and easy to fix up if they’re a little worn, but couches are a different story. Just like you should always buy mattresses and box-springs new, it’s safer to buy upholstery new. If you’re buying a ratty old thing with plans of re-upholstering, forget it. Unless you know how to do it yourself or know someone who’ll do it for cheap or even free, re-upholstering won’t save you money. Besides, old upholstery is dusty, musty, hard to clean, and possibly full of bedbugs. Safer to buy new for sure.
  • Comparison shop. Where you find the cheapest version of what you’re looking for will depend on what it is you need. Walmart’s furniture selection has gotten trendier over the years, but they still don’t have much beyond futons. Places like Target and Bed Bath & Beyond regularly have sales, but you might have to wade past stuff aimed at college kids to find the classier items. Check TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods for smaller pieces like accent chairs and storage benches as well as decor to tie a room together. Amazon, Overstock.com, and Wayfair have competitive prices, but stick to free shipping to really keep that price low. IKEA is still an excellent place to get everything you need, especially if you browse their as-is section as well as the store itself.

Excellent tips for using baking soda

Dogs welcome at Alvern Gardens Apartments
Stinky pet? Try baking soda!

We’re all about the amazing fizzing cleaning powers of baking soda mixed with vinegar, but there are more uses for baking soda than we could have imagined! Check out this article for some truly excellent tips. Our personal favorite is the pet odor control method of sprinkling your furry friend with baking soda, letting it sit for 15 minutes, then brushing them clean. You’ll need a well-behaved pet to pull it off, but we bet it works miracles.

Fun at the library

Yes, summer vacation is officially over, and as kids head back to school, they might need some extra help with homework, or just a safe, fun place to hang out. Luckily, the Castle Shannon Public Library is offering just that—for free!

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The library is a great place for kids to spend time after school.

Starting at 4:30 p.m. every Wednesday, the library is hosting School Age Free Time for kids ages eight to eighteen. During this time, the library is open not just for socializing with friends, but for getting help with homework as well. So if your kids need a safe, fun place to spend a weekday afternoon, the library is the place to go.

In the same time-slot on Thursdays, the library invites kids ages ten to seventeen to participate in Fitness Frenzy. Each week will focus on a new form of exercise. No experience is needed to join in on the fun.

Here’s a bonus fact: the Castle Shannon Public Library earns money by collecting recycling. So if you have recyclables at home, take them to the library.

Cleaning tips galore!

We’ve been scouring the web for the best tips on keeping a home spic and span. Here’s some of the best advice we’ve found:

  • A list of things that should be cleaned but are often overlooked. This slideshow reminds us of our previous post on cleaning mattresses and oft-overlooked spots in the kitchen. It adds a few key places, like the toothbrush cup and some very specific spots in the fridge. We’d just like to add, that once or twice a year, you should pull your fridge away from the wall and vacuum up all the debris that’s collected behind it. While you’re at it, your fridge’s filter should be cleaned regularly as well.
  • The best way to clean a microwave. This method is super easy, no scrubbing required, and it leaves your microwave sparkling and smelling fresh. Plus, this article offers some of the best step-by-step instructions we’ve found for this cleaning method.
  • These 20 home-cleaning hacks are pure gold. Some of them are similar to what we’ve shared before, but great advice never gets old.
  • Prepping for visitors involves more than just vacuuming (though vacuuming is key). We enjoy this list’s advice to put out fresh flowers to impress guests. And why wait for guests to de-clutter? A tidy, organized home is a happy, stress free home.

Link roundup: tips for a cleaner home

There are the routine things that always get done in a home, like vacuuming and cleaning the bathroom. And then there are the things that slip through the cracks. After spending sometime online, we’ve realized we could be doing more to keep our homes spic and span.

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Your mattress and some places in your kitchen could probably use some sprucing up. Thank goodness for these quick, easy cleaning tips!

We came across this excellent article on how to clean your mattress, and it seems simple enough. We already have the vacuum and the baking soda in the house, so next time we’re heading to the store, we’re picking up some essential oils and trying this process ourselves.

Another place that might need a little extra attention? The kitchen. Places like produce bowls, knife racks, and drying racks are seldom-cleaned breeding grounds for mold and bacteria, so it’s time we paid attention to them and give them the TLC they need.

But how are we going to manage adding all these items to our already long list of things to clean? With some homemade wipes, of course! Since we’re all about environmentally friendly homemade cleaners these days, we can’t wait to try this kind.