Monday, July 17, 2017

5 Dorm Room Essentials

'Tis the season, and if you have a college-bound teenager then you just might be in the middle of your very own personal hell - surrounded by a peripheral madness that you are trying really hard to resist, every email and letter that you receive pushes your anxiety to new heights, and you wonder what on earth this experience is supposed to be about anyway.
Of course you don't want them to go, but why are they suddenly telling you that your child must have a printer and a matching pair of salt and pepper shaker's? Oh, and you must send her a welcome kit of candy, delivered straight to her room - with a sweet reminder that if you don't, she will be the only candy-less, unloved child on the entire campus....

So, with all these thoughts floating around in your head (not mine, of course) I thought I would give you five of my favorite dorm room essentials. They won't rescue you from the madness, but all are readily available, all are infinitely useful, and nothing is over thirty dollars.

Bed Lifts are not the most glamorous thing on the planet,
 but they will give your messy teen an extra 6 - 7 inches of space under their bed (and, it makes it feel less like a twin bed). The new ones even come with an AC outlet and USB charger. For less than $30, it will help them be more organized, or at the very least they can just grab some storage bins and stash everything under the bed when you go to visit them. 

This seems odd, and I absolutely trust all the little darlings who will be attending college, but a space to hide something is not such a bad idea. Something unexpected, like a hidden drawer, an old book, or even a pair of funny toe socks, is not as obvious as a dorm room safety box, and may come in useful now and again. This one is from Amazon, and is about ten dollars.

Another cheapie - this isn't really glass, but it does just what you need it to.
Available at almost every inexpensive, large retail store, it needs no installation, and just hooks over the back of a door. As well as needing them to look into, a mirror makes the room seem a bit brighter, which can be a necessity in some of those dark, crowded, Vitamin-D deficient  dorm rooms.   

Clear, hanging shoe pockets are not just for shoes.
If they can fit it in there, that's what they can use it for. From toiletries to underwear and gadget chargers, these are indispensable for every type of student. They're extremely durable (and even washable, if they need to be). Yes, the fabric one's are cute, but the clear pockets are so much more practical. 

Forget the fancy bath buddy's and cute shampoo organizers, 
a shower container has to be waterproof, durable, drainable and easy to carry. Do you really think they are going to stand and put everything back in the right spot, and leave the mesh out to dry for three days to avoid the mold? No. Keep it simple with these adorable, colorful, tough $3.99 totes (which would also be great for holding so many other things).  

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Shoo Fly! Shoo!

As a rogue fly whizzes around our house, I quickly run downstairs to find my old-fashioned, umbrella food tent to protect the cake that I had just pulled from the oven. Eternally squeamish about flies (thanks, Mom) it is rare they get into our house, but when they do I won't rest until they are either outside again (or very obviously dead).

Not into using chemicals, I will chase them down with a can of hairspray, or grab a catalog to frantically (maniacally comical, perhaps) swat at them - well aware that I am amusing everybody except for myself.
Insects and flies (Are flies actually insects? Yes, I just checked) both fascinate and repulse most of us. Some people like to watch scary movies that involve them (Jeff Goldblum will always be my one and only favorite fly) but we don't want them in our homes, or casually landing on our freshly, unpacked ham and cheese sandwich.
So, with creepy crawlies on my mind, here are a few, non-deadly ways to keep them away from you this holiday weekend.


A traditional, glass Wasp Catcher, filled with all sorts of concoctions, will lure flying insects into them, making it impossible for them to escape.
If you don't have one of these, you can quickly make your own with an empty, plastic soda bottle (instructions here).


So simple, yet so effective. With a bit of a retro vibe, 
mine were bought at a Fair many years ago (for about a dollar each).  
These adorable mesh umbrellas are still very inexpensive (usually less than five dollars), and are available on-line,
or at many nearby home and garden stores.


Most flying insects prefer it when the air is still, so a fan will keep them away for most of the afternoon. Install a permanent one on the inside ceiling of your porch (extra points if your ceiling is pale blue, as that is supposed to deter insects too) or grab your favorite one from inside, and point it towards your picnic table. 


There are many plants and herbs that are said to repel mosquitoes and flies. 
Citronella is the one we hear of the most
(usually found in candles) but you can also buy this,
and many other repelling plants, at your local garden center. 
 For best results, you may want more than one, so for a full list,
check out these plant ideas from Natural Living.


Common garden ants are rarely more than a passing nuisance,
but if you don't want a small army of them invading your next outdoor party, 
there are a few precautions you can take. 
Although they often seem to be the Houdini's of the insect world, they are also easily deterred by the most harmless of ingredients. Try stopping them with a path of chalk, a squirt of lemon or one of these other unexpected household items.


It didn't seem right to finish this blog without a recipe for traditional Shoofly Pie, but there were so many recipes that I just chose the one that I have used in my own kitchen. The story of its name seems to vary, with some saying it was named after people yelling, "Shoo fly!", and others say that it was named after a type of molasses that was called Shoofly. 
Whatever the origin, it is simple and delicious
- in spite of its very unfortunate name.