Tag Archives: house

Have a Happy, Safe Halloween!

26 Oct

My love of Halloween is no secret among my friends. I adore all of the rituals, from decorating the house and baking pumpkin-shaped cookies to carving jack-o-lanterns and handing out candy. To make sure your family has a great October 31st, check out the following safety tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Halloween Safety Tips


  • Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and Trick-or-Treat bags for greater visibility.
  • Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes.
  • If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child’s costume, make sure it is not sharp or too long. A child may be easily hurt by these accessories if he stumbles or trips.
  • Obtain flashlights with fresh batteries for all children and their escorts.
  • Do not use decorative contact lenses without an eye examination and a prescription from an eye care professional. This can cause pain, inflammation, and serious eye disorders and infections.


  • Small children should never carve pumpkins. Children can draw a face with markers.  Then parents can do the cutting.
  • Consider using a flashlight or glow stick instead of a candle to light your pumpkin. If you do use a candle, a votive candle is safest.
  • Candlelit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects, and should never be left unattended.


  • To keep homes safe for visiting trick-or-treaters, parents should remove from the porch and front yard anything a child could trip over such as garden hoses, toys, bikes and lawn decorations.
  • Parents should check outdoor lights and replace burned-out bulbs.
  • Wet leaves should be swept from sidewalks and steps.


  • A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children on their neighborhood rounds.
  • If your older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.
  • Only go to homes with a porch light on and never enter a home or car for a treat.

Because pedestrian injuries are the most common injuries to children on Halloween, remind Trick-or Treaters:

  • Stay in a group and communicate where they will be going.
  • Carry a cell phone for quick communication.
  • Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk.
  • If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic.
  • Never cut across yards or use alleys.
  • Only cross the street as a group in established crosswalks (as recognized by local custom). Never cross between parked cars or out driveways.
  • Don’t assume the right of way. Motorists may have trouble seeing Trick-or-Treaters. Just because one car stops, doesn’t mean others will!


  • A good meal prior to parties and trick-or-treating will discourage youngsters from filling up on Halloween treats.
  • Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books or pens and pencils.
  • Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. Though tampering is rare, a responsible adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items.
  • Try to ration treats for the days following Halloween.

For more information, visit www.aap.org.


52 FEATS – NUMBER 41 (Cleaning House)

10 Oct

For the original 52 FEATS blog entry, click here.

I don’t exactly mean this one literally, although my floors are pretty filthy right now and could use a good scrubbing.  (Sorry, honey!)  I’m in more of a mindset to clear out clutter.  I know that people usually do a spring cleaning, but I think fall is a great time to empty out cabinets and closets.  Maybe getting organized right before the holidays will help things run more smoothly during all the madness!

I’m certainly not a packrat; in fact, I like to keep “stuff” to a minimum as much as possible.  (That’s also why I don’t collect anything.)  I feel mentally overloaded when it looks like there’s just too much junk surrounding me.  But let’s face it, things accumulate, especially when you have kids.  I can hardly keep track of my own things when I’m constantly trying to manage the influx of plastic trinkets collected from birthday parties and restaurants, or even those found on the ground at the park.  (Yes, that last one really does happen to us, more often than you might think!)

So this week, I’m going to purge my closet, clean out the medicine cabinet, and maybe even tackle the craft cabinet and the overloaded laundry room shelves.  I’m sure I’ll have quiet a haul to take to Goodwill when I’m done!  And some peace of mind.

And – fingers crossed – maybe I’ll get around to some actual cleaning, too!

Butterfly Plant Sale at Texas Discovery Gardens

19 May

May 21, 10 am to 2 pm
Member’s Preview: May 20, 4 pm to 7 pm

Choose from butterfly host and nectar plants, herbs, perennials and more! Proceeds from the Butterfly Plant Sale allows Texas Discovery Gardens to follow its mission to teach effective ways to restore, conserve and preserve nature in the urban environment, with a focus on gardening organically and sustainably.

For more information, click here.


12 May

A couple weeks ago, after much hemming and hawing, I decided to donate my kids’ baby dressers (changing tables) to Goodwill.

My husband and I had talked about it for quite a while.  After months of trying to organize our kids’ rooms, we finally decided the dressers had to go.  They were big and bulky, taking up way too much room in what are already fairly small spaces.  And they didn’t even hold all our kids’ clothes!  We needed to just get rid of them, and hopefully someone else could use them.

But the first time I mentioned it to the kids, they freaked.  “What about our stickers?!” they cried.  Oh crap, I had forgotten about the stickers.  For years, we’ve let them decorate their dressers with stickers – I think it came about one bleary-eyed morning when we were just too tired to say no.  Every time each of our kids got a sticker anywhere (the doctor, a festival, a birthday party, the museum), they came home and put it on their dresser.  And our son, who had dozens of stickers on his, could remember where almost every single one had come from.

So I had to work really hard to convince the kids that we were doing the right thing, but I finally managed.  Apparently, however, I was the one who needed more convincing.  As the two men at Goodwill unloaded the last dresser out of my van, I surprised myself by bursting into tears.  My chest clenched up as I felt a panic in seeing the dressers move out of sight.  It was only the presence of my kids that prevented me from yelling, “Wait!  I changed my mind!!”

I know they’re just pieces of furniture, but that’s where I changed my kids’ diapers when they were babies, gave them their first washcloth baths after coming home from the hospital, and snorked out their noses when they were sick.  They’re monuments; tangible pieces of history in our lives, proudly displaying many moments of fun.  The top drawers, only recently emptied of big-kid underwear, used to hold nothing but diapers and wipes.

But I know it’s not exactly the furniture that I was pining for.  It was the infancy of my children, the brief and magical time when they were so small, so snuggly, so new.  Now I have a 5-year-old about to start Kindergarten and a 3-year-old who is as sassy as a teenager.  And it hurts because those baby days are such a distant memory…

I have the same feelings whenever I’m near the neighborhood where my grandparents used to live.  I always feel compelled to drive by what used to be their house and stop outside, just looking at it.  Their house was the family meeting place.  Every weekend, my mother’s siblings could be found there –  playing cards, making jokes, and laughing so loud my ears would hurt.  It’s a time in my life for which I am constantly nostalgic.

My kids aren’t babies anymore, and my grandparents are gone.  Sometimes, the physical objects that are left behind remind me so strongly of those memories, it takes my breath away.

I did manage to give up the changing tables, but I’ll never stop driving by that house.

Just Breathe…

15 Nov

I’ve just come off of what feels like a year-long whirlwind of events:  both kids’ birthdays, my husband’s surgery, my first freelance writing gig, a food drive, and so many Halloween festivals I’m going to be eating candy until April Fool’s Day.  I honestly haven’t had a weekend with any free time (and by that, I mean time to clean the house and keep things organized) in 2 months.  I’m not asking for a spa day – just some time to tackle the pile of paperwork on my desk.

I’m so wiped out I can hardly see straight, and my house looks like the “before” picture in a makeover.  So what to do?

My instinct is telling me to panic.  Yes, I have that kind of inner voice, the one that tells me things have to get done now, now, now!  Things cannot go undone or else…I don’t know, something bad might happen!  It’s the side of me that my husband calls “a hamster in a wheel.”

But, as much as I hate to admit it, I just can’t do it all.  I can’t keep up with all the laundry, cooking, housework, bill-paying, and shopping while also providing my kids with intellectual stimulation every minute of the day, trying to do some part-time work, and oh yeah, organizing all that Halloween crap in the garage that looks like a flea market…so we can turn right around and get the Christmas decorations out.  Calgon, take me away!!

So while I know what I WANT to do (park my kids in front of the tv, drink lots of caffeine, and clean like mad for an entire week), here’s what I NEED to do…just breathe.

Take some long, slow, deep breaths.  Read a book with my kids.  Go take a walk outside.  Blow bubbles.  Play a board game.

And most of all, just accept the realization that it’s not possible to get everything done perfectly right now – at least, not without making everyone in the house miserable.

I might be able to get a few things done – at a leisurely pace – this afternoon.  But tonight, I’m going to book club.  The laundry will just have to wait one more day.  Hope everyone’s got enough clean underwear!

Just for the Smudge of It

27 Oct

Do you ever feel bogged down with negativity, stuck in a rut, depressed, anxious, sick, or fearful?  Of course!  We all have experienced these draining emotions from time to time.  In the interest of coming up with something interesting, new, and perhaps a little mysterious as Halloween approaches, I wanted to focus on a ritual I find very helpful from time to time, in order to clear the space in my home, drive negative forces/energy out, revamp the positive energy, rejuvenate, and cleanse the environment.

Many of us appreciate the benefits of a soothing bath or a vigorous shower to cleanse and refresh our body.  Equally as effective, but on the psychic energetic level, is the practice of smudging.  Smudging is a powerful cleansing technique which Native Americans have used for centuries; however, the burning of herbs for emotional, psychic, and spiritual purification is common practice in many religious, healing, and spiritual traditions.

Smudging is a ritual way to cleanse a person, place or an object of negative energies or influences.  The theory behind smudging is that the smoke attaches itself to negative energy and as it clears it takes the negative energy with it, releasing it into another space to be regenerated.

There are many ways to smudge.  You can smudge any space, person, animal or thing, so long as they are receptive.  There is no wrong way to smudge.

The first time I smudged, I was experiencing some negative energy with my spouse.  We were going through several big transitions, including a pregnancy and a move.  I felt weighed down by all of the pressure and some perceived negativity.  One of my cousins told me I should smudge.  I researched it on the Internet and although slightly skeptical, I thought I’d give it a whirl, seeing as I certainly didn’t have anything to lose.

I purchased a sage smudge stick from Central Market.  I opened several of the windows and began at the front door.  When I lit the stick, it smelled a little like marijuana, and I became slightly paranoid the neighbors would smell it and call the police on me.  Fortunately, they didn’t and all was well!  I said a prayer of protection and proceeded to smudge the environment.  I like to work counter-clockwise.  As I enter each room, I wave the stick slowly throughout the entire space, top to bottom.  It is a good idea to do closets and open all cabinets and drawers too.  In each room, I say something aloud, along the lines of “Clear this space of everything that is not helpful to the home or the people living inside of it,” but really, you can say anything that comes to mind.

It is a good idea to carry a glass or ceramic plate or a bowl of water with you when performing the smudge ceremony to catch any falling embers.  It can also be helpful to turn any ceiling fans on as well.

When the cleansing is complete and all rooms have been cleared, some people like to extinguish the flame and bury the stick, cementing the idea that with that stick, all of the negativity will disappear.  I am a huge fan of recycling, so I save my stick to use again.

I have smudged my mom’s house, my children, myself, my mom, my mom’s dog, the girls’ playhouse, and our new house twice.  Once I have completed the ceremony I feel so much better, knowing that my home has been cleansed.  Initially, I think my husband thought I was a little crazy.  The last time I did it though, he came home from work and said, “I’m so glad you smudged!”

If you believe in ghosts or spirits, you can even use this exercise to drive them out of your home.

At Home with Chris Madden

7 Sep

When it comes to my favorite interior design gurus, Chris Madden tops the list.

I have interviewed her a dozen times since writing for The Dallas Morning News. She’s a down-to-earth Martha Stewart with a penchant for color and a fearless use of tag-sale treasures with chichi textiles and décor. Chris designs a home furnishings line for JC Penney, which brings her to the Metroplex with some frequency. Her New York-based design empire is truly a family endeavor, too. Her husband runs the business end of things while one of her adult sons now oversees marketing. Plus, she’s just plain fun. (In a recent phone conversation with her, she bemoaned the pitfalls of “butt dialing from your iPhone.” I laughed out loud!)

Chris’s 17th book, THE SOUL OF A HOUSE ($45, Rizzoli), comes out in October. Check out this preview from the publisher!


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