Make Your Own Dog Bed

The only thing cuter than a sleeping puppy is a one snoozing on a bed you made for nothing. With just a few materials you already have around the house and some amateur sewing skills, you can ensure your pooch always has a comfortable, cozy bed.

1. Make a cover.

We want to make the bed as simple and with as little sewing as possible. Pillowcases are the best covers: They come in different sizes perfect for various breeds, and you only need to sew up one end. “Tightly woven fabrics like cotton are best for since it’s harder for dogs to chew it up; they can’t get their teeth in between the fabric,” says Diana Porper, a volunteer at Cape Ann Animal Aid in Gloucester, Mass. “Dogs, especially puppies, like to suck and tear up fabric.”

Cotton pillowcases are ideal, but you can also use cut-up sheets to stitch a cover together. Porper says that bedspreads, duvet covers or thin quilted blankets work well. Towels are the softest, toughest and most luxurious options for the dog bed cover, so keep that in mind before you toss out your old bath towels. “The higher the thread count, the better,” she says. “Because if it has a high thread count, dogs’ teeth can’t fit between the spaces of the fabric because it’s so tightly woven.”

2. Stuff it.

You can fill the cover with just about anything, as long as it’s not tufted polyester or down. To create the most versatile dog bed, cut out pieces of blankets, towels or cotton comforters the size of the cover. (Remember to wash these scraps or spray them with a fabric freshener.) Layer these pieces up to 2 inches thick and place them inside. Create enough of a cushion that the dog is comfortable.

“Dogs don’t care, I can tell you that,” says Porper. “They just want something between them and the floor that feels good and smells like home to them.” If your dog is arthritic or older, you may want to use more padding. A thinner bed also allows you to use it as a covering for your dog’s favorite couch cushion, the back seat of the car and to bring with you on trips. It’s flat, easy to pack, and easy to wash. “Just toss it in with your clothes,” says Porper.

3. Sew it up.

After you’ve layered your stuffing, insert the pile into the open end of the pillowcase or cover you’ve made, pin the fabric down and get your sewing machine ready. Stitch the length of the case every 3 inches or so, creating long column-like pockets. This will hold the stuffing into place and create little tufts on the surface. By securing the stuffing, you’ve made the bed more durable, but most importantly, it will come out of the washer (and dryer) in perfect condition -- no bunching or shifting. As such, you can wash your dog’s bed dozens of times and it will come out in the same condition it went in. To freshen up the dog bed between washes, spritz a pet odor eliminator fabric refresher.

If you’ve got more advanced skills (and extra time), you can stitch across the cover, making square quilts. The more pockets will further secure the stuffing inside. If you really want to make your dog more secure, try stuffing it with old T-shirts or the fabric from one of its dog toys that’s ready for the trash bin. Regardless, you now have the knowledge to save a ton of money and make a dog bed (or five) that’s washing-machine-safe, durable, and most importantly, comfortable for your best four-legged furry friend.

Wardrobe Revamp for Next to Nothing

If you’re tired of the same outfits that resurface year after year, it may be time for a wardrobe revamp. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean you need to dig deep into your pockets. Hidden gems may be buried in your closet already, waiting to be rediscovered.

How to Get Started

Take stock of every article of clothing and accessory you own. “The best way to start being creative with new looks is to make sure your closet is well-edited and organized,” says Megan Evans, founder of The Well Coiffed Closet. Start by pulling out the pieces you never wear. “Then, you can determine whether it’s because they don’t fit, they are outdated, they have holes or because you just don’t know how to wear it,” she says. Remember, these are the pieces that have the potential to be altered, so don’t immediately disregard them.

Versatile Pieces

You probably own a few pieces that essentially go with everything, says Evans. Get creative and create multiple outfits with these multifunctional pieces:

  • A black or grey blazer. Pair it with jeans and a long-sleeve T-shirt to dress up a look, or wear it with a colorful skirt for added sophistication.
  • A neutral pencil skirt in camel, grey, navy or black in a year-round fabric. Like the blazer, this can be paired with a tucked-in casual T-shirt or button-down blouse for a more polished look.
  • A colorful scarf that complements your eyes and complexion. Scarves add pops of color to a neutral outfit.
  • Fabulous pearls. No longer your grandmother’s jewelry, pearls can be worn over a loose flowy top, a cocktail dress, layered over a solid-colored sweater, or even worn backward with a back-revealing dress. Depending on how you wear them, pearls can take a look from casual-chic to polished.

Making Old Look New

Look for buried fashion treasure in your closet: The piece you never wear can always become your next favorite go-to. “Altering a piece is the best way to give it new life,” says Evans. “Remove shoulder pads from outdated tops and jackets, change the buttons to freshen up a jacket, or shorten a skirt that is drowning you out because it’s too long.” Distressed jeans are hot for fall, and you can easily create them using a pair of older jeans. Mixed fabrics and hardware -- think patchwork to knees and zippers to pockets -- can also be added to give a new look to plain pants. If you’re extra crafty, transform a basic top by adding sheer fabric to the sleeves or neckline.

Mix and Match

When editing your closet, place like-pieces together: tops (with tanks, long-sleeve and short-sleeve as subcategories), skirts, blazers and pants. “Once you see all your pieces, it's easier to have fun and mix and match,” says Evans.

  • Layer. Layering is functional and funky, and fall is the perfect time to experiment. Wear a short, flowy dress as a tunic over leggings and top with a cardigan and light scarf. Or layer a black T-shirt under a fun party dress.
  • Play with trends. “A huge trend right now is black and white, which is easy to recreate because everyone should own those colors,” says Evans. “Rock an all-black look with a white jacket or mix up the black and white with various pieces and accessories.”

Pumpkin Carving Tips

The most popular designs for pumpkins are faces -- from the traditional toothy smile and triangle eyes to the angry jack-o-lantern. However, the images that can be carved into these orange fruits are limited only by your imagination. If you’re not much of an artist, don’t fret. Just do a quick web search for “pumpkin carving patterns” and you’ll get literally thousands of patterns you can print out and transfer to your pumpkin.

“I like to take things a step beyond and carve more detailed characters and scenes, using pumpkin patterns,” says Ryan Wickstrand, creator of the blog, Zombie Pumpkins. “Like iconic Halloween images, like a witch, ghost, vampire or skeleton.”

Pumpkin Carving Kit

If you have children who want to do the carving themselves, it’s a good idea to spend the $5 to $10 for a kit with a blunt carving knife. But if you’re an adult carving your own pumpkin, why not use tools you’ve got right in your utensil drawer? Here’s a list:

A large knife for cutting open the lid of the pumpkin. Look for a chef’s knife sized blade. Ideally, it should have a serrated edge that does much of the work for you.

  • A couple of smaller knives for some of the more intricate cuts. A curved paring knife and a small serrated knife, such a steak knife, are great candidates.
  • A large spoon with a fairly rigid edge. This will allow you to “cut” into the flesh and really scoop out the guts.
  • A candle. Leftover birthday candles work great. Any candles you have stashed away for a power outage are fine, too.

At the Pumpkin Patch

When shopping for a pumpkin, there a few things you want to keep in mind. Here are some tips from Wickstrand:

  • Look it over all around for soft spots or rotting flesh. A soft or rotting pumpkin won’t last as long after it’s carved.
  • Look for discoloration, especially around the stem or on the bottom. Push on those areas to make sure they are not mushy.
  • If you’re using patterns, it’s best to find a pumpkin that has an area that’s smooth and flat. It makes the drawing or transferring of the pattern easier.
  • Look for pumpkins without deep ridges. These tend to be plump and full of moisture, allowing for clean and smooth cuts.

Ghoulish for Days

There’s nothing worse than spending hours on a jack-o-lantern masterpiece, only to have it melt into a pile of mush in just a few days. Here’s how to keep your pumpkin scaring people for as long as possible.

  • Coat the carved edges with petroleum jelly. It helps seal in moisture, which keeps the fruit fresher longer.
  • Spray the inside of the pumpkin with a mixture of bleach and water or a household cleaner to prevent mold.
  • Wrap your pumpkin in plastic wrap and store it in the fridge during non-witching hours.

Part of the fun of pumpkin carving is scooping out the goopy insides, and even more fun is putting those guts to use. You can rinse, salt and bake the pumpkin seeds for a tasty roasted treat. And while your typical jack-o-lantern pumpkin is no good for cooking, if you get one of the spookier looking varieties (white, blue or fairytale) you can turn that goop into a soup or pie.

Family Halloween Costume Ideas

Halloween may mostly be about the kids, but that doesn’t mean parents have to give up on all the frightful fun. Consider dressing the entire family up in the same theme. It’s a great way to be playful with the whole gang, and coordinating ensembles can help you keep an eye on the little ones.

Whether you’re in need of some dress-up inspiration or want to see what other families may be sporting this year, we’ve gathered 10 fun, funny and not-too-spooky family costume ideas from a few of our favorite bloggers.

Costume Idea No. 1: Nintendo Neat

If a costume contest is in your future, why not emulate the Mario Cart crew? You can chuckle your way through the competition (“Ima Mario imma gonna win!”). The trio of Mario, Princess Peach and a Power-Up Mushroom can easily grow adding Yoshi, Luigi or Donkey Kong to the mix to suit a larger brood.

Costume Idea No. 2: Get the Show on the Road

Complete with a ring master, bearded lady, world’s strongest man and clown, this circus gang is equipped to trick-or-treat on the town. Halloween bonus: We love how their creative ideas can be easily pulled together with things you already have at home.

Costume Idea No. 3: All Dolled Up

There is something so precious about this mother-daughter dress-up idea that we just have to tilt our heads and say awww! The great thing is that you can easily add another Russian nesting doll to the gang. It’s also an easy frock to whip up using fabric and clothes you already have. If you want to add to the Halloween fun, have your kids help pick out what fabric to use for the aprons.

Costume Idea No. 4: Sweet Treat

If you clan is keen on Krispy Kremes, then these donut-themed costumes are deliciously fitting. It’s a quick look to pull together and adorable on the little ones -- four-legged friends included!

Costume Idea No. 5: Who You Gonna Call?

Ghostbusters! Go on patrol as the most infamous poltergeist catchers around. Mom

and dad can dress as the ‘busters and kids can go as ghosts. It’s an easy and comfortable costume idea for young kids -- and the jumpsuits are pretty comfy for parents, too!

Costume Idea No. 6: Teched-Out

If your brood is attached to their gadgets, why not embrace it with a tech-happy look? Steve Jobs, along with a clan of Apple products, makes for a playful way to dress the whole family.

Costume Idea No. 7: Get Jinky With It

The real trick-or-treat question: What would you do for a Scooby Snack? Why, dress up as the Scooby Dooby Doo gang, of course! Bright and cheerful -- with a mystery-fueled fire -- we think this group get up is perfect for Halloween haunting and parading alike.

Costume Idea No. 8: ‘I Yam what I Yam’

But on Halloween you don’t have to be! Take some costume inspiration from the Sailor Man himself. These adorable family frocks imitate Popeye, Olive Oyl and little Swee’Pea.

Costume Idea No. 9: Supersuit Stunners

Not only is The Incredibles a family favorite flick, but it’s also a crowd-pleasing costume idea! The kids will love dressing up as their favorite crime-fighting characters. Mom and dad will like how budget-friendly these frocks will be.

Costume Idea No. 10: Hanging with the Gnomies

Perfect for lawn sitting or doorbell ringing, these gnome costumes are cute, cheap and easy to make -- without sacrificing any whimsy.

Quick, Feel-Good Cold Remedies for Kids

As you probably know, there's no cure for the common cold. And it's hard to prevent, especially in children who are in school or daycare. Keeping your home's germ hotspots clean and boosting your child's immune system with plenty of sleep helps. Even so, few moms get through the sneezin' season without having to deal with at least one bout of sniffles and a sore throat.

So how can you help a sick child feel better? 

1. Offer an ice pop.
Water, juice, warm broth or lemon water with honey can help loosen congestion and keep your sick one hydrated. (Just don't give honey to infants.) If your child's throat hurts so much you can't convince him to drink, offer an ice pop instead. 

2. Create a steam room.
Cold viruses thrive in dry conditions, which is part of the reason why colds are more common in winter. Mucus membranes will dry in dry air conditions, which can cause a nose to be stuffy and throat to be scratchy. To help loosen mucus, have your child sit in a steamy bathroom for 10 minutes before bedtime. A humidifier can also help; just be sure to keep it clean, otherwise it can make mold spores spread, doing more harm than good. Change the water every day and follow the manufacturer's cleaning instructions carefully.

3. Get them to gargle.
This can be hard to do with a younger child, but if you have a tween or teen, suggest she gargle twice a day with warm salt water (1/2 teaspoon of salt mixed into 1 cup warm water).

4. Heed Grandma's advice.
As for her famous chicken soup remedy, good news: It's a valid meal choice for a child with a cold. Studies have shown that both the homemade and canned varieties have anti-inflammatory properties, easing swollen nasal membranes. Plus, it's another (tasty) way of helping your child get valuable fluids, and it can replace lost sodium if your child is vomiting or has diarrhea.

5. Try saline nasal drops and sprays.
Combat stuffiness and congestion with over-the-counter saline nasal sprays and drops. For a baby, squirt a few drops of saline solution in your baby's nasal passages, then gently suction with a rubber bulb syringe. This is important, as babies are "obligate nose breathers," meaning they have not yet learned to open their mouths to breathe when their nose is stuffed.

6. Watch for signs of strep.
If your child's sore throat is accompanied by a fever, headache or chills, or her discomfort seems extreme, give her pediatrician a call. It might be strep throat, a bacterial infection that you'll need antibiotics to treat.