Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Envirosax Market Bags

As a bring-your-own-bagger, I used to alternate between bringing paper Trader Joe’s bags from previous trips (for whatever reason they seem the sturdiest – and most cheerful – of the paper bag types) and a bunch of canvas tote bags. Both required space and thought, two things of which I seem to be in limited supply nowadays.

Enter Envirosax market bags! On a particularly good day at the office, my team surprised me with a green botanical-printed Envirosax stuffed with a candle gift set (I am thinking of investing in risky derivatives sometime in the near future, because shortly thereafter, I also won a Garmin navigation system in a random drawing). Requiring neither space nor thought, the bags roll themselves into a teeny-tiny size and have fasteners to keep them shut. They’re super lightweight, and as small as they look, they expand into a roomy, sturdy bag. The empty, rolled up bags are great tucked into your purse, or kept in the car (which is what I do). And of course the bag isn't limited to shopping purposes -- the lightweight polyester material can be hosed down and is a roomy bag for the beach or pool, and the print is so cute that I'm sure at some point I'll be telling you that I made one into a skirt.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


A couple of weeks ago I walked into my friend Carol's house -- she has kids roughly the same age as mine -- and was struck by how grown-up her house looked. It was spotless. Her sofas looked normal, as if no one had ever puked on / spilled milk on / mashed food into / used them as a trampoline. The overall effect of walking into a clean, puke-free house was magical...and serene. When I walked back into my own house, the saggy, stained sofas that sit in our family room made me glum.

Though I entertained fantasies of a new beige-colored microfiber sectional with leather trim, that was out of the question. I asked the kids if they would continue to jump on / step over, build forts with / color near / sneak food on said hypothetical sofa and they answered yes. So, I set out to refurbish! A cursory call to reupholsterers, who would re-stuff my formerly down-filled cushions, yielded a quote of roughly a thousand dollars for the sofa. That included a wait time of a couple of weeks while the special feathers were ordered, and a period of time during which I'd have no cushions upon which to sit. Not good enough for my need for immediate gratification.

So I ended up shoving old, flat pillows of yore into my cushions. See the picture above -- the cushion closest to us has been restored using my free-but-effective pillow stuffing method (I stuffed them into the bottom-facing part of the cushion so the unusual lumps wouldn't show as much); the depressed cushion further away is the "before" sample. I happened to have a lot of old flat pillows, which included a variety of out-of-commission-bed pillows and accent pillows, all shoved breast-implant-style into any space I could find in the cushions (which were zippered, making things a lot easier than they might have been). I then set about removing stains by using a spray bottle filled with water and blottting with a cloth; grease stains I was able to get out by sprinkling corn starch over stains and letting sit for a couple of hours before vacuuming up. The result? To the right. Puke-free puffy sofa! (Well, mostly. I wasn't able to get out the residue from a particular incident involving pink silly putty. Silly putty is the enemy. Don't let it into your house.)

This transformation inspired me to look for other low-cost ways to reduce the offensiveness of my family room. Here's what the wall opposite my sofa used to look like -- it was basically a mishmash of cheap furniture that somehow migrated down from the playroom.
A visit to IKEA and investment in Expedit bookshelves, filled in with baskets I'd gotten from Target for the play room a couple of years ago, plus a coffee table spruced up the room in a remarkably low-risk fashion. While I'd like to be able to say that my house looks like this all the time, and not just every other Tuesday when a certain cleaning crew rolls in to save the day, I can't. But it does look less bad.