A Few of My Favorite Things {September 2013}

posted by Andrea | 09/6/2013
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favorite things september

After a whole month off, I have a few more “favorite things” to share with you for September!!  (click here to see more of my favorite things).

DISCLOSURE: None of these products are sponsored in any way; however, some of the links below are affiliate links — which means I may get a VERY small percentage of the sale if you make a purchase through my links. However, I’m only promoting the products below because I use them EVERY SINGLE DAY in my own home and life! Read my full disclosure policy for more information.

Blackout Cellular Window Treatments

blackout curtians

When we finished renovating our main floor bedrooms and bathrooms two years ago, we went almost a month with absolutely no window treatments. Then Dave gave me an ultimatum and said we needed something ASAP; otherwise he was hanging towels in front of the windows 🙂

Since I loved the painted woodwork around our windows, I didn’t think it made sense to spend money on curtains that would just cover up all that beautiful wood. I also don’t like the “bulk” the curtains bring to smaller bedrooms like ours.

As always I knew what I wanted — white, cordless, blackout shades — but I wasn’t sure I wanted to pay the price. However, I bit the bullet and purchased these shades from Home Depot… and I’ve never, ever regretted that purchase.

They almost invisibly blend in with the white woodwork when raised (see left picture below), and when pulled down, they create pitch black darkness in the middle of a sunny afternoon. I don’t think I need to tell you how lovely this is for nap time 🙂

There are no unsightly (or dangerous) cords hanging all over the place and no poles to twist the blinds open or close — just a single button to press when you want to raise the blinds (they lower just by pulling them down).

Honestly, this is one of my most favorite “home decor” purchases ever and we will most definitely be putting these blackout cellular window treatments in all the upstairs bedrooms too.


Dish Drying Mats

dish drying mat

Since we have a single-bowl farmhouse sink (which I’ve always wanted and totally love), we need an alternate method for drying our hand-washed dishes. This was an extremely small issue to work around — especially since our old sink was so small that we regularly had to put the hand-washed dishes on the counter anyway.

We used to lay the wet dishes on towels, but since towels aren’t super thick or absorbent, we were going through lots and lots of towels each week — and you all know that I don’t like making any more laundry than necessary 🙂

So, a couple years ago (even before our farmhouse sink) I found some jumbo dish drying mats at Bed Bath and Beyond — and decided they were worth using a $5 off coupon. We have 2 of the XL tan colored mats and use them multiple times each week for laying out dishes to dry (we always let the dishes air dry).

Not only does the super thick, super absorbent pad wick moisture away from the dishes, the mat itself also drys extremely fast after we put the dishes away. We store our mats folded up underneath our sink and wash them about once a month.

You can read about the other products I use to keep our farmhouse sink (and our dishes) clean and protected here.


PerfectCLEAN Microfiber Dish Cloths

perfect clean cloths

Along with the dish drying mats listed above, we recently (about 3 months ago) made the switch from my homemade knitted dish cloths to microfiber dish cloths. But not just any microfiber dish cloths — the PerfectCLEAN All-Purpose Wipers.

These are by far the BEST microfiber cloths I’ve ever used — and no, they don’t “stick” to your skin or feel rough like some of the cloths I’ve used in the past. They are SOOOOOO soft and super-duper absorbent. They are actually kind of high-tech — you can read about the science behind the Perfect Clean cloths here.

To paraphrase slightly from their website:

PerfectCLEAN cloths are snag-free, lint-free, and  the only product patented with “built-in antimicrobial protection.” The microscopic triangular fibers are capable of “trapping and removing” 99.99% of bacteria from hard surfaces (without chemicals).

We have 2 of the 12″ x 12″ 5-packs. We use the gray 5-pack for wiping Nora’s face and hands after meals, and then the colored 5-pack for dishes and kitchen cleanup. I get 2 new cloths out every morning and put the used ones in the wash.

Even though they are colored, they are still 100% bleachable (which is important to me for rags). I usually bleach one load of whites in the middle of the week and another load on the weekend, so we always have plenty of clean cloths available.

Boston Ferns

I’m not a huge fan of annuals — because they only last for a few months here in Michigan. They feel like a waste of money for me — especially since I’m so good at finding free or really inexpensive perennials that will come back year after year after year.

However, I absolutely LOVE Boston Ferns.

It’s a weakness — and I think they just scream “country farmhouse!”

So every year, I wait for a local (and very large) greenhouse to have their annual clearance sale (it starts already at the end of June) and I stock up on Boston Ferns for $2.99 a piece. Then I hang them all over our back entry way, I put them in pots and planters by our bright red Adirondack chairs, and I place them anywhere else I think needs a little pop of green.

You can’t have too many Boston Ferns if you ask me 🙂

Then, towards the end of October, I’ll post them on Craigslist for $3 a piece (because I don’t like live plants inside — it’s too much hassle and mess for me). I get all my money back and the new owners are thrilled with the humongous Boston Ferns they get for only $3.

Don’t they look lovely?



Echo Interchangeable Lawn Tools

Ok, so this is actually Dave’s “baby” but I love it too because it’s majorly space-saving (and cost-saving) versus buying and storing multiple different yard tools.

The Echo brand was one of the first (at least that I know of) to come out with a single power shaft that is interchangeable with a variety of attachment tools. Now there are several other “competitors” — all of which I’m sure do a fabulous job. However, we’ve only used the Echo products, and we can attest to the fact that they are really nice.

We have the power shaft, the blower, the weed whipper, and the edger — but there are SO many more attachments we could get if we want to. The next one we’re thinking about getting is the chain saw attachment because we’ve had to borrow my dad’s chain saw several times in the last year.

Oh, and if you notice in the picture above, the attachments have a removable hook on the end which makes it really easy to hang them (especially with our new garage storage system).

These Echo products should be available at most Home Depot stores — and I’m guessing they might even be on sale this time of year!


That’s all for me this month.

Make sure you check out my previous months’ favorite things — and feel free to share some of YOUR favorite things in the comments below!

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  1. Dawn Jansen


    Do you ever use any type of dish drying rack with your mat? (for plates and things?)


    Andrea Reply:

    no, we wash all of those in the dishwasher. it’s just pots, pans, and bottles that we wash in the sink 🙂


    Dawn Reply:



  2. Janet


    Do you still use your Unger Microfiber cleaning sponges (thin, with a scrubbing side)? Are you you using the PerfectClean microfiber cloths for washing and drying? They seem like they could be a little large to use to wash dishes. Thanks – I value your opinion and enjoy your posts!


    Andrea Reply:

    Yes Janet, We use the Unger microfiber sponges to wash dishes, scrub the stove top, etc. We use the PerfectClean cloths to wipe up the counter/table and to wash Nora’s hands and face (different cloths for each!)


  3. Heather R


    I have been reading your blog for years! I always look forward to seeing your blog post sitting in my e-mail inbox (which, thanks to you, I try to keep pared down to just a few e-mails that need attention). I was hoping I could talk you in to doing a blog post on how you organize items under your sink (kitchen and bathroom). I know there are tons of ways to do this, but you always seem to have such a knack for finding frugal and easy ways to organize and simplify things. Thanks!

    PS-Congrats on the baby news!


    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Heather 🙂
    And you’re in luck — because the “under the sink storage” is actually one of the post ideas on my list for the upcoming weeks!!


  4. Margret


    I love Boston ferns too and want to grow a big one for indoors. Can I ask how you rinse your hand wash dishes with one sink? And congratulations on your happy baby news!!


    Andrea Reply:

    Margret, I laughed when I read your comment — because without fail, EVERY time I post pictures of my sink, I always get a handful of comments and emails asking how we rinse dishes with only one sink. So far, you are the first one to ask this time 🙂

    I’m always puzzled by the question because I honestly never thought it was an issue. We simply wash the dishes in the sink, rinse them under the faucet, and place them on the drying mat. Done. We use hot rinse water — which keeps the dish water nice and hot as well.
    Does that answer your question?


    Margret Reply:

    Yes! Thank you. When I had only one sink it was too little to keep adding rinse water to it. I’ve always wondered how people do it. A bigger sink!


  5. Stel


    Use the same dishdrying at in RSA, love it.


  6. Carla


    I also have the drying mat from BBB and we love it! Even though we have a dishwasher a lot of the bakeware can’t go through it. This mat is perfect and so easy to just throw in the washer and keep clean.


  7. Lou


    Your timing is excellent! I’ve been pondering what to put behind the drapes in my bedroom to blackout the light. I work nights so having my room dark really helps me get the sleep I need. Thanks for the timely post! I will be looking in to purchasing this item soon. I only have one window so the cost should be very manageable. Thanks again for all the work you do.


  8. Kalyn Brooke | Creative Savings


    LOVE those dish drying mats too! I have 3 of them. 🙂


  9. Chris


    Do you know if people can see “shadows” through those blinds into a house? Also, I have never liked microfiber washcloths b/c I wash my dish and bath towels together and hair sticks to them (I have long hair). Are these different in that regards? Thank you.


    Andrea Reply:

    I would think that since they are total black-out shades, you can not see shadows — however, I’ve never tried to go outside and look. I do know that when it’s bright outside and we pull the shades down for a nap, you can’t see any shadows of anything outside.

    And for the microfiber cloths, I have a feeling you would run into the same problem with the hair. I never thought of that because we all have really short hair — but the cloths do stick to our bath towels when I wash them.


    Chris Reply:

    Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.


  10. Kristin


    My mom hangs 4 huge Boston ferns every year, but she’s had the same ones for the last 5 years. That’s all my dad’s doing though. They have an unfinished walkout basement with huge windows that allow him to hang the 4 ferns every winter and then its his personal mission to make sure those suckers make it through the winter. Once they are back outside it’s on my mom to keep them alive!


    Andrea Reply:

    haha — that’s hilarious! I would try to keep them during the winter — but we have NO place to put them (and I have a lot) so we’d literally have a house full of ferns. Not sure how well that would go over with a toddler 🙂

    I figure, if I can get my money back out of them each year, I don’t mind re-purchasing them. I just have to start out with small ferns and “grown them” over the summer and fall!


  11. Melinda


    I love those window treatments but I’m wondering…Nora is probably better behaved than my son, but do those shades hold up well against young kids? We have the traditional blinds and my son, who is almost 3, loves to take the strips out! Ugh! I think my husband and I had great foresight when we decided to go to with the absolute cheapest blinds we could find, knowing that we’d have young kids in the house, but it is becoming pretty clear that we’re going to have to replace our current treatments soon.


    Andrea Reply:

    Well I don’t know if she’s “better behaved” but she really doesn’t mess with them. It probably helps that she can’t reach them too 🙂

    We keep them up all day and only pull them down at night (we don’t have neighbors close by and our house is far off the street). Also, the fabric is REALLY thick so I think it would be pretty hard for a child to ruin them… but who knows.


  12. Georgia


    How are the shades for dusting? My house is old and very dusty with hot air heat which just blows the heat around more.


    Andrea Reply:

    Well, they are fabric, so you can’t really dust them — you’d have to vacuum them. I’ve honestly never vacuumed them and it’s been 2 years now… but for some reason, our house is not very dusty (I usually only dust once a month at the most!)


  13. Kelly


    *anti-microbrial 🙂


  14. Kelly


    I love the cellular shades too! They are amazing. I love how your shade blends right in with your trim. We are not big sleep-in-ers (is that a word? hehe) but on the occasional Sunday, it’s nice to black out the room the night before and sleep in some! I made the mistake of putting a corded one in our half bath and my cat ate literally the entire cord. That was a fun adventure to the vet. I’d like to put some behind my kitchen valences! I have a burgundy island and pantry and I’m afraid the sun my fade it out. It shines in with a vegenance every afternoon/evening!

    I have been using a cloth from Norwex that is microbrial. It’s about $15 a cloth. I keep rewashing it over and over and over. I dust my whole house with it. I absolutely love it. Recently I lost it. I imagine it’s probably stuck inside a pair of sweat paints or something. I want buy a new one but now that I have read up on your cloths, I am wondering how they compare to each other. Your cloths seem like a better deal. Have you heard of Norwex? Let me know your thoughts on this.

    Love the fern idea! After two years of unattractive dying petunias underneath my porch all summer (I water them daily, too!) I think next summer I would like to switch to ferns. I live in northern Indiana so I am familiar with the short summer season. I usually spend quite a bit on annuals only to toss them out a few months later. Think of all the Norwex cloths I could have purchased 🙂


    Andrea Reply:

    Well, we don’t sleep in past 7:00, but in the summer, it’s broad daylight by 6:00 already (and it doesn’t get dark until after 10:00) so they still serve a purpose — especially for Nora’s room. We’re super happy with our shades too and will definitely be putting them in our upstairs bedrooms too!!

    Oh, and one thing to think about with the ferns — they need lots of SHADE!