Bookworms Unite!

Summer is an ideal time to form a book club (you know, since you might actually have a minute or two to read for pleasure), and it’s super easy to organize. Here’s how.

Call on your crew. Put out the word to your bookworm buddies that you’re starting a club, providing as much detail as possible up front—think what, when, where, and why. To get things rolling, choose the first book yourself, preferably a new release that’s been getting a lot of buzz. Set up a calendar invite so everyone stays in the loop, and aim to meet once a month (more than that might start to feel like another item on the to-do list).

Set the scene. If it’s an alfresco affair on your patio, make sure to set out enough outdoor furniture for everyone to have a seat. Scatter throw pillows on your chairs to make seats more comfortable. If you’re hosting at night, set out a basket of blankets and wraps in case it turns breezy.

Play up the theme. Serve snacks that the characters from your book might have eaten, or recreate the setting with your decor. If the story is set at a beach house, for instance, incorporate shells or sea glass into your tablescape or serve snacks in beach pails. Make a playlist of summer songs to stream as background music.

Schedule the next session. At the end of the first gathering, decide on the next book and ask for volunteers to host the next meeting. Don’t rush to dismantle your party space, however. Keep a cozy spot or two for when you curl up to read your next assignment.

Comfort Clothes, Dressed Up!

Comfort is stylish this season! Sneakers have replaced heels on some of the world’s trendiest runways, and modified sweats in a variety of materials and prints have been spotted on fashion bloggers, models, and celebrities. But this trend can easily veer toward sloppy rather than chic if you don’t follow a few key styling rules. Read on for advice for turning comfy into cool.

One thing at a time. Don’t go overboard with the casual pieces when putting together your outfit. Pick one piece that says comfortable, then aim for a more elegant look with the rest of your ensemble. Bottom line: Sneakers with a tracksuit—no matter how fabulous the labels—are still best suited for hanging around the house.

Fit is key. Unlike your dad’s bargain sweatpants, the comfort trend relies heavily on fit if it’s going to look polished. Pieces should give a nod to gym wear without being confused with it. Look for form-fitting, sweatshirt-inspired tops and athletic-style pants that flatter your shape and accentuate your legs but don’t overwhelm your frame.

Layer on some luxury. Once you’ve picked your one casual, comfortable piece, give the rest of your outfit that styled-by-a-pro look by adding luxurious pieces that up the overall glam factor. Add a heel to your athletic-style pant to dress it up. Wear your fabulous new sneakers with a cocktail dress and leather jacket. Add a blingy necklace to your sweatshirt. Fancier pieces paired with casual ones show that you made consciously stylish choices—and you’re nobody’s fashion victim.

It’s all in the details. Traditional loungewear is pretty basic. The new dressed-up versions usually stand out from the crowd thanks to pretty embellishments, like leather trim, interesting necklines, fabulous patterns, or witty writing—all of which make this super-wearable trend feel new and fun.

Keep them fresh and bright. These are not your trusty laundry-day sweats! Fashionable casual clothes require special care to keep their shape and continue looking fierce—not to mention feeling soft. Wash your pieces inside out on a cold or warm setting with a liquid laundry detergent, then tumble dry on low.

Love Your Dog (Not His Smell)

Man’s best friend may be your top companion, but he’s not the neatest roommate. He sheds. He licks your floors. He drools after he drinks. It can add up to a not-so-sweet dog odor that hangs around the house. Clean up his act (and your house) with these doggie do’s.

Give hair the heave-ho. Minimize shedding with weekly brushing. (Tip: Do this outside, for neatness.) Consider upgrading your vacuum to a HEPA filter model, which catches teensy particles that Fido may be shaking off around the house, furniture included. Got wood floors? An electrostatic mop will be more efficient on wood than a vacuum, since it won’t blow the hair around.

Clean carpet mishaps. Dogs will eat anything. You know this because the evidence ends up on your rug. Use paper towels to pick up as much solid vomit as you can, and to blot wet spots. Next, clean the spot with a stain remover mixed with water and a clean rag. Use more clean rags to rinse, then blot the spot to help it dry.

Beautify his bedding. Shake out or vacuum his bedding, then put the cushion cover, bed base, and blanket in the washing machine along with his plush chew toys (if they’re machine washable; be sure to follow manufacturers’ directions). Use a large load setting and a stain remover along with your favorite detergent. Dry according to manufacturers’ directions.

Spiff up his crate. Clean the surfaces with a damp sponge and a multipurpose cleaner with stain-removing power. Rinse, then air-dry the crate and toss his blankie back inside. Send him to sleep with a few extra tummy rubs.

Give Your Car a Spring Cleaning

There’s nothing like having a car that looks and smells like new. With these five steps, your automobile can appear new-car clean in no time.

Step 1: Out with the old. Start by taking everything out of the car. Collect the candy wrappers, soda cans, old parking stubs, and other trash and throw it away. Then place your car staples, such as tissues and spare change, in a shopping bag or bin for now; you can return them to their proper places later.

Step 2: Dust the dashboard. Use a duster to brush away the dust and debris from air-conditioning vents, control buttons, cup holders, and crevices. Then wipe the dashboard and other non-leather surfaces with a sponge or paper towel. For really hard-to-reach places, try blowing out loose debris with a can of compressed air.

Step 3: Organize the glove box. Find out what treasures might be hiding in there by emptying it and wiping it out. Then carefully go through the contents to make sure things like your car registration and insurance cards are up to date. If you keep a flashlight in your glove box, check that it works.

Step 4: Vacuum. At this point, you’ve knocked a lot of debris loose and now is the best time to vacuum inside. Be sure to move the seats back and forth to capture all the dirt, and hit the trunk too. Then remove the mats, if you haven’t already, and vacuum them.

Step 5: Make the interior sparkle. To clean like a pro, you’ll need the right tools. Choose a multipurpose cleanser that includes a stain remover. Mix the cleaner with warm water in a bucket or plastic squirt bottle, and use it with a sponge to clean and brighten the upholstery, floor mats, dashboard, cup holders, and other places where stains have snuck in. (Tip: Cut up a sponge to smaller sizes that fit into the nooks and crannies.) Be sure to rinse well when done. For leather seats and trim, use leather cleaner instead, which will condition and beautify those surfaces. 

The final touch? Go for a drive and enjoy the bright, fresh ride. 

Help Your Teens Earn Money for Prom

Last year the average family earmarked $1,100 to cover prom expenses. This year, get smart: Soften the blow on your wallet by having your teens contribute to the kitty. Read below for money-earning ideas that also teach valuable lessons.

Chores can add up. No question, you can give them a few bucks for routine chores like mowing the lawn or doing the dishes. Or sign them up for laundry duty. 

Think group effort. To help your teen and her besties earn big bucks, encourage them to “crowdsource” their prom fund by taking on larger endeavors with friends. If they like to cook, have them grab a few culinary-minded friends to host a dinner party/fund-raiser for the parents. The parents buy a ticket to the party (say $25–$50) and are treated to a night out with a home-cooked meal (and no cleanup!). If the event goes well, your teens can do it again with a breakfast or dessert theme.

Teach them to market their skills. Is your teen a stellar soccer player or a piano prodigy? Encourage them to approach your friends that have younger children and offer to give the kids after-school lessons for a small fee.

Go old-school. If your town allows it, help your teen and her friends organize a car wash or bake sale in a central location. At the end of the event, the teens can divvy up the earnings or put them toward a collective goal, such as the cost of their prom-night ride or the after-dance festivities. There’s no question—working for their ultimate prom will make the night even more memorable.