Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Things That Go Bump in the Bathroom

Do you find yourself always bumping into things in the bathroom? Could be your space is too small for your, uh, self. If you keep butting into toilet paper holders and grinding elbows against towel rods, go recessed and circular instead.

You’ll find it fairly easy, with a little advance knowledge about studs and wiring, to cut into your walls with a saw made for the purpose. Your home improvement store will have an array of space-saving toilet paper holder styles that will recess into the wall. They usually come with complete instructions.

For protruding towel rods, remove them and replace with the circular types. These can be mounted higher up and have a flatter profile. Now you have to watch your head.

Monday, January 30, 2006

What Terrors Lurk in the Bathroom?

Probably, you don’t think much beyond slipping in the tub or cutting yourself shaving. There are plenty of other opportunities to hurt yourself in this tiny room that mixes hot water, electricity, and humanity. You already know the basics of not drying your hair while taking a bath.

When is the last time you had to use the grab bar in the shower or tub? Have you really tested it and can it stand up to its job? Or does it roll around and slide sideways out of one hole? Is it solid plastic without any texture? A soapy hand would slide right off. What’s the point of that?

If you have an older home and the shower unit has a latch on the door, remove it. Also, if you have a choice, make sure the door swings outward, instead of in.

These are just a few things to check on; you’ll find more here. The bathroom is one of the most dangerous areas of the home for individuals of all capabilities and ages. Be careful.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Spiff Up Your Entry

Is your porch plain? Your sidewalk sadly missing something? Adding tile and pavers is a fairly easy do-it-yourself project that is long-lasting and will add aesthetic and monetary value to your home. Plan on a good amount of manual labor, however, because you’ll be lugging the pavers from the store to your car to your yard and then handling each one during the laying process. That’s part of the fun, right?

For a pathway, you’ll need to dig down and add a layer of sand. Then you can place your pavers and pour sand in between the spaces. For an entryway, be sure to choose outdoor tiles that are sealed. This requires a little more skill, but if your concrete surface is square and level, should be completed in a weekend. You’ll need thinset mortar for the base layer, the tiles, and a cement-based grout. Your home improvement store folks can help you with the details.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Toxic Tansy

You may have heard that Tansy is an effective ant-repellent. It may be way more trouble than it’s worth. If you plan to grow your own, remember that this herb may be toxic to pets and can cause an allergic reaction when in contact with skin. Plus, the leaves have to be chopped up and then placed around active ant trails.

Depending on who you ask, however, it can attract beneficial insects and is sometimes planted at the edge of a garden. It grows wild and is considered a nuisance weed in some areas.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Play With Clay

If you want to make a quick and cute little place card, or napkin ring, or little table ornament, polymer clay can’t be beat. It can be baked and painted and you don’t have to be a master craftsman to add a fun look to the table. For Valentine’s day, hearts, of course. For Easter, create a half-egg shape and carve a groove down the middle. Use it as a place card holder.

Any time of year is an excuse for an informal table decoration and clay is fun for both kids and adults. Look for the flexible products, such as Sculpey, and you’ll come up with plenty of other ideas on your own. Craft paints, glitter, spray paint, anything goes. You’ll find more fun ideas here.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Smelly Drawers

You may have just spotted the perfect little chest or cabinet at a garage sale. Perhaps you’ve had a nightstand in storage and are retrieving it for your new home. Open those drawers, though, and they have acquired quite an odor. The easy first effort you can make is to load the drawers up with charcoal briquettes and let them sit for awhile. They’re great odor-eaters.

However, if can still detect an odor, it’s time to take serious action with some heavy-duty sealant. Yes, it’s tedious, but may be your only resort.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Say No to Low

If you have shopped for bedroom furniture lately, you’ll know that beds are getting supersized just like everything (and everyone) else. When you introduce a new-style bed into a room, you may suddenly realize that your nightstand has just become dwarfed by the big bad mattress set.

Bachelor’s chests are becoming more popular for this very reason and, with their extra drawers, may be just the boost you need. Also, a counter-height table may also work in your space. Shop around for some unusual finds such as outdoor tables that might fit into your decor. Many places will allow you to purchase tables without committing to the chairs.

And, if you find that the table works, but is a bit out of proportion, invest in extra pillows for the bed. Pile ‘em high and you’ll have both a trendy and upscale look.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Fire Patrol

Fire extinguishers – you almost can’t have too many of them. And now that they can be purchased for around $10, go get yourself a few.

Hotspots include:
-Hall closets
-Laundry Room/Garage entry
-Garage and storage areas

They’re so easy to use; train the kids (who are of age and can act responsibly without being tempted to treat them as a toy in some unsupervised moment). Hold reminder drills on their use, too. If you can afford the larger canisters – get at least a couple of those, too. And read the instructions.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Those Fine Foundation Folks

If you find yourself in need of foundation repairs, be very cautious. You are likely to find only a handful of reputable companies in a good-sized city and should be able to narrow that down to one or two quickly by asking around.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions (and this goes for any contractor):
-How long have they been in business? If a company has changed its name in the past, that could be a sign of trouble in the woodpile.
-Make sure they use their own crews and do not subcontract out.
-Be sure that they are bonded and insured and willing to show proof.
-Ask if they inspect plumbing and sewer lines both before and after the job.

Asking a contractor for references is often a wasted effort. After all; they’re not going to pass along customer names who were unhappy with them, right? So, when seeking references – just get those on your own.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Bathing Beauties

When you’re stuck indoors on a winter or rainy day with nothing to do, it’s time to turn your hand to the greenery. What a perfect time, don’t you think, to give all your plants a good cleaning? That includes dusting and washing the leaves.

You don’t – and most experts recommend against it – even have to purchase products that will make your leaves shine. Plain water is best and won’t clog pores (unless you have water that has been softened, which will).

While you’re at it, clean the insides of your windows – your plants will appreciate the additional rays.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Pressure Check

Just a little reminder. If you are using any type of household spray that is under pressure – that includes hairspray, Endust, Glade air freshener, whatever – don’t use it around a gas stove and don’t be smoking those cigarettes while you work.

If you insist on that little combo, you may find out what the word flammable really means.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Trash Talk

You’ve been warned about the dangers of mixing common household products together. You know that poisonous clouds could engulf and make you ill or even kill you.

Now, what about when you throw two or more of those products away? Are the lids on tight? No leaks? Because if you haven’t checked those two things, you’re sure to have a chemical mess in the trash. It won’t be any different from doing it while cleaning, will it?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Door Shush

Tired of hearing cabinet doors slam closed? You may not be able to control the person behind the slamming and you probably can’t slow down the actual speed from open to closed. You can, however, buy the little pads that fit on the corners and that will go a long way toward noise reduction.

The little cushions are easy to mount (they’re self-adhesive) and are inexpensive (felt or plastic) to boot.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Keep Crystal Clean by Hand

Like good knives, your best crystal should never go into the dishwasher. Gently, please, wash it by hand. The combination of hot water and detergent will etch fine glass – something that doesn’t happen with everyday stuff. Once a nice glass looks cloudy – too late, it is permanently marked.

By the way, etching problems seem to be worse when the water is soft.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Flowers are Sweet - But Does Your Guy Need Sweet?

Florists may hate to hear this, but most guys really don’t want to receive flowers at the office. If you must do something like that, have them delivered to his home.

Even if your special male is OK with the gesture, you have no control over the other males in the office – they may not be as “mature” and will proceed to tease unmercifully. Not a good thing for a boss to overhear, either.

If you need some advice on how to send flowers to acquaintances and co-workers, check this out. You’ll find more details on what to really send a guy as well.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Don't Get Jerked Around

Do you have those decorative knobs that stick out from kitchen drawers? Here’s a little safety advice about that. If you are wearing any type of clothing that is open in the front – like an overshirt or robe – make sure the inner material on both sides of the shirt (button and buttonhole) is sewn down. Have a look; if it is just folded over, that little bit of flap can – and will – catch on those knobs. Big sleeves are also another safety pitfall.

You’ll find yourself jerked backward or sideways and you don’t that to happen when you’re carrying a hot bowl of soup, do you?

Saturday, January 14, 2006

High-Profile Mattresses

It’s true – mattresses are getting deeper and heavier. If you’re in the market, you may need new sheets that will fit as well as a new frame. The older frames simply can’t handle the extra weight – combined with yours, that is.

There’s more to think about. The deeper, fluffier mattresses and box springs mean that it’s a lot further to the floor. Some frame manufacturers are thinking about you – especially if you’re shorter. They’re producing metal frames that are lower to the ground. That eliminates your underbed storage space, but gets those legs over the bed and onto the floor without having to scoot over the edge.

If you haven’t purchased your mattress, yet, read this.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Lawnmowers Need Vacations, Too

If you live in a part of the country where you don’t need to mow during the winter months, lucky you. Of course, you probably know that mowers can’t just be rolled into the shed or garage without a little pre-vacation prep.

Removing gasoline and oil is most important. These will gum up the works and could put you in the market for a brand new mower. Don’t let the oil drain into anything but an approved container that can be discarded of properly. Turn the lawnmower over and let it drain. Mowers aren’t light and you may need extra help.

Tip the lawnmower on its side and give it a good cleaning, too. Get the old dried grass off the blade. Inspect the blade and if you see any dings, it probably should go to a lawnmower specialist. They do charge nicely for their work, but if you are unsure how to remove the blade and sharpen it, then it’s worth it for peace of mind.

Remove the sparkplug. So you don’t get confused, take it with you to buy the new one. It doesn’t have to be gapped, just replaced. Now, you’re ready to stash that puppy away for a long winter’s rest.

P.S. Always check the manual, first, to make sure you're doing things their way.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Sending Flowers is More Than a Phone Call Away

While it is true that your floral professional is there to guide you through the amazing process of sending flowers, he or she can’t know everything. You have to help out a little. Don’t be afraid – even if you’re a first-timer. When you’re ordering flowers for a special occasion – or for no occasion – you should have a little information of your own to pass along.

Helpful little details about the giftee include:
-Personality – energetic, quiet
-Decorating taste – trendy, casual, traditional
-Favorite colors; least liked colors
-Flower dislikes (does he or she absolutely abhor roses for some reason? Are they allergic to any particular species?)
That’s a pretty good start. Now, you can step back and let the florist do the rest of the work. Except for what you want to say on the gift card – that’s back at ya’.

For more detailed instructions on the etiquette of sending flowers, read this.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Water World

Freezing pipes, busted hoses, a gushing water heater – these are all reasons to know exactly how to turn off the main water valve until you can get help. Winter is a bad time to be without these items, but it’s even worse to have water spewing forth across floors and carpet.

Grab the flashlight and head straight to the main water cutoff valve. You have to turn it off, now. Chances are, it’s going to be a nasty little pit filled with all sort of things: mud, leaves, critters, etc. Wear gloves, if you must. The valve itself may be a little stubborn as well.

If you don’t have the strength to turn the valve, try this handy little hint: take a large-sized adjustable wrench and set it to fit over the center part of the valve. Place a screwdriver through the hole in the wrench handle and use it for leverage to turn the valve. Most valves should be turned clockwise for “off.”

If at all possible, wait until regular operating hours to call a plumber or other professional. If you simply have to replace that water heater after hours, it’s going to cost you four times as much. Really.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Put This Where The Sun Doesn't Shine

Thinking about an indoor water garden? If you’re new to the project, then you should know that algae will grow if sun can penetrate the water. Sometimes the algae dies off by itself. That’s not to say the surface plants won’t need to catch a few rays and some ambient light should reach below the surface.

Choose plants carefully. You can have floaters, emergents, and submergents. They should all be members of either the cold-water family or the warm-water types. Some will prefer sun and others will be fond of shade. Cold-water plants will be a bit less complicated to install.

The nutrient base is also important, so you’ll need to study up on that. You can learn a little bit more here.

Monday, January 09, 2006

What Else is in Your Doggie Bag?

We all know the rules about food sitting out on the counter: it’s two hours max. Then all sorts of nasty things begin to happen – some of them can make you really sick. For those who have never undergone a bout of food poisoning, take their word that it is similar to going through a prolonged death scene.

Now, let’s get to those doggie bags. You think nothing of having those leftovers pitched into a Styrofoam container or lunch sack, right? But before you get those goodies home, think about how long you took to eat in the first place. The food arrived at your restaurant table when? Now, how long did it take to get home after your meal? Really? Are you sure you didn’t stop off for a rental movie?

So, now, you need to do some math. Has the delicious stuff in your doggie bag been out way longer than two hours? Forget about it.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Shades of Polarization

You may own only one pair of sunshades, but that may not be enough. If you live in an area that sees a lot of snow, you need glasses that are polarized for glare in addition to UV protection. These also are good for sandy beaches and on the water. If you have ever walked a distance on bright white concrete, you’ll know that the effects are similar – and painful. Shades of amber also improve visibility.

Golfers can benefit from gray shades, but with the highest UV protection. If you play tennis, you need protective lenses in a teal shade. That shade breaks out the contrast between yellow balls and the background.

Some sunglass tints may lessen acuity in driving conditions, so keep an approved spare pair in the car. And watch those gradients – make sure the lightest portion is at the bottom and not in the middle. This also lessens the ability to see the readings on a dashboard.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Awash in Color

Decorative color washing is easy and will make a dramatic difference in your rooms without breaking the bank. You can use rags, natural sponges, or brushes to achieve the look you want: clouds or other textures. You’ll also need a couple of complementary base colors – one lighter than the other - as well as a top coat to protect your work.

Most decorative painting techniques acquire their special effects by mixing the complementary colors with a glaze. This adds an amazing depth to the wall. Also, if you’re afraid of trying something new on a room, try a small wall, first; one that has no doorways to tape off.

Enjoy your new-found creative skills – you can’t mess this one up! More color wash details here.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Switch Out the Switch Plates

Want to add a little fun to a room? Create decorative switch plates. You can also have fun with the electrical outlet plates, too. Be sure to turn off the electricity, first, though, or you could have a little too much fun.

Most plastic plates can be covered in fun fabrics, decoupaged, or painted with the right kind of hobby paints. Scuff them up first so they’ll bond with your choice of decoration. You can also find wood plates at craft or woodworking stores.

It’s fun for the kids to get in on the act, too, and can really liven up a room for just a few pennies. You don’t have to be an artist, just add a few swooshes or polka dots – anything goes! Decorative switchplates can be elegant or trendy, too. If you need a few more ideas, check this out.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Where Are Your Manners?

If you have not sent your thank you notes out, yet, what are you waiting for? Embarrassment? Dissing by the entire family? Do not wait another day – if you do, you’ll keep putting it off and then, you’ll have to create a New Year’s resolution for next year about procrastination.

While it is perfectly all right to ignore the thank you note business if you open a present in front of the giver, or by phone or whatever if it’s a family member, society’s great mavens still insist that a thank you note is the right thing to do. It not only makes you look like a nice and thoughtful person, but also increases your chances of getting a better gift next year.

It’s a fact that people love to be thanked-in the form of an envelope with a stamp on it, so what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Would You Please Clean Your Wood?

If you have inherited an old piece of furniture and are wondering how to clean it, first find out its value. If it is “priceless,” forget it and call an expert. However, if it’s in fairly good shape and just a little bit dirty, water may not be the simplest answer at all.

If furniture has a shellac coating, do not use water. Remember those white rings on coffee tables? Water and shellac met there. Try a 1:1 ratio of white vinegar and olive oil; rub in going with the grain.

Mineral spirits actually work on most wood finishes without any surprises. Mineral spirits will remove grease and wax buildup as well, whereas water will not. For painted pieces that have a dirt buildup, use a mild dish detergent. If you need more details on preserving favorite family furniture, read this.

Many experts recommend a product called Finisher’s Formula for polishing. It’s made of oils and beeswax and is better for wood than many products that are petroleum-distillate based. Just follow the instructions and remember to use twice a year.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Tanked Up or Tankless

If you’re hearing all sorts of good things about tankless water heaters, you should do a little more research. First, figure out what kind of FHR you need – that’s how much water is used in your home at peak periods. More than one person taking a shower? Running the dishwasher and the washing machine at the same time?

Many experts are still recommending the conventional tank heater is best and some state that energy efficiency is no different between the two. Tankless heaters require a burst of energy to get that water hot immediately, which balances out over time against running water to reach the hot stage from a tank heater. Also, the flow rate on a tankless is much less, so you may not get to run multiple showers or appliances at the same time.

Do your homework – read this - and then make your decision.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Protection From Policy Providers

Gotta have it. And most folks recommend that when you’re checking into a company, find out how quick a payout occurs in case of a disaster. Especially if you have flood, earthquake, or hurricane insurance. There are a few additional questions you should ask – but not of current policy holders. You really need to find those who changed policies.

Why? For one thing, when a major disaster occurs, many insurance companies would go bankrupt if they paid the full amount owed, so they begin paying 10 cents on the dollar, or something like that.

A second problem occurs after you receive the payout, even on a small claim. Will the company dump you once you make a claim? It happens a lot (with experience on that from the folks with whom you’re supposed to be in good hands with). Now, how you obtain that information is up to you – but once you’ve been dumped over a small claim, it may not be easy trying to get into the good hands of another insurance company.