Yes, the Handy Imp knows that many of you clean your kitchen sinks regularly, perhaps with a toothbrush to get into those crevices. One area that might get overlooked is the actual spout portion. Here is where that hardwater buildup begins, but it can be even worse than that.
Go check now.
Is there any pink mucousy stuff sprouting and throbbing around the holes where your water comes out? Are you drinking from this faucet? Filling pots for cooking from here? Try not to think too much about it; too late now. But give it a good cleaning right this minute. Wouldn't hurt to give it a good dousing with a disinfectant.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Yes, the Handy Imp knows that many of you clean your kitchen sinks regularly, perhaps with a toothbrush to get into those crevices. One area that might get overlooked is the actual spout portion. Here is where that hardwater buildup begins, but it can be even worse than that.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
That time of year is approaching when it's best to pay more attention to germs. You come home from work, school, or the store covered in all sorts of little nasties that can spread illness like wildfire. Yeah - just think about the grocery clerk who was wiping her nose. Just more things to worry about.
The Handy Imp's first line of defense is alcohol wipes. Keep them in vehicles, purses, backpacks and pockets. Use them - on hands and on the steering wheel. This will leave some of those bad guys behind. Once you're home, wash hands immediately, using the two-minute rule. Be liberal with the disinfectant spray, too. Attack those doorknobs, phones and computer gear, including mouse and keyboard. Now that you're on a roll, you'll find other things to wipe down, won't you?
Sunday, November 02, 2008
As days are getting shorter, you may think be thinking of ways to cheer up indoors spaces. Even in summer, some areas of the home may never see much sunshine. Plants can certainly add a cheerful presence and some varieties will thrive with only a little light - or no sun at all.
Here's a short list of low-light plants that should thrive in a dim environment.
-cast iron plant
Of all these, the cast iron plant may be the hardiest when it comes to dark spaces. Airferns can also survive, but could use a dose of diffused sunlight once a week before returning to their hideouts.
See? Green thumbs can grow in the dark!
Sunday, October 19, 2008
No, it's not a trip - but it's time to think about giving your garden and lawn tools a winter vacation. You won't be needing them for a few months, but don't let them feel neglected. Caring for them now means they'll be in good shape when spring rolls around - and it won't be that long, will it?
The first thing is to make sure they're clean. Hose 'em off, sweep up and you're out of here. There's a little more to it than that, of course. The lawnmower, in particular, needs a little work before you give it the holiday heave-ho. Drain all gasoline out and make sure the undercarriage is clean. Check for cracked blades while you're there.
Wash up all the other tools and make sure they're dry. Experts recommend sticking the blades in a bucket of oil-laced sand. You can also treat wood handles with linseed oil to keep them from cracking. If you see signs of rust, take care of that now before it gets any worse.
Now, everything's ready for a few months' rest while you go work indoors on all those piled-up chores.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
As you can see, it's wise to change out tub and shower strips on occasion. They may look fine on the top side, but see what's developing underneath?
Eventually, they begin to come loose, anyway - an even better reason to buy extras for replacements. There's a down side to safety in the tub or shower, though. These little strips leave a residue behind. So, don't buy anything fancy or cute - just get basic strips and place the new ones over the yellowed spots the old ones left behind. Be sure to follow the instructions - some have to sit overnight or up to 24 hours before getting wet.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
The Handy Imp has already addressed the convenience of work gloves without fingers. Cutting the fingers off of cheap cotton gloves will work in a pinch. If you're a heavier duty do-it-yourselfer, you'll want to check into these. They're not expensive and will last much longer. Plus, the leather palm construction will give you a much better grip. The yellow makes them harder to lose, too.
Try a pair on - it's nice if they're a tad larger than what you might normally wear. Otherwise, it's going to be challenge getting them off. Think about it - with regular gloves, you just tug at the fingertips. Without that leverage, these are likely to get stuck - and will.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Hummingbirds will start migrating soon, but that doesn't mean you can pack away the feeders. Those little guys need to keep filling up until they're ready to go. Even better, if you're in a climate that can tolerate cannas, the red variety (and goodness, they are red!) will ensure plenty of last-minute hummer visits. They're even better than feeders - you don't have to clean them!
If you'd like to know more about attracting hummingbirds and caring for feeders, read this.
And here's a basic article on cannas.
Monday, September 01, 2008
Did the Handy Imp say that? Excuse me. One thing is worth talking about, though, and that's their web site and new ordering setup. You'll find many items on the web site that, even though they're the same as in stores, are less expensive. Even better, you can have them delivered directly to the store for pickup and there are no shipping charges. You're notified by e-mail throughout the process.
This is a very good deal on many household and decorating items. Check out their other departments, too. A recent swag purchase saved more than $30.
Of course, you're at the mercy of the local Wal-Mart staff when you make the pickup. Isn't there a down side to some things after all?
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Perhaps this is not up there with the billion ways to use vinegar, but binder clips have tons of uses outside of keeping papers together. You can get them in small, medium, large, and jumbo. The Handy Imp even has one gigantic clip that's holding a complete manuscript together. Don't get your hand caught in one of those - they're like bear traps.
As you know, binder clips are practically indestructible - and cheap, too. So, now it's time to get them out of the office and into the kitchen and bathroom. They're absolutely perfect for keeping things closed, from chips and crackers to rice bags. They freeze well, too, so all your bagged veggies can stay closed.
Now, isn't that better than those fancy plastic kitchen clips with cute words that eventually break?
Oh, in the bathroom, binder clips are terrific for those rolled up toothpaste tubes. I'm sure you'll find tons of other things that need closing now.
They do come in colors and someone even thought to add dots and scribbly patterns. Plain black will do just fine.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Making repairs in tight spots is not always easy. You run the risk of ripping through skin on the backsides of hands, which can be very painful. Glovers are bulky, especially for smaller female hands, and you do need the touch and feel of fingertips.
This is a very simple solution that lets you maneuver while protecting tender skin. Purchase a pair or two of cheap work gloves and cut off the fingertips. You can get them in all cloth or get a pair with rubber palm grips for even greater control.
Cutoff gloves are also a great idea for seniors who do their own repairs. As folks age, skin on the hands tends to become thinner and more susceptible to bumps and scrapes.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Now's the time to start investing in solar lighting. If you're interested in energy savings for the long haul, you'll find many replacement options. You can accent any spot and add safety lighting, too. Driveway markers are a big hit as they're low-profile and can be purchased in blue, red, and green.
These are also great for outside steps and decks or patios. Line a pathway with raised solar lights, but be sure the shades focus the light downward. Otherwise, you'll be blinded by the beams, even dimmer ones.
It's also fun to add ambience, especially as all of us are staying home more and enjoying our outdoor spaces. Create dramatic solar lighting in trees or facing upward into the branches. Highlight a fountain or other yard sculpture. Create a grouping and move them as needed when you have guests.
Refrain from adding too much in one spot - it gets a little gaudy.
Best of all, of course, is that there is no wiring and no permits to worry about - on at dusk and off at dawn!
Sunday, July 13, 2008
It doesn't matter which snake you might come across in your area - this is not the time to get out your handy field identification guide. Unless you're an expert, it's best to err on the side of caution. They don't want to see you and you don't want to see them. For many species, bodies of water are their natural habitats. That means around your home if it's on a lake or pond and during vacation.
Cleaning up around a home or cabin presents some challenges. If you're scooping up any type of vegetation, don't use your bare hands. This is a wonderful hideaway for copperheads and water moccasins. The babies of some species carry even strong venom than the adults. Always use a rake or other long-handled tool to get from Point A to Point B. Train kids to be on the lookout and never try to guess which is which when it comes to species.
Sunday, July 06, 2008
The Imp is not talking about imports -but about an upside-down growing technique for tomatoes. It's a handy-dandy, hangy-downy tube that you can fill with dirt and tomatoes. The plants grow, literally, upside down. The benefits?
-They're easy to water.
-They fit on patios and any small space, like an apartment deck.
-Plants are less prone to bugs.
Before you buy, however, read customer reviews. Just like any other plant apparatus, results will vary - you just can't control Mother Nature, can you?
Sunday, June 29, 2008
You may not view your guest bath from a very important angle - the guest. You probably take your own private space for granted, stocking it for all the daily necessities.
The Handy Imp strongly suggests that guest comforts - whatever those may be - should start with these three essential items:
1. Extra toilet paper that's easy to find. How many times have you visited someone's home - and they forgot to restock the roll? It's a rather common oversight. Sometimes, they just leave a partially used roll out and it goes away in a hurry, doesn't it? That leaves you frantically searching for those treasured squares. As the host, it's your responsibility to leave nothing to chance. Set out an extra roll where it's easy to find. Make it attractive, of course, but just do it.
2. Hand soap and towels. Even in the most formal of homes, people need to wash their hands when they leave the powder room or guest bath. Believe it or not, an earlier trend left the powder room bare of these essentials. Soaps are nice, but messy. Splurge on a nice (elegant) pump decanter and don't be embarrassed to place it in your fancy space.
3. Scented spray. No matter where people are, they create smells. Make them feel more comfortable by scenting the powder room. The only way to reduce embarrassment over bodily functions is to layer your scents. Pair up a potpourri that continuously works by itself with a matching scented spray. That way, if the aroma drifts out into a hallway or common area, it will seem "natural." An extra squirt or two of spray won't alert other guests that something unpleasant needed covering up.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
The familiar sound of a new dog tag chimes throughout many homes. When a pet gets its shot, it's time to check out the new year's tag design. Seriously, though, you have to wonder - who designs these things. Are they up for special wards or what? Over the years, we've seen them oversized (for small dogs) or in some hideously ugly color.
The worst part, however, is the sharp edges. Some designs come with sharp points (like the year of the octagon) while others are simply sharp to feel along all the edges. Imagine how that feels pressed against puppy skin at the throat.
Get your metal file out and make those dog tags safer. Round 'em, burnish 'em - do whatever you have to do. If dog tag designers can't be more responsible, it's up to you!
Sunday, June 08, 2008
It's pretty easy to assume a dead tree is going to lose limbs sooner or later. A dangerous situation in any case. But, what about trees that appear to be thriving? For the average non-arborist, there is little beforehand warning that limbs are going to fall or an entire tree will topple.
Here are a few main tips that may mean a tree is in trouble:
-fungus, including mushrooms populating the base of the trunk or surrounding area.
-seeping sap could indicate could mean a sickly structure.
-V-shaped forks are not as strong as U-shapes and always present the potential for breakage.
When in doubt, consult a trained professional - before that next big storm.
Sunday, June 01, 2008
Hanging art or photos is not one of those things you "get the hang of" after a little practice. We have all gotten the nails in and the picture up, only to discover it needs to move an inch or two right or left for perfect centering. You start all over, knowing that once it's up, those "other" nail holes won't show.
Here's the perfect solution from JBL Innovations. It's call the Wall Marker and you can see how it works here. The concept is great: a small piece of chalk in the shape of an arrow with an adhesive back. Just stick it on the back of the frame where you want the wires to rest. Press against the wall and - presto! - there's a mark to place the nail. No more guessing where the frame will fall once it's hung.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Short on yard space and still want to beat the high cost of grocery store veggies? You can create your own container garden on a patio with just about any type of vegetable. Granted, it needs to be a sunny spot for at least 6 hours every day. And you'll need good a good soilless mix and fertilizer. Bugs are also sure to be competition, so be prepared.
Next, plan on watering frequently - probably every day. Containers tend to dry out much faster than the ground.
Choose any size pot, but keep the depth in mind when making your selection. Also, it needs to have good drainage, so roots won't get soggy.
Plants with shallow roots:
Plants with deeper roots:
You can typically get one tomato plant or up to five pepper plants into a 15-gallon pot. Lettuce will be quite happy in a one-gallon container while you can stuff a couple of broccoli plants into a 5-gallon pot.
Now, you can watch your garden grow - right at the back door!
Sunday, May 18, 2008
The green move marches forward and CFLs, or compact fluorescent lights, are part of the troops. They're backed by environmentalists - to the point that our regular incandescents will be phased out (illegal) by 2012.
While the Handy Imp is getting the green on, there are just a few m-i-n-o-r things about CFLs that aren't so good. Here's the short list. You can also visit Our House and Garden's Handyman section for the nitty-gritty.
-CFLs contain mercury. Small dabs, for sure, but that's enough to warrant a massive cleanup if you break one. Even then, you might not get it all. If you break one and your clothes come in contact, throw them away. It's a bit intense, and think what would happen if all those bulbs broke at once in a landfill near you?
-Once you turn them on, they must remain on for 15 minutes. Really not sure how that's going to impact overall energy savings. You can't simply dash into a dark room and flick the switch on, then off.
-CFLs won't fit all sockets - especially three-ways and canister or recessed lights. Nope - those will take additional adaptors. Forget chandeliers at present.
In the Handy Imp's opinion, mercury contamination is the #1 concern. Sure, drive all the way out to an authorized collection center, if you can find one - use a little extra gas to get there while you're at it.
How many others will just pitch those compact fluorescent light bulbs in the trash? It's not illegal after all. Think of the potential for exposure between your home and the curb before the trash truck arrives.
Just do some research before you make the "switch."
Sunday, May 11, 2008
As grocery prices rise, it may be time to start thinking about growing some of your own foods. You don't to own acres of land for that, either. Some vegetables will grow well in containers, including peppers. To stay on the sweeter side, bells are a favorite. Even better, they can be sliced and frozen. The texture might be a little softer, but they're great for pizza, stir-fries and a host of other treats.
You will have to tend them carefully as they are very attractive to bugs. Use a specialty spray for use around food and you'll have plenty of green bell peppers to pick in no time. Harvest them at the green stage or be patient and they'll become a beautiful and sweeter orange or red. If you do that, however, you'll probably only have one harvest. Get them while they're green and you can have several batches well into fall.
And in case you don't what the heck a peck is - it's equal to 2 gallons or 8 dry quarts. And for those who pickle, that translates into ten 12-oz. jars.
Sunday, May 04, 2008
Fresh-cut flowers can brighten any space. They're so cheerful arranged in a glass vase, but can be difficult to keep in place, if you're going for perfect placement. Here's how to keep those loose stems in place so you can have just the right balance.
Use masking tape or even regular clear tape to create a crisscross pattern at the mouth of the vase or container. Make it a "loose weave" so there's room to add water. Poke holes in the tape or simply slide the stems in between the weave. The flowers will stay in place for a perfect arrangement. Once all the stems are in place, the tape won't show.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Garages always seem to be a little cluttered with small stuff that just won't fit anywhere. Even neatniks who have built cabinets and shelving will eventually run out of space.
There may be one last place that's underutilized - interior doors in the garage. These areas may have room for a little shelving already, plus it's where the hot water heater is installed in some homes.
The door itself provides a great organization space. Purchase over-the-door type units that typically fit on indoor closets. You can even put up a shoe-style hanger with pockets for spray cans and other similar items. Hard wire rack styles will be the handiest, though, and you can load them up with things like wax containers, cleaning items and replacement parts for all your outdoor gear.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Deck posts below ground will, sooner or later, begin to rot. Delay that process with a couple of inexpensive products and a little digging.
Remove perimeter dirt down to the concrete base. Fill a bucket with sand and cover with 30-weight motor oil. Mix in and fill around the posts. This will help deter decay, just as oil-based protectants are re-applied to surface woods.
Sunday, April 06, 2008
While the Handy Imp recognizes that freezing temperatures are well past most of us, this is a word of warning for next winter. Many folks rely on those handy-dandy rainwater gauges - they're attached outside to a deck railing or in some other convenient spot. They're inexpensive and typically don't last forever, especially the plastic types.
If you have a glass beaker, though, potential hazards exist. Leaving water in during freezing temperatures will cause the glass to expand and break. You may not realize it's broken until you try to pull it out of the holder. Then, you're dealing with dangerous shards. Be sure it's emptied after a rain and consider packing it away during the worst of winter's weather. A rainwater gauge can't collect snow, anyway.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
-Is it plugged in?
-Unplug and wait at least 30 seconds, then plug back in.
-Check the batteries - replace - are they in right?
-Is there a Reset button?
-Know that it won't be in the manual - go on-line and research.
Sunday, March 02, 2008
One you place that first dollop of glue from a glue gun on anything - watch out, it easily becomes an addiction. You'll run around looking for new projects that will let you pull the trigger and watch that stringy sticky stuff spout forth.
Yes, indeed, glue guns are mighty handy for many projects. On the crafts side, you can go crazy sticking flowers and fabrics to each other. If you're thinking about making repairs around the house with a glue gun, keep these tips in mind:
-Most craft glues will soften or melt after application if left in the sun or in a high temperature setting.
-Craft glue sticks, once hardened, won't last forever. They tend to yellow and fall apart with age.
-Don't depend on glue sticks to hold joints in place. In fact, don't use glue solely on any project where weight is involved. Hanging items and other items with critical pressure points should have an old-fashioned attachment such as bolts or nails.
For everything else? Go for the glue gun!
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Even if you're not a Handy Jane or Joe, you should have a few basic tools around for quick repairs. This is not a time to buy a 120-piece set of anything, just a few quality pieces that even the unhandiest folks can use. Next, select a nice toolkit to keep everything organized.
The top 5 tools are:
-Screwdrivers (Phillips, slotted)
These will get you started.
Some things that folks forget to include that are invaluable around the house:
-Glue - several types including stuff that works on wood, ceramics and the all-favorite: Super Glue.
-Tape - You may own a roll of old masking tape, but it's time to add to the family with duct tape, electrician's tape and "plastic" tape that's used to wrap joint threads.
Here are more toolkit supplies for general handy-work that you'll need.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Every spring and fall, the search increases for tips on making hypertufa planters and other concrete type projects. There's a reason for that: temperatures have to be within a set range for the cement to set and strengthen properly.
The generally recommended temperature range is between 50 degrees F and 85 degrees F.
Too cold and the water won't react as it should with the cement and the end result will be weak in structure. If too warm, the concrete sets too quickly and you may not have time to remove air pockets or spread it into all the corners.
It's the drawn out curing time that gives hypertufa its strength. Remember that with the other additives to make it lighter in weight, it's already going to be less dense than concrete. Patience, the right amount of moisture, and temperature control will give you great results.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
It might sound a little odd to think a vehible might sit for two weeks without driving it. But with so many telecommuters and Internet-reliant freelancers out there, it's possible not to leave the house for that period of time. Don't ignore your transportation, even if it's tucked inside a comfy garage. Its inner workings need a revving every now and then to stay in top shape.
At the very least, give it a spin around the block every two weeks and weekly is even better. It's not enough to let it idle in the driveway. Take it out and give the gas and oil a chance to flow through all the engine parts before you head back to the computer or the drawing board. If you're traveling for any length of time, have a friend or family member do the honors.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
If your freezer is sitting in an uncontrolled environment, here's a handy little tip. Some folks set theirs on a carport or in a storage room without cooling and heating. For those who live in the "middle of nowhere," there won't be too much talk among the neighbors about where it sits.
However, those are conditions ripe for mildew on the rubber door sealers, not to mention rust developing in spots on the outer case itself. It's the door sealers you need to worry about. They'll begin to break down if you don't take care of that.
The solution: wipe the rubber portions with alcohol. The rubbing kind. Do it every few months and you'll prevent that nasty-looking mildew and prevent deterioration around the freezer door.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
If you're been in the market for a wine fridge lately, you'll find many feature thermo-electric cooling. The wide array of sizes is simply irresistible and there is almost no excuse not to own one. If you have countertop space at the bar or in your kitchen, thermo-electric could be your best choice.
It's difficult to find a definition of the term, when you're shopping. Retailers seem to assume you know already. Thermo-electric seems like such a good selling point, they may be missing prime opportunities for sales. Basically, without going into all the nitty gritty details (which are even harder to find), these appear to run more quietly and are more energy efficient than comparable units. Now, that's an even better deal, isn't it?
Friday, February 01, 2008
Fire pits and chimeneas continue to be in popular demand. You may seriously want to avoid the clay models unless you're going for pure authenticity. They may be more trouble than they're worth, however. The latest designs in cast aluminum are great for home use. Choose cast iron, if you're afraid someone will tuck it under their coat and walk away.
Some very important safety rules should be in place before you fire up these puppies. Surely you have already checked local regulations to make sure it's OK to have one? Common sense rules include placing them away from any combustibles, including low-hanging tree branches. You might want to have a fire extinguisher handy in case, anyway. This information on chimenea and fire pit safety will help you with the rest.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
The term "outdoor fireplace" covers everything that creates heat on the patio. This can be in the form of a pit, a hearth, a ring, or the traditional chimenea. It does cover the big fancy built-ins, too. Choosing an outdoor fireplace among the many offerings isn't easy.
Those with single openings (chimeneas) will produce concentrated heat at the front. Select a large bowl so you'll always have plenty of fire. Taller chimneys will whisk smoke way better, too.
Firepits with full-surround viewing are best for ambience as everyone can gather around.
Clay pots are easily breakable. They also deteriorate over time, too.
Cast aluminum is lightweight and great for home use. If you're afraid someone with sticky fingers will cart it away, choose the heavier cast iron version.
For more details, read about Outdoor Firepit Types here.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
While we're on the subject of leather furniture, there's another trend going in today's local and on-line retailing world. It's the pairing of vinyl and leather. Great prices and typically the leather part may be of lesser quality and may be what is called "bicast" leather.
Some manufacturers are keeping costs down by adding vinyl to their leather furniture goods. These are placed as panels on the sides and at the back of a sofa or club chair, for instance, where there is likely to be less wear and tear. They're beautifully matched and it's hard for those who aren't leather snobs to tell the difference.
This isn't a bad thing as long as you know what you're getting. Sometimes, those little details get left out.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Leather furniture is always in style and it seems that many pieces are actually becoming downright inexpensive. There's a reason for that - it's called bicast leather. This isn't a bad thing, necessarily, but some quality leather manufacturers are up in arms about the term and are very strident in urging that consumers avoid it.
Bicast is created from the split, or inner, side of a cowhide. Sometimes it's pieced together sort of like plywood. Then, a heavy protective coating is added with adhesive to give it a natural shine and keep it from falling apart. It won't stand the test of time, in many cases, but the price is right for some budgets. Once that outer layer wears down, however, you're in trouble.
Get the scoop here on types of leather used in furniture.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Not the kind that people "share," but those mites that thrive on dried skin and even our eyelashes. Pretty disgusting, but experts suggest that our bedding is a buffet for these microscopic "cooties." That accounts for some allergies, not to mention the thoughts of little characters colonizing around us each night.
What to do? You probably can't get rid of all the mites that live on and around us. However, here are a few tips to keep the populations down.
-Vacuum or clean floors once a week.
-Dust at least once a week and more often if you suffer from allergies.
-Wash bed linens once a week. Use hot water, although that and high heat drying are not recommended for highest quality sheets. Bed skirts and mattress protectors should be washed frequently, too.
-Replace pillows every 2-3 years.
-Purchase allergen coverings for mattress and pillows.
Makes you think twice about sleeping on a strange mattress, doesn't it?
Sunday, January 06, 2008
Mathematics aside, it's not easy deciding how much mulch to buy. Plants deserve to have their own blankets in the winter and mulch provides that insulating layer. If you're going to do them a service, many experts suggest that a good three inches will keep them toasty on those colder nights. In northern states, add another inch or so.
How many bags of mulch to buy? You'll have to take care of measuring your own beds. However, based on the 3-inch layer rule, for every 100 square feet, you'll need about six 3-cubic-feet bags. If you're feeling stingy, do ahead and knock off a percentage for tree trunks and all that space those plants take up at their bases.