Sunday, September 20, 2009

Turn designer pillows into decorative storage

Linens, extra blankets, quilts - they're all bulky and tend to take up way too much closet space. Here's a nifty way to free up valuable real estate on closet shelves. If you love the layered look of designer pillows on your bed, turn them into extra storage. Just stash all those extra bed covers inside the cases. This eliminates the need to purchase custom pillows to fit those oddball square "Euros" that are so pretty leaning against the wall or a headboard.

You can do the same for the next layer, which would be the standard, queen or king pillow shams. Even if linens don't fill the space completely, then you can just let the ends drape across each other in the center of the bed. So, what to do if you need all those coverings when cold weather arrives? Just let your layering thin out a bit. Try to leave at least one blanket of some sort inside and you'll have the same effect without the bulk. You can also place those out-of-season clothes in an old pillowcase and place them inside. Just as pretty and no one will know you've discovered a new stashing place for bulky items or clothing.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Have a Dinner Party with Tomcat Mousetraps

Unfortunately, Tomcat did not build a better mousetrap - they DID build a great dinner plate, though. If - horrors - you're faced with rodents, quick action must be taken.

This little classic, however, does not work. It does not work with peanut butter. It doesn't work with cheese. It. Does. Not. Work.

In this particular test, over the course of two nights, four traps were set. The first night peanut butter was applied. It had disappeared off all four traps by the next morning. Repeated a second night with cheese embedded in the little tab. Most was gone the following morning. All that remained was the un-triggered trap.

There are other ways to dispatch mice. The Tomcat brand wooden mousetrap is not it.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Magnavox DVD/VCR Player Recorder Setup for DirecTV

What's not in the manual - well, quite a bit if you don't have cable. In fact, you must question any instructions that start with:

1. After making all connections, turn on the unit (DVD player).
2. Turn on TV and, if connected to VCR player, make sure it is switched off. (Quite a bit of confusion here. This is a VCR/DVD combo - so why would you be using a separate VCR player? Don't know.)

So, for those with satellite (DirectTV, etc.), you'll start winging it from here. The next step, according to the manual, is to change the TV remote to Channel 2. For satellite users, taking this step reverts back to Channel 3. Won't work. After you pass this step, then you may need to move on to your "AV" setting, "pressing repeatedly" to get to DVD setup.

Well, no.

--Change to the "AV" mode on your TV remote. Do no press any buttons repeatedly.
--At the same time, press "setup" on the Magnavox DVD remote. That will get you into setup, so you can at least see what you're doing in English. From here, poke around and you'll find the time setup and other functions.
--Every time you use the DVD, you'll need to switch the TV remote to "AV" mode.

Good Luck. The Imp will not go into hooking this unit up with the TV. It requires extra cabling not included in the package. You'll have a couple of options for that, depending on whether you want digital or standard hookup. That process is not pretty, either. While the Imp admits to a bit of "geekdom," this unit is still causing issues in getting a successful recording. However, the Imp shall overcome and report back.

The Handy Imp must ask: what happened to the good old last generation plug-and-play days?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Another (Not So) Great GE Design - Spacesaver Microwave

Well, it doesn't necessarily pay to read the manual if you want to change a light bulb on GE Spacesaver microwaves. These are the combo units that go over stovetops and vent into the room. Not that that's such a good idea to begin with. However, changing the bulbs that cast light on the stovetop are an interesting issue. In the manual, it states that you must first loosen the seal. What?

First, the bulbs are facing toward the back. That makes it impossible to gain any type of visual of the socket itself. With less than eight inches to wedge your head in, you're not likely to see much. Don't go sticking your fingers in there, either, without turning off the power. What the manual means by "loosen the seal" is that a nice dollop of silicone has been applied at the factory that keeps the bulb nicely attached to the socket. You can't see the socket, so you don't know what kind of seal it is.

The only recourse is to remove the upper cabinet, remove the microwave from its wall brace, and turn it on its side on the countertop. Ah, there it is. The silicone "seal" is hidden away on the back side of the cove inset! If you can manage to find some sort of crooked tool to get back there and loosen it, you'll be in luck. Nice. On the other hand, if you're still in the dark about why a bulb is "sealed" to the socket in the first place, you've already stripped out the glass portion, leaving its base stuck inside the socket.

Now, you're left to wrangle that Spacesaver microwave back in place and re-mounting the cabinet above to hold it. Another "bright" idea from GE, don't you think?

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Treated Lumber Causes Toxic Gardens

For those who garden in small areas, raising the beds provides plenty of space for good soil. However, shoring up the edges with treated lumber or railroad ties could poison your plants. The toxins in treated lumber (chromium and arsenic to name two) and the creosote in railroad ties will leach into the soil.

If this news comes too late, remove the offending border immediately. Talk with the experts at your local garden center for the best ways to treat existing soil in your area.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Special on Aisle 5

Don't wait for flashing blue lights at the (mostly gone) K-Mart stores. Hidden gems await at your local big box home improvement store. Walk the aisles on weekends and you're sure to find an unadvertised bargain or two. That's how the Handy Imp found the best deal around on window blinds.

Seems a buyer had "misread" a particular type of window covering. These were custom sizes that didn't fit standard windows. What no one realized so much was the fact they could be easily resized by removing the bottom slats as needed. So, stacks and stacks of them went on sale for $5.99 - that's a big whopping difference from the $39.99-$69-99 for standard versions of the same quality.

So, for the price of interim paper shades, 10 windows received new blinds at a fraction of the cost.

When you're building or renovating, it pays to stalk those aisles. You never know.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Making the Grade with Plumbing Gear

For do-it-yourselfers, fixing minor plumbing problems is no big deal. Repair a leaky valve in the tank or even re-seat the toilet in more extreme situations. Sometimes, the pipes have a few issues and you need to replace a section of PVC. Now, here's where it's not a good idea to save a little money.

The Handy Imp did a compare on purchasing a section of PVC from the big box home improvement store as opposed to a well-known smaller franchise (whose names shall remain unnamed to protect the Handy Imp, mostly). The required parts from the smaller franchise were considerably less expensive, which initially looked like a good deal. However, an inspection of the quality (i.e., thickness) of these parts explained the difference in pricing. Big Box Store (BBS) came out on top.

The Imp's final word: don't get all excited about lower prices until you've made a real comparison in quality. Plumbing supplies are one area you don't want to skimp on. Otherwise, the law of averages applies - you'll be stuck re-doing the job on a nice sunny weekend!

What's in your home plumbing toolbox?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Get Hung Up on Outdoor Blinds

If you have south-facing windows, you know how hard it is to keep the house cool in summer. Your air conditioning system probably works overtime to provide a little more relief. Keeping drapes and blinds closed is a help, but you still have walls and windows heating up from Old Sol.

Outdoor blinds are available on the market that can help with energy costs. They'll hang over standard windows on outside frames to beat back those UV rays. That means window glass stays cooler and that leads to reduced heat conduction inside. They come in neutral colors that won't be an eyesore and you can just roll them and leave them out all year long. Even better, if you feel like a fresh breeze, they're breathable so you can raise a window with heading outdoors to raise your blinds. Very nifty.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Your H&R Tax Cut Disk is in the Mail - for a $$$$$ Price

Actually, you may get more than one nicely packaged disk. It's even the Premium version! With free federal e-file! Sounds like its free all of a sudden, doesn't it?

Here's the kicker - you slide that little disk into the drive and up pops the pay me first window. Yep, they're asking for a whopping $34.95 and that's just for federal only. Now, that doesn't sound so bad until you start shopping around.

As low as $19.99 (federal only)
As low as $24.99 (federal and state)

Granted, this program is easy to use and walks you through every step. (OK, mostly easy to use with limited confusion.) Guess you can't blame H&R Block for trying to make a little extra on the side, huh?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Epoxy Pebble Driveways a Slippery Slope

You've seen beautiful pebble walkways and driveways around town or even at resorts. The small stones provide an abundance of nature's colors and, in truth, they can cover many of the ills of ugly concrete. Epoxy itself is practically impervious to anything you can dish out, especially a continuously wet environment (as in around pools). Of course, what's underneath will affect any potential for cracking and crevice development. Just like any other job, it's critical to check out the contractor and the business.

With that said, you may want to think twice about using epoxy gravel. On a sloped surface, when it rains, this layer can become very slippery. You don't need much of a grade to slip around, either. Business owners and sales reps will tell you the small size of the pebbles keep it from becoming slippery, but it'd be best if you could make that determination yourself - before installation.

Bottom line - the Handy Imp recommends looking for styles that are ADA and OSHA compliant. Then, try them out after a good rain.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Don't Leave Your New House Open After the Closing

You've just closed on a new home - congratulations! Whether it's your first or your tenth, what's the first thing you want to do? Move in, of course! But, wait - there's one thing you should do before you start carting in the furniture and your belongings.

Change all the locks.

If it's an existing residence, you don't know who besides the former owner might have keys. (And if the owner "has a past" or has ticked off a relative's worthless signification other - you just never know, do you?) You're not off the hook if it's a brand spanking new place, either. Again, the contractor or agent might have loaned out keys to subcontractors or drivers making deliveries.

If you're a handyperson, this could potentially be a do-it-yourself job. If not, get some hired help so you can sleep better at night, right from the start.