Saturday, July 29, 2006

Architecture of the Imagination

"[He] stopped before a heavy rosewood door ... pushed open the door ... It was a gigantic room--that was the word that occurred to her as most fitting, and the vast space of it was emphasized by the almost complete lack of furniture.  A very small ebony writing table, two very small chairs, and a long and narrow black cupboard fitted into a recess were all the furnishings she could see.  The high walls were covered with golden paper.  Four bright red rafters ran across the black ceiling; the floor was completely covered with a deep purple carpet.  ...  [a] man stood with his back to the tiny fire that burned in the silver fireplace."

From The Three Just Men by Edgar Wallace

Friday, July 28, 2006

Countertops

In the August issue of Country Home is an article about a family's new kitchen, Room by Room.  Their countertop is Pyrolave, a unique buttery yellow material that resembles antique earthenware; it's a French volcanic material, which when enameled, is smooth and resistant.  The article says that it finishes with a beautiful glazed crackle.  Check out the website: www.pyrolave.fr

 

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Gutters (link)

GETTING INTO YOUR GUTTERS
Neglect your rain gutters and the effects may be seen inside as well as outside.
  
http://enewsletter.housemaster.com/7_2006.html

(From The HouseMaster eNewsletter)

I have to confess that I neglected my gutters until recently.  The water seemed to be coming out the downspout freely, and there aren't any trees real close to the house--well, besides the oaks...  Anyway, I finally borrowed a neighbor's extension ladder a couple weeks ago and looked down inside the gutter.  Who'd have thought it?!  The gutter was full of shingle granules in hills and valleys with little ponds.  I cleaned it out with a narrow trowel and must have climbed up and down that ladder a hundred times.  Well, it seemed that way.  I had to work my way down it again with a hose to get what I couldn't reach over the steps.  It's not as clean as it could be, but we'll have to get someone to get the bulge out (the broom handle helped a little) and make sure it's firmly attached.  It looks loose.  Drat.  I've read those warnings about checking your gutters for years!  At least we didn't have plants growing in ours.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Housing starts--up and down (links)

Housing Starts Are at Lowest Level in 18 Months
June decline of 5.3% shows market still slowing down.

Defying the Downward Trend
Some states are going against the tide and showing gains in housing starts for 2006.

From: HGTVPro newsletterHGTVPro.com.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Log homes

I got the September issue of Log Homes Illustrated today, and it has some helpful articles in it.  Peaking Interest is about roofs, ceilings, and overhangs.  You have to be aware of your overhangs' connection to the roof, water runoff diversion, uplift forces from wind, and in case of wildfires, the potential for heat buildup under them.

There's also an article on metal roofs, Crowning Glory.  Roofs come in tin, steel, copper, zinc, stainless steel, aluminum, and titanium.  Tin Types [clever sub-title] include shingle-slate, tile, shake, and vertical panels; the most well-known panel type is the standing-seam metal roof.  There's a metal roof website: www.metalroofing.com

If you're interested, there's a list of log home expos.  Check out www.logexpo.com

There're also a couple interesting articles on furnishing and decorating your log home, including western and rustic furniture and accessories; some are made from shed antlers. 

 

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Kitchen remodeling mistakes

An article in the Real Estate section in today's paper quoted Consumer Reports' list of the five worst design goofs in kitchen remodelling:

1. Oversizing the island.

2. Too little storage.

3. Not enough ventilation.

4. Not enough light.  "Under-cabinet lighting is a must."

5.Visible garbage...  (I assume they're talking about the waste basket!  Yikes!!  I'm supposed to have my hands full of garbage and somehow open a cabinet and splatter it with crud?  I don't think so!)

 

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Pet safety on a building site

Xena stayed with me on our house building site, and naturally I kept an eye out for hazards.  I picked up roofing nails and building materials and also food that the guys sometimes left lying around.  There was a dumpster, but stuff was scattered everywhere.  I put a garbage can close by to make it easier for them.  I did some sweeping now and then, if the cleaning crew hadn't gotten to it.  Also, since screens don't go in until later--so they don't get damaged--that was a minor problem--because she didn't start jumping out of windows until almost the time when the screens went in.  Boy, was she surprised one day when she tried to jump out through a screen.  She rebounded back, and the screen fell outside, but she didn't do that again.  So, look at your building site, if you're visiting it with your dog, from the view of a dog's feet and mouth. And, of course, don't let it get into fresh concrete, mortar mix, or any chemical products, and watch out for vehicles!

Housing Activity Simmering Down (link)

The housing market is cooling down, but it's only relative to last year's overheated industry.

By Wendy A. Jordan, CAPS

July 12, 2006—That red-hot growth in the housing market is cooling down, and industry economists are neither surprised nor greatly concerned. "We're going from unsustainable heat through much of 2005 ... into, hopefully, more sustainable levels of economic growth and housing market activity," said David Seiders, chief economist at the National Association of Home Builders.

For more: News : Economic Indicators : Housing Activity Simmering Down : HGTVPro.com

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Tropical Storm Beryl

We don't have to worry about Tropical Storm Beryl--probably.  It should head east and away.  Here's an early report:

Atlantic SPECIAL TROPICAL DISTURBANCE STATEMENT

000 WONT41 KNHC 181221 DSAAT SPECIAL TROPICAL DISTURBANCE STATEMENT NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL 820 AM EDT TUE JUL 18 2006 SATELLITE AND SURFACE OBSERVATIONS THIS MORNING INDICATE THE LOW PRESSURE AREA LOCATED ABOUT 250 MILES SOUTHEAST OF NORTH CAROLINA COAST HAS BECOME BETTER ORGANIZED THIS MORNING... AND A TROPICAL DEPRESSION MAY BE FORMING. AN AIR FORCE RESERVE RECONNAISSANCE AIRCRAFT IS SCHEDULED TO INVESTIGATE THE SYSTEM THIS AFTERNOON. INTERESTS ALONG THE NORTH CAROLINA AND VIRGINIA COASTS SHOULD CLOSELY MONITOR THE PROGRESS OF THIS SYSTEM. $$ FORECASTER STEWART

Beryl's path link: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/refresh/graphics_at2+shtml/024558.shtml?3day 

(Thanks, Lloyd, for the report and link)

Monday, July 17, 2006

Discovery is home!

I heard the twin sonic booms this morning and watched it land on TV.  That felt so good!!  I'm really glad they made the first window.  (Channels 8, 13, and 28 carried it.  Channel 10 had it in a box while a commercial ran.)    There are 16 more shuttle trips to go; the next launch is August 28.  Yes!!!  Here's the NASA link: STS-121 Discovery -- Space Shuttle Mission

Sunday, July 16, 2006

House book excerpt

Then we wait for the permits. On March 2 we finally hear that they've all been pulled. (While talking to a friend one day about how hard it was to wait, she said--Don't fret. One day you'll hear the pitter patter of little bulldozers.) When we went there March 6, it had been scraped! The building site is being prepared! Next come the footers (trenches in the ground with stakes), rough plumbing, poured slab, ...

We start landscaping around the perimeter of the property. One day we talked to the man who's putting up the stem wall. (It's twice as high as it's supposed to be. Does this bother me? Nah. Well, actually, this is an example of how one or two sentences cannot convey the hours or days you spend worrying or the number of phone calls to the builder. We worried a whole weekend before getting in touch with the builder.) The mason has one female helper who he seemed to be encouraging to keep going. (Was this the lowest bid? Should I worry?)

Heard from the contractor, ..., a few days after that. ... The stem wall is supposed to be seven courses high now because of the raised septic tank. And they will have to backfill so the walls don't blow out. So, do we have to get porch railings? Tell us these things, guys, don't make us wonder and worry (Actually, it turned out that we didn't; codes are funny things.) Be prepared for changes. We didn't worry because we trusted Semco. However, be sure to ask specific questions if you're worried, including friends; but you have to make your own decisions.

There are always lots of decisions to make; start as soon as you can on your search for fixtures, appliances, colors, etc. We bought a green bathroom sink from the 1920s for a bathroom from a salvage place. This was one of the things we could do ahead of time. Another thing was choosing a fence installer. We got at least three estimates, which is what you're supposed to do. Most nights after supper, we went to Selph and planted, weeded, mowed, watered; eventually we thought about leaving the mower there. Went to a plant sale and bought some trees so they can start spreading and cut down the mowing. Six acres--between our old and new places--is a lot to mow. However, we never bought the huge trees you often see on home shows. We wanted to save money; we didn't need instant gratification. And those little trees (gallon pots and seedlings) usually catch up in a few years.

Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook is available from: amazon.com and Barnes & Noble: Barnes & Noble.com - Building a Cool House for Hot Times Without Scorching the Pocketbook - Joy V. Smith - Paperback

 

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Publishing news

My SF short story, Pretty Pink Planet, was accepted by the anthology, WomanScapes, and my SF novella, Hidebound, by Mundania Press.  (It'll be an ebook.)   My article, Straight on Until a New Planet, will be in the August issue of The Electronic Write Stuff; and my article about writing and selling my house book, Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook, will be in the September issue of The Electronic Write Stuff.

Saturday, July 8, 2006

Boston memories

I lived in Boston for almost ten years; I started out in one room in an apartment.  My first real apartment was lost to urban renewal, and my second apartment was in a lovely old apartment building near The Fenway and Mass Ave.  I could walk downtown and visit the Boston Common and the Public Garden and watch the swan boats.  I was also within walking distance of the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, Horticultural Hall, Symphony Hall, the public library, Prudential Center, and more.  I ate at the Ground Round, Ugi's (why don't I see that in the Spenser books anymore?), Casa Romero, the Far East, Brigham's, and The Mandarin Yen; and I shopped at Star Market.  I visited the historical sites too, including Old Ironsides.  I love Boston and New England. 

Thursday, July 6, 2006

Eco-friendly products for the home

I got a Gaiam Living (formerly Harmony) catalog today.  They have organic linens and clothes.  (Natural bed linens aren't as boring as they used to be.)  They also carry house accessories, and I see they've added exercise equipment, among other things.  I've never ordered from them, and I don't know how natural/organic everything is, but it certainly looks soothing.  URL: gaiamliving.com   Btw, they explain that Gaiam is a fusion of Gaia (Minoan for Mother Earth) and I am, symbolizing our interconnection with the earth.