Monday, April 30, 2007

Publication news

My story, The Trees of Home, is in the May-July issue of Sorcerous Signals: http://www.sorceroussignals.com/CurrentIssue.html             The lovely illustration is by Holly Eddy.

I recently signed a contract for my illustrated (Thanks, Andrea!) children's book, Why Won't Anyone Play with Me?, which should come out this year.

And Magistria: The Realm of the Sorcerer, the anthology with my short story, Seedlings, will be reprinted this year.

For non-fiction fans, there's another article about alien lifeforms, What Is E. T. Really Like?,  in the latest issue of Darker Matter: http://www.darkermatter.com/   (This isn't by me; it was written by a friend who really, really loves science.)

 

Friday, April 27, 2007

Architecture of the Imagination

"The port had started small and grown over the centuries, ...  At port center was the station itself, a hollow asteroid some sixteen kilometers in diameter, with its parks and shops and dormitories and warehouses and labs.  Six predecessor stations, each larger than the last and each now outdated, the oldest built three centuries back and no larger than a starship, clung to the Spiderhome like fat metal buds on a stone potato.
 
Spiderhome was what they called it now, because it sat at the center of the web, an intricate silver-metal net cast across the dark of space.  Radiating from the station in all directions were sixteen great spurs.  The newest was four kilometers long, and building; seven of the originals (the eighth had been destroyed in an explosion) stabbed twelve kays out into space.  Inside the great tubes were the port's industrial zones--warehouses, factories, shipyards, customs gates, and embarkation centers, plus docking facitilies and repair bays for every class of starship known in the sector.  Long pneumatic tube trains ran through the center of the spurs, moving cargo and passengers from gate to gate and to the crowded, noisy, bustling nexus in Spiderhome, and the elevator downstairs.
 
Other, lesser tubes branched from the spurs, and still lesser passages from them, crossing and recrossing the void, binding everything together in a pattern that grew in intricacy each year, as more and more additions were made.
 
And between the web strands were the flies--shuttles going up and down from the surface ... with consignments too big or volatile for the elevator, mining ships coming in with ore and ice from the Frags, food freighters from the terraformed farming asteroids inward they called the Larder, and all manner of interstellar traffic: ..."
 
From Tuf Voyaging by George R. R. Martin  

Architecture of the Imagination

"Here and there across the infinite lawn were other groves.  The house ... looked, ... like an English country house.  ...  There was an enormous terrace skirting the tall square fieldstone house with a mansard roof.  At each corner there were small round towers with small narrow windows in them.  ...
 
[Inside] The fireplace was burning low and looked just right for roasting an ox. ... Above the fireplace were crossed broadswords and below them a family crest with lions rampant and all of that.  ...  The walls rose, punctuated with marble butresses, into the darkness.  The vaulted ceiling was lost in darkness.  Spaced along the front wall between the leaded-glass windows that were nearly as tall as the ceiling were full-size suits of armor."
 
From A Catskill Eagle by Robert B. Parker

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Decorating ideas--indoors and out

In the May 2007 issue of Country Home, a woman used an old store counter as a kitchen island.  What a fantastic idea!  I don't care for kitchen islands usually, but this is beautiful and useful.  I love it.

And I came across an ad for Wood-Mode (fine custom cabinetry) with an impressive wood furniture look that is striking.

Top country trends listed in Country Home include new uses for furniture (see above), animal prints [still?], and "'hair-on hide' leather for rougher, natural looks."  [That's for sure.]

For outdoor living, there's an article, Gardening with a View, with ideas for sheltered sitting areas and low-maintenance gardens, also a trough for a bird bath.  [Be careful that it's not too deep.]  There are succulents, pots, and "the blue cafe," which has a cafe table and chairs surrounded by hydrangeas.   

You can find lots of outdoor--and indoor furniture--and accessories with weather resitant materials, hardware, and fabric in The Pottery Barn catalog.  (I got a big catalog the other day, and I love the plasma TV frame--hardwood with a deep espresso stain.)  And there's a nice selection of hammocks in the Brookstone catalog, along with other outdoor furniture, and a Grillzebo (TM). 

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Importance of landscape planning before building (link)

Some planning at the start of construction prevents expensive headaches down the road.

The development outside Chicago is named Oak Tree Estates. But now, 10 years after construction, a more appropriate name might be Ghost Tree Estates: 80% of the stately oaks are gone because the builders didn't protect them.

Link: News : Trends : What Landscapers Wish That Builders Knew : HGTVPro.com

My neighbor's friends lost trees in just that way; the builder piled dirt on their roots.  And before our mother's house was built, the builder taped off an area that was the only access for construction vehicles.  There were no restrictions when our house was built, and we had to bring in a lot of fill afterwards to fill all the ruts.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Roof leak discussion (link)

Quote from the discussion: "An old roofing adage is that leaks are not hard to fix they are hard to find."

Never-ending roof leak - Topic Powered by eve community  (HGTVPro.com)

I've seen this problem addressed frequently on House Detective on HGTV.  Often roofers and repairmen have searched in vain over a period of years for a leak.  Sometimes it turns out to be chimney or window leak. 

Friday, April 20, 2007

House building tidbits

Kitchen ideas: In the Your Next Kitchen column in the Spring/Summer issue of New Home, Susan Serra, a certified kitchen designer*, answers questions about what's new.  Homeowners want more interesting textures to give them their own look, and granite is common, but it tends to dominate a kitchen.  You may want a more understated look.  Homeowners are also focusing on the size and number of appliances and splurging on cabinets too, including furniture pieces for storage.  Her advice includes, "Do not fear color!"
 
Also in the magazine, Duo Dickinson, an award-winning architect, warns against weird shapes of roofs--"multiple planes that come together, windows that cut into roofs, or flat planes with other roof areas draining onto them (very common in larger homes built in the last 20 years)."
 
I came across some fun new products for the home in this magazine, including a fancy range hood; it's a waterfall design in green from Best by Broan.  It looks like a sculpture and has a dishwasher-safe filter.  It costs over $2,000.00.  I discovered some more nifty shower heads too--a star pattern (8" in diameter)showerhead and a bubbling 14" diameter showerhead (air is injected into the water).
 
And 10 favorite buyer splurges include a media room, a climate-controlled wine cellar, and a home wired for Christmas lights. 
 
Btw, a builder recently told me that the new codes (Florida) include shorter eaves--10-16".  Yikes!  Apparently that's so hurricane winds can't get under the eaves.  What about protecting the house from the sun and rain?  (That's especially important with log homes.)  And we were disappointed when our last house only had 2' eaves instead of 3'.  I guess that explains that truncated look to roofs that I've seen lately--the ones that look like aliens have been chopping off parts of the earth to take home for souvenirs.
 
 

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Landscaping: the art of containment

I came across an old photo book recently, Around the House (Quick Fox: 1979).  It refers to landscaping as the art of containment, and the photos include patios, gates, fences, and gazebos.  Outdoor rooms weren't the trend then, but there's a lovely photo of one with heavy, white curtains and solid masonry or draped benches as partial walls.  It's inviting, and one of the coziest outdoor rooms I've seen.
 
The gazebos include one with brown trellis walls at the corners and a table and chairs, and it sits right next to a tennis court.  Nothing better for watching a game or relaxing afterwards.  A patio with wicker chairs has a bird bath next to a chair as a table.  Now there's a nifty idea...  Another outdoor room has a brick bar with a brick ledge on the floor instead of a foot rail.
 
A decorative idea is a large brick circle--too small for a patio--with mosaic sun rays coming out from it in a random pattern--no sharp angles.  Beautiful and fun.
 
A recent Winterthur catalog has a grazing sheep--just about life size--made from a resin/stone composite.  The wooly texture is very life-like.  I also liked the cat perched on a wooden post; actually the whole sculpture is hand-painted polyresin.  They also have mushrooms (stoneware/resin).  I'd like one or two of those also.  And they have resin/stone millstones.  I love millstones; I have a small real one that someone gave me for my birthday.  Hey, if I get more of them, I'd have a fantastic garden path!  They have outdoor rugs too--in a mosaic style.  For the first time, I'm tempted to get an outdoor rug.
 
Oh, if you actually want some plants in your landscaping, there are butterfly gardens, white gardens, and antique roses, which need large spaces.  I like the old roses because they require less maintenance; but I really love roses without thorns, such as Lady Banks (white or yellow).  We have Little Gem magnolias, alyssum, white Cape Plumbago, African iris, and yellow daylilies in our two white gardens.  (The yellow daylilies were supposed to be white!  Their name is Sunday Gloves.)   

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Furniture arranger

I came across an ad in Remodel for a magnetic furniture arranger; it comes with a magnetized layout grid board and more than 240 magnetic furniture pieces, and it costs $109.00.  Available at Masterplan Magnetics.

I like this idea!  It's fun and helpful.  Mostly I do a lot of measuring and occasionally a drawing.

 

Porches

If you're thinking of adding a porch to your home, says H. Dale Conart (Remodel), you need to consider the style of the house and how you plan to use the space; and he recommends that a front porch be a minimum of 8 feet deep and 16 to 20 feet wide, while  screened back porches have grown from 200 square feet to 300-400 square feet.

I just dug out my house plan to compare.  Am I on the cutting edge?!  Okaay.  My front porch is 44 feet wide (the width of the house), and it's 8 feet deep, though it widens to 12 feet at the doorway, which is recessed.  (I love that recessed space!  It has room enough for an Adirondack chair on each side of the door.)  My front porch is good.  (Sigh of relief.  You can get a real inferiority complex from home shows and magazines.)

My back porch is also 44 feet wide and 8 feet deep, but the recessed area is only 2 feet deep.  (I can still fit an Andirondack chair on each side of the French doors.)  Oh, oh.  If I've done my math right, that's 264 square feet.  Oh, well.  It's still a fantastic porch, even if doesn't have ceiling fans...  (When discussing porch ceiling fans with our builder, we decided to save money by not installing them.  Also, we wouldn't have to worry about them in hurricanes.) 


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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Home office re-arrangement

The April/May Remodel issue also has an article for remodeling your office by focusing on one wall; they show you three different examples using a desk and shelves.  In the window office they put the desk under a window, which is something I'd never do because I don't want the sun shining on my computer and equipment.  My other desk has metal file holders across the whole back, and I don't like blocking a window.  (It used to be a rolltop desk, but it no longer had the top; I love my big wooden desk with lots of drawers.)  Their window office has two pots of flowers and family photos on the desk.  (Hopefully, those flowers don't need water.)  I see they stuck the tower under the desk.  
 
Another office example has shelves stacked way high.  My office has the two big desks, five file cabinets (wood and metal), a supply cabinet, and two big wooden chairs besides my desk chairs.  And everything except my computer desk has old metal file holders that go as high as I can comfortably and efficiently reach.  This example suggests putting storage under your desk and leaving just enough room for your feet.  Well, then there wouldn't be enough room for Xena.  The color scheme is white and silver, which I find a little sterile, even though I love silver.  My own office is a pale yellow with an amber glaze.  For interest, I have original cartoons, a painting, a print of Rosa Bonheur's The Horse Fair on the computer desk wall, and a couple calendars, plus the magnet collection on the metal file cabinets.  (They don't all have to be on the fridge.)
 
The third office is more informal with a yellow wall and white cabinets; the molding on the cabinets matches the room molding, which is a nice idea.  The desk chair is slip covered in plaid, and the desk has table legs to make it look less like a desk; the cabinets have brackets.  (I don't like this current kitchen and office furniture trend; it's just not practical.)  There's room enough on the desk/table for a laptop computer.  I wonder where my scanner, printer, UPS box, dictionary, etc. would go?  (I'm not even sure my big monitor and tower would fit on that table.) 

Friday, April 13, 2007

Architectural Salvage

There's an interesting article on architectural salvage in the April/May 2007 issue of Remodel.  I've enjoyed browsing these stores for years; you can find doors, windows, stairways, hardware, garden furniture, fireplace mantels, mirrors, cabinets, garden furntiture, magnificent bars, store counters, and more.  We've bought hardware, stained glass windows (we used one to replace an old air conditioning wall unit), pillars (which we never used), and a beautiful 1920s green bathroom sink for the new house.
 
"The three things people find most appealing about using [it] are aesthetics, fine craftsmanship, and reuse of materials," says Steve Hruskocy of Salvage One in Chicago. 
 
I recycle everything I can, but it's the beauty, character, and practicality of these surviving pieces that I love.  You can look through salvage stores in New York City, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Denver, Berkeley, CA, and Portland, OR.  There's more info on these places in the article (they all have websites, btw); and I've visited stores in DeLand, FL and in Louisiana.   Here's a link for the Building Materials Reuse Association online directory: www.buildingreuse.org/directory  And I've bought hardware and other things online.  Now and then you can buy pieces from a house or building that's going to be razed; I have a piece of a portico from part of a building that was torn down.  There's a whole lot of salvage from other countries available too. 
  

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Building hurricane-resistant homes (link)

... "People do think about safety a little bit more around here," Romig says. "This whole area near Port Charlotte went through a lot with Hurricane Charley in 2004. Still, it's been a bit of an uphill battle to get the public to understand what we are doing. Our goal is to give people affordable homes that are safe.

Link: News : Hurricanes & Tornadoes : Storm Sellers: Hurricane-Resistant Building Attracts Buyers : HGTVPro.com

Sounds good to me!  As a matter of fact, we're thinking of using precast concrete walls, and our builder says that it is faster.  Btw, we got Charley, Francis, and then Jeanne.  It was Jeanne that took out our power and porch ceilings.  Our house and septic system (the mesa) are high enough that we don't worry about flooding, but we were surrounded by water.  We could always use the driveway, however, even when there was a sheet of water across it.  I remember rescuing tadpoles as the water began to dry up.

For more info on hurricane-resistant homes, there's an article, Safe Through the Storms, in the Spring/Summer 2007 issue of New Home.  I'd love operable shutters.  At least I have whole-house surge protection.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Color

The May issue of Country Living (The Decorating Issue) is full of color ideas and photos, starting with the editorial.  The editor, who loves yellow and has used it in all her homes over the years has switched to blue in her new house; and she shows us the blue she used in her master bedroom on her editorial page.  It's Yarmouth blue, btw.
 
The magazine mentions that "There is a resurgence in deeper, richer shades of brown in furniture.  ...  It goes with everything."  The Simple Projects section focuses on curtains and ways to embellish them, but what really caught my attention was the grey Prizzi silk-linen panel (tone on tone) from Emdee International.
 
I also like the green and white chenille bedspread with sheets in spring hues.  The white swirl on cinnamon brown was delicious too, but that's because it was an ad for Cinnamon Wheat Thins.  I don't usually care for white in decorating, but the stacked white graduated suitcases were striking in Easy Makeover; and the pure white palette with accents of pink and green was indeed A Rosy Outlook.  However, in the Ask the Expert column, the expert responds to the query about freshening up the white laminate cabinets in her kitchen inexpensively with a reminder that you can paint laminate surfaces.
 
The choices are yours.  I have a lot of color in my home, and while the trim may look white, it's Silver Fox.  Most of the rooms are different colors--green, blue, pink, and yellow with faux and sponge painting.  All the stencilling adds more color also.
 
 
 
 

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Appliances

The May issue of Consumer Reports includes an article on refrigerator types and brands.  The top freezer type is best for narrower spaces; and the side-by-side is best for kitchens that don't have the space for wide-swinging doors, but the latter is not very space efficient; the most impressive is the Kenmore Pro Professional Size Refrigerator/Freezer.  It looks like a restaurant model, and I'd love to have one; BUT it uses about 60% more electricity than the next largest model.  See the article for more information.  

I have always used the top freezer model.  I like having the freezer at eye level.  And I'm pleased to see that they're the most efficient--cheaper to buy and run and have the most storage space for their size.  Few models of either the top or bottom freezer models have water or ice dispensers, but I never wanted that anyway.  (More expensive and more problem-prone, including dogs that learn to use them.)

Another piece looks at appliance life spans and reliability.  Btw, there's a recall on Maytag and Jenn-Air brand dishwashers (fire danger).  I was feeling complacent until I read that there was an earlier recall on Whirlpool and Kenmore dishwashers.  For all the dishwasher recalls, check out: www.cpsc.gov  Oh, wow!  That list goes on forever!!

 

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Patio plans

I have a small patio behind the house.  (It had to be small because I didn't want it over the water line.)  But while it's small, the path going to it from the back steps is as wide as the steps.  This cuts down on the weed grass and ants that wanted to take over the base of the steps, and if I want, I can put seating along the path for company.  At the moment there are two concrete benches on each side of the patio--one small and one large.  It's slightly asymetrical and very inviting.

What I really want now is a firepit, but I don't know where to put it.  I'd like it connected to the patio, but I'm not sure how to do that or where to put it.  At first I was going to buy one of those free-standing firepits and put it on the patio.  There are some lovely choices now, but then, thinking about hurricane season and having to move it into the shed, I decided that an inground one would be better.  I've been thinking about it for a while and still haven't made a decision, but I've learned that you have to be very careful with the stones you use because they can explode.

In the meantime I've been looking at other patio and courtyard possibilities..  I got a Lowe's garden club magazine in the mail the other day, and it has some interesting ideas.  The potting bench against the patio wall which you can use for potting or party supplies is a interesting idea.  Choosing grills, fountains, and tables would be fun.  The magazine includes suggestions for potted plants too, but I prefer my plants in the ground because they're easier to care for.

However, a nifty new idea involves two pots, plants, and a tap (touch) light!  The light goes into a small pot which is placed in a larger pot full of soil so that both pots' tops are level with each other.  Add plants around the small inside pot, but don't put the tap light into the small pot until you're done planting.  And bring the light in if there's going to be a heavy rain.  Frankly, I think this should be in a protected area. 

One thing I'm not going to do is make the outdoors look like the indoors by putting down rugs and furniture.  I'm glad that they're making rugs and fabrics that stand up to the weather, but I don't need another room to clean!  Outdoor furniture is available in wood, aluminum, stainless steel, resin, and plastic, btw.

 

 

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Perfect Home Survey (link)

 "Homeowners are turning their attention toward improving overall energy efficiency and boosting their homes' curb appeal, according to a recent home improvement study ..."

Link:News : Trends : What People Really Want in Their Houses : HGTVPro.com

The article points out that energy costs are rising, and that the federal tax credit for installing energy-efficient products expires at the end of the year.  I didn't know that!  Our house isn't that old, and we built it for our hot climate so it's not something I need to worry about, but it might be a good time to upgrade.  Our appliances are in good shape, but I haven't done any research on new appliances, though I know that there are fantastic home products available now.  (What I'd really like is a big TV and a quieter fan in the bathroom.)