Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bathroom upgrade (link)

From a Kohler e-mail: Eight tips on how to make your bathroom bigger without remodeling:

"Over the past 30 years, the average size of bathrooms in new homes has almost doubled. However, in many older houses the main bathroom has remained at its original 5- by 8-foot size.

Feel like time has passed your bathroom by? Don’t despair. The following eight tips from Kohler Design Center designer Diana Schrage will help you update your small bathroom, either by saving physical space or by using design techniques to increase the perception of space. ..."

Link: KOHLER: Planning Tips: Tips for Small Bathrooms: Bathroom: Articles

 

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

New flooring product: QuietWalk (link)

QuietWalk by MP Global Products
This eco-friendly flooring product helps keep things quiet.

"It not only smoothes out slight subfloor imperfections (ideal for thinner, click-together floating-floor systems) but it dampens the ambient sound in the room it's installed in. And -- better yet -- inhibits sound traveling to the room below it, according to QuietWalk. ..."

Link:  New Products : Editor's Picks : QuietWalk from MP Global Products : HGTVPro.com

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Home ideas

Benjamin Moore has a new interior paint called Aura; it received a 2007 Best of What's New award from Popular Science magazine.  It's an acrylic paint that uses a technology called Color Lock that embeds the pigment...; it resists water, won't rub off, ... , dries fast and is low in VOCs.  An exterior paint is upcoming.  (From the real estate section in today's paper.)
 
There are lots of interesting and useful ideas in Ready Made magazine (Instructions for Everyday Life).  The August/September 2008 issue included:
 
How to make one-of-a-kind magnets using vintage stamps attached to business-card magnets from office supply stores--and possibly arts & crafts stores.  You might want to seal the surface.
 
Modern wallpapers, which is in again; IMNHO, these are too busy.  There are new graphic tiles too, including shipping container tiles which are colorful and unique.  There's a page full of glitter ideas too.  Hmm.  I can do that to my shoes. 
 
There's a nifty idea for a vanity table that uses a mirror and little boxes and pieces of cabinets.  I could use some of our old small oak filing cabinets with the file drawers.  You can add pictures if you want and use different colors and pieces of art (p46). 

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Publication news

I have a collection of some of my published stories in Aliens, Animals and Adventure.  You can order it (trade paperback) at the Anthology Builder library: AnthologyBuilder: create your ideal anthology
 
Table of contents:
 
The Doorway: Nessa stumbles into the time corridor while helping a friend.
Guard Dog: Sequel to The Doorway. Nessa travels to the time of Earth's first contact.
Pretty Pink Planet: Heroine tracks down planet pirates; saves aliens.
Hot Yellow Planet: Sequel to PPP. Lori and Chiing continue their adventures, meeting up with Chameleons, Ghosters, Splurts, and other aliens and humans.
Flashback: Chessies’ arrival in an ice age.  Companion story to Sugar Time stories (audiobook).
Stray Cats: Cats, herps, and humans--sometimes interchangeable.
To the Last Drop: Those aliens should not have touched that coffee urn.
Pilot's Course: Terran humans in the far future settled on other planets. Heroine plots new course.
Moovin' Up: Genetic Engineering.
The Princess Quest: Sword & Sorcery.
When Danger Rules: Reesa came back to rescue the remaining members of the family she loved. Now she had to avoid being killed by her cousin, who wanted the throne, and the new ruler of the planet, who didn't want a throne, and the ones she had come to rescue.
Home Not: When Grief's Aunt Chelsea died, his Uncle Sandro saw his chance, and Grief was at his mercy... Adventure.
The Haunted Garden: Ghosts, Native Americans, and the environment.
Lost in the Long Dark: Boy explores locked hallway in new house; finds danger.
Taking Tawny Home: Sequel to Lost in the Long Dark.  Could he take the big cat back?
You Are What You Don't Eat: Why were the Terrans invited to the feast?
 
 

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Digital TV Converter Boxes (discussion link)

 I was talking to a friend tonight about converter boxes, and she's already sent for her coupons and has been checking the boxes out.  They have them here at Radio Shack and Wal-Mart.  Wal-Mart's are about ten dollars cheaper, but the quality might not be as good, but most of the boxes are probably about the same quality.  I didn't realize there were multiple brands. 
 
I've put off even ordering the coupons because from what I'd heard there were problems with getting the coupons and the boxes.  That 90 day window is a problem if no boxes are available.  But from what my friend said, a number of people have the boxes already and are getting more channels!  And then I found more information from a link in the HGTVPro e-newsletter for a blog (see below for the link) with a follow-up discussion.  I see that some people are having trouble getting the coupons (we're allowed to get two), but people are getting more channels.  I think I will send for one coupon, and then if I don't get that, I can ask for the second one...
 
Mr. Gatton gives a link and a phone number for getting your coupons.  I see that you can buy a box from an online dealer.    He also offers connection help; and he suggests waiting a bit for prices to come down.  I think, though, that people will be wanting more coupons and boxes as the February 17 deadline gets closer. 
 

Home ideas

I came across some interesting decorating ideas in the August 2008 issue of Better Homes and Gardens.  One of their Ideas pages showcases a selection of indoor and outdoor carts, which are made of wood, wicker, rattan, lacquered steel, blackened iron, and resin.  Another Ideas page spotlights the color blue, including denim.  There's a color called Honest Blue, btw (Sherwin-Williams).
 
An architect helped a homeowner solve her kitchen storage problems by replacing one of three glass doors (the middle one) to the patio with an island and pass-through window.  Now that is a great idea.  It still looks bright and airy, but isn't such a waste of space.  (See Indoors: Renovation.)
 
In an Outdoors: Landscaping photo, there's a bench made of stacked concrete blocks (two levels) topped with a fabric-wrapped plank.  Hmm.  I assumed it was foam.  I think I'd want something more comfy to sit on.  Also in the Outdoors section is a new product: Flex-fence.  It's a fence or canopy that can be opened, closed, or fixed at an angle.  It can help with shade and privacy on a porch or elsewhere, apparently.
 
And a homeowner surrounded her flat-screen TV with cabinets of her own design.  They look good, are useful, and I like not seeing a big ugly box floating on a wall.  For those who want to "dress down" a room, you can go casual with unframed pictures and a tray full of little rocks, among other ideas. 

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Tropical Storm Dolly

Hello, Dolly.  (Hey, it's not my fault.  Thanks a lot, Lloyd.)

Earlier: "THE RECONNAISSANCE AIRCRAFT INVESTIGATING THE STRONG TROPICAL WAVE IN THE WESTERN CARIBBEAN SEA FOUND THAT THE SYSTEM STILL DOES NOT HAVE A CLOSED CIRCULATION. HOWEVER...THE WAVE CONTINUES TO BE ASSOCIATED WITH A LARGE AREA OF THUNDERSTORMS AND IS PRODUCING WINDS OF 40-45 MPH TO THE SOUTH OF JAMAICA. ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED TO BECOME INCREASINGLY FAVORABLE FOR DEVELOPMENT...AND THIS SYSTEM IS LIKELY TO BECOME A TROPICAL DEPRESSION OR TROPICAL STORM WITHIN THE NEXT DAY OR TWO AS IT MOVES WEST-NORTHWESTWARD AT 15 TO 20 MPH."

Link: Tropical Storm DOLLY

(Thanks, Lloyd, for the info and link.)

Dolly is headed across the Yucatan and towards Texas.

Update (7-21-08): Dolly could become a hurricane today--category 1.

Update (7-22-08): Dolly is a hurricane (category 1) and is heading towards the Texas/Mexico border.

Update (7-23-08): Dolly is a category 2 storm now and is moving into Texas with winds of 100 mph.

Update (7-24-08): Dolly is now a tropical depresstion.  (This is the last advisory.)

 

 

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Tropical Storm Cristobal

"...TROPICAL DEPRESSION FORMS OFF THE COAST OF SOUTH CAROLINA...

AT 11 PM EDT...0300 UTC...A TROPICAL STORM WARNING HAS BEEN ISSUED FROM SOUTH SANTEE RIVER SOUTH CAROLINA TO CURRITUCK BEACH LIGHT NORTH CAROLINA...INCLUDING PAMLICO SOUND. A TROPICAL STORM WARNING MEANS THAT TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED WITHIN THE
WARNING AREA WITHIN THE NEXT 24 HOURS.

OVER THE PAST SEVERAL HOURS...CONVECTION ASSOCIATED WITH THE AREA OF LOW PRESSURE OFF THE GEORGIA COAST HAS BECOME MORE CONCENTRATED
WITH AMPLE MID-LEVEL ROTATION. PERSISTENT NORTHWESTERLY WINDS FROM A SKIDAWAY INSTITUTE OF OCEANOGRAPHY 50 METER TOWER A SHORT
DISTANCE WEST OF THE MAIN AREA OF CONVECTION INDICATE THAT THE CIRCULATION HAS BECOME BETTER DEFINED SINCE THIS AFTERNOON.  CONSEQUENTLY...ADVISORIES ARE INITIATED ON TROPICAL DEPRESSION THREE.  ... "

(Thanks, Lloyd.)

It's now a tropical storm.  This is the low pressure system that slowly crossed the Florida peninsula (west to east), giving us rain for about three days.  Now it's sending drier air to us so our rain chances are down for the next couple days.

Update (7-21-08): Cristobal is paralleling the east coast and heading towards Nova Scotia.  It looks like North Carolina isn't going to get the rain from Cristobal that they need.

 

Bookcase dividers in Great Hall

We're having bookcase dividers (four) with columns installed and painted.  They will divide the dining room from the library and the library from the living room.  That was in our original house plans, but we couldn't afford them then.  Looking good, but what are we going to do with all our other bookcases?! 

The carpenter caulked and primed the bookcase dividers Friday.  He hopes to finish Monday.  We've learned that latex paint isn't so good for bookcases because it's so soft, but we decided to go for it anyway.  I do want to be sure it has a long time to dry.

We spent a good part of Saturday morning moving one of the big bookcases (had to find a place for it and move the table that was there) and some tables and books and accessories.  (We carried one table to the guest house and another one back and then moved tables around.  Not happy with the placement of two tables, but that's where they fit.) When the painting is done, we can move more furniture and put some books and art objects back--and decide where everything goes..., and when the paint is dry, we'll put the rest of the books and other items still lying around away.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Kitchen ideas

I was browsing The Kitchen Idea Book (2001, The Taunton Press) recently, and it is full of fantastic kitchen ideas.  I like the scrub top table in the eat-in kitchen; we have at least two of those, but our kitchen really isn't big enough.  I don't like a cluttered kitchen.  There's also a table with concrete block legs and a gray top, which is not very attractive. 
 
Then there was a counter/table with two legs at one end.in the kitchen, which I think is ugly.  Another counter/table has a zigzag leg at one end that looks metallic.  It's certainly different.  And there's a long, narrow, oval concrete island that looks like a traffic barrier.
 
There's also a pull-out table in a tiny kitchen.  In another small kitchen, the island is narrow and moveable.  And I love the diner-style built -in booth with a little jukebox on the table, which is nifty.  Ordinarily I don't care for a banquette seating eating area.  And you can have a lower table at the end of a counter. 
 
One kitchen has an island and cabinets with contrasting finishes on each, which is interesting.  It looks better than the four-panelled kitchen door that has one top panel painted red.  And there's a kitchen over a garage that has a dumb waiter that brings up groceries from the garage. 
 
A dropped soffit, which I like because it can be stencilled, is attractive.  Or you can have a painted frieze.  A double soffit is good for high ceilings.  You can use a soffit for ductwork and/or lighting.  Or you might prefer display space.
 
There are integral solid surface backsplashes.  Stainless steel can be shaped to make a backsplash and nosing.  Roofing slate turned upsidedown can be used to surface a counter.  And there's a kind of marble that's as hard as granite.  Or you can tile with pictures of fish or veggies.  And, of course, you can use concrete though you have to have good support.  Concrete floors can crack so you need joint cracks--cast or inset.  I gather that countertops don't crack as often... 
 
I love the big, old free-standing sinks and the attached drainboard(s).  We had one when I was a kid.  (We lived in an old four square.)
 
There are lots of cabinetry ideas in the book also, including drawer fronts in contrasting colors.  One countertop has a pharmaceutical cabinet as a base with all the little drawers facing into the kitchen.  That could be useful for spices. 
 
There's a wide variety of cabinet handles, including an inset metal grid.  Btw, natural red birch cabinets have the warmth of cherry, but don't darken over time.  One kitchen has open pantry shelves in the kitchen so that it looks like an old general store.  Old metal tins are among the food items. 
 
And there's a kitchen with the dividers with columns (often incorporating bookcases) between it and the dining room.  (We have those in our great hall, btw.)  There are a number of useful ideas in the book.  I was looking at it because I'm culling my books, which I do now and then.  I think I'll keep this one. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Lunar living (link)

"It’s been nearly 40 years since U.S. spaceship Apollo 11 landed on the moon, with Neil Armstrong taking one small step for man ...

Which brings me to aerospace engineer Robert Howard Jr., manager of the habitual design centre at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Taking the concept of space-age design to its logical limit, Howard has been given the task of designing a dwelling that could comfortably house four people on the moon for a year.   ... "

Link: Home Improvement Blog

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hurricane names

For every year, there is a pre-approved list of names for tropical storms and hurricanes. These lists have been generated by the National Hurricane Center since 1953. At first, the lists consisted of only female names; however, since 1979, the lists alternate between male and female.

Hurricanes are named alphabetically from the list in chronological order. ...  The lists contain names that begin from A to W, but exclude names that begin with a "Q" or "U."

There are six lists that continue to rotate. The lists only change when there is a hurricane that is so devastating, the name is retired and another name replaces it.

Here are the four names upcoming after Bertha:

Cristobal
Dolly
Edouard
Fay

Link: 2008 Hurricane Names - Official Hurricane Names List

And here is a possible upcoming hurricane: A LARGE AREA OF SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS...ASSOCIATED WITH A TROPICAL WAVE AND SURFACE LOW...IS LOCATED OVER THE TROPICAL ATLANTIC OCEAN ABOUT 1550 MILES EAST OF THE SOUTHERN WINDWARD ISLANDS. THIS SYSTEM HAS BECOME A LITTLE BETTER ORGANIZED DURING THE DAY...AND HAS THE POTENTIAL TO BECOME A TROPICAL DEPRESSION DURING THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS AS THE WAVE MOVES GENERALLY WESTWARD AT 10 TO 15 MPH.

(Thanks, Lloyd.)

Green ideas for an equestrian community (link)

"Kentucky is the heart of America's horse industry for breeding, racing, and all things thoroughbred. The economic impact of horse racing in Kentucky makes these equestrian assets as vital as Bourbon to local economy. But the boon of industry comes at a price. Poorly managed horse farms that allow over grazing, large untended manure piles, and soil erosion can cause great harm to local water ways and eco-systems."

Link: Andrew & Stacy: The Green Team -- How would you green a horse farm?  (HGTVPro.com)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Vinyl adhesive-removal of (link)


BY PAUL BIANCHINA

Q: Do you have an easy way to remove adhesive that was used to put down vinyl on top of concrete?

Link: Vinyl adhesive a nightmare to remove | Inman News

This is a job I'd hate to tackle!  Btw, following that question is one on engineered hardwood flooring.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Rebuilding in flood zones (discussion link)

"I'm watching Des Moines flood lately. As the Mississippi rose, so did one guy's sand-bag bunker surrounding his house. The dude even fished off his porch on CNN.

This raises a question about the houses built in flood zones: Really?

On North Carolina and New Jersey's hurricane/storm-surge prone beaches, new homes are built on pilings (pressure treated telephone poles rammed into the sand) that appear to be at least 8 feet high. The Southern Yellow Pine Council has a 48-page guide at http://www.raisedfloorliving.com/ for raised floor houses that look more, not less economical to build than slabs or foundations."

Comment: "this is America, and no one wants to restrict our rights to do stupid things!"

Link: Mark Clement: Measure Twice -- Rebuilding in Flood Zones: Really?  (HGTVPro.com)

 

Monday, July 7, 2008

Publication news

My non-fiction book, Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook, is still on this top ten Barnes & Noble list:
 
My time travel audiobook, Sugar Time, is available from Hadrosaur Productions: Hadrosaur Audio Odysseys
 
A related story, Flashback, is in Hadrosaur Tales #16: Book Order Form
 
My short story, Taking Tawny Home, is online here:
(It was time to return the big cat to her own world. Could he let her go?  This is the sequel to Lost in the Long Dark.)
 
My latest interview is in the June issue of Expressions: Expressions 96   It's with Nancy Fulda, creator and editor of Anthology Builder.  You can check out my short story collection, Animals, Aliens, and Adventure in the Anthology Builder library:

Hurricane Bertha

Bertha is now a category 3 hurricane.  It should go west, then north and miss Florida. 

Update (7-9-08): Bertha has dropped to a category 1.

Update (7-11-08): The official forecast track continues to show Bertha's center passing well east of Bermuda. However, the forecast remains uncertain
...
Those "weak and unpredictable" upper-level winds continue to wreak havoc on the NHC's ability to forecast Bertha's path. Sullivan succintly summarizes the divergence among the computer models as follows: "[Most] models still indicate a slow turn to the NNE. Some models make a sharper turn eastward.  Some stall the storm right near Bermuda."

I saw the computer models (spaghetti strands) on the weather report today.  They are wandering off in all directions.

Link: http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/are-we-in-for-a-busy-hurricane-season/   (Thanks, Lloyd!)

Update (7-13-08): Bertha is now a tropical storm and will be moving north then east.  It is moving at 3 mph (up from 1 mph).

Update (7-15-08): Bertha is now up to 12 mph and may become a hurricane again before fizzling out.

Update (7-18-08): Bertha is still a tropical storm.

Update (7-19-08): And now Bertha's a hurricane again.

Update (7-20-08): And now she's not and is headed towards Iceland.

 

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Home inspections (link)

Some remodels endure endless inspections

If you're thinking of doing some improvements on your home, ...  you'll need a building permit. So you head down to your local building department, fill out an application and provide whatever information they require, and a short time later you have your permit.

Once you have your permit, it's important to understand how the inspection process works, and what you need to do to be ready for it.

Link: Some remodels endure endless inspections | Inman News

Friday, July 4, 2008

Home ideas

I came across some interesting ideas in Country Home: The Decorating Issue (Sept. 2006), which I think I've read before.  Those pet ideas were familiar, but I don't recall mentioning putting pet and kids' pictures onto clear, static-cling plastic decals that you put on clear glass jars.  (I put those kind of decals--that I bought at craft shows--onto windows also.)  Apparently you can have them made at xerox.com or copy centers.  I would like to do that.  I may have mentioned making a pet bed out of a suitcase, but how do you keep the top up?  And I do not advocate cutting holes in old wooden chairs to set dog bowls in.  Nor do I think you should put antlers on the floor--points up! 
 
There's an interesting way to display rocks in one photo in that issue--pile them on a round table.  (These are round and oval rocks.)  Interesting.  And if you want to, you can put all your old wine corks in a goblet.  There's a good idea in an old issue of Country Living (November 2005): put pumpkins and gourds in window boxes or long planters.
 
And in an old issue of Southern Living (January 2008), I read about Messies Anonymous.  The founder of that group, Sandra Felton, got tired of her clutter one day after having to clean up a mess (old water-soaked newspapers).  One of her books on the subject is Organizing Magic. 
 
In an article on kitchen ideas, there's a photo of a vented bin for produce (onions, etc). that doesn't need to be refrigerated.  They slide into open shelves.  Frankly, I would never put them into shelves--especially low ones such as those pictured--because I've had to clean out bins of rotted potatoes and onions.  I will always remember a big pull-open bin full of rotten potatoes that I had to clean out--working at someone's house.  There were fruit flies involved, as I recall.  
 
[By the way, I pick up old magazines now and then at the library and garage sales because I'm always interested in new and useful ideas.]

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Tropical Storm Bertha

TS Bertha has formed off the coast of Africa; the weatherman says that it's early for that to happen.  As a matter of fact, it broke a record.  A high was supposed to break down and let it stay in the Atlantic, but apparently it's being forced west now.  It's moving WNW.  And there's something happening in the Carribbean and in the Gulf.

Update (7-5-08): There's another wave about to come off Africa.  And they're still watching that high to see what it and Bertha are going to do.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A contractor's point of view (link)

"Hey! I live here!!!!

... I'm living the "all home improvement all the time channel."

When I'm not building for customers I'm writing about it and when I'm not writing about it I'm working on my own house. ...

Despite doing nearly everything myself I still have subs and laborers in here (when they show up; that's a story for another day).  ..."

Link: Mark Clement: Measure Twice -- Hey! I live here!!!!  (HGTVPro.com)

New toilet actually solves the problem (link)

 "...I broke apart the old toilet hoping to find some kind of clog but the trap was clear and the flush valve worked fine.  My question is how the old toilet did not work, while the new toilet works fine on the same piping?"

Link: Ed Del Grande: Ask Ed -- New Toilet Solves Problem  (HGTVPro.com)

 

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

More home ideas

The July/August issue of Country Home has an interesting article on the Top 10 Collectibles; which include old games, signature quilts, and bakelite (handles) kitchen utensils.  I've always enjoyed the look of bakelite, which is also popular as jewelry.  There's a lovely selection of homes with furnishings and collections and a photo of a variety of tote bags; I especially liked the one with the dinosaur running by the red London phone booth.  I enjoyed the photo of the Clumber spaniel litter too (Country Companions).
 
I loved the gardening article focusing on daylilies.  (We have lots.)  The one I really want is Kwanso, a beautiful, ruffly orange heirloom variety; they gave it a whole page.  And the foreverhydrangea.com ad includes Forever and Ever Peppermint, a lovely pink and white bicolor.  The food section had a blender (Vita-Mix) that you can make ice cream and sorbet in!