Sunday, April 30, 2006

CAPS (Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist)

I picked up a CAPS brochure at a recent Parade of Homes house; it has questions and a checklist for modifying your home, including: How can I make my kitchen more functional, and advice for finding a reliable remodelor.  Here's a link for more information:  National Association of Home Builders

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Home Improvement

Some people have blogs devoted to their home improvement projects, but while I have projects now and then, though landscaping is non-stop, I usually blog about ways to improve your home and new and interesting products, with the occasional link.  My next house project will probably be the kitchen sink.  We were never happy with the backsplash--we should have insisted that it go up to the window--and later we added some colorful tile, but now we're thinking--Let's rip the sink and backsplash out and add a sink with a drainboard on each side, and the backsplash will go up to the window sill!  I don't know if they make sinks that way nowadays, but we visit salvage places now and then...

Thursday, April 27, 2006

SIPS home

SIPS means Structural Insulated Panel System, and we visited a SIPS home recently in the Parade of Homes.  It's framing, sheathing, and insulation (solid foam core) in a panel.  It makes for an energy efficient home.  Here's a link to the builder's blog: Energy Efficient Florida Housing

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The PowerHouse (link)

Near-Zero-Energy Home
Local builders take an inside look at the Mid-Atlantic region's first near-zero-energy production home.

"Combining state-of-the-art energy-efficient features with solar thermal and photovoltaic technologies, the home is expected to perform about 50% better than a standard code-compliant home of similar size.

The 2,900-square-foot, two-story colonial with a full basement and attached garage is typical of many new homes built in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area, and its only distinguishing features on the exterior are an array of photovoltaic panels and two solar thermal panels on the roof."   Link: Green Building : Mid-Atlantic PowerHouse Showcases Energy Efficiency :

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Weather-resistant yards in Florida

There's an interesting article on landscaping in Florida, Earth, Wind, & Water, in the April/May 2006 issue Florida Travel & Life.   Some trees and the way they're planted--in groups--can help in the landscape.  And there's a sidebar, Why Trees Fall, from Stormscaping: Landscaping to Minimize Wind Damage in Florida.  The article advises to use no more than two inches of mulch (aha!) and don't use the dyed cypress kind.  (Yes!)  It covers xeriscaping too--which doesn't have to mean a stark look--and grass and ground covers.  (I, myself, appreciate hardscape.)    

Sunday, April 23, 2006


Even mulch is becoming more decorative.  There's red mulch, which I consider an excrescence upon the landscape, but fortunately there's a big variety of stone, organic, and rubber mulches, and, yes, I've seen the blue mulch too.  I recently got some more free loads from the electric company, btw.  As fast as we expand beds, we couldn't afford to keep buying it; and we're always replenishing beds.  And I recently spotted someone buying mulch with Weed Stop at Wal-Mart.  I'm not going to take a chance with that because of the plants and critters, but I can see that it would come in handy.  Here are some tips I came across in the Parade of Homes special section this weekend:

Get mulch that won't wash away if you can.  (After the hurricanes last year, I spent a lot of time raking mulch back into beds and scooping it up in a bucket.)  Pull mulch away from stems and tree trunks.  (I knew that!)  Wet thoroughly.  (Hmm.  I'll just spray it a bit when I water the plants.)  Fine mulches should be one to two inches deep.  Coarse mulches should be three to four inches deep.  (Interesting.  All my mulches need replenishing anyway.)


Publishing news

Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook, which was on the Barnes & Noble's new house book best seller list last year, is still #6 on this Barnes &Noble list: Barnes & Books / Home & Garden / House & Home / Home - Do-It-Yourself / Architecture, Domestic->Amateurs' manuals 

My children's story, Taking Tawny Home, is online at Story Station:  (This is a sequel to Lost in the Long Dark.)

My story, Cold New Planet, is upcoming in the anthology, Tales from the Big Black; and I'm working on a sequel.  Crystal Quest, a sequel to Seedlings in Magistria: Realm of the Sorcerer, is upcoming in Magistria: Shards of the Goddess.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Art for the home

One of my favorite paintings is Rosa Bonheur's The Horse Fair; I have a print of it over my computer desk.  She specialized in animals, and this is her best known work.  Here's the link: Rosa Bonheur Online  And here's a link to animal painters: Animal and Wildlife Artists: Artcyclopedia


Friday, April 21, 2006

Outdoor rooms

Outdoor rooms, whether large or small, are becoming popular as a sanctuary and a place to relax and hang out with friends and family.  You can opt for modular gazebos,  firepits and/or fireplaces, an outdoor bar, and, of course, kitchens.  New technology in fabrics make for beautiful weather resistant furnishings and rugs.  And some chairs, swings, and hammocks come with canopies. 

I got a catalog (FrontGate) in the mail recently with a great selection of outdoor furniture; here's the link to their outdoor living webpage:  Frontgate - Outdoor Living  (I've never bought anything from them.)  Here's another catalog link (Improvements) with outdoor items: Outdoor

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

House construction slowing down (link)

New Home Construction Cools
The pace of new-home construction continued to dip to a more sustainable rate in March.  Link: Economic Issues : New-Home Construction Cools to More Sustainable Pace :

From HGTVPro e-newsletter

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Earth Day

Earth Day is April 22. You can make a real difference in less than 1 minute by sharing your voice in our powerful Hope for the Planet campaign. The messages shared in this campaign will be read by more than 80,000 people in the 28 countries where The Nature Conservancy’s works.

From The Nature Conservancy e-mail newsletter

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Making your bathroom cooler!

You can liven up your tap water by adding an LED faucet light, which installs in most nozzles in less than a minute and turns the water stream bright blue.  The light turns off when you turn off the faucet.  (Check out

(This is one of Five New Ideas to Warm Any Friend's New House by Laurel Dalrymple, The Washington Post)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

It's Not Easy Being Green in the Big Easy

There's an interesting AP article by Cain Burdeau in today's paper.  Most of the building materials such as cypress and cedar boards, bricks, etc. are being dumped in a municipal dump in the swampiest part of New Orleans.  A few people are trying to salvage things, but it's "only a tiny bite out of the mountain of waste."  I know there are a number of companies that sell salvaged wood.  I wonder if they've been given a chance to save any.  Flooded vehicles and appliances have yielded about 280,000 tons of steel, according to the state.  That I'm glad to hear because there have been a lot of warnings about flooded cars being sold to unsuspecting buyers. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Trendy tiles

In the May issue of Home magazine, there's an interesting article, with photos, about tiles; they not only mimic metal, wood, stone, and leather, but now patterns are being embossed or etched; and tiles come in extra-small mosaic pieces, besides the oversized ones.  And they are modeled after wallpaper, carpet, and textiles.  (There's an annual tile trade show, Cersaie, at Bologna, Italy.)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

New Orleans' architectural traditions

In the spring 2006 issue of New Old House, the editorial focuses on the Katrina cottage and other American styles that are designed for their specific landscapes, which are spotlighted in articles in that issue.  There's also an article on making the right choices in rebuilding New Orleans: A Place in Peril.  And a piece on The Biloxi Cottage, another example of vernacular architecture.

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Time flies...

Today at two minutes and three seconds after 1:00 in the morning, the time and date was---01:02:03 04/05/06. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Kitchen countertops that twinkle!

For a twinkly countertop you can install Illumistone, concrete slabs speckled with twinkling light.  They get their glow from a light bulb; fiberoptic strands convey the light to the countertop from below.  (I came across them in the May 2005 issue of This Old House.  They're made by Coastal Concrete Counters of Pensacola, Florida.)

Sunday, April 2, 2006

Building a Cool House...

Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook  was on the Reviewer's Choice list in the February issue of "Small Press Bookwatch":  MBR: Small Press Bookwatch, February 2005 ; and on the Barnes & Noble's new house book best seller list last year, and is now # 6 on this Barnes &Noble list: Barnes & Books / Home & Garden / House & Home / Home - Do-It-Yourself / Architecture, Domestic->Amateurs' manuals

Saturday, April 1, 2006

Pedro Marquez, architect

Pedro Marquez--architect, rancher, and singer--is profiled in the April issue of New Mexico Magazine.  His motto is "Design is only limited by imagination."  He often incorporates the native New Mexico architecture, influenced by Native Americans, the Spanish, and Anglo settlers, into his buildings, which range from the National Hispanic Cutural Center (he was the executive architect) to homes for movie stars and "regular folks."