Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Greening your home (link)

I recently came across DIY's Going Green Blog, which has interesting and helpful information on various topics, including lighting:

"Let there be light, but let it be green

... I wrote the other day that there are many possible aspects to greening your home, big steps and small. So figured I’d follow up and list some small ones in an area of particular interest of mine: lighting. Here’s my top five:

1. Stop lighting your home with toasters. ‘Cause that’s what incandescent bulbs basically are. You know how the wires inside a toaster turn red when it’s on? Well, those red wires are pretty much the same things as the filaments inside a “regular” bulb. They make more heat than light.

2. “Don’t go into the light.” Or at least not as much of it. Where you can’t switch to compact fluorescent bulbs, use dimmers. Dimming an incandescent bulb saves electricity (and money) and also extends the life of the bulb. ...

3. If a light’s on and no one’s around to see it..."


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Gift book ideas for Christmas

Why Won't Anyone Play with Me? (children's picture book): Why Won't Anyone Play with Me?: Books: Joy V. Smith
Quirky Claus (imaginative, fun story for kids and grownups): Sebastian White - Quirky Claus
Sugar Time (audiobook of time travel tales):Hadrosaur Audio Odysseys
WomanScapes (SF/fantasy stories by women about women): WomanScapes: Books
Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook (non-fiction): Barnes & - Books: Building a Cool House for Hot Times Without Scorching the Pocketbook, by Joy V. Smith, Paperback
Plus a free download of a humorous fantasy novella Rock 'n' Roll Universe: Welcome to aburt's iFiction project

Tropical Storm Noel

TD#16 is now TS Noel, and while the spaghetti strands vary, it's expected to turn east over Cuba because of a cold front/trough.  Here's a link: Tropical Storm NOEL

(Thanks, Lloyd, for the link!)

Update (10-29): More models are turning it east, and Cuba should keep it from strengthening.

Update (10-29): Now it's turning west more, though it's still expected to turn east later.  It may affect Miami and the Bahamas, but it's not expected to become a hurricane.

Update (10-31): Noel is not moving at the moment (0 mph), but it's expected to turn northeast pretty soon and is still not predicted to become a hurricane.

Update (11-1): It's still raining over the Bahamas, but it looks like it's beginning its turn.  The east coast of Florida is getting some rain and lots of beach erosion.  At least one building is falling into the ocean...

Update (11-1): We've gotten some showers and wind from Noel, and now it's heading away--possibly to New England/Cape Cod and the Canadian Maratimes; it may be a category 1 hurricane by the time it gets there.

Update (11-2): Noel became a hurricane (category 1), speeded up, and is scheduled to become a noreaster.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Countertop materials

There's an interesting article on kitchen countertop materials in today's real estate section.  [It's in the local paper, but reprinted from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel; it's by Charlyne Varkonyi.]

Granite is the first choice (its cost is competitive with quartz and Corian); quartz is second.  Granite is cheaper in Florida than in the Northeast and Midwest, btw.  At the very high end, some people want copper, concrete, or glass

Soapstone is for trophy kitchens and people who don't use them much.  Quartz is best for easy maintenance.  [I'll take it!]  Granite and wood are pretty, but need more maintenance, and there are bacterial concerns.  (Sanitize wood with vinegar and water.)  Track down the article for the fine print.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Kohler bathroom and kitchen products (link)

"KOHLER and WIRED present the Form Meets Function Challenge that encourages you to vote on the best of breed KOHLER product that perfectly captures the idea of form (the shape of an object) and function (the usage of the object)."

There are some modern-looking products here, including the Yin Yang Wading Pool sink and the sok overflowing bath.  Frankly, I had a hard time choosing which to vote for because my mind is so practical.  How are you going to clean that?!  And what good is that low divider in the kitchen sink?  (I need to see and try it.)  I also need to see the Chermont vanity up close.  Well, I guess I'll go for the DTV Custom Showering Experience, whatever that is.

Here's the link: WIRED Insider: KOHLER SWEEPSTKES

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Building with care on the coast (links)

Here's a website that covers a lot of territory: Coastal Construction: Building and Design on the Coast :

Topics include:

  • Building on the West Coast: Facing Earthquakes, Fires and Mudslides
  • Building on the Coast Means Tough Codes
  • Coastal Construction: Better Building, Codes, Materials
  • Storm Sellers: Hurricane-Resistant Building Attracts Buyers
  • Coastal Construction That Can Stand Up to Hurricanes
  • Concrete Homes for Building on the Coast
  • The Evolution of Modular Construction
  • The concrete homes webpage lists the advantages of concrete homes, which include strength, energy efficiency, durability, and fire resistance.  Since we're planning to build our next home using modular construction, I checked out that webpage too: "...modular construction [is] probably the fastest growing segment of a sluggish housing market, ...  [It] used to be concentrated in the Northeast, where one out of every ten new homes is modular. But modular is strong and growing in the Rockies, the Midwest and the Mid Atlantic, and Flaherty's now seeing huge interest in the West Coast, Florida, and Gulf Coast markets."

    Monday, October 22, 2007

    Heating and cooling hints

    There's an article about heating and cooling in the October issue of Log Home Living also.  Be sure not to get an air conditioner that's too big for your home (temperature flucuations); and find out how noisy the unit is going to be.  Nowadays there are two-stage and two-pipe furnaces and two-stage AC units (a more recent development) for energy efficiency.  There's also zone heating; and radiant floor systems are becoming more common.  And there's a geothermal option.  Log homes can be more energy efficient, btw.  (We have a heat pump, and I'm still not exactly sure how that works.)

    Sunday, October 21, 2007

    Decorating mistakes

    I saw a special tonight on HGTV about the top 25 top decorating mistakes.  They include too many pillows on beds and sofas [I will never have all those pillows on my bed; I don't have the time to waste going to bed or making the bed], fake flowers & plants [Well, I'm keeping that vase on the dining room table], clutter, floating area rugs [they need to be anchored], lack of window treatments, and lack of color.  [My house has never lacked color.]

    There are two repeat showings scheduled:

    Saturday, October 20, 2007

    House books

    My book, Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook, is now #5 on this Barnes & Noble list:
    And I recently came across another book that looks helpful in the October issue of Log Home Living.  It's House on a Budget: Making Smart Choices to Build the Home You Want by Duo Dickinson.  The review--presumably quoting the author--says that "spec housing is ... miles and miles of sameness.  Rather than accept cookie-cutter mediocrity or [go for] one of TV's ... dream homes (read financially unattainable), ... there's a third approach:.."  Link: House on a Budget: Making Smart Choices to Build the Home You Want (American Institute Architects): Books: Duo Di...


    In the October issue of Log Home Living is a round-up of mosaic products, including mosaic tiles from Anne Sacks' Stone Mosaics collection with 18 patterns--or design your own--and a bathroom sink by artist David Solano.  His Limitless Gray Sink is made of Peruvian marble tiles, and it's beautiful!  Presumably the grout will stand up to everyday use.  Visit their websites at Kohler Interiors, Baker and McGuire furniture, Ann Sacks tile and NOVICA - Home Decor, Jewelry & Gifts by Talented Artisans Worldwide


    Friday, October 19, 2007

    New book review!

    Here's the latest review of Why Won't Anyone Play with Me?  It's in my hometown paper:

    Former resident chooses a kitten to share moral of story
    One of Marshfield's own has published a children's book recently.
    "Why Won't Anyone Play with Me?" is the most recent offering from the creative mind of Joy Smith.  Smith grew up in the area and attended the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh prior to entering the working world.
    Her writing career began as a child when she made books to entertain herself and others.  Following her education, she was employed by the Christian Science Monitor for 10 years.  She and her sisters then opened a kennel, which was followed by an antique shop.
    Throughout these years, Smith was writing and publishing articles and stories.  In addition to her latest book, Smith has published "Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook," and an audio book, "Sugar Time."
    Her current book was published in July by Publish America.  It is a soft-cover, 15-page picture book for the 3-to 6-year-old reader.  The delightful, delicate illustrations have been provided by Andrea Gradidge. 
    The story focuses on a valuable lesson that all children need to learn.  The main character, pouncer Kallie Kitten, plays too rough with her wild friends.  Gradually none of them wants to spend time with her anymore.  The character selection is clever and age appropriate.  Smith makes the attendent life lesson clear at the conclusion of the story.
    The author has cleverly included cutouts of the main characters as a supplement to the book.  This is a nice touch and provides a fun physical activity for the young reader that compliments the story.
    "Why Won't Anyone Play with Me?" is available from, Barnes &, and the publisher.  The cost for this book is $19.95. 
    By Barbara Mahler  10/14/07 Sunday
    Barbara Mahler is a correspondent for Gannett Wisconsin newspapers.   

    Wednesday, October 17, 2007

    PATH Concept Home (link)

    "Concept Home Charleston will serve as a model of sustainability, disaster-resistance, flexibility and cost-effectiveness. Like the inaugural PATH Concept Home recently completed in Omaha, Neb., the project will incorporate the most advanced products and systems from leading manufacturers to demonstrate how design and technology innovations can create a sustainable, efficient and durable home that's also cost-effective to build and high in quality."

    Link: News : Trends : HUD Names Charleston Builder for Second PATH Concept Home :

    House building (discussion link)

    Here's an interesting discussion on choosing whether to build--or buy--a McMansion or a smaller home built with quality and practicality.  What's behind your walls?!  Link: Marjie O'Connor: The Buzz on Building -- Why McMansions? Why not affordability?  (From e-newsletter)

    Tuesday, October 16, 2007

    Architecture of the Imagination

    "Why temples? thought Moist, as he looked up at the facade of the Royal Bank of Ankh-Morpork.  Why do they always build banks to look like temples, ...? 

    ... As temples of money went, this one wasn't bad.  The architect at least knew how to design a decent column, and also knew when to stop.  He had set his face like flint against any prospect of cherubs, although above the columns was a high-minded frieze showing something allegorical involving maidens and urns.  ...
    ...  And behind it was the Royal Mint, which never showed any signs of life at all. 
    It would be hard to imagine an uglier building that hadn't won a major architectural award.  The Mint was a gaunt brick-and-stone block, its windows high, small, many, and barred, its doors protected by portcullises, its whole construction saying to the world: Don't Even Think About It."
    From Making Money by Terry Pratchett  (sequel to Going Postal)  

    Monday, October 15, 2007

    Carbon footprints (link)

    Carbon footprints/footprinting is the new buzzword, and I came across a blog post about it on the EDR (Environmental Data Resources) website.  It sounds like it'll become more important in the future.  I read something about it in the paper recently, but didn't pay much attention.  Buying and selling credits, huh.  That sounds like what developers do now when building on wetlands.  Here's the link to the blog, which includes other interesting industry posts: Property Talk - Rob Barber

    [I got a free environmental report from EDR a while ago as a product test for BzzAgent.  It was very interesting and would be helpful when buying and selling property.]

    Sunday, October 14, 2007

    Home inspections (link)

    Here are a couple FAQs from the ASHI website:

    What does a home inspection include?
    The standard home inspector’s report will cover the condition of the home’s heating system; central air conditioning system (temperature permitting); interior plumbing and electrical systems; the roof, attic and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; the foundation, basement and structural components.

    Why do I need a home inspection?
    Buying a home could be the largest single investment you will ever make. To minimize unpleasant surprises and unexpected difficulties, you’ll want to learn as much as you can ...

    For more questions and anwers: Welcome Homebuyers and Sellers | ASHI, American Society of Home Inspectors

    We had a home inspection after our house was built--just to be sure that everything was fine.  And it's a good idea for resale.


    Wednesday, October 10, 2007

    Staging suggestions for your home (link)

    I came across some excellent staging suggestions on the Designed to Sell website; they include curb appeal, cleaning and clearing clutter, reducing odors, doing minor repairs, and arranging furniture to make rooms to look more spacious.  There's more at their website: Designed to Sell : Shows : Home & Garden Television

    So, cull now!  It's a good chance to get rid of things you don't really like.  Get a cinnamon broom (love that smell); they should be available for the holiday decorating; I got mine recently at Publix (grocery store).  And make pomanders.  They smell fantastic too.  Do major repairs also; they're important for resale value.  And maybe you should get rid of some furniture.  (We did recently when installing new flooring; see my blog posts on that project for more details.)  Now that makes a home look better.  And then we bought a few new pieces...

    Tuesday, October 9, 2007

    Remodeling (link)

    I think this is from a blog:

    "My favorite remodeling projects are kitchens and bathrooms. I'm not alone there; those are by far the most frequently remodeled rooms. ...

    I'm now planning yet another kitchen remodel. We got a good deal on our present house three years ago because very little remodeling had been done since it was built (by a production builder) in the mid-'90s. I'm going to bring it up to the level of most other homes in the neighborhood, ..."

    Sounds like a good plan.  She goes on to say that she's a little nervous about putting so much money into her home.  I know how she feels!  Nowadays you really have to think about resale value.  Some upgrades are less expensive than others, and I agree with her about adding storage if you need it.

    Link: Marjie O'Connor: The Buzz on Building -- Remodeling for a Dream Home  (From HGTVPro e-newsletter)


    Building codes (link)

    I came across some interesting info about building codes in Dade county, FL:

    "I first heard of the Dade County Blues last year while chatting with a couple distributors from Florida. These gents explained to me that the Miami-Dade County Building Code Compliance Office requires that every product to be used in new home construction be put through a rigorous screening process before it can be approved for use on the house."  [Because of hurricanes]  Andrew & Stacy go on to wonder if this could happen elsewhere in regard to green building.  

    Link: Andrew & Stacy: The Green Team -- Got them Dade County Blues...  (From HGTVPro e-newsletter)

    Saturday, October 6, 2007

    Another book recommendation

    I came across a book, The Mercury 13: The True Story of Thirteen Women and the Dream of Space Flight by Martha Ackmann, in my alumni (U of Wisconsin-Oshkosh) magazine (Fall 2007 issue).  These women trained in the early days of the Space Race and even outperformed some of their male counterparts, but in 1961, they received telegrams cancelling the next phase of testing.  AND these women were criticized for not having the piloting experience to go into space; however, they weren't allowed to fly military jets so they couldn't log military jet time!  Here's a link with more background: Mercury 13 - First Lady Astronaut Trainees (FLATs)  And for even more background: The Space Review: The Mercury 13: setting the story straight

    NASA is more sympathetic

    UW-O gave them honorary doctorates in May, and the story has been picked up by the media.  Btw, I recently came across an article on Sunita Williams, who got into the space program by first piloting helicopters.  Here's a link for more on that: Her job is out of this world |

    Friday, October 5, 2007

    Christmas gift ideas for children

    I'd like to recommend my children's book, Why Won't Anyone Play with Me?: Why Won't Anyone Play with Me?: Books: Joy V. Smith

    Review excerpt:

    Joy V. Smith has written a delightful new children’s book, Why Won’t Anyone Play with Me?. This book is a short and sweet story that teaches, like most good childrens’ books, an underlying lesson.

    This story, with its animal characters, is especially appealing to younger children. Parents would like this story as it deals with a young one who is having difficulty understanding the need to play gently with smaller creatures.

    The above review was contributed by: Kristin Pace:  Kristin is an avid reader and has written book reviews for various publications.  Link: Why Won’t Anyone Play With Me? .:

    AND Quirky Claus by Sebastian White: Quirky Claus: Books: Sebastian White

    I really enjoyed this book (Well done, Sebastian!), and I have a review posted on the amazon webpage.

    Thursday, October 4, 2007

    Plumbing fixture color choice advice (link)

    (from Ask Ed) What do you think is the best plumbing-fixture color for new homes? I don't want to go with the same old white fixtures....

    See Ed's advice: Ed Del Grande: Ask Ed -- Fixture colors: Plain vanilla or almond joy?  (From HGTVPro e-newsletter)

    Wednesday, October 3, 2007

    Quality home building discussion (link)

    "... I spoke to a friend of mine about it. Let's call him Yoda, because both he's short and a master builder. I suggested that "builders don't build what people don't buy."

    He replied: "Or do people buy what's there because there's little choice?"

    And those are my questions for you.  ..."

    Link: Mark Clement: Measure Twice -- Who Buys Quality?  (From HGTVPro e-newsletter)

    Monday, October 1, 2007

    Prefab houses

    There's an interesting article on prefabricated (modular) housing in the Fall/Winter 2007 issue of New Home (Better Homes & Gardens Special Interest Publication).  These homes are quick and easy to build, though the photos and illustrations with the article were boxy.  The editorial says that "Because they are built to the same housing codes applied to any new development, [they] are strong, and their systems reliable.  Most are energy-efficient and made with sustainable materials." 
    The magazine also showcases a new book, Prefabulous: The House of Your Dreams Delivered Fresh from the Factory, and interviews the author, Sheri Koones.  She points out that with factory construction, there's less waste.  They can use drywall pieces, etc. on another job.  Excellent point.  I've seen the wastage on site built homes. 
    Closing Thought, at the end of the magazine, shows the original prefab homes--Sears kit homes (1908-1940) and Lustrons (1949-1950), which I'd never heard of, though hundreds of them are still in use.  They were made from steel with a porcelain-enamel finish.