Monday, March 31, 2008

Going green

I got a Gaiam Real Goods catalog recently.  They have lots of green and recycled products, solar energy and hand-cranked devices, composting products, books, tankless water heaters, and more.

Catalog link:http://www/


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Architecture of the Imagination

"'So that's an opera house, is it,' said Granny.  'Looks like someone built a great big box and glued the architecture on it afterward.'  ...

The Opera House was, indeed, that most efficiently multifuctional of building designs.  It was a cube.  But, ..., the architect had suddenly realized ... that there ought to be some sort of decoration. and had shoved it on hurriedly, in a riot of friezes, pillars, corybants, and curly bits.  Gargoyles had colonized the higher reaches.  The effect, seen from the front, was of tortured stone. 

Round the back, ..., was the usual drab mess of windows, pipes, and damp stone walls.  One of the rules of a certain type of public architecture is that it only happens at the front."

From Maskerade by Terry Pratchett

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Publication news

I added more stories to Anthology Builder:
Stray Cats: Cats and humans--sometimes interchangeable.  "Put that cat back now!"
The Princess Quest: The Princess Quest is a funny sword & sorcery tale about a princess and a barbarian.
The Haunted Garden: Ghosts, gardens, Native Americans, and the environment.
 Home Not: When Grief's Aunt Chelsea died, his Uncle Sandro saw his chance, and Grief was at his mercy...   Adventure.
To the Last Drop!: Those aliens should not have touched that coffee urn…
Moovin' Up: Genetic engineering can have some strange effects...
Pilot's Course: Terran humans in the far future settled on other planets. Heroine plots new course... 
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...
And then I noticed that some writers and writing groups have collections and anthologies there, and I thought I'd experiment with building a collection of my stories, so I did, and then I added it to their library.  It's titled Aliens, Animals, and Adventure.  I hope you'll stop by and take a look at it:  AnthologyBuilder: create your own science fiction or fantasy anthology

Curb appeal (link)

Real estate agents say today's buyers want attractiveness and energy efficiency.  See survey results: 

ORLANDO, FL --When it comes to purchasing a home, buyers do indeed judge a book by its cover, according to a new nationwide survey of real estate agents commissioned by JELD-WEN Windows & Doors.

Curb appeal has traditionally been an important part of the sales process; however, the recently released Real Estate Agent Community Trends (REACT) survey found that it is absolutely essential to getting buyers in the door and fostering a sale. Specifically, 82 percent of agent respondents said they have had potential buyers decline to look at the interior of a home based on the exterior appearance.  ...

Link: News : Trends : Real Estate Agents Survey: Attractive Entries Can Get Buyers in the Door; While Hideous Ones Repel :

The survey covers more than first impressions...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Recycling building materials (link)

A new Web site will offer builders, designers, and DIY-ers a chance to shop for recycled building products online....

Link: Andrew & Stacy: The Green Team -- Green materials just in time for St. Patty's Day  (

Our area has more than one place to find recycled building materials, including the Habitat for Humanity store.  You might want to check locally before going online.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Home ideas

An article in the April 2008 Better Homes & Gardens suggests using a variety of chests, dining room buffets, or cabinets in the foyer and other rooms in the house.  [I have a drop leaf table in our foyer with a chalk board over it on which we write welcoming messages for guests.]

I saw in an ad for Delta faucets in the magazine that the new Allora pull-down faucet has a magnetic docking system for people who can't be bothered to put it back together.  [Could be interesting when you're trying to use it.]

And in their Living Green section is some useful information on water heaters.  "Tank water heaters cost the least initially; ... and solar water heaters ... [use] a renewable energy source."  They also mention heat pump water heaters, which I'd never heard of.  Apparently they're "the most efficient electric option."

Btw, a book case with doors on the bottom is a good thing when you have puppies.  [I noticed one in an advertising insert and thought I'd mention that.  We've lost a few books to teething puppies over the years because most of our bookcases don't have doors.]

Here's a freebie for gardeners--from an ad in the magazine: To request your free copy of the 2008 Gardener's Idea Book, call 877-865-5818 or go to their website:  Ah, I see this puts you on their mailing list.  And the book's still at the press.

Here's an interesting idea (see page 70 for photo).  Why not put a window over your stove so you can look outside while cooking.  Frankly, I think you should be watching what you're cooking.  They do warn you about curtains (forget it!) and complying with local codes for ventilation and clearance.

And for people interested in having garage and other sales, I picked this info up online:

"My sister and I love to have garage sales and have always made
our own fun, creative, bright signs to attract shoppers.

"We had so many people asking us where we bought our signs that
we realized there really was a huge need for chic, funky, sassy
garage/yard sale signs. We started doing some research and found
there was nothing on the market other than the boring
black/white, red/white garage sale signs.

"With a lot of hard work, we started Sassy Signs and are
currently selling them at retail outlets such as Lowe’s, and
independent hardware, scrapbook and party stores. We have also
been selling online at since we
started the company two years ago."

Tags: , , , , ,

Monday, March 24, 2008

Bathroom ideas

There's an article in a 2004 special Woman's Day issue of Kitchens and Baths that lists 37 ways to Open Up the Bath.  Ideas include: removing cabinet doors and painting the interiors a lighter color [Think about the dirt and damp that the contents will be exposed to]; replace the vanity with a pedestal sink [and lose valuable storage space]; hang double shower curtains instead of a single curtain [hmm]; use more mirrors; store extra toiletries in the linen closet [and hope they don't leak on the linens]; use a striped shower curtain; keep window treatments light; use transparent chairs, containers, and shelves; and remove protruding objects...  [I need towel racks!].  Okay, some of these and the other ideas are good to help you avoid remodelling your bathroom, but think carefully.  I will not have a pedestal sink in the next house; it is really important to have a cabinet with doors AND drawers! 


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Publication news

Well, I, and the editor, are still waiting for the shared world anthology, Magistria: Shards of the Goddess, to come out.

Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook is still on this Barnes & Noble top ten list: Barnes & Books - Architecture, Domestic->Amateurs' manuals

And my children's picture book, Why Won't Anyone Play with Me?, has gotten some good reviews:

MBR: Children's Bookwatch, December 2007

Reader Views Kids - Joy V. Smith - Why Won't Anyone Play With Me?

Here's a review that ran in Wee Ones of an earlier incarnation of the story.  (There have been only a few minor changes, including Kandy Kitty to Kallie Kitten, in the story.)

Why Won't Anyone Play with Me?
Written by Joy V. Smith
Illustrated by Andrea Gradidge
Ages 3-6
How does Kandy Kitty make a friend when no one wants to play with her?  It's not easy being a playful little kitten but Kandy doesn't realize she plays too rough for the other animals.
Finally one of the animals speaks up and tells Kandy why they won't play with her.  Then Kandy has an idea!  She asks the other animals what they want to play.  Now Kandy has many friends.
This book is a good concept for all young children to learn.  Easy to read with a loveable main character, Why Won't Anyone Play with Me? will capture the imagination of the very young.  Bright, bold illustrations bring the story to life and make this an appealing e-book.
The End
Here's the link to Wee Ones:  Wee Ones Online Children's Magazine: Children's Magazine.   The review is not archived; it ran in the summer of 2003.
And here's a review from my hometown paper (it's an excerpt; the rest of the article was background):
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.  
By Barbara Mahler  10/14/07 Sunday
Barbara Mahler is a correspondent for Gannett Wisconsin newspapers.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Plumbing vents, importance of (link)

Q: Hi, Ed, We have a very embarrassing problem in our basement, ... my husband had the bright idea to work with a relative who is not a plumber but claimed to "know as much" as a plumber.

Link: Ed Del Grande: Ask Ed -- Stinky Plumbing

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Recycling and salvage

The Green Guide in the April issue of Country Home lists recycled and natural products, including hardware, windows, tile, cork,rugs, fabric, and countertops.  And there's a list of salvage websites:
The Demolition Depot, NYC:
Architectural Accents, Atlanta, GA:
Salvage One, Chicago, IL:
A&O Architectural Salvage, Kansas City, MO:
Architectural Antiques, Minneapolis, MN:
Architectural Salvage, Inc., Denver, CO:
Ohmega Salvage, Berkeley, CA:
Rejuvenation, Portland, OR:
Architectural Antiques Exchange, Philadelphia, PA:
Nor'east Architectural Antiques, South Hampton, NH:
The Old House Parts Co., Kennebunk, ME:
Portland Archtitectural Salvage, Portland, ME:

Friday, March 14, 2008

Kitchen & bath remodeling (link)

Hackettstown, N.J./March 7, 2008/ — While the overall housing market remains very weak, kitchen and bath remodeling continues to be a source of strength in the industry, according to the 2008 Kitchen/Bath Industry Outlook (K/BIO), which is published by the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA).

The K/BIO report has identified ten factors that will continue to drive kitchen and bath remodeling throughout the country this year and beyond: ...

Link: News : Trends : NKBA: Kitchen, Bath Remodeling Remains Strong :

We did a little kitchen remodeling not long ago (to upgrade the kitchen countertops, plus we got a new sink and faucet; next time we must remember to get one handle), and we're about to put in a new bathroom sink because the old sink needs to be replaced--unfortunately...).


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Attic space (link)

(from Building Science) Is it worth it to bring the attic into the thermal envelope of the house? ...

Link: Eric Helton: Building Science -- A Cathedralized Attic in a Hot Humid Climate - Is it Worth Conditioning?  (

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Update on toilet cleaning (link)

(from Ask Ed) I never thought that I would get into a heated debate with anyone about cleaning a toilet!

Link: Ed Del Grande: Ask Ed -- Cleaning a Toilet is Not Rocket Science  (

I'm grateful that my toilet bowl wasn't scratched when I cleaned it with a pumice stone!  And it still looks good.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Home decorating ideas

The March/April issue of Home says that gray is the season's coolest color; it looks good on floors and countertops, and they show samples and list sources.  Speaking of floors, the magazine tells you how to clean a flokati rug.  I shall avoid them like the plague.  (I don't rake rugs.)
An interesting idea is to dilute your wall color paint by 50% with white paint and use it on your ceiling.  That does sound intriguing.  (Does anyone paint three walls of a room one color and the fourth wall a different shade anymore?)  And you can match your drapes to the wall color for an interesting effect and make the room "feel more expansive."  For a contrast with dark wall colors, use shiny metals and mirrored surfaces instead of wood.
There's a piece that shows and describes different types of interior doors--with pros and cons.  [We had sliding doors with a top track in a bedroom closet years ago, and our Manx cat, Bast, used to push them open and go into the closet.  Bang, bang, bang.]
You can now have a bathroom cabinet over your sink with a little side refrigerator to keep medications and cosmetics chilled.  There are a number of other high tech ideas in this issue, including an exterior door lock that scans your fingerprints.  (It can be programmed with up to 50 fingerprints.)  There's also fiberglass board for air ducts; it's made without formaldehyde so you get better air quality; it also eliminates the noise and condensation you get with metal ductwork.
And have you ever thought of getting two stoves and putting them side-by-side with a stainless steel backsplash to make them look like one big fancy stove?  (See page 58.)  An idea that didn't seem very wise to me is putting bookcases in the bathroom--flanking the tub!  The humidity cannot be good for those books! 

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Anthology Builder

Have you ever wanted to be an editor?  Now you can.  And some of my stories are available on Anthology Builder, where you can create your own anthology, complete with cover art.  You choose your stories and cover art and get a printed copy. 
My science fiction stories there are:
The Doorway: Nessa stumbles into the time corridor while helping a friend and meets a mysterious stranger and death with teeth.  "If you don't run, they won't chase you."
Guard Dog: Sequel to The Doorway.  Nessa travels to the time of Earth's first contact, where she has to help...
Hot Yellow Planet: Sequel to Pretty Pink Planet (available in the anthology, WomanScapes).  Lori and Chiing continue their adventures, meeting up with Chameleons, Ghosters, Splurts, and other aliens and humans. 
Flashback: Sequel to Sugar Time (audiobook).  Chessies’ (cat-like aliens) arrival in an ice age.
And there's a romance:
Between the Lines: To get over an old love, you've got to get out and meet new people.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Bidet problem (link)

(from Ask Ed) I own a condo with a toilet and bidet, but I would like to move the toilet to where the bidet is to make extra room. ...

Link: Ed Del Grande: Ask Ed -- Away With the Bidet!  (

I never wanted a bidet, but that is really interesting about the size of drains and remodelling problems.