Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Ranking green buildings (link)

Ranking the Top 10 green buildings
(from The Green Team) The American Institute of Architects ranks green projects each year, and the 2008 group takes green to a new level....

"But, for homebuyers, or homebuilders, looking to go beyond EnergyStar appliances and extra insulation, AIA/COTE have come up with some wonderful approaches to get the imagination, and the design team, working on green.  ...

Top Ten Measure 4: Bioclimatic Design
Sustainable design conserves resources and maximizes comfort through design adaptations to site-specific and regional climate conditions. Building design should respond to local climate, sun path, prevailing breezes, and seasonal and daily cycles through passive design strategies.

By far one of my favorite common sense approaches to green building. This wisdom which served our species well for thousands of years was discarded with the invention of climate controlling appliances. It boils down to taking the time to understand the local weather patterns and then working with Mother Nature to create a more energy efficient and comfortable house. Site placement, natural shading, and simple venting can all be employed to reduce the energy load of a house year around."

Link: Andrew & Stacy: The Green Team -- How AIA/COTE Measure the Top 10 Green Buildings  (HGTVPro.com)

#4 is something you don't see every day!  In my book, Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook, I quote Dwight Holmes, an award-winning architect, who said, " I am intrigued by the way that older homes in Florida responded to the environment while the later ones seem to show no awareness of it at all."



I came across this website today in an e-newsletter: http://OnlineOrganizing.com  

Organization is challenging for many people, and this website offers help, newsletters, blogs, and products.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Home products and decorating ideas

I came across an Elmira Stove Works ad in the May 2008 issue of Country Home.  I love that green fridge!  I see they make ranges, microwaves, and dishwashers too. 
A "green" suggestion from a Wal-Mart ad: Buy "transitional" cotton clothing to encourage farmers to switch to organic farming.  "Transitional" cotton is grown without harmful pesticides and fertilizers.  [I wonder why they call it transitional.]  Learn more about Earth-friendly products at walmart.com/green.
And here's a recycling idea: Katie Brown's kitchen island's cast iron sink is a salvaged baby's bathtub.  There are a number of other recycling ideas and articles in this issue.  And articles on gardens and bouquets in vintage vases and dishes.  Beautiful!  And the bird houses along the picket fence are eye-catching.  [I don't think you can do this along a sidewalk though.]
Here's a tip: Seal your grout with a silicone sealer as soon as the grout has cured.  I'm sorry we didn't do that.  Now we're looking for a linen or biscuit-colored grout paint.  All we've found is white. 

Thursday, April 24, 2008

House & new product ideas

I came across some interesting new products in Better Homes & Gardens (May 2008 issue), including vinyl wainscoting for bathrooms (plastproinc.com) and a firepit/fireplace with a ceramic hearth (available at Kmart).
In Home: The Design & Remodeling Resource (May 2008), I learned about bamboo veneer for cabinets, Asko's UltraCare integrated washer & dryer (stacked); Samsung's new 29-cubic-foot French door refrigerator (the largest on the market; it has thinner walls), American Standard's Green Tea whirlpool with an EverClean system that inhibits mold growth in the tub's circulation system [think about that, folks], microwaves in drawers (Dacor & Sharp), a washable mouse (Belkin), earthtone countertops (page 36), cabinet options (page 42), a warming drawer for towels, a faucet with a motion detector and no handles (Moen),  and luxury grab bars (jaclo.com).
And I saw a beautiful shower and tub (separate) wrapped in 6x12-inch stone tiles and learned how to reface your kitchen cabinets (repaint or use the doors as templates for new ones; they have detailed instructions).  Don't forget to look for granite or other products leftover from other people's remodels. 
In a Kohler e-newsletter, I came across this amazing faucet:

With unprecedented efficiency and a uniquely modern design, the Karbon™ articulating faucet introduces a revolutionary functionality to the kitchen.  Intelligently engineered to hold any pose for hands-free operation, the Karbon faucet allows you to streamline your workflow. You can extend the faucet to fill large pots, lower it into the sink for cleanup, fold it compactlyout of the way, or position it anywhere in between.  See how it works.

Elsewhere I saw stuffed animal (sea turtle & lady bug) night lights with star cutouts on their backs; they project eight constellations.  And in a catalog recently I saw a fiber optics night light.
And in a Haagan-Dazs ad in Better Homes & Gardens is the URL for a website that tells you how you can help the honeybee (which are dying off everywhere): helpthehoneybees.com

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Be prepared (link)

I came across this useful website recently: Are you prepared?

"In a major disaster, it might be several days before vital services are restored.

San Francisco is exposed to a wide variety of hazards, both natural and man-made. Earthquakes, fires, severe storms, power outages, and acts of terrorism are just some of the potential emergencies we may encounter.

Imagine that you have no electricity, no gas, no water and no telephone service. Imagine that all the businesses are closed and you are without any kind of emergency services. What will you do until help arrives?"

This website originates in San Francisco, but it covers a lot of territory.  You click on the icons to learn what you need to know.  Hmm.  There's no icon for hurricanes, but the information you need is there: http://www.72hours.org/

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Architecture of the imagination

"The walls were lined with bookcases filled with leather-bound volumes in a hundred colors and a dozen languages.  The floor was a plush velour carpet which hid my ankles, and so soft it made you want to lie down with your best girl.  Almost felt alive.  Centering the left wall was a fireplace you could cook a car in, and right was dominated by a Belgian tapestry large enough to hide almost anything.

Over by the far wall, bracketed by a pair of balcony windows, was a massive slab of mahogany pretending to be a desk..."

From Full Moonster by Nick Pollotta 

Monday, April 21, 2008

TV home makeover shows (link)

Behind the scenes of home-improvement TV shows

By Paul Bianchina, Inman News

Q: When I watch those TV reality shows about room makeovers, I wonder if there is anything "real" about them. Can you really do a complete makeover in two days with $2,000? --....

A: Yes and no -- and therein lies the problem of the contradictions and false expectations of some of these phenomenally popular reality home-improvement shows.

On the positive side, these shows can provide viewers with a tremendous wealth of information and ideas...

Link: MLScast: Home Essentials Newsletter

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Home and decorating ideas

I discovered decorative speaker covers, including faux books and clocks, in the November 2007 Traditional Home.  In a bathroom tile ad, I saw some beautiful green-lined bars of soap.  Btw, I pick up handmade soap at arts & crafts fairs whenever I can.  They're beautiful, smell good (such a variety of scents!), and they're perfect for guest soaps; I store them in my clothes drawers 'cause I love the smells, and I use them myself. 
I also saw a lovely makeup trunk in that issue; it costs $1,200.00, and I don't use that many cosmetic products (my cosmetic cabinet holds most of mine), but it was beautiful at the end of the countertop (granite or marble, I think) that was covered with cosmetics.
For curb appeal, you can use Clopay's Garage Door Visualizer (cards with two or three garage doors to a card); I spotted these in an ad.  I love the carriage house garage door, btw.
An interesting tip in this issue was that glass cabinet doors in your kitchen don't absorb odors or emit toxins.  Good point.  And use a low-VOC paint.  A wallpaper ad (Chesapeake Wallcoverings) mentioned that their wallpapers are made with "environmentally friendly fibers and water-based inks.  The pre-pasted coverings contain no vinyl, PVC, or VOCs ..., and they are 'breathable,' inhibiting the growth of mold and mildew.  ...[they] pull cleanly from the wall--no steaming and scraping."  I have spent hours steaming and scraping.  This is fantastic!
In a kitchen photo in the magazine, I saw monogrammed dish towels hanging on the oven door handle.  Monogrammed dish towels!  Don't do it, people!  It's silly!!  (I got over the urge to monogram linens when I was still a kid.)
Another photo--of a bedroom--shows a six-foot-tall painting of a horse over a bed; it's very impressive.  This home also has a lot of Indonesian/Balinese art, which is beautiful and yet unpretentious. 
In The Ultimate Kitchen (2002, Publications International, Ltd.), there's a glass-block island--lit from within.  Very impressive.  It looks like it has a glass top, which is something I avoid.  In another kitchen in the book, a Mexican-style adobe stove squats at the end of a cupboard run.  It looks like a fireplace.  Maybe it's for heating?  Not very attractive there, and I love adobe fireplaces.
In a home supplement of the local paper are floor maintenance tips:
Carpet requires regular vaccuuming and annual professional cleaning.  Protect hardwood floors with mats at doorways.  Laminate needs regular sweeping, dry mopping, or vaccuuming.  [No scrubbing?!]  Ceramic tile needs vaccuuming and damp mopping. 
And in an e-zine (NY Metro Parents.com), a parent suggests taking kids to a farmer's market, giving them money to spend, and pointing out fun vegetables like purple carrots and candy-striped beets.  [I know there are different colors of potatoes and radishes too.] 

Friday, April 18, 2008


Writers Manual welcomes you!
Learn how to create a successful writing career!

An Interview With Joy Smith

Tell us a bit about yourself. What would you like us to know about you?

I've been writing stories since I was a kid. My stories and articles have been published in print magazines, webzines, and anthologies; and my SF has been published in two audiobooks, including Sugar Time. Recent books include Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook and a children's book, Why Won't Anyone Play with Me?

What are you doing now? (Career? Married? Single? Children? Pets?)

I'm a writer, not married; and my latest pet is Xena, the warrior puppy.

What is your favourite food?

Tex-Mex, Chinese, southern, German, ...

What is your favourite colour?

Pink, but I like lots of colors, and I will never paint my house white!

What is your favourite sound?

Frogs calling from the pond.

Who is your favourite person?

Too many favorites, and I would never hurt anyone's feelings by singling one person out.

What is your favourite place?

Home is good, but I love to travel. I'd like to go to England again.

What is your favourite memory?

The farm.

What is your favourite article of clothing?

My Deva freedom pants.

What is your favourite word?


What is your favourite writers' quote and why?

You don't have to get writing done right the first time; it's not like brain surgery. (Not an exact quote, and I don't remember the writer.) Because I understand why we need to edit.

What is your most favourite quality about yourself?

Persistence. I'm working on patience.

What is the least favourite quality about yourself?


If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?

England. I've been there and there wasn't time to see it all, or Scotland, Wales, France...

What inspires you to write and why?

I want to share the stories in my head.

What is your favourite book and why?

Too many! Possibly Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett--funny and deep.

What is your favourite genre and why?

Science fiction. The sense of wonder.

List your three favourite authors (any genre) and why?

Terry Pratchett (fantasy)
James H. Schmitz (SF)
Sharon Lee & Steve Miller (SF)

As with all my favorites, you can reread them--more than once.

What do you think makes a writer successful?

Good characters and an interesting plot and background.

Whta is it that makes you successful as a writer?

Good imagination and perseverance.

What are your goals as a writer?

To have more people enjoy my stories and maybe have them optioned for films.

What is the best tip you can give to fellow writers?

Edit and persevere.

What do you hope to provide your readers with through your writing?

Entertainment and education. (I love to throw in facts and interesting background.)

List your three favourite online writer-resource sites and why (include URLS).

Absolute Write: www.absolutewrite.com/

Preditors & Editors: anotherealm.com/prededitors/
(Resources & annual poll)

Ralan.com: www.ralan.com

If you have published a book, tell us about your publishing success (title, publishing date and company, where it is available to purcahse).

My most recent book (since Building a Cool House in Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook and Why Won't Anyone Play with Me?) is Aliens, Animals, and Adventure. This was published through Anthology Builder, where you can create an anthology or a story collection, as I did.

How long did it take you to write your book(s)?

Years of creating and polishing...

What would you do differently if you could repeat the same publishing experience?

Hmm. I had to work my way through my stories and books. I don't see what I could have done differently that wouldn't have slowed me down...

What have you learned about the publishing world?

It's always changing...

This is your chance to 'Talk Back' to your readers. What would you like to say to them?

I hope you enjoy my stories. That's why I wrote them.

What's the one thing that you want them to know about your writing?

I worked hard to get them to you!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Water heaters

Energy Star has released information about the Energy Star Water Heater criteria that will take effect in January 2009. This is exciting news, as water heaters had not been Energy Star certified prior to this, and it will help people make informed decisions about products' energy efficiency and potential long-term cost savings.

Link: Eric Helton: Building Science -- Energy Star Certified Water Heating (HGTVPro.com)

Since we bought a water heater recently, I checked it out to see if it had the Energy Star, but it doesn't.  However, it's self-cleaning  (I wonder how that works.), and it has an energy guide showing its ranking with other water heaters, and it says that it should cost about $415.00 to run each year.  ('Course our electric bill continues to rise.)

In a recent Paul Bianchina e-newsletter, he points out that if you add a bathroom, you may need more hot water.


Tags: ,

Bathroom remodels

We recently replaced a bathroom sink because the beautiful vintage green pedestal sink we bought from a salvage store reacted badly to the harsh chemicals somone used on it.  (Be careful, people!)  After that sink was removed (whimper, sob), we replaced it with a lovely white sink, which looks good there; however, it's taller, and we had to add countertop edging to the cabinets on each side (close match but not exact), and then we decided to tile the base (which was raised at the original installation, which is why the sink is so tall now).  Fortunately, we had leftover floor tiles from when we upgraded our floor.  (See earlier project posts.)  It looks good, but I would rather have not had to do that.
Btw, i came across a book, Bathroom Ideas That Work (2007, The Taunton Press) that is full of good ideas and photos.  A pedestal sink that looks a lot like ours is on page 151.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Saving energy AND helping the planet!

Our local environmental/nature columnist, Tom Palmer, recommends a book in his column today, You Can Prevent Global Warming (and save money!) by Jeffrey Langholz and Kelly Turner.  The book focuses on personal action and includes such tips as: Drive or take a train instead of a plane because emissions are less; recycle and buy products that have been recycled; use food in the fridge and/or pantry that you've forgotten [I confess that we waste food; sometimes it gets too old for the dogs!]; turn off the clock on your microwave and other appliances (it's been estimated that the clock--over the lifetime of the microwave--uses more energy than cooking does); compost [I do that!]; don't use throwaway products; use glass or ceramic instead of metal pans when baking; and more...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Publication news (story collection)

I've added four more stories to my collection, Aliens, Animals, and Adventure.  Look for it in the Anthology Builder library.  (The price is the same, but the shipping cost goes up a little bit.)  The stories are:

Lost in the Long Dark: Boy explores locked hallway in new house; finds danger.

Taking Tawny Home: Sequel to Lost in the Long Dark.  It's time to take the big cat home, but can he bear to part with her?

You Are What You Don't Eat: Why were the Terrans invited to the feast?

Pretty Pink Planet: Heroine tracks down planet pirates; saves aliens.  (Hot Yellow Planet is the sequel; it's in the book.)

Link: http://www.anthologybuilder.com


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Book donation

Saturday I went to the Sheriffs Youth Villa open house (cottage tour, lunch, exhibits) and dropped off a bag of books, including SF (a Heinlein juvenile omnibus, a Zenna Henderson omnibus, and The Best of James H. Schmitz), also Nim's Island, and a few others.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Certified green buildings ... (link)

Eco-friendly structures do better in energy savings, occupancy rates, sale price and rental rates: Third-party-certified buildings outperform their conventional counterparts

Link: News : Trends : New Studies Confirm Energy Savings in Green Buildings : HGTVPro.com

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Toilet tip (link)

(from Ask Ed) My toilet backed up and I tried to snake it out with a rooter. The rooter is now stuck! What is my next move?....

Link:  Ed Del Grande: Ask Ed -- Rooter Becomes the Problem

Yikes!  Be careful with those snakes, people...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Book reviews

I'm not a regular Hellboy fan, though I loved the movie, but when I read that Tom Piccirilli had based a character on Manly Wade Wellman's Silver John (I hate it when they call him hillbilly; the movie based on the character was called The Legend of Hillbilly John. What a travesty that was!), I had to get it. I enjoyed the book, though at first I wasn't sure where the author was going, but it had a satisfying ending--with a fantastic, imaginative trip on the way; and I liked Hellboy and the other characters. Well drawn, and Hellboy was Hellboy. This is not a graphic novel, btw; and there are horrific scenes.

I got Nim's Island, the book, after seeing the movie.  (One review called it far-fetched; it could have said unbelievable.)  I usually read the book after seeing a movie if I haven't read it already.  The book is better and way different from the movie!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Save energy with dimmers (discussion link)

(from Tech Talk) Did you know how much money can be saved by dimming the lights? Lutron's calculator lets you try different settings ....

Link: Bob Gatton's Tech Talk -- Lutron Energy Saving Calculator  (HGTVPro.com)