Sunday, August 31, 2008

Home ideas

There was a helpful step-by-step article on building a firepit in the September/October 2008 issue of Lowe's Creative Ideas.  I'd like one of those, though I'm not sure how you clean it out.
And the article about storage and a playroom for six children (including quintuplets) had great ideas,  which included open-door lockers--one for each child, with their pictures on top--and a hopscotch mat (secure the mat/pad with double-sided carpet tape) and a chest decorated with ABC and 1 2 3.  Elsewhere in the magazine was an idea for playing hopscotch outside with numbered stepping-stones. 
A cool kitchen idea was using a bathroom grab bar as a towel rack; it was at the end of a cupboard run.  The terra cotta pots with carved-pumpkin look faces were fun.
And I saw a Mediterranean-inspired bedroom (upcoming issue); the bed has a fountain at the bottom, which I've never seen before.  (I can picture the dogs lapping away there.)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hurricane Gustav

Gustav is now a category 3 hurricane and is headed towards the western tip of Cuba.  Sustained winds are 125 mph.  Florida is getting rain bands, but all we've gotten locally is sprinkles.  New Orleans is getting ready to evacuate.

Link: Atlantic Graphical Tropical Weather Outlook

(Thanks, Lloyd)

Update: We're getting rain now, with lightning and thunder.

Update: Gustav is now a category 4.  It hasn't cleared Cuba yet, but it should go into the Gulf tonight.

Update: Gustav should become a cat 5 tonight and make landfall Monday. 

Update: Or maybe it won't become a category 5, but it's still a strong storm, and New Orleans is being evacuated.  Rain bands are rotating over Cuba and Florida.  And now Florida is in Hanna's cone of uncertainty.

Update (8-31-08): Gustav is a category 3 and rain bands are over southern Louisiana now.  Hanna will probably miss us.  It's going north, though the computer models vary a bit.

Hanna link: Tropical Storm HANNA

Update: Gustav has made landfall near Cocodrie, LA, and I came across a post that was asking for evacuation space for livestock in northern Louisiana, northern Texas, southern Oklahoma, and southern Arkansas.

Update: Gustav is now a tropical storm.

Update (9-3-08): The remnants of Gustav are raining over Arkansas and other states, while Texas and Oklahoma need the rain.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tropical Storm Hanna

Invest L 95 (as I recall), which means Investigating a Low, is now TS Hanna.  The computer models show some strange loops...  Hanna may become a category 1-3 and may head west towards FL 

Link: Interactive Storm Tracker | WFTS-TV | First in HD

Update: Now they're saying it may become a category 4 or 5.  I believe it'll become a hurricane within a day or so.

And Gustav has moved further west though some models show it moving further west--or east.  And some other waves are coming off Africa; there was a possible storm off Campeche, but it's fallen apart.  One weatherman said that we could have five storms by the end of next week.

Link: Atlantic Graphical Tropical Weather Outlook

(Thanks, Lloyd)

Update: Hanna should become a category 1 hurricane; its path is predicted to turn to the southwest now.

Btw, this week's rain dance has been cancelled.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Kitchen design mistakes (link)

6 common kitchen-planning myths include bigger is better and I can add that later...

Link: KOHLER: Planning Tips: 6 Kitchen Planning Myths: Kitchen: Articles  (From Kohler e-newsletter)

Publication news

My book, Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook, is #8 on this Barnes & Noble top ten list: Barnes & Books - Architecture, Domestic->Amateurs' manuals   Here's a free excerpt: Free Book Excerpts : Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook by Joy Smith

There's a free excerpt available too from my children's book, Why Won't Anyone Play with Me?: Free Book Excerpts : Why Won’t Anyone Play with Me? by Joy Smith

Still upcoming are the Magistria anthologies, Magistria: Realm of the Sorcerer and Magistria: Shards of the Goddess.  My stories, Seedlings and Crystal Quest, in this shared world anthology series are about plant mages.

Here's the blurb for Hidebound, my ebook due out from Mundania Press (possibly next year): Not long after Anfissa and Ferenc meet, they’re trapped on a planet where even the grass is deadly.

For another book about deadly plants, read Alan Dean Foster's Mid-Flinx.

To listen to an audiobook about time travel adventure, check out Sugar Time at Hadrosaur Audio Odysseys

Monday, August 25, 2008

Tropical Storm Gustav

Tropical Storm Gustav has formed from one of the waves we've been watching as Fay wandered off and is moving towards the Caribbean; it's early yet; the spaghetti models are pointing in several directions, and the cone of uncertainty is big.  It's about a week away from us.

Link: Tropical Storm GUSTAV

(Thanks for the link, Lloyd)

Update: Gustav is now a category 1 hurricane; it is weakening over Haiti, but it may make it up to a category 3; it should be way west of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico.

Update (8-27-08): It's still over Haiti and the cone of uncertainty is brushing Florida's west coast.

Update (8-28-08): Gustav will probably only become a category 2, and the cone of uncertainty has moved west away from Florida.

Update: Gustav has moved farther away from Florida and is predicted to be a category 3 after all.  Intensification should begin tomorrow about midday, and it should hit the north coast of the Gulf Monday night or Tuesday.

Home ideas

I came across an article for a functional and fun office in the September 2008 Better Homes & Gardens.  You can use color-coordinated desk accessories, boxes, and clear plastic envelopes.  The website mentioned in the article (source of office supplies) is Welcome to See Jane Work   (My desk is full of old metal horizontal and vertical file holders, btw.)
A shared children's bathroom has drawers with each child's initials on the front of the child's drawer.  There's also a photo spread of pies in this issue that make me wish I had a cook.  (I've been known to make microwave popcorn and the occasional beef pinwheel.) 
A rug-upholstered headboard is a nifty idea I came across in an old issue of Country Living (May 2006).  There are some beautiful rugs out there!  In a little piece about adding luxury to your daily life they suggested that instead of an e-mail, you mail a hand-written thank you note to a friend.  (I think investing in beautiful stationery would also be nice--and unselfish.)  But more candles in a fireplace?!  I think not.
If you need more storage, you can keep linens in an armoire or linen press.  Put it in a hallway, landing, or maybe one of those bonus rooms.  And here's a great idea if you have an old trunk with a tray.  Use kitchen and sock drawer organizers or possibly an ice cube tray; that works for jewelry too, especially small earrings.  (I saw that on a home show recently.) 
A piece on kitchen storage also included an armoire--equipped with shelves, hooks, and dividers--for pots & pans, small appliances, cookbooks, etc.  Another article (Out and About quoting three shop owners) said that "People never tire of a pale palette, ..."  Fortunately that was followed by lots of pictures of colorful rooms and furniture.   
A truly useful article was Pethouse 101 on pet-proofing and pet-friendly design.  It recommended wood and tile flooring.  (We rip out carpeting in houses we move into.)  They add that broadloom carpeting and rugs should be avoided.  (You betcha.  All our rugs are washable.)  But sisal, seagrass, and jute can be hosed clean outdoors.  Huh?!  And, of course, avoid textured materials that cat and dog claws can catch in.  I'd avoid spreads and throws with fringe also; I've had to unhook dog tags.  The article also recommends indoor-outdoor materials and FLOR carpet tiles, which I've always thought was a great idea (being able to replace a square), but I, personally, would still avoid anything that couldn't be washed easily in place.  (With animals, if it's not one end, it's the other.)
In the November 2006 Country Living, there's a little piece on pantries.  It says that "Unfortunately, from the 1950s on, 'modern' kitchen design often did away with this great storage feature."  Frankly, I never understood that, and in our new house, we have a large walk-in pantry.  I remember crawling around on the floor peering into kitchen cupboards at the old house trying to find assorted canned goods.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Green homes

I came across Green Steel Homes in a recent issue of Florida Magazine at the library.  It's a "'green' home with a completely wood free, recycled structure. These sustainable homes stand the test of time, featuring steel framing, steel trusses, standing seam metal roof and a cement floor system.

With environmentally sensitive components, these homes deliver hurricane-rated sturdiness and resistance to fire, storms, mildew, mold, termites and noise."

I made a note of the website and looked it up when I got home: GreenSteel Homes™  It sounds good.  The photo on the website was in the magazine.   


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Making house cleaning easier (link)

"Clean Smarter, Not Harder: Tips for making quick and easy work of cleaning"  This website ( includes "speed cleaning tips from the Queen of Clean Linda Cobb," guides, and links:

Quick and Easy Cleaning: Clear clutter and speed clean, from microwave to dust bunnies. : Home & Garden Television


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Time to recycle houses? (link)

"Lately a new philosophy on green building has started to emerge, and it is one that many people recognize as practical, but not popular. It boils down to this: no new construction.

With housing starts in a slump, developable land getting scarce, and the whole country holding their breath to see just how high energy prices will rise, the deck is already stacked against new construction.  ..."

Link: Andrew & Stacy: The Green Team -- The elephant in the unfinished basement  (

Hurricane Fay?

It looks like it's going to miss us here in the northwest corner of Polk county; it's beginning to move away.  'Course it's going out into the Atlantic where it's expected to become a hurricane (category 1 or possibly 2) and curve back into Florida, but they're not sure where exactly.  The computer models are all over the map.

Update (8-20-08): Fay is pretty much gone.  That was a tight little storm and all the rain bands missed us except for one early one.  I watched the clouds rotating this afternoon though--pretty.  The dogs got a lot of exercise; we kept taking them out in case it rained for a long time...

Update: We're getting rain from the rotating rain bands.  Melbourne got over 20"; they're really flooded.  It's still not certain what Fay is going to do.  One model shows it moving south instead of north when it turns west.  (Georgia and Alabama are hoping for some rain.)  There should be some intensification as the center moves out over water, but it may not make it to hurricane status.

Update (8-22-08): We're getting a lot more rain now from the rain bands rotating around Fay as it moves WNW.  This is the first time one storm has hit one state four different times.

Update (8-24-08): So far we've only gotten a little over two inches of rain from Fay, though we're getting rain this afternoon from a rain band.  It should taper off by tomorrow, I think.

Update (8-27-08): The remnants of Fay are over North Carolina and Virginia.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tropical Storm Fay

We here in central Florida should start getting rain Monday from TS Fay.  The computer models vary; I saw one earlier that showed Fay cutting across Florida and exiting on the east coast.  Here are two good links for keeping track:

Tropical Storm FAY  (Thanks, Lloyd)  (Thanks, Mina & Frank)

Update: We're getting rain bands now, and they're going way north of us.  The center is over Key West; it's not a hurricane yet, and it may not become one.  It will make landfall early Tuesday morning, and it looks like it'll pass over us as it heads north. 

Update (8-19-08): No rain so far--just sprinkles.  (That first rain band only gave us a shower.)  I learned from a weatherman on the local news (The Weather Channel is disappointing because it doesn't show your counties or what's happening locally) that there's a pocket of dry air in the northwest corner of Polk county.  That explains why the storm keeps rotating and rotating and avoiding our area.  (I'm watching it on radar online.)  Btw, here's another link: Hurricane and Tropical Storm coverage from MyFOX Tampa Bay |  (Thanks, Mina)

Solar shingles (link)

"Don't let your rooftop shingles just lay there—put them to work! Thin-film photovoltaic (PV) cells are now doubling as roof shingles. ...

[They] can save homeowners up to 60% on their monthly energy costs.  ..."

Link: Best Practices : Mechanical : Solar Roof Shingles :

I hadn't heard of solar shingles until now.  I'd love to use them on my next roof. 


Friday, August 15, 2008

Tropical Storm Fay

The Associated Press

Published: August 16, 2008

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic - Tropical Storm Fay has formed over the Dominican Republic and was expected to barrel west toward Cuba over the weekend.

The storm's predicted track could bring it to Florida after passing over Cuba...

National Hurricane Center link: National Hurricane Center

I see from one forecast track that it could go up the west coast of Florida.

Update: Fay is over Cuba now; it should become a category 1 hurricane before making landfall on Florida, which is predicted for Tuesday--or earlier.  Right now the cone of uncertainty covers the peninsula, but the tracks have shifted slightly westward.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Kitchen countertop choices (link)

Here's a link from the HGTV e-newsletter with links to various countertop choices.  I like laminate because it's more reasonable than the high-end trendy choices, but I'm thinking about quartz and solid surface products too (for my next kitchen).  Speaking of trends, according to the website, "Solid surfaces are in, tile is out" and "The Hottest Looks...Marble, maple, and concrete..."

Link: Kitchen Countertops: Comprehensive Countertop Guide to Choosing Kitchen Countertops

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hurricane preparedness (links)


This link has links to articles on preparation and cleanup and news and background; resources (including FEMA, Red Cross, and the National Hurricane Center); and videos on preparing:

Learn more about hurricane preparedness »


Monday, August 11, 2008

Publication news (anthologies)

I have stories in a number of anthologies, including:

The Ghost in the Gazebo (Old Rex): Ed. Edward Lodi's Ghost in the Gazebo. The Eternal Night Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Web Site

Kings of the Night II (The Princess Quest) [out of print]

Magistria: Realm of the Sorcerer (Seedlings) [new edition upcoming]

Magistria: Shards of the Goddess (Crystal Quest) [upcoming]

Scoundrels & Rascals (Well Met By Water): ImPRESS Books Publications

WomanScapes (Pretty Pink Planet): Short Story Anthology to Benefit Humanitarian Aid

My story collection is Aliens, Animals, and Adventure: AnthologyBuilder: create your ideal anthology

And I contributed to Michael Flynn's story in Year's Best SF 12.

Btw, you can create your own anthology, using my stories and others at: AnthologyBuilder: create your ideal anthology




Thursday, August 7, 2008

More home ideas

I came across some really fancy radiators--sculpture, art, and traditional--in the January/February 2008 issue of This Old House.  While the swirly wall sculpture was striking, Beaumont's Roccoco Classique traditional radiator (similar to what kept me warm in Boston) was beautiful.
Tom Silva has a piece on cabinet basics such as giving them enough support and recycling them via Habitat for Humanity's ReStores.  (I've donated old appliances and tile to them; they pick it up.)  There's also a photo spread of door knockers.  That pinecone looks uncomfortable. 
There are energy saving tips in this issue also, along with other helpful articles, including saving while you splurge.  I'll be ripping out the laminate buying guide.  I enjoyed the article, From Animal House to Our House (great use of font, btw); a couple restored--and I do mean restored--a Queen Anne rowhouse that a fraternity had trashed... 
Save this old house is a great idea for the last page of the magazine.  (I enjoy Haulin' House on HGTV.  I just wish they'd show the After part.)  Btw, I also enjoy the Old House Journal's Remuddling page at the end of their magazine.    

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Home ideas

From Creative Home Design (1999; Barnes & Noble)
There are some fun and beautiful ideas in this book, including a powder room with library wallpaper; another powder room with a wooden arm chair used as a towel holder; and one with a matching sink skirt and wallpaper.  Another has a salvaged freize from a demolished building over the mirror.  And the pedestal sink in a real, old pedestal with carvings is most impressive.
I liked the bathtub with the lattice surround; and another bathroom had a wooden floor with tile sections that look like area rugs; that is beautiful and practical (water proof).  A shared children's bathroom has a pegboard with each child's name over one of the pegs.  Most of these bathrooms have lots of color, btw.  
A farm table with drawers makes a good island, and it can be used for eating.  For the furniture look, a kitchen sink has huge legs--most unattractive!  A cabinet in one kitchen has Roman numerals on it--possibly the date of a kitchen remodel.  A kitchen floor has a checkerboard pattern painted on it to match the cabinet color.  I liked the unique collection of yellow French aperatif pitchers in another kitchen.  (I never knew there was such a thing.)  I also liked the collection of different sized and colored narrow bottles of liquid seasonings.  (I think that's what they are.)
One long island was held up by two massive pillars--a very distinctive look.  Another long island had a marble top and several electrical outlets for small appliances, with an open shelf below for copper kettles, pans, etc.  There was quite a variety of islands, including one that surrounds a support pillar at one end.  And an extra deep marble sink is eye-catching!
Kitchens can flow into living rooms, great rooms, and even libraries, though I prefer my books to be protected.  Stainless steel, color, copper, and glass blocks can add a lot to a kitchen; and I love retro kitchens.
One section of the book is devoted to kitchen storage; there are lots of open shelves--a look I don't care for; and every time I see open, low shelves--at floor level, I figure that these people don't have children or pets.  Custom cabinets can hold a lot of things, even a step stool. 
Dining rooms can be elegant and formal, casual, or rustic--including a really deep fireplace and Spanish colonial.  Btw, a quilt used as a tablecloth definitely needs a glass top.  The table surrounded by white, swivel office chairs is striking.  You can use any kind of chair, of course.  Tree trunks with the bark still on as table legs, especially on a dead animal's skin gives country a whole new meaning.
Outdoor eating areas can incorporate lots of plants.  A picnic look is inviting, though I much prefer a screened porch without the bugs. 
Home offices with cubbies and shelves are practical and interesting.  An office can work in a bedroom if you use elegance and drama, matching woods, style, and color--or a disguise.  Or possibly a separation with columns and cabinetry.  (We did that in the Great Hall.) Or a screen.  Or maybe separate floor coverings, such as a mosaic tile floor.  Or whimsy.  Imagination, color, and thinking outside the box--that is certainly Creative Home Design. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Ideas for selling your home (link)

5 Fast Fixes to help sell your home

"We all know it's a little tougher to sell a house these days, and desperate homeowners are looking for any little advantage they can get to help sell their home. From paying hundreds of dollars to have a staging company come into their home to make it look like someone lives there (figure that one out) to repainting entire walls --- only to find out that no one else likes the new color!"

Link: Ed Del Grande: Ask Ed -- 5 Fast Fixes to help sell your home  (

Architecture of the Imagination

"I will now give you some idea of this vast house ...  You go up a ...flight of steps ... into a large Hall; on the right hand is the dining parlour, within that the Breakfast room ...  .  On the left hand is the best drawing room, within that a smaller; these rooms are rather gloomy Brown-wainscot and dark Crimson furniture ... .  Behind the smaller drawing room is the state Bed Chamber with a high dark crimson Velvet Bed; an alarming apartment just fit for a heroine; ...  .  Behind the Hall & Parlours is a passage all across the house containing 3 staircases and two small back parlours.  There 26 Bed Chambers in the new part of the house & a great many (some very good ones) in the old."
This is not fiction, but a description by Jane Austen's mother of Stoneleigh Abbey in Warwickshire, which had been inherited by Mrs. Austen's cousin.  
From: Jane Austen's Town and Country Style by Susan Watkins (1990; Rizzoli International Publications, Inc.)  This is a very interesting book with 177 illustrations.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Tropical Storm Edouard

TS Edouard is in the Gulf heading west away from Florida.

Link: Tropical Storm EDOUARD


(Thanks, Lloyd!)

Update (8-5-08): TS Edouard has moved on shore into Texas and is no longer a tropical storm.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Bubonicon 40 (2008)

My time travel adventure audiobook, Sugar Time, will be available at the Hadrosaur booth at Bubonicon 40:

August 22-24, 2008
The Albuquerque Grand Airport Hotel
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Guest of Honor will be David Weber; Guest Artist is Bob Eggleton.  Other participants include: Ben Bova, Jane Lindskold, George RR Martin, S.M. Stirling, David Lee Summers, ...

Here's the con link: Bubonicon 40 (2008) » Bubonicon 40

Sugar Time is an audio time travel adventure featuring a full cast, music and sound effects; it has three complete stories: "Sugar Time," "Flight Test," and "Return to Neander."  It's also available at: Hadrosaur Audio Odysseys