Thursday, December 31, 2009

Outdoor living area (link)

Here's a unique and cozy backyard gathering space, an adobe shelter modeled after an Native American pueblo; I really liked this southwestern style, though I'd want a roof on it, and I'm afraid that the antique tractor doesn't go with the decor. Link: A Unique Outdoor Gathering Place : Landscaping : Home & Garden Television

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Top 10 Green Building Products for 2009 (link)

The top ten green building products include insulation, a solar power generator, and a heat-pump water heater! Check out more at: News : Trends : BuildingGreen Announces 2009 Top-10 Green Building Products :

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The NaNoWriMo Challenge

My article on my experience writing 50,000 words--and my first novel--in November for National Novel Writing Month is in the January /February 2010 issue of Working Writer.

This publication has useful and fun articles for writers; here's the link to their website:

Monday, December 28, 2009

Bark-shingled homes

Bark shingles are making a comeback; they're not only salvaged from logging (otherwise they'd be burned, mulched, or left to rot), they're low maintenance, contain no chemicals, and are a good insulator. Bark shingled homes (this is the whole home, not the roof) date from 1895. The main source of bark was the chestnut tree; some of those homes are still in use today. 'Course after the chestnut blight, that source was lost, and bark houses were no longer built. This material is more expensive up front, but it's maintenance-free.

I came across the article, Nature's Shingles in The Christian Science Monitor (the December 20, 2009 print issue). Link: Bark houses are built with nature’s shingles / The Christian Science Monitor -

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Home plans with fireplaces (link)

Here's a webpage with house plans that include fireplaces: House plans, home plans, floor plans, home blueprints, construction plans, home designer, house plan at

I do love sitting in front of a fireplace--especially a real wood fireplace, though a flip-on-with-a-switch gas fireplace at Silver River State Park is also fun. However, fireplaces aren't very practical for backup heating. If we move further north, I want something that will keep the house warm when the power goes out. A wood stove is best for heating and cooking. (I remember staying in a home in Wisconsin where the wood stove was dismantled and put in the shed over summer. And staying in a home in New Hampshire where I slept on the floor next to the wood stove in the kitchen when the furnace broke.)

However, there is the Rumford fireplace, which may be the most efficient fireplace: The Rumford fireplace - energy-efficiency rediscovered / The Christian Science Monitor -

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Ideas from a White House Christmas (link)

This HGTV webpage has some photos from the White House decorated for Christmas. It's an interesting idea to dry bouquets from dinners to use for decorating; and those bright red wreaths on the big windows are striking. (The boxwood and the magnolia leaves in the wreaths come from the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden right outside the windows.) Link: Decorating the White House for the Holidays : Holidays and Entertaining : Home & Garden Television

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Home theatre design ideas (link)

There are a number of wonderful home theatre design ideas to look at on this HGTV webpage: Slideshow : Professional Home Theater Designs: Best of '09 :

Sparkle note: If you drag a treat from the box, and click on it again, Sparkle will jump up and catch it. (I can't afford a home theatre either.)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Holiday entertaining ideas (link)

Ideas include substituting gingerbread houses or Christmas village miniatures for a floral centerpiece; for safety use electric candles; embellish a plain wreath with ornaments, toys, etc.; homemade decorations; cover a long table with a bolt of cloth; ... For more ideas: 12 Tips for Holiday Entertaining Success : Holidays and Entertaining : Home & Garden Television

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Maine Shaker Lemon Pie

I don't post recipes usually (this is the first time), but this is a family favorite, and it's Christmas:

Maine Shaker Lemon Pie

3 lemons
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 package piecrust mix
6 eggs
cream or milk

1. Slice lemons PAPER THIN, rind and all; SEED. Combine with sugar in a medium-size bowl; mix gently; cover. Let stand in refrigerator overnight.

2. Prepare piecrust mix following label directions. Roll out half to a 13 inch round on a lightly floured surface. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate.

3. Beat eggs in a medium-size bowl until frothy. Stir gently into lemon-sugar mixture. Spoon mixture into pastry-lined pie plate.

4. Roll out remaining pastry to an 11 inch round; cut an X in center to allow steam to escape. Fit over filling; turning back corners of the X. Trim edge to 1 inch. Pinch to make a stand-up edge; flute. Brush pastry with cream; sprinkle with sugar.

5. Bake in a very hot oven (450 degrees) for 15 minutes. Lower heat to moderate (350 degrees). Bake 30 minutes longer or until pastry is golden brown.

For this recipe you can bake the lemon-egg-sugar mixture as a custard, without the piecrust, in a glass oven baking dish. And you can spray the baking dish with Pam w/flour to prevent sticking.

(This recipe is from Family Circle)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Top Ten Southern comeback neighborhoods

The January 2010 issue of Southern Living has an article on ten neighborhoods that are making a comeback as a great place to live. The neighborhoods include Springfield in Jacksonville, FL; Crescent Hill in Louisville, KY; Historic Fairmont in Fort Worth, Tx; and Viola in Greenville, SC.

Here's a link to the blog by the author: Best Neighborhoods in the South - Community#post173394?iid=magazine-january2010-neighbors

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Small living spaces (link)

This article is from ShelterPop on AOL Home. Jodi Helmer, the writer, lives in a home of about a thousand square feet. There are two people and three dogs in her home. I confess that wouldn't work for me; we do use all our rooms--and the porches. I am not ready to downsize! Link: "The Small House Movement is Gaining Momentum and I Want In" - Shelterpop

Saturday, December 12, 2009

DIY Solar Panel Kits (link)

You can buy Do-It-Yourself solar panel kits at Lowe's now! Well, it sounds like you may need help with the paperwork for permits, rebates, etc. and help in getting those heavy panels on the roof, attaching them to the rafters. and making the electrical connections (you'll need a dedicated circuit breaker). But we're finally getting closer to making this important green improvement to our homes. (I want to do this some day.)

I found the article in the business section of today's paper; here's the link to the paper's webpage: The Ledger Lakeland, FL

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Solar panels (link)

I thought this news item was interesting: Panasonic Shifts Focus Onto Solar Panels. There's background on Panasonic's purchase of Sanyo Electric Co., its own inventions, and the competitve consumer electronics and appliances and HDTV market. Link: Panasonic Shifts Focus Onto Solar Panels The Punchlist (HGTVPro blog)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Interview in latest issue of Abandoned Towers Magazine

I received the latest issue of Abandoned Towers Magazine (3rd Trimester 2009) today, which I've been waiting for because it has an inteview with me by the editor! The magazine also has lots of short stories, poetry and art, plus more non-fiction. The cover story is A Warm Welcome--great cover, btw. I've read some contemporary westerns that just don't get the characters or dialogue right, but this was perfect--and a lot of fun! There's a good balance of SF and fantasy too, along with stories set in the far past (cavemen and a story of honor in the Roman legions) and a scary future, plus a troll tall tale, and more.

Recall (SF) is a good tale of soldiers recalled to duty, and I appreciated the line where the hero (a father trying to protect his family from being called up) says to the soldier delivering the paperwork, "I thought you were an android." "Mostly, sir. They can only rebuild so much when you've been through the grinder."

It has a good variety, and the quality is good. And I can't talk about a favorite story without giving away the ending. The non-fiction includes an article about life in New Zealand by Lyn McConchie. (I've always loved her articles and books about her life and her animals in New Zealand. And she's written fiction set in Andre Norton's universe.) In my inteview, I discuss writing and some of my favorite fiction characters. Btw, this interview predates my NaNoWriMo experience in November, which was interesting for me to read!

Abandoned Towers Magazine is published three times a year. Here's a link for you to check it out for yourself: Abandoned Towers Magazine - fantasy, fiction, westerns, articles, stuff for kids, audio stories, games

Friday, December 4, 2009

Decking the halls (link)

Check out these holiday decorating ideas, including festive fireplaces, spectacular outdoor displays (that glittering entrance is impressive!), and sparkling table settings.

For creative Christmas tree themes, you can focus on a single color or spray the tree with snow, add mirrored ornaments, feathers, etc. [A neighbor's Christmas trees include one with a gnome theme and one with a railroad theme.]

Link: Christmas Decorating Ideas: Deck the Halls, Holiday Inspiration and Tree Decorating Tips : Decorating : Home & Garden Television

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tile sampling (link)

There are ceramic tiles, slate, recycled-glass mosaic, and more. And Mediterranean, classic, European, spa, and natural styles. Check out these ideas: Slideshow : Tile Trends and Tricks :

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Getting organized for the holidays (link)

Holiday Organization: Tips From Leading Experts to Help You This Season: If your seasonal celebrations could use a little more peace and joy, heed this advice from the pros: Holiday Organization: Top Tips From Leading Experts to Keep You Sane This Season : Organizing : Home & Garden Television

Monday, November 30, 2009

Christmas gift book suggestions

Here's a smorgasbord of books I've written or have stories in:

Why Won't Anyone Play with Me? is my children's picture book. You can find it at: Why Won't Anyone Play with Me?: Books: Joy V. Smith

The new edition of my house book, Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook, has color photos; the ISBN number on that edition is 978-1-60749-562-8:

Aliens, Animals, and Adventure includes some of my stories (reprints). Browse the stories here: AnthologyBuilder: create your ideal anthology

And my audiobook of time travel tales, Sugar Time, is available from Hadrosaur Productions: Hadrosaur Audio

Magistria: Realm of the Sorcerer is a shared world anthology (invitation only). Check it out on amazon:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I'm a winner!

I reached and passed my 50,000 word goal last night and received my official validation from National Novel Writing Month and printed out my certificate and picked up my virtual badge. I'm glad I finished. I can actually write more if I want--until the end of the month, but I think I'll take a little break before polishing and submitting it. (I'm browsing markets now...)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bullseye window glass (link)

You can enhance your home by adding handblown reproduction bullseye window glass. It's lovely and unique, and there are some examples of ways you can use it. Apparently you have to have it installed in your doors and home when you get it though. Link: Hand-blown Bullseye Window and Door Glass from Sugar Hollow Glass in Fairfield Connecticut

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Home for the holidays ideas

The December/January issue of Country Living is full of fun and lovely deas, including a photo display of America's best-selling rugs. My favorite was Rose Tufted Rug from Pier 1. The others, I thought, were on the dull side.

There was also a look at Christmas candy; and the Real Estate Sampler's focus was on churches converted into homes. Great selection! The Gift Guide was very tempting. There were cameo soaps, matchbook notepaper, items made from recycled Chinese newspapers, an iPod case with a gramaphone on the cover, and more. My favorite was measuring spoons that look like Victorian silverware (from Beautiful!

There were also Christmas ornaments (including origami) and a collection of pet gifts. (I'm sorry, but dogs dressed to imitate humans is an idea thought up by merchants! You don't have to do that, people!)

There are more ideas, which include tree trimming, gift wrapping, and home decorating (with some Swedish inspired ideas), plus a section of yummy-looking Christmas treats.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Guide to selecting floors (link)

Floor choices include exotic woods, which are increasing in popularity; bamboo; laminate, which stands up to moisture and is good for kitchens; cork, which is a renewable resource; linoleum, which has been around for years, but lately--not so much, but it's hot now; tile; vinyl; and concrete.

Link: Guide to Selecting Floors : Home Improvement : Home & Garden Television

Note: Some homeowners are using wood more in kitchens, but my dishwasher flooded my kitchen once...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Little Sarah

Another little orphaned squirrel immigrates to the cathedral oak! Little Sarah's foster mother brought her to live in our big back oak--and took lots of pictures, I'm told. (I just ran over from the neighbor's yard sale where I was working for a minute to welcome her--and put our dogs in the house. And you can't bark on the back porch either!) She was rescued from the mouth of her foster mother's dog when she was only the size of her thumb! I think she'll be happy here. I see the other squirrels frolicking in the trees and the yard, and we give them peanuts every day. Living on a wildlife habitat is fun. We haven't seen any foxes lately, btw, but the sandhill cranes are often in the front yard and there are herons fishing in the pond...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Stamping & staining concrete (link)

This HGTVPro website shows some interesting effects with staining, dying (more colorful), epoxy coatings, acid staining, and stamped concrete samples--nice variety! And stamped concrete overlays for damaged concrete; also stencil resurfacing. Link: Slideshow : Stamped and Stained Concrete Designs :

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

National Novel Writing Month update

The goal of NaNoWriMo is 50,000 words by the end of November. I'm past the halfway point (32,000 words last night), but, oh, November 30 seems a long time from now. If I stick to my current goal of 2,000 words a day, I should be fine, but last night I did some editing and discovered that I'd messed up my chapter numbers so I had to fix that--chapter heading by chapter heading--after correcting my notes. I got to bed at five last night, but could sleep in. Tonight I've got to do some more research first. I've got a new list...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Shuttle launch

I watched the Atlantis shuttle launch at 2:28 (ET) this afternoon out back; I saw only a long, narrow white trail that eventually went into a cloud and disappeared. The shuttle launch replays on the NASA channel were much more spectacular as it went through the clouds!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Christmas decorating ideas (link)

And here are some Christmas decorating ideas from HGTV. Those big and fancy stockings are fun; the snow shoes, pinecones, and stockings against the stacked stone fireplace in the log home work well; and the festive draped banister with a Christmas tree on the landing is certainly eye catching, but I did not care much for the monochromatic cream color scheme including stockings or the stacked ornaments (what is holding them in place?). See them all and more at: Our Favorite Holiday Ideas From Rate My Space : Holidays and Entertaining : Home & Garden Television

Sparkle note: If you drag a treat from the box, and click on it again, Sparkle will jump up and catch it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fall decorations (link)

Here are some lovely fall decorating ideas from HGTV. I like the brown tablecloth beneath the white runners, the basket filled with fall foliage (grasses, etc.), the pumpkins, and cornucopia, but the stacked foam pumpkins look like an orange snowman without a face. Link: Our Favorite Fall Decorations From Rate My Space : Holidays and Entertaining : Home & Garden Television

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Toilet help (links)

This may help if your toilet keeps running:

"The most common type of home toilet has a bowl and a water tank. Of these two parts, the water tank is the most complex. Inside the tank are multiple components, which work together to flush and fill the bowl with water. Most problems with a toilet occur here.

The float is one important component inside the water tank. Toilets typically have one of two common types of floats: a filler float or a ball float. ..." For more info and diagrams: HGTVPro - BuildIQ Home Care Guide - Toilets : Overview

And here's a link that takes you to videos, which include a power flush toilet with no performance issues and a composting toilet: HGTV Pro Products Player :

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fireplace ideas (link)

The fireplace decorating ideas include a big mirror propped on the mantle (propped?!), a black slate or a shiny granite hearth (striking), mosaic tile for a modern look, ... For more, go to: Hot Fireplace Design Ideas : Home Improvement : Home & Garden Television

But please, forego the candles inside the fireplace and on the mantel!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Basic kitchen tools (link)

Here's a list of 45 must-have kitchen tools--in categories, including cutlery, small appliances, and gadgets--with recommendations. You choose what you need and what you want. I like the fact that they tell you where you can go cheap and where you should spend a little more. Link: Project Center -

Friday, November 6, 2009

Magistria: The Realm of the Sorcerer

There's a good review of Magistria: Realm of the Sorcerer (by David Lee Summers, editor) in the fall issue (Vol. 5, issue 2) of Tales of the Talisman. He mentioned "Storm Warning" by Lillian Csernica as a standout story and Robert J. Santa's "In This Sleep of Death" as another fine story. (My story, Seedlings, is mentioned briefly, but not by title. At least he mentioned the sentient trees!)

Check out this shared world anthology on amazon:

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Color tips from HGTV (link)

No need to be afraid of using color in your home. Check out these ideas on this HGTV webpage:Top 10 Tips for Adding Color to Your Space : Decorating : Home & Garden Television

I liked the citrus combination, and the tall black case (lighter inside) for displaying pottery was striking.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Comfortable Home (book review link)

The Comfortable Home by Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams (Clarkson Potter Publishers, 2009) looks helpful (combining comfort, beauty, and style). Link: Design Happens » Archive » Book Review: The Comfortable Home (

Excerpt from review: "One of my favorite sections of the book is the different floor plans for each area of the home: entryway, living room, dining room and bedroom. I know that’s usually the toughest part when I’m decorating, so having six different layouts per room is incredibly helpful."

[I love seeing multiple choices for one room!]

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Green renovation (link)

Follow the ongoing green renovation of an old home, Sheep Dog Hollow. This blog has a number of green and environmental links: Photo Gallery: Sheep Dog Hollow - framing a green dream home

Friday, October 30, 2009

Shopping smarts quiz

In this fun quiz, you choose between the smart buy and the splurge: HGTV Quiz: Dining Room Design: Test Your Shopping Smarts

Sparkle note: If you drag a treat from the box, and click on it again, Sparkle will jump up and catch it.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cosmetic cabinet idea (link)

Here's an interesting new product from Kohler--a concealed lockbox for your cosmetic cabinet. I don't see how it's concealed since that looks like a key in a lock in the photo, but here's a link so you can check it out:
KOHLER: K-2659: Lockbox for KOHLER 20" W -CLC/-CLW Mirrored Cabinets: Mirrors & Mirrored Cabinets: Bathroom Furniture & Mirro..

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Architecture of the Imagination

"She continued being really thrilled right up until, as she approached the tasteful emerald and purple sphere that was Hotel Whiskey, she saw her enemy sneaking up on her from the far side of one of the planet's pretty lavender moons. She knew it had to be the enemy ship because it was this really ugly, mean-looking black thing with a nose cone flanked by what looked like twin spikes, or fangs, but which were really space-to-dirt missiles. ... The rest of the Hasslebad ship rose like a hood behind the slitted dual view ports on either side of the nose cone."

From Don't Go Out in Holy Underwear by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough in Don't Forget Your Spacesuit, Dear

Friday, October 23, 2009

Home remodeling mistakes to avoid (link)

Look at that overloaded electrical outlet! Don't ever do that!! (I have to confess that a contractor doing some work in our house once pointed out a multiple plug-in outlet that he said wasn't safe. We switched it out for a surge protector multiple outlet that we had on hand.) Another practical tip is Don't skip the primer. (We've used Kilz a lot.) Other tips include Don't skimp on grout sealer. (I had to buy grout paint, btw, and wander through the house when the rugs and furniture are up for scrubbing so I can see where it's needed.) Link: Home Improvement Dos and Don'ts : Home Improvement : Home & Garden Television

Sparkle note: If you drag a treat from the box, and click on it again, Sparkle will jump up and catch it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Saving the planet

There are many reasons for taking care of our planet; first and foremost is the fact that it's the only one we have! However, I came across this recently: Let's save the earth,'s the only planet with chocolate!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Green building and remodeling (links)

This HGTVPro webpage has links to information about "Green Rewards From Uncle Sam: Credits, Rebates, and Loans for Engergy-Efficient Building and Remodeling": Green Incentives: Tax Rebates, Tax Credits, & Loans For Energy Efficient Building Practices :

There's a state by state listing and a look at the other benefits of "efficient and healthy homes," including reducing mold growth. That's a definite plus here in Florida.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Home decorating ideas, furnishings, and entertaining

There's a lovely selection of products and decorating ideas for your home in the November issue of Country Living. They look at six of America's best-selling dining room chairs (I'd keep looking), Heath Ceramics, luxury soaps, items covered with ticking fabric (I could use that box-spring cover), lace-patterned tableware, collectable aprons, and adjustable, utilitarian stools, among other things.

And check out the home decorating ideas; what you can do with plaid; and recipes, including onion custard and recipes using cranberry sauce. There's also a real estate sampler of octagonal houses (some good buys) and imaginative products created by women entrepeneurs, plus tips for travelling by plane. The Norman Rockwell book, After the Prom, would be fun; it includes some of his paintings and the photos he staged for them.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Flooring (links)

This HGTV webpage gives helpful hints on flooring choices, including concrete, bamboo, linoleum (which I'm happy to see has made a comeback), rubber, hardwood, carpet, and brick. They're using wood more in kitchens, but "Wood floors can be finished with oil and wax to give a weathered, antique look, but this finish is less durable in a kitchen setting and will require regular waxing. A better choice for kitchens is wood flooring that is factory-pretreated with a tough sealer like polyurethane. ..." Links: Fresh Flooring Options for Kitchens : Kitchens : Home & Garden Television and Home Improvement : Fabulous Floors : Home & Garden Television

Sparkle note: If you drag a treat from the box, and click on it again, Sparkle will jump up and catch it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Green building (links)

This HGTVPro webpage gives green and greener choices; bamboo is greener than a slab as a finished floor, for instance. Categories include HVAC, structural, insulation, solar, and plumbing. Link: The Different Shades of Green Building: Energy-Efficiency and Sustainability for Home Builders :

And here's a link for the new solar shingles from Dow: News : Materials : Dow Unveils New Powerhouse Solar Shingles :

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

House cleaning tips (link)

This guide to keeping your house cleaning under control includes a schedule--daily, weekly, monthly, etc. The floor cleaning advice covers wood, vinyl, tile, and carpet. Yes, I'm afraid you have to clean them weekly. "The bad news is, the Carpet and Rug Institute recommends that you invest in a professional, deep carpet cleaning every 12 to 18 months to keep carpeted rooms in top condition." Link: Your Guide to Keeping House Cleaning Under Control : Organizing : Home & Garden Television

Monday, October 12, 2009

Living on a wildlife habitat

Yesterday afternoon five squirrels--Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Bethany, and Rocky--arrived in two big cages with their foster parents. It usually takes a little while to coax them out; the last one was very reluctant.. A couple, with their little girl, brought Rocky. This was their first time here, and they were impressed with the cathedral oak and the squirrels scampering all over those big branches. There's one little squirrel still scheduled to come; she's nine weeks old and gets to move into the big cage now. The cages have an assortment of branches to climb on, along with pieces of cloth to snuggle in and a hollow hideaway--and, of course, water bottles and food bowls. The foster parents left us squirrel food (corn, etc.) to put in our squirrel feeder. We take out lots of peanuts too, and occasionally pecans--which we used to help coax them out. We buy our squirrel food from Walmart, btw, and raw peanuts from Publix.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Go green with solar power!

I love my solar-powered ever-changing "Northern Lights" color sphere in the flower bed off the patio. I can see it through the French doors, and when I take the dogs out at night, I often watch it up close when you can see the crackle effect.

There are more types of solar-powered lights and spotlights in the Gardener's Supply Company catalog (see link below). Solar powered lights are brighter and longer lasting nowadays. There are string lights, stars, a lily, a hummingbird, and dragonflies (seven shifting colors). Plus garden supplies. Link: Gardeners Supply Company Garden Supplies and Gardening Tips for Home Gardeners

Friday, October 9, 2009

Kitchen storage (link)

This HGTV webpage shows you ways to increase your kitchen storage. Ideas include using windowsills, baskets, plate shelves, a built-in bookcase for cookbooks, and a cabinet or wine storage at the end of an island. And you can use an architectural element instead of a door! To see these ideas illustrated, go to: Kitchen Storage With Style : Kitchens : Home & Garden Television

We use a plate shelf to display some of our Fiestaware; it goes where a cabinet would have blocked a window. Our cookbooks are stored in the pantry and really need to be displayed better...

Sparkle note: If you drag a treat from the box, and click on it again, Sparkle will jump up and catch it.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Decorating ideas for your entryway (link)

Ideas include furniture to anchor your entry, mirrors, lighting, useful decorative items for holding keys, etc., and, of course, seasonal decorations: Ideas for Decorating Your Entryway—Home Made Simple

My Halloween decorations are out--lots of cute black kitties in pumpkins, etc., and two ghost candles. Upcoming is a pumpkin or two and gourds. (I love colorful little gourds.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Utilizing your hallway space (link)

I don't have a hallway in my home now, but there was a big hallway in our last house with a built-in bookcase and a linen closet; we added a low bookcase, where the phone sat, and a tall bookcase. Lots of storage there! Your hallway may not be as big, but there are some useful tips on this Home Made Simple webpage, including moving the message board out of the kitchen into the hallway. You can even use chalkboard paint in the hallway to create a message board; frame it and add a ledge to hold markers, etc. You can add shelving, hooks, and cubbies to your hallway too. Show off your trophies, books, movies, and music. For more ideas: Ideas for Maximizing Hallway Organization—Home Made Simple

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Recommended books

It's time to think about Christmas gifts. Here are a few I'm recommending--yes, including some of my books:

Man-Kzin Wars XII: I've been reading the Man-Kzin Wars series for a long time. The series was created by Larry Niven, but different authors have joined in. Man-Kzin Wars XII (Baen, 2009) contains six stories. My favorites are Aquila Advenio and String; Kzinti and humans team up and are lots of fun! (The Kzin started attacking, enslaving, and eating humans a long time ago.)

Fledgling (Baen, 2009), by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, is the latest Liaden universe book. (I love these stories and characters!) Check it out here:

The Solar Sea (LBF Books, 2008) by David Lee Summers, an astronomer, is available from amazon; I enjoyed the background on our solar system as the heroes explored it in this mystery/adventure. Check it out at: The Solar Sea (9781897370834): David Lee Summers: Books

Why Won't Anyone Play with Me? is my children's picture book. You can find it at: Why Won't Anyone Play with Me?: Books: Joy V. Smith

The new edition of my house book, Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook, has color photos, but finding that edition isn't easy. Here's a link with both editions on the publisher's website; the one on the left should be the new edition, but it's not in the description: Publish America - Publishing Writers' and Authors' Manuscripts

Aliens, Animals, and Adventure includes some of my stories (reprints). Browse the stories here: AnthologyBuilder: create your ideal anthology

And my audiobook of time travel tales, Sugar Time, is available from Hadrosaur Productions: Hadrosaur Audio Odysseys

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Home furnishing and decorating ideas

The October 2009 issue of Old-House Interiors is full of great articles and products for your home. I liked the vintage kitchen sink reproduced for the bathroom. I wouldn't want it there, but I'd love it for my kitchen. (We had one in our American Foursquare when I was a kid.)

There are also products for your kiva fireplace (southwestern look); and Keystone is a catalytic stove from Woodstock Soapstone. (I'd like that for back-up heating.) And there's an article on flat-screen TVs and how to hide them; there's even a TV in the fireplace. (Mostly they're over the fireplace, a look I've never liked, though you can hide it behind a painting.) Btw, there's a warning in the article about securing the TV. "They may be thin, but they are heavy, weighing up to 175 pounds, and have a very low center of gravity..." There have been a number of accidents where the TV fell or was knocked over by children.

There's a good article on countertop products, including laminates, composite materials, granite and soapstone (both need to be sealed), concrete (known for developing hairline cracks), and others. Notes: Granite needs a penetrating sealer and soapstone needs mineral oil. When a fabricator cuts out the material for your sink, ask for the leftover piece. (You can use leftover soapstone for a cutting board.)

More interesting articles on homes, ...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Powder room (link)

This Kohler webpage focuses on the powder room. Since it's often for guests, provide an empty countertop or shelf where women can set their purses. When decorating, you should keep the style consistent with your home's style--contemporary or period, or you can make a dramatic statement. "If you're not into bold hues, earth tones and light-colored natural materials can also help keep the space feeling open and fresh." For more suggestions: KOHLER: Planning Tips: Powder Room Tips: Bathroom: Articles

Sparkle note: If you drag a treat from the box, and click on it again, Sparkle will jump up and catch it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Paint guide (link)

This HGTV webpage paint guide includes a paint glossary, prep and brush tips, painting over tile and old laminate bathroom countertops, staining, and painting do's and don'ts: Link: Home Improvement : Tips, tools and tricks: Get the basics on interior painting : Home & Garden Television

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Making the most of a small bathroom (link)

There are some useful tips on this Kohler webpage. Their e-newsletter showed a square toilet and sink that looked even smaller. One thing about a pedestal sink, you just do not have enough storage. If it's in a powder room/half bath, it's not as important though. Link: KOHLER: Planning Tips: Tips for Small Bathrooms: Bathroom: Articles

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Home ideas

There are a lot of fascinating stories and ideas about living in small spaces in the October/November issue of ReadyMade. The 10x10 foot studio sounded small, but I'm not sure it was smaller than the one where "I could open the fridge while on the bed and grab the soap on the kitchen sink while in the shower."

There's also a helpful guide to buying a house and an article about a man making his home from wooden pallets; and among the many home decorating and furnishing ideas is one I would never have thought of--using bubble wrap (with a removable adhesive) on your window for privacy. I've bought frosted and decorative plastic sheets for privacy with light, but this is certainly interesting and cheaper.

I liked the architectural model sculptures, which included skyscrapers, the John Hancock bulding in Chicago, and bridges, plus bridge (the Golden Gate and Brooklyn) bookends. [I love fancy bookends and have quite a variety in my library.] Now I'm going to check out the sconelettes website.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Green building products (link)

This HGTVPro webpage shows a number of current green building products, including solar photovoltaic panels, soy-based foam insulation (no CFC, HCFC's or formaldehyde), glass walls, and a biofuel furnace.

Link: Slideshow : IBS 2009: Green Building Technology :

Thursday, September 24, 2009

House cleaning hints (link)

Here's a webpage full of cleaning info from HGTV's webpage: Organizing : Household Cleaning & Organizing: Tips To Make Your Home Sparkle : Home & Garden Television

Find advice on decluttering, speed cleaning, organization, what cleaning products to use, and making your home sparkle! (I suspect that I'll have to dust it first.)

Breaking a room into areas and deciding where to put everything is a smart first step. You might want to make a list of things to do 'cause it feels so good when you check something off of it. (I keep a list of things to do next to my computer. 'Course it has nothing to do with cleaning, but I understand the concept.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Useful concrete-related products (links)

There's a list of interesting concrete products you can check out (via the HGTVPro e-newsletter), including brick stencil patterns, concrete landscape logs, Ez-Footings, Stain-Crete, Chameleon Pigments & Effects, Decorative Masking Patterns, and Concrete Repair Products. Link: Concrete Contractor Top Products

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fire pits

There's a variety of fire pits and patio heaters on this Home Depot webpage--my favorite is the big one with the tile rim--but what I really want is a built-in fire pit--in ground or above. I loved the one on a recent HGTV home show--one that focused on masonry, as I recall. [Possibly stone is in the title; I will check.] Do not forget to line the fire pit--if you build one--with fire bricks! Here's the Home Depot garden club e-newsletter fire pit link: Stay Warm on Cool Nights with Fire Pits and Outdoor Heaters - The Home Depot - Garden Club

Sparkle note: If you drag a treat from the box, and click on it again, Sparkle will jump up and catch it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

New laminate flooring

"The new generation of laminate flooring provides the warmth of real hardwoods for less money, plus it's easier to install." So check out these floors on this HGTVPro webpage: Slideshow : Laminate Flooring Options :

They do look nice, though I prefer the lighter colors. Hopefully they'll stand up to the dogs and their toys. (Every time the Corgi drops one of his hard toys on the tiles, I cringe. I appreciate the fact that they've never cracked.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Paint color trends for 2010

"Yellow, one of the most popular paint colors of the past two decades, will be hotter and brighter than ever. For years, interior designers and color experts have sung the praises of yellow's uplifting impact on our moods. Next year, they’ll take it to a whole new level, recommending much brighter shades than the toned-down hues that had been favored in the past."

For other trendy colors, go to: - Paint Color Trends for 2010

Monday, September 14, 2009

Publication news

My article, "Man-Kzin Wars: Behind the Scenes of a Great and Long-running Series," has been accepted by the editor of Tales of the Talisman; it will run in volume 6, issue 1, which will be published in summer 2010.

Sparkle note: If you drag a treat from the box, and click on it again, Sparkle will jump up and catch it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Browse my short stories

You can browse stories at Anthology Builder from classic and contemporary authors--including me--and genres, create your own anthology with a cover from their art collection, or browse anthologies already created. Check out the AB library: AnthologyBuilder: create your ideal anthology

You can also buy my story collection, Aliens, Animals, and Adventure. My stories include: Hot Yellow Planet, The Haunted Garden, Stray Cats, Lost in the Long Dark, ... : AnthologyBuilder: create your own science fiction or fantasy anthology

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bathroom ideas

There are a number of great bathroom decorating ideas on this HGTV webpage, including adding a granite countertop and a fireplace or making it your craft display space--if you like clutter: Bathroom Makeover & Bathroom Remodeling Projects & Ideas

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tile ideas

This HGTVPro webpage has a lot of useful info on tile design. Check out tile design ideas, trends, tricks, and professional advice. There is stone and glass tile, but "porcelain remains one of the most durable and efficient tile products." It's harder than granite, it says too. Link: Tile Design: Ideas, Installation Tips & Tile Photos For Your Kitchen & Bath :

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Home ideas

The October issue of Country Living has a ton of great ideas for decorating and entertaining for Halloween. It also has home furnishing ideas, including side tables. I love the one with the pullout shelf above the drawer. (My desks have pullout shelves, and I use them a lot; there's one by the printer, and they're essential when I do a lot of sorting.) My house is full of Shaker pegboards, but the idea of using reproduction wooden spools to hang clothes on is also useful.

The Halloween decorations include bleeding candles, a spiderweb candelabra, and torn cheesecloth for a spooky effect. And there's an article on Halloween collectibles, plus one on devilish desserts. The big black spider on a cake is not appetizing, but the white chocolate spiderwebs were fun.

Speaking of food, the magazine has a column on using a vegetable that's in season. This month it's kale. Who'd have thought you could use it as a snack, with pasta, and stir fry?! This issue has pumpkin recipes also, and crystallized ginger in the pumpkin waffles sounds delicious.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

House plans (link)

These house plans are supposed to be Southwestern, but most of them are a combination and look like the house exploded: House plans, home plans, floor plans, home blueprints, construction plans, home designer, house plan at

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Retro AND Modern kitchen (link)

I like this look. "Totally retro yet all totally modern. all the appliances you see here including the radio on top of the ref are all vintage in look but modern in technology. Grey and silver makes for a good backdrop to make red stand out."

You can't always tell because of perspective, but that looks like one of the narrowest refrigerators I've ever seen. And "Red Kartell Spoon stools goes [sic] well with the red Smeg refrigerator." Link: Retro kitchen - Kitchen Designs - Decorating Ideas - HGTV Rate My Space

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Shuttle launch

I watched the shuttle launch out back from the mesa (septic system) and caught glimpses of a bright light as it rose through the trees to the east; it was really bright, and I watched it for a long time (I got back in about 12:05) until it headed down behind the trees further north. That was probably due to the curvature of the earth. Then I watched a couple replays on the NASA channel. That is so spectacular!

Today I watched more replays on the NASA channel of the astronauts gearing up and getting into their seats. I hadn't realized how difficult that is; they have straps overhead for ease of shifting into position and crew standing by to help them suit up, get ready for the parachutes, put the pillows, etc. back into their seats--not exactly seats, of course, since they're lying down. Lots of interesting background info; and the shot of the shuttle against the sunset was beautiful. I'd love to have that picture.

NASA website:

Friday, August 28, 2009

Cleaning help (link)

There are all kinds of cleaning tips on this HGTV webpage, including homemade cleaning products, speed cleaning, and cleaning bathrooms, kitchen floors, refrigerators, and toilets. Link: Cleaning Tips: Spring & Fall Cleaning Advice

My favorite tips: Declutter, make the family help, and if it's not dirty, don't clean it!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Home ideas

In the September issue of Old-House Interiors, there are some lovely appliances--the Big Chill retro stove, a wood-burning Artisan stove that heats water (ideal for remote homes that are off the grid), and a Northstar streamlined fridge. You've got some great color choices. There are also some beautiful reproductions of WPA posters.

I enjoyed a fun article of a homeowner's adventure on getting his house on HGTV's If Walls Could Talk. Lots of interesting background. And there's a good article on Dutch Colonials. (My family lived in one when I was a kid; ours was one with a sun porch on the side.) Plus a helpful article on furnishing a home dating from postwar America (1940s).

There are more articles full of ideas with great photos, including Hoosier built-ins. I especially enjoyed the reproduction kitchen sink from Signature Hardware. The family had one when I was a kid, and we lived in a foursquare.

I mentioned the Dutch Colonial and American Foursquare I've lived in. Other homes include apartments in Boston and a variety of homes in Florida and Wisconsin. I learned a lot about what I wanted from all those homes--and house books and magazines. When it came time to build, I was ready to put all my knowledge--and my folder full of ideas--to work. You can learn from what I learned--and the occasional mistake--in my house book, Building A Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook, which is available from: Building a Cool House for Hot Times Without Scorching the Pocketbook (This is the edition with the color photos.)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Patio ideas (link)

Here are some helpful suggestions for your patio from Home Depot, including location, drainage, materials, style, shelter from the weather, etc.: Designing a Patio - The Home Depot - Garden Club

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Design Star (link)

I've watched Design Star from the first season, and I enjoy the designer's ideas and work, though I'm usually sorry when one has to be eliminated. This season's challenges have been imaginative and fun, and, of course, episode five, where they created new rooms for two military families, was really appreciated. Check out the Design Star website for more background, photos, and video. See if you can find something that will work for your home: HGTV Design Star : Home & Garden Television

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Windows and patio doors satisfaction survey (link)

"WESTLAKE VILLAGE, CA -- As economic difficulties lead homeowners to curtail remodeling projects, overall satisfaction among consumers with windows and patio doors has declined in 2009, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2009 Windows and Patio Doors Satisfaction Study(SM) released today.
The study, now in its third year, measures satisfaction among consumers who purchased new windows or patio doors based on performance in seven factors (listed in order of importance): operational performance (17%); product quality/durability (17%); appearance and design features (15%); price (14%); ordering and delivery (14%); warranty (13%); and repair and replacement (10%). "

For more, go to: News : Materials : Consumer Satisfaction With Windows and Patio Doors Declines, According to Latest J.D. Power and Associates... (

Friday, August 14, 2009

No need to fear color (link)

Expert advice to help you move beyond beige, or Drab to Fab. Suggestions include thinking about the lighting in a room, learning color terms (hue, value, saturation, intensity), adding depth with decorative finishes, etc. For more, go to: 10 Tips for Picking Paint Colors : Decorating : Home & Garden Television

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A practical and unique house-warming gift (link)

Every home needs at least one fire extinguisher. Check out these stylish fire extinguishers from Fire Design: Design Happens » Archive » House to Home (HGTV)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Kitchen and bath trends (link)

The top ten design trends for 2009 include stainless steel countertops; glass countertops and backsplashes, which can go all the way to the ceiling; stone hearths--including boulders; and "Eschewing color, dramatic black and white color schemes are becoming the norm." For more trends, see Slideshow : NKBA's Top 10 Design Trends for 2009 :

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Planning your dream kitchen (link)

Lots of kitchen ideas on this HGTV webpage. A white kitchen is timeless... You can warm it up with touches of wood. And some people want a kitchen/great room; they put the computer, TV, crafts, etc. there; they might even add a couch--or two--and don't forget the coffee table. This explains the study that says people are spending more time in their kitchen.

Other trends include making an artistic statement on your range hood, cupboard doors, and backsplash. Also, using organic shapes (no straight lines or sharp corners). And, of course, prosumer kitchens (restaurant style features and heavy duty construction). For more design trends, ideas, themes, and color choices, go to Kitchens : Design Guide: Kitchens : Home & Garden Television

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Helpful house ideas

From the September, 2009 issue of Country Living: Cover a small table with yardsticks. (Make a template of the table top and lay out the yard sticks--which need to be the same thickness; arrange them and then mark them so you can cut them to fit--being sure to sandpaper the edges; then nail them down and seal them.) It's not pretty, but it's interesting. Do not do this to a good table.

There are some interesting remodeling articles and ideas in this issue also. One home owner surrounded a dining room doorway (sliding doors) with built-in bookcases--including a shelf over the doorway. [Our dining room includes a bookcase, btw, since we had nowhere else to put it. We did incorporate vintage bowls and aluminum trays to make it fit in.]

On home shows, I've seen a lot of people "update" a perfectly good kitchen, but one kitchen in this issue truly did need a makeover, but using old oak planks for shelves instead of cabinets was not an attractive nor practical plan.

Outdoor living ideas from the August/September issue of Ready Made include creating a lawn chair by covering it with AstroTurf and making a fire pit out of an old wheelbarrow.

For house building help, such as--Make changes on paper, not in mid-project! (We did both, btw), see my book, Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook. It's available at Publish America - Publishing Writers' and Authors' Manuscripts and other online vendors.

The new edition with color photos has this ISBN: 978-1-60749-562-8; you can read an excerpt at: Free Book Excerpts : Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook by Joy Smith

Friday, August 7, 2009

Kitchen remodels (link)

There are useful tips on this HGTV website for remodelling your kitchen. Preparation includes decluttering! Heck, you can do that now to make your life easier. There are tips for working with a contractor and removing appliances yourself to save money. [Even though they give you advice for doing that safely, it's something I--personally--would leave to a contractor...] There's also advice for making design decisions and choosing fixtures. Link: Home Improvement : Remodeling Guide: Kitchens : Home & Garden Television

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Get your kids outdoors! (link)

Here are some good ideas for gardening with kids. You want to encourage them to look at, touch, and smell flowers and other plants. They can collect and compare fuzzy lamb's ears with magnolia, sycamore, and maple leaves and whatever trees you have at home or at a park. How many different leaves can they find while taking a walk. Smell the herbs! And don't eat the berries! This is a good time to learn which insects are our friends. And check out the projects like a bean teepee and a pizza garden. Go to: Add a Garden for Kids and Teach Them to Grow - The Home Depot - Garden Club

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Scurtz chair covers (link)

Here's an interesting product I came across recently. I've seen chair covers before--to dress up your plastic chairs, dining room chairs, etc., but these are "stylish, decorative skirts for chairs. They're very upscale, and some people see them as an alternative to tablecloths or place settings as a unique way of decorating for guests."

They come in velvet, tulle, etc.; and some are reversible. Link: Scurtz! Inc. : Home

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Get organized! Check out these ideas (link)

These ideas are school inspired. Cubbies, baskets, bins, and hooks are easy to use and keep your home neat. You can also use color coding and easels for display, plus your basic chalkboard. Use your imagination and have the kids help! Link: Tips for Back-to-School Organizing—Home Made Simple

My house is full of Shaker pegboards (bedrooms, bathrooms, and utility room) and desk file dividers in the office; they cover every flat surface! (I've collected a lot of the old metal ones--vertical and horizontal.)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Color tips and ideas for your home (link)

There are a number of color suggestions for your rooms on this HGTV website. What colors go with cork floors? What are the latest kitchen color trends? Should you care? Maybe you should choose colors that outlast the trends. Or possibly you want to be really creative. Or you could go with accents that don't cost so much. And they have natural color suggestions for your Zen bathroom, plus serene color schemes, the hottest trends, or combining or matching colors that you prefer. Link: Color Ideas & Inspiration: Paint Colors, Room Colors, & More

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Window treatment ideas (link)

Check out these window treatments for your home. Suggestions include: Minimal is in; Let in more light; and Pick contemporary colors. [That's a little limiting, I think. I'd rather have something that works with the room.] And there are more links to other ideas.

Six Tips for Great Window Treatments : Kitchens : Home & Garden Television

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dark colors on your walls

This home ideas website/blog (AOL) focuses on dark walls. Gray is apparently popular now, though not everyone cares for it (see comments) and you do have to be careful. Link: Trend Watch: Gray Walls - Shelterpop

I've always been fond of one wall being a different shade. I wonder if a different shade of gray would work, or if you need a lighter color...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Wheel Estate

Wheel Estate (Johns Hopkins Press, 1997) is an in-depth look at mobile homes and housing. It was originally published in hardcover by Oxford University Press in 1991, and it's dated, but full of historical background and photos.

I bought it when I discovered that my uncles, who were pioneers in the mobile home field (they began building them on my grandparents's farm, where I was born), are mentioned in it. (They would really gnash their teeth when people called mobile homes trailers. I was raised knowing the difference.)

For a while my family lived next to the first factory (Rollohome) and I'd visit it sometimes.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Contemporary kitchen (link)

Laquered light beige cabinets, quartz countertops, glass appliances, and a red wall covered with glass--a backsplash--to protect it. Check out this Asian modern kitchen: Designer Portfolio : DP KITCHENS : Home & Garden Television (See other contemporary kitchens there too.)

Those upper cabinets seem short against the red wall. Is it because they're lost in that big space? Is it because of higher ceilings? I've seen other cabinets recently that seem short also. Is it a trend? Are they cheaper?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

HGTV's Dream Home for 2010

The 2010 HGTV Dream Home will be done in the Southwestern style. It looks a lot more interesting than previous homes. Here's the link for background info and plans: Building the 2010 HGTV Dream Home :

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Design ideas on a budget (link)

This article covers the basics--Do it yourself or get family or friends to help, shop secondhand stores, check out seconds, spruce up old pieces, ask about sales and discounts, and remember "... there's no better budget stretcher than your own imagination." Link: Design Ideas on a Budget : Decorating : Home & Garden Television

I have a concrete garden bench at the end of my bed, btw. It's not going anywhere when the dogs bounce off and on it. (Your legs will learn to avoid it.) Fancy sheets make cheap coverlets; and I have a fancy rug runner on the dining room table.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

My children's and teen's stories

I've had dog and cat stories published in Dog Song and I Love Cats; and Sammy's Beautiful Tail, an ebook, is "out of print" too, but Why Won't Anyone Play with Me?, a picture book, is available from Barnes & - Book Search: Why Won't Anyone Play with Me? , among other online vendors. And you can read Taking Tawny Home at Story Station: Viatouch - Learning & Leisure - Story Station "Taking Tawny Home"

Taking Tawny Home is a sequel to Lost in the Long Dark, which was published online in Alien Skin. Both stories are in my story collection, Aliens, Animals, and Adventure, which is available from Anthology Builder: AnthologyBuilder: create your ideal anthology

Friday, July 17, 2009

Concrete countertops (link)

"Concrete countertops are an affordable alternative to granite and synthetic solid surfaces." Check out these ideas--and see how it's done--at Slideshow : Concrete Countertops: Design & Installation : There's also a concrete table and chairs that look really uncomfortable.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Color tips (link)

The Top 10 color tips on this HGTV website include the 60-30-10 rule, which means 60% for the main color, 30% for a second color, and 10% for the accent color. In a room, this usually means 60% on the walls, 30% on the upholstery, and 10% with an accent piece. This obviously is a guideline, not a rule. One accent piece?! What about patterned upholstery? And draperies? Get out of this box now!

Link: Top 10 Tips for Adding Color to Your Space : Decorating : Home & Garden Television

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Gardening decor ideas

I received a Gardener's Supply Company catalog (Late summer 2009) recently, and it's full of fun things for living large outside. There are even more solar-powered lights--and a fountain! There are glass birdbaths--one with the warning, "Do not place birdbath in areas that contain bark mulch or other flammable materials." Another glass birdbath says, "Protect from freezing." [I keep glass to a minimum outdoors.]

There are also water barrels (the urn is beautiful) and compost bins, along with pond and plant supplies and ornaments. And the seed packet marker is a great idea; it protects your seed packet. Btw, though there's a good selection of compost pails, I still use cut-down plastic milk cartons. Link: Gardeners Supply Company Garden Supplies and Gardening Tips for Home Gardeners

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Bathroom fans (link)

From Ed Del Grande's blog:

"With all those plumbing fixtures packed into a small space, most bathrooms will inevitably be very moist areas. To my dismay, many homeowners and their family members never use the exhaust fan for their bathroom unless it's wired directly in with the main bathroom light switch. I bet some of you believe that you are using your exhaust fans properly, and think the fan is just meant for eliminating bathroom odors when company is over. While your bathroom fan does help to control normal odors, the real reason for an exhaust fan in your bathroom is to control the moisture."

For more: Ed Del Grande: Ask Ed -- Why Is a Bathroom Fan So Important? (

Friday, July 3, 2009

Carpet and rug ideas (link)

FLOR carpet squares can be fun to experiment with, and they make a great custom area rug. I've always enjoyed their choices, but having pets, I avoid carpet, and most of my rugs are washable. And I'm not fond of rugs on carpet, but I'm sure that sometimes it's a lovely and interesting choice. Btw, how come animal prints haven't gone out of style yet?! For more ideas, see: Be Inspired: 6 Stylish Carpets and Area Rugs : Decorating : Home & Garden Television

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Home furnishing and decorating ideas

There are some interesting articles and photos in the August issue of Country Living. I enjoyed the roundup of America's favorite silverware patterns. Queen Elizabeth (Towle Silversmiths) is elegant; the others are fancier, but Eloquence (Lunt Silversmiths) is too ostentatious.

The furnishing of the set for Julia Child's kitchen (for the movie, Julie & Julia) was interesting. They had to build Child's signature Peg-Board and Norwegian armchair, but found Spode Blue Willow dishes, etc. Child was 6'2", btw, and had high counters. (Meryl Streep stands on a platform to appear taller.)

There are decorating-with-fern prints ideas, restaurant plate collectibles, and ideas for flower arrangements. Folding back tulip petals gives you a fantastic look! Lots of other decorating ideas too; a real estate sampler of homes available next to protected land, including Yosemite National Park; and there's a cute French bulldog in a Pedigree ad.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Flooring choices (link)

These flooring choices include concrete, hardwoood, bamboo, tile, and marble. (You can have complimentary (sic) marble countertops with your bathroom's marble floor.) Link: Slideshow : Remodeling Photo Gallery: Flooring :

Monday, June 29, 2009

Publication news

My article, Having Fun with Anthology Builder, is in the July/August 2009 issue of Working Writer.

Links: WORKING WRITER For people who write and

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bathroom makeovers (link)

"The beauty of a bathroom is that it's small," says Gary Foreman, publisher of The Dollar Stretcher. "So if you've never sponge painted before, you can try it for an hour or two ... You can paint over it ..." There are more ideas and links at this HGTV website: Chic, Cheap Bathroom Makeover : Bathrooms : Home & Garden Television There are fancy shower curtains too, including custom-made ones that can cost more than $250.00. Or you can do it yourself (hire a local seasmstress to do the hemming). Indoor-outdoor fabrics are great for a bathroom. And think about resurfacing your vanity with Granitclad, which I've never heard of, but you can check out their website:

Friday, June 26, 2009

Kitchen remodeling (link)

"Of all the rooms in your home, remodeling the kitchen recoups the most value at resale. According to Remodeling Magazine's 2008-09 Cost Vs. Value Report, a minor kitchen remodel recoups 79.5 percent, and a major kitchen remodel comes in at 76 percent. ..." [From the Kohler webpage article, Kitchen Changes That Pay Back.]

You're supposed to think about resale value when building or remodeling, and we did in making a number of decisions when building our home, but we included the walk-in pantry for ourselves. Still, just because some people think laminate countertops are low end and granite and stainless steel are essential, doesn't mean that's what you need to do.

For more on remodeling and upgrades, see this Kohler webpage: KOHLER: Money Matters: Remodel Recoup: Kitchen: Articles [I do not think a kitchen needs a wall-mounted flat-screen TV!]

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Home appliances

The August issue of Consumer Reports has some helpful articles on buying appliances, with advice on the best brands (low repair rates, etc.) and best places to buy them. (It pays to buy small appliances and big appliances at different stores.) They cover refrigerators, stoves, ovens, and dishwashers (plastic interiors are less expensive than stainless interiors) Btw, one of the stoves in their 1938 electric-range tests had--among other things--a cigarette lighter.

There are also articles on countertops and flooring. (I plan to get quartz, solid surfacing, or laminate--boomerang pattern--for my next house. I will not get any kind that needs sealing! This includes limestone, marble, granite, and concrete. And I will never get tile again. I have granite tile--pretty but not practical.) There are also articles on showerheads and toilets. And remodeling tips, such as Make changes on paper, not in mid-project! (I include that advice in my house book, Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook. We did both, btw.)

Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook is available at Publish America - Publishing Writers' and Authors' Manuscripts . The new edition with color photos has this ISBN: 978-1-60749-562-8

and you can read an excerpt at: Free Book Excerpts : Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook by Joy Smith

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Water pressure problem (link)

Here's some useful information if you have noisy pipes. The plumbing question is: "In our home we are having an issue in the kitchen when the dishwasher cycles on and off. It sounds like pipes rattling inside the walls. The strange part is that the noise is in the master bedroom shower. ..." Check out the problem and the solutions at: Ed Del Grande: Ask Ed -- Strange Shower Noise (HGTVPro)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bathroom faucets (link)

There are some truly modern designs of bathroom faucets on this HGTVPro webpage. The wave handles are different; and the flat spout with the cylindrical body and lozenge lever is striking. Then there's Art Nouveau, bling, and minimalism. Enjoy the variety: Slideshow : 2009 Kitchen & Bath Show: Bathroom Faucets :

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Top home design trends (link)

Well, in case you didn't know, stainless steel and glass tile are in; one kitchen combines them for lots of reflected light. For more, see: Slideshow : NKBA's Top 10 Design Trends for 2009 :

(Frankly, I did not care for that monstrous stone surround around the kitchen stove.)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Bath and kitchen countertops (link)

This HGTVPro website helps you choose countertops, among other things. I know that I'm not going to get wood or stone kitchen countertops because they need to be sealed. The Buying Countertops link gives you info you need to make an intelligent choice: KITCHEN : Marketplace HGTV Pro - Browse Products Available Just for You

Here's the main link: Cabinets & Countertops: Design Ideas for Your Kitchen & Bath : , where you can check out fantasy islands, cabinet trends, and more.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Coastal building (links)

"Construction along the coasts brings many challenges: tough codes, building houses that resist potential hurricanes or earthquakes, and dealing with a delicate environment. Learn how to build smart and strong on the coast."

This HGTVPro website has useful info on raised floors, framing, storm-resistant windows, modular construction, building codes, coastal erosion, and more:
Coastal Construction: Building and Design on the Coast :

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Architecture of the imagination

"Gordy laid his hand against the palmplate in the captain's bright red door. There was a chime, followed by a subdued 'Come.'

The door slid open

Priscilla crossed the threshold on the boy's heels, then stopped and frankly stared.

Once again she was overwhelmed by spaciousness. Shelf after shelf of booktapes, bound books, and music-tapes lined one wall. On another hung a tapestry worked in dark crimson, dull gold, jade, and azure, a twining geometic design at once restful and surprising. Below that was a unit bar; to one side of it was another shelf of tapes interspersed with bric-a-brac. Straight ahead, in the center of the room, two chairs faced a wooden desk supporting a computer screen and two untidy piles of hard copy. To the left of the desk was a closed door bearing a diagonal red stripe. A deep, hedonistic chair was placed at an angle to the corner; several books and a sketch pad were piled helter-skelter on the carpet nearby, while more books littered the nearer low table. The second of the set supported a chessboard. Seated on the edge of the sofa and bend over the board was a white-haired man in a dark blue shirt."

From Conflict of Honors by Steve Miller and Sharon Lee

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Energy options (link)

There are some useful energy ideas on this HGTVPro website. I finally learned more about a swamp cooler, btw. My cousin in Phoenix has one, and I never really got a handle on it, but here's a photo and a description. I never wanted radiant heat in my floor 'cause I worry about how to fix it; but I do want to have a wood stove for heating backup in my next house. And I certainly didn't expect to come across a kerosene space heater, but they're safer now. You still have to be careful!

Link: Slideshow : Energy Options, Pt. 2: Home Solutions :

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Theme anthologies

I love a good theme anthology, and my favorites include the Chicks in Chainmail and the Man-Kzin Wars series and the Catfantastic volumes, also War of the Worlds: Global Dispatches and Don't Forget Your Spacesuit, Dear.

I have stories in a few anthologies, btw: The Ghost in the Gazebo, Kings of the Night II, Womanscapes, and Magistria: The Realm of the Sorcerer. (Magistria: Shards of the Goddess is upcoming.) Magistria is a shared world anthology: Magistria: The Realm of the Sorcerer: Robert J Santa, Lawrence Barker, G W Thomas: Books

I have a review of Man-Kzin Wars XII on the Christian Science Monitor website (Readers' Picks): Man-Kzin Wars XII and interviews with two of the Man-Kzin Wars authors, Hal Colebatch and Matthew Joseph Harrington, in the May issue of Expressions: Expressions 107

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Standby generators (link)

Because we lose power periodically from storms and hurricanes, I've been thinking about getting a generator for a long time. I was thinking about a portable one, but I see that a permanent standby generator with a transfer switch would be really great. I also learned from this HGTV blog that it's definitely a job for a pro and requires natural gas or propane--and several weeks to install. You can't get one when the need happens. I think that a portable generator uses gasoline? Hmm. I have to study on this some more. Anyway, there's useful info here: Ed Del Grande: Ask Ed -- Generating Interest

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Crape myrtles in bloom

Our crape myrtles are beginning to bloom, and petals are beginning to drift down like snowflakes; and in the Townhouse (Japanese variety with white blossoms), the air is filled with the sound of humming (some sort of honeybee, I believe). We have multiple beds of different colors--front and back and down both sides of the property, and none of them are pollarded (had their tops chopped off) because they've got plenty of room. There's no crape murder here! (Some people think that's the way they're supposed to look.)

Our varieties include hybrids such as Basham's Party Pink, Tonto, Biloxi, Tuscorora, Raspberry Sundae, Dynamite, Natchez, Burgandy Cotton, Osage, and Pink Velour; we also have Japanese, Chinese, and American crape myrtles.

Links: Crapemyrtle : Extension : Clemson University : South Carolina


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Decorating ideas

I got the July issue of Country Living today, and one of their decorating themes was postal, including a pillow that had a reproduction French postcard--the address side with pretty script. And then there's a variety of lemonade or beverage-of-your-choice dispensers--very pretty, but I'll stick with my pitchers.

The mirror framed by pink plastic spoons was certainly different. There were also articles on house building and remodelling and summer entertaining. You can send postcards with beach scenes for invitations. And if you love potato chips, you'll enjoy their state-by-state round-up of the best potato chips. I bet the chips fried in avocado oil are different. There are recipes also (including hamburger variations), among other things.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Anthology Builder

Check out the cool stories (all genres) and art at Anthology Builder:

I have a short story collection there too: Aliens, Animals, and Adventure.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Decorating ideas

I came across more nifty ideas in the June/July issue of ReadyMade magazine. They made a nifty holder (for condiments, utensils, bottles, etc.) from a cardboard beverage carton. Strengthen the bottom with duct tape and cover it with gift wrapping paper. And make a fake lamp chain with a little plastic toy. (You know I've been wondering what to do with those cute critters in softsoap dispensors. I wonder if they'd work.)

A trellis made from old tennis rackets bought at a thrift store is a fun idea; it looks like they're attached to each other with ties, but I'm not sure what keeps them in place. There was an interesting article on working with Legos too. I see they have a digital edition, but you have to be a subscriber to access it. (You have to register online.)

Here's their website link: ReadyMade

Friday, May 29, 2009

Organize your kitchen sink (link)

Kohler has some interesting kitchen sinks called Stages (two sizes) with articulated faucets. It seems cluttered to me, but it might be useful to some cooks.

Link: KOHLER: Stages™ Kitchen Sinks: Kitchen: : Kitchen: New Products

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Toilet flushing problem (link)

Replacing the toilet in a four-year old house seems extreme; I agree with the suggestion that the home owner simply remove the toilet and check the drain before buying a new one. I've replaced the same toilet--along with multiple wax ring replacements--more than once. It seems much easier--and less expensive.

Link: Ed Del Grande: Ask Ed -- A Toilet Eruption

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Aliens, Animals, and Adventure

This collection of some of my reprinted stories includes stories of adventure and time travel (The Doorway, Guard Dog, and Flashback), genetic engineering (Moovin' Up), and aliens (To the Last Drop!, Pilot's Course, Pretty Pink Planet, Hot Yellow Planet, and You Are What You Don't Eat), along with big and small cats (Taking Tawny Home and Stray Cats) and some fantasy (The Haunted Garden and The Princess Quest), and more.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Solar heating

There was an interesting energy column in the real estate section in today's paper. Solar power, even just for your water heater, is not a do-it-yourself project. You need good carpentry, plumbing, electrical, roofing, and other skills; and you have to be careful not to put holes in your roof. I also learned that there's a safety issue because of the high temperatures that solar-heated water can reach.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Replacing the kitchen sink (link)

Will he have to replace the countertop too? He'll have to find out by removing the sink. Maybe not... Link: Ed Del Grande: Ask Ed -- A Big Sink Problem

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Home and garden ideas

There are so many solar-powered products available now! I came across a stonelike polyresin pillar with house numbers that I may get for our house, which is a ways back from the road. This is from Collections, Etc. (see link below). They've also got a pole with hanging baskets and an eagle on top that glows at night. And solar rocks (resin) connected with a cord. (The eagle, pillar, and rocks also have batteries. Why?) There are a variety of lovely lights too. Hmm. These also require batteries. The solar-powered lights I already have don't have batteries...

They also have a toad cottage that looks like a little house. It's really cute. All my toad houses are much more natural looking. I presume this doesn't have a floor. (I saw one with a floor once in a store--no good for toads since they can't burrow into the ground then.) And I love the door with a lighted window (solar power and battery). I've mentioned doors that attach to tree trunks--on the ground--but this is really nifty; it comes with stepping stones.

In another catalog I saw some antique insulators that have been recycled into pendant lights and soap dispensors. (I love recycling; see link below.)

Links: Collections Etc.: Unique gifts, home and garden decor, and housewares. A collection of unbeatable values!

NapaStyle - Home Furnishings - Easy Entertaining - Recipes from Michael Chiarello

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Kitchen storage ideas (link)

There are some interesting storage ideas on this HGTV webpage, including window sills, corners, baskets, book shelves, and old food cans.

Link: Kitchen Storage With Style : Kitchens : Home & Garden Television

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Publication news

I have a mini-review of Man-Kzin Wars XII on the Christian Science Monitor website (Readers' Picks): Books

My story, Seedlings, is included in Magistria: The Realm of the Sorcerer (a shared world anthology): Magistria: The Realm of the Sorcerer: Robert J Santa, Lawrence Barker, G W Thomas: Books

Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook is out in a new edition with color photos; here's a link with both editions on the publisher's website; the one on the left should be the new edition, but it's not in the description: Publish America - Publishing Writers' and Authors' Manuscripts

My children's book, Why Won't Anyone Play with Me?, is available on the B&N website: Barnes & - Book Search: Why Won't Anyone Play with Me?

My short story (reprints) collection, Aliens, Animals, and Adventure, is available from Anthology Builder: AnthologyBuilder: create your ideal anthology

My audiobook of time travel tales, Sugar Time, is available from Hadrosaur Productions: Hadrosaur Audio Odysseys

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Alternative energy solutions (link)

There are videos and photo slide shows on this HGTVPro website to help you decide how you can save energy: Energy Options: Alternative Energy for Your Home : Main :

I had planned to install solar panels some day, but now I'm thinking solar shingles. Our current home has a heat pump, and I appreciate not ordering fuel every winter. (I can remember tossing burning pieces of toilet paper into the furnace before we got the new furnace at the old house. The old house was bulldozed a couple years ago, btw, after we sold it.) Wouldn't it be great not to have a big electric bill!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook

I'm happy that the new edition of my house book, Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook, has color photos, but finding that edition isn't easy. Here's a link with both editions on the publisher's website; the one on the left should be the new edition, but it's not in the description: Publish America - Publishing Writers' and Authors' Manuscripts And I have no idea if the new edition is on any of the booksellers' websites, such as Barnes & Noble, amazon, etc.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Getting away from home

Usually I focus on ideas for the home and garden, but in the June issue of Country Living is an inviting article about vacationing in luxurious tents around the country. At El Capitan Canyon in California are spacious safari tents with all the amenities. Then there's Huckleberry Tent and Breakfast at Clark Fork, ID; Dunton Hot Springs at Dolores, CO; Falling Waters at Bryson City, NC; Fossil Rim at Glen Rose, Tx; Costanoa at Pescadero, CA; and Luana Spa at Hana, Hiwaii. They all sound like fun and comfort with plenty to do nearby.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Top ten color trends for 2009 (link)

"Bold colors from the '80s are making a comeback, but in more subdued, elegant designs." The colors on the list on this HGTV website include hot pink and blue, gray with a twist, silvery blue, and velvety rose.

I like them all; as a matter of fact, my bedroom has pink walls and blue accents. (The pink has been toned down--it was formerly known as Pepto Bismol pink--with white--sponge painting).

Link: 10 Can't-Miss Color Trends for 2009 : Decorating : Home & Garden Television

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Plumbing problem (link)

Why is the drainage problem worse after the new tub was installed? Yikes!

Link: Ed Del Grande: Ask Ed -- New Tub Trouble

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

SF anthology news: Man-Kzin Wars

I recently interviewed Hal Colebatch & Matthew Joseph Harrington, two science fiction authors whose work I really enjoy, and both interviews are in the May issue of Expressions (writing ezine):

From the introduction in Expressions:

I've been reading the Man-Kzin Wars series for a long time. The series was created by Larry Niven, but different authors joined in. The latest volume, Man-Kzin Wars XII (Baen, 2009), includes two great stories, Aquila Advenio and String, co-written by Hal Colebatch & Matthew Joseph Harrington; in both stories, humans and Kzin team up. For those unfamiliar with Man-Kzin relations, the Kzinti (tiger-like aliens) started attacking, enslaving, and eating humans a long time ago. Now things are different--somewhat, sometimes, and in some places. I enjoyed these stories so much that I tracked down the authors to learn more about them--and their stories.

Link to May issue of Expressions: Expressions 107

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Outdoor living

The latest Plow and Hearth catalog has a colorful selection of umbrellas, pillows, and outdoor rugs. And there's a birdbath with a tiny house in the middle of it; 'course I can't help thinking about how hard that will be to clean. I have a fancy birdbath with birds on the edge, and I have to use a toothbrush on it, besides my regular scrub brush. I love the mosaic hummingbird feeder; red is the predominant color, of course. I've never seen one that beautiful. There's a variety of mushrooms for the garden also. I'd love to get that mushroom stool.

There's a lovely iron trellis with three bells hanging from the top; as a matter of fact, I've seen it in an earlier catalog, and we're buying bells to hang from one of our trellises. Another idea I love is the little doors and windows you attach to a big tree trunk for a whimsical touch. I like the little houses you can put in your flower beds too. There's a variety of outdoor furniture and a raised dog bed to keep your dog, when he's outside, cool and a little safer from fire ants, etc.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Dragons & magic: theme anthologies

My story, Seedlings, is included in Magistria: The Realm of the Sorcerer (a shared world anthology), which is available at [Plant mages fight with magic and their sentient plant companions.] Magistria: Shards of the Goddess is upcoming; my sequel, Crystal Quest, will be in it. [Ricasso Press]

Black Dragon, White Dragon is also out from Ricasso Press and available on I really enjoyed the diversity of Black Dragon, White Dragon. So much imagination, so few knights and virgins, and when they appeared, there were interesting twists.

Magistria link: Magistria: The Realm of the Sorcerer: Robert J Santa, Lawrence Barker, G W Thomas: Books

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Habitat for Humanity

It's National Women Build Week (May 2-10). Locally Lowe's and Habitat for Humanity are looking for volunteers to work one day at a Habitat construction site. "Across all 50 states, more than 7,000 women volunteers are expected to build at more than 200 Habitat for Humanity construction sites. ... women volunteers have built more than 1,400 Habitat houses nationwide."

From the Ledger real estate section

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Outdoor living ideas (link)

Wow! Take a look at the Mission-style arbor and barbecue on this HGTV website; and it has a cast glass concrete countertop. I've never heard of that before. The river rock facing is a bit much though, and I don't think it goes with the Mission style.

Link: Slideshow : Outdoor Living Designs :

And the New Mexico style pergola is impressive. I don't think the vines enhance the pillars; they're not happy. The chili peppers (I think that's what they are) hanging at the end carries out the theme. There are a number of other interesting ideas also. That towering Southwestern fireplace on the double decker patio sure stands out. Potted herbs in an outdoor kitchen is an attractive and useful feature. And check out that countertop with fiber optic lighting; it's lovely at night. The split level glass counter is a good idea too. Anyone have a favorite idea that they'd love to add to their backyard?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Home and garden ideas

The June issue of Early American Life has some interesting decorating ideas in their restoration articles. In the Charleston home, I liked the tangerine-rust shade from Italy; it works well with a dark wooden floor. The owners also used a blue-green shade in the living room that they got from an Italian mural. It looks slightly more green than blue, but both colors are rich looking.

In their living room floor length draperies, they've stuffed newspaper at the bottom for a flared look. (I wonder how they clean around it?) There are tapestry draperies in the den that aren't period appropriate (Never let that stop you!), but they match the rug--lovely!

I enjoyed the article on old roses. We've had some over the years, including Old Blush; they require less care--and lots of space. Beautiful illustrations, including Redoute paintings. (I had a Redoute calendar once; I love roses.) There's a well-illustrated article on spinning wheels also, plus articles about silhouettes and sailing ships and a colonial garden with an herb garden plan. (I love herbs and scented geraniums for a more fun garden. We walk through ours ripping off leaves for visitors to sniff.)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Solar panels (link)

Here's a link from the HGTVPro message boards on solar energy: Solar Panels and Water Heaters - Forum Powered by Eve For Enterprise

Find info on saving money, storage, and being careful! I've been wanting to use solar panels for a long time. I'm hoping to do it on my next house, though I believe it's easier to retrofit and add solar panels now--or solar shingles.