Friday, December 31, 2010

Joy's Galaxy of Fun update

I've added two more stories to Joy's Galaxy of Fun; one is a spoof and the other is one of my stories, You Are What You Don't Eat, that I think food and pun fans will enjoy. And the price is still the same because I haven't gone over my page limit, so if you haven't ordered it yet, you'll be getting two more stories for the same price as the first edition! Check out blurbs and excerpts here: AnthologyBuilder: Joy's Galaxy of Fun

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Kitchen cabinets and countertops (link)

Here are some tips for choosing your countertops--concrete, granite, solid surface, etc. and your cabinets--style, color, and function--and islands. Check out these designers' ideas: Cabinets & Countertops: Design Ideas for Your Kitchen & Bath :

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Simple living and salvage

There's an interesting article about living in a cottage in the desert in the January issue of Soutern Living., along with lovely photos of the views and lifestyle there. And check out her cowboy boot collection! Another article shows off the makeover of a bedroom that started with a designer floral fabric. And a gardening article focuses on anthuriums, moth orchids, peace lilies, and succulents.

Learn about salvage stores in the January issue of Old-House Journal. Great stuff at good prices! Browsing and furnishing my home from salvage stores is one of my favorite things. And they rescue tons of quality building materials that too often end up in landfills 'cause people don't care and don't recognize their value.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Keep warm!

I hope you all are warm! We're having another hard freeze tonight; it's even colder than last night, and the temperature has been steadily dropping for hours. We're down to 37 degrees--according to the porch sensor--and the dogs don't stay out long. We're expected to get down to 27 degrees tonight here. We've covered the well pipes with rugs and blankets, including our big wool one to keep them from blowing away (the neighbor has a horse blanket holding down the other blankets), and I'll start the kitchen faucet running when I go to bed. According to the noon weather report, this may be one of our five coldest Decembers ever. Yes, I know that here in Florida we don't have snow--yet.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Ghosting aka thermal imaging (link)

Thermal imaging is the technical term for ghosting that you sometimes see on the walls and ceilings in your home. Here's an interesting article on the subject; I was surprised to learn how much soot candles can emit: GHOSTING - HouseMaster eNewsletter

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Winter home changeovers (link)

To dress up your home for winter, try using heavier tecxtures and larger patterns for more impact and drama. Try textiles such as chenille and wool with a high pile. (I'll skip the cowhide and furs, thanks.) Heavier drapes create a warm look. Or add shimmer with silk. For more ideas, go to: Decorate for Winter With Textiles : Decorating : Home & Garden Television

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Joy's Galaxy of Fun

If you're thinking about staying inside and reading in this cold winter weather--once the busyness of the holidaze are over--I want to tell you about an anthology I recently created. No, none of these stories are mine. I love funny SF and fantasy so I recently browsed the humor category at Anthology Builder because I'd been thinking about editing an anthology. I'd already made notes of some titles, and then I came across "They Laughed at Me in Vienna..." there. I'd seen it earlier listed on the Asimov's Science Fiction magazine Reader's Award ballot so I decided to put together a humor anthology right now and include it, and then I added a couple other stories I'd also taken note of. I should be getting the paperback soon, and I'm looking forward to reading those stories. Here's the link: AnthologyBuilder: Joy's Galaxy of Fun

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Energy efficiency upgrades (link)

Here's an interesting look at energy efficiency upgrades and how they pay off: Weatherization: The Return on Your Investment : Green Building :

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

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Living room makeovers (link)

Here are some basic ideas for freshening your living room--matching slipcovers, hanging your draperies above the windows (beautiful room, btw), and casual is welcoming, but more sofa pillows--I think not. Link: Money-Smart Living Room Upgrades : Rooms : Home & Garden Television

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Saving on home energy quiz (link)

Here's a fun and educational quiz on what you know about energy--or think you know: HGTV Green Home Building Quiz :

Note: Keep track of your answers so you can compare them with the correct ones.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Getting ready for Christmas (link)

There are a lot of helpful and imaginative suggestions for holiday decorations and entertaining on this HGTV webpage: Holiday Ideas: Christmas Crafts & Handmade Decorations (I love sparkle and glitter and wrapping and unwrapping Christmas presents; I'm also grateful for those colorful Christmas bags!)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Santa bread (link)

I rarely post recipes, but this caught my eye. It's from the Taste of Home website and would really impress your friends and family: Santa Bread Taste of Home Recipes

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Creating more space in your closet (link)

Here are some helpful ideas for transforming your closet into an office or laundry room. It's amazing what a difference removing a door and cleaning up the door frame makes, and color and shelving can help too. Check out these makeovers: Maximize Small Spaces: 8 Revamps for Your Closet : Decorating : Home & Garden Television

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Preparing for a freeze

We've had a few frosts already this year, but last night we had to prepare for a hard freeze. (A hard freeze here in Florida is when the temperature drops below freezing for several hours.) On the late news last night, I watched the strawberry growers around Plant City began watering to save their plants. When they did that last year, there were dozens of sink holes of varying sizes and many wells went dry in the area. Everyone's hoping it won't be as bad this year though we've got at least two more nights of freezing weather, with another Arctic blast coming next week. We had two faucets running last night to keep our pipes from freezing, and we covered the well pipes with a big wool blanket. And today I went to a nursery to get more top soil because Blizzard continues to dig holes all over, and the woman there was about to join the crew laying palm trees down to cover them to protect them. She said the place behind them, which tends to be colder, had its freeze start about 9:30.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Gray is hot and trendy this year (link)

Check out the flooring, paint, furnishings, fabric, and even dinnerware: Design Happens » Archive » Shades of Gray

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

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ideas for building a beautiful green home (link)

"When selecting materials for HGTV Green Home 2011, Michael strayed slightly from the Prairie School, which emphasized the use of natural materials, including plaster, brick and wood." Check out the striking homes (Prairie School and Foursquare) that influenced the HGTV Green Home: HGTV Green Home 2011: Modern Prairie Style : Slideshow :

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas shopping suggestions

I've written a variety of books and stories so there's something here for everyone:

My non-fiction primer for home building is Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook (the new edition has color photos); the ISBN number on that edition is 978-1-60749-562-8: Online Bookstore Or you can order it from amazon:

It covers the building process and what’s involved in building your home and includes diary excerpts, photos, and advice from planning to punch list and beyond. It got a rave review from The Midwest Book Review and was on the Reviewer's Choice list. Here it is:

For the kinder, there's Why Won't Anyone Play with Me? Why doesn’t anyone want to play with Kallie Kitten? Why do they jump into the pond or hide? Will anyone ever talk to her? Will this frisky little kitten learn to play their games?

Illustrator Andrea Gradidge was originally from the UK and now resides in British Columbia, Canada. She has illustrated various chapbooks and e-zines and also my story "Sammy's Beautiful Tail."

Children will enjoy this colorful picture book and the cut-out critters at the end. It is available online at Barnes & Noble:

Aliens, Animals, and Adventure is my short story collection:

Sugar Time is an audiobook of three time travel tales with sound effects & music. Check it out at:

Magistria: The Realm of the Sorcerer is a shared world anthology of mages and magic; it includes my story, Seedlings, in which plant mages fight alongside their sentient plant companions. You can buy it on amazon:

Monday, November 29, 2010

More holiday ideas

Check out the December/January 2010 issue of Country Living for holiday ideas, including using wrapped hard peppermints instead of Styrofoam peanuts for packing gifts. There are some great Christmas decorating, dessert, and gift suggestions, but I draw the line at hanging white fluffy, feathery angel wings on my dining room chairs.

You can also learn about collectible nutcrackers and their history, starting in 6000 B. C. and find earth-friendly pet products at Speaking of puppies, that is a wonderful idea about covering a box spring with a colorful sheet. It's an idea whose time has come at my house since Blizzard chewed up the corner of my box spring.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Watercolor prints on fabrics (link)

Watercolor prints can be found on sofa pillows and bed linens. Check out these lovely colors and patterns: Design Happens » Archive » Trend: Watercolor Prints (HGTV)

Friday, November 26, 2010

NaNoWriMo update Yay!

I finished my 50,000 words yesterday; now I have to finish the story--and catch up with other projects and chores.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

We usually have our Thanksgiving feast the day before Thanksgiving Day so that we can keep that day clear for a Thanksgiving service, going to show, relaxing or whatever. This year we had it two days earlier--on Tuesday--so our guest could work it into her schedule. (The holidays can be hectic!)

Yeah, we start eating lefovers before everyone else, but we make a side dish or two to go along with the leftovers each day. Yesterday we made a fruit salad (this needs more bananas!) and baked acorn squash. Today it was a fresh batch of rolls and a baked sweet potato dish. (We just got the recipe from a friend.)

No Black Fridays for us either. It's chores, shopping, and getting ready for company this weekend. (At least I should finally be finished with my 2,000 words a day and get back to my other writing. Okaay, Okaaay. Don't nag. I do have to finish this novel 'cause it's going to be way over 50,000 words!)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Aliens, Animals, and Adventure

I continue to persevere on my latest novel. Meanwhile, a number of my short stories (reprints) are available in Aliens, Animals, and Adventure. It's available from Anthology Builder:

Here's the Table of Contents:

The Doorway: Nessa stumbles into the time corridor while helping a friend.

Guard Dog: Sequel to The Doorway. Nessa travels to the time of Earth's first contact.

Pretty Pink Planet: Heroine tracks down planet pirates; saves aliens.

Hot Yellow Planet: Sequel to PPP. Lori and Chiing continue their adventures, meeting up with Chameleons, Ghosters, Splurts, and other aliens and humans.

Flashback: Chessies’ arrival in an ice age. Companion story to Sugar Time stories (audiobook).

Stray Cats: Cats, herps, and humans--sometimes interchangeable.

To the Last Drop: Those aliens should not have touched that coffee urn.

Pilot's Course: Terran humans in the far future settled on other planets. Heroine plots new course.
Moovin' Up: Genetic Engineering.

The Princess Quest: Sword & Sorcery.

When Danger Rules: Reesa came back to rescue the remaining members of the family she loved. Now she had to avoid being killed by her cousin, who wanted the throne, and the new ruler of the planet, who didn't want a throne, and the ones she had come to rescue.

Home Not: When Grief's Aunt Chelsea died, his Uncle Sandro saw his chance, and Grief was at his mercy... Adventure.

The Haunted Garden: Ghosts, Native Americans, and the environment.

Lost in the Long Dark: Boy explores locked hallway in new house; finds danger.
Taking Tawny Home: Sequel to Lost in the Long Dark. Could he take the big cat back?

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

Monday, November 22, 2010

Landscaping GLs for going green

Ten guidelines for landscaping:

Minmize mowing
Incoroporate native plants
Reduce hardened surfaces
Conserve energy by conserving water
Minimize/eliminate fertilizer and pesticide use
Reuse yard waste
Increase tree canopy
Create biodiversity
Naturalize the shoreline
Engage your neighhborhood

From Harbor Happenings: The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program newsletter

Saturday, November 20, 2010

More orphaned squirrels find a new home

This afternoon three more orphaned squirrels were released into the cathedral oak behind our house. Linda, the wildlife rehabilitator, and her husband brought them over to set them free in our wildlife habitat. The hard part is getting them to come out of their big cage, the only home they've known--for a long time anyway. They finally did climb out, though one hid in their hammock for a bit. Two were siblings whose mother was apparently hit by a car on the road, and one was retrieved from a dog's mouth. Her name is Snuffles because she was bleeding from the nose when rescued, and it took a while to breathe normally. The other two are Stretch (he would stretch a lot) and Little Girl. We kept our dogs inside for a few hours so the squirrels could explore those big branches and gave them fresh water and put some peanuts in the squirrel feeder.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Christmas is bright, fun, and delicious!

The December issue of Southern Living focuses on Christmas, and it has some of the most scrumptious recipes I've ever seen, including that delectable six-layer cake on the cover. I also liked the Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake topped with a white chocolate snowflake. And there are some lovely ideas for entertaining and decorating, plus home makeovers, an article on a topiary garden, one on two beautiful native hollies--winterberry and possumhaw and how to tell the difference, and more.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

NaNoWriMo update

I'm over the halfway mark (34,000 words) now for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I hope I do as well as last year!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Duct tape is our friend

Recently some vehicle whacked our mailbox and knocked it off its post. The post was intact, but the base of the mailbox was badly cracked, though not completely in two pieces. Since we discovered this a couple hours before the mail was due, we decided to try putting it back together with duct tape--or duck tape--as I learned not long ago and mentioned here. It worked and gave us time to go out and buy a new mailbox; however, the new one is much smaller than the old one so we still haven't replaced it. (We taped the mailbox base together and then taped it to the post.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Preparing for a fun holiday season (link)

Here are some ideas for organizing your calendar so you can enjoy the season: Holiday Organization: Take Back Your Calendar for a More Joyous Season : Decorating : Home & Garden Television

Some of these suggestions involve Just Saying No! Decide what is really important. What would you--and your family--miss? And decide between obligations and choices. And then there's what my mother did sometimes--to our annoyance: Volunteer your kids...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Decorating Your Dining Room (link)

Here are som beautiful and imaginative ideas from HGTV: 10 Dining Room Decorating Ideas : Rooms : Home & Garden Television

I especially enjoyed the Old-World inspired ceiling and painting the entrance to a displayed collection in a matching color.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Kitchen design (link)

Here are some ideas for making a small kitchen look bigger: Small Space Kitchen Design Suggestions : Rooms : Home & Garden Television

Acrylic shelves sound interesting, also adding vertical and ceiling interest, and check out that teeny island, but making all my dishware one color and get rid of my Fiestaware! I don't think so!!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Early homes and gardens

There are some interesting articles in the Fall-Winter 2010 issue of Early Homes (a biannual magazine from Old-House Interiors). There are beautiful homes and gardens, with articles on accessories for the home, including carpets, pewter, pottery, china, fabrics, and early lighting fixtures; and I loved that black granite kitchen sink backspash and the buttermilk-colored cabinets, along with the photos of primroses. What a fantastic collection of colors!

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

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Preparing for Thanksgiving ideas (links)

Enjoy browsing these HGTV webpages for suggestions for decorating and entertaining: Thanksgiving Ideas : Decorating : Home & Garden Television

I love those seasonal colors and decorations! I usually get pumpkins and colorful gourds for the front porch and the house, though I confess that the fanciest thing on my dining room table will be the turkey.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Writing news update

I've started writing my next novel for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month); that starts in November, and I've written my first 2000 words. (I try to write 2000 words a day so I don't fall behind.)

The novel I worte last year (also SF) is waiting for a decision by an editor...

And if anyone is going to TusCon in Tucson this month, Sugar Time, my time travel audiobook, will be there. And if you can't make it there, it's also available on the publisher's website:

Monday, November 1, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Decorating and entertaining and preparing for Thanksgiving

The November issue of Country Living has great menus and recipes for Thanksgiving meals--from five chefs. The issue also focuses on some delicious-looking pies (from mail-order companies) and collectible pie birds, with other articles on homes, accessories with a feather motif, and one on sheep and wool. (I love those yarn colors!) The Real Estate Sampler focuses on the Carpenter Gothic style.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Bathroom cleaning (link)

This is a useful website, and I'm going to try the vinegar tip because toilet rings have frustrated me for years! And I've tried all kinds of products!! Link: Clean a Bathroom in 15 Minutes: Our Minute-by-Minute Guide - Shelterpop

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Entertaining and decorating ideas

Here's a beautiful and generous idea I saw in Southern Living (November issue): Combine a group of vases of flowers together as a centerpiece, and then give each little bouquet to guests to take home. There are more ideas to dress up your table, including mixing fluffy white cotton bolls with branches and leaves. [We use our brown cotton bolls around the house and recently donated a metal basket of them as an arrangement in our church foyer.]

Among the delicious--and unique--ideas was a vanilla crepe cake. Another even more unique idea is Cornmeal-and-Brown Sugar-Crusted Bacon.

And there was a wonderful selection of places to visit in the South, including a collection of favorite places to eat in Atlanta and a swamp safari in Big Cypress National Preserve, plus a tribute to Fannie Flagg's Birmingham.

Gardening ideas include a trinket garden with small treasures scattered throughout--an idea from To Kill a Mockingbird. And don't miss the concluding essay: City Girls, Country Table.

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

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Getting kids to clean (link)

Here are some useful ideas to motivate and help your kids to clean, including getting rid of the toybox and storing things on shelves and in bins--be sure to have plenty of room for storage--and add a map showing where things should go. [Hmm. Better yet. Have the kids help with that. And encourage them to cull now and then.] Check out this link for more ideas: Cleaning Children's Rooms : Rooms : Home & Garden Television

Friday, October 15, 2010

My new fire pit!

I've been talking about getting a fire pit for a long time, and recently I got an estimate from a contractor who was doing some other work for me. Hmm. OK. I can do that. So I gave him a down payment for materials, and he built it last week. We let it cure for a few days and gathered firewood, which we have a lot of from pruned and shed branches from our oak trees, and Monday evening we toasted marshmallows, even though it was still hot. (It's cooler now.) Can't wait to do that again and cook hot dogs, etc. (Note: Need more skewers.) It's fun just standing around and looking at it, especially in the dark when the red coals glow like jewels.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Colored cotton

My sister discovered brown cotton in Louisiana on a historical plantation when we were on vacation there some years ago, and she's been growing a few plants and sharing the cotton and seeds ever since. We've got some really big cotton plants in a front bed now (and baskets full of cotton around the house); and this year she discovered that there's green cotton and bought some seeds and is going to grow them. While researching colored cotton she discovered that there are even more colors--and had been centuries ago. Check out this link for historical background: The Revival of Colored Cotton, James M. Vreeland, Jr.

And here's a website for getting colored cotton seeds: Cotton - Reimer Seeds

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Bathroom design ideas (link)

These suggestions, which include using warm or bold colors and open shelves and getting rid of clutter, give a small bathroom more space and/or the illusion of more space: Small Bathroom Design : Rooms : Home & Garden Television

Friday, October 8, 2010

A toolbox quiz! (link)

I actually did better on this quiz than I expected, but I didn't know there were so many different kinds of nail guns. Link: HGTV Quiz: Do you know your way around a toolbox?

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

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

More entertaining and decorating ideas

There are some lovely and fun ideas in the October issue of Southern Living. You can scoop out a pumpkin (a flat-bottomed one is best), line it with foil or a plastic bag, add potting soil (about 3/4 full), and plant a small flowering plant or herb. You know it's going to rot eventually, right?! There are also ideas on how to remodel and some good recipes, among other things; and I enjoyed the photo essay on Autumn Golds. Two websites to check out are Main - Halloween Party Ideas, Recipes and Decorations - and Southern Plate - Recipes from Below the Mason Dixon Line (You are really going to love Southern Plate!)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Home decorating ideas

Here are a few ideas from Better Homes and Gardens (a flyer, not a magazine issue). Rearrange your furniture and/or your accessories or ungroup your matched sets. (Matched sets are no longer in, so if you fret about things like that, maybe you'd better unmatch them.) Paint your walls beige! (Well, it is better than white.) And use big baskets to store or display things. (I use them for catalogs.)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Today's TV watching options (link)

I was on the cutting edge with satellite TV (the small dish), and I remember Blockbuster fondly (you could get snacks and drinks too!). I've never used Netflix; I find Cinema on Demand very convenient; and I have no intention of watching TV shows on a tiny computer screen! (I want a bigger TV!) Hmm. I wonder how Apple TV works? I see you have to use Google TV on your computer. Roku, a digital video player, sounds intriguing--if it has what I want to watch; but Boxee sounds like it has what I've been waiting for! Link: 10 Ways to Watch 'Mad Men' at Home : Slideshow :

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Windows (link)

This HGTVPro webpage has links to a number of window designs and ideas, but what I appreciated most was learning that now there are acrylic-block windows that you can open. I love modern technology! Link: Window Design: Tips for Choosing the Best New and Replacement Home Windows :

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The original pumpkin pie

I read in the October/November issue of Country magazine that American colonists sliced the tops off of pumpkins, cleaned out the seeds, and filled the pumpkin with milk, spices, and honey and baked them in hot ashes. That'd be a fun experiment to do in a firepit or fireplace. (I still plan to get a firepit some day!)

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

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Corralling kitchen clutter (link)

Helpful suggestions for making your kitchen more efficient to work in include culling (why do we still have that broken can opener in the utensil drawer?), using dividers (I use small, narrow boxes), folders for restaurant menus (I need to do that!), and more; but I really do not need a remote controlled sink strainer!

Link: KOHLER: Planning Tips: Conquer Kitchen Clutter: Kitchen: Articles

Friday, September 24, 2010

Ideas for entertaining and gift giving

I received a free preview issue of Martha Stewart Living recently and found some fun and useful ideas in it. Suggestions include being a good host by offering non-drinkers a selection of freshly squeezed citrus juices [lemonade would be refreshing!], unusual bottled juices, and a cocktail made with orange juice, a dash of bitters, and a topping of seltzer. [A friend introduced me to orange juice and tonic water years ago.]

And I liked her idea for a late-night gettogether: a dessert buffet! Other ideas include pinning a gift of earrings through a large, fresh leaf and writing a brief note on the leaf with a paint pen. And topping a macaroni and cheese casserole with bread crumbs and cheese to dress it up. And for a wedding gift, give them a large breakfast-in-bed set with accessories..

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Updating your kitchen (link)

Here are some suggestions for updating your kitchen from HGTV: Kitchen Updates for Any Budget : Rooms : Home & Garden Television

I like their suggestion for taking your old kitchen hardware with you to the store to be sure the holes match! There're also painting, lighting, faucet, backsplash, cabinet ideas, and more. (What I would like is an integrated sink backsplash--an old idea, but it saves you wiping up water behind the sink constantly.)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Recommended books for Christmas shopping

I recommend these books which I've bought recently (some were pre-ordered): I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett, Cryoburn (Miles Vorkosigan) by Lois McMaster Bujold, Flinx Transcendent by Alan Dean Foster, and two Modesty Blaise short story collections: Cobra Trap and Pieces of Modesty.

And, of course, I recommend my own books, which include:

Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook (the new edition has color photos); the ISBN number on that edition is 978-1-60749-562-8: Online Bookstore

Or you can order it from amazon:

It covers the building process and what’s involved in building your home and includes diary excerpts, photos, and advice from planning to punch list and beyond. It got a rave review from The Midwest Book Review and was on the Reviewer's Choice list.Here it is:

And here's a link to a free excerpt:

Why Won't Anyone Play with Me? Why doesn’t anyone want to play with Kallie Kitten? Why do they jump into the pond or hide? Will anyone ever talk to her? Will this frisky little kitten learn to play their games?Illustrator Andrea Gradidge was originally from the UK and now resides in British Columbia, Canada. She has illustrated various chapbooks and e-zines and alsomy story "Sammy's Beautiful Tail".Children will enjoy this colorful picture book and the cut-out critters at the end. It is available online at Barnes & Noble:

Aliens, Animals, and Adventure (my short stories (reprints) collection)::

Sugar Time, an audiobook of three time travel tales with sound effects & music. Check it out at:

Magistria: The Realm of the Sorcerer, a shared world anthology of mages and magic; it includes my story, Seedlings, in which plant mages fight alongside their sentient plant companions. You can buy it on amazon:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What to do with a small space (link)

Here's a quiz on how you would cope with a small space dilemma: HGTV Quiz: Test Your Small-Space Savvy

(I disagreed with some of the answers--and colors and designs.)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Flooring basics (link)

Check out these HGTVPro flooring webpages and learn more about floor types, floor finishes, laminates, green flooring, and floor components if you're replacing a floor or wondering what to choose for your new house. Link: Euflooria: Floor Covering Choices and Tips for Replacing and Installing Floors :

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Fall fun

The October issue of Country Living focuses on Halloween. Interesting costume ideas include one inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (the editor dressed up as Tippi Hedron's character and added red greasepaint and birds; check out the photo) and a couple imitating the Empire State Building and King Kong!

There are ideas for kids' costumes too and party treats; and the skeletal hands salad servers will get people's attention. And carving colorful bell peppers into pumpkin faces is a great idea, while pumpkins are decorated in other ways..

There are also home and home cooking, fashion, gardening, and collectables articles and photos; the Real Estate Sampler showcases hobby farms. And I was happy to learn that in some places you can still get home milk delivery!

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

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Displaying and organizing your books (link)

Here are suggestions for caring for, organizing, and displaying your books. Shelve them alphabetically, chronologically (in the order that you read them), by color, or by use. (For example, keep your new books lower.) And you can make your own card catalogue with notes on the cards. Display them in interesting ways or make your bookcases more colorful.

Link: Home Library: Care & Storage Home Made Simple

Friday, September 10, 2010

More ideas for Halloween (link)

With summer behind us--well, here, not so much, but we are moving towards October and Halloween; and there are some fun ideas for costumes and decorating on this HGTV website. (I do not do dog costumes, btw, but dressing Blizzard up could be fun; at least it'd give her something more to chew on.)

Let's see. Here we have pumpking carving tips, a glow-in-the-dark bat centerpiece, a glowing jellyfish costume, and a Halloween photo contest. Check out more ideas at: Halloween Ideas: Pumpkin Carving Patterns, Costumes, Party Tips & Decorations : Decorating : Home & Garden Television

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Decorating ideas and duck/duct tape

Halloween ideas are beginning to pop up. There's an interesting idea in the September/October issue of Lowe's Creative Ideas for Home and Garden for making a ghosty face with a permanent marker on a frosted glass shade; then you put it on a black heat proof base and put a small flameless candle on the base under the shade. Nice touch for your Halloween party. There's a mention in that issue also about the upcoming Grandparent's Day on September 12.

Another interesting idea is making book jackets out of paintable wallpaper. The texture is interesting, but all that white is boring. And I enjoyed the article on the invention and use of duck/duct tape. It was invented in the early 1940s by Johnson & Johnson scientists and nicknamed duck tape. The original color was army green. Later, when it was used to seal joints in AC ductwork, it became known as duct tape and the color changed to gray. There are also articles on creating a closet, a bird buffet, a kitchen garden, and more.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Throw summer a good-bye party (link)

Another fun idea for entertaining! Grilling would work for this party. Here's a collection of links for getting ready for entertaining outdoors: Outdoor Entertaining : Outdoors : Home & Garden Television

And they invite you to submit your outdoor entertaining photo(s) or video

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Log cabins and other buildings (link)

I've always loved log cabins and visiting restored homes, musuems, villages, and farms, and I've thought about having one out back as a little getaway... Anyway, here's a company with a great inventory of log buildings you can buy and reassemble on your property: Antique Hand Hewn Log Cabins from Vintage Log and Lumber

Friday, September 3, 2010

Giving rescued dogs a home (link)

I'm sharing this article because the stray this family rescued reminds me so much of Blizzard (she was also a stray), whom I found at the local SPCA several weeks ago. You do have to be patient with them. Link: Voice lessons: An adopted stray rediscovers her bark -

Blizzard was also quiet for a long time after we brought her home (we did see and hear her bark once in her pen at the SPCA); and her coat was so thin I worried about it, but it's much thicker now, and she's more confident, though I have to coax her into the car, which is easier than picking her up which I had to do for a long time. One thing about an older puppy, I did not have a hard time house training her. As a matter of fact, she required no house training at all! (She puddled on a rug once. You do have to be alert.) I remember one puppy some years ago who shredded her papers (on the bedrom floor) into confetti constantly. There is a wonderful selection of loving dogs--and cats--at your local shelter. Find out for yourself.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Decorating, gardening, and entertaining ideas

Fall blooming perrenials include autumn sage and princess flower, and there are more suggestions in the September issue of Southern Living. I also learned about trailing pansies, Plentifall, in that issue--and that Spanish moss prefers oaks to pines. I already knew about pitcher plants because my sister had a collection of carnivorous plants in a terrarium.

I love some of the names of paint colors; there are always some new fun and beautiful names, but who'd have thought of Fresh Cut Grass?! This issue's collection of recipes includes Cream of Carrot soup (Not my favorite vegetable, btw.) and two Chicken Tetrazzini recipes. (I love a good casserole.)

And there's an article with ten ways to enhance your southern style. I see I'm off to a good start with stacks of books and well-worn pieces of furniture. (The dogs helped.) But most of my fresh flowers are outside.

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

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Keeping your drains flowing (link)

There are some useful suggestions here. Since we have a septic system, we're very careful, and even if something is marketed as flushable, don't do it!

Link: HouseMaster eNewsletter - KEEP YOUR DRAINS CLEAR

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Color choice basics (link)

Learn more about using color, including neutrals (not just beige) and monochromatic design; check out the color wheel; and learn about the do's and don't's of using color on this HGTV webpage: 7 Color Mistakes to Avoid : Decorating : Home & Garden Television

Monday, August 23, 2010

Home size changes (link)

The McMansion era is over – or at least on hold.

"The average size of new homes has been trending down since 2007. And so have Americans' views on the size of their dream home, according to a new survey released by Trulia, a real estate website. ...

"In the mild 1990-91 recession, the median size of new single-family homes declined ..., according to Census Bureau data (.pdf). Then in 1992, it began a 16-year climb to record highs. ..."

For more background, go to: McMansion era over, at least for now -

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Living room decorating and design ideas (link)

Slipcovers can add fresh flavor to your living room. As a matter of fact, I had a lot of fun today browsing futon covers. Lots of choices and patterns, including school/sports themes. You can also rearrange furniture and accessories by moving them in from other rooms--or the patio. (I have a concrete garden bench at the end of my bed.) Arranging books by the cover colors is striking, but I'd never be able to find my books! They're alphabetized by authors on some shelves and by categories on others, and some had to be shelved by size...

Link: Living Room Design: Make the Most of What You Have : Rooms : Home & Garden Television

Friday, August 20, 2010

Architecture of the imagination

Granny Weatherwax and Eskarina arrive at the Unseen University:

"The big doors swung back, revealing a wide courtyard surrounded by lawns. Behind them was a great rambling building or buildings: it was hard to tell, because it didn't look so much as if it had been designed as that a lot of buttresses, arches, towers, bridges, domes, cupolas and so forth had huddled together for warmth.

'Is that it?' said Esk. 'It looks sort of--melted.'

'Yes, that's it,' said Treatle. "... Of course, it's a lot bigger inside than out, like an iceberg or so I'm given to understand. ...'"

From Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett

Monday, August 16, 2010

Off the Grid (book review link)

While looking for something else, I came across this online review of Off the Grid in The Christian Science Monitor: Off the Grid -

I'm always interested in off the grid stories; there've been some good articles in one of the log home magazines, but I can't remember the name.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Roof pitch (link)

Here's an interesting blog (The Punchlist) post on the steepness of roofs. I do know that a neighbor has a steep roof and some roofers refused to work on it, but they probably didn't have the equipment (platforms, etc.) to do it. Link: Quick Survey: How Steep is Too Steep? The Punchlist

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Themed home theatres (link)

Getting a home theatre isn't in the near future for me, but here are some fun ideas for anyone who's thinking about installing one. Of course, the Star Trek theme is one of my favorites, but the batcave is so cool! The art gallery and NBA fan theatres are interesting. For more ideas, go to: 10 Unique Home Theater Themes : Slideshow :

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

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Design styles (link)

Check out these design styles, which include Art Deco, Arts & Crafts, Asian, Country, English Country, Contemporary, and French. Browse these styles and more at: Design Styles Defined : Decorating : Home & Garden Television

Sunday, August 1, 2010

More home and garden ideas

In the September issue of Country Living are accessories such as lamp shades, pillows, platters, and wall art made more interesting when covered with exotic maps. And there's a collection of horse-themed collectibles. The Real Estate Sampler focuses on stone houses around the country. And there's an interesting piece about the restoration of an abandoned house. And an article on fashion with old-fashioned flair. Plus an article on a woman with a fetish for white; even the impressive stone fireplace was covered with white paint. (I'm always amazed when these people have children (two boys) and pets (a dog). Recipes include a pear and chicken hero sandwich, along with recipes using tomatoes; the mini BLT looked challenging. My favorite recipe was for Salted Golden Caramel Bars (practically anything with caramel is a favorite). The most outstanding idea in this issue was at the end--a photo paying homage to independent bookstores and reading.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Home and garden ideas

There were some lovely home and garden ideas in the August issue of Southern Living, including a Carrara marble floor and matching shower wall tiles in a master bath, which will have to be sealed, I believe. And, of course, an antique rug instead of a bath mat. There were book and display shelves surrounding a reading/storage bench with a background of studded squares; plus water saving ideas in a garden. Other garden ideas include giant chess pieces on a giant board, stones set in the lawn in a starburst pattern, and an idea we plan to implement--using a truck tire rim as a fire pit. We'll have to surround it with retaining wall pavers, I think. The small rocks they used are too small as a surround. Recipe ideas included two lemon pie variations. And I smiled when I saw the suave Vern Yip in the Kraft Sandwich Shop mayo two-page spread.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Top ten neutral colors (link)

Libby Langdon's picks include a "calming ... blue," a "terrific tan," and a "serene cream." There's also a "convivial yellow." For more suggestions, see: Libby Langdon's Top 10 Neutral Paint Colors - Shelterpop

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Home from the SPCA

I had to put Xena, the Warrior Puppy, to sleep in June. She was 15 years old and a part of my life for a long time; and she's in my house book, Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook--pictured on the back cover with me and inside looking out a window.

I'm still missing her, and at one point--although browsing the local SPCA website--I found myself saying rebelliously: "I don't want a puppy. I want Xena!" I knew then that I wasn't ready, but my sister, who was closely monitoring the website, sent me a picture one day and said--Look at this one. Hmm, I thought. She meets the criteria (female, short coat, not too big, etc.), though I prefer a younger puppy (she was listed as four months old), and I said OK. We can go and look at her. We took her to an outside exercise pen to check her out, and she wasn't very interested in the humans, but sniffed all over the pen and wanted to play with the dog in the next pen.

I wasn't sure about her; some puppies are all over you, but she was an older stray. Hard to tell... When I saw her on the website, the name Blizzard popped into my mind. (She was white.) After thinking for a while--there were no other puppies I was interested in (I chose Xena from a litter at the SPCA.), but most of the dogs--and cats--were older--and she did respond to the volunteer and to treats, and I liked her so I finally said: Yes! I'll take her. I couldn't take her then since she had to be spayed, but I picked her up a couple days later. Keeping her on leash for ten days so she wouldn't be too active and rip out her stitches helped with training and bonding, although she really wanted to run sometimes--and jump up and down on Bryn, the Corgi.

Yesterday I took her to the vet for her final puppy shots and check-up. (I've got to get her used to riding in the car so I don't have to carry her in and out.) She was happy to get back to her home, and I was so happy to have her here! She's part of the family now, though I'll always treasure Xena's memory.

Btw, the SPCA has a great selection of cats and dogs looking for good homes, and it's such a good deal since the price includes altering, shots, and more--depending on your local shelter. And right now our SPCA is taking in dogs abandoned because of the Gulf oil spill affecting people's lives and livelihoods....

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Design basics (links)

Learn about styles, color, fabrics, textures, furniture arrangement, displaying art, and more at: Design 101 : Decorating : Home & Garden Television

Monday, July 26, 2010

What's My Style quiz (link)

This is a fun quiz. Pick your bedroom and kitchen styles, a chair, accessories, the house exterior you'd prefer, and more. You'll get a description of your style--not just a category. Quiz link: HGTV - What's My Style

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Staycation suggestions (link)

These staycation site ideas for your backyard involve pools, gardens, shelter, outdoor kitchens, and lots of money. I like the Robinson Crusoe theme though and the faux rock water slide. Check out the landscape designs for ideas for your home: Vacation Landscapes : Outdoors : 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!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Kitchen layouts (link)

Before WWII, kitchens had stand-alone pieces; later there were built-in cabinets. And then there's the work triangle and the galley kitchen. For more styles, go to: 5 Most Popular Kitchen Layouts : Rooms : Home & Garden Television

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Energy efficiency (link)

Here are a collection of links revolving around a comprehensive retrofit of an old house to make it energy efficient: Energy Answers: Home Performance Testing and Remodeling Rebates :

Monday, July 12, 2010

Tales of the Talisman (link)

The summer issue of Tales of the Talisman (Vol. 6, issue 1) is now out, and my article, Man-Kzin Wars: Behind the scenes of a great and long-running series, is included:

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Shopping quiz (link)

I enjoy these shopping quizes where you choose the smarter buy, though I tend to choose the one I like the most, which often is the smarter buy--or not. Have fun with this quiz about shopping for your living room: HGTV Quiz: Living 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.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ten tips for remodeling (link)

Start with setting priorities, then study the available space. What do you want to do in this space? What will the house look like on the outside if you move a wall out or add an addition? For more advice, including the importance of the roofline, go to: 10 Tips for Creative Remodeling : Slideshow :

Friday, July 2, 2010

Dressing up outdoor spaces and floors

The stamped and stained concrete deck is my favorite upgrade; the harlequin floor I wouldn't want to tackle... You can add lots of color or go for a more natural and relaxing look. Check out the ideas at: Unique Outdoor Flooring Ideas : Home Improvement : Home & Garden Television

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Decorating ideas

There's an imaginative use of rope and heavy cord in furniture and accessories in the July/August issue of Country Living. The spool table, light fixtures, and crocheted rug were different. Good use of eye-catching outdoor thermometers too; I liked the one with the 3D numbers.

There were some craft ideas also, including the use of clip clothespins. And you can wear little watches on a charm bracelet. I enjoyed the photo spread of green flowers, such as the Green Jewel coneflower, though they didn't include the green rose, which we give as bouquets for a completely different gift.

There were some beautiful home makeovers, and this issue's real estate sampler focused on homes with ponds and streams. There were also entertainment and food suggestions. Who'd have thought of spicy corn on the cob?! But I really liked the idea of the catered gourmet outdoor dinner parties...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Concrete logs

Log homes made from concrete logs are becoming more common as people see the advantages of being protected from wildfires and bugs; plus, these logs won't shrink and they hold paint and stain better than wood.

Companies include: aka

Nitterhouse Masonry Products - Handcrafted Concrete Logs

Advantages of Concrete Log Siding - Home Remodeling Ideas at

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Decorating and entertaining ideas

There are some imaginative ideas for garden, home, and Fourth of July entertaining (red, white, and blue dishes, glasses, etc.) in the July issue of Southern Living. Plus a listing of southern architectural salvage shops, including Black Dog Salvage in Roanoke, Virginia. (The black dog is their black lab who's in many of the photos.) And recipes include chicken salad, burgers, blueberry salsa, and desserts.

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

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Remodeling priority (link)

"Des Plaines, Illinois, June 8, 2010—According to the latest poll conducted by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) on its Web site, the majority (56%) of homeowners cite functionality as their largest concern when it comes to their home.

"The functionality of a home is very important, especially over the long term, as many homeowners in this economy have opted for remodeling over moving to new homes," ..."

For more on current and future needs, go to: Functionality is Top Remodeling Priority for Homeowners : Trends : News :

Monday, June 21, 2010

Home sizes are shrinking (link)

"The size of new single-family homes completed declined last year, ... according to detailed information ... released recently by the Census Bureau.

After increasing continually for nearly three decades, the average size of single-family homes completed in the United States peaked at 2,521 square feet in 2007. It was essentially flat in 2008, then dropped in 2009, ....

"We also saw a decline in the size of new homes when the economy lapsed into recession in the early 1980s," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "[That] turned out to be temporary, but this time the decline is related to phenomena such as an increased share of first-time home buyers, a desire to keep energy costs down, smaller amounts of equity in existing homes to roll into the next home, ... . "

For more: New Homes Are Still Getting Smaller, and Buyers Are Looking for Single-Story Homes : Trends : News :

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Great American Backyard Campout®

Join National Wildlife Federation’s Great American Backyard Campout®. Create lasting memories by connecting with family and friends in the great outdoors. It’s something simple you can do to promote happier, healthier children. Find out more by visiting the website.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Organization (links)

Check out these organization ideas at: Organizing and Storage : Organizing : Home & Garden Television (I'm much more impressed by the pantry than the shoe library...)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Kitchen and bath trends for 2010 (link)

Current trends include concealing your kitchen and hiding your appliances so they don't intrude and overpower surrounding rooms... (I'm almost afraid to go on!) Ah, a beverage station for your kitchen. And be sure you scale your elements... For more: NKBA's Top 10 Kitchen & Bath Trends for 2010 : Slideshow :

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Color code your bathroom (link)

For shared bathrooms, color coding towels, washcloths, toothbrushes, and small bins to hold personal belongings is the way to go: Color-coded bathroom-Home Made Simple

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

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Nuture your landscape in a natural way (link)

"A recent National Gardening Association survey found that 9 out of every 10 homeowners say they consider it important to care for home landscapes in an environmentally responsible way. However, only half say they know how to do that, and 30 percent admit they are “not at all” or “not very” environmentally conscious in the ways they care for their landscapes."

See these ten suggestions for responsible gardening and landscaping: Ten ways to let nature nurture your landscape

Friday, June 4, 2010

Publication news

I recently submitted my second rewrite of my SF novel, Strike Three; and one of my short stories made the short list of an anthology, while I'm waiting to hear back from other editors about some other stories.

Meanwhile, you can check out:

Some of my short stories in my reprint collection--Aliens, Animals, and Adventure:

Sugar Time, an audiobook of three time travel tales with sound effects & music. Check it out at:

Magistria: The Realm of the Sorcerer: This shared world anthology of mages and magic includes my story, Seedlings, in which plant mages fight alongside their sentient plant companions. You can buy it on amazon:

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ideas for small spaces (link)

Here are some suggestions for making the most out of your small kitchens, tiny bathrooms, and cozy closets using color, light, and imagination: Small Space Design Guide : Decorating : Home & Garden Television

Friday, May 28, 2010

What's My Style? (link)

There's a fantastic selection of bedrooms, kitchens, furniture, homes, etc. You'll have some interesting and fun choices: HGTV - What's My Style

(My fridge is the one without the magnets--most of the time.)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Design Star 5

I don't watch any reality shows except for Design Star; I enjoy seeing the designers come up with those colorful and imaginative ideas for the challenges. This season premieres Sunday, June 13 on HGTV. Check out this link for more info on the show and the judges: HGTV Design Star : Home & Garden Television

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What Do Homebuyers Want? (link)

Some of us want a home that fits the whole family's needs--a multi-tasking office, more storage, and the latest in home entertainment. And smaller homes with open floor plans and energy efficiency, of course. And then there's an outdoor living area. (With a fire pit! Yes!) For more trends, check out: 14 Features Homeowners Want in 2010 : Slideshow :

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Beautiful and delicious ideas for your home

The June issue of Southern Living has a beautiful and tempting photo spread of Southern pies and where to find them. There's pecan pie, of course, and buttermilk pie, among others, but that blackberry pie makes you want to rip it right out of the magazine.

There are other inviting places to visit and shop, including Panama City Beach, Florida. (We're still safe in Florida from the oil, btw.) There's also a piece on the highest places you can climb in the South. (Mount Rogers in Virginia has beautiful wild ponies.)

The home section has articles on outdoor and summer living, including tree houses. The gardening section has landscaping ideas and an article on hydrangeas. (I noticed the other day that my lone hydrangea shrub has pink and blue flowers. You don't see that every day. And I learned recently that Pinky Winky may be the only hydrangea that won't change from pink to blue, no matter how you coax it.) And there are more fun outdoor living, style, and entertaining ideas.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Decorating and entertaining ideas

There's a collection of table fans with a retro look in the June issue of Country Living. Talk about cool looks! And there's a photo spread on fishing collectibles. For dressing up your bedroom, hang a linen tablecloth over an upholstered headboard or make slipcovers for your headboards.

The article and photos of homemade ice cream reminded me of my uncle's homemade peach ice cream--possibly the best ice cream I've ever had. (A recipe for peach ice cream is included, btw.) And you can decorate your home with Fiestaware and colored glasses; a whole wall of open shelves displaying all those colors is spectacular! There are lots of other decorating ideas, including a vertical display of gauges, which is really eye-catching.

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

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Beach decor ideas (link)

Decorating your home--or just a room--to make it feel like a beach cottage getaway could be fun. You can use sea shells, of course, framed prints of starfish (which I think is better that dead bodies of star fish), a blue and white color scheme, driftwood, ... For more ideas, go to: Beach Chic Decorating Ideas : Decorating : Home & Garden Television

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Kitchen ideas and trends (link)

Green kitchens using sustainable products and all-wood kitchens are important trends, and white continues to be the most popular color; espresso and natural colors are timeless. (Hey, let's not be afraid of bright colors, people!) For more ideas, go to: Kitchen Trends for 2010 : Slideshow :

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Solar-powered night lights and rocks

I love solar-powered landscape lights, and I have two (one out front and one out back off the patio) that change colors. I got a Whatever Works catalog the other day, and they have some new lights that look like fun. One is a solar-powered white frosted glass jar that looks like a Mason jar; you put it in a sunny window, and at night it glows blue. I want one! But I think you'd need a really sunny window. And then there are the natural looking stones of different sizes, shapes, and colors (made of resin) that are connected by a cord to a solar panel. You can add them to a bed or near the pool or pond. Yep, I want them too. Link: - Pest Control, Household Gadgets, Outdoor Solutions, Home & Garden Problem Solutions Whatever Works

Friday, May 14, 2010

Outdoor accessories on a budget (link)

One suggestion in this roundup of outdoor decorating ideas is: Don't buy tacky yard ornaments like gnomes. (I would imagine that that will hurt a lot of people's feelings.) One of my favorite outdoor ornaments is the fanciful critters made out of old machine parts. For more ideas see: Design Budgeting 101: Outdoor Rooms : Landscaping : Home & Garden Television

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Smart shopper quiz (link)

Here's another one of those smart shopper quizzes. This one is for outdoor products for entertaining outside. I confess that I tend to go for the item I prefer, and sometimes I'm right. Today mostly I was wrong. One of the glassware photos was a red X though, so that doesn't count. Link: HGTV Quiz: Outdoor 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.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Orphaned squirrels find new home!

Linda, the wildlife rehabilitator, came today with three little squirrels--Prince, Princess, and Houdini--and a friend to help her carry that huge cage. They carried it under the cathedral oak to the big horizontal limb where we usually release them. Believe me, it's not easy hoisting that cage up there. Then her friend and I held the cage while Linda coaxed the squirrels out. That can take a while 'cause it's a whole new world, but a bowl of peanuts helps, and eventually one launched herself out--and climbed up Linda's face! (We cleaned it up later.) It wasn't long before they were all frisking up and down branches and exploring. The cathedral oak gives them plenty of cover until they're ready to venture farther afield.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Creative containers for small plants (link)

The muffin tin with baby's tears is really cute, and miniature ivy wrapping around the handle of a basket or teapot is lovely. Other container ideas include baby shoes, jewelry boxes, egg cups, baby food jars, and candy dishes. For more ideas, go to: Little plants & charming pots-Home Made Simple

Friday, May 7, 2010

Go forth and gild! (link)

I love glitter so this idea from Home Made Simple caught my eye. I've never gilded anything, and I can't think of anything offhand that's worth the time and trouble--and gold leaf--but maybe some of you would enjoy doing it. (There's also silver leaf and bronze, which require different primers.) Link: Gilded d├ęcor-Home Made Simple

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Ideas for outdoor spaces (link)

Check out these outdoor spaces and ideas for your space. If it's a public space, have plenty of room and connect the outdoor space to the house and encourage traffic in and out. For a private space, don't clutter it up. For more ideas: Slideshow : 9 Tips for Amazing Outdoor Spaces :

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Award-winning kitchen designs (link)

I enjoyed the overhead view of a formal farmhouse, the refrigerator that looks like an ice-box, and "A refined version of a rugged farmhouse kitchen [that] was created through the use of copper, stone, and wood." And pewter chicken wire is sort of different. There's a small frosty white kitchen. Check out more ideas at: Slideshow : 2010 NKBA Kitchen Design Winners :

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Publication news

I got the latest issue of Tales of the Talisman today, and I checked it to see if my article, Man-Kzin Wars:Behind the Scenes of a Great and Long-running Series, is mentioned in the blurb for the next issue (summer/Volume VI, Issue I)), and it's not, but my name is on the cover. (That is always a thrill.)

The requested rewrite for my SF novel, Strike Three, is on the editor's desk. Meanwhile you can read some of my short stories in my reprint collection--Aliens, Animals, and Adventure:

And Sugar Time is an audiobook of three time travel tales with sound effects & music. Check it out at:

Magistria: The Realm of the Sorcerer: This shared world anthology of mages and magic includes my story, Seedlings, in which plant mages fight alongside their sentient plant companions. You can buy it on amazon:

Friday, April 23, 2010

Green living (link)

While this article covers some of the basics--showerheads, composting, efficiency, LEDs, etc., you can also recycle the water in your bathroom, buy green power from your utility, and keep track of the trash you create... Link: 10 Ways to Live Greener Today : Green Living : 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, April 21, 2010

Remodeling for energy efficiency (link)

"Follow along as homeowner Jeff Wilson performs a Deep Energy Retrofit on his 70-year old Cape Cod house with the goal of making it energy neutral — producing as much energy as it uses." Link: Energy Answers: Lowering Power Bills Through Energy Efficient Home Improvements :

Monday, April 19, 2010

Home & garden ideas

The May issue of Southern Living has beautiful photos of hydrangeas, including the cover--and Southern Living in pink is pretty. (I'm pretty sure the title isn't usually in pink.) There's also a piece on southern lilacs; Lavender Lady--and possibly Blue Skies--never worked for me, but I'd like to try again.

There's also a selection of wedding accessories, including the framed wedding date made from a variety of photographed numbers. And beside the other home and garden articles, there are recipes, including one for Triple Peanut-Butter Cookies, which includes peanut flour. (It's from the National Peanut Board.)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Home storage ideas and more

There are some lovely ideas for built-in storage in the May Old-House Journal. (Remember when you decide to have a pedestal sink, you have to find storage elsewhere.) There's also a selection of decorative hooks--some with shelves--for storing things in plain sight. (I prefer Shaker peg boards; we have them in almost every room in our home.) I also enjoyed the article on the restoration of a Craftsman-style house. (I love colonnades!) And an article on restoration mistakes, which include improper paint prep and mixing metals, plus an article on row houses. Oh, when tracking down your home's history, don't forget Sanborn (fire insurance company) maps.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Decorating & entertaining ideas

There are some interesting ideas for entertaining in the May issue of Country Living. Use plant markers for identifying chunks of different cheeses; put silverware in small terra cotta pots marked with chalk for knives, forks, etc. And use the kitchen sink as a beverage cooler. Easy to get rid of the ice water afterwards.

I loved the beautiful selection of butter dishes, though I've never cared for the round ones. (I have glass and Fiestaware butter dishes myself; I think peacock is a new color.)

The Real Estate Sampler has impressive homes with wraparound porches; and there are some lovely restored homes, including one on Martha's Vineyard owned by Tony Shalhoub (Monk). And those fantastic desserts include Shaker Lemon Pie--which my sister's been making for years--and Mississippi Mud Pie and ... It's a good issue full of beautiful, delicious, and fun stuff.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Cut glass sink (link)

OK, it's not really cut glass, it just looks like it. Check out this beautiful undercounter sink from Kohler. I love it, but my practical side always wins out over the side that loves glitter and glitz; and it looks like it would be almost impossible to clean easily (the way I prefer it). See for yourself: KOHLER: Kallos™ Spun Glass Undercounter Lavatory: Bathroom: : Bathroom: New Products

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Seven important home improvement tips (link)

When working around your home, be careful about wires--and for rewiring, get a professional; priming before you paint is very important; and think about your subfloor/underlayment. For more advice, go to: 7 Costly Home Improvement 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.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Green building myths (link)

Green building myths include: Green built homes cost more (they can actually save you money) and they look weird. Well, I think that house looks cute. (Of course, the house can look like whatever you want it to look like.) Check out more myths here: Slideshow : Busting the Green Building Myths :

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Energy Star expose (link)

I read about this earlier in the latest Consumer Reports, as I recall. I especially liked the "air purifier that looked like a space heater with a duster taped to it."
Link: Energy Star and the Gas-Powered Alarm Clock The Punchlist (

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bedroom trends (link)

Here are 10 bedroom trends from three designers. Wallpaper's back! On the other hand, some people want serenity, using light purples, creams, and soft green. And fresh flowers freshen up a room. Or you might want to have your bedroom resemble a hotel suite. You can add appliances too. (Frankly, I'd skip the washing machine.) For more ideas, check out: 10 Bedroom Trends to Try : Decorating : Home & Garden Television

Friday, April 9, 2010

Four steps to a beautiful bed (link)

Here are some beautiful and helpful ideas--including sheet care, color, fabrics, and personalization--from Home Made Simple: Bedding Basics-Home Made Simple (I see that you shouldn't wash your sheets on the hot setting and you should turn your pillowcases inside out.)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bedroom style quiz (link)

Here's a fun quiz: HGTV Quiz: What's Your Bedroom Style?

My style turned out to be Contemporary--which seems to be pretty much eclectic; but I confess that I didn't recognize all those designers' names or two of the catalogs.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Going green at home (link)

This HGTVPro webpage suggests recycling the usual, also rainwater, glass (as used in countertops, which has a striking effect), and using a wireless energy monitor (it's called a dashboard). Hmm. Custom recycling bins? (I use the yellow plastic bin the waste management company gave me.)

Link: Slideshow : 8 Ways to Embrace Your Green Goddess :

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Pruning primer (link)

Here's a comprehensive pruning guide, which includes hedges, pruning tips and tools, a glossary, and examples of shrubs which bloom on last year's growth and those that bloom on the current season's growth. Before you prune, know which category your shrub grows in. There's also advice on what not to do, such as topping--and in the case of crape myrtles--crape murder, which is very common in our area. Link: Proper Pruning Techniques Aggie Horticulture

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

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Choosing the right tree for a small space (link)

It's easy to choose a beautiful tree for your yard, but is it a wise choice? Will it be "A tree that's soon to dwarf the patio, the house and everything around? Here are some wonderful little trees that won't take over your yard — or your neighbor's."

Check out these small trees: 10 Great Patio Trees : Landscaping : Home & Garden Television

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Designing your outdoor space (link)

This HGTV webpage helps you plan your outdoor space; it starts with the dream and then shows you the practical steps: Planning Your Outdoor Space : Landscaping : Home & Garden Television

Monday, March 29, 2010

Architecture of the imagination

"The map led them to the Thaumatological Park, just hubwards of Unseen University. It was still so new that the modern flat-roofed buildings, winners of several awards from the Guild of Architects, hadn't even begun to let in water and shed windowpanes in a breeze."

From The Truth by Terry Pratchett

Sunday, March 28, 2010


There's a sampling of photos and text from Candida Collins' The Treehouse Book in the April/May issue of Country magazine. These are really fancy and fun treehouses.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Design trends (link)

Check out these current trends at the HGTVPro webpage: Slideshow : Design Trends From the 2010 Builders' Show :

Buyers want variety, smaller homes with more detail and enough storage, urban living, modular homes, ... While I don't want a cookie cutter home either, some of these homes look like parts of them are trying to escape!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Building and designing your home (B&N link)

This link takes you to a collection of house building and planning books available from Barnes & Noble: Barnes & - Book Search: Architecture, Domestic->Amateurs' manuals

My book, Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook, is included. It's out in a new edition with color photos; the ISBN number on that edition is 978-1-60749-562-8; and it's available from: Online Bookstore (You'll have to type the title into the search box.)

It covers the building process and what’s involved in building your home and includes diary excerpts, photos, and advice from planning to punch list and beyond; and it got a rave review from The Midwest Book Review and was on the Reviewer's Choice list:

And here's a link to a free excerpt:

Monday, March 22, 2010

Home and garden ideas

There are a number of interesting articles in the spring issue of Early Homes, including one on early architecture focusing on salt boxes (which I thought was a New England idea) and catslides (found in southeastern U.S.)--good photos and drawings; there's also an article on Hudson River homes. Plus articles on furniture, hardware (hinges and latches), milk paint, treen and toleware, and gardens. And I enjoyed the closing essay by an author who learned to appreciate old homes as a kid; his parents thought prosperous meant "new." You see that a lot today too. He refers to "every pallid wall" and "the gentle outgassing of formaldehyde from the deep pile of the shag carpet."

In the April/May issue of Birds and Blooms, is a list, with photos, of "plants you can't kill." This list of outdoor plants includes cosmos, zinnias, daylilies, and yarrow. I have to say though that some of our daylilies have died off in some beds, but I do need to get more cosmos. Now there's a flower that came up from a seed packet in a back bed!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Publication news

The requested rewrite for my SF novel, Strike Three, is on the editor's desk. Meanwhile you can read some of my short stories in my reprint collection--Aliens, Animals, and Adventure:

And Sugar Time is an audiobook of three time travel tales with sound effects & music. Check it out at:

Magistria: The Realm of the Sorcerer: This shared world anthology of mages and magic includes my story, Seedlings, in which plant mages fight alongside their sentient plant companions. [This anthology is a reprint; it's out from a new publisher, Ricasso Press.] You can buy it on amazon:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Warmest insulation for a concrete slab

Cork is a good choice because of its insulating qualities; The Guide4Home points out the benefits of cork flooring: it's impermeable and provides thermal insulation for cold concrete floors, and this helps with sound insulation too. And it can also be used as an underlayment for this reason.

Carpet is also good. A carpet's pile is a good thermal insulator. On a concrete slab, surface temperature with carpet is much higher than the temperature on hard tile. And Guide4Home points out that "For insulating value, wall-to-wall carpeting constructed with a deep, dense pile having a ... dense padding serves you best." since the R value is affected by thickness.

But while both are good choices from a thermal insulation standpoint, as well as for sound insulation, other factors can enter into the buyer's choice. One important factor in both cases is the underlayment/padding, but your choice can be affected by the sustainability and the hypo-allergenic qualities of cork. The Guide4Home points out that "It has hypoallergenic properties and is resistant to moisture i.e. no chance of mildew or mold setting in".


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Modular home construction (link)

Check out the modular home design ideas and products at this HGTVPro webpage: HGTV Pro Best Practices Video Player: Foundation, Framing, Exterior Finishes, Interior Finishes, Insulation, Mechanical and D...

If we build again, I hope to use modular wall units (poured concrete); it's supposed to be much quicker.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Home ideas

I loved the toile (classic French pattern) look for tablewear, tablecloths, etc. in the April issue of Country Living. Interesting article on collectible figural measuring tapes also; I didn't realize there were so many different kinds! Also interesting articles on other collectibles, crafts (loved the pushpin and pencil ideas), Easter entertaining (eggs in egg cups as placecards), gardening, recipes, and home makeovers; though, frankly, taking out that beautiful bathroom art deco floor and making the whole room white, made for a boring room.

In the February issue of Coastal Living was a different sofa pillow idea; the pillows were numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. (You could spread numbered pillows through the whole house and have a scavenger hunt.) And in the March Better Homes & Gardens, I came across a webpage for countertop ideas: Choosing Kitchen Countertops (slide show). And it must have been in that issue that I discovered a portable induction burner. It looks like a handy gadget to have on hand: - Cookware Products - Infinite Circulon Induction Burner

Friday, March 12, 2010

Landscaping mistakes to avoid (link)

This HGTV list includes a common mistake--Planting trees and shrubs that are too big for the space! And never ever plant trees too close to the house. (There goes the foundation, the septic system, the sewer pipes, ...) Don't plant too many of the same thing. This doesn't apply to a bed of tulips or roses, nor to our collection of crape myrtles. (We have lots of other trees and shrubs and flowers.) They point out that this gives you limited flowering; you might want to have colorful blooms for the whole season.

And if you're building or remodeling, don't put your plants where workers and vehicles will be busy. (When we built, we started landscaping the perimeter. 'Course we had five acres to fill so the contractors had plenty of room. But remember to protect trees and plants with yellow tape.) And watch out for ivy taking over your house. For more info and scary photos, go to their link: 7 Top Landscaping Don'ts : Landscaping : Home & Garden Television

I was hoping they'd mention pollarding, also known as crape murder when inflicted on crape myrtles. You might think that would go under planting trees too big for the space, but some people prune the hell out of them even if they've got the room to grow! And it's better to plant smaller shrubs than spend the rest of your life pruning a hedge or paying someone to do it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

More orphaned squirrels for our wildlife habitat

The wildlife foster mother (squirrels and other critters) is raising three little orphans to be released in a month or so in our cathedral oak. Two of them were discovered in a pile of Spanish moss (their nest blew out of a tree) on someone's driveway, and another was found by a school teacher. I'm going to have to be careful about picking up clumps of Spanish moss or kicking it into the nearest flower bed! (Spanish moss has proliferated in the last few years and is always being blown out of trees. We have to pick up the big clumps before we mow.)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Window choices (link)

This HGTV webpage article asks if new windows are necessary. Find out if you need to spend big bucks on this home improvement. It suggests that you get an energy audit; maybe you only need caulking and weather stripping. And if you have a historical home, think twice about losing your home's character. Of course, if your windows are in bad shape and the wood's rotting, that's another matter. Check out the choices among vinyl, aluminum (not good in cold climates), composite, fiberglass, wood, and wood-clad. Link: Design Ideas : Design Trends : How to Choose Replacement Windows :

Friday, March 5, 2010

Spring flowers (link)

Enjoy these colorful blossoms: Enjoy Flowers All Spring : Landscaping : Home & Garden Television

(I really miss lilacs down here, but the azaleas, camellias, and some roses are blooming. Hmm. I think we've got sweetspire by the pond, though it's not blooming.)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Office and workspace organization (link)

Here are some ideas for organizing your workspace. The lazy susan is useful. I never would have thought of that. Link: Home office organization ideas-Home Made Simple

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bathroom lighting (link)

The current trend in bathroom lighting is more lights! And of course the toilet closet needs its own light. And it sounds like the mirror will be surrounded by lights... Even powder rooms are getting more lights. I do see the usefulness of a dimmer switch for night time visits to your bathroom. Check out the lighting ideas at this HGTV webpage: Design Ideas : Bathrooms : Trends in Bathroom Lighting :

Friday, February 26, 2010

Tiffany blue

Here's a lovely color I found on an HGTV webpage; it's called Tiffany blue, and it looks rather like turquoise, but with more blue in it. Check it out: Design Happens » Archive » What’s Hot: Tiffany Blue

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

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Updating your kitchen

Here's an interesting article with ideas for updating your kitchen, along with suggested budgets. There's a sit-down sink in a table that is a work space and a breakfast table, and there's a kitchen based on an Italian style. Though we're still using ideas from Europe--the skinny compartment for French bread and built-in meat slicers doesn't work so well here though--we're catching up, says one kitchen designer, and Europeans are using some of our ideas... Link: Design Ideas : Kitchens : Updating Older Kitchens Increases Sales Prices :

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Energy efficient windows

Here are some useful links from HGTVPro to help you choose the most efficient window for your home. You can learn how window materials affect energy efficiency and what the best window is for a mixed climate (extreme temperatures, which we've had here in Florida this year!) and what a smart window is. (They come with solar and heat sensor systems.) There are also acoustic windows; and you can minimize heating and cooling costs with the three G's: glazing, gas, and glass. And to weather-proof you windows, you can use window flashing instead of caulk. Learn more at: Energy Efficient Windows: Tips for Choosing and Installing the Best New and Replacement Home Windows :