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 :