Archive | January, 2008

What To Do With Windows

January 31, 2008


I’ve been planning this coming year’s projects. I am really hoping we can complete the living room and install new windows. I wish I could install new windows in one big swoop in this house, but that would be very, very expensive. The windows are old style, which means they are huge. They are all almost six feet high and three feet wide. There are thirteen of them in the house. That’s a lot of glass to replace. The downstairs windows aren’t too bad, but upstairs are a problem.That’s my old 1855 house in the photo below; it’s a one-and-a-half storey house.

02 home sweet home

A lot of the older houses were constructed as one-and-a-half storeys. There is no “real” attic. The upstairs bedrooms have sloped ceilings, so if you are a very tall person, you have to hunch down to get to the sides of the rooms. Moving around in the rooms isn’t too bad, but it is very hard to place bunkbeds or tall shelves in these rooms. The real problem is with the windows– the upstairs windows are the same size as the downstairs windows. So, the windows in the bedroom are full-length; that is, the windows stretch from floor to ceiling in the bedrooms. This makes privacy an issue, because we live in town.

There is NO WAY I will ever, ever chop down the window size, however. You know what I am talking about– those houses that used to have such grand windows and now they look like they have a busted eye (see photo)? You can really see it from the exterior of the home. At some point, the homeowners replaced their large windows with a much smaller one, and re-sided over the gap. This destroys the symmetrical beauty of the home. I don’t care how hard it is to replace my windows, I will not resize them and mar the aesthetics of the house.

My house is set back from the road about 75 feet (most of the neighboring houses are only 25 feet from the road, so we love our front yard). But I do not like the bedroom windows so large. Kids don’t always close their blinds when the sun sets, lol, and every person strolling by can see everything (including the disastrous condition of the rooms). Right now I have dark-green blinds and very heavy drapes over these monster windows. I hate it, because this makes to rooms so drab and dark. But how else can we have the privacy? In the “old” days, they used decorative shades (like this stenciled blind I saw when we visited Fort Ontario in Oswego, NY. This dates back to the Civil War era). I think that is impractical now, although I like the decorative idea.

In the past, I have seen the “frosted” kind used a lot for bathrooms, and, honestly, I have never liked them because I never liked that “typical” bathroom frosted film. It always looked so tacky, so I never looked into them. Until today. Whoa!!! Talk about progress! Now they have stenciled designs, stained-glass designs, shoji Japanese-style designs, etc. Welcome to the 21st century! There’s some really gorgeous stuff.

What do you think of the stained-glass look? I live next to a church and I think it would be so funky in my daughter’s bedroom. Heh.

Obviously, I have been having some fun “window shopping,” if you will. Ha! I also like the “colored” glass look, and there are frosted flowery patterns, too. The selection is excellent. And all you need to install the stuff is a razor, scissors, and etc.

I’m really pleased. I love seeing more options other than that 70s “frosted” window film look. Finally! I recommend if you are looking for some privacy (or a funky decorative look), think about window film. It’s much better than chopping your windows to a smaller size. Please, don’t ever chop the size of your windows! There are much better alternatives.

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Quick Tip #14

January 31, 2008


Got a sick kid in the house? Or are you not feeling well? The stomach bug is making its rounds, I hear. Wash your hands and stay clean! You’ve also probably heard that it helps to take ginger ale on an upset stomach, right? Did you know that the ginger ale soda sold in the stores has absolutely NO ginger in it? So it does nothing for your stomach!

When we visited FX Matt Brewery in Utica, NY, the tour guide told us that the brewery makes their own very special ginger ale with real ginger in it. I tried it on my son, who was sick this week, and it really helps! We used the Saranac Ginger Beer stuff. It has no alcohol. It is very spicy; it tastes like ginger snaps.

So, if you are needing ginger for an upset tummy, skip the expensive and useless soda pop and look around for real ginger beer. Here’s a yeast-less recipe at for making homemade ginger beer:

Ginger Beer

  • 10 cups water
  • 12 ounces fresh ginger, finely chopped (for a lighter colored ginger beer, peel the ginger before weighing it)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • juice of 1 lime

Bring the water to a boil; turn off heat and add the ginger. Cover the pot and let steep overnight. Strain the mixture through cloth, squeezing and pressing to express drops of liquid from the ginger. Add the sugar and the lime juice, stir, bottle and refrigerate.

And don’t use that nasty colored granulated sugar that they call “brown sugar” in the stores. Try this:

Brown Sugar:

1 5 pound bag granulated sugar
1/2 cup molasses (or more, depending on taste)

Mix the molasses and the sugar and stir (and stir and stir and stir) until well blended. You might want to take a break and have the kids do it for a while. You’ll have healthy brown sugar when you’re done!

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Cabin Fever

January 29, 2008

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Ever feel like blogging but there really isn’t anything to write about? I get that way sometimes. Maybe some folks love the mindless chatter, lol…. it’s just TOO gloomy today! The clouds are so thick and dark that it looks like 7pm instead of 4pm. This is what we northeasterners call “cabin fever.” Sometimes a short day trip is refreshing when we feel like this, but I’ve got one kid down with a stomach bug; so we’re stuck here. Can’t do gardening, can’t paint, can’t do any wiring…

So guess what I’m dreaming about? Mmmmm.

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Georgia (Pacific) On My Mind

January 29, 2008

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Well, it’s the dead of winter, and I’m sure everyone is asking the obvious question:

Did Mrs. Mecomber’s insulation she installed in her new living room work?
I can proclaim– very confidently and very emphatically that… I don’t know.

People, it’s just one room. One room in a sea of ten other freezing cold rooms. I really packed the living room with insulation, too. I did everything by the book, and then some. I sealed all the corners– every little crevice– with that expanding foam. I stapled the kraft-papered pink insulation rolls tightly. I made neat little strips with a razor blade where the electrical wires and boxes went (never cram your insulation in– allow it to fill gaps, and slice the insulation when it meets with impediments line electrical wiring, to avoid air pockets). I even stapled sheets of 6mil plastic on top of the kraft-paper insulation.

This was really only step one. See, I have no door and window trim up yet, so those gaps provide for leaking air. I also have several holes in the plaster walls elsewhere in the house, because I haven’t completed my electrical wiring for the house yet (I’m about 1/2 done). And then there are those 100-year old windows They allow more air to pass in and out than a pair of bellows. They are quite leaky. All the glazing has deteriorated from the panes, too. They are in sorry shape.

So, has my uber-insulation worked? I think so. I mean, how could it not? It’s just the rest of the house that’s freezing cold. I really won’t see a different in our heating bills until the rest of the house is buttoned up. That could take a while.

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Quick Tip #13

January 26, 2008

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Today’s quick tip has more to do with home life than home improvement, but it’s a good one!

We homeschool our four kids. We like to play classical or instrumental music in the background while we work, as it has a settling effect and helps the kids concentrate on their work (rather then the dogs barking or the street noise or my phone conversations). However, we have a limited selection of CDs, and after several plays, the music gets old.

I was buying the music from Amazon or Christian Book Distributors when they have sales, but prices have risen, and so has shipping. It seemed I’d be spending $20 a month on music CDs that grew old very quickly (we like variety).

I checked my local library’s CD collection online. They have dozens of music CDs, all for free! What’s even better is that my local library is part of a regional library network. This means that 50 libraries within a three-county area share their resources. I can view everything online, order it, and have it delivered to my local library for pickup– all for free! This ensures I have a rotating selection of good music.

Check out your local library for free resources. We also get our videos and DVDs from the library. Most of the media is free, or there is a small charge (usually it’s $1).

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Quick Tips #12

January 25, 2008

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What do you do if something goes down the toilet?

A few months ago, we had such a situation. My young son had been washing the bathroom, and dumped the bucket of dirty water down the toilet. He did not realize that a washcloth was at the bottom of the bucket. It was not seen because the water was cloudy. Down the washcloth went! In a panic, he flushed the toilet because he feared it would overflow.

I am no plumber. I will not do plumbing. I will save up my money and hire a plumber! But before I spent my hard-earned cash on a plumber to solve my washcloth problem, I wanted to do a little research and see if there was a quick fix.

I can’t say I found scads of tips online about washcloths and toilets, but I found a few. Every single one of them said to keep flushing, and the cloth would work its way out of the system. I did it, but looking back, this was probably the worst thing I could have done. Or, the worst first thing. Flushing or dumping water into the clogged toilet is the last resort. I didn’t know what to do after this. The toilet groaned and reluctantly passed some of the water. It was trying to overflow. I knew I had a problem. I had to call the plumber.

The first thing he asked me when he arrived was if anyone had flushed the toilet. When I said yes, he groaned. He said the washcloth probably didn’t go down the pipes all the way when it was dumped in at first, and would easily have come out with an auger. But the flushing probably drove the washcloth deeper down into the system; it is nearly impossible to get out.

He tried the auger– a toilet auger is a monster of an auger. They scratch the porcelain bowl something awful, too. I wasn’t as concerned, because we have to replace the toilet soon, anyway. He cranked and cranked and cranked til he hit a bend, and no washcloth.

We never did find that washcloth. The plumber opened up a few traps and vents and we flushed and flushed til I thought my water bill was going to pitch us into bankruptcy. The plumber shrugged his shoulders and just said, “Well, it’s the county’s problem, now. I think it’s left your system.” Oh great. The county will find it and probably trace the washcloth DNA to my house and next thing you know we’ll have a SWAT team around the house.

Anyway, my TIP (oh yeah, remember that?) was that if something goes down your toilet, DON’T FLUSH IT!. See if you can fish it out first. If you can’t, try an auger. If that fails, call your plumber. And warn your kid never to dump a bucket of water in the toilet without checking its contents first!

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Busy Busy

January 24, 2008

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I haven’t had any time to devote to this blog lately. I’m actually avoiding technical news right now… because I have HAD IT with technical things these days. I’ve been in the midst of a major printing problem (my stupid laser printer won’t print via my home network, and I’ve tried everything!), and have had a few new problems compound on top of it. And there are some other tecchie issues I’m working on that are absorbing all my attention. Soon I’ll be writing about more cool gadgets and blogging more information.

But right now… well, what I always say, “Technology is a great convenience, until something goes wrong!”

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The End of January

January 24, 2008

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I had a bad bout of insomnia last night. I just lay in bed, thinking about everything you are never supposed to think about in bed: bills, computer problems, grocery list items, and my electrical work. A typical end of January night.

The end of January means that February is coming. You know that old saying, “The night is always darkest just before dawn”? Well, February is like night. It’s the darkest month, right before March when winter starts to recede and you know spring is near. February is a tough month to endure. Thank God it is more brief than the others. But February seems to have come early this year– at the end of January.

I was thinking about all my unfinished electrical work. I should go back into my blog archives and re-read all my posts on the electric, to encourage me. And also to remind me where on earth I left off, because I don’t remember! Right about now, I rather dread starting it up again. Mind you, the actual electric work is not bad, not bad at all. It’s the plaster, the lathe, the crushed fingers, the dust, the attic suffocation…. drilling holes and trying to cram modern electrical boxes into medieval wall crevices… smashed sore fingers and plaster dust in my hair and trying to cook dinner all at the same time in a timely manner….. men have it easy in this way, because they can go to work, do their job, and come home and someone else feeds them. Although I sure don’t envy having to go out to work every day. Yuk.

It’s not even February yet and I am grumbling about the end of January! Well, there’s that other saying, “Time flies.” Let’s hope it soars from now to mid-March!

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Away From Home

January 23, 2008

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I haven’t been doing any “home” stuff because we were out of town for a few days. I blog about the travels we take. Interested in seeing what we do in our spare time, besides shoveling snow and demolishing plaster walls? Check out my New York Traveler blog.

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The Results of the Poll

January 22, 2008

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Well, the results are in! I kept a poll for the week, asking readers if they thought winters were getting warmer. This is the common mantra from the media, and I really have to wonder if it is accurate.

Most people (35%) believed winters were not getting warmer. 9% said more data was needed, another 9% said winters remain the same, and 12% said they haven’t noticed or that it is too early to tell. Only 31% said that winters were actually getting warmer.

These are interesting statistics from us “average” folks. This was not a scientific poll, but I liked reading the results, nonetheless. It is also quite interesting that this week in the Northeast we are suffering under one of the coldest weeks of the season (below zero temps at night for a week). I remember in 1993/1994, my thermometer read 40-below-zero for a day or two, before bouncing up to 20-below. I do not think winters are getting warmer, just more extreme.

For you who participated in the poll, thanks! Who knows, maybe next year, we’ll have another. šŸ™‚

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