Archive | September, 2008

A Strawbale House?

September 20, 2008

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This concept is new to me: the strawbale house. From what I can gather, it’s a type of house construction that uses hay bales as walls. The walls are plastered with a clay mix. The house foundation and roof are built like any other home: a concrete basement or slab, a wooden joist floor, a sill with wood studs that support a roof. Bales are placed in between the wood studs of the walls.

The strawbale homes are acclaimed for their insulating abilities, and many builders also add energy-efficient systems (like solar panels) to the house.

Is this really a good way to construct a home? Honestly, I have my doubts. I mean… hay?? When I think of hay, I think of dusty, moldy, scratchy bales of yellow hay. Hay gets wet, it absorbs humidity, it degrades, doesn’t it? And laying plaster on the bales of hay seems impermanent. Plaster cracks, from subsurface movement, the drying of wood framing over the years, from winds, and from movement within the house. And where would the electrical wiring and plumbing go? I’m as baffled about this as I am about unlocked cell phones– what are those?

So I found this video about strawbale homes. It didn’t give me a lot of answers, honestly.

I am 100% in favor of alternative housing materials. I hate all the toxic chemicals being dumped into our homes. But to me, hay seems like another problem. It isn’t permanent, is it? I’m sure a house with hay in the walls must be very warm, but what if a person has allergies? Or if mold starts to grow? Or if a roof leak causes water to seep between the walls? Or you have a plumbing leak, or a wire short in an outlet receptacle? And do you need a special type of business permit for this? It seems so unconventional!

I checked my local library for any information about this unusual home building system, but found nothing in any library across 5 counties. Then again, I wouldn’t expect strawbale hoems to be veyr popular in a wet, intemperate climate such as Upstate New York. So I’m off to investigate more about this, on the Internet. If you have any input, I’d love to hear– leave a comment! πŸ˜€

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Find Your Home Value

September 19, 2008

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With all the news on the financial markets and mortgages, property values are on more people’s minds. Need to know your home value? Here are some valuable sites pulled from my bookmarks.

Yahoo Real Estate
This is my favorite site for finding property information. It’s very comprehensive.

Realtor
This is a good site to look for home values for homes that are currently for sale. It’s very comprehensive and has some good articles, too.

Zillow
It’s getting better, but there are still gaps. Information is added when property sells. So some of the “old” properties don’t show up. They have a very nice map feature.

Domania
This is done by LendingTree, so expect to see a lot of articles about mortgage loans. But the search feature is good. You can do a quick home value check or a home price check.

Cyberhomes
This site is still adding information, but it is quick and easy to use. It’s supposed to be a place where you search for your dream home. I punched in my zip code and nothing came up. I guess my dream home isn’t here. :-p

I check my own property value from time to time, and compare it with that of my local area and sometimes other states, too. I like to see how New York State is faring. Trust me, we’re still at the bottom of the least expensive places to live list. πŸ™

If you know of any other websites for keeping track of home values, feel free to leave the link in the comments. I’d love to check it out.

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Need to Find a Handyman?

September 18, 2008

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Well I wish I’d seen this last year, when we were hunting for an electrician: ServiceSpider.com. It’s an online registry of contractors and handymen for your local area. It’s still growing, but it looks great!

Last year, the main reason I decided to do the electrical wiring myself was because we couldn’t find an electrician. It seems like more and more businesses are catering to commercial work, and very few were willing to wire up my living room and bedroom. So, I studied books and did it myself. It was a learning experience, to be sure, but I really would have preferred (and my nerves would have preferred) to hire out the jobs. It was just so difficult finding someone! I called everyone in our phonebook yellow pages, to no avail. The same thing with a plumber and appliance repairman. I have put my foot down– I won’t do the plumbing! But I have no idea where to find a plumber! So I am very, very happy to see a site like ServiceSpider.com.

ServiceSpider.com is a marketplace that connects service buyers and service sellers. Handymen and specialized contractors are available and searchable throughout the United States. What is unique is that you post your service request (it’s free to do so). This request with all its information is displayed in an open marketplace (like an auction) for service providers to see and make bids. It’s helpful to make your request as detailed as possible, to ensure accurate bids. You can post pictures of your mess service request for the providers to see. After you’ve gone through the listing process, ServiceSpider.com sends you a confirmation email and will send updates on the condition of your auction. Interesting! You can also log on to ServiceSpider.com to check for updates. It’s ingenious.

There’s also the opportunity to list yourself and your own business, if you want to be on ServiceSpider.com’s list. I really recommend that, because I can’t find you if you are not there! So check it out. I am thrilled to see stuff like ServiceSpider.com. Like I said, they are growing, so be sure to join if you are interested. They have a terrific Fall promotion going on, too: the first 100 people to post a project on the site will win a $25 gas card; and the first 100 people who complete their home improvement projects will get a $100 home improvement gift card. Nice!

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White Pizza Recipe

September 18, 2008

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I realized the other day that I haven’t posted any recipes in soooo long. I rarely cook in the summer (too hot). We usually have grilled vegetables, hamburgers, and other summer fare. I really get cooking again in the autumn, when the weather gets chilly. After a hot spell last week, the weather has really cooled off, so I’m on the prowl again for good recipes.

I saw this recipe for White Pizza at Mom’s Cafe Home Cooking, and was floored. This looks SOOOOO good, and there is nothing like freshly-baked pizza filling the house with its delicious aroma. And it looks absolutely delicious! Thought I’d share the recipe with you, because sharing is nice. πŸ˜€

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Free Emergency Radio, Coffee Offer

September 16, 2008

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In an emergency, what do we need? An emergency radio and coffee, of course! πŸ˜€

Here are some freebies I found today that may come in useful for you frugal hacks.

Free Emergency Radio from ProtectingAmerica.org (while supplies last)

Free Gourmet Coffee Samples

Free Folger’s Gourmet Selections Coffee (free after you do a survey). I love Folger’s and the gourmet is rather over-priced at my local store, so I’m taking the time to do the survey– Folger’s is my caffeine drug treatment of choice, ha! Note: I also see that in order to get the Folger’s, you have to sign up to receive and/or purchase something else (like makeup or vitamins). So if you don’t like having to do that, then this sample is probably not for you.

Also, I found a few other freebies:

Get a free Handyman Club of America magazine and small toolkit set here. Be aware that this is an “opt-in” offer. After you get the first magazine, you will be sent a bill. If you do not want to continue receiving the magazines, you have to remember to send the bill back with “cancel” on it.

A free Earthbound Farm recipe brochure for organically-grown foods, here. They also offer free e-zines. It mostly relates to farming out in California, so I opted out of that.

Be sure to use your alternative email when signing up for these things. I use my “spammy” hotmail email address for stuff like this. And a lot of times I don’t give complete information– I may skip the email and phone number to see if the offer goes through. Many times, it does. Why give out more information than necessary? Who knows who may get your information. That last thing I want is to be spammed or phoned by a telemarketer or a drug rehab or something.

Hat tip to MoneySavingPro for the freebies heads up. πŸ™‚ You’re swell!

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It’s Easy Being Green

September 15, 2008

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I’m pretty excited about the new push for renewable energy in the country. Of course, I don’t think our economy should be brought to its knees before anyone does anything about it– our country should have been preparing for these things long ago.

A news story in my local area recently said that a “green” economy would mean good news for Upstate New York. Great news!

A new report says almost 132,000 new jobs could be created in New York state, and more than 2 million nationwide, by making investments that aim to reduce dependence on oil.

[A] report from a University of Massachusetts think-tank wants to use $100 billion in federal money over two years for so-called “green” projects. New York’s share would be about $7 billion. The money would be spent on projects like weatherizing buildings, improving mass transit and making the electric-distribution system more efficient.

That’s pretty cool, BUT there’s a caveat: the use of “carbon offsets” money to fund this idea.

The plan calls for the money to come from a “cap-and-trade” program to require energy producers to pay for the right to emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere — an idea that passed the U.S. House earlier this year but died in the Senate.

New York has established a similar program with nine other states in the Northeast, which will be implemented early next year.

Honestly, I think the idea behind carbon offsets is silly. And I am not convinced that “global warming” exists, especially when it’s being touted as a way to control people and world economies. Aren’t there better ways to encourage alternative energy and efficiency in our living spaces?

But I’m happy to see that thrift, resourcefulness, and sustainability are becoming the new trends. It’s about time! Now, if we can only get rid of scheming politicians and corporations’ “planned obsolescence”…

Photo courtesy of thinkpanama at Flickr.

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Glow in the Dark Paint for Kids’ Bedrooms

September 14, 2008

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When we first bought the house, the first thing I did was paint all the rooms. The house had been freshly painted before we bought it, but the walls were white AND the trim was white. And large sections of the flooring was splattered white, too. :-p White is SOOOO dull. I rarely use it, except for trim when my walls are dark. I just love ruby red walls with pure white, glossy trim, yum. I did my dining room like that.

When I did the kids’ rooms, I tried to make things little fun. For the boys’ room, I painted the walls a light color (white with a pink hue, for warmth) and the ceiling a sky blue. I made fluffy white clouds on the ceiling by mixing white paint with some water, and dabbing the paint on the ceiling with a dampened sea sponge. It really came out great. And then I painted yellow glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling. After 10 years, the stars still look great, and they still glow!

Glow in the dark paint is found at craft stores, and I think home improvement stores carry it now, too. I bought a few different styles of craft sponges in the shapes of stars. All I had to do was dip the star sponge in the glow in the dark paint, and dab the ceiling with the sponge. I used craft paint, which was a little watery, so I painted over every star twice. The yellow is a light yellow. It’s hardly noticeable during the day. But every evening when we shut off the bedroom lights, the stars light up. It’s really neat and the boys love it.

The nice thing is that the stars do not remain glowing all night, so they don’t disturb sleeping. The stars glow for about 3-4 minutes. Another things is that the paint needs to absorb light in order to shine it when the lights go off. We usually keep the curtains open during the day, anyway. But if you have a dark room, the paint might not work as well.

It’s a really easy and inexpensive way to add another personal touch to the kids’ rooms.

Photo of wall courtesy of Maps and Moons at Flickr.

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I’m a Freedom Gardener!

September 11, 2008

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The Freedom Gardens site says, “Think of it as Facebook meets the Farmer’s Almanac.” LOL! I like that. If you recall, I blogged about the Freedom Gardeners website a few months ago when I heard of “victory gardens” during World War II. The Freedom Gardener site has this:

In response to the heavy impact of World War II on the U.S. economy, Americans were urged to grow a victory garden (also called a war garden) in 1943. The gardens were planted by about 20 million families and would eventually provide nearly half of the fresh produce consumed during this troubled time. On rooftops, in back yards and even in containers on front porches, Americans produced eight million tons of fruit, vegetables and herbs in their own households.

Presently we are faced with a future that’s will be fraught with fuel scarcity, rising food cost and environmental implications.

As the world encounters hard times – there will be need of practical and back to basics solutions.

Freedom Gardens is growing beyond victory garden a food security movement person to person, blog to blog, neighbor to neighbor. A modern gardening era/movement for the 21st century resulting in efforts to become free of foreign oil, corporate controls, contamination and food miles while creating a sustainable future by promoting local food production.

I am 100% in agreement. So I joined the social community. I am a relatively *new* gardener, having only 7-8 years under my belt yet. But my vision for the property is that we become as self-sufficient as we possibly can, and perhaps grow enough to help sustain my local neighborhood if necessary. I’ve always been interested in independent living, ever since my parents abandoned suburbia and took off for the forests when I was a teenager.

If you have these same aspirations, consider joining the Freedom Gardens movement! Look for me, MrsMecomber, and add me as a friend. Let’s get gardening!

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A Cute Doggy

September 11, 2008

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I was browsing some cute dog training videos and saw this one. WHAT an adorable little dog! And she knows her multiplication table!

The videos sputtered for me a little (I may need a new video card sometime).

I am “into” animal training right now. I have hopes of getting a kitten, and we’d like to toilet train her. Anyone have any tips or resources about how to do it? I have no idea at what age to begin training a kitten, either. Perhaps you experienced pet owners would offer some advice.

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Free Idea Book

September 9, 2008

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Get a free idea book from KraftMaid Cabinetry! Link is here. It’s a 150-page planner and idea book for redesigning your home. Of course, it has ideas for using KraftMaid products! But I love idea books and am always ready to learn how I can make my room more efficient. A little creativity goes a long way.

The form asks for your name, address, email, and phone number. I skipped the phone number, and used my “extra” email address that I reserve for samples, mailings, and other spammy-type emails.

Thanks, Money Saving Pro, for the heads up. The blog has a long list of free samples available (I just love blogs that list free samples!) and it has a TON of other really great articles there about saving money and home living.

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