Archive | October, 2009

Find the Kitty Friday 10/30

October 30, 2009


We’ve been doing our twice-annual tradition around the homestead– the changeover from summer to winter clothing. It’s a big chore, where we spend the entire day unloading the closets, pulling out boxes and bags, and sorting clothing for the coming season. The kids are old enough now to do a good deal of it on their own, thank God. I can’t believe I used to do this, all by myself, for me and all four children!! It’s quite a big job.

And as usual, our darling Livvy was bouncing from room to room, wanting to “help.” Can you find the kitty?



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Secure Your Home Before Vacation

October 27, 2009

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February is a big vacation month for us in the Northeast, but you don’t want to wait until then to prepare your vacation plans. If you will be leaving your home for any length of time on a holiday, you want to be sure that your home and all its contents will be safe (and still there!) upon your return. Here are a few security and home care tips to prepare your home before you leave for any extended trip:

  • Turn off your water supply.
    In your basement near the water meter (where the water comes in to your home), there’s a valve that controls the input of water. It’s recommended that you turn off your water supply before an extended trip. Be sure to do this and empty your plumbing of water if you turn off your furnace during your vacation, so that a deep freeze does not freeze your pipes and cause them to burst. I’ve heard through the grapevine that some insurance companies insist you shut off your water supply AND drain the water from your plumbing before a vacation, or any damage will not be covered.
  • Turn off your furnace, or set it on low.
    This is best if you live in a high humidity area, to prevent mold and mildew. You can even get a timer to have the furnace turn on periodically; or, set it at 55 so it will run when the temperature drops.
  • Unplug large appliances.
    The refrigerator, hot water tank, computers, power-sucking TVs, etc… these don’t need to be on. If you have those “vampire” appliances (appliances that still use energy even when in “off” mode), unplug them all.
  • Place a “hold” on your mail.
    One of the first things a thief looks for is if the mailbox is being emptied regularly. You can go to the […]
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Super Sale on Holiday Getaways!

October 26, 2009

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Summer is over and winter’s chills are beginning to roll in. Need a good reason to start planning your mid-winter vacation early? There’s an incredible travel promotion if you’ve been waiting in the wings for a deal. It’s the Accor Hotels 3-Day Super Sale Asia Pacific deal. I’ve spent the morning looking it over and it looks amazing!

Accor Hotels has opened up more than a million hotel rooms around the world– for all needs and budgets– for three days: October 27th, 28th, and 29th, 2009. You can obtain the steep discounts when you order online for stays from December 9, 2009, to April 10, 2010. The Super Sale is occurring at a time of record-low airfares across the Asia Pacific area. It’s a frugal paradise, people. The hotels are simply beautiful: locations available for Accor Hotels 3-Day Super Sale Asia Pacific include: Australia, Singapore, Thailand, Korea, China, Japan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Fiji, Indonesia, Taiwan, India, and Bali. Rates are as low as $30 per night (Thailand!) with most rates in the $50-70 range. Accor Hotels, the European leader in hotels around the world, has hotels in over 90 countries with over 4,000 hotels. I’ve browsed the site and the hotels are just exquisite!


Next to the beautiful hotels and outstanding service, the great thing about Accor is that they have built a structure of hotels to accommodate various needs and budgets, all revolving around the “name brands.” For example, the All Seasons Accor hotel brand is perfect for economically-minded travelers, or brief visits. The Mecure and Pullman and other name-brand Accor hotels are more expensive and have more luxurious features (such as regional, gourmet dining experiences and such). So no matter your travel need, be it a backpacking experience in New Zealand, or a business meeting in Japan, or a honeymoon in Hong Kong, you can stay with the reliable Accor brand. Plus, Accor is known throughout the world for it’s outstanding hospitality and beautiful locations.

This is such a great getaway opportunity! I would think that this would make a beautiful gift, too, and just in time for the holidays.

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Bug of the World

October 24, 2009

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Have you been invaded by ladybugs lately? We have. Last week the temperatures were below freezing; but this week, it’s been very mild– near 70 degrees today! And all this week that the temps have raised, the ladybugs are EVERYWHERE. We had a swarm swirling around our back door and our living room window. A few dozen have sneaked in the house, somehow. Livvy finds them entertaining.


Bugs in Wind

I guess we’re not alone. My fellow New Yorkers have been inundated with ladybugs, too. The bugs even made the nightly news at 9wsyr!!

Syracuse (WSYR-TV) – We’ve gotten calls and emails from many of you wondering what’s going on with an infestation of ladybugs and other types of beetles.

It’s the time of year for them to find shelter, but some years are worse than others, especially if the population had a strong summer.

Central New Yorkers join people from Illinois to Massachusetts in dealing with swarms of ladybugs, most of which are seeking the sunniest parts of people’s homes.

“Some of them will have lots of black dots and some of them will have almost no dots,” says Cornell Cooperative Extension entomologist Kim Adams.

But there are similar species who are also making their presence known, particularly the box elder bug.

Yeah, we’re also getting a lot of the chinch bugs here– and they are not anywhere as cute as the ladybug. They are actually pretty creepy; good thing they crawl slowly– I can squish them easier. I don’t squish the ladybugs, though. Ladybugs are good for the garden. I remember as a girl, my mother purchased some through a mail-order gardening catalog. After a few weeks waiting, a small box came in the mail. When she opened the box, billions of ladybugs emerged from the box and poured into the yard. What an experience– bugs in the mail! I’ll never forget that sight of the boxful of a red, squirming mass with gazillions of little black legs.

They’ll go away soon, once we no longer have any warm or sunny days.

But if you just can’t stand to wait, Adams recommends you use the vacuum cleaner to collect them, and then release them outside.

“I don’t recommend using any sort of pesticide in your home,” says Adams.

Ladybugs in particular will stain fabric if you crush them, but these insects are not endangered, so the choice is yours.

I don’t mind them. I won’t kill them. But they are INTENT on suicide missions, it seems. They divebomb for spots under our feet as we walk, or cuddle around the bases of light bulbs in the lamps only to be fried with a disconcerting ZZZZAPPP, or make their way into Livvy’s paws and mouth. Oh well.

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Heating Season: Remember Safety

October 24, 2009

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If you have a woodstove, gas- or oil-fueled furnace, please remember to have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors for your home. These devices are not expensive and in some locations, they are mandatory. Usually, you can find a good sale on these devices this time of year.

There are two types of smoke detectors:

The ionization type of smoke detector detects flaming fires that start up quickly, such as flash fires, paper burning, or grease fires. Most house fires are these kinds of fires, so the ionization-type detectors are usually advised for residences.

The photoelectric types of smoke detectors perceive smouldering fires that produce a lot smoke and heat, such as cigarrette-started fires or fires that begin in couches or other soft furniture. Less than 30% of house fires are these kinds of fires.

It is advised that smoke detectors be installed on every level of the home– basement, first floor, second floor, etc. Detectors should be placed on ceilings outside of sleeping areas.

Carbon monoxide detectors sense the invisible carbon monoxide gas. They are a little more complex than the smoke detectors, coming in three types of sensors: metal oxide, biomimetic and electrochemical. There are slight performance differences between the types, but all detectors are supposed to be tested and officially approved for their effectiveness. Carbon monoxide detectors are usually installed within 15 feet of each bedroom. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for each device.

Individually, detectors are not terribly expensive, usually at $10 to $15 apiece. But if you have a big house as I do, the cost certainly adds up! If you are looking for some good deals on smoke and carbon detectors. The First Alert series of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are very affordable. I saw some detectors priced as low as $4 for the basic smoke detector. Very nice! Be sure to change the batteries in these things regularly, too. A safety detector is only as good as its battery. (Some you can hard wire into the electrical system, too!).

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Find the Kitty Friday 10/23

October 23, 2009


Well, she wasn’t terribly creative this week… but the photos are cute, nonetheless (I think so!).

The funny thing about Livvy is that she is like a little kid when it comes to her hiding places. If she can’t see us, she assumes that we can’t see her. So playing “Find the Kitty” is a bit like playing Hide and Seek with a toddler. It’s just too cute!!

OK, so can you Find the Kitty?


P.S. She absolutely LOVES going under this thing. She’s outgrown it now, but she still thinks she can squeeze under it. Too funny!

Here’s a bonus shot. She’s shooting her laser at me.


Have a great weekend, everyone!

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Giving the Furnace a Vacation

October 23, 2009

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I’m continuing my series of ways, tips, and products to save money this heating season. Check the category “HVAC” or do a search for “heating” and “furnace” for more posts on this subject.

I have a great big old house, having more holes than Swiss cheese. Also, 90% of my home is uninsulated, and cannot be until I remove the bricks (called “noggin”) from between the studs (which means I have to gut every room and replace every wall). And to top it all off, half of the house is in the renovating process, so there are large gaps and holes in the walls. I have gone through the house and duct-taped heavy plastic sheeting over most of the renovation holes, but wowsa, this place gets cold. It was cold even before we started renovating. So our furnace works very hard, and it costs a fortune to run. I’ve been slowing gathering ways and alternative methods to help allay our reliance on that money pit that sits in our basement. A few things I have found that help:

1.) Seal off unused portions of the house with heavy drapes.
2.) Seal off doors and doorways with heavy drapes.
3.) Use space heaters in rooms where we spend most of our day.

I used to be adamant against electric space heaters, believing them to be very expensive. But even while electricity is more expensive, pound for pound, than natural gas (which our furnace uses as fuel), it is more economical to turn down the furnace and use a space heater in the areas we frequent. The problem lies with the larger rooms, such as the living room. Our small space heaters just don’t seem able to permeate the biting cold that hits us over the winter. We actually looked into getting a woodstove. However, woodstoves require constant care, constant cleaning, and providing for a constant supply of wood (which means constant labor supplying and carrying it). AND we’d have to build a type of outlet/chimney AND get a permit from the town to do all this. Wow. No thanks.

So we looked into fake fireplaces. We’re still looking into them, actually. (I’m very slow to make up my mind, these days, ugh). I have always liked the natural gas fireplaces, but this would require a plumber to come and set up a new supply run of pipes. We may do this someday, but not this year. I have been looking into electric fireplaces. I can set up a dedicated circuit for it easily enough, not requiring any hired help to do it. I’m just wondering how truly economical the electric fireplaces are compared to the natural gas ones. After all is said and done, which one is better? If any of you readers out there have an opinion or any experience, I’d surely appreciate a comment or review!

there’s a beautiful Bionaire Electric Fireplace and it comes with a remote control AND it has a safety shut-off AND a timer that you can preset (very nice!). It’s running for only $260 with free shipping– I think that’s a very reasonable price.

So this is my next experiment into the HVAC world of economy. I think a “fake” fireplace would serve us well and relieve us from heating the entire house all the time. Please– if you have any experience with such a unit, let me know!

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Looking at Electric Heaters

October 22, 2009

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I do not trust kerosene heaters. They are a terrible burn and fire hazard. I had a few bad experiences as a young lady (turned it on only for the flames to go POOF; another time, I burned holes in a shirt that I had been drying over the heater). And if you have young children or rambunctious pets, kerosene heaters are in danger of being tipped or pushed over. Plus, the kerosene creates a lousy soot that coats everything, YUK! I’d much rather pay a little more in electricity for “clean” heat. I bought an electric heater a few years ago for our living room, and now I’m looking into getting one for my daughters’ room upstairs, that gets terribly cold in the winter. Now that I rewired their bedroom, we can safely run a heater up there! yay! 😀

I tend to stick with “name brand” products when I purchase important appliances like electric heaters. There’s a sweet Honeywell Mini Tower Surround Heater. There is no free shipping with the model, but the shipping is still quite inexpensive. has a very good selection of name-brand heaters right now, just in time, too! We’re trying to run the big furnace a little less frequently, and stay huddled around space heaters where possible.

What to look for in an electric heater? Well, efficiency– my other heater generates 1500 watts on high power; the Honeywell model is nice because it has a fan that circulates air all around the heater and not just in the front of it. I also look for protection from tips and overheating– a good electric heater will shut off if the unit tips over or if the unit gets too hot. And the name-brand is just a little added protection (warranty, a United States-based company to contact if necessary, etc).

So while I would never heat my home 24/7 with an expensive electric heater, they do have their uses for small, cold areas. has some good prices, get your space heaters before they sell out by mid-winter.

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Composting Leaves for Next Year’s Garden

October 21, 2009


Well, we’ve raked the yard twice so far, and most of the leaves are still on the trees yet. We have a half-acre of yard boasting 10+ deciduous trees (plus, there’s a 100 year-old oak next door whose leaves we usually get)… that’s a LOT of raking. I can’t believe I used to do most of it myself when we first moved here! Thank God for teenagers!

Since burning leaves is forbidden in our township, the town comes through twice a month with their industrial-sized vacuum, and slurps up all the leaves that residents have piled by the curb. We get so many leaves that we do take advantage of this service, but for the other half of the leaves, I compost them for the gardens. It’s an easy, VERY cheap way to fortify your garden soil with all sorts of yummy nutrients!



Composting leaves doesn’t take a fancy bin, either. All you need to do is drive four metal stakes into the ground, […]

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Protecting Against Power Surges

October 21, 2009

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Well, winters storms are only a few weeks away, and that usually means power outages. Sudden power outages, and power surges, can cause terrible damage to electronics. I have a very high-power (and expensive) computer and monitor that I use for my business. Earlier this year, we had a severe sudden power outage with power surge, and all my computers went ZZZAPPP. Thank God, I had the computers plugged into power strips with surge protectors, but being without Internet service and my computer for several hours was tough! And the sudden shutdown of the computers with a power outage is not good for them.

I bought an uninterruptible power supply battery backup system to protect my computer unit and DSL router and to provide power during outages. Wow! What a difference! We’ve since had several outages, and the APC has performed really well.

The battery backups don’t power your electronics very long, though. I have my router, behemoth computer, and 23″ screen monitor (a big power sucker it is) and am able to have about 15 minutes of battery power until I have to shut things down. Of course, if I didn’t use my big computer and used, say, my laptop on its own battery, the APC unit will last much longer. But the APC gives me enough time to finish up what I am doing and shutdown my computer properly during outages. If you have expensive electronics that you want to protect, check these things out, they are very nice to have! I don’t think they are terribly expensive, especially if you can get one on sale. They are certainly less expensive than a new computer or computer repair!

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