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You’ve Got Questions…..

May 16, 2012

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I love forums. Since I write articles for so many diverse topics, I often come across forums. While visiting forums are not generally considered to be the most reliable method for exacting information, I like them because I can glean so much from the experiences of others. Many a time, a forum member has posted some fix for a computer or plumbing problem that I found useful.

So I want to mention a very cool forum for homeowners. It’s called and the owner of the site is a terrific guy. He just opened up a helpful Questions and Answers section, too. You can ask away– ask questions about your appliances, roof, electrical, anything. If you know a thing or two about the topic, leave your answer. Or read others’ answers. Or, just post a comment to commiserate with us other homeowners, lol.

It’s a really good place to get information. Check it out!

Note: This is not a sponsored post. I’m writing about this site because the owner is a very nice guy and the website is extremely helpful! I recommend it. 🙂

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Old Home Owner’s Malaise

June 13, 2011


Maybe this is normal. I don’t know.

I’m suffering from a severe case of the Old Home Blues. I have absolutely no energy to tackle any projects around here. Not the garden, not all the undone little projects from the kitchen renovation from last summer…. and when I encounter a “new” problem, I just want to go to bed and pretend it isn’t there. Right now, if I could sell and make a profit, I would. I would get a new house (in old-house speak, a new house is one that was built post World War II). ALL the plumbing and electric and insulation and windows would be done. Maybe even have nice carpeting and a deck and a downstairs toilet that doesn’t bubble when the upstairs is flushed… It would be the next thing to heaven. yeah.

Oh, I’m down in the dumps about another plumbing problem. Honestly, I kinda thought we were over the plumbing problems, last year after we replaced everything—well, ALMOST everything, and that’s the problem right there.

The handle to the bathtub faucet broke off yesterday. I dropped a small plastic container of hand soap on it, and BOOP it snapped. Just a handle, though. Tub handles are replaceable, easy– you screw off the old and screw on the new!! EASY!!!

*violent sobbing*

The faucet handle stem is plastic. The stem is the rod inside the handle that turns the water supply on and off as you spin the handle. Every single diagram I have ever seen shows metal stems. The screw off. EVERY SINGLE ONE.

Except mine. Mine’s plastic. And they don’t screw off.  Nope, the system is all integrated. The chrome sleeve escutcheon, the valve body inside the wall. All integrated. So we can’t just screw off the old and screw on the new. We have to GUT THE BATHROOM WALL and replace ALL the copper pipes to install a new valve, stem and faucet fixtures.

tub faucet plastic stem1

You can see the plastic stem end that broke off.

tub faucet plastic stem2

The chrome sleeve will NOT budge. I think it’s welded to the valve (inside the wall). There’s no threaded flange to screw on and off. We managed to remove the plastic cartridge from the sleeve. I’ve never seen anything like it in a tub handle, but then again, I’m no plumber. I can understand the cartridge inside as plastic.. but plastic for the STEM?! The rod that sticks out upon which the entire handle spins? It’s born to fail.

tub faucet plastic stem4

tub faucet plastic stem3

I don’t think this type of tub handle set is even made anymore. We would kinda like to modernize the whole thing, but we’d have to replace the whole thing, a monumental task. This is the valve from the “access panel” behind the shower. Note that the panel covers the right side of the plumbing. There’s a wall stud there. We can’t replace the valve, anyway, unless I hack through the wall with a reciprocating saw.

tub faucet plastic stem5

Do you hear that banshee-screaming-like sound? That’s not the wind. That’s my whining, all the way from New York State.

Hey, if any of you old-timers have any advice to offer me, please do. 🙂

Update: I’ve done more research online, and it looks like the plastic cartridge is replaceable (the brand is Universal Rundle). I even found an online store that sells them!!!!! That’s encouraging. The Hubs is going to decide whether he wants to simply replace the cartridges and leave the cob job cobbed, or replace the entire valve system to something more modern. We’d have to rip out part of the wall for that…. it’s not a large portion of the wall, but I foresee some issues. I only pray that all the twisting and shaking we did yesterday to get the handles apart has not broken the seals around the copper pipes! Pray that we don’t get a leak!

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Things Your Mail Carrier Won’t Tell You

February 21, 2011


My husband is a part-time mail carrier. It’s not an easy job, especially in Upstate New York in the winter. Since the United States Post Office is in the news a lot right now (with all their financial problems and the threat of cutting Saturday delivery to make ends meet), I thought it would be cool to mention a few things about the post office– things you may not know because the media fails to report it.

Just for the record, I am against the USPS ending Saturday delivery. I think it would be fatal to the USPS, a really stupid move. What they SHOULD do is end the mandatory (super-expensive) pensions and perks that they dole out to retirees and veteran workers. [Note: I know this is a touchy subject, especially in light of the hooplah going on in Wisconsin. I feel the same way about things in NY– it’s too expensive to maintain a top-heavy government, and painful choices are being made.] There’s also quite a bit of waste in the USPS that can be slashed, but it takes acts of Congress to make these changes. The USPS is under government control, but they don’t receive a PENNY in tax money. Another example of waste is that some postal areas blend delivery areas– this doubles the expense of delivering mail because TWO or more offices serve ONE area.

Anyway, I saw a list at 13 Things Your Mail Carrier Won’t Tell You at the Reader’s Digest website, and thought it was very worthy of passing on. These are all things my husband has brought up in one way or another. I include the best here. My own comments are in regular type.

  • Maybe your dog won’t bite you. But in 2009, 2,863 of us were bitten, an average of nine bites per delivery day. That’s why I wince when your Doberman comes flying out the door. My husband has told me quite a few stories of some VERY close calls he’s had with dogs that “wouldn’t hurt a flea.” Uh huh. Folks, do you want your mail? Keep the dog inside. My kids need their dad home, not in a hospital.
  • Remember this on Valentine’s Day: It takes our machines longer to read addresses on red envelopes (especially if they’re written in colored ink).
  • Photo from Wikipedia

  • Media Mail is a bargain, but most of you don’t know to ask for it. Sending ten pounds of books from New York City to San Francisco through Media Mail costs $5.89, compared with $16.77 for Parcel Post. Besides books, use it to send manuscripts, DVDs, and CDs; just don’t include anything else in the package.
  • The USPS doesn’t get a penny of your tax dollars.
  • UPS and FedEx charge you $10 or more for messing up an address. Us? Not a cent. My husband will even make up the difference if an envelope is not properly stamped.
  • Paychecks, personal cards, letters—anything that looks like good news—I put those on top. Utility and credit card bills? They go under everything else. Junk mail, flyers, and mail for stuff like is cased at the bottom.
  • Mail carriers also have to endure- day after day– the smut and glut of porno and “ladies” magazines. Some magazines, like Playboy, are required to conceal their magazine covers with plastic or paper, but the “ladies” mags like “Shape” or “Cosmopolitan” do not, and those covers are sickening. I feel so sorry for mail carriers who have to endure that junk. You know, if the USPS forced such magazines to pay a little extra to cover their stuff, I’ll betcha that would solve the USPS financial problems in a one week, not to mention a whole lot of consciences and marriages.
  • Sorry if I seem like I’m in a hurry, but I’m under the gun: Our supervisors tell us when to leave, how many pieces of mail to deliver, and when we should aim to be back. Then some of us scan bar codes in mailboxes along our route so they can monitor our progress.
  • Yes, we do have to buy our own stamps, but a lot of us carry them for customers who need them. Very true! My husband always has a stash of stamps and he adds them gratis. He’s such a swell guy. Sad thing is, no one ever seems to realize how generous he really is. He also gets out of the car and moves your trash cans that have blown out in front of your mailbox, even though he does not HAVE to legally deliver your mail if there’s an impediment to your box.
  • Please dress properly when you come to the door. A towel wrapped around you doesn’t cut it. And we definitely don’t want to see you in your underwear—or naked! My husband has had a few very uncomfortable encounters with ladies who treat the mailman as if he was some kind of nobody, not worthy of respect. It’s not fun to have to deliver mail to jiggly ladies who wear less cotton than an aspirin bottle. :-p
  • We serve 150 million addresses six days a week, so we’re often in the right place at the right time. We pull people out of burning cars, catch burglars in the act, and call 911 to report traffic accidents, dead bodies, and more. My husband actually came to the rescue of an older, heavyset gentlemen living in a rural area who had fallen and couldn’t get up. His wife was trying to help him, but she was too weak to lift him. Together, my husband and the lady couldn’t even lift him, so my husband waited with the couple at their home until a rescue team arrived, because the wife was so stressed. It took the rescue team half an hour to get there, and that was time out of my husband’s day (and he was late for his second job, too).
  • Most of us don’t mind if you pull up to our trucks while we’re delivering and ask for your mail a little early. But please get out of your car and come get it. Don’t just put your hand out your window and wait for me to bring it to you.
  • We go to great lengths to deliver to every address, no matter how remote. That’s why, in the most rural areas, even UPS and FedEx rely on us to make their final deliveries. True. And some places are VERY remote. I have had to rescue my husband out of some places, too. One rural place, he ran out of gas. And another time, during a snowstorm, the van slipped into a ditch and fell in sideways. I had to try to tow him out (couldn’t) so we called a tow truck. All the while, the mail delivery was delayed. What was really sad was that, while we were out in the storm waiting for a tow truck, a customer on the route with a honking big SUV roared by us, didn’t even stop to help. 🙁 But he got his mail with a smile, anyway.
  • Those plants around your mailbox are beautiful, but I’d like them better if you kept them trimmed back. Please don’t plant flowers because bees and ants like them.
  • Is it hot enough for me? The heat index is 110 degrees. What do you think? (Instead of asking that, offer me a cold drink.)
  • Despite the “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” motto, we’re instructed not to deliver to a mailbox if the snow and ice around it isn’t cleared. Most of us take the motto to heart, though, and do our best to deliver in even the most hazardous conditions. My husband does everything humanly possible to deliver the mail, even for rude people who do not shovel their boxes out. And you know what? If the mail can’t get delivered that day, it has to be delivered the NEXT day– that’s TWO days mail that has to be delivered in ONE day in the same amount of time. And my husband has actually had to call in unavailable for his second job because the mail delivery was so heavy that day– so, he LOST money because he lost HOURS on his other job, because some folks didn’t shovel their mailboxes out and that made a chain reaction with the mail load. So give the mailman a break.
  • I have people who leave a letter in their box and tape 44 cents in change to it. I’ll take it, but the next day I’ll be waiting in line like everyone else to buy you a stamp.
  • It’s a small thing that makes my job so much easier: Please park your car in the driveway instead of in front of the mailbox. I live on a busy street, and while I never park in front of my mailbox, lots of people do. That means, I don’t get my mail because their car is in the way. 🙁

I hope this gives a little perspective on the USPS and the millions of men and women who work there. These people work very hard and deal with a multitude of mail products, people, weather and animals. I think they deserve our support! Thanks for reading. 🙂

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December 18, 2010

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Ever try scrubbing your home’s exterior siding or basement floor? NOT FUN. Our basement floods from time to time, leaving behind silty mud and a bad smell (not to mention that the cats make a total mess down there). One of my dreaded spring chores is to hose it out. I use my garden hose with the minimal pressure it provides, and it takes a long time and a LOT of water to clean that floor. Maybe i should look into power washing services, eh? If I consider the cost of water (very expensive here) and my labor, I’d probably break even if I hired a team. Because my basement sump well eventually pumps the ground water back into the storm water reservoir, I’d have to make sure that the company used green technology. I wouldn’t want any chemicals or gunk going back into the system.

If you are in the west coast and are in need of some cleaning up, check out Mr. Pressure Wash (catchy name, don’t you think?). Most pressure washing machines need to be rigged up to your water supply (ouch, that’s hard on the budget), and it’s a cost that companies sometimes don’t give when they offer estimates. Mr. Pressure Wash is unique– they use and reuse their own water! They also don’t use caustic chemicals– instead, they use special enzymes to wash out oils, stains, and other dirt. Estimates are free.

Photo courtesy of

I think it’s terrific that companies like Mr. Pressure Wash are being more considerate of our natural resources and the high costs associated with pressure washing. Kudos to them for offering a great alternative!

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Home Design Software Deals

August 25, 2009

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Well, the outdoor activities will soon be ending here in the Northern Hemisphere.. and with it comes up to six months of dormancy for us in the Northeast. :-p The only nice things about it is that we have plenty of time to plan out our designs for the next coming outdoor season. In mid-autumn, I start to acquire a growing stack of books and software to help me learn and plan the next steps for my gardens and home renovations– and I SURELY hope to get that new kitchen in next summer!

So of course, the natural thing to do is look for deals while I’m acquiring. 😀 And look what I found! Some very cool home design and landscape design software is selling for very low prices! That’s the 3D Home & Architect Home & Landscape, on sale for $36 with free shipping! That’s 40% off retail price.

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Online Manuals

August 18, 2009

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I have a BILLION manuals in my file cabinets. I have two file cabinets, with TWO drawers-full of manuals, even to appliances that I no longer own. Yow, I have really got to go through those cabinets. What a wreck. And wouldn’t ya know– I needed to find a manual for one of my sanding tools the other day, and we can’t find it. OH GREAT. Here I have 2 billion manuals for every appliance I’ve owned since 1989, and I can’t find the one I need! Sheesh!

Well…. I’ll put this bug in your ear because it helped me– (No this is not a paid post!). I love these people. They have uploaded manuals to scores and scores of every thing under the sun– vacuums, coffeemakers, DVD players, printers, and for my Skil sander. Man, this place was a lifesaver– I heard about it from Kim Komando (the computer geek). The manuals are free. Bookmark the site, you’ll be glad you did.

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Rethinking Home Security

January 15, 2009


I grew up in small towns, but they were only minutes away from the “big cities.” Remember the days way back when, when all we had to do for home security was close the curtains at night?? We never had to lock our doors or windows; we knew our neighbors and they knew us, and we all looked out for each other. Theft or home intrusions? That was the stuff of movies and in the worst of the big cities.

Those days are OVER, aren’t they? Nowadays, it’s risky to leave your home unlocked. It’s really even too risky to merely rely on locks to keep out the criminals– nowadays, beefy home security is becoming a necessity. By far, the most popular and most successful company in home security is ADT. I see the ADT sticker on house doors everywhere. ADT provides monitored burglar, fire, and video surveillance systems round the clock; and ADT serves more than six million people in the United States alone!

The best thing about ADT besides it’s superb security monitoring system, is that it is very affordable for the average American. Security systems used to be the stuff of the rich and famous, right? Not so anymore. At a time whem crime is rising and the average American’s possessions are more valuable than ever, ADT has risen to the occasion to offer very good and affordable packages to meet any budget. I know that when I finally get my own house renovated, we’re installing an ADT security system. The basic burglary security package is on special right now– $99 installation after rebate, and just $42.99 a month for continous monitoring. That’s the cost of a pizza dinner for a family of 6! I think the deal is amazing. ADT can monitor your home for burglary, fire, home health for seniors, home video surveillance, and even identity theft. 24/7, your home is monitored!

ADT Security

Check out the ADT website for more information, or call 1-866-746-7238. ADT can schedule you for a free home security evaluation. And if you have a business with security needs, ADT can handle it with their extensive business packages. ADT is contracted to handle federal government security services– there’s no doubt they can manage everything for your home and business! Check them out. Security systems are rapidly becoming a necessary fixture for homes and businesses. You don’t want to be the only house on the block with just a lock between you and a criminal.

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A Terrific Casserole Recipe Book

December 31, 2008

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Happy New Year!

How’s it working, with you using up all those leftovers from the holiday meals?

Yeah, me neither.

Well, I have some good news for you. I was scouting out deals at local stores (I tend to do my yearly gift-giving shopping after the holdays, when sales are to be had), and found this:


This is THE best casserole recipe book, ever! I just *hate* casseroles. :-p They are usually too heavy, too creamy, and too dry. So I rarely make them. But what else can you do with leftovers?! I found this book, Better Homes & Gardens Biggest Book of Casseroles. It was in the clearance shelf at TJ Maxx (amongst the stale candles, ice cream makers and mini air tools). It was selling for $20 there, originally, but I got it for $5.99! Not even Amazon can top that price!

The recipes are pretty good, and are organized into meatless, potluck, side dish, poultry, bread, dessert, and etc. There are some good tips and resources in the front of the book. Looks like a good one, with over 380 recipes! Not too bad for $6, eh?

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The Black & Decker Can Opener

November 6, 2008

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About a year ago, I blogged about my plight with can openers. They hate me! When I married, I got three can openers as wedding gifts. Before my first anniversary, they were all dead. I have tried buying various models, only to see them defunct within a few months. I reverted to my very old hand can opener, something my grandmother gave me when I was single. Her can opener has lasted me years– decades! But last year, it started to fail. The spinner wasn’t spinning. I bought another hand-cranking can opener (all made in China, now), and it broke within a month. Again, I bought another, and it broke. I was at wit’s end!

My sister read my post and came over one day, carrying her can opener. She said she had two, and I could have one of them. (Ain’t she sweet?) She showed me how to use it and treat it real nice (remember I said can openers hate me). But this was a can opener like no other– it didn’t have any flowery names like “Sunbeam” or “Can Opener Delight.”
This was a honking towering big black monster with a growling blade. It was a BLACK & DECKER can opener!! The father of all can openers!

Nonetheless, I had a pretty bad track record with can openers. But I was reminded that although can openers hate me, my power tools do love me. I immediately bonded with this can opener because it has the same name as my jigsaw and my screwdriver set (very reliable). Black & Decker make monster power saws– a can opener by them has got to be good, right?!

Well I’m happy to say that the Black & Decker has performed exceptionally well. It tolerates my nuances, my quirks, my sloppy can-holding technique… and still the B&D bites through my canned corn like it’s a stick of butter. I’m pretty impressed. I think the end of this story just may be “and they lived happily ever after.” 😀

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A Review of the Upright Vacuum by GE

November 5, 2008


“Upright Vacuum” isn’t exactly a creative name for GE’s gold-colored vac. I guess it’s better than the model number (169171). I bought the vacuum at WalMart several months ago when my lemon (a Dirt Devil) died. I had only a few qualifications and I’d be happy:

HEPA filter
onboard attachments
small amperage use
actually vacuumed floors

Vacuum box

Vacuum 1

Vacuum 4

I don’t know why vacuums are generally very poorly made. I haven’t had a good, solid, quality vacuum in about 25 years, when Sears and GE made them in this country. All the vacuums seem to be made of cheap plastic and fragile moving parts. We usually replace our vacuum every year or two, and that’s a LOT to add to the credit cards for a $50 to $100 appliance.

The GE has three separate filters, all very small. One is a HEPA filter about the size of an index card. The other two filters are small plastic foam filters. The HEPA must be replaced every month ($10) but the plastic foam filters are washable– you just rinse them out.

Two positive and two negative things stand out with this vacuum. For one, it’s a pretty powerful vacuum at 10amps and 120 volts. It does a good job on low shag (or no shag carpets). It picks up dirt from my indoor-outdoor carpeting like no other vacuum has before.

Vacuum rug

The HEPA filter idea is nice, even though it’s small. The monthly cost of $10 is a little steep. My floors are not all carpeted so I think I can stretch the time span a little.

Negatively, the machine has an adjustable handle, but it’s a joke. It wobbles so bad that the vacuum is unstable. So the handle must be kept at a short-height setting. And the dirt container (with “dual cyclone action”) does not stay in the vacuum. One of the kids was carrying the vacuum down the stairs, holding the handle in the front. The handle is part of the dirt container. It popped out of the latch and the vacuum went tumbling down the stairs. The vacuum was amazingly not broken! But we now know that you can’t use the front handle… so it’s awkward to carry.

My daughter does the vacuuming in the house. She is mildly satisfied with the GE Upright Vacuum, but there are a few glaring blemishes. Here is her list of pros and cons:

Has a height adjuster in the handle
Uses a filter, not a bag
Has a hose and attachments
Works better than a broom…
Shiny gold paint (put it in the corner and guests will never guess it’s a vac!)
Vacuums short carpets well

Adjustable handle is wobbly and unstable
Does not vacuum corners well (too thick and bulky)
Dirt container empties from the bottom, so it’s awkward and messy
Cord is not long enough
Tools are a little loose and rickety in their places
Does not vacuum thicker carpets well

So the consensus is… we’ll probably be looking for another vacuum in a year or two. I have yet to find the “perfect” vacuum. Maybe instead of the stores, I should try the garage sales and look for an old Kirby or Kenmore….

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