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Rose Vinegar for Soothing Sunburns?

June 23, 2011

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I’m not going to wait until somebody gets sunburn to try this out, so I’m mentioning it here now in case any of you have heard of such a thing: rose vinegar for sunburns. Some gals in the natural herbal section of the blogosphere are praising it’s benefits. I am definitely going to try it. I’m curious like that.

Here’s how you make rose vinegar:

  • Fill a glass jar with fresh rose petals and leaves.
  • Fill the jar with apple cider vinegar.
  • Cap the jar with a PLASTIC lid! Vinegar will eat through a metal one and discolor your vinegar solution.
  • Allow the glass jar to sit for 3 to 6 weeks.

To treat a sunburn, pour 1/4 of a cup of rose vinegar into a bowl. Mix in a few cups of fresh, cool water. Dip a clean, cotton cloth into the rose vinegar and wring lightly. Dab the sunburned skin with the rose vinegar. Apply as needed. Rose vinegar also helps cool insect bites and stings and heat rash.

I am definitely going to make it! I’ll have my scientific results for you in a few weeks. 🙂

LivvyDarling1

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How to Keep an Old House Cool in the Summer

May 27, 2011

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Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away…. before the 1970s malaise and even before the Industrial Revolution, most homeowners focused more on keeping their homes cool in the summer than warm in the winter. Back then, wood and coal were plenteous, and labor was cheap (not to mention that families had dozens of kids back then), so heating the house was relatively easy. Houses were built to release heat. High ceilings were the repositories of warmed air; thin glass windows– the bane of our modern homes– and drafty rooms kept the house well ventilated. I’d even heard that the reason for all the decorative gingerbread features in Victorian homes was not for aesthetic reasons, but to give the impression of icicles and therefore the illusion of coolness. I am not sure if this is 100% true, but it’s what I’ve heard.

4snow2011

That's the closest I'll ever get to gingerbread on this house...

At any rate, the world is turned upside down, now. Thanks to the energy crunch, we homeowners must seal every crack, plug every hole, lower ceilings, install thicker windows with better quality glass…. and while there’s great benefit, in hot or cold weather, to insulating walls and sealing every crack, it does make the interior of the house rather airless during summers. Airless homes are not healthy. Mold and mildew love homes with temperate, stale air. Toxins within the home, such as natural gas and small traces of carbon dioxide, reach poisonous proportions in tightly-sealed homes. And since we are in our homes more frequently than previous generations, ventilation is all the more important for our health and well-being.

Close Up

Our old wiring could never have supported the large electric load of an air conditioner.

I have lived in old homes all my life. Old homes aren’t really built for the power-sucking, window-filling air conditioning systems of today. My old homes had outdated electric, unable to withstand the kilowatt slurping window-installed air conditioner. And unless we gutted the walls or purchased new fangled cooling units, we couldn’t install central air, either. So I grew up learning the passive methods of keeping a house cool in the summer. I remember my mom waking up very early on summer mornings to “batten down the hatches” before a particularly sultry summer day dawned. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned over the years:

1. Open the windows at night.
Summer nights are obviously cooler than summer days. I place fans in the windows, blowing cool night air in at night. I sleep better when it’s cool, too.

2. Close the windows before the sun rises.
After encouraging the cool summer night air to enter the house through open windows, I basically seal the cool air in for as long as possible by closing off the source of the heat– the summer day. All windows are closed and curtains are drawn. I may have one upstairs window open, with a fan blowing out.

3. Know the natural air flow of your home.

Every home has some kind of natural air flow to it. I have studied the flow of the drafts in my home, so I know what directions the air naturally travels downwind. If I work WITH instead of against the flow, I can save energy (and money). This helps me to position fans in the right areas, especially that upstairs “out” fan I mentioned in #2. There’s one room in the house upstairs where all the air goes into. I open the window in that room and point the fan out. The fan will blow the heated air that is rising up from the first floor out the window. This does two things: it removes the heated air, and provides a constant draft that makes the house feel cooler.

4. Hang heavy drapes.

Solar energy is a marvelous thing, but when it’s making you sweat buckets, it stinks. I close all windows and blinds during the hottest time of the day (from 11am to 5:30 pm). My current home is situated in the middle of a small business district, with large sections of heat-pumping asphalt all around me. Heavy drapes are my only barrier between comfort and that nasty, heat-belching asphalt.

Whew Exhaustion

ISSOHOT

5. Reduce heat-producing appliance use.
Obviously, the clothes dryer is a biggie here. If you have a laundry area right in the living quarters, it can get pretty hot, running that thing. Hang clothes or relocate your dryer to the basement. Don’t use the stove at ALL (you’ll really regret it!)– get a grill and cook outside. Computers generate a lot of heat, so turn off the ones you are not using. Lower your hot water tank thermostat. Use the “air dry” cycle on the dishwasher. Turn off lights. Regard anything that produces heat as an impediment to your goal.

6. Plant deciduous trees on the south and west sides of the house.
Deciduous trees will provide shade for your land during the hot summers. The nice about deciduous trees is that they will drop their leaves by winter, giving your home access to the warm sun that is welcome in the winter. Don’t plant them too closely to the house, or you may have roof and/or gutter problems when the leaves drop in the autumn.

7. Plant evergreen trees on the north side of the house.
Much like deciduous trees on the south, evergreens offer your home a little barrier. But while deciduous trees provide a barrier from the hot sun in the summer, evergreen trees provide a barrier from the cold north winds in the winter.

8. Install light colored roof shingles.
Black asphalt shingles retain heat and continue radiating it. Shingles in white, gray, or even red absorb less of the sun’s sweltering rays.

9. Insulate the attic.
And seal all holes and cracks from the attic to the living areas. In my old home, the insulation is both insufficient and disgusting. It’s the old cellulose crap– loaded with dust and it stinks like all get-out. Oh, how I hate cellulose insulation!

Attic2

How I HATE this attic!

 

Well, anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, seal the holes! In my home, the roof heats up and the backyard heats up thanks to all that asphalt, and the heat builds up to epic proportions in the attic. And I know all about physics, but in my house the heat actually DROPS. Must be wacky airflow. But the house sometimes smells like the attic and the upstairs gets really hot. When we gut the upstairs, I’m going to seal that blasted attic.

10. Open the basement door.
Before we had our sneaky cat who is always trying to get outside, we would open the basement door and place a fan in the doorway. I really can’t believe how wonderfully cool the basement is. When the weather gets really oppressive, I sometimes go down there to cool back down to 98.6.

FTK 3.26No2

Of course, sitting in the refrigerator is a great way to cool off...

11. Install awnings over south-facing windows.
Believe me, this works. My new kitchen window at 4 feet by 5 feet is so wonderful, but it faces south and receives the full brunt of the hot summer sun and asphalt.

So there ARE ways to keep the house cool without busting your energy bill. After all, you’ll need to save every dollar you can for the winter’s heating bills!

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Get Rid of It. Yeah.

May 26, 2011

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WHAT IS IT with all this crazy weather?? Will someone please tell me?! Flooding here, flooding in the Mississippi?? Vicious tornadoes and I saw that they even had snow in Colorado?? In late MAY, for pete’s sake.

🙁

My area is still cleaning up from late April’s flash flooding. Everything is just so messy. Like everyone else, we’re chipping away at the messes, but we really don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to cleanup.

I recently heard about a very nice junk removal business– Getridofit.com – Affordable Junk Removal and Hauling. These guys look amazing! They solve the problem of junk removal, which, as you might suspect, can be very painful on the budget as well as on the emotions. Many people think their only recourse for removing junk is to hire a (very very) expensive professional hauler. We paid THROUGH THE NOSE last year for dumpster service. Ouch.

Well, the guys at GetRidofIt.com give you the ability to find more affordable junk removal teams in your area. GetRidofIt.com has a list of companies with excellent ratings based on price and customer service. It’s pretty easy to find junk removers in your area– just visit the GetRidofIt.com website and type in your zip code. And if you are an ambitious entrepreneur looking to start up a junk removal business (and it’s looking like a pretty lucrative career, these days!) you can sign up your company to get on the GetRidofIt.com’s list! Check out more information on the website. This is a good website to bookmark, too. Because even if you don’t have a natural disaster or renovation going on, you’re going to always need a helping hand to get rid of the old furniture, barbeque, busted bicycles, broken lawn furniture……

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Improving the Lawn, Naturally

April 5, 2011

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I recently wrote an article about pet-friendly lawn fertilizers, and the topic got me thinking more about my own lawn and my methods. Chemical lawn fertilizers, despite their claims of non-toxicity, are still chemical agents. These chemicals may remain in the lawn for quite some time. Dogs romp in the grass, and may absorb the chemicals into their skin. Cats nibble the grass and lick their paws. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like chemicals, period, and I don’t want my pets rolling around in it.

A Boy and His Cat

We want Fuzzy to be safe in the lawn.

There are ways to fertilizer and improve your lawn naturally, without any chemicals at all. And even better, the natural methods are less expensive and better for the environment, too. Here are some tips I have gathered throughout the course of my research.

1. Aerate your lawn.

Over time, grass lawns become packed down from foot traffic, lawn mowers, and thick growth. Grass needs air just like any organism. Use a lawn scarifier to aerate the grass. The scarifier, available as manual or powered devices, roll across your lawn. A roller with peg-like appendages puncture your lawn. Some fancier models remove dead grass, moss, and weeds, too. The small holes will be barely noticeable to you, but they provide little channels where air, water, and minerals can soak directly into grass roots.

2. Mulch the lawn.

Leaves are nutrient-packed mulch, like liquid gold for your lawn. It’s best to compost them the year before– pile up leaves in a bin in the fall, and allow them to decompose. By the time spring arrives, the leaves should have decayed into a dark loam. Sprinkle the mulch onto the lawn with a shovel, in broad strokes, and rake the mulch into the grass. This is THE best fertilizer for your grass.

Round Bed2

Look for natural mulch without added colorants and chemicals.

3. Shred the grass clippings.

Some folks mow their lawns, then rake up the grass clippings and pile them on the street curb for the town to pick up. Know that if you do this, you are giving away some very valuable (and free!) fertilizer. Instead, invest in a lawn mower that shreds or mulches the grass as you mow it, and leave the clippings on the lawn. The clippings will decompose and provide the lawn with nitrogen and other yummy nutrients. Never leave clods of grass in your lawn, however. The clods block the sunlight and can cause fungus or mold to grow. Rake up large clods of grass clippings.

Dregs of Snow Jan102008

A badly damaged lawn full of weeds may need to be replaced.

 

4. Don’t over-mow the lawn.

If grass is cut too short, it cannot photosynthesize properly to produce enough food for growth. The weeds will eventually overpower the weakened grass. For most grasses, the lawn mower should be set to 2 to 3 inches. A good rule to follow is called the 2/3 rule: mow only the top third of grass, and leave the other 2/3 intact.

5. Keep weeds at bay.

Weeds are fellow competitors, contending with grass for water, sunlight, and soil nutrients. Large weeds such as burdocks and plantain should be removed quickly before they establish a party in your lawn.

Weeding the lawn is a tough one for me. My front lawn used to be a lush, beautiful lawn. Then came several years of destructive flooding, where muddy waters and silt covered my lawn. The flooding introduced a profligate number of weeds seeds. My lawn has never really recovered, and it is not possible to root out all the weeds that wiped out my lawn. So sometimes, in serious cases, you can only do so much before you have to completely re-sod the lawn.

I hope these tips help you! There ARE ways to make your home environment an enjoyable place– and a safe place– for your pets.

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Home Entertainment Ideas

March 31, 2011

2 Comments

Is it any surprise that home entertainment has made tremendous advances in the past ten years. Remember WAY BACK when, about 15 years ago, when we all had one of these?

But now, there are these:

Yow. I have the first TV but certainly not the second. Actually, I’d purchased a newer, fancier model with a flat screen just a few years ago, only to be completely outdated by the plasma, HDTV, super fancified models. I feel so old.

TV really isn’t all that important to us. I still have a barebones tube TV (we picked it up off the curb, for pete’s sake), but I have a very high-end, high octane computer and an iPad for watching stuff. It’s all a matter of priorities.

As a family, we like to watch DVDs and Internet documentaries during dinner, but since we have no television reception, we are limited to watching movies on my small laptop screen. I’ve been investigating my choice for a few months (I take forever to make sure decisions), and am leaning more toward optimization-world.com HDMI cables or a converter to rig the laptop to the TV. Getting the cables or converter at Optimization-World.com is WAY cheaper than buying a digital TV. They also sell nice VGA cables for computer to monitor connections.

So I’m pleased as punch that there are affordable options out there for old fogies like me. 😀 Maybe I’ll even write a tutorial once I finally get the ball rolling on the project….

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Finding Good CFL Bulbs

March 29, 2011

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The Old House Journal has a terrific article at oldhouseweb.com/blog/how-to-find-energy-efficient-bulbs-that-dont-suck-nutrition-facts-for-light-bulbs.

Starting in January 2011 light bulbs are required to be labeled with lumens, watts, kelvins and efficacy. Greek to you too? Not worry. The label is now clear, easy to understand and full of fun colors.

It’s good news to me. Here in New York State, we will be forced to use only CFLs (or LEDs) for lighting. I have discovered that not all CFLs are created equal, and have often wondered why the differences seems so enigmatic. I had no idea about kelvins and lumens and all that jazz. I recently purchased some “full spectrum” bulbs for our desk lamps, in the hopes that these bulbs would give us a little energy perk and cheer up our spirits on the gloomy days that New York often suffers. I’d heard that full spectrum bulbs simulate sunlight and therefore help improve mood and make you faster than a speeding bullet and etc. Honestly, I don’t rely on light bulbs to cure diseases! But if full spectrum bulbs give us a little psychological boost, then, hey- why not? Honestly, I can’t say I have noticed a huge difference. Maybe. I’m a pretty chipper person, anyway, especially when I’m at my desk. 😀

Anyway, now we have a little guide for choosing CFLs. I like it. Here’s what Old House Journal said:

1. Bedroom and Living Room: Pick a bulb in the “yellow” range as close to 2700K as you can get.

2. Garage, Basement, Laundry and Utility Room: These are rooms where mimicking the sun is okay. So, look for bulbs in the “white” range and have a high color temperature of about 5800K. Don’t go too much higher than that or you’ll end up in the ugly “blue” range.

3. Computer Screen: There is a great free program I use called F.lux. It makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day.

For more specific information, see the lightingfacts.com/Downloads/Performance_Scale.pdf U.S. Department of Energy’s CFL lighting facts chart (opens as a pdf document).

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The Kitty Finders

March 15, 2011

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Oh yeah, Find the Kitty. I left you in terrible suspense on Friday, didn’t I? Haha! Lin just can’t contain herself– WHERE’S Livvy? Were your guesses correct?!?!

Sorry if I haven’t been around. Since I got some new wheels, I’ve been zipping around town with my newfound FREEDOM, baby! Booyah!!! We have a travel vehicle once again! I think it would be SO cool. I actually will be getting some New York Traveler t-shirts for us to wear when we visit museums and such. 😀

OK OK enough teasing. 😀 Here’s the original photo of Livvy.

livisland1

She’s hiding here. Under the island.

livisland2

Please excuse the dust bunnies. They are taking over the house. :-p

livisland3

She literally SQUEEZED under the island. It was funny watching her. I only had a split second to snap a photo with the cell phone, so that’s why it’s a little blurry.

So you guys were RIGHT!!!!! You’re all professional kitty finders, you are!

When it comes to getting promo stuff, I REALLY ought to market the cat. I think she’s more popular on the Internet than I am. :-p

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Very Cool Signs!

March 15, 2011

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Besides being a clock freak, I LOVE signs. I love retro signs, safety signs, traffic signs, goofy posters, everything. I’m just as happy having a framed copy of the U.S. Constitution next to my tin sign “DRINK COFFEE! Do stupid things faster with more energy!” 😀

Finding funny signs is another matter, though. I have located a very few online stores that sell retro signs, but they charge an arm and a leg!! But I just found a new website called safetysign.com. This is neat! They have EVERYTHING– parking signs, stop signs, facility signs, recreation signs, OMG the lists are endless. AND I can create my own sign! *snicker* So I can be as eccentric as I want, and they’ll make it for me. This is very cool. Hm, I’m currently looking for a “Toxic Waste” sign for my kitchen, lol. Or maybe hang it over the dog’s area. :-p

I liked this one. Ha!

Oh, this would be PERFECT over my desk!

And I’d put this in all the kids’ rooms. (And in mine, ai chihuahua).

So there’s a sign for every body for every situation, lol. I there are a gadzillion different signs. The prices are actually pretty good, and you can order U-Channels Posts with mounting hardware in different colors. VERY COOL! Because I need to place a few “DO NOT PARK IN PRIVATE DRIVE” in my front yard. I live near a popular ice cream store, and all summer long I am asking people to please move their cars so I can get out of my driveway.

Check out the site! It’s cute. The site has mostly safety signs and such, but if you like quirky decor, or are in need a of gentle reminder for traffic passers-by, it’s a great place to get some signs!

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Home Safety and Security Tips

November 26, 2010

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Now that the heating season has officially begun, my thoughts turn to home safety and security. I’m a “be prepared” kind of gal; my family suffered a devastating house fire over 20 years ago. It was a scary thing. THANK GOD no one was home at the time, but the house was a total loss. I had just moved out to my own apartment, but I lost a lot of books and art work and other things. I am a stickler for security measures. So when winter rolls around every year, after the outdoor and renovation activities have ceased, I turn my attentions to “battening down the hatches” for another Upstate New York winter. And this is a great time to get deals for security items for the home. Here are some ideas that you can consider:

Smoke Detector
I know, this is a no-brainer, right? Everyone seems to realize that every room needs a smoke detector, but how many homes actually have a working smoke detector in every room? Since the renovation, I still haven’t gotten around to installing detectors in every room. Some local codes require that you have a detector in every room, or at least on every floor of the house (including the basement).

You can get very inexpensive smoke detectors anywhere, but I usually stick with the name-brands for stuff like this. First Alert is a good brand. I will be buying more of these.

Carbon Monoxide Detector
If you use combustible fuel sources to heat your home or your hot water, you need a carbon monoxide detector. You should install one of these on every floor of the house, and/or near the furnace or gas outlet equipment. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, highly toxic gas. A furnace or heater emits this gas when the fuel is not properly combusted. Local codes regulate the placement of these devices, so your codes may be more stringent.

Gas Alert
This is a new device that I found while shopping at Buy.com. I’m going to get one. This device senses and alerts you of gas leaks in the house. Natural and propane gas is odorless, but utility companies add a sulfuric compound to the gas, to make it smell like rotten eggs. This helps you know if there is a leak. But sometimes leaks are small, or your nose does not smell (or becomes accustomed to) the smell of gas. This device alerts you of a gas leak.

It may seem that if you get all these detectors, your entire ceiling and wall will be covered with these things! Some companies combine the detectors– I have seen combination smoke and carbon monoxide, and combination carbon monoxide and gas leak detectors.

Be sure to have batteries on hand, and replace them at least once a year!

A Safe Box
Also called a fire box or sentry box, this insulated, heavy-duty box will store your most important items in the event of flood or fire. Buy.com has a bunch of them in all shapes and sizes, from $25 to $500. Some are very sophisticated.

Most boxes are locked with keys, although the expensive brands sport electronic keypads. These things weigh a ton, and the outside is a lot bigger than the inside, so get as big a unit as you can afford. Oh, and DON’T LOSE THE KEY. Yeah.

External Hard Drive or Data Storage
If you are like me, a good portion of your most important documents and photos are digital, on your computer. Should your computer hard drive die, or should your computer become damaged by some freak of nature or accident, you could lose everything. Set aside all your important digital data on a dedicated external hard drive. Place it in the safe box for safe keeping. Update it from time to time.

External hard drives can be pricey, but you can get very good deals if you keep your eyes on a good sale. I spotted this enormous Fantom G-Force 1 Terabyte External drive for $50! That’s a steal.

If you don’t want to get an external hard drive, you can also create a DVD with the digital data, and store it in a safe place like a safe box or in a shed or something. Additionally, if you have webmail or some online storage space, you can upload that data to keep it on someone else’s server. I wouldn’t place sensitive documents there, though, because a hacker could possibly gain entry to your data. But you can store your photos on Flickr or Photobucket, or on a web server.

So home safety and security just requires a few steps and some investment. You can decrease the cost by shopping around for deals, too. Be safe!

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Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

November 24, 2010

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Wellll…. I still haven’t gotten “a round tuit” with some of the leftover projects after the renovation. Honestly, I have been having a bit of a hard time adjusting to the new kitchen. The dining room isn’t much of a big deal– I designed it to have the same colors and etc as the old one– but the kitchen is a shock. It is SO different. I have found it rather hard to adjust. I’m kind of ashamed. It’s totally, totally new, and I was so used to banging around in the old one. Now I have to be careful what I do on the counters– NO knifes! NO food stains! NO standing water! And the floors– are the planks staying together OK? Hey, you with the muddy shoes! And it goes on and on. I’m still walking on eggshells. The new room is a bit of a shock. I wanted it SO much, and now that it’s here, I’m stunned that it’s actually here. It’s like moving into a new house without going anywhere. I must be getting old or something…

Anyway, I still haven’t built my bench for the shoe area, nor have I constructed shelves for the phone area. Both areas are in the kitchen, so the half-completed construction looks out of place with the finished sections of the kitchen. The phone area is important right now. It’s the “dumping” area for my husband’s work paraphernalia. It’s important that he has everything neat and organized, so that he doesn’t forget anything when he goes to work. And I dislike the mess of it all, too.

I have been on a bit of a hunt for ways to organize the area. One thing I can do is make a small charging station for all the cell phones and mp3 players. I saw this and love it! It’s a Charging Cradle, very affordable at $25 with shipping. It keeps all the electronic doodads in ONE location, charging them while they sit. I could hug the guy who invented this thing! Charging stations come in a billion shapes and styles, but this is nice to me because it’s so simple.

This is a great time to get anything. Buy.com has a ton of stuff right now. They are gearing up for the Black Friday sale… but their prices are usually so low anyway. The customer service and speedy shipping just amazes me– I bought some software on their last sale, and the package arrived– priority shipping– in TWO days. And the shipping was free!

So I’m slowly, very very slowly, trying to chip away at all the leftover projects around here. Buy.com is a big help. 😉

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