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Is Home Security the New Necessity?

May 26, 2011

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As a very young and fresh-faced new homeowner with a passel of kids and low income, if you had asked me if home security was a necessity, I would have laughed you off the property. Our solution to ensure against the possibility of theft was “have nothing of value!”

Well, it seemed funny when I was 25….

Now, 3 or 4 years later (*snicker*), I’ve changed my thinking. Not that I own much more of value, mind you. Unless you count the “new” curbside furniture collection or the 10-year old computers and monitors, lol. We do have a new washing machine and hot water tank, but I’d like to see someone take off with those in our nosy neighborhood, uh huh.

Anyway, home security always seemed reserved for celebrities or high-profile homeowners with home stuffed to brim … but I’m seeing a lot of gadgets marketed for the “average” Mr. and Mrs. Homeowner. In my tech news magazines, home security devices are hot, filled with how to install your own hi-tech system and how to monitor cameras wirelessly both in the home and while away. I’m interested because… well, I’m always interested in home technology. It’s fascinating.

What do you think of home security? Do you think the best policy is to “own nothing of value”? I personally have a few home security devices around for kicks, but I’m certainly interested in building a whole mega-system, Tim the Toolman Taylor style. But let’s hope I don’t blast a hole through the roof in so doing…..

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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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Incandescent vs. CFLs

March 28, 2011

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In 2012, sales of incandescent light bulbs in New York State will be illegal. The bulbs nominated to fill the void: Compact Fluorescent Lights, or CFLs. The government’s Energy Star website says that CFL bulbs use “75% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and lasts up to 10 times longer.”

Honestly, I’ve been using CFL bulbs for certain rooms, and I haven’t seen any big difference between them an incandescent bulbs; CFLs may last a LITTLE longer than incandescent, but NO WAY not 10 times longer. Maybe 1.5 times. As a matter of fact, I filled my living room chandelier with CFL bulbs in December, and already one has blown. :-p These suckers are pricey, too. No one ever says that they COST 20 times more than incandescent. If you know of a website that offers some statistics, I’m curious.

Anyway, I’m mainly against CFLs because they contain mercury, one of the most toxic neurotoxins known to man. Currently, there is no system for disposal of the bulbs that we will all be forced to use. Oh, there are a whopping total of THREE recycling centers in New York State (all near Albany) that accept CFLs from residents only (at the time of this writing, to my knowledge). But what are homeowners to do with burned-out CFLs? Throw them in the trash for the landfills? Imagine all the mercury polluting the environment, seeping into the water system. Ugh.

Some experts recommend that we save all our CFLs until the state figures out how to dispose of them all.

Uh, hello? We are supposed to stash old bulbs in bags under our beds until you guys figure out what to do with them?! You mean you didn’t have this all planned out BEFORE you passed such a law?

*rolls eyes*

Brilliant. Just brilliant.

How about you? Is your state regulating CFLs? Do you see a noticeable difference between them and the incandescents?

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I’m Joining Blog Jog Day

November 8, 2010

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I read about Blog Jog Day on Sparkle the Designer Cat’s blog. It looks like a great way to get new readers and a great way ti find new blogs.

It can be difficult finding new blogs. I have joined a good share of blog network communities, and have dropped out on most of them. Spam blogs, or splogs, seek out such communities as audiences to spew their low-quality content amongst more serious bloggers. I’ve been wandering around for some good blog communities to join, and have hit on a few since, but the kitchen renovation set me back on promoting my blogging. Now, I’m ready to begin again.

Blog Jog Day looks like it is very different from the rest. So HOW is it different?

Firstly, you are assigned a partner, and you link to that blogger in your Blog Jog Day post. This is terrific for the uber-busy folks (like me) who, if given a choice, will probably not visit a blog because something else comes up. With Blog Jog Day, I KNOW that another blogger is counting on me to continue the hop, just like I am counting on others to hop to mine. So there’s an actual mission involved. I like that.

Secondly, you pay to participate. In the past I would have been very skeptical about paying to join a blogging community day, but after experiencing the splogs and quibblers from other ventures, I’m ready to make my time worth spending. The pay rate will only draw serious bloggers into the pool, a very welcome feature indeed. For every blog you want to include, it’s $2.00. I entered in this blog and my other blog, FreakyFrugalite.com.

Thirdly, Blog Jog Day is run by Carol, who has a blog and is an author. A lot of writers with blogs joined up for the previous Blog Jog Day in May. So you know you won’t be getting dumb comments from spammers or people just looking to hawk their wares. Definitely a plus, in my opinion!

Blog Jog Day is Sunday, November 21st. Sunday is a difficult day for me, as I am away from home most of the day, at church. Yet I had made plans to be sure to participate, in the evening. So if you are a serious blogger ready to make some new (literate) pals and get some new (serious) followers, check out Blog Jog Day.

As for me, I’m going to buy my flavored coffee and prepare my warm blankie in preparation for the big day. See you then! 😉

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The Stainless Steel Everything Store

November 8, 2010

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Whoa. I thought I had seen it all. When I think of “stainless steel,” the kitchen sink comes to mind. And maybe silverware. But this store, The Stainless Steel Store, has EVERYTHING. Even the website is designed like stainless steel!

Although I don’t like stainless steel because it is rather cold-looking and uncolorful, I like stainless steel because it is more sanitary than plastic or wood. Stainless steel is not porous, which means that it doesn’t harbor germs in microscopic crevices like plastic and wood. And the reason they call is “stainless” is because the metal is an alloy with a composition less likely to rust. So you can disinfect it easier. So I like some things in my kitchen to be stainless steel– I like the refrigerator doors to be stainless; stoves look terrific in stainless steel; my favorite “silverware” cooking utensils are stainless steel.

But this store has a TON of stainless steel stuff. It’s neat!

This is a flexible trivet. So cool!

I especially like the flexible trivet– just what we need to protect our new countertops. The site has, amongst a million other unique things, teacups and saucers, coffee measuring spoons, tape measures, coat hooks, staplers, pencil cups, soap dishes, toothbrush holders, etc. Just tons of stuff, some for everyday and some for quirky things. Since the holiday season is coming up, you may want to check it out.

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A Cute Addition to Any Kitchen

November 8, 2010

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Awwww!!!!!!!!!!! Look at these things, aren’t they so cute!

My kids had something like these. Actually, we had two of them. They didn’t have the kidkraftplaykitchens.com brand, but they had those cheesier plastic models. Kids kitchen are usually very durable. I always wanted one as a kid. I never did get one, but one year–I was about 7 years old– I got an electric Easy Bake oven for Christmas, from my beloved uncle. (He became my favorite uncle after that, lol). I was SO SO happy with it! But I didn’t have it more than one week when my brother put his plastic Pokey toy (from Gumby and Pokey series) into the oven. I didn’t know it was in there. I turned the oven on and Pokey melted all over the stove. 🙁 It stunk like crazy– the memory of the horrid smell is burned in my brain– and my parents had to throw the Easy Bake oven away. I cried for a long time. 🙁

Oh well, I have my OWN real oven now. And my brother is NOT allowed to go anywhere near it!

A Play Kitchen is actually a great way to get the kids interested in kitchen work. Parents, it will serve you well when you need helpers to make your coffee and put dishes away, heh heh! My one daughter absolutely loved her little kitchen, and she is the main kitchen helper in the house. The play kitchen has served us well. 😀

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Home Security

October 23, 2010

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How seriously do you take home security? I have lived in rural or suburban areas most of my life. We never really had to worry much about locking the doors or windows, or having homesecuritysystemsales.com systems installed. My step-dad was a gun dealer, and he was an excellent shot. So I can’t say I had too many fears of burglary as a kid! But even so, burglary was something that happened to “other” people, far away, and in the movies.

Today, it’s a different story. Crime is reaching into the usually quiet rural and suburban areas. I live very near a city, and we hear of numerous reports of break-ins. But there are ways to secure your home without having to wave a big gun around. You can rely on preventative actions to protect your property.

Install motion detector lights.
These devices activate lights when they sense movement. Crooks are much less likely to skulk around your home if they know there’s the chance they may be seen.

Be aware of your neighborhood activity.
I think this is extremely important. Develop rapport with your neighbors, and commit to keeping an eye on each others’ properties. I have chased away a few thugs from my neighbor’s property. He was very appreciative, and I know he keeps an eye on my home.

Install deadbolt locks.
These locks are much more difficult to break. Of course, if you have a deadbolt lock on a door with a glass window, all the crook has to do is break the glass to get to the lock. So get a good, solid door, too.

Install home security systems.
These are expensive, but in an area of crime, they may be worth it. Many systems are now wirelessly connected, to prevent crooks from slicing wires and deactivating the security system.

An older home is especially susceptible to robbery. Century-old windows, basement access doors, shadowy porches and eaves make the home an easy target. But most security systems are easily retrofitted. What do you think about home security, especially the fancy systems that are available? Do you need something like it for your neighborhood? If you have one, has it ever saved your home from a robbery? How did it work?

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Comparing Steam Cleaners

October 5, 2010

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Steam cleaners are the “new-fangled” cleaning appliances today. I have only heard of them recently, in the past year. I think of them as something akin to an electric mop! They are light-weight, energy-powered machines designed to steam floors. They do not use chemicals or cleaning agents to clean floors– only steam. It’s a very unique concept, I think. I dislike using bleach and other toxic chemicals in my home, so the steam cleaners sound like a marvelous idea.

We received a free Gruene Steam Cleaner and the Haan Steam Cleaner in exchange for a review of our opinions on the products. We made a video; here’s what we found:

Steam cleaners are only for certain floor types. You CANNOT use steam cleaners on vinyl plank floors (which is what I recently installed in the kitchen and dining room). And technically, you should not use steam cleaners for laminate flooring, although I do steam clean my laminate floors VERY lightly. I haven’t seen any problems. Steam cleaners are terrific for sheet vinyl flooring. Some steam cleaners even come with special attachments to clean carpets, windows, furniture, etc. The goal is not to saturate the fabric.

Anyway, I like the steam cleaners, and we will be using them on our vinyl floors (we have one dedicated for the dog room now!).

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New Kitchen: The Delta ToucH20 Faucet

September 30, 2010

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Delta Faucet company graciously gave me a Delta Pilar Pull-down Faucet with ToucH20 Technology. We absolutely love this faucet! I am a Delta fan, anyway– when we moved to this house, the bathrooms had Delta faucets (old Delta faucets, because the bathrooms had been remodeled in the 1970s and 80s). They work marvelously, after all these years– not a leak and they still look great after decades of washing and use. I was pretty impressed. So when Delta asked me if I wanted to test out their new kitchen faucet, I jumped at the chance.

It also looks stunning in the new kitchen:

DeltaH20_5
DeltaH20_1

We installed the faucet ourselves (as we have everything here). The installation was very easy. It’s always helpful to install the faucet before placing the sink onto the countertop. But the Delta faucet is structured to be easy to install for new installations, or for old– it requires NO basin wrench! Hurray!

deltafaucet connect

Delta Faucet connections

Delta Faucet almost installed

deltafaucetgoingin

The faucet has a few very unique features:

  • It’s got a very high and wide faucet spigot, which makes it great for filling large pots.
  • The “touch” technology is just that– you do not need to push the lever to turn on the water. All you do is touch the faucet or the lever to turn on the water. It’s great when your hands are dirty or sticky.
  • The spigot has a removable sprayer, which is very nice. The end of the spigot has a button that you can switch from stream or spray. The sprayer reattaches to the spigot with a magnet (Delta’s “MagnaTite technology”).
  • The faucet comes with a terrific soap dispenser that you can fill from the TOP of the sink! I love that. No more handsoap sitting messily on the counter.

DeltaH20_3

DeltaH20_2

The Touch feature is battery operated (takes “C” batteries). The electrical component in installed under the sink, in the cabinet. I have had the batteries running for three weeks now, and haven’t had to change them yet. So it’s nice to know the faucet is not a battery-consuming monster. Moreover, if you prefer not to use the touch technology, just shut it off and use the lever as you would any other sink faucet. It’s great that there’s a choice.

DeltaH20_4

The Hubs said the instructions for installing the sink are superb. He didn’t have any problems understanding them at all. He does have one tip when reading the instructions: make sure you read the ENTIRE section before you begin doing anything. A section may have a “Note” at the end, which may be important. So read through the instructions entirely before beginning, and then read each section through as you install the faucet.

We installed the faucet in a matter of minutes. I was PRETTY impressed. Delta has made this faucet a real easy “do it yourself” project. Even the wiring for the touch feature was easy– you just plug in a few plastic receptacles and pop in the batteries, easy as cake. I think Delta did a great job in putting this together for the DIYer.

When we first got the faucet installed and activated the Touch technology, we wondered if the cat would activate it, or if the faucet would be overly sensitive. So far, it’s been great. Sometimes I have to really rap on the spigot to turn the faucet on, but the lever is more sensitive (so I tap the lever instead of the faucet). One time, a metal pot in the dish drainer shifted, and touched the lever. The water turned on. It was weird seeing the water turn on automatically! But Delta has an automatic shutoff for the faucet– the faucet will turn off after four minutes, in case the faucet is accidentally turned on (say, by a cat or a wayward pot!).

Delta has an entire webpage dedicated to the faucet at deltafaucet.com. You will find helpful installation videos. I give HUGE kudos to Delta for creating such a nice faucet, but also DOUBLE HUGE kudos for making it so easy to install, and for providing installation videos. They really did an excellent job.

After having it installed for over two weeks, here are my thoughts:

PROS:
ToucH20 Technology
Nice big, round spigot
The nice hand dispenser
Very attractive
Can use the battery-powered ToucH technology, or turn it off to use manually as you would a regular faucet
Automatic shut-off after 4 minutes
Easy to install/great instructions in ENGLISH written by people with ENGLISH as their FIRST language- yay!
Is made by Delta

CONS:
Sprayer doesn’t have super-powerful water pressure; it’s more like a shower. Don’t expect to blast greasy dishes clean.
Uses batteries
Is a little costly
The stainless steel finish is “OK.” I’m not a big fan of steel. The faucet does come in a bronze finish, too.

One other note– you may become very spoiled after installing this faucet. So spoiled that if you use another faucet elsewhere in the house, or go to a friend’s house, you will be tapping the faucets and wondering why they don’t turn on. This is a great faucet and I give it a big Thumbs Up.

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Still Looking for Media System for Kitchen

August 13, 2010

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Haven’t found a stereo system that’s *just right* for the kitchen yet. I’ve been looking around for about two months now (yes, I do usually take this long to shop!). It’s not as important as, say, installing the Sheetrock or the sink! But I do want a nice speaker set and an iPod dock. It must have AM radio capability. And it MUST NOT BE A PIECE OF JUNK. Beyond that, I’m pretty happy.

But I can’t find anything yet! I’ve been SOOO close to buying one… but the reviews are always mixed. Everyone loves Bose, I know, but I will say flatly that I am not spending more on a stereo than I’m spending on my dishwasher, k! Whoa, $350 for a stereo?!?! My budget is more around the $50 to $75 ball park range. (And that’s pretty high, I think).

Anyone have any good success stories to share? I don’t know if it’s *just me,* but when I read the reviews of a product, they are all over the place. Some rave with euphoric glee, others say they had to return the product ten times because it wouldn’t work. How can these things be from the same product?!?

Buy.com has this Hi-Fi System on sale for about $97 (free shipping).

That’s over my budget, but if it’s very high-quality, I’d get it. I want something small (something I can put on my shelf) that has a big sound to it, but I don’t want a lemon, nor an alarm clock with it. It’s tough to find one!

Got any suggestions? Do you have an mp3 player or iPod dock? Does it work well? Let me know!

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