02 November 2012

The First Two Extra Minutes of November

It's November. Or as I like to call it, No-slumber. There are dozens of things to do and remember this month, all begging immediate attention. Over the next few weeks, we'll address winter-readiness topics including energy-saving tips, home maintenance, shopping, holiday decorating and entertaining - to name just a few. We'll start with the three easiest, yet most important, tasks:

Daylight Savings Time ends Sunday morning at 2:00 a.m. - which means you'll turn your clocks back and gain an hour to your day. While some people (mostly those under the age of 20) have the luxury to apply this extra hour to sleep, for most of us, it really is an extra hour to get work done. With an ever-growing jobs list, I'm thankful (since this is the month for Thanks) to have all 60 minutes of it. 

I like to use my first extra minute (actually 30 seconds) of November to check my smoke detectors. Did you know that most residential fires occur during the winter months? Now I don't know about you but it seems to me that a 30-second task that potentially equals a life or lives saved is the best insurance deal you could hope for. No excuses...go check your detectors and replace the battery if necessary.

Right after testing my smoke detectors (and since I already have the step stool out) I've made it a habit in my second extra minute of November to change the direction of the spin of my ceiling fans. This is by far the  easiest job on my chore list and gives big and immediate payback in energy savings, comfort and chi. In summer, your fans should turn in a counter-clockwise - or forward - direction (as you stand under it and look up). This pushes the air downward giving a "wind chill" effect in the room. In winter, you'll want to reverse the direction to clockwise so that the rising warm air trapped at the ceiling gets circulated to the walls and back down into the room. Be sure to keep the fan speed on low in the winter otherwise you'll again create a wind chill which is not good in the winter. 

Remember the Ceiling Fan Direction Rule: 
Summer - Forward, or counter-clockwise: Downward air movement makes a "wind chill" effect.
Winter - Reverse, or clockwise on low speed: Recirculates warm air trapped at ceiling back into room. Note: An exception to this rule is if your fan is on a very high ceiling. You should then keep the fan set in the forward spinning direction. 

Tutorial to Change Ceiling Fan Direction: 

Turn your ceiling fan off.
Find the switch on your fan's motor housing.
Flip it. 
Turn your ceiling fan on. 

Comfort, savings and moving air (chi) with the flip of a switch. Check, check and check.

31 October 2012

Versatile Storage & Display

How often have you gathered up a collection of items in your home and thought, "What can I put this stuff in?" I've uttered this question to myself on two occasions in just this week alone! The challenge to solving this dilemma is in finding a container that looks good enough to be left out to display in a place where the items are used and is strong enough to be moved around as needed. So let's build an attractive, sturdy and versatile box...more specifically, this 30"L x 7"W x 5.5"H box:

To start, gather up your supplies:

Materials List
3 - 4' Pine Fence Boards
12" Length of Rope
8 Wood Screws
Titebond III Wood Glue
Vinegar / Steel Wool Solution (for stain)

Measure fence for cutting

Mark the cutting lines on boards.

Cut the boards. 

Glue adjacent edges of boards.

 Tack or clamp boards together to hold while glue dries. 
Use a spray bottle to apply the vinegar/steel wool solution and let dry. 
The solution will darken the wood as it dries. Cut the rope to the desired length. 
A hot razor blade was used here to cut and seal the ends in one swoop. 
Secure the rope to the end of box by screwing the ring clamps to box.

Fill your rustic-looking box and display in a convenient spot for easy access! 
For now, I'll use this one as a handy and attractive way for the little one 
to choose her own books to read. 

19 October 2012

Stop a Running Toilet

A toilet that runs and runs and runs is more than just an annoyance. It can be a real drain on your pocketbook not to mention the unnecessary waste of water. One common reason for a constantly running toilet is you may have a worn and/or damaged flapper that doesn't allow for a proper seal after the toilet has been flushed. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates a defective or stuck toilet flapper can consume 200 gallons of water per day...you can do the math using your local water charges to see what that might cost you. Plus, wasting water just isn't cool, soooo.....

While it might seem a daunting task, it really is an easy fix to replace a flapper yourself, which could save you $100 or more depending on what your local plumber might charge.

First thing to do is determine the type of flapper you'll need. Flappers are customized to the brand and even sometimes the style of toilet. The surest way to purchase the correct flapper for your toilet is to remove the one currently in your toilet and take it to your local home improvement or hardware store. With that, I'll begin by  showing you how to remove the old flapper:

1. Shut off the water at the valve by toilet. 

2. Lift the lid off the toilet's tank.

3. Flush the toilet to empty the water from the tank. 

4. Here's the old and much damaged flapper.
This is what you'll remove so you can replace it with the new flapper.

5. The flush lever holds the chain that lifts the flapper.

6. Disconnect the chain from the flush lever.

7. Remove the flapper totally by removing it from the overflow. The overflow is the tall,
plastic part in the center of the tank. The flapper itself has "hook" type ends on each arm that
simply snap off and/or onto the overflow allowing it to securely attach to the overflow.
Pop each arm end up from the overflow. 

8. The old, faded flapper is now out. Take this part to your local
home improvement or hardware store and ask for the proper replacement for it. 

The toilet being repaired here is a Kohler 2-piece, so I'm using the
Korky Toilet Flapper - purchased from Home Depot

9. Once you've got the correct flapper, putting it in is simply a matter of working backwards
from how you removed the old. Here, the new flapper is being securely attached to the overflow by making sure the hook ends of each arm of the flapper are snapped onto the overflow at the base. 

10. Attach the chain to the flush lever, adjusting the chain length so there's
just enough slack for the flapper to sit flat on the flush opening. 

11. Slowly turn water valve back on.     

12. Give a couple test flushes to make sure everything is working properly.                

13. Re-install the tank lid.

And done!

17 October 2012

Set the Scene for Halloween

The most sensible goals for decorating (or most anything) include ideas that are cheap, good looking, fast and easy - go ahead, insert your best Groucho Marx finish to that statement.

The most reliable way to achieve that is to shop for your holiday decor at stores you love the day after the holiday, keeping an eye out for big impact items that don't require much fuss. Add a few handmade pieces to make it personal and you're done!

These fun and friendly Jack O' Lantern shades make a big impact and you could really call the job done right now just by hanging these prominently in your home. You can find what appears to be a similar version at Amazon for $8.99 for the set of three! 

Why not display your Halloween/Fall magazines for a practical seasonal touch? Recycle past issues of your favorite magazines - saving only articles that interest you - but keep all your back issue seasonal magazines intact. They give endless inspiration that really never goes out of style (in fact, the ideas seem to improve with age). Store them along with your other holiday decorations so they're out of sight but easy to find when the time comes to review and display them. 

The iron magazine rack was found at Marshall's about six years ago for $15! You just never know when you'll strike gold at that place.

The "Boo" Banner  was made with newspaper cut with a pinking shears, then folded over a twine string and stitched. You could certainly glue the pennants to the twine which would be even easier. The B-O-O letters were printed using Blackmoor Let font with a 600 font size, then cut out and glued on!

Rather than feel guilty for not keeping up with the raking, call it a planned decorating feature in your yard. The neglected look truly enhances this haunted cemetery. (It's nice to give the mailman something to look at every now and then.) All that's left to do now is hope that a mighty wind comes on November 1, cleaning the whole area up at the most opportune time.  

Gotta start thinking about the treats.

10 October 2012

Finding Inspiration for the Fall & Winter Holidays

Maxwell Street Flea Market

in.spi.ra.tion n. any stimulus to creative thought or action; an inspired idea, action, etc. 

“You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” 

The Maxwell Street Days flea market in Cedarburg, Wisconsin - like most other flea markets or craft fairs - is a magical mix of people, history, design, community and creativity. Just approaching the entrance gate is enough to get the gears turning. 

Once inside, the patrons travel in groups of one, two or five...all on a hunt for 
personal treasure. 

Inspiring displays of old and new.


This crowd of faces catches the eye.

The rusty chair and lantern work their magic!

Yup, you're in Wisconsin!

The quilt piece in frame proves everything looks significant under glass!

Let the games begin!

“When all is said and done, more is said than done.” 
― Lou Holtz (note to self: try not to let this happen)