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Green Up, Chill Out

Monday, February 10th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

This week’s gardening music:

For Part 1 of this gardening series, sprouting seeds, click here.

When I was searching for seeds on Amazon, I noticed that the same companies that offered the highest-rated herb variety packs also sold “survival garden” seed packages. These packs contain a selection of hardy vegetables that provide a range of important nutrients, the perfect addition to your survival bunker. Of course, they aren’t much help if you don’t know how to grow them.

A simple herb garden won’t sustain you in case of a global disaster, but it is a good way to learn basic gardening skills. Most common herbs go easy on the gardener — Mediterranean herbs like thyme and oregano don’t require a lot of water, so a day or two of forgetting your new calling won’t kill them. Woody herbs like lavender and rosemary are difficult to start from seed, but once they’re well-established they’re extremely hardy. Leafy herbs like basil take minimal tending — just put them in a sunny spot and they’ll fill your garden or kitchen with beautiful fragrance even when you’re not cooking.

photo (4)

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4 Colly Birds: A Gift Guide for the Hardcore Home Decorators

Saturday, December 21st, 2013 - by Becky Graebner

Today is Saturday, December 21, 2013.  If this were a literal countdown of the “Twelve days of Christmas” song, we would receive “four colly birds” today. (A “colly bird” is a common blackbird, FYI.)

There are only four days until Christmas! (You shopping procrastinators really better get a move on…)

Here is a gift guide for the interior decorators and home-goods lovers on your list:

61BuWtKiv0L._SL1500_Home Decor:

Vase: Abbott Ceramic Owl Vase

A quirky but unique way to display flowers.

Frame: J Devlin Photo Frame with Vintage Glass and Wire

An elegant way for photo-lovers to display their precious pictures.

Art Glass: Galaxy Art Color Swirl Glass Vase

A beautiful piece that can be used as a vase or appreciated as art.

Candle Sticks: IMAX Kanan Wood Candleholders

These varied candlestick sets are all the rage.  Versatile and easy to arrange and restyle for the seasons

Christmas Nativity Set: Willow Tree Nativity Set

Remind friends and family of the true meaning of Christmas.  This elegant gift will soon become a favorite holiday decoration.

Blankets and Throws: Ultimate Sherpa Throw Blanket

Give the gift of toasty toes with this posh, sherpa throw.

Candle-holder: Moroccan Lantern Blue Glass Candle Holder

A unique gift for the candle-lover.

Storage: Anchor Hocking Heritage Hill Glass 1-Gallon Jar

An empty canvas for savvy decorators.  This jar can be used for practical means (kitchen dry goods) or as a container to display ornaments or other small goods throughout the house.

Casual Pillows: Ojia Cotton Linen Decorative Pillow Covers

Spread the love with these swappable pillow covers.

Fancy Pillows: DreamHome-100% Silk Designer Pillow Cover

Great for entertainers who like their couches to be as festive as the rest of their home.

51Sr6mIpLCLKitchen and Dining:

Wine: Oenophilia Bottle Stopper Bouquet

Perfect for the wine connoisseur in your family.

Wine Glasses: Libbey Vina 12-piece stemless red and white wine glasses

A twist on the “wine glass.”

Chargers: Old Dutch Round Décor Copper Charger Plate

A snazzy, decorating essential for people who like to spice up their traditional china.

Classic Runner: Handmade Classic Hemstitch Natural Table Runner

Simple, classic, and perfect for everyday use or special events.

Luxe Runner: Artiwa Burnt Orange and Brown Silk Decorative Table Runner

A great gift for the artsy home decorator.

Placemats: Reversible Hand-Stitched Organza Placemat

Perfect for those who love throwing formal dinners.

Napkin Rings: Round Mesh Napkin Rings

A little rustic, with a pinch of glam, these napkin rings are sure to be a great addition to any table.

Tablecloths: Roseberry Linen Concerto Spill-Proof Tablecloth

Yes, you read correctly. This tablecloth is spill-proof!  Meticulous decorators won’t have to worry about pesky stains ruining their linen!

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The Truth About LEDs

Saturday, December 7th, 2013 - by Stephen Green

A while back I wrote that Melissa and I had given up our expensive and ultimately unfulfilling fling with CFL lightbulbs. We must have spent a couple thousand dollars putting them all over the house, but as soon as the ones in the outdoor sconces die off, we’ll be done with them completely. I’ve been experimenting with different brands of LEDs, and Glenn Reynolds’ mention this morning of Cree’s bulbs reminded me to finally write up what I’ve learned.

The first lesson is: Brand counts. When it comes to incandescent bulbs, your better brands tend to last longer but they all produce the same high-quality light we all know and love. LEDs however vary widely. For the purposes of this column, I’m putting halogen bulbs in their own category, even though they too produce incandescent light. We’ll get to them shortly.

We’ve tried four brands of LEDs, with extremely mixed results.

PHILIPSMy least favorite — and keep in mind, these are subjective observations but I am very picky about the quality of light in my home — are the bulbs produced by Philips. They look super-modern, which is what drew me to their reflector bulbs for the ceiling cans in my studio. The R30 size looks like the Pan Am spaceship from the orbital transit sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Everything else about them represents the worst of LED lighting. The light they produce has that sickly feeling that screams “cubical” instead of whispering “warm and comfy living room.” The light doesn’t emit evenly from lens, which might not be so annoying if the bulb didn’t stick out from below the can — but it does and so it is. There’s also a good half-second delay between flicking the light switch and when the light can be bothered to come on. It seems to have a very broad dimming range, but the light simply becomes fainter and sicklier and less pleasant the lower you dim it. (We’ll talk more about LEDs and dimming problems in a minute.) The Philips bulbs were also the most expensive. I have one in the studio and two (R20 size) in the bedroom and I can’t wait to ditch them all.

Next up is Feit, which produces a astounding range of LED bulbs. If there’s a size, wattage, or application you can even just imagine, they probably make it. That part is great. The reflector bulbs light perfectly evenly (unlike Philips), and the light is more pleasant. Of all the brands I’ve tested, theirs seem to have the longest power-up delay. But the R20 reflectors produce good-enough quality light for the kids’ rooms, which is nice because little boys don’t always remember to turn off the lights. In fact, this one time one of them might even have remembered. Anyway, Feit’s bulbs are moderately priced and their performance is acceptable — if you can live with that on-delay.

We’ve put EcoSmart bulbs in the garage and in a couple of other rooms, and I’m happy with them. Screwed into fixtures with that mock alabaster glass cover, the light they emit is almost indistinguishable from incandescent bulbs. They come on instantly, too. They dim as well as any LED is able to. At full brightness, they produce a lot of light. We have two of those alabaster-type ceiling fixtures in our laundry room, which used to hold two 60-watt incandescents each. The LEDs are so bright, that I replaced them with two 60-watt equivalent bulbs and two 40-watt equivalents — and then still had to put the whole shebang on a Lutron dimmer. And then I rarely turn the dimmer up more than halfway. So instead of running 240 watts in there, we’re now running maybe 20 watts — did I mention they produce a lot of light? That’s some serious savings, especially for moderately-priced bulbs.

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How to Install a New Faucet in 7 Easy Steps

Thursday, November 21st, 2013 - by Builder Bob
Old Faucet - Lame.

Old Faucet – Lame.

I hate plumbing. I really, really hate it. Given the choice between doing a plumbing project or listening to a Miley Cyrus album, I would choose a root canal (at least a drill can stay on pitch). About the only thing I’m good at with plumbing is displaying copious amounts of hairy butt crack while working.

On the surface plumbing sounds relatively simple: pipes bring clean water in, and separate pipes take the poop water away. But with changing building codes and new developments in materials there is no standardized system, so you often don’t know if you’re going to be dealing with iron pipe, copper, pvc or cpvc, or new pex fittings, until you actually dig into a project.

There is a reason plumbers can charge $60+ per hour, and if you have more money than time or patience then I strongly recommend hiring one, particularly if you are dealing with a difficult issue. However, if you want to save a bunch of money and improve the look of your bathroom or kitchen, replacing a faucet is within the ability of most homeowners.

What You Need:

supplies

1. The first step in any plumbing project is to shut off the water to the area where you are working.

Most fixtures have shut off valves in the cabinet underneath. If yours are in good shape simply turn off the valves for both the cold and hot water, and move to step 4.  If however, you have ancient shutoffs from the 1970s and need to replace them you will have to shut off the main water supply to the house.  Most mainline shutoffs are located outside the house in an enclosed box underground. Beware if you live in the southwest like me; critters love the shade and moisture provided here, so look out for black widows, scorpions, and snakes. (Man aren’t you glad you decided to do this?) The other shut off should be located on top of the water heater. 

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How To Hang Pegboard To Finally Get Your Garage Organized

Thursday, October 17th, 2013 - by Builder Bob
Hanging Pegboard

Hanging Pegboard

After moving to my new place, I had access to a great studio space. It had cabinets, shelves, and a large counter top work surface. But after my first few projects digging tools out of cabinets, tool cases, and packed boxes I decided it was time to organize my work space more efficiently. Adding Pegboard to your work shop, garage, or garden shed is a cost effective way to organize all your material. It makes your tools easy to find, close at hand, and up out of the way of your work surface.

Special mention to my wonderful co worker Miss Carol Ann for some helpful tips and advice before I started this project.

Materials needed:

Supplies

Pegboard Sheets, 1×3’s or pegboard spacers, High Gloss paint and rollers

Tools

Drill, Stud Finder, laser level and torpedo level, tape measure, straight edge, and a pencil

Hardware

2-1/2” and 1-½” wood screws, flat or finish washers

Accessories

Pegboard hooks, holders, bins, and lock downs. .

  1. The first step is to determine the dimensions and use of your project. Peg board comes in 2 flavors, you can use ⅛” hole board for small areas to hang hand tools, or larger ¼” hole board to cover an entire garage wall and hang heavier lawn equipment, folding chairs, etc. You will want to place your pegboard at a height and location that is easy to access but clear of your horizontal working space. Using your tape measure, laser level, straight edge and pencil mark the outline of where your board will be.

  2. You need about a ½” of space between the pegboard and the wall so the hooks have room to lock in place. There are two methods for spacing. I chose to use lengths of 1×3’s attached to the wall studs to act as a frame, however the lumber will block the peg holes behind it and limit your hanging options. The first step is to find the wall studs using a stud finder then mark the center line using your straight edge. I found my stud spacing to be 16” so after finding the first two studs you can make short work of the rest. Once located you can start hanging your framing using the longer 2 ½” wood screws. After inserting the first screw part way put your bubble level on top to ensure your frame stays straight while securing the rest of the screws.  I alternated full length board with half length  on each stud to maximize the peg holes available, you can also build a full box frame for the most stability but you will lose peg spaces. At this point I painted the wood frame to help hide it once the board is hung.

    • The other method of hanging involves using plastic spacers to offset the pegboard. This frees up a considerable number of pegs available but will require at least two people to accomplish.  While one person holds the pegboard in the position you want it, the other can mark the holes where the spacers will be. If not anchoring to the studs you can place hollow wall anchors to hold the screws. A trick to use is once you have your locations marked and wall anchors installed, use a small dab of superglue to attach the spacer to the wall and let them dry. This will save pinched fingers in the next step. Make sure your spacers are level at this point because you will not be able to adjust them later on.

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How to Build a Picture Frame in 9 Easy Steps

Thursday, October 10th, 2013 - by Builder Bob

Working the paint counter at a local hardware store, I’ve made quite a mess of my apron. So after about the 300th customer made comments on how it looked like a piece of art, I decided, hey, why not frame it and see if I can make a quick buck? My hopes were soon dashed after a visit to a framing store. They wanted $80 for a basic framing. I though to hell with this, I’m a handy guy, I work in home improvement, why don’t I make a frame and keep with the hardware store look?

I’ll admit that 80% of the time I start a project it’s something I’ve never attempted. People nowadays are either too busy or intimidated to try a project themselves. But you can save a lot of money, get the precise results you want, and receive a sense of satisfaction when you build something with your own hands. I want to encourage people to take a chance and build something fun and personal.

A picture frame is a great starter project. With the exception of the miter box, you should have most of the supplies already in your tool kit. I’ve provided a list of materials with some recommendations of products I’ve found to perform better than most, as well as detailed step-by-step instructions to build a frame that is as unique as you want to make it.

Supplies Needed:

Tools of the trade

Tools of the trade

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Falling With Style Flying Into Economic Recovery After a Crisis In 5 Easy Lessons

Saturday, September 21st, 2013 - by Rhonda Robinson


buzzfalling

Well folks its been fun.

This is the final installment of our 13 Weeks to Family Financial Freedom After a Crisis series. Although I can’t honestly say, after just 13 weeks of effort, we are now flying high; I can say we are not in a financial free fall. We are gliding to freedom on the wings of God’s grace–and frankly, the view has been both frightening and exhilarating.

In “5 Rules for Lifting Your Family Out of Economic Hardship” I rolled out my “13 weeks” goals: Track daily my progress on a Seinfeld calendar, write a new budget, assess our lifestyle, cut living expenses by 40 percent and increase our income by at least that much.

Tracking my daily progress on a calendar didn’t work out as planned. Turns out, my inconsistency is the most consistent thing about me. My failure could be attributed to my personality type or the fact that my stated goals for marking-off days needed to be more concrete (low-tech operator error). Did you do it? Yes is an X, no is a blank spot or a “broken chain.” Which is, of course, its original purpose.

It did serve as sort of an invisible timer constantly running in the background of my mind. The designated days combined with weekly progress posts certainly kept me focused. In that, I’m declaring it a success.

The new budget is still in flex, as 13 weeks is only three months of budgeting with an inconsistent and unreliable monthly income. However, it is in place and we are growing more comfortable living within its bounds. I found a combination of using the YNAB, and good old fashion pen and paper works the best for us. We already owned YNAB. I added the phone apps so my husband and I have equal access and responsibility in maintaining the budget.

The only downfall to using YNAB, is that it does not allow you to project income or plan for next month’s bills, that’s where pen and paper comes in handy.

Gone are the days of dining out regularly, recreational shopping and living comfortably under a mortgage. In assessing our lifestyle, I’ve realized the best safety net we can have is a mortgage free home.

In retrospect, the goal of cutting our cost of living by 40 percent is unattainable–expenses fluctuate and there’s no way to cut unexpected expenditures by any percentage. I held a misconceived presupposition that I could control living expenses. Control is almost always an illusion. A more accurate and obtainable goal– remove all unnecessary spending and reassess. Repeat as needed.

The real success of our 13 weeks together didn’t come in achieving my stated goals.

Instead, it was in the lessons I didn’t know I needed to learn.

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Shop Where the Amish Shop From the Comfort of Your Couch

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013 - by Paula Bolyard

old-time-tools-01

Are you a prepper? An environmentalist interested in sustainable living? A homesteader? A missionary living on a remote island without electricity? A cave dweller? Chronically nostalgic? Amish? (Get off the internet this instant, Caleb Yoder!) Then Lehman’s Hardware is the place for you! The store, tucked into the tiny community of Kidron in Holmes County, Ohio, serves the area’s Amish community, helping them preserve their way of life by carrying a wide range of non-electric and other low-tech products. Jay Lehman, who founded the store in 1955 said, ”I was concerned that some day the Amish would not be able to maintain their simple ways of life because these products would no longer be available.”

It began as a small family hardware store and has grown into the largest store of its kind. Non-Amish customers now outnumber the Amish who shop at their 45,000-square-foot retail store. The 1973 oil crisis significantly boosted the number of visitors to Lehman’s. As domestic supplies of oil dwindled, people wanted low-tech products to help them cope with the shortages. According to Jay Lehman, “The oil embargo put us on the map.” Events like Y2K, the 9/11 attacks, and the blackout of 2003 all increased sales at Lehman’s.

No visit to Ohio’s Amish country is complete without a trip to Lehman’s. On your drive through Holmes County, home to the largest Amish community in the world, you’ll pass Amish buggies on the road (along with the ubiquitous horse droppings) and you may see barefooted Amish boys and girls in their straw hats and bonnets walking or biking alongside the road on their way home from school. Crisp black, white, and blue laundry flapping in the breeze on a clothes line is a telltale sign of an Amish farm.

Once at Lehman’s, you’ll see horses with buggies tied to hitching posts, juxtaposed with the cars of tourists and local “English” (the Amish name for non-Amish).  Inside the store you’ll encounter a maze of four buildings that have been attached over the years to make one store that seems to go on forever. Lehman’s received a major makeover in 2011 after a flood dumped 30 tons of mud into the store, which is decorated from floor to ceiling with museum-quality antiques and vintage memorabilia. Right inside the main entrance there is a Soda Pop Shop with 300 varieties of vintage and handcrafted soda. Across from the soda is a section of throwback candy that will bring back memories of childhood trips to the penny candy store. From there, you can wander the aisles, checking out non-electric appliances and composting toilets, wood stoves, kitchen gadgets, locally-made pottery, and vintage toys. You could easily spend a half day inside and still not see all the store has to offer.

An estimated half million tourists visit the store every year. But if you’re not able to travel to Holmes County in person, you can still enjoy Lehman’s through their print catalog or website. It’s surprising, really, that a store catering to the Amish and their simple way of life would even have a website, let alone a social media presence, but approximately 50% of Lehman’s revenues come from online sales. Their Facebook page has nearly 30,000 “likes.”

The store’s website boasts, “If you think it isn’t made anymore, check with Lehman’s before you give up.” Check out the site and see what they mean.

Click through to the next pages to see some of the more unusual items Lehman’s sells.

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How to Find Happiness in the Midst of Economic Distress

Saturday, September 7th, 2013 - by Rhonda Robinson

picturesmile

This week, in our ongoing series of 13 Weeks to Family Financial Freedom After a Crisis, I was reminded of a lesson learned by watching my daughter and her young family as they made the hard transition into military life.

Soon after my son-in-law enlisted, he got stationed in Hawaii. Needless to say, they were elated. Undaunted at the prospect of leaving friends and family an ocean behind, they all flew off to paradise to live happily ever after.

It took several months, but something most unexpected happened. Gradually, they went from living in paradise to being stuck on an island.

What, you might ask, could you lack in a tropical paradise like Hawaii? After all, they’re living in a place most people can only dream of visiting. They had a good income and a nice home. Weekends were filled with family outings to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Every day, almost without fail, a rainbow appeared in the sky. What changed? What’s missing that was there before?

Simple contentment. For a brief time, they lost sight of that secret ingredient.

“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13

Discontentment will take a wonderful life and turn it sour. That’s not to say that military life is a piece of cake. Neither is raising young children separated from extended family–it’s hard. So are job losses, sickness and all the other trials that cause economic distress. But contentment is even more vital in those times.

In fact, faith and contentment are the key ingredients to happiness. Sound too simplistic? Well, if being content in all circumstances were easy, everyone would be doing it.

However, it can be done.

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Organizing your Life is Like Learning to Juggle Eggs and Chainsaws

Saturday, August 10th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Don't try this at home.  Not unless you have some spare arms and legs.

Don’t try this at home. Not unless you have some spare arms and legs.

Prolific science fiction novelist Sarah Hoyt follows up her “Your Novel in 13 Weeks” PJ Lifestyle series with a new weekly experiment each Saturday to figure out the best way for all creative types working from home to better organize their efforts.

Week Zero, Introduction: Organizing Your Creative Life In 13 Weeks

Week 1/2, Preparation: The Case For Making Lots of Lists

Week One: How to Make Your Mind Like Water

Week Two: What Are the Best Apps For Artists and Writers Desperate To Get Work Done? 

Week Three: The Lone Writer Against The Time Masters

Week Four: How to Tame Your Subconscious

Week Five: How Separating When and Where You Do Tasks Improves Both Productivity and Quality of Work!

******

How do you juggle chainsaws?  Very carefully, of course.

No, I haven’t gone completely off my rocker and taken up another and completely different hobby/career.  In fact, part of my intent right now is figuring out how to reduce my needed tasks to the essential ones.

However, on the way there, I’ve come across the equivalent situation to when you’re just learning to juggle eggs and someone throws a chainsaw at you.  At best, it’s going to break your rhythm and concentration.  And at worst, it’s going to end up with a bunch of eggs broken, at the very worst, there will also be couple of fingers and a lot of blood on the floor.

Metaphorically, this week, while managing my creative life with Getting Things Done and The Pomodoro Technique, going along fine, working pretty well, ticking penguin by ticking penguin, I got a chainsaw thrown at me.  Worse, you could say I threw a chainsaw at myself, completely forgetting that I’m only a beginner in this time and task juggling thing.

I think I’ve broken a couple of eggs, in the sense that the first three days of the week were lost to a mire of emotional confusion, but I still have all my fingers and I’m getting ready to integrate the chainsaw in the flow – that is, I’m figuring out the difficult things that have to be done, and which will for a while disrupt my life, but which will lead to – hopefully – a much better way of working and perhaps of living.

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When Walking the Monetary Tightrope, Who Needs a Stinkin’ Safety Net?

Saturday, August 3rd, 2013 - by Rhonda Robinson

tightrope

Life is like a three-ring circus.

Well, at least mine is. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just part of living a full life. This week, in the center ring we had a new grandson born. All eyes were fixed upon his beautiful little face. We marveled at the goodness of God. Like any grandmother would do, I traveled across a couple states just to kiss his cheek and give him my personal welcome. The front ring filled with anticipation and excitement as the new school year began for our last child at home. She’s inching closer to the high school finish line. Then there’s the ring in the back, behind us, where the light is dim and hidden from everyone’s view — it stood empty with only shadows of a 19th birthday party that would have been.

Over it all we walk the tightrope of a precarious financial state. We are attempting to balance health needs, an ever-tightening budget, and current obligations, all without dropping off that red line into the abyss of default.

I stumbled a little this week, but I didn’t fall. What I did do is learn a valuable lesson and make a firm new resolution. There will be no safety nets. A “safety net” is a false sense of security.

Allow me to explain.

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My Secret Method For Getting Rid of That Cat Smell

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Writing fiction and being owned by cats seem to be related forms of madness.

Writing fiction and being owned by cats seem to be related forms of madness.  Here is Hemingway with his sons and cats.

Glenn Reynolds recently linked Althouse reporting on an interview with Patti Smith. The interviewer said the house smelled of cats, and every surface was covered in plastic. This led me to getting lost in the comments with people making all sorts of suggestions, the most prominent of which was “get rid of the cats.”

As someone similarly afflicted and unable to take that step because I take my Chinese Obligations seriously, I thought I’d write this for anyone having similar issues.

So, this is “What I saw at the cat-pee wars — or how to deal with your cats marking territory when you don’t want to get rid of the little monsters.”  (Without having to cover your entire house in plastic, which is apparently Patti Smith’s solution.)

Besides being a writer, I am a (crazy) cat lady. The two often go together, and the field, particularly science fiction and fantasy, is full of crazy cat ladies and gentlemen.

I’d like to place the blame for this on Robert A. Heinlein who not only was owned by several cats, but who also wrote about cats and thereby instilled an early love for the critters along with a love for futuristic fiction. However, truth be told, if you expand it to the field of all fiction writers, the fault for the cat mania would be Hemingway’s and his polydactyl and avowedly freely-spraying cats.

Needless to say if you are having a problem with your cats scent marking or peeing out of place, the very first thing to do – if you haven’t – is to have the males neutered.

My male indoor cats have always been neutered at a relatively early age.  Notwithstanding which, we have had marking problems with both the old firm – i.e. our first batch of cats — Pixel, Randy, Petronius and DT and the new firm – the new batch of four (my husband won’t let me have more than four at one time) – Miranda, Euclid, D’Artagnan and Havelock.

In both cases, the marking seemed to originate in a rivalry between two alpha male cats, to whom neutering did not seem to make much difference.

With our first batch of cats, the culprits were Pixel – a marmalade boy who looked like the perfect stuffed animal, and who, in fact, was too smart for his own good – and Petronius, big and black and probably part Bombay.

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Just One of Those Days

Saturday, September 15th, 2012 - by Pamela Weiss

Have you ever had “just one of those days”? If you’re old enough to be reading this, then of course you have unless you are a complete oddity of life.

I recently had one of those days, and it turned out to be one of the roughest twenty four hours I’ve survived. It started off with the fruit platter I was making to take to my parent’s house. I went to the store to buy various fruit. It was pretty uneventful until trying to pick the perfect watermelon. I had everything else I needed, the watermelon was the last thing on my list. I picked up a watermelon and thumped it. Hmmmm, questionable so I returned it to the watermelon pile and picked another. I performed the thump test again and determined that this was a ripe, sweet juicy watermelon, so I placed it into the grocery cart. As I walked away from the watermelon display, the watermelons started rolling. By the time I was able to stop them, three watermelons had already crashed to the floor splattering the fruit and its juice all over the floor and all over me. My legs and feet were covered in watermelon so I couldn’t even pretend that I knew nothing about the avalanche which had just occurred. Besides, just about everybody on that side of the store had stopped and turned to look with hopes of discovering from where the ear piercing scream had come. Ugh! Caught red-footed. As the announcement came over the loud speaker “massive clean up needed in produce”, I stood there apologizing to every employee who came over to take care of that “massive clean up.”

I was finally able to leave the produce department slipping only once, hoping that no one in the check out lines would recognize me as the “watermelon lady” while wearing my oversized sunglasses. Clever, huh? I loaded the groceries into the trunk of my car, loaded myself into the driver’s seat and headed home.

Once home, I unloaded the groceries and set about making my fruit platter. As I sliced the watermelon, I could envision how beautiful this platter was going to look. The watermelon slices as flower petals, cherries, cantaloupe and kiwi placed in the centers of those flower petals to create the illusion of various flowers. Sigh. My eyes were getting watery at this picture dancing in my head… Or was it because I had just sliced my finger nearly taking off the top. Blood was running everywhere, so I guess it was a good thing that I was cutting watermelon — it wouldn’t show. I wrapped up my finger and continued working while trying to decide if I had time to get the top of my finger reattached. I figured my finger could wait until the next day and if still bleeding, I would take care of it then, maybe a little super glue. I finished my fruit platter and although it resembled melted crayon blobs more than flowers, I was happy it was done.

The next morning I awoke knowing that it was going to be a great day. Naturally I hit my wounded finger on the first thing I walked past causing the bleeding to start again. Oh well, I needed to get going and get that oh-so-beautiful platter to my parent’s home. I put the fruit into the back of my SUV and hit the road. I cranked up the music as Bob Dylan, one of my favorite songwriters, voice came through the speakers. I continued along a street which I drive daily, but I’m really not sure when that curb which juts out into the road was added. Hitting that curb not only brought me out of my reverie, but broke a tire rim along with the tire, and caused the destruction of my beautiful fruit design. Okay, maybe that looked better.

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I Hate People

Saturday, September 8th, 2012 - by Pamela Weiss

Sound harsh?

Maybe, maybe not, but if you’re going to be honest with yourself and those around you, you’d admit that you hate people too. With the loss of common sense, politeness, and consideration by most, how could you not? It seems that “kindness to others” has been placed on a shelf next to the good china to be taken out and “used” only on special occasions. Let’s face it, people wander through life taking care of their daily business oblivious to those around them unless of course they may somehow be affected by an encounter with another.

I can see that you don’t believe me. You are either not paying attention, which launches you right into the middle of the oblivious, or you are surrounded by a much better breed of people than I. Since I don’t know your situation, I can only share a few of my daily experiences so you don’t think I’m lying.

Often times my daily chores take me to the grocery store. Honest to goodness, I have never asked anyone to allow me to go in front of them, but somehow my time is rarely considered as valuable as the person behind me. On one particular day, I was in line in, my cart moderately full. I had been waiting my turn patiently for about ten minutes when I was approached from behind by a lady (I use that term loosely).

“‘Scuse me, ‘scuse me lady…let me go in front of you. I have only this, I’m in a hurry.”

Granted, she was polite, she did say “‘Scuse me” as she held up her item. I was annoyed. Aren’t patrons like her the reason there are lines for those with “15 items or less”? As I said, I had been waiting my turn and had other things I needed to do. Reluctantly, I allowed the woman with the one item to go in front of me. As she maneuvered past me, she looked back, waving her hand yelling, “Over here!” I turned to look in the same direction as the lady who had just moved to the front of the line, in front of me. With G-d as my witness, I was nearly knocked down by another woman barreling towards me with a grocery cart so full the wheels were about to click off.

As this woman pushed past me running over my toes, she looked over her shoulder and spat out “Watch it lady, I’m with her….” In that one quick minute, these two women accomplished a feat those who know me thought impossible: they made me speechless. I think I was in shock until after the checker began ringing their order, and then it was too late. With my jaw still hanging open ten minutes later when my order was finally being checked, I was asked if I required medical attention or perhaps a chair on which to sit since I didn’t look well.

Still don’t believe me? Okay, let’s go to the movies. If you want to see a movie without the probability of being hit in the head with flying objects, it is suggested that adults go to evening movies. It’s a great suggestion, even if you take into account that the person in front of you may be hard of hearing, and his partner may repeat the entire dialogue of the movie at the top of her lungs, don’t you think? (Yes, it really happened!) Probably less noise, chances of crying infants should be way down, flying objects should not be a worry. Huh, ya think? My girlfriend and I one day decided to take in a “chick flick” choosing an evening show. It was a seven o’clock movie; we figured that would work.

We bought our tickets, loaded up on the popcorn and drinks, and in we went to a half filled theater. Perfect.

We picked our seats and settled in for a hopefully enjoyable two hours. No sooner than the lights dimmed and the previews started, a phone rang. At first I thought it was one of those clever movie commercials reminding viewers to be polite and turn off their phones. Unfortunately, I was wrong. A person a mere four rows back answered her phone, speaking as if she were enjoying a cup of coffee at her kitchen table with a couple of friends. I’d like to report that she immediately told the caller that she was in a movie theater and she’ll return the call later, but that was not in the cards.

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The Politics of Shopping

Friday, July 13th, 2012 - by Myra Adams

As Americans become more politically polarized will we choose to patronize or avoid a store, brand, product, or restaurant based on that corporation’s political activity?

For example, if you are an active Democrat would you avoid Walmart if you knew that their corporate contributions lean towards Republicans?

You could go to Target instead, but their contributions also help fill the GOP coffers.

If this information leaves you feeling in a blue state and you want to shop that way, then head on over to COSTCO where Democrats receive 99% of all contributions.

How about if you are planning a trip to Disneyland and discovered that so far in the 2012 election cycle Disney has made $575,000 in political contributions with $411,000 or 77%  going to Democrats.  Would you change your travel plans?

Is it important for you to know whether the company you are supporting is an R or D before you hand them your hard earned after-tax dollars?

If so, Open Secrets, a unit of the Center for Responsive Politics, makes it easy for consumers to discover just how much corporations are donating to a party and/or candidates.

Besides donations, does the relationship between a company and the President of the United States affect consumer behavior?

A few years back when shopping for a new car, I refused to even consider a GM model because in no way was I was going to support “Government Motors” any more than my tax dollars already had.

It turns out I was not alone in this thinking. Recently the New York Times revealed that in the first quarter of 2012, in a survey of 30,000 Americans shopping for new vehicles, 32 percent said they would not consider a GM car because of the 2009 U.S. Government bail out.

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Is Being Married Always a Financial Advantage?

Sunday, July 1st, 2012 - by Helen Smith

You would think so if you watched Suze Orman’s show last week where she discussed gay marriage and the four financial advantages of being married. On her show, she mentioned that married people have all kinds of advantages in terms of health insurance, pensions, social security, and estate taxes. She says that you can leave your spouse 100% of your assets tax-free, get higher social security benefits if your spouse dies, and pension plans at corporations often let you leave money to your spouse. Employers often insure a spouse and not a life partner. Okay, fair enough but maybe that just says more about how our tax structure and employee benefits are set than about marriage. For example, your kids get screwed if you leave them your money too as part of your estate by high estate taxes. Why not change the estate law to make this more fair? But this post is about the other side that Orman did not touch on: What are the financial disadvantages of being married?

There are many. First, what about the marriage penalty? Two high earners who are married pay more than if they were single. Is this fair? Not in my book. Another disadvantage of being married is that spouses are often responsible for the other’s debt. If your spouse racks up a great deal of debt and bails on it, that can become your problem, depending on the state you live in. According to Nolo.com:

In community property states, most debts incurred by either spouse during the marriage are owed by the “community” (the couple), even if only one spouse signed the paperwork for a debt. The key here is during the marriage.

And what if you don’t want to leave your retirement account to your spouse? According to Nolo.com “your spouse–or former spouse–may have a legal claim to your retirement account, so proceed with caution.”

Finally, if you get divorced, you may end up giving most of your assets away, even if you earned them. And then, of course, there are the non-financial restrictions on you when married, especially if male. You often need your wife’s permission to get a vasectomy. Even your own body is no longer your own once you become wedded to a woman.

Can you name some more financial disadvantages of marriage that I missed?

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The Chore Wars Continued (Husband Vs Wife Edition)

Friday, June 29th, 2012 - by Leslie Loftis

Continuing with the war theme, check out the latest round of men don’t do their domestic share from The Nation:

What’s irked me is the continued assumption that this is a women’s issue. The problem isn’t that women are trying to do too much, it’s that men aren’t doing nearly enough…

Dismissing socialization and gender roles as piddling compared to this amorphous idea of “maternal imperative” is part of the reason progress is stalled for family-friendly policies. I don’t believe we must ignore how much we love our kids and want to be with them in order to effectively fight for better parenting policies—but the assumption that women want to be mothers above all other callings in their life directly impacts the way we talk and work on these issues….

This isn’t about wanting “it all,” it’s about wanting fairness and justice—something that’s only possible if we radically change the gendered expectations of parenting. Anything less will keep us talking in circles.

First a point about terms: what is “choice feminism”?  For most casual feminists, “choice feminism” is the idea that feminist accomplishments gave us the opportunity to choose our own lives whether it be domestic or professional. This is real feminism.  (See here and here for examples of such discussions.)

Intellectual feminists, however, hate choice feminism, and the above quote illustrates why. They want pure equality where men and women do the same amount and types of work. Therefore, they cannot accept any notion of “la difference.”

Feminists only use the language of choice when they want us to feel empowered for the choices they would have us make. See Cherie Blair who thinks it “dangerous” that stay-at-home-moms “married rich and retired.”

So what about the men? First, articles like The Daddy Wars fuel wifely assumptions of husbandly incompetence. “Why can’t you do something right?!” barbs are common and are relationship poison. Second, the evidence is rather murky that husbands are slackers. A Time magazine piece from last fall challenged the notion that husbands do less work than wives. It is an interesting read, so do read the whole thing if you subscribe, but this caught my eye:

But what we weren’t seeing was that there was a mounting body of evidence that women were not, in fact, workhorse wives picking up their husbands’ slack, that there are several variables in the dual-earner equations…  So does that mean that my sense of injustice and that of so many other women have all be a result of an accounting error?  Thankfully, it’s not quite so simple.

Thankfully? The gist of the article is that men have been slandered for decades, yet the author is “thankful” her sense of injustice was not entirely misplaced? Either men have been wrongly accused and reduced to annoying sperm donors or the evidence shows that men are still sometime slackers. Neither bothers her as much as the horror that she might have been mistaken.

And feminists wonder how they get a reputation for bashing men.

See Leslie’s previous blogs on the gender and family wars

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Are Children Winning the Chore Wars?

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012 - by Leslie Loftis

Modern parents struggle with how much responsibility to give to children and when. Typical American practice calls for parents to keep children available so they may have the time for enriching, resume enhancing activities or for just being kids. Yet even once we found our houses dominated by spoiled kids from 20-somethings down to toddlers, we still use a ‘less and later’ responsibility pattern.

Modern parenting stories are loaded with unintentionally humorous “paradoxically” comments. From a New Yorker review of a slew of books about how to avoid raising spoiled kids, “Paradoxically, [an author] maintains, by working so hard to help our kids we end up holding them back.” That hard work by Group A on behalf of Group B results in less work from Group B? This is not a paradox. It is cold reality.

I’m tempted to be smug on these chore wars. My kids are expected to do chores, but I usually have to be “instructionally repetitive.” (That is my husband’s polite phrase for “nagging.”) The New Yorker review suggests — and I think she is on to something — that we get “kiddie whipped.” Describing her own experience with chore assignment:

[M]y husband and I gave [our children] a new job: unloading the grocery bags from the car. One evening when I came home from the store, it was raining. Carrying two or three bags, the youngest, Aaron, who is thirteen, tried to jump over a puddle. There was a loud crash. After I’d retrieved what food could be salvaged from a Molotov cocktail of broken glass and mango juice, I decided that Aaron needed another, more vigorous lesson in responsibility. Now, in addition to unloading groceries, he would also have the task of taking out the garbage. On one of his first forays, he neglected to close the lid on the pail tightly enough, and it attracted a bear. The next morning, as I was gathering up the used tissues, ant-filled raisin boxes, and slimy Saran Wrap scattered across the yard, I decided that I didn’t have time to let my kids help out around the house. (My husband informed me that I’d just been “kiddie-whipped.”

That I would have made my children clean up the grocery and garbage messes doesn’t change the fact that it would have been easier to do the jobs myself. That thought undermines my resolve to have my children help around the house. Even though I’m trying to raise responsible kids, they still see that I don’t always expect them to do chores, and so they don’t.

Any parents out there who avoided becoming “kiddie-whipped?” I’d love some advice.

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What’s the Best Way to Fix a Damaged Power Cord?

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012 - by Dave Swindle
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One of the tasks that’s sat on my to-do list far too long: repairing our old TV. Somehow a heavy object landed on the cord not long after we moved to Los Angeles (more than two years ago!) and it hasn’t turned on since. We had an old back-up that’s served us well enough for our bedroom TV so I haven’t felt motivated to make the effort to try and fix it. But in rearranging the bedroom today it was time to move the now dusty, way-too-heavy old set that I’ve lugged from apartment to apartment since college. So now might as well take the time to cross this off the honey-do list.

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Anybody else have any other suggestions on the best way to make the repair? Or is the top YouTube video the best way to go?

I wonder how much Google and YouTube have cut into the appliance repair business… How sweet it is to use the free information floating around online to save money.

PJ Lifestyle’s Megan Fox has written about money saving tips in the past and she’ll have more on the subject in the future:

I Saved $230 A Month at the Grocery Store with Extreme Cooking

Seven Last-Minute, Do-It-Yourself Gifts for Under $20

 

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