Fall officially arrived yesterday — Sept. 22 — though, with highs in the 80s still, it’s hard to think summer’s over.
There have been hints of real changes though. A scouting party of Canada geese has been at Green Valley Park since about mid-August. On occasion you can feel a slight difference in the breeze — it’s a little cooler and sweeter smelling.
Speaking of smells, you might catch a whiff of skunk in the night air.
If you’re quiet, the early morning air might carry the sound of elk bugling. And in the stillness of the night, that same air could bring the sound of coyotes chattering.
There are even a few trees already sporting the colors of the season.
A drive to higher elevations to welcome those new colors and the change of the season is one of fall’s favorite activities.
Fall day trips
Fall is a great time to travel — the weather is cooler and there’s still a lot going on. If you don’t have the time or budget for a long vacation, you can still hop in the car and take a day trip. There are plenty of places to go and things to see within driving distance — you just have to look for them. There’s plenty of online:
• Leaf-Peeping — to find the best time to go, check: The U.S. Forest Service Web site at www. fs.fed.us/news/fallcolors, or call the Fall Color Hotline at (800) 354-4595; the Foliage Network collects data from foliage spotters twice a week from September through November. See reports at www.foliagenetwork.com.
• Winery tours might require some extra planning, but you can find vineyards in both Arizona and New Mexico. Locate all wineries within the area (more or less) at www.AllAmericanWineries.com. At www. WinesandTimes.com, there’s an interactive map that lets you see just where the wineries are and helps you plan a tour.
• Be Spontaneous — Not sure where you want to go or just feel like taking a spur of the moment road trip? Use the Tank of Gas feature at www.TripAdvisor.com. Enter your city name and how much gas you want to use — quarter tank, half tank, full tank — and a list of day trip ideas will pop up.
There’s a lot of fun still to be had, so do a little research, load up the car and hit the road!
Before hitting the road, make sure your car is in top condition.
Give your car a complete cleaning
Cleaning a car is a piece of cake, right? Though the initial response might be a resounding yes, there’s more to a clean car than some soap and water. In fact, as the Car Care Council notes, cleaning a car is a far more intricate process than one might think.
The first step in cleaning the car is to wash it. Give it a good rinsing from top to bottom, including the wheels and inside the fenders. Always clean the tires and wheels before washing the body, and don’t use the same mitt for both. This way you’ll avoid contaminating the vehicle’s paint with debris from the wheels and tires.
Use a good tire cleaner with a stiff brush to improve your tires’ appearance, even if you don’t have white sidewalls or white letter tires. Next, clean the wheels with a wheel cleaner that removes the brake dust, which often blackens the front wheels. Application of these cleaners varies, so be sure to follow the directions on the container.
Now it’s time to wash the body. Use a product sold specifically for automobiles, as household cleaners can strip the wax from the paint and damage the finish. Starting at the top, wash one section at a time, thoroughly rinsing away the soap. Work your way down toward the front, sides and rear of the vehicle. Clean the rear last since it usually has the largest accumulation of dirt and grime, which can contaminate the wash mitt. Wash the inside door jams about once a month.
To rinse, remove the spray nozzle from the hose. Starting at the top, let the water cascade down the surfaces of the vehicle. Then, to avoid water spotting, dry with a chamois or other product made for this purpose.
Now is an excellent time for waxing, which not only protects the finish but also makes subsequent washing easier. Before proceeding, look for foreign particles on the paint. Use a car cleaner, available at auto supply stores, to remove contaminants imbedded in the paint.
Once the surface is clean, apply the wax by following the manufacturer’s instructions for application of the product. Typically, manufacturers suggest not applying wax in sunlight.
While keeping your vehicle clean doesn’t require a lot of effort, says the Council, it does foster a feeling of pride and accomplishment. For more information on a variety of vehicle-related topics, visit the Car Care Council Web site at www.carcare.org.
Fixing up around the house for fall
Want to freshen up your home after freshening up your car? Here’s a crash course for the novice do-it-yourselfer.
Few industries have fared better over the last decade or so than the home improvement industry. Much of that industry’s success can be credited to the increasing popularity of do-it-yourself projects. What’s more, the economy has made the DIY movement even more popular, as many homeowners are scaling back on work hired out to contractors for more financially friendly DIY projects they can do themselves.
As popular as the DIY movement has become, however, every first time DIYer can use a little advice for making the job go more smoothly.
“What’s important to keep in mind if you’re a first-time DIYer is knowing your limitations,” says home expert Danny Lipford, host of the radio show Homefront. “Some projects have a larger margin of error than others. And as with any DIY project, the key to success is having the right tools. It can really make or break your ability to do the job.”
Consider the following tips courtesy of Woodcraft.
• Enlist the help of others: Few DIY projects are easy enough for first-timers to pull off alone. Whenever possible, enlist the help of a friend or family member who may have a little more experience. And reciprocate the offer of help on his or her own DIY project.
If no one is available on a given day, there are ways to make solo projects less taxing. The Gorilla Gripper from Woodcraft, for instance, makes moving heavy plywood or drywall much easier. Simply slip Gorilla Gripper over the center of the panel and lift. The leverage created by the weight of the panel and the unique jaws of the Gorilla Gripper make it easy for one person to carry a panel.
• Go easy on the elbow grease: While DIY projects used to be back-breaking work, today’s do-it-yourselfers can rest easy knowing that much of the blood, sweat and tears that traditionally went with a DIY project has been left by the wayside. That’s because technology has made things easier with respect to how much elbow grease is required of even the most difficult DIY project.
More traditional jobs like re-painting a room once required tedious work such as scraping paint with a putty knife or getting scuffed up sanding walls. However, with the new Fein MultiMaster, the days of sanding tight spaces with paper wrapped around your finger are a thing of the past. This all-in-one product — with its oscillating movement and user-friendly accessories — scrapes, saws, removes grout, shaves, sands, files, polishes and cuts. The Fein MultiMaster is a versatile, high-precision specialty tool — perfect for all renovation and repair work.
• Make sure you “measure” up: “Measure twice, cut once” is an age-old maxim in woodworking. But measuring is hard without the right measuring tools. Calipers, trammel points and even the trusty old tape measure are the kinds of tools you need for accurate measurement. Calipers to help scribe and measure depth, and tape measure to find the perfect length.
With the Pinnacle 12” Combination Square 3-piece set, DIYers will gain a valuable asset that saves them time and the all-too-common heartache that many DIYers must suffer through when a project is improperly measured. With a 12-inch blade, combination and center finder, you will hit the mark every time.
• The devil is in the details: Oftentimes, the most minute of details are what plague first-time DIYers. Having never undertaken a home improvement project before, many first-timers finish a project only to notice a scratch here or a knick there.
Recognizing the likelihood of such an outcome, veteran DIYers often turn to simple solutions such as Timbermate Wood Filler. Water-based and garage-friendly, Timbermate is easy to apply and clean up and never goes bad. What’s more, Timbermate doesn’t become permanent until a finish is applied, making it the perfect choice for first-timers who might be nervous during their initial application.
To learn more about products that can make your foray into DIY a success, visit www.woodcraft.com.
Smartest improvement? A safety renovation
Installing a new roof, updating a kitchen, adding another room to a home — these are the things that come to mind when one thinks of a home-improvement project. However, what good are these improvements if you don’t also renovate the way you think about safety in the home? A safety hazard can quickly escalate and ruin all of your hard work.
According to recent accident statistics from the National Safety Council, the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control and other advocacy groups, approximately 45 percent of unintentional injury deaths occurred in and around the home. Unintentional home injury deaths to children are caused primarily by fire and burns, suffocation, drowning, firearms, falls, choking and poisoning.
It is important to keep safety in mind with everything you do as a homeowner. Therefore, take the time to assess these areas of potential concern as part of any home-improvement plans:
• Periodically check your hot water tank, washing machine, dishwasher and refrigerator icemaker to see if they are secure and leak-free.
• Keep supplemental heating sources, such as wood-burning stoves or kerosene, propane or electrical heaters at least 3 feet away from flammable items including draperies and clothing.
• Don’t store flammable items, or just about anything too close to furnaces or hot water tanks.
• Carefully monitor the electrical system for shorts and sparks. Do not run cords under rugs or heavy furniture, and do not overload electrical outlets.
• Keep chemical cleaning products, home-repair items, like paint and mineral spirits, and tools under lock and key or out of reach of children.
• Do not store combustible materials like newspapers and rags in the basement or garage.
• Burn only dry, seasoned hardwood in your fireplace, and regularly have the chimney inspected and cleaned.
• Install a working smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector on every floor of the home.
• Inspect surrounding trees and cut down any dead limbs. If a tree doesn’t seem sound to you, bring in an expert tree service to remove it. You don’t want a tree crashing down during a powerful storm.
• Make sure steps, both indoors and outdoors, are level and intact. Install better lighting at entryways to improve safety.
• Install a safety fence around a pool with a locked gate.
Stop slips, trips in the home
If you’ve slipped in the shower, stumbled on the stairs or taken a tumble on the terrace, you’re not alone. In fact, more than 5.1 million people report accidents and, tragically, nearly 6,000 die every year from accidental falls in the home.
Stairways, slick surfaces and uneven footing can create unexpected, but easily prevented, danger zones. With some simple safety precautions, you can help avoid slips and falls and keep your family safe.
Clear the stairs
Whether your home has interior, exterior or basement stairs, it’s important to make them as safe as possible. The Home Safety Council shares these tips for stair safety.
• Check to make sure railings and banisters are secure. Wood glue can secure loose balusters or handrails.
• Add lighting at each end of the staircase.
• Keep clutter off the steps.
• Use safety gates at the top and bottom if there are small children in the house.
• Paint the bottom stair of basement steps white so it’s easier to see.
Create safe surfaces
Some surfaces are more prone to be slippery, especially when wet. Tile in the bathroom, wood on the deck and cement around a pool can be hazardous.A new product, Amazing GOOP Anti-Skid Epoxy, sprays feet-friendly grit on potentially slippery surfaces to increase safety. It comes in an aerosol can, which is perfect for covering small areas around the home and covers up to 15 square feet. Because it’s an epoxy, it is also extremely durable and chemical resistant.
“The wooden stairs up to my hot tub often get dangerously slippery,” explains Leslie Habetler of Eugene, Ore. “I applied clear Amazing GOOP Anti-Skid to each step. The finish has just enough grit to keep my family from slipping as they get in or out.”
Loose mats, small rugs and loose tiles or cement can all create unexpected perils.
In the bathroom, make sure all bath mats have nonskid backing. Coatings like Amazing GOOP Anti-Skid Bath, Tub & Tile create a crystal clear finish with an acrylic coating and help with firm footing on tiles and in the shower or bath. It’s a nice choice because it won’t detract from the look, but will add peace of mind.
Small rugs around the house should also be tacked down with tape — or not used at all, especially around stairs.
Finally, don’t forget your home’s exterior. Walkways with loose or broken tiles, bricks or stones can create problems. Sometimes just pounding the loose stone back into place works great if the base is on dirt. You can use a level to ensure each piece is even.
If the loose pieces aren’t on dirt, EcoGlue Extreme, or a similar product, can be used to tack them back in place with an instant and permanent hold on cement, concrete, metal or other surface.
It doesn’t take much time, effort or even money to make your home safe for your family. Common sense and simple precautions will keep you on your feet and free from slips, trips and tumbles.
Amazing GOOP Anti-Skid Epoxy and Anti-Skid Acrylic, EcoGlue Extreme and EcoGlue Premium Wood are all made by Eclectic Products, Inc. For more information, visit www.eclecticproducts.com/metro.
Once it’s safe — refresh your nest
Here are some affordable ways to liven up your home:
As the saying goes, there’s no place like home. And these days people are looking for ways to make their home a more enjoyable living space.
“Rather than flipping homes, like people did when the housing market was strong, we’re seeing more and more families embracing what they already have,” says Bob Maricich, president and CEO of World Market Center Las Vegas. “The idea of refreshing one’s environment, even in the smallest ways, can have a restorative power and transform a house into a home.”
Home furnishing experts say that it’s important to recognize that it’s the littlest things that matter when you’re making enhancements to your home. Simple touches of a new sofa or end table, rug or even a decorative lampshade will create a different look and feel to a room or space. This is a small lifestyle change, and not an unobtainable luxury.
Nancy Robinson and Julie M. Smith, of Nine Muses Media, have put together some timeless trends that will help you visualize and explore the possibilities for updating your home.
• Calm yourself — Living with a neutral interior palette is like being enveloped by a cloud. Get the look by blanketing rooms in the softest neutral shades: cream, mocha and, most especially (and perhaps surprisingly), gray. “A dash of a neutral metallic accent, such as silver, adds a welcome sparkle,” said Robinson. “It’s like sunlight peeking through the clouds.”
• Distressed to impress — Modern Country is ageless and exudes a comforting charm that takes imperfection to new heights. Natural finishes, heavily distressed surfaces, reclaimed woods, rattan, wicker and other natural textures are livable finishes for busy families. And the look fits farmhouse style or urban loft with equal ease.
• Ethnic inspiration — Far-reaching global influences are no longer far flung. Ethnic-inspired fabrics are turning up all over in American homes. “The organic patterns, vibrant color palettes and handcrafted looks create an aura of sophisticated warmth,” said Smith.
What to look for: motifs inspired by traditional African design; susani patterns from Central Asia; ikats and batiks from Indonesia; and handblocked woodprints from India.
• Power play — A smaller footprint, lighter weight and better performance are important purchase considerations when buying a new laptop. The same things matter when buying home office furniture. In fact, Robinson and Smith note that as laptops have become the most popular home computing choice among consumers, so, too, have writing tables and petite desks moved to the fore.
Unlike their executive suite predecessors, these modestly scaled workstations don’t take up an entire room. Instead, they slip easily into most interiors, providing needed workspace without taking up too much space or too much money.
• Seeing black and white — The go-to item in your closet may be the little black (or white, depending on season) dress. In home furnishings, it’s the combination of the two that offers the most impact. It’s twice the look in one great product, and it never goes out of style. Smith and Robinson say to consider making a statement with a black and white combo in bedding ensembles, window treatments, wallpaper or upholstery fabric.
Refreshing your nest doesn’t have to be out of reach. With a few simple changes it’s possible to fall in love with your home all over again.
For more inspiration and tips, visit HomeYet.com.
Tips for Choosing Furniture
Measure, measure, measure! Too many people don’t measure their rooms, doorways and stairways before buying a furniture piece. Make sure it will not only fit in the room, but will fit through all the doorways it takes to get into the room.
• Color Trial — Just because you like the color in the showroom doesn’t mean you’ll like it in your house. Lighting and surrounding elements can change a color drastically. Get color swatches and live with them for a few days before making a final decision.
• Reality Check — Think through how this piece of furniture will be used and who will be using it. Small children, pets, shoes on the ottoman, snacking in front of the TV — they all can cause wear and tear on furniture. Light colored fabrics, delicate construction and fine finishes might just have to give way to more practical concerns.
Double your decorating potential
An expensive redecorating project may not be likely a priority this year — at least as far as your household budget is concerned. While we’re all tightening our belts a bit, it’s easy to refresh a room without breaking the bank.
Here are a few tips from the color experts at Rust-Oleum:
• Take stock of what you own. Pull all of the furniture out of your room so that you can take an inventory of what you’d like to keep. You may be surprised to find that an old item once tucked into a corner could provide new inspiration.
Look around your house for other furniture items and accessories. Be sure to “shop” for your new items in the attic, basement or garage. Ask neighbors or friends or shop flea markets and garage sales. Don’t worry if the items don’t match just yet. Paint can bring the room together.
• Choose your new color palette. Choosing color is often the most daunting task when redecorating, but here’s a tip for finding the perfect color palette. First, think about what you use this room for. Is it a peaceful place to read? An inspiring area to create? A room dedicated to family fun?
Next, pick a word or two that describes how you want that room to feel — calm, peaceful, bright, warm or inspiring. Now close your eyes and visualize that word. You may visualize the ocean when you think of calm or a bright outdoor place when you think of inspiration.
Write down one or two colors from the scene that you’ve visualized. Maybe it’s a spa blue of the ocean along with the khaki color of wet sand. Or, if your inspiration is a bright garden, you may want to use colors like sun yellow, deep blue or apple red.
• Recycle, refresh and renew your existing furniture. Use paint to bring unlike pieces together. You may find six unique dining chairs with different styles. Painted a rich kona brown, these very different chairs make up a beautiful and eclectic dining set. This same strategy works well with picture frames, vases, baskets and other accent pieces.
Bringing a mix of different styles together with paint is even easier with Rust-Oleum’s new Ultra Cover 2X (or a similar product). Its double cover technology offers twice the coverage of other spray paints and is available in the most popular colors. Twice the coverage means that you’ll need fewer coats of paint to complete your project so your room will be ready inhalf the time. Spray paint has many advantages over brush paint. Most notably, spray paints provide a smooth finish for items with a lot of texture like wicker or wood with detail.
For more inspiration and project ideas, visit www.paintideas.com. There are hundreds of easy and inexpensive projects that can help you transform any living space. And, when you’ve finished your own room makeover, be sure to share it with your new friends at paintideas.com.
Have a small bedroom — Make the most of it
Most people have a vision in their head of what they feel to be the ideal bedroom. Oftentimes that ideal includes a king-sized bed, a walk-in closet and a bathroom connected directly to the bedroom.
While those desires are nice, they’re rarely reality. In most cases, simply fitting a king-sized bed is luxury enough for homeowners who may find the room is a tad small for the extra amenities. For renters, this is especially the case, as rental properties rarely boast master bedrooms, making it harder for renters to create their dream room for rest and relaxation.
Fortunately, there are ways to turn a small bedroom into a personal oasis and maximize whatever space is available. It just takes a little hard work and some trickery to pull it off.
• Shelves can help make any bedroom seem larger, and shelving units typically take up very little space. Mementos from past vacations, pictures of family and friends, books, and even an alarm clock can be placed on shelving units, negating the need for various small tables strewn about the bedroom that take up space.
• Another great way to save space in the bedroom is to purchase a storage bed. These are beds that have drawers built into the bed frame. While these frames are typically large, for those with ample closet space (be it in or out of the bedroom) to store their clothing, the storage provided by a storage bed can remove the need for a dresser, saving significant space in the process.
Another way to create space with bedding is to purchase a platform bed. These beds are generally smaller and low to the ground, which makes the room appear larger as a result. Of course, the bed will be smaller and might not actually increase space in the room, but it will give the appearance of a larger room.
Conventional beds that are higher off the ground can also save space. Because conventional beds are raised higher, the area underneath can be used to store items such as luggage, shoes or anything else doesn’t require daily use and can be easily slid under the bed.
• Mirrors can also be used to make a small bedroom appear larger. Again, the mirrors will not increase the actual space in the room, but when properly placed about the bedroom, they can create a doubled-look effect that makes the room appear larger than it actually is.
• While it might not seem as though adding furniture to a small room can make it appear larger, small furniture arranged in the right way, often at angles meant to distract attention from the walls, can give a small bedroom the appearance of being larger. Also, for those who like to read or work in their bedroom, adding small furniture might be a necessity and not just on the wish list. Just be sure to arrange the furniture in a way that doesn’t make the room feel or appear cluttered or small.
• Bedrooms can also appear larger depending on the wallpaper. Horizontal patterns, for instance, tend to make a room appear larger. If wallpaper isn’t an option, consider hanging smaller pictures or art work that make the room appear larger. The bigger the picture or artwork, the smaller the wall will appear, making the room seem more confined in the process.
home improvement projects
Done with decorating? Deal with the practical fixes. Here are some fast, easy and inexpensive ways to improve a home:
As the economy continued to struggle over the last year, many homeowners put off home improvement projects as a means of saving money and insulating themselves from any potential financial pitfalls. While the economy has yet to fully recover, the speculation that the coming year will be much better than 2009 has led some homeowners to begin seeking smaller home improvement projects.
Though it might be too early to commit big dollars to a project, there are several options out there for homeowners looking to make small and inexpensive additions or improvements.
• Consider any new guests. An unfortunate side effect of the bad economy is that many people have lost significant amounts of money in investments, be it sinking real estate values or poor performance from investments in the market. This has forced many seniors to move back in with their families, either because of retirement plans that have been postponed or because of the high cost of senior living facilities that families can no longer afford.
For families with a new senior houseguest, chances are the home needs to be equipped with several things to make it more senior-friendly. For as little as $100 apiece, projects such as installing easy-grip door handles, grab bars in the tub or near the toilet, and even easier to use faucets that are more amenable to people with arthritis can be completed on a weekend afternoon.
• Make aesthetic improvements. Structural improvements are often the most expensive and require the largest time commitment. However, projects that are purely aesthetic aren’t terribly expensive and can be completed in a much shorter period of time.
One easy project that can give the home a new feel is to work on the entryway of the home. Painting the front door can create an entirely different look and first impression by visitors, and it’s a very easy and inexpensive project to undertake.
Another low-cost aesthetic improvement is to power wash a home that has vinyl siding. Siding often collects mold, mildew and grime that requires the use of a power washer to remove. One can be rented rather inexpensively and a thorough power washing can be completed as a weekend project.
Painting the interior of the home can also add new life to a room that a homeowner has otherwise grown accustomed to or a room in which the paint has begun to dull or even chip. Because paint is relatively inexpensive, this is a great way to make major changes to a home without a major impact on the pocketbook.
• Clean up. Cleaning a home is not only inexpensive to improve its feel and look, but it should also be free unless the occupants are genuine pack rats. For homeowners who have lived in the same home a long time, clutter has probably crept its way into the home and taken over certain areas. Clearing out this clutter can create whole new areas of the home, and unless the local sanitation department needs to be called to tote it all away, clearing out the clutter costs nothing except some time and effort on the weekend.
Quick fixes to save on heating and cooling
The average family spends $1,500 a year on energy bills, nearly half of which goes to heating and cooling, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A home energy audit and some quick fixes can save some of that hard-earned money.
The EPA estimates that homeowners can typically save up to 20 percent of heating and cooling costs by air sealing their homes and adding insulation in attics, floors over crawl spaces and accessible basement rim joints.
Conduct an energy audit to identify spots where energy is lost through gaps and cracks. Start in your basement and move upwards. Look for both visible gaps and cold or hot spots.
• HVAC Penetration — Your air-conditioning system set-up could be doing more than just heating and cooling your house. It could be an air-infiltration culprit. Check the HVAC ducts from your attic and basement into the living space. There may be gaps where the ducts go through the floor above into the ceiling below.
• Plumbing — While plumbing pipes may be hidden behind or under the sink, it doesn’t mean that the pipe penetrations aren’t allowing unseen bugs and unwanted air into the house. Check for holes under the sink where the pipes enter from the floor or wall in all rooms that have running water (kitchen, bathroom, utility room, and laundry room).
• Electrical box — Stand in front of the electrical box of your house and look at where the main electrical exits the box and enters the living space (in the basement look upwards). If there is a hole, seal it.
• Electrical outlets — Use a screwdriver to remove your outlet cover plates. Homes have holes cut in the walls for the outlets. Check for gaps between the wall and the metal box that houses the electrical socket.
• Attic hatch — Seal around the attic hatch frame to keep the unconditioned attic air from entering your living space.
The EPA recommends sealing these leaks with spray foam, caulk or weather stripping. Insulating foam sealants, such as Great Stuff form an airtight, water-resistant seal. The foam is sandable, paintable, and can be trimmed with a utility knife afterwards and is easy to use for do-it-yourselfers of any skill level.
For more information on how you can save money by sealing gaps, visit www.dowgreatstuff.com.