4 Basics to Check When Buying a New House

Buying a house is exciting, but it is also an incredibly stressful and taxing move, especially making your way through all that paperwork managing any hoops and loops along the way. Imagine doing all that and moving into your new house full of excitement and wonder, only to discover a leaking roof.

Even if you have done your best to ensure quality and check any major problems, chances are that there will be problems that need addressing with several years. To avoid such a situation, we have compiled a list of basics to check when buying a new house, making the entire process painless and fool-proof.  

Check if the Roof needs Repair

Always, and we mean always check the top before you inspect the bottom. This golden rule will save you time, money and any potential disappointments in the future. Check thoroughly for any cracks, leaks or rough patches in the roof that might appear new and polished but might cave in at any moment. Décor and design elements are often used to hide major flaws within the structure and the foundations of the house; thus, it is critical to ensure the quality and resilience of the roof.

In addition to this, it is useful to educate yourself in how the overall quality of the roof and foundations can affect insurance policies. A new roof could mean a lower homeowners insurance rates. A roof constructed with especially sturdy material is equipped to defend against storms, wind and rough climate and will save any future costs for repairing and maintenance.

Inspect any Exterior Cracks and Tilts

Often times when you are inspecting a house, you might be too consumed with the overpowering smell of floor varnish and new paint, and forget to pay attention to the exterior of the building. Small cracks and tilts are likely to be connected to more serious foundation issues that require immediate attention. Owners and real estate agents use various techniques to hide any apparent surface flaws, including coating the walls with layers of thick paint or filling in gaping holes with plaster or low quality, cheap filling. Thus, it is vital to inspect any signs of decay, cracking or chipping which might incur additional costs and create inconvenience.

Check Water Damages Concealed with Paint

As mentioned above, real estate agents may resort to a variety of ways to conceal apparent blemishes and defects. Concealing internal water damage with layers of paint is particularly dangerous as it traps moisture within the walls resulting in mould growing within the foundations and veins of your house. It is also a health hazard that costs a fortune and takes a long period of time to eliminate. Calling in an emergency plumber sutherland shire for inspection can help.

A method of prevention is looking closely and carefully at the underside of sinks, drawers and the back of closets and cupboards in the kitchen. You might also want to examine the base of tubs, toilets and window sills which is where moisture piles up the most. Take every precaution when reviewing houses and scrutinize every corner where you might suspect crusted paint chipping off as that is a likely spot for moisture build-up 

Sellers Offering Incentives to Waive Inspection

Before you seal the deal, another basic to check before investing in a house is if sellers are providing incentives to waive inspection. This is a clear red flag and you should insist on inspecting, even at the cost of a particularly advantageous incentive. There is absolutely no reason to waive inspection when purchasing your future abode and such an offer only points to major flaws in the construction and overall foundation of the building. You can also use this to your advantage, and it is to your leverage to negotiate for a lower price or refuse the deal altogether.


Buying a house can be a terrifying prospect but by keeping these helpful tips in mind, you can easily manoeuvre your way through the otherwise tedious process. This is a lifetime investment and thus it is crucial to check for any errors or potential frauds which may result in added expenses and a great deal of disappointment. 

Auto Emergency Kits: Stay Safe on the Road

Having a good auto emergency kit can keep your family safe and make life’s minor inconveniences less of a hassle. Most people have the basic necessities of jumper cables and a spare tire, but there are times when you may need a flashlight, bandage, or tissue while you are out on the road. The same principle goes to keeping all your tools for emergency repair and what not mostly inside your garage, keeping your garage door fixed and functional for safety not just for your car but other valuables as well.

This article will give you some suggestions on what to include in your auto emergency kit. Be sure to make an emergency kit for every vehicle in the family, especially if you have children that are of driving age.

First aid

All auto emergency kits should have certain basic first aid supplies. If possible, keep extra doses of every family member’s medications, both prescription and over-the-counter. If you care for elderly parents, be sure to include all of their medications as well. You do not want a minor road emergency like changing a tire to become a medical emergency because of a missed dose of medication. Include cleaning supplies like baby wipes and hand sanitizers to your auto emergency kit so you can disinfect minor wounds and wipe up spills.

Roadside emergency supplies

All cars should already contain the necessary tools to change a tire, but you should also keep commonly used tools like a screwdriver, hammer, and pliers in your auto emergency kit. Other useful items include duct tape, flashlights and batteries, flares, flashing emergency lights, a pocketknife, and rope. If you live in a cold climate, consider purchasing a small butane-fueled hand-warmer or the instant hand warmers sold at camping and fishing stores. This can keep you warm in case you are stranded on the side of the road for an extended period of time.

Personal Items

If you have room left in your auto emergency kit, you may want to include some personal items for your convenience. Start with a small pack of tissues and a roll of toilet paper. Put together an overnight bag with travel-size toiletries like a toothbrush, disposable razor, deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, soap, hair spray, shaving cream, and contact lens supplies, if needed. Throw in a pair of socks and underwear and you will never be caught off-guard if you have to spend the night away from home. If you have children, include socks and undergarments for each of them as well. Women may want to keep a small mirror and some basic cosmetics, hygiene items, and panty hose in case of a run.

Children’s supplies

If you have babies or small children, your auto emergency kit should also include all items they may need while you are out on the road. For infants, be sure to pack diapers, baby wipes, and formula. Keep some small toys or books in the car in case you are stuck in traffic and need something to entertain the kids. Extra clothes, socks, and underwear are good to have on hand in case of spills or rips in clothing. Include some non-perishable snacks in your auto emergency kit, such as granola bars, fruit roll-ups, or hard candy.

Easy Remodeling Tips for Independent Living Seniors

There is nothing constant in this world but change, and the principle holds true as people age. When people become seniors, they might need to implement a few changes in the home. Remodeling for independent seniors might seem a bit different, but here are some of the most helpful hints that discuss remodeling with seniors in mind.

Tip #1

It starts with one of the most frequented places inside the house: the bathroom. If the bathroom has a bath tub, tub grips are a must to prevent slipping and for easier access in and out of the tub. Choose bath tub grips that have easy-locking lever features and a tight fit. Most of these don’t require tools for installation and removal. Another helpful tool that can be added is a shower chair.

Tip #2

When bathroom remodeling with seniors in mind, one should be aware of all the items in the bathroom that might cause slipping or tripping. To do this, hire contractors to replace the floor with non-slip tiles. Inspect the toilets and make sure that the seniors don’t have trouble with the standard size of toilets. Elevating the toilet seat up to 17 inches is ideal as the height places less stress on the legs and knees of the senior. A product recommendation is the Locking Elevated Toilet Seat from Home Care line since it can also be easily installed and removed. You have to be certain that the plumbing and some technical works are not compromised whenever a remodeling of the bathroom such as these is made. You can check this with a good plumbing company in cumming and get great deals on bathroom remodeling works.

Tip #3

The third tip is for another place which might need independent seniors home remodeling tips is the kitchen. Check the lighting and make sure that it has at least 60-watt bulbs and does not have glares or shadows. This is important during food preparation and other tasks around the kitchen. The best material that should be used in the kitchen is matte-finished wood and laminate flooring because they are slip-resistant and can help prevent accidents.

The last two tips deal with contractors. When hiring a contractor for remodeling with seniors in mind, you should only choose one that has a credible reputation and good feedback from friends. Make sure that the contractor specializes in remodeling homes for older people and that they are trustworthy. Experience with remodeling senior centers is a good start. If possible, check on the contractor’s license to avoid rip-offs and remodeling scams. If you are interested with a contractor you found online, meet up with the team personally to make sure they are legitimate.

Remodeling for independent seniors is serious business. Understand the payment terms and be wary of the upfront payment for the materials or the service. Before handing payments over, check twice for the permits and license and go through the smallest details including cleaning up after the project.



Most Common Home Improvement Challenges

Your home is one of the biggest investments you’ll make in your life, so it’s important to keep it in good condition. Not only do you want your home to retain value over the years, but it should also be a comfortable place to live that makes you happy. Over time, chances are you’ll encounter some problems with your home that need repairs. These repairs are usually easy to manage if you keep on top of them and take proactive measures to prevent damage to your home. Here are some of the most common home improvement challenges and what you can do to manage them.

Kitchen & Bathroom

bathroom-fixThe most common home improvement projects by far are kitchen and bathroom remodels. This is because plumbing and heating technologies change quickly, so these systems become outdated much more quickly than the rest of the house. These projects can be very expensive and often require the help of a plumbing contractor in Canton, GA but there are some things you can do to prevent them. The first is to be proactive and get small problems with these systems taken care of as soon as possible to prevent them from escalating. The second is to have the kitchen and bathroom assessed before you move in and to make changes you are interested in right away.

There are some elements of a kitchen or bathroom remodel that you can do on your own. For example, changing the tile in your kitchen or bathroom is something that can typically be done in a weekend or sometimes even in a day. Changing the hardware fixtures in your space can also make a huge difference in the way it looks without spending a lot of money.

Outdoor Repairs

Outdoor repairs are another very common home improvement project. Luckily, there are many things on the exterior of your home you can do yourself that add a lot of value to the building. For example, you can typically build a deck or porch on your own if you are handy with wood, or you can freshen up an existing one with a new coat of paint. You can also add features to your backyard such as a pond or outdoor kitchen fairly easily with the right materials.

Roof & Wall

Roof and wall repairs are also a common home improvement project. Over time, your home is likely to experience some damage just due to weather and the natural aging of the materials. Many roofing repair companies will offer deals and sales throughout the year, so it’s worth it to take advantage of these and have your roof assessed and patched to prevent future problems. Although this is unfortunately something that’s difficult to DIY, you can save money by shopping around and looking for the best prices.

Garage Doors

Most of us have encountered malfunctioning garage doors one way or another. This is mainly because most of the doors were mechanically made to serve its purpose and it seems very critical for us to understand how it works. It may look like so technical for us homeowners so a balanced garage door repair is practically advised. Find the best deals in your local directory and keep a friendly relationships with them to get bigger discounts in the long run.

Taking care of your home is very important, and you can prevent future issues by making small improvements to your home over time and fixing problems as they happen. Using quality materials and hiring the best service practitioners will also help you get more bang for your buck. Being aware of the home improvement challenges that homeowners face can help you be more proactive in the future.

How To Make Your Bathroom Feel Like a Hotel One

One of the first things we check out when we enter a hotel room is the bathroom. There’s a certain amount of excitement to having a luxurious and pristine bathroom as opposed to a drab bathroom that’s only purpose is to be functional. There are certain things luxurious hotels do to make their bathrooms look the way they are – use of marble, glass-door showers, and expensive tiling. If you’re planning on bathroom renovations ballarat for your house, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to make your bathroom look like a hotel one – just follow these tips!

1. Get rid of the colour

Next time you go to a hotel, take a good look at the bathroom. You will notice a common theme – grays, white, and beige. The reason these bathrooms look so good is because they use those colours that give it a clean and luxe look. So ditch the bright reds and blues and opt for more subtle colours instead. Starting with the walls, make sure everything in your bathroom from your towels to the rug to the toothbrush holder fits in with the theme of subtle colours. You can make use of brass fittings to give the room a subtle splash of colour and also make things look a lot more luxurious.

2. Set the lighting

So this varies from person to person – some of us like the brightly lit bathroom while others want a glowy, low-lit place. If you’re going for a lot of light, make sure you go for super white or daylight lights – the yellow lights make your bathroom appear more dull and drab. Also, white lights fits into the colour theme I was talking about before. If you want the low-lit look, go for recessed LED lights and put them in nooks and crannies in your room, like behind the mirror or (if you can afford it) soft floor spotlights.

3. Engage the senses

It’s about more than what your eyes see – you also want to engage other senses like hearing, smell, and touch. Invest in some scented candles in flavours like vanilla which are subtle and not overwhelming. Other items like essential oils and scented soaps will add to the experience. Soft music playing on your mobile or a mini speaker will further enhance your bubble bath experience and soft towels and bathrobes will really make it feel like you’re in a hotel!

4. Don’t forget the decorations

Okay, so this kind of goes against the first tip I gave since it involves bringing some colour into your bathroom. The rule is to just not go overboard. A picture of a beautiful landscape in a wooden frame, some small potted plants, and a book placed tastefully on a wooden caddy are just some ways you can enhance the look of your bathroom and make it look all the more luxurious.

Free Potting Bench Plans and Tips

Winter can be a great time to gather materials and build gardening accessories, start seedlings or just browse through gardening catalogs, imagining the garden to come. It can also be the perfect time to find what you need to build a free potting bench. We’ve done this several times. Try these steps to do the same:

Step One:

When Remodeling, Consider Saving Old Counter-tops and Cabinets to Build a Potting Bench – But Don’t Ignore Your Climate

When we replaced a bathroom counter, we saved the slightly battered but very functional top to use as as part of a new bench. We decided to simply make a very simple potting bench, a place where we could accomplish basic gardening tasks. We had a laminate counter top and it worked just fine. However, we had to put it in a garage because harsh winters could have ruined the top if it was left outside year round, warping it or even cracking it.

Bottom line: Even if you find free materials, consider your climate and be clear about whether your potting bench can withstand the elements. Some are fine outside, especially in mild climates or in protected areas. Others are best in garden sheds and/or garages – or even in special rooms inside the home.

Step Two:

Use a Cast-Off Dresser, as writer Cyndee Kromminga suggests here to build a potting bench

In her article, writer Cyndee Kromminga, had a brilliant idea for turning an old dresser drawer into a potting bench. She even includes detailed directions for transforming a deep drawer into a very usable potting bench. She knows how to turn roadside discards or orphaned furniture, particularly dressers and drawers, into perfect benches for potting plants. I think this is a brilliant idea!.

Bottom line: don’t overlook cast-off furniture, including functional dressers and deep drawers, when building your potting bench. Some possibly ugly furniture can be found on trash day and turned into very attractive potting benches.

Step Three:

Don’t Overlook Old Workbenches as Possibilities for Gardening Chores

We inherited a very old workbench that was located at the back of a garage. Admittedly beat up, it was still sturdy and had plenty of room. It even had deep drawers. It worked perfectly as a potting bench, especially with all the drawers, formerly used for tools, now used for gardening supplies.

Bottom line: don’t assume that a workbench- or any type of furniture – has to serve only one purpose.

Step Four:

Get the Word Out if You are Looking for Potting Benches or Materials

If you are driving down the street and notice that someone is remodeling a house, complete with dumpster outside, counter top or cabinets in the dumpster, it doesn’t hurt to ask if you can have the materials. However, be sure to ask the age of the counters, cabinets, etc. You don’t want to end up with items so old that they might contain lead paint or give off lead dust. Friends, neighbors and others may be delighted to have you haul off their old chest of drawers, kitchen counter tops and other items.

Bottom line: don’t be shy about letting people know you are looking for potting bench materials.

Follow these steps and you could have your free potting bench, completely built and ready to use come Spring!

Cheap and Easy Ways to Decorate Your Home Office or Work Space

Everyone needs their own space. Even though it might be nice to have your own home office or work space there are ways to personalize this area by surrounding yourself with things that you like and represent your creativity. This is, after all, your area to be as productive as you can be and what better way to achieve this by stimulating your mind, body, and spirit in ways that make you happy.

I have found several room office ideas on how to decorate the work space on a budget and it has resulted in better brainstorming sessions, more creativity, and just a more harmonious feeling all around.

1. Bring Color into your area. If you want your area to have more life, it must have more color. There are several ways to achieve this. Look around your home for old magazines, greeting cards, post cards, etc. There are so many amazing images that some professional photographer took and got paid for. Why not cut out these images and decorate your home office with them?! I have found pictures of dolphins, grape clusters, davinci sketches, etc from old magazines I already have. I have put up some cool post cards someone sent me and a few nice greeting cards featuring huge printed words such as “Love”, and “Thank You”, one card had a VanGogh painting on it which now is right above my computer. You can use the dollar store to find cheap pictures, cards, posters, etc. I always have pictures of my children smiling, and I highly suggest you personally draw and color at least one hand made creation of your own. One of the easiest ways to redecorate is to paint your area wth “oops” paint you can pick up at your local hardware store for cheap.

2. Get a plant. There are few ways that are better to create an amazing home office or work space than to bring nature into that space. If you do nothing else, get your self one small plant to keep you company. You can buy a plant for $0.88 at Walmart or Home Depot so no excuses. After getting the perfect plant, please proceed to name it so it knows who you are talking to when you are rambling in your long hours of brainstorming and turmoil. I assure you that having a plant will make your work space or home office feel alive.

3. Bring Music. It is a well known fact that music helps induce more creativity. Music helps us find a joy and energy that few other things can produce. Music mediates a rythmic feeling of enjoying the moment. I have found that using stereo headphones in my work space (as not to interupt anyone else’s space in the house) helps me produce more work and I seem far happier doing it. My personal favorites ar U2, Roberta Flack, Ida Maria, and The Lark Ascending, depending on what mood I am in.

There are no rules for decorating and personalizing your home office or work space. The most important thing is that you surround your self with things that inspire you, that make you laugh and smile, and that keep you productive and happy. It is not hard to find cheap and easy ways to decorate. Be creative and have fun making your space your own!

The Best Vegetables to Grow in Containers

Why Use Containers to Grow Vegetables?

Container gardening is widely popular for the vegetable-growing enthusiast with limited gardening space. Plant containers can be placed in any sunny or mostly sunny location, like on a deck, patio, in the yard or on a balcony. Balcony-grown container plants will do best on a west or south exposure, and turning the containers 180 degrees every few days can help. Hanging containers are also an option to take advantage of available sunny space.

By growing your own vegetables, you gain the satisfaction of growing and sharing food with family and friends. Grow some extra vegetables to donate to your local food cupboard or shelter. Whether you plant from seed or from nursery starter plants, you will find great savings at harvest time when you see the price of fresh vegetables at your local grocery store.

Almost any non-porous or semi-porous (like clay) container with drain holes can be a container for growing vegetables. You don’t have to buy expensive containers; a plastic one gallon milk carton with the top cut off can grow leaf lettuce, radishes or green onions. Metal containers are not advised because of the rust factor. Click here for details on choosing outdoor containers.

The Best Vegetables to Grow in Containers

Almost any vegetable can be grown in a container. A minimum diameter container/pot size is included with the plants listed below. You may have success using a smaller container than suggested. I grew tomatoes in a 10 inch pot, but instead of inserting the stake into the pot to hold up the plant, I had to insert the stake into the ground and secure the growing tomato to the stake to keep the pot from falling over. This list of container vegetables is not all inclusive but should give you a start on your own container gardening.

Note: Small = 6 to 8 inches;  Medium = 10 to 12 inches;  Large = 16 inches or more

Leafy Vegetables suitable for growing in a medium to large container include leaf lettuce (like romaine, bibb), cabbage and spinach.

Bushy Vegetables like eggplant, green beans, pepper (sweet and hot varieties) and tomatoes can be grown in a large container. If you place the container near a fence, you may be able to secure the growing plant to the fence if the variety chosen requires staking.

Vining Vegetable options include squash, peas, cucumber and zucchini, which can be led up a trellis next to the container. Use a medium container. The vines can be allowed to grow on the ground but not on cement, which could get too hot.

Root Vegetables include radish and green onion that can be grown in a small container, even a window box.



In addition to my experience growing vegetables in pots, Texas A & M University offers these tips on Vegetable Gardens In Containers.

You might also like:
Tomatoes: Easy To Grow, Good For You
How To Make Tomato Juice
Choosing Fertilizer For Vegetables
Raised Gardening

Beautiful Fringed Tulips

When people think of tulips, the flowers that most often come to mind are the classic red and yellow varieties. Classic varieties of tulips add color and beauty to a yard or garden, but there are varieties of tulips that are extraordinary. Fringed tulips are exceptionally beautiful, and there are a number of fringed tulips to choose from if you’re looking for unique tulips for your yard or garden. The following varieties of fringed tulips are excellent choices, and they are suitable for most hardiness zones. Choose these fringed tulips if you want to make your yard or garden a masterpiece of beautiful flowers uniquely trimmed with fringed petals.

Cummins Tulip

This fringed tulip is exquisite. The petals are a beautiful shade of purple, and the edges of the petals are fringed with white trim that makes them appear lacy and exceptionally unique. This fringed tulip is an excellent choice for anyone who wants to add a unique fringed tulip to their yard or garden.

Cummins fringed tulips are best suited for hardiness zones three through eight. The blooms of this fringed beauty are approximately four inches in width, and the fringed flowers reach a maximum height of about eighteen inches. Choose these fringed tulips if you want to turn heads and capture attention in your yard or garden in mid to late spring.

Pink Fountain Tulip

Pink fountain fringed tulips are a must-have for anyone wanting fringed tulips in their garden or yard. The color of these fringed tulips is simply breathtaking. Pink fountain fringed tulips have frosty pink petals that are elegantly fringed, and they make outstanding bouquets.

Consider planting pink fountain fringed tulip bulbs in hardiness zones 3 through 8 if you want a fringed tulip that is extraordinarily beautiful. These four-inch pink fringed gems will reach a maximum height of about twenty inches, and they will grace your garden in mid to late spring.

Parrot Tulip

This fringed tulip is appropriately named because the petals look like the feathers of a beautiful exotic bird. These fringed tulips have a tropical flair unlike any other fringed tulip available, and the colors are amazing. Fringed parrot tulips are available in combinations of bright red, yellow, white, yellow painted with green, deep purple, lilac, deep red, vivid pink, and many more. Plant a garden or border of fringed parrot tulips for a dramatic display.

Fringed parrot tulips are best suited for hardiness zones three through eight, and they bloom in late spring. These exotic looking fringed tulips reach an amazing height of about twenty-eight inches. Choose fringed parrot tulips and you’ll anticipate their beautiful fringed tulips year after year.

Blue Heron Tulip

Have you ever seen a blue heron on the banks of a serene pond on a sunny spring day? Blue heron fringed tulips are embellished with beautiful blue-violet petals that look like the well-preened feathers of a great blue heron. These fringed tulips are simply amazing, and they would make a fantastic addition to any yard or garden. Anyone searching for beautiful fringed tulips is sure to love these beautiful fringed flowers.

Blue heron fringed tulips grow well in hardiness zones 3 thru 8. Their four-inch blooms last a long time, and they grow to a maximum height of about eighteen inches. These beautiful fringed tulips will make their appearance in late spring. Plant blue heron tulip bulbs if you want fringed tulips that are the true definition of beauty.

Mon Amour Tulip

This double-fringed tulip is sweetly fragrant and simply beautiful. The sunny yellow flowers of the mon amour tulip are extremely full and lavishly embellished by fringed petals. If you love bright flowers, this fringed tulip is an excellent choice for your yard or garden. The fringed petals of these tulips are so frilly and full they appear to be made of fine yellow velvet.

Choose mon amour fringed tulips in hardiness zones three through eight if you want a spectacular fringed tulip that will take your breath away. This fringed tulip reaches a maximum height of approximately eighteen inches, and it blooms in late spring. Make this fringed tulip a part of your yard or garden and you’ll provide a spectacular display of beautiful fringed flowers.

Foliages or Plants You can Safely Put Inside the House


The era of modernization and information technology has brought numerous changes in the life of a modern man. People have become used to a sedentary lifestyle and thus, they prefer to have a beautiful environment inside their homes which is green, soothing, relaxing, and natural at the very same time. There are many foliage plants which can assist in adding charm to the house where people can enjoy life in a meaningful way.
Following are some of the foliages which can put be put indoors:

Aloe Vera Plant

This amazing plant has been famous since the time of Cleopatra. It has many health benefits and it is great for the human skin. In case of cuts and wounds, it can make the healing process a lot faster. It can be kept in the kitchen. It does not require a lot of maintenance which is the best part so, bright sunshine dry soil and water are enough for this plant to survive inside the home. It is available in different sizes ranging from a very small size which can be kept on the kitchen slabs or near the kitchen window, then there are the medium sizes which can be kept on the table in the lounge area. On an average, the size available in the market is likely to be 3 feet in height.


Begonia Masoniana

Iron-Cross Begonia or Begonia Masoniana is another plant which can add charm indoors. It is relatively easier to grow and requires medium sunlight for its growth. The soil conditions have to be moist for this particular plant and it is only 12 inches in height. The amazing thing about this plant is that the leaves indicate the needs of the plant at the moment for example if the leaves are turning somewhat brown it means that it is time to minimize the amount of water which is being currently given to this plant.


Maranta or Prayer Plant is another amazing decorative plant with a height of 2 feet which can add beauty to the house. It’s a fun plant since the leaves open and close. The soil conditions required for the growth of this plant are moist and it can survive in medium sunlight. However, during winter the soil has to be drier for the proper growth and maintenance of Maranta. There are leaf markings on the plant which are appealing to the eyes and are given the name of rabbit tracks.


This particular plant requires a little bit of maintenance since the leaves have to be wiped to give them a glossy shine and to avoid the spider infestation. The soil has to be kept evenly moist for the growth of Fatsia and it requires very low or medium amount of sunlight for its growth. It is 6 feet in height so it can be placed near the sliding doors, or at the empty corners of the house to add beauty to the house.



Decorating Ideas for Dorm Rooms and Must Have Items

For a new student, the dorm life can be a lot of fun. It can also be pretty cramped. However, with smart decorating ideas you can maximize your dorm space and inject some personality. You can also set a budget and challenge yourself on finding the most affordable and functional appliances or furniture you can get. You can set a Home Depot challenge for yourself and try to be smart as much as possible to spend within your budget .

A Loft Bed

The easiest way to increase your space is by converting your dorm bed into a loft bed. Before you begin, check the bulletin boards in dorms, student unions and other community centers on campus. Then purchase sliding plastic tubs to store clothing and other goodies underneath.


If your college allows it, decorate your walls with shelving for your CD’s, books, DVD’s and more. To save even more space put all of your CD’s on an MP3 player, then leave them with your folks. Instead of collecting books, hit up a local book store and trade them in as you go. Or use your local library.

TV Mount

Another decorating idea for saving space is to mount your television (if allowed). Or forego the television altogether. After all, you’ll be plenty busy with homework.

Filing Cabinet

A well-decorated, locked, small filing cabinet is another functional decorating idea. Use it to organize your homework and other important information.

Mini Fridge

The mini fridge is a dorm room must-have if you want to save money and your waistline.

Compact Microwave

A small microwave goes hand in hand with the mini fridge and should be able to sit on top, saving you some space.

Hanging Organizers

Another space saving decorating idea is to use hanging organizers for all of your lightweight gear. Store energy bars, clothing, toiletries and more in a hanging organizer in your closet.

Portable Bathroom Caddy

If the bathroom is down the hall from your dorm room, a portable bathroom caddy is an absolute must have.

Silk Flowers

A great decorating idea for those too busy to take care of the real thing is fake flowers. Fill a vase with silk flowers to spruce up your desk. Or use them in a hanging plant to save even more space.


If you can’t paint your dorm room, or your roommate doesn’t want you to, another decorating idea is to use borders along the top or bottom that can be easily removed, without leaving a trace.

Another idea for saving space is to opt for a laptop versus a desktop computer.

Comment below about the experience. Happy smart shopping!

What You Can Do to Keep Rats from Coming into Your House

Those creaks and moans that an old house makes may not be ghosts or goblins. When the wind blows and it squeals and shrills, sending shivers up your spine bringing goose bumps to a rise, is it only the wind?

Those bumps and thumps within the walls of a new house as it makes itself comfortable and begins to settle down while the banging on the pipes isn’t playing out a song, is there nothing going on?

Think again. There may be something going on but it’s probably not supernatural. It may be that you have Rats. When rats get into the walls of a house you don’t always hear them. They could be living in the walls, the attic, the basement, around the water heater, under the floors for month’s even years without you knowing it except for an occasional creak, moan, squeal, shrill, bump, thump or a banging.

There are signs of rats that you can look for. In places that isn’t frequented you may have disturbed spider webs, small footprints where it’s dusty, rat droppings, gravel, small to large holes in floorboards, and crawl spaces. Anything stored a rat can gnaw through. Wiring may be chewed on and may be chewed in two. When wiring is chewed in two it can cause fires and it can cause things inside the house to stop working such as lighting. Insulation can be bitten and eaten on and dragged to other areas for rat nests.

Rats can eventually find their way into the house.

If you have rats and are waiting on an exterminator or pest control person to come and take care of the rat invasion you can do a few things to ensure they won’t come into your house or to dissuade them from entering.

If you have pets you’ll want to be cautious that they don’t inhale any fumes. Keep pets out of the room or area you are working in and make sure the room the pets are in has ventilation to allow any fumes that may spill over into their area a way to escape.

Rats don’t like to smell bleach. Water down bleach or use cleaners with bleach in it and wipe down floors, do not wipe down carpets, wipe down sinks, toilets, stoves, refrigerators and windowsills. Basically clean as you normally would. Make sure bleach is diluted enough with the water that it won’t take the color out of anything. The bleach smell will eventually fade but it will keep rats away temporarily for several days or until the smell is gone.

Vinegar seems to effect rats too. If you don’t have any bleach, squirt some vinegar around but be aware that vinegar can hurt the color of things. Vinegar can also make things sticky if too much is sprayed. You may wish to dilute it with water.

Gardening Tips for Beginners: Natural Garden Pest Control and Smart Watering Tips

Controlling garden pests and watering your plants properly will help your garden flourish. There are many alternatives to toxic insecticides, including beneficial garden insects, such as ladybugs, which I will discuss here. I will also explain how you can water your garden in a water-saving, plant-friendly way.

Natural pest control

Before you use harsh chemical pesticides, consider using nature’s own pest controllers. Lady bugs, praying mantis, and other helpful insects can help keep some common garden pests from destroying your plants.

Ladybugs, also called lady beetles, eat harmful insects such as aphids and are a cost effective and environmentally friendly method of pest control. You can buy ladybugs from many gardening supply stores and can even order them online. A link I’ve supplied at the end of this article will take you to an excellent web page describing lady bugs and the different kinds of garden pests they will eat.

Be sure to follow the instructions that come with your ladybugs. Ladybugs need moisture and if your garden area is dry, it is a good idea to lightly water before setting the ladybugs free. Don’t buy and release ladybugs too early in the season or they won’t have enough food and will die or will leave your garden for, literally, greener pastures.

Praying Mantis are also beneficial insects. However, along with garden pests they will eat the beneficial ladybugs, and I don’t recommending introducing both praying mantis and ladybugs to your garden.

Like ladybugs, praying mantis eat aphids and other garden pests. Unlike ladybugs, Praying Mantis also eat larger insects such as grasshoppers. If grasshoppers are a big problem for your garden, consider getting praying mantis rather than ladybugs

A side-note about another beneficial garden creature – Earth worms.

Earth worms, though unpleasant to look at, are a gardener’s friend. They tunnel through the ground and this action helps aerate your soil. Avoid killing them if you can.

Watering Tips

Sprinklers are convenient but are not always the best method for watering your plants. Some plants are particularly sensitive to getting water on their leaves or flowers. Most vegetable plants do best if they receive water more directly through their root system (which you can assist by using soaker hoses or drip irrigation).

Also, whether you use soaker hoses or a sprinkler system, you should avoid watering in the hottest part of the afternoon because doing so wastes water via evaporation. If you use a sprinkler you should be aware that water on leaves under a hot sun ( for instance on tomato leaves) can scorch the leaves.

In general, the best time to water a lawn or most plants is early morning. This gives the water a chance to soak into the soil, and any moisture left over is evaporated more evenly throughout the day. A second watering in the evening is necessary for thirsty plants. Keep in mind that water remaining on leaves will provide a great breeding ground for unwanted fungus.

Soaker hoses are a good alternative to sprinklers for many plants. Soaker hoses cut down on water waste and are usually better for your plants. As the name implies, these hoses allow water to seep out to your plants rather than spray out over your plants. Soaker hoses are not expensive and can be found in most places that sell gardening supplies.

If you can afford it, you may want to purchase a drip irrigation system instead of simple soaker hoses. The price varies, but I have seen these systems for around $50.

By using natural pest control and good watering techniques, you can help your garden thrive and you won’t have to worry about residual, harmful, pesticides. Creating a natural insecticide-free garden may seem like more work, but will pay off in the end. Remember that when you use chemical pesticides, you kill off all the beneficial insects as well and this throws your garden’s ecosystem off balance.





Solar Gardening: Solar Panels Gardeners Creative Options

The advent of solar panels has liberated the adventuresome gardener and landscaper. No longer tethered to electrical outlets by extension cords, even the most distant corner of the yard has now become part of the living canvas. Whether it be decorative lighting, fountains, ponds or lit walkways, technology has opened up a world of possibilities.

The creation and technological improvements of the photo-voltaic or solar cells created this miracle. Made of silicon, the units are usually very small and individually produce only 1 or 2 watts of power. However, when placed in modules their power increases exponentially in relation to the size and number of the modules working together in the array. Systems can be large enough to power homes or even entire communities, but for gardening and landscaping purposes they are usually only about a foot long and are easily installed by connecting the solar panel to the unit and placing the panel in direct sunlight.

Solar power works on two basic concepts: direct usage and battery storage. In direct usage, the sun charges the panel, which in turn creates the current for immediate use. If for whatever reason, sunlight is not available, the solar panel no longer produces power and whatever system it was powering shuts down. With a battery storage system, the electricity created by the solar panel is stored for use at a later time.

solar-panel-powerThis method is commonly used in decorative lighting in conjunction to on/off switches, which are connected to automatic sensors. When the sensors perceive a change in the light level, they automatically turn the light on or off. However, there are some water fountains that utilize both.

During the day, the direct sunlight not only runs the pump, but also charges the batteries for nighttime usage. Most batteries will remain effective for eight to ten hours before their charge is depleted. Originally, NiCad (Nickel-Cadmium) rechargeable batteries were used in the systems. Even though they had an increased degree of efficiency, being able handle the high rate of charges or discharges (typically over 1.5-2 amps), their toxic effect on the environment out weighed their benefits. NiMh batteries (Nickel-Metal Hydride) are more environmentally friendly and are more effective for applications that call for long duration but not a high amp load. It was for these reasons that the current landscaping systems were switched to the NiMh batteries.

As more people actively use solar power, the cost decreases and the diversity increases. However, at first glance the cost factor makes the more traditional landscape decorations more attractive, until you balance out the other factors. The freedom from extension cords is the first benefit. The solar panels allow the landscaper to decide where to place ponds, fountains or the multitude of decorations available without considering the power source placement.

Any area where sunshine is accessible is part of the natural landscaping canvas. In addition, solar panels are safer than running extension cords to your ornaments. Extension cords can bring safety issues that limit their usage. Another factor to consider is lawn care. Mowing the lawn would require extra care to prevent damaging them.

Even if they are buried, they are easily damaged by moisture, burrowing animals or an ill-fated shovel. To mark the path of the cord would diminish the view of the landscaper’s hard work. Once the cord has been cut, it will have to be dug up and replaced, costing extra time, money and damaging beauty of the area. The second factor and the greatest balancing element is the cost of electricity. With the increasing cost of utilities, solar power becomes that much more cost efficient. Sunshine is free. Once the system is put into place, it cost nothing to power it.

Fountains and decorative ponds have become increasingly fashionable and easier to install. With the sturdier liners and the solid plastic forms, ponds no longer require skill with cement or masonry; anyone, who is willing to follow the instructions, is capable of creating a decorative pond in their yard. There are kits complete with pumps however, most of the current ones available require an outlet. The individual components, including the liners or forms are sold separately with several size and capability options. The solar pumps also vary in size and options. Improvements (www.improvementscatalog.com) has two sizes. The small pump circulates 33 gallons an hour with a 17-inch spray height –  it is designed for smaller ponds or birdbaths. The larger pump moves 105 gallons per hour and the water reaches a height of approximately 40 inches. It is recommended for larger ponds. Both are powered by solar cells, but don’t have the battery back up. There are pumps available complete with batteries that would be charged during the day and held in reserve for cloudy days or nighttime use.

With floating fountains, the solar panels are self-contained within the unit. Whether anchored or allowed to float free, the floating fountains give their own unique effects. Since their water height ranges from 12 to 18 inches, they are excellent for smaller ponds where water radius needs to be more contained. However, for larger ponds multiple floating fountains increase the water flow and add a unique beauty all of their own. By allowing the fountains to free-float, the design of the pond is every changing and recreating itself. By adding a solar lighting system, the landscaper completes the vision by creating a focal point around the spray or a soft glow beneath the water surface.

Freestanding solar fountains are the third option. Completely self-contained, these fountains are both indoor as well as outdoor. Coming in a variety of sizes, shapes, and capabilities, these fountains can be as simply as creating soothing bubbling sounds to actively moving parts, which give visual elements as well as auditory. Ranging in height from a couple of feet to over six foot tall and made from field stone, granite, ceramic, or various metals, these fountains can create focal points with the yard or add subtle embellishment to an existing display.

Solar lighting systems are not only effective for ponds and fountains, but they also highlight other features of the landscape and provide an efficient way to light your yard for additional security. Floodlights are available in 60-watt units and have been used commercially for years. Effective, but plain spot lights are useful where light is needed, but where appearance is unimportant. However, there are varieties of hanging and decorative lights, which are not only attractive, but are an efficient way to give additional security to your home.

When starting with a full charge, these LED’s can illuminate any dark corner for up to fifteen hours and then recharge during the day for the next night. Coming in a variety of sizes and themes, these lights also add texture and fantasy to your living canvas. Whether in the shape of your favorite breed of dog, frogs, or fairies, these statues are capable of multi-tasking–by day they are simple lawn ornaments; by night, they are beacons to ward off things that go bump in the night. Hanging lights also come in a variety of shapes.

From the traditional style of the old gas lamps to a more modern globe, hanging lights can be chosen to fit any landscape design. In addition, solar stepping-stones, string lights, bricks, and accent lights can be beacons to guide the way around your yard or to your front door. Complete with two LED and their own solar panel, the stepping-stones and bricks are designed to be built into walkways.

The LED’s and batteries are easily replaceable. For special occasions or as holiday decorations string lights are small globes, humming birds or dragonflies, which are staked down along your walkway or garden beds. Coming in various lengths, they are powered by solar panels that are disguised a rocks. Accent lights also come in various styles and sizes; some of which also act as bug zappers. Set on top of stakes, which range in height from 12 inches to several feet, these lights act independently of each other and can be place anywhere additional lighting is needed or desired.

Landscaping and Planting an Edible Garden

In the past generations, the main interest in landscaping was food! Our grandmothers and great grandmothers could step out of their kitchen, into their garden and harvest vegetables, fruits and herbs. Grandma wasn’t as concerned about the “look” of her garden as she was after with what it produced. Whether you have a desire to “work the soil” or just a need to trim your budget, planting an edible landscape is a smart way to go.

You need a Good Planning

With a little planning, an edible landscape can be beautiful and functional at the same time. The same considerations should be given to sunlight, and soil composition as you would when planting a traditional landscape. Make sure you have an area with enough sunshine, most fruits and vegetable will require at least six hours of full sunlight per day with well-drained and well composted soil.

vegetable-harvest-in-the-backyardWhen choosing your plants, remember that annual edibles are more labor intensive than perennial edibles. Annuals will cost more than perennial plants because you will have to replace them every year or as they are eaten. Perennial edibles such as fruit trees and trees/bushes that produce nuts and berries may take a few years to start producing fruit, so you may want to “fill in” with annuals until the perennials get established and begin to produce.

If you are not a seasoned gardener, start small. Choose a couple of fruit trees, berry bushes and a small plot of vegetables. Here is a list of some easy to care for and low maintenance edible plants you might consider:

  • blue berries
  • high bush cranberries
  • raspberry bushes
  • rhubarb

vegetables-landscapingRed cabbage, string beans, lettuce eggplant, Alliums, Chrysanthemums, Pansies, and Queen Ann’s Lace are all flowering plants that can be eaten. Strawberries make an excellent ground cover and spread fast. Adding a grape arbor would be a beautiful addition to any landscape.

If space is limited, edible gardening in containers is a nice option. Sunlight and soil composition as well as good drainage are still important to the health and growth of your plants. Herbs do well on small containers on a patio or in a sunny window. Tomatoes, onions, lavender, peppers, lettuce, chard, Pansies, and cucumber bushes are all great choices for container gardening.

You must realize that a garden of any kind will demand a certain amount of maintenance to produce and thrive. Once you have chosen the perfect sunny spot, tilled and fertilized the soil, you will need to be committed to weeding and watering daily. Once a month fertilizing is a good idea, the fruit trees will have to be pruned yearly and the annuals will have to be replaced every year.

If you are diligent in careful planning and care of your edible landscape, it will reward you with fresh, tasty fruits and vegetables. As produce prices continue to climb, you will realize the increasing value of your landscape.

Breaking the Boundaries of Bonsai

In Western culture, the word “bonsai” is used as an umbrella term for “bunjae” (Korean), “pen jing” (“tray scenery”, Chinese), and “bonsai” (“potted plant”, Japanese). (Western cultures have also found a way to commercialize this art by selling ‘bonsai starter kits’ for $5.99 in mini boxes, commonly found next to the similar miniature zen gardens in bookstores.)

Traditionally, bonsai is easily summarized as a miniature tree grown in a container. However, it is interesting to view the alternative ways to practice bonsai as a hobby. The late David Hart, used bonsai to create miniature landscapes through out his yard. In the rear, he had a water garden, complete with waterfall and bridge, and surrounded by rocks that he spent years collecting (as opposed to those ‘fake rocks’ used by professional landscapers and water garden installers.)

David used different forms of moss, animals and other appropiate miniature things (foxes, bears, deer, and snakes as well as tunnels, houses, and many other miniature things… commonly made of ceramic or stone.)

David agreed to grant me an interview (a year before he died), as I was absolutely intrigued by his work.


“What was it that inspired your interest in bonsai?” I began, following him through his gardens with a notebook in hand.

“A friend borrowed a book from a relative. I was already a farm boy, I had lots of houseplants. What interested me most about bonsai was the creativity of it. Taking the traditional method (of keeping the trees in a pot) out of it’s norm (as a houseplant) just added more creativity to it.”

“Do you have a favorite piece?” I wondered aloud, a question that had not been in my notepad. Without thinking, David led me to a large, colorful display that was set on a stone slab.

“That would be my Black Forest. This is a piece I have had for 15 years.” He went on to explain that the centerpiece tree was a Black Forest Spruce, and he pointed to the moss on the far side of a large stone. “That moss will be turning a bright orange within the next few days” he told me. I could see the affection as he pointed to a doe and her fawn, and then to a fox. “The fawn and the fox are both looking up into the tree. I am going to find a racoon to put right on this branch.”

“What would you say the benefits are of working with bonsai? Are they more physical or spiritual (emotional)?”

“For me, it is therapeutic because it is a hobby. Just like anything else that takes you away from your day, the construction and creativity involved can be very therapeutic.” He then went on to compare bonsai to an older hobby he had once had… billiards. “A living form of art is even more appealing.”

I was now no longer reading questions I had intended to ask. “What materials would a beginner need to start?”

“In one word… education. Books. Read, read, and then read some more. Bonsai Today is a great magazine to read. As far as materials, it depends on whether you want tropical plants, the traditional form you keep potted… or ‘landscape’… things you can find at a local nursery.”

“So what would you say is the cost to get started?”

“That all depends on your knowledge and, again, what method you want to use. You can buy a tree from somebody that is 50 years old, and it’s going to be very expensive. The method I use mostly costs just time and labor. Finding the rocks you want to add, and other things like that, but it doesn’t really call for much money.”

“What advice would you recommend to anybody interested in starting bonsai as a hobby?”

bonsai-hobby“Well, I’d tell them first to educate themselves. The traditional method can be quite expensive, and there are certain things you have to learn about (growing, forming, and caring). The best advice I can give though is to not get caught up in tradition. Be creative, and use plants (and things) available to you.”

“Where can somebody find information about bonsai as a hobby?”

“Well, the internet is the best place to find information about anything” he laughed. “Just type in bonsai in a search engine. You’ll find all sorts of books, magazines, and information as well as clubs and groups. I am a member of a number of bonsai groups myself… I definitely recommend joining a group. The best magazine is Bonsai Today. They tell you everything you need to know, and they have pictures of all the different stages.”

David added “It’s important to have patience. You have to be able to see where your ‘project’ is now, and how you want it to be, and then have the patience for it to get that way. It’s a really fun hobby.”

Final Thoughts

I’d like to thank Dave for sharing his opinions and advice. I’ll never forget that moment for the rest of my life. He partly influenced me to keep the same hobby until now.

David used to teach lessons and offer free advice to anyone interested. It was a very rare privilege to talk to him. I still remember how happy he was when he was showing me his bonsai creations. I wish he had more time to teach his passion and love for bonsai, for a different hobby that was – to all show us that it was really therapeutic, that it could be an answer to defeat stress everyday.



Unusual Garden Seed Catalogs

Snow is gently falling. Outside my windows, finches are flocking around the bird feeders and perching in the red maple trees. Once upon a time, in the days before computers, I would eagerly await the arrival of garden catalogs, some from large seed companies, and some from tiny little farms.

This is the time to dream of spring, renewing old acquaintances with familiar herbs, vegetables and flowers, and forming new friendships with plants yet to be tended. Today I sit in front of the computer and visit the sites of my favorite seed providers, deciding what lucky seed will find a home in my garden this year.

Robert Fuller published the first seed catalog in this country in 1732. Since then the mail order seed business has flourished. Today, one can find seeds or plants from anywhere in the world and have them delivered right to one’s home.

One of the top if not the number one source for finding plants comes from the University of Minnesota. This site list A to Z plants from thousands of nurseries and garden centers. One can search for plants, seeds or nurseries using their website.

One of my longtime favorites, not only for the unusual seeds offered, but for his biting wit and sarcasm, and his wisdom about responsibility to the earth is J.L.Hudson, Seedsman. This is not a commercial seed company, but rather a seed bank, with a statement of purpose – Preservation through Dissemination and Conservation, Propagation and Education. Talk about seeds from around the world, J.L.Hudson offers seeds from Acacia Auriculiformie, more commonly known as the Ear pod Wattle Tree, from New Guinea, that grows 45 feet tall to Zizyphus Spira-Christi, the Nubk tree also known as Christ’s Thorn from North Africa and West Asia. The seeds from this tree are used by Muslims to make rosaries. Check out this site not only for unusual seeds but for its dose of inspiration and common sense.

The Seed Savers Exchange  is another great source for finding heirloom vegetable seeds. This is a wonderful organization dedicated to preserving seeds that were once planted by our grandparents and great grandparents. Without the dedicated members of the seed saver exchange, our selections of vegetable seeds would be limited to the top selling varieties of the commercially produced seeds. Seed savers have an amazing selection of tomato seeds including black tomato and an unbelievable assortment of beans. Don’t just order seeds from this organization, consider becoming a member of the seed savers exchange and help the planet right from your own back yard.