Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pass It On: Use less water to boil pasta.

Small, simple changes in energy use can often make the biggest differences when spread out over many people. Over at the NYT, Harold McGee shows you can cook dried pasta (your typical grocery store shelf variety) with a lot less water and for a shorter cooking time. The trick: start with cold water.

Details here.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Making Do: Kitchen cabinets

My grandmother was always good at using what she already had around the house - she called it "making do." Raising a family during the depression on my grandfather's salary as a school teacher was no easy feat (high school chemistry, in case you're curious), and often it was the only way necessities were met. The whole idea of customized solutions derives from necessity; she is, after all, the mother of invention.

duhMan and I are wading through the first wave of home ownership: what can we live with and what would scare us in the morning. The list is typical: painting walls, cleaning, replacing fixtures, installing safety devices (detectors, remote garage door openers), did I mention cleaning? The House was built in 1948, so some things have been replaced, others "renewed" (if you've ever seen painted tile, you know what I mean). Items on our list keep changing order due to moving time constraints and the cost of replacements. Case in point: the kitchen cabinets.

They seem to be an early version of the IKEA DIY cabinet sets. Assembling your own furniture is not a new idea (even before particle board book-shelving). In fact, Sears & Roebuck used to sell kits for whole houses. These cabinets had been through one life stained then two painted white (different hardware), and while the materials were holding up, the original assembly parts were showing their age. Our first thought was another repaint and new hardware, but during the pre-paint sanding, they began to look pretty convincing as "distressed cabinetry." I suppose the years of usage helped..... We decided to go with the idea and use the cabinets as is. And after another trip to the Magic Housewares store for new hardware (admittedly not free, but still far cheaper than replacements), here's how they look:

Not bad for making do.

Monday, December 28, 2009

And so it begins.....

My husband and I recently bought a house - very recently, like holiday gift week "good things also come in REALLY big boxes" recently. The process was relatively painless until the very end when someone in Idaho decided our small plot of home was in a floodplain...

True, there is a storm drain behind the property, one of those dry "creeks" that run between the backyards through the neighborhood and fill with water after a good rain. What our friend in Idaho could not know is that we're 23 feet up from the storm drain. From our backyard, we look down at the neighbors, not for any personal reasons since we don't even know them, but because their yard is almost at creek level. The whole north side of town would have to be under water for our yard to flood, and if that were to happen we'd have more pressing issues. Nevertheless, modern lending being what it is, no money would be granted until flood protection was dutifully provided. So we bought flood insurance to get the loan even though the house doesn't need it.

Good things also come to those who wait. Our initial closing date was delayed by four days waiting for FEMA to approve the flood designation so the insurance company would be allowed to take our money and sell us insurance. But in the end, we closed, and now we have The House in which to make our new home.