Sunday, June 14, 2009

How to Cheat at Home Repair

Cheating can be a good thing as long as no one gets hurt; you don’t break any laws (no cheating on tests) and best of all you save time and money! Enter a great book I highly recommend to help anyone with "the joys of home ownership, although this works for apartments and condos too: How To Cheat At Home Repair, by Jeff Bredenberg. I interviewed him for my radio show on Saturday and found his tips, based on talking to dozens of repair men and women and endless others, to be handy to have!

Here’s his deal—Try and take the emotion out of any home repair that is suddenly needed. Look at whatever is broken logically (I know it may be tough but stick with me). Fact is, if you hold off on picking up that phone to call the repairman or woman that an instant, you’ll discover you may be able to do this on your own, and save time and money.

Knowing how to repair stuff is not all about the tool box and heavy duty fix-its. Granted it is a great idea to have your indoor “quick tools” and outdoor tool kits organized and accessible. This book helps you with that, but it also offers some very simple, non-conventional tricks of the trade to fix things you own but didn't realize can be fixed. Life happens and stuff gets broken. Let’s fix it without stressin’, know your limits, have your support staff, but as my dad would say “give it a go!” Here are some of my favorites:

1- Wooden Furniture Gouge- Break out the crayon box to repair a scratch on wooden furniture. Thing of the coloring and the color options! The wax seeps in and covers it up. You want to overfill the gouge and then use a credit card to scrape the leftovers.

2-Ouch...A Tear in Your Leather Couch- Not to fear! Super or Krazy Glue can fix little rips in leather, vinyl, or even cloth. To use it, first pull the edges together. Apply to the very edge on just one side of the rip NOT both sides. Hold for a few minutes until it dries.

3-Map Out Your Circuits – What, you haven’t done this? It’s a one day thing and if you don’t have a second person to help it can be a one-man job with a radio. Go room to room and test the circuit breaker. Label each lever to know which room the electricity is going to. The radio idea is helpful if you are by yourself. Plug it in and crank it up. When you turn off that circuit on the breaker, you’ll know hear which room it is.

4-Grinding Glass in the Garbage Disposal NO SO GREAT- My mom used to do this.

Don’t because it’s a myth the glass will somehow “sharpen” the blades. Better to toss a lime or lemon in the disposal.

5- The Dye-Test for the Toilet- Have you heard this? It’s a plumber’s secret to knowing if you truly have a toilet leak. Lift off the tank lid and put in a few drops of food coloring in there. Let is sit for about 15 minutes. If the coloring has made its way into the bowl, either the float that shuts off the intake is not working, or the rubber stopper in the bottom of the tank needs to be replaced.

6- Spot Busting Weapon for Carpets-According to the experienced contractor quoted in this book, the “Stain Extinguisher” made by Chem-Dry is THE BEST. I haven’t tried it but will and fyi it can be found on the internet or purchased by the carpet cleaning company.

7-Finding a Great Repair Person – You need your ‘team’ in place before problems strike as a back up plan. Get input form your neighbors and friends, go online. I recommend which is community referral based for contractors and services of all kinds. Once you find them, treat them like family because someday you'll really need them. Got your own cheating at repair techniques? Let me know!

You can find this book at


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Fun and Inexpensive Plant Container Ideas

I am addicted to plants and am proud of it. But have you noticed if you want to pot your plants in a container it can be tricky in the hunt for something that is clever, creative and cost effective all in one?

Here are some ideas that will solve that in a hurry!

I chatted recently with the editor of Garden Ideas and Outdoor Living Magazine and boy did he have some amazing suggestions I had to share with you.

1- Chimney pipes can be painted in bright colors and they look expensive as an instant planter. You can either fill it with soil and plant, or do it the easy way and just stick the plant you've bought as is inside. Try bright glossy paints in blue, orange and yellow, or whatever you love.

2- Love this stage for potted plants that Better Homes and Gardens makes and sells. It comes in unfinished wood and you give it your own creative spin by painting it as you like. It's a fun way to fill a cornor with plants without repotting and can work on a condo or apartment deck, as easily as a larger home/garden space. Best part is seasonally you can change out the plants! It is easy to assemble and goes for $275. Go here: - and reference "home cottage"

3- You can also try the DIY tropical version of the above. You need some bamboo posts and bamboo edging/fencing. See how great it looks!

4-Stack em up! Here's another great idea discovered in Garden Ideas and Outdoor Living.
It's simply stack a small container on top of a larger one, and connect them with a metal rod or piece of rebar. This creates instant height and style without spending a fortune. You can use terracotta clay pots or even plastic. Just fill them with overflowing plants and your finished product will look gorgeous!

Good luck and let me know how it goes!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Planter and Coffee Table in One!

It’s a Planter and a Coffee Table in One

LA area Designer Lawrence Rizkowski used this at a recent home tour and I think it’s an amazing but simple idea. He turned a planter – think concrete, ceramic, whatever you like, and then topped it off with glass that has been cut with a square hole in the middle. This allows room for you to have a live plant in the container, you can water it, and it still provides room for your beverage and snacks! It looks great outdoors!


Man Crafts

Okay all you manly men, time to get busy with Man Crafts! What are they? Yes tools ar involved, although in some cases just your hands. This is a book out by the editors of Popular Mechanics, based on their historic step by step post war booklets. It takes you back to the early days of post World War II, when servicemen returning home turned to new skills and trades to master, make a living and a future for themselves and their families. For today's world the Man Crafts outlined have an appeal not only for nostalgic reasons, especially if you have a relative who served in WWII, but also important skills that translate to home improvement projects of today.


Some may sound a little Martha Stewart, but keep your mind open guys:

Things like:

*Stenciling a border of words in a room

*Carpentry 101 and how the Coping Saw helps

*Making furniture from a table to a chair

*Book binding

*Leather working

It's a quick read and whether you are a Man, or a Woman really, can pick up some pointers that you may find relaxing, and simple in our high tech world. Man Crafts,


And follow me on twitter:

Secret to Sensational Succulents

The key to great succulent container gardens is to avoid over-loving the plants.

We blow it by over-watering, not allowing for drainage and then these guys that are used to getting dried out from time to time, get mushy, sick and may die.


Here's my formula for healthy soil and happy succulents.

1- Choose a great well draining cactus soil. Many specialty nurseries offer a better drainage version than pre-packaged varieties in big box stores. But definitely don't use standard potting soil

2- Cut a small piece of screen material and place in the base of your container, over the drainage hole. This will stop ants from getting in and spreading disease.

3- Then add a pottery chip over the drainage hole to again help with drainage.

4- A secret I learned to help even more is sand on top of the cactus soil. Use 2/3 cactus soil in your container. Then top it off with 1/3 sand. This will allow the water to trickle down and not drench your plant.

5- Top off your cactus/succulent container with stones, glass, whatever you like for mulch and artistic appeal. My personal favorite is sky blue/white, almost glacier like recycled glass chips.

6-Try for a fresh, cool look - like adding jewelry or bling to your container garden design! And it's a surprising contrast with heat loving plants like aloe, echeverias, and agaves.

7- Remember succulents are drought tolerant and when in doubt, think drought-less watering is more and let them dry out in between watering - no more than 1 x a week.


Monday, June 1, 2009

How to Get the Grill of Your Dreams!

Whether it's burgers, hot dogs, chicken, ribs, salmon, or even shrimp on the "Bar-B" --getting hungry thinking about all the options, this is the best time of year to spend more time cooking outdoors. If you are in the market for a new one, here are some smart grill shopping tips.

1- First don't think you have to buy the most expensive to get the best! Consumer Reports Magazine tested 40 different models and found that sometimes the cheapest one wins! They found the Fiesta Blue Ember, and the Char-Broil Red, both at $450, surpassed the grills going for more than $1400. ( See the complete test study at

2- To save money, be open to having less stainless steel on your grill. Many manufacturers are adding color to the grill, to cut back on cost, yet also add some pizazz to your patio. Check out the Weber Genesis in Green and Blue.

3- If stainless steel is important to you, they do last longer and fight corrosion, make sure yours is really loaded with it. A great way to test is to take a magnet with you to the store. If it sticks to the grill, don't get it--it's made with a LOWER grade--Magnets will fall off the higher grade stainless steel.

4- Where stainless steel IS critical is the grates. Make sure yours are steel, or porcelain coated for better searing of your food.

5-After you've done your research and determined your price-point, consider buying after Fourth of July. And there should be a lot more rebates this year.

And from the "What will they think of next department"?-- Look for some of these new features and gadgets on grills:

The Fiesta Blue Ember iQue - Really does have "IQ" beause it has a touch-screen display and uses sonar to gauge how much propane is left in the tank. It is being billed as the "world's first computer controlled grill," meaning you need it plugged into electrical to work. It goes for $900 dollars.

The NexGrill (Makers of grills under Jenn-Air, or Kirkland) now offers a mini-fridge with space for a few six-packs and condiments below. Not sure how cold that stays considering you are heating /cooking above, but may be worth checking out. It sells for $860.

Happy grilling and let me know what you love to grill on!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Solar Powered Outdoor Lanterns

Here's a trendy and eco-smart way to light up your Outdoor Living experience!
Check out these Solar Powered Outdoor Lanterns! They were a huge hit at a recent home tour in the Los Angeles area and I found where you can buy them online for about $20 doll
Go to:

You can hang them on a hook, or around a tree limb and the best part is no electrical wiring needed! Plus when the sun goes down, you have an instant glow on your patio!