Saturday, February 20, 2016

Comfort Food for Winter Nights

There's nothing better than comfort food to make you feel grounded, especially in the winter. The preparation need not be complicated or expensive. One of my favorites is homemade Mozzarella Mac and Cheese.

Believe me, this is one hundred times better than anything out of a box. I made it for the family last night and the only drawback is that my garden was out of basil. Plenty of cilantro and rosemary but no basil. I'll have to plan my spring herb garden a little better.

I'm also a big fan of soup and stew; it's a good way to use up the leftovers. I love leftovers; my daughter considers them "used food." I don't agree but you have to admit there's something clever in the analysis.

Another of my favorites is homemade bread. When I first began baking bread years ago it was quite a tedious process. Then I learned about fast-rising yeast. I also like baking sourdough bread but it takes a bit of commitment because if you don't refresh the starter frequently it will go bad on you.

Here's a tip -- you don't have to buy an expensive sourdough starter. You can make your own with flour and water. Just be sure to use whole wheat flour because it still has wild yeast in it. That processed white flour is just wrong.

Happy cooking and stay warm!

Friday, February 12, 2016

How to Choose the Right Type of Carpet for Your Home

One of the basic facts of home ownership is that flooring doesn't last forever, particularly carpet. It gets stained, it acquires wear patterns (much like the path in the grass in the back yard that Fido wears on his favorite route). Sometimes we simply want a different look when the current style looks dated.

This means choosing a replacement and then having it installed. There are many home carpet choices considering color, pattern, pile, and so much more. The problem is that the salesman will likely tout price differences and current sales. There is so much more that you should know about the different types before writing that check. Let's look at a few, shall we?

  • Berber. This carpet is made from wool, nylon, or olefin (a synthetic fiber made from a polyolefin). This is a looped carpet that has is known for being long-wearing and durable. One con is that because berber is looped it stands a high chance of snagging. For this reason, don't install it on stair treads.
  • Plush carpeting. Plush is a good choice for your children's rooms. Why? There are two good reasons. First, the loops have been cut so that the chance of snagging and tripping is low. Second, the consequences of a fall are minimized because plush is so forgiving. It also works well in high traffic areas since it is so durable.
  • Frieze and Saxony. These are described as patterned and textured. The way patterns are created is interesting. The loops are either cut or left intact, giving a slightly different appearance. Texture, on the other hand, presents what might be described as the illusion of a pattern. It does this by mingling different kinds of loops throughout the carpet surface. These carpets are durable and generally work well in family rooms, living rooms, and bedrooms.
  • Shag carpeting. Sooooo 60s. Only install this if you are a nostalgic hippie or if your intent is to deliberately reduce the equity in your home.
With all this information in mind, it's easy to see that it might not be a good idea to install the same type of carpeting throughout your home. A good strategy when shopping is to first look at room-specific functionality, next price, and finally, color and pattern. And of course, after making your selection, it never hurts to haggle over installation cost.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Why is Ford Moving Production to Mexico?

You might have noticed in the news recently that Ford is planning to open a large production factory in Mexico. That is where they will build the models that cost less than the most expensive ones. The knee-jerk reaction to this news is, "Big business is greedy! Corporate vultures! Unpatriotic boardroom vultures!"

But wait -- dig deeper to discover the reason why this decision was made. It turns out to be union worker greed. No, no; we're not union-bashing here. Just look at the facts. They just negotiated a new contract that made most production here in the USA financially untenable. And in doing so, they consigned a huge number of their union brothers to unemployment. Union brothers who have families, medical bills, and mortgages.

What the union needs is a healthy dose of reality. They were already among the highest paid laborers in the country before the new contract with some of the best benefits in the work force. Now they've killed the goose that lays the golden egg. And, further strained an already bloated unemployment and food stamp system.

No company in any sector of the economy can survive if they can't compete in their market niche. But wait, you say, they can still compete because GM and Chrysler will be affected too, right? While that is true, low cost imports also figure into the competition equation. Staying here in the US would be suicide. With the economy the way it is, buyers might want bling but the bottom line is what they can afford. So the move was inevitable.

This will all be a bit transparent to new car buyers because now they can buy a Mexican Ford for roughly the same price they would have paid pre-contract. The difference is that a Mexican worker will be feeding his family whereas an American will not. Thank you, union.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Save Money when Remodeling

As those income tax refunds start rolling in many homeowners will be tackling remodeling projects. One of the primary things to consider is your budget. Many jobs have to be farmed out to local contractors and service companies due to licensing and code requirements. Learn more.  But the good news is that there are many parts of the job that you can do yourself. Here's a few.

Drywall texturing is a good example. This need not be a difficult or expensive job. In fact, for some techniques you don't even need specialized equipment like a compressor and a hopper. Perhaps the simplest method only requires a paint pan and paint roller. Which brings us to our next topic.

Be your own painting contractor. Many people find painting (both interior and exterior) to be a tedious business but it doesn't have to be. Straightforward painting is typically what you get with most remodels and new construction. But did you know that it's easy to do specialty finishes like faux finishes for a fraction of the cost that a contractor would charge?

Some flooring projects are well within the reach of the average DIY enthusiast. It's easy enough to pull up old carpeting and padding. It's usually a dusty job but hey, if you're saving money, what's not to like?

Probably the easiest kind of new flooring to install is laminate flooring that simply snaps together. Layout is very easy. Next up on the difficulty scale is tile. Layout is a bit more difficult and one specialty tool you'll need is a wet saw. You might never need it again but you can rent one on a daily basis.

For more information on these and many more home improvement topics and projects, please check out I Can Fix Up My Home. Not only will you learn how to complete projects yourself but you can learn about what is involved on those parts of the job you are hiring a contractor for. Prior knowledge before getting a bid is always a good thing.