A smart idea!

Key rings have pretty much been the same since the invention of keys. This is a fantastic new idea for keeping your keys organized with the ingenuity of a Swiss pocket knife design.

Keysmart is a product that begun as a successful kick-starter project. Take a look at this video to see how it works:

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Cool tips to stay warm

The best way to keep your house toasty in the winter is to make sure that your weatherstripping for your doors and windows are in good shape, and your heating unit is in good working order. But sometimes, that’s not enough. Here are some easy tips for staying warm this winter:

Before you reach for the thermostat, reach for a sweater instead! Or what about that Snuggie your great-aunt gave you last Christmas? Adding clothing indoors is the easiest (and cheapest!) way to feel cozy. Don’t forget about a good pair of house shoes, too! Your energy bills will thank you.
Close off the vents in unused rooms and shut the door. No need to be heating the guest bedroom or game room when they’re not in use.
On sunny days, open up the curtains on the windows that receive direct sunlight. Just remember to close them again when the sun goes down to hold the heat in.
Reverse your ceiling fans so they rotate clockwise. There’s usually a switch on the fan that will reverse the motor. Since warm air rises, this will help push the warm air at the ceiling back down into the living space.
Switch your regular bed sheets with flannel or jersey knit sheets. These are warmer to the touch, so your bed won’t feel chilly when you get in. Speaking of which, remember in old cartoons, they would show people sleeping in night caps like this?:
It’s actually a really good idea! OK, maybe not an actual old-timey night cap, but a stocking hat works great!

Area rugs are your friend when it comes to keeping your house warm. The more surface area you can cover on your floor, the better insulated it is.
And lastly, if possible, move your furniture toward the middle of the room and away from windows.
If all else fails, just remember those blistering days of summer and know they’ll be back again before you know it!
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On your mark– get set– MOW!

Ah, springtime! The birds are singing, the flowers are blooming, and your grass needs mowing–every five minutes, it seems. Here are some tips for a great looking lawn:

First of all, make sure that your mower is in good shape for the season. Change the oil, air filter, and spark plug and make sure the blade is nice and sharp. Yeah, you can do these things yourself, or, ya know, do what I do and take it in for a tune-up. Your call. I save my energy for the mowing part.

Don’t mow wet grass. Not only does it make messy clumps that stick to the underside of the mower, it also won’t give a clean cut. It just tears the grass off as if you have a dull blade.
Set your mower to cut the grass about 1 1/2 inches high. Taller grass holds moisture better, which is so important here in Texas!

Mow in different directions each time you mow. Side to side one time, then back and forth the next. This will result in a more uniform and thicker growth.
Use a grass-catcher only at the beginning and end of the season. The rest of the time, let the mower mulch back into the lawn. This will help return valuable nutrients back to the soil.

If you need an incentive to get out there and mow, the American College of Sports and Medicine says that you can burn up to 350 calories for every hour behind a push mower!
lawn mowing cartoon

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Potty talk

It happens sooner or later…a clogged toilet. Not fun. Before you need it, put this on your shopping list: a toilet plunger. Not the regular flat cup ones–those are for unclogging sinks. A toilet plunger looks like this:

See how it has the flange protruding from it? That’s so it will make a tight seal inside the the toilet. The other kind are pretty ineffectual; it just sloshes the gross water around. No thanks.

The best option is to prevent the clog in the first place. That means not putting anything down the toilet that you shouldn’t. There are only two things that should go in: human waste, and toilet paper. That’s it. Even facial tissue isn’t good for your sewage line. Feminine products are right out, too. So are paper towels, hair, diaries, and chihuahuas. Just don’t.
If you notice your toilet is not flushing with as much gusto as it once was, you should take steps to address it before it becomes an issue. Here are some home remedies you might try:

Use the plunger that I just mentioned. Do it before it actually clogs and you might avoid any further problems.
Turn the water supply off and then flush the toilet twice so that the bowl is mostly empty. Add 1/2 cup of dish soap to the water. Let it sit for about an hour. Pour a kettle full of almost boiling water in the bowl, turn on the water supply, and then flush. The dish soap acts like a lubricant, and the hot water will help push everything through.
Do the same as above, but instead of dish soap, pour in a half box of baking soda, then a half cup of vinegar. Place an old rag over the drain opening and let it sit for about 30 minutes. The baking soda and vinegar will foam up, so you might want to have some old towels handy in case it foams out of the bowl. After 30 minutes, remove the rag, and then pour very hot water slowly down the drain. Turn on the water supply and then flush.

You should avoid harsh chemicals, as they can damage your sewage line and are bad for the environment.

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Now’s a good time to check your fire extinguisher.

Every home should have at least one fire extinguisher. Here are some important tips you should consider:

Make sure your extinguisher is rated A B C. This means that it will put our a variety of fires–“A” for solid combustibles like wood, fabric, plastics, etc., “B” for flammable liquids like grease or gasoline, and “C” for electric fires.
Store your fire extinguisher in an easy to access place, preferable by an exit.
Check the gauge on the extinguisher every few months to make sure that it is properly charged. If it falls below the green section of the gauge, discard it if it’s disposable, or get it recharged if it’s refillable.
Know how to use your extinguisher BEFORE you need it! It’s pretty simple–pull the pin, hold the canister upright, aim it at the base of the fire, squeeze the trigger and use back and forth sweeping motions to put out the fire. Most home extinguishers only hold enough chemicals to spray for a few seconds; 15 or 30 at the most, so work quickly!
Remember–if the fire is spreading quickly or is too large to contain with a fire extinguisher, get out of the building immediately and call 911. Even if you put out a fire with an extinguisher, you should still call 911 so the fire department can assess that the fire is completely out.

And, just as a reminder, watch this video about what happens when you throw water on a grease fire:

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Selling your house? Get it ready for inspection!

Selling your home can be a stressful event. When a potential buyer hires a home inspector, you want to make sure that they get a favorable report…it can make or break the sale! Here are some helpful tips to get your house ready for inspection.

Your house should reflect that it’s been well maintained. Fresh paint and clean carpets are a great place to start. Inspectors don’t count off for this, but it creates a favorable impression.
Make sure there are working light bulbs in all receptacles. If there are any bare bulbs, install globes or covers.
Smoke detectors need to be in good working order, and make sure there is one in each bedroom.
Ensure that all your plumbing fixtures work–toilets flush, faucets don’t drip, and drains drain.
Change the HVAC air filters and clean the registers.
Make sure there is clear access to the attic, crawl space, furnace, AC unit, and water heater.
The utilities need to be on–water, electricity and gas.
Trim away foliage from the foundation, siding, roof and chimney.
Clean and repair gutters and downspouts. Make sure water has a way to be diverted from the foundation.
Doors and windows need to be in good working order. Caulk and weatherstrip as needed.
Exhaust fans in the bathroom and kitchen need to vent to the outside of the house, not the attic.
Check the exterior for rotting wood or loose masonry. Repair and paint as needed.

A little preparation goes a long way towards a smooth inspection.

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Let’s talk about chalk…

Did you know that chalk isn’t just a kid’s art supply? It has lots of useful properties that a homeowner should know about. Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can put chalk to work for you…
Throw a couple of pieces into your tool box. Why? Chalk absorbs moisture, so it will prevent rust on your tools.
Put chalk on the tip of your screwdriver to prevent it from slipping when turning a screw.
Do you have a key that sticks in a door lock? Rub some chalk along the teeth and tip, and then slide it in and out of the lock a few times. Problem solved!
Use chalk to temporarily touch up scuff marks on walls, and to fill in small nail holes. Chalk comes in a variety of colors, so you should be able to approximately match the color of your walls.
nail holes
To get an exact fit when installing door hardware, use chalk to coat the underside of the hardware on the door, then shut the door. The chalk will mark the exact location for latches, locks, etc.
Since chalk absorbs moisture, put a few pieces in a small mesh bag and place it in a musty closet, or a clothes hamper that is prone to mildew. Change the chalk every couple of months.
Place some chalk in your jewelry box or drawer where you keep silver items. Not only does it absorb moisture, it absorbs sulfur compounds that cause tarnishing.
Chalk will also absorb grease. If you get a grease stain on fabric or suede, crush up some white chalk and coat the spot. Let it stand overnight and then brush away.
Here’s a weird fact…ants won’t cross a chalk line. Rub chalk over areas where ants can get in your house, like window sills and thresholds. It will disrupt their scent trail and confuse them into thinking they are going the wrong way. This might just be temporary, but it’s worth a shot!

So there you have it–chalk. Who knew?

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Getting ready to start a DYI home improvement?

When it comes time to spruce up your house with a “do-it-yourself” project, many people aren’t sure where to go for the supplies they’ll need. A big-box retailer? A contractor’s warehouse? Maybe order it online? Before you do any of these things, you might want to check out an excellent local source that supports a good cause…especially if you’re on a budget! It’s the Trinity Habitat for Humanity ReStores.

Habitat ReStores are retail outlets where used and new building materials are sold at a fraction of retail prices. Proceeds from the stores help Habitat’s mission of building homes and hope. ReStores also help the environment by rechanneling good, usable materials into use.

Maybe you’ve already done some remodeling and you have some left-over materials–used doors, windows, light fixtures, etc. Donate them! It helps our community and our environment.

Visit their website for more information: http://trinityhabitat.org/ReStoressponsor