Archive for the ‘Auto/House Maintenance/Cleaning’ Category

How to drive in snow and ice-the perils of Vermont winters

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Like many days in Vermont, you can wake up to any type of weather especially in the winter. Driving in the snow and ice gets very tricky. The first rule is to wait for the plow and sander truck before you try driving.  Something I didn’t do on Tuesday and ended up dumping my car into a snow bank. Here’s a few pointers for driving on ice and snow.

  • slow down, drive with your lights on and drive in low gear
  • don’t assume all four wheel drivers know what they’re doing in snow
  • never pass a plow or sander truck (assuming you didn’t wait)
  • If you start sliding, take your foot off the accelorator and steer in the direction the car is going
  • If you have anti-lock brakes-do not pump the brakes but apply steady pressure. A light with ABS goes off and makes a pulsing noise, this is OK
  • If you don’t have anti-lock brakes apply pressure in pulses
  • don’t over steer or over brake
  • If you can’t stop the car look for the safest place to dump the car like snow bank.  Don’t worry about the damage to the car,that’s why you have insurance

Be prepared for the perils of winter and have a few things handy in your car such as a cell phone and flashlight. Check out AAA and the Weather Channel for more safe driving tips.

The preferred action is stay home until you know its safe.  Build a fire and sip some tea! Sometimes the Moms should take their own advice!

HELP…there’s a squirrel on my head!

Monday, January 9th, 2012

At 11:45 last night you may have heard a scream coming out of Vermont.  I was dead asleep to be woken up by a little red squirrel leaping right on my head, on to my headboard, into the window, back on the floor…you get the picture.  Sometimes our wild life friends find a way to find shelter in the house either by accident or seeking warmth or food.  I had one of these critters vacationing in my attic last year that could be heard at night scratching away.  Lucky for me I have a friend with a Have a Heart Trap, which is a wonderful solution to this type of situation.  Just a little peanut butter and you set it up to capture  these misdirected creatures and then you can set them free.  

I have had birds, bats, a rat, mice and even a cat try to set up residence in my house. All require different operations to get rid of them.  The Have a Heart Trap I will admit is my favorite due to it’s humanity and effectiveness, but it is only good for certain creatures .  A broom to direct a bird or a bat out the door can get you dancing like Fantasia’s Mickey Mouse.

My akita Queeny in her day  could’ve handled almost anything to wander in the house.  But now she is a bit too tired to care.  Certainly a cat is the solution to keeping the mice out.If you don’t have a pet to defend you against mice and other creatures, you may decide to use poison or a mouse trap.  You must be careful with poison as it is also toxic to your pets.  These traps and poisons are easy to find at your hardware store or supermarket which tells you just how common the problem is.

As far as the neighbor’s cat in our house,   just go ahead and feed him, that is if you want him to stay forever.  He could help with the mice!

Yes Virgina, there really is a “sofa doctor”-Moving Day Brooklyn 2011

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Well, her name wasn’t Virgina but Hayley.  And the “sofa doctor” was the name that came out of the movers mouths as they were about to have a heart attack bringing her couch up a narrow flight of steps.

Talk about squeezing an elephant into a volkswagen!  It was going to happen.  So the “doctor” to the rescue at 800pm.  They dismantled the couch, brought it into the apartment and reassembled it on the spot.

The normal cost for this service in NYC is around $300 but since ours was after hours (24 hour emergency number) it was a bit more. It was cheaper than the cost of buying new.  The Sofa Doctors also build furniture, storage and repair upholstered sofas.  FYI, we also had to saw the legs of the TV cabinet to make it fit up the stairs! Before moving, measure all your things to make sure they fit (including stairs) and it not, look for alternatives like modular pieces.  But if you love your couch, you might want to get an estimate from the “doctor” before the big day.

home at lat

Spring Cleaning-modified Feng Shui-unclutter that closet!

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Does your closet look like this? Mine does most of the time. I don’t mind washing or folding laundry but I hate to put it away. It usually ends up at the foot of my bed or on the floor of my closet to get picked through as I need it.  After a week, this is what I get.  Michele talks about Feng Shui but what she really means, get rid out your clutter.So with all the rain we’re having on the East Coast, I made it a mission to clean a closet a day.  This also included my pantry and my desk because they are also very cluttered spots.

Here’s a few of my favorite items to help in the project. Rubbermaid 3F23 Configurations Three-Handle Storage Chest With Cedar Inserts, Natural
Plastic bins to stack sweaters away for the season or to place all those white socks in are great to have on the shelves. Theses hangers are covered with a fiber that keeps the clothes from falling off and ending up wrinkled on the floor. Some come with a spot for belts and scarfs and the hold together quite well for shipping.

If you’re feeling really ambitions, take all the hanging clothes you don’t use for that season and store them in the basement on this wardrobe system. These are great for additional winter coats and boots, something we know about here in Vermont.

And who can resist a spinning shoe organizer? Don’t we all want to be like those girls in Clueless?

After you’ve gotten rid of all those things you don’t need or want, take them to a local charity like the Salvation Army or local church thrift shops and donate them.  There are plenty of people in need who would appreciated a warm winter jacket or something to wear.

And now, let’s take in some truly unbelievable closets of the stars! Like this one.or thisor maybe even this?Have fun dreaming! And visit us in the household tips and repairs for other house keeping ideas.

“Drive It Into The Ground” or I like driving a beat-up jalopy.

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

In 1999, I bought a brand new Toyota Land Cruiser, big car to travel back and forth to Vermont every weekend. My plan at the time was not to replace it for at least 15 years. How many deer did I kill with that car? Three over the course of three years.  Two at one time, they hit me, leaping over the divider on a major highway and landing on my car. I’m pretty sure that car saved my life.

And so, it was with regret, that I drove it onto a car lot in 2008 and said, “I just want a fair trade,I don’t want to pay any money, I want a car that gets decent gas mileage.”  My son’s school is over 20 miles away, two round trips a day in the premium gas guzzling Land Cruiser was adding up to about $200 a week. I couldn’t do it one more day.

They happily traded a 2001 Subaru Legacy Wagon with 19,000 miles on it and called it even.  For me it was a good trade.  My gas costs dropped to about $70 a week and it wasn’t a deer magnet.  I still drive more than 400 miles a week  and that Subaru is at 170,000 miles.  Vermont is hard on cars, the long winters cause rust, frost heaves and potholes.  The Subaru needed a lot of work this year, new battery, new alternator, corroded wires replaced and now, it’s mud season.  Driving up the long dirt road to Sally’s I hit a good hard rut, and the whole rear fender just fell off along with the muffler and dragged the rest of the way to Sal’s.

I trust my mechanic, I drove down and asked him if he would sell the car.  He told me he knew people who would be interested and would give them a call, but, he said,  “it’s a good car, I think it still has a couple of good years in it,  My advice to you,” he said, “is to drive it into the ground.”

I’ve decided to take his advice.  I did some research and found that I can easily expect to get another 50,000 miles on the car especially having replaced the necessary parts. I also found that the best car for the environment is a used car, and my car is certainly used.  Most importantly,  I don’t want to spend the money on a new car.  I need a car to get me where I need to go, that’s it.  When this one finally bites the dust, I’ll take it to be re-cycled, maybe I can get a few dollars for parts.  Then I’ll take over the 1998 Jeep Sport that my son paid $5,000 for 6 years ago.  My daughter drove it, my husband drives it and it’s still the most dependable car we own.  My husband can go through the car buying ordeal instead and I will encourage him to buy used.

Check out our auto section for more car info.

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What should I do if I scorch a saucepan?

Friday, March 25th, 2011
Sally’s Answer:If you can’t soak it out over night, throw it away. If you don’t get the scorch mark off the pan, you’ll continue to burn food in that spot.
Michele’s Answer:Fill the pan halfway with water and 1/4 cup of baking soda and boil. Loosen burned food with a wooden spoon.-I usually throw it away.
Joanna’s Answer:If you have good sturdy pots and pans then you should be able to get it off. I use a product called Kleen King, or Barkeeper’s Friend that cleans stainless and copper. It is an abrasive powder cleanser. Put some water in the pot and sprinkle some of this. Then scrub and if it all doesn’t come out, scrub again. This stuff is also good for the filmy looking stuff left when you can’t get stuck on rice or pasta off the bottom of a pot.

Also the baking soda soak like Michelle says works. Put water in the pot, add some baking soda to cover the bottom, turn on to simmer for 15 to 30  minutes, maybe even an hour on low. Then take it off and scrape the pan with a wooden spoon. Repeat if it all doesn’t come off. Repeat until it does.

Try to collect some sturdy stainless pans… Products by Adaimo, Atlas, Viking. The Calphalon gets discolored after a while. I have had my Atlas pans for 25 to 30 years now and sometimes the handle attachment has loosened, but the pan cleans up with the slightest elbow grease(what an odd term) and you’ll have them for years. I have found that you have to really burn something for the pan to burn with these sturdy and beautiful stainless pots and pans. They are very expensive. Ask you parents for some for gifts from time to time. Your local kitchen store will carry these and William Sonoma and Sur la Table does for sure.If you buy a really good stainless pan, you will not ever have to throw it away.

Then on the other hand, I just left my tea kettle on while I was writing this and I bunst it. I left the spout whistle open so it didn’t scream at me.  It is scorched and the enamel is chipping off the bottom and I have to throw that away… Un-fixable.


Saturday, January 15th, 2011

Remember that feeling, when you woke up? Something felt different. the world had changed overnight. You look out and everything is covered in white. Big fat flakes are falling and the radio reporting school closings. You listen in anticipation and yes, they announce your school. As a child, I jumped out of bed, knowing the day would be spent building snow forts, sledding and having snowball fights. As an adult, I turned off the radio and pulled the covers back over my head, happy to fall back into my dreams.

I still love snow days. They give us the opportunity to realize how wonderful life can be, to appreciate the beauty of the world around us and to spend time with our families and friends, or alone. A snow day is a real day off.  Make sure you’re ready for them this winter.  Stock up on hot chocolate, make a good hearty soup, bake bread.  Have a good winter read by the bed and wood to get the fire going. Find a movie on pay-per-view that everyone can cuddle up to and enjoy.  I like musicals and romantic comedies, but a good Disney movie works too.

If you are one of those people who can’t sit still, (I, obviously am not), pull on your boots and take a walk in the winter wonderland, build a snowman or do something you have been wanting to do for a while, re-arrange the furniture, clean out a bunch of drawers while listening to music you haven’t heard in a while.

Take advantage of this gift you’ve been given, a break in the routine and a good reason to take care of yourself.


  1. Make sure your chimney is cleaned professionally before you start building fires.  It’s good to do this in the spring or summer when the pros aren’t too booked up.
  2. Clean out the ashes from your last fire, Do NOT PUT THEM IN A PAPER BAG OR PLASTIC CONTAINER.  Use a metal ash bucket and wait a day to be sure no embers are left burning before you dispose of the ashes.  These containers can be purchased inexpensively at a hardware store .
  3. Check the damper and make sure it is open.  Look up the chimney, the damper is often controlled by a lever that needs to be pushed, but if you are not sure how to do this check with someone who does.
  4. OK, now you can start a fire.  ball up 5-6 pages of newspaper and place them under the grate.
  5. I like fatwood, available in most hardware or grocery stores, it’s not necessary, butmakes the job a lot easier  I use 4-5 pieces and then pile kindling, small dry sticks and twigs will do, on top of the fatwood.  Add 2-3 small pieces of well-seasoned, meaning old and dry firewood.  Look for the smallest pieces you have.
  6. Now, light the fire by lighting the newspapers underneath, It should take off right away, if not keep at it, It sometimes does take practice.
  7. Once the fire has been burning awhile, red, glowing embers will begin to pile up under the grate. When you’ve got a good pile you can start adding more wood.
  8. Poke the fire every once in a while to keep the air flowing through.
  9. Make sure you have a fireplace screen in place.
  10. DON”T LEAVE THE FIRE UNATTENDED, if you are going out, stop adding wood at least 2 hours before you leave.


What’s next….

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Now that I have finally made it through the maze of the holidaze and I have been to Colorado to ski with my family and now, to the east to visit my good friends and be in the heart the sisterhood/ motherhood/ brotherhood of friends and their kids. I hope to be productive for the next few days… the beginning of the Year and my thought is to keep up the momentum. To hold onto the energy, perhaps kick the stress down a notch, but to hang onto the fever and passion that I feel (along with fatigue) right now.

So what is next… a change in our government scares me. What can I do to make this world a better place this year?

Simple things like recycling and perhaps using a Brita water filter pitcher rather than buying the bottled water. Take your market bags into stores that aren’t just for groceries when you shop… Hardware, book stores… Use less plastic bags so we don’t see so many lost  in the oceans and on the highways where they seem to catch in the air in the slightest breeze and a seek freedom… flying into space?

I just closed the drapes last night to hold in the heat because my furnace went out. I should do that every night…. Shouldn’t I?! Lots of homes have wonderful views, but the glass lets so much heat escape that really just in closing the drapery or shutters in the night may help save a little on your gas or oil or electric bill. I did miss waking up to the view this morning though. I would imagine that as we get more and more conscious of our environmental wastes of heating materials and they become more difficult to farm, that we will see laws come into effect for just the simple closing of drapery on the coldest days of winter and even the warmest of summer. Also homeowners should look at the windows in their homes and rental homes and perhaps replace a few of the inefficient older environmentally challenged models every year. Just one or two at a time. In these challenging economic times we really don’t want to send so many dollars up the flue in our homes. The toxic economy where dollars needed for food and clothing are used to pay for heat in an inefficient apartment.

Window Washing Fluid

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Hi guys, are the bugs bugging you? Are they smashing on your car windows when you drive? Here’s a video we shot this winter about adding window washer fluid to your car.  It’s a good tip for summer or winter.