Thursday, April 7, 2016

3 Different Uses For Hydrogen Peroxide

Everyone knows by now you can clean with baking soda and vinegar, but often people don't think about hydrogen peroxide as an ingredient for cleaning.  This stuff is frugal, Eco-friendly, and really can produce amazing results for both your laundry and for cleaning around your home.

Hydrogen peroxide is a type of oxygen bleach, which means as you'll see from the uses listed below, it's got a lot of laundry uses, as well as cleaning uses.

It is typically color safe, just like other oxygen bleaches like oxiclean.  That concentration is 3% solution which you can find in the brown bottle in your drugstore, typically in the first aid aisle.

Uses For Hydrogen Peroxide

1.  Brighten clothes as alternative to bleach. Instead of adding either chlorine or oxygen bleach, you can add 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide to your washing machine as a natural, Eco-friendly bleach.

2.  Versatile DIY pretreat stain remover.  If you enjoy making your own laundry products don't forget this easy recipe for a versatile stain remover--2 parts hydrogen peroxide to 1 part dish soap.  You can mix this recipe together and keep in an opaque spray bottle and use in a similar fashion to any other laundry pretreater.

3.  Remove red wine stains.  Red wine is known as a quite difficult stain to remove, but a simple recipe that works extremely well to remove these tough stains is equal parts hydrogen peroxide and dish soap.  Spray the mixture on the stain and allow it to sit for three hours, and then wash with cool water.

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Sunday, April 3, 2016

Small Repairs You Can Do Yourself

Small Repairs You Can Do Yourself

Broken tiles? Leaky faucet? Don't hire a professional for a small repair -- fix it yourself! We'll show you how


  • Quick and Easy Repairs

    Want to fix a pesky problem in your kitchen or bath without breaking the bank? Tackle those small home repairs yourself -- home improvement expert Paul Ringling, from Strosniders Hardware in Bethesda, Maryland, explains how.
  • Problem: Broken Tile

    Solution: Remove the grout around the tile with a grout saw, a small tool available for a few dollars at paint and hardware stores. If a tile has already started to chip, continue to break off little pieces and remove the entire damaged tile. If not, make a hole in the center with a masonry drill, which will break the tile, and remove the pieces from the center outward. Glue the new tile in place with an adhesive such as Liquid Nails, then apply fresh grout around the edges.

    Problem: Torn Vinyl

    Solution: Use a silicone-base seam sealer to fill the tear and wipe off the excess with a dry cloth. Or try this easy fix: If it's a no-wax floor and the tear is small, take a bar of soap and rub it sideways along the cut until it is filled. You'd think the soap would disappear when you wash the floor, but unless you immerse the vinyl in water and use a brush, the soap will stay in place. It won't be as good as new, but it will go a long way to hide the problem.

    Problem: Scratches in a Wood Cabinet

    Solution: Hardware stores sell a number of scratch fillers that look like brown pencils or crayons. Find the shade that most closely matches your cabinet and rub it into the scratch. Or you can try a similar product that is more like a felt-tip pen and comes in different shades of ink.

    How to Paint a Room

    Painting is one of the easiest ways to update and add color to a kitchen or bath. Here's how to paint a room like a pro.                        
  • Problem: Frozen Icemaker

    Problem: Frozen Icemaker

    Solution: Inside the freezer, remove the ice bin and find the tray where the water freezes into ice cubes. Open the tray and look for a little piece of plastic pipe where the water flows into the ice-cube tray. The end of that pipe can freeze up. You can thaw it out by aiming a hair dryer at the pipe. It should thaw within five minutes.

    Problem: Loose Laminate Countertops

    Solution: Buy an adhesive such as Liquid Nails -- the kind that says "projects" on the label -- and apply it beneath the laminate. Press the laminate down and put something heavy on top until it dries. Liquid Nails and similar products are available at hardware and lumber stores.

    Problem: Worn-Out or Dried Caulk

    Solution: Put some adhesive remover (3M makes a particularly good one) on a damp cloth or sponge and wipe over the silicone caulk. Let it soak in. Remove the old caulk and clean the area with a ceramic tile cleaner. Let it dry, then recaulk.

    Problem: Stains in Grout

    Solution: If grout is stained with mold or mildew, tile cleaners such as Tilex can kill it. Be sure to soak the stain well with the tile cleaner and let it sit for at least a couple of days. Mold and mildew need time to die, and when they do, they turn white. If the stain is from wine, remove the affected grout with a grout saw, then regrout. About 48 hours later, use a grout sealer to reduce the likelihood that the grout will stain again.

    Problem: Drippy Faucet

    Solution: First, stop the flow of water to the faucet by turning off the stop valves under the sink. If it's an old faucet, remove the handle by unscrewing it. (The screw may be hidden under a plastic piece that you can flip off with a pocketknife.) Once the handle is off, remove the chrome cylinder underneath, then remove the nut that holds the stem in place. Pull out the stem and replace the washer. New faucets have "seats" that serve the same purpose as a washer, but you need to buy one that's specifically for the brand and model of your faucet. Disassemble the faucet and take it to a hardware or plumbing store if you need help identifying the model.

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The Top 8 Native Plants Of Southern California

Top Native Plants of Southern California

These tough, beautiful plants can take hot, dry conditions with ease. They're among the best easy-care plants for gardeners in this region.

Matilija poppy

This beautiful perennial native poppy is often called the "fried egg plant" for its enormous white crepe papery flowers with their golden yellow centers. This plant spreads by aggressive underground runners, so plant it on a slope or other location with room to run.
Name: Romneya coulteri
Growing Conditions: Dry growing in full sun with well draining soil. Fussy at transplant, so keep root disturbance at an absolute minimum. Plant in fall.
Size: 4-5 feet tall x 8 feet wide
Zones: 6-10

    Lemonade berry

    This large evergreen shrub is native to coastal sage scrub and chaparral. It has beautiful deep green leathery leaves and rose pink spring flowers. Excellent for screening and habitats. Stabilizes slopes.
    Name: Rhus integrifolia
    Growing Conditions: Dry growing after established; full sun or part shade and well draining soil.
    Size: 5-10 feet tall x 10-15 feet wide
    Zones: 9-10


    This large, evergreen shrub has deep green leathery leaves and red berries in winter. Excellent habitat plant and screening plant. Stabilizes slopes.
    Name: Heteromeles arbutifolia
    Growing Conditions: Dry growing after established; full sun or part shade and well draining soil.
    Size: 8–15 feet tall x 15 feet wide
    Zones: 7-10

    Hoary California fuchsia

    This mat-forming perennial has narrow, slightly fuzzy pale green leaves and brilliant vermillion flowers in summer.  Plants tend to run by runners so give it room to roam.
    Name: Epilobium (Zauschneria) canum
    Growing Conditions: Dry growing after established; full sun. Grows in less but blooms best in full sun.
    Size: 1 feet tall x 4 feet wide
    Zones: 9-10

    Chalk liveforever

    Chalk liveforever's ghostly blue-white succulent rosettes create long flower spikes that feature silver and red flowers in late spring and summer. Excellent choice to tuck in amongst rocks.
    Name: Dudleya pulverulenta
    Growing Conditions: Dry growing after established; full sun and well draining soils. Takes a little shade.
    Size: 1-2 feet tall and wide
    Zones: 8-10

  • Shaw’s agave

    This smallish agave grows as a colony of succulent rosettes, whose dusky green blades are edged in sharp teeth. Flower stems can reach 12 feet with golden flowers.  Mother plants die after flowering but leaves pups behind.  Good in containers.
    Name: Agave shawii
    Growing Conditions: Dry growing after established; full sun and well draining soils.
    Size: Rosette 2-3 feet tall x 3-4 feet wide; fllower spike to 12 feet tall
    Zones: 9-10
    Image Credit: Shaw's Agave closeup 2 by D Coetzee is licensed under Creative Commons.

    Desert mallow

    A favorite evergreen shrublet with fuzzy, silvery, crenulated leaves and cupped flowers in shades of brilliant orange to watermelon red. Blooms in early spring and after the unusual summer rain.
    Name: Sphaeralcea ambigua
    Growing Conditions: Dry growing after established; full sun and well draining soils. Cut back by 30% after bloom to keep plants from growing too leggy.
    Size: 2-3 feet tall x 2 feet wide
    Zones: 4-10


    This is a large group of evergreen shrubs, from groundcover to tree height, and varying widths. Most have architectural structures and mahogany- to ebony-color bark. Excellent habitat plants.
    Name: Arctostaphylos
    Growing Conditions: Dry growing after established; part shade or full sun to part shade depending on the species.  Prefers draining soils.
    Size: 1-25 feet tall x 4-18 feet wide
    Zones: 6–10, depending on species

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    VA Loans Vs. Conventional Loans

    VA loans are home mortgages guaranteed by the federal government through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Both active-duty military and military veterans are eligible to use the VA loan program to finance the purchase of a home. VA loans have key advantages over conventional mortgage loans.


    VA loans are one of the few sources for 100 percent financing of a home purchase. Veterans can buy a home using VA funding without making a down payment. A conventional mortgage requires a minimum 5 percent down payment in most circumstances. reports that more than 90 percent of veterans using VA loans purchase a home with 100 percent financing.

    Private Mortgage Insurance

    Conventional mortgages require the payment of private mortgage insurance--PMI--if the home buyer makes less than a 20 percent down payment. PMI can add $80 or more per $100,000 of the loan amount to the monthly payment for a buyer using a conventional loan and 5 percent down payment. The VA prohibits lenders from charging mortgage insurance on VA loans.

    Credit Qualifications

    The VA will allow a loan applicant to have some credit problems and still qualify for a mortgage. The VA looks at individual applicants and is willing to take special circumstances into account when approving a mortgage for a veteran. Conventional mortgage lenders are tied to specific credit scores and have stricter underwriting standards when an applicant has had credit problems in the past.


    The VA offers guarantees on several types of mortgage loans. Fixed-rate loans are available with terms of 15 or 30 years. Adjustable-rate VA loans can have an initial interest-rate period of one, three or five years with annual rate adjustments after that. Conventional loans are available in similar types. The difference is that the VA dictates the terms of the loans to prevent abuses. This is especially important in ARM loans, where the VA sets the rates and limits of the rate adjustments.


    VA loans cannot have prepayment penalties, and they are all assumable loans. Both of these features can make it easier to sell a home financed with a VA loan, since most conventional mortgages are not assumable and have a paid-in-full clause if the home is sold. An assumable loan can be transferred to someone buying the home, allowing the new homeowner to take over the current mortgage on the home and not have to take out a new mortgage for the purchase. Prepayment penalties can be placed on conventional loans, charging the homeowner extra fees if he or she wants to refinance or sell the home in the early years of the loan.

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    5 Small Business Marketing Tips

    1. Don't Advertise Like a Big Business

    Big businesses advertise to create name recognition and future sales. A small business can't afford to do that. Instead, design your advertising to produce sales... now. One way to accomplish this is to always include an offer in your advertising - and an easy way for prospective customers to respond to it.

    2. Offer a Cheaper Version
    Some prospective customers are not willing to pay the asking price for your product or service. Others are more interested in paying a low price than in getting the best quality. You can avoid losing sales to many of these customers by offering a smaller or stripped down version of your product or service at a lower price.

    3. Offer a Premium Version
    Not all customers are looking for a cheap price. Many are willing to pay a higher price to get a premium product or service. You can boost your average size sale and your total revenue by offering a more comprehensive product or service ...or by combining several products or services in a special premium package offer for a higher price.

    4. Try Some Unusual Marketing Methods
    Look for some unconventional marketing methods your competitors are overlooking. You may discover some highly profitable ways to generate sales and avoid competition. For example, print your best small ad on a postcard and mail it to prospects in your targeted market. A small ad on a postcard can drive a high volume of traffic to your website or generate a flood of sales leads for a very small cost.

    5. Trim Your Ads
    Reduce the size of your ads so you can run more ads for the same cost. You may even be surprised to find that some of your short ads generate a better response than their longer versions.

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    Creating An Effective Social Media Strategy

    Do you have a social media strategy for your business yet?
    If you don’t, you could be missing out on game-changing results.
    According to the 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, 78% of marketers saw increased traffic with just six hours a week invested in social media.
    The businesses that do social media marketing well will see even bigger wins in 2012, as the gap between who “gets it” and who doesn’t grows wider by the minute.
    The good news? You don’t need to be everything to everyone anymore. Chances are your strategy will be more effective if you keep it simple.
    As Michael Stelzner predicted, “The old mantra of ‘be everywhere’ will quickly be replaced with ‘be where it matters to our business.’ …It will be essential to focus on where you’ll see results.”
    Below is a three-step plan designed to help you develop an effective, streamlined road map for social media success.

    Step #1: Assessment

    Start with a single question: “Why social media?” The answer will dictate everything you do in this first phase. Assessment is to evaluate where you are, where you want to go and what the wins will be along the way.
    Put Your Audience First
    First things first: You need to clarify your audience’s needs, wants and challenges—not to mention where they’re spending time online. Use tools like Survey Monkey or Google Docs to quickly and inexpensively survey your customers
    The five major benefits of knowing your audience are considerable:
    1. Laser focus: You can create content that resonates instantly.
    2. Break barriers: Confront pain points head-on to build trust.
    3. Language: Increase engagement by being a person your audience relates to.
    4. Empathy: The more you listen, the better you can respond to specific needs.
    5. Positioning: You can become the go-to source in your niche.
    Define the Guiding Theme of Your Strategy
    In their book, The Now Revolution, authors Jay Baer and Amber Naslund explain the importance of defining your theme. Since you’ve identified your audience, the next step is to ask yourself what you want them to do . What’s your theme? It’s usually one of three things:
    • Awareness
    • Sales
    • Loyalty
    Loyalty and awareness can both lead to sales, of course—but stick to just one overarching goal for your strategy. Consistency and simplicity are key here.
    Now it’s time to get really specific. This might be the hardest piece in the assessment process, and yet it’s critical to your success. Ask yourself, what does my business actually do? What do my fans say when they’re happy? What is at the core?
    Talk it out with your team. Together you can hone in on what Jay Baer calls your “One Thing”—the heart and soul of your brand. Your “One Thing” will affect every content and posting decision you make.
    To borrow Jay’s examples, if Disney = magic and Apple = innovation, what do you equal?
    Your “One Thing” is the voice of your strategy across every network.
    Identify Metrics and Monitoring Opportunities
    How will you measure your strategy’s success? Depending on your theme, the metrics may change. For example:
    • If your theme is awareness, you’ll want to measure growth, engagement, brand awareness, sharability, likes and subscribes.
    • If it’s sales, look at click rates, social e-commerce sales and conversion rates.
    • For loyalty, look at engagement, sentiment and influence (HINT: Klout and EdgeRank Checker are good sentiment-measuring tools).
    It’s useful to monitor some overall trends too, like mentions of key people at your company, your company name, brand names, product services, competitors and industry keywords.
    And if you’re new to data measurement, take baby steps. Start with a simple free tool like Google Alerts.
    Don’t wait for an emergency to nail down your communication policies. For example, what happens when there are negative comments? How should the company’s social sites be used? Are there guidelines for what fans and followers can post to a company Facebook page?
    Drill down on the answers in a written editorial guide tailored to your business, team and goals. A good guide will address:
    • Who is your team? Who is responsible for what?
    • What’s the point? Identify why you’re using social media, and what you want to track.
    • Where? Identify the networks you want to focus on.
    • When? Be as specific as possible; e.g., blog at 8 am, post it to Facebook at 10 am.
    • How—identify team tools and platforms. Including examples is great, especially when it comes to formatting of content. Your guide should enable anyone new on the team to know what’s going on.

    Step #2: Implementation

    Next up: execution. The implementation phase is all about zeroing in on the details and day-to-day tasks you and your team are now responsible for.
    Create a Content Calendar
    Now that you have an editorial guide, it’s time to translate policy into concrete actions—preferably on an editorial calendar. The more information and detail you include, the better you can measure effectiveness. Consider:
    • What is the theme or essence of your content?
    • Who will create it?
    • When and where will it be shared?
    • How often will you create content versus share third-party content?
    • How will you deliver content—as eBooks? Blogs? Video? All of the above?
    Have a Step-by-Step Plan for Promotion and Growth
    There are literally hundreds of ways to get your team promoting and sharing on the key social media sites you plan to use. Here are a few to get you started:
    Run contests and promotions or offer rewards.
  • Showcase your expertise. Drive traffic (and build a reputation) by offering webinars and training programs, interviewing experts and guest blogging, to name a few.
  • Promote your networks consistently. Add networks to letterhead, email signatures and business cards.
  • Identify Core Sales Campaigns
    Yes, social media is about relationships first. But the fact is, once you’ve built solid, genuine relationships online, you’re going to want to use your influence to grow your business. That doesn’t mean shoving it down fans’ throats or putting sales above the relationship. It simply means that you can and should promote what you offer to the people who believe in your mission.
    Establish an action plan for the core campaigns you’ll use to collect and nurture leads, like:
    • Outline promotional policy—what is acceptable, and what is not allowed?
    • Identify and implement opt-in opportunities—like a custom welcome tab on your Facebook page.
    • Determine where to direct leads—for example, will you create an eCommerce platform on Facebook with a custom tab, or sell only on your site?

    Step #3: Monitor, Measure and Get Momentum

    After about two months of running your brand-new social media strategy, it’s time to hunker down with your team, evaluate your progress and fine-tune the details.
    Schedule an Evaluation Session
    Don’t put off analyzing your results. Schedule your first evaluation meeting when you start phase one. I recommend scheduling a meeting about two or three months out from your start date. That’s just enough time to start seeing results and identifying weak spots.
    Make sure you or your team members bring numbers and data to the table and are prepared to discuss them. Metrics, no matter how simplistic, will help you figure out what’s working and what’s not. Include time for brainstorming new ideas, too.
    Take Advantage of the Momentum
    If you’re seeing traction with your strategy at this first evaluation milestone, consider mixing it up and adding some more advanced strategies into your plan. You have momentum building—run with it!
    Here are ideas for some “next steps” to take:
    • Facebook ads are a good, inexpensive way to grow your fan base, increase engagement and collect leads. Try mixing up different ad types and destinations.
    • Run a multi-level contest integrating multiple channels (like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube). Use a promotion, event or reward that will resonate with your audience. Word-of-mouth is a powerful way to leverage momentum.
    • Live Q&As on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ hangouts.
    Ultimately, everyone’s social media strategy will look different—and will get very different results. To be effective, know your business and the metrics that matter to you. A consultancy might need just 100 high-quality fans, whereas a company that sells a product might need several thousand to see financial results.

    Now It’s Your Turn

    Does your business have a social media strategy in place? What tips do you have for someone putting a strategy together for the first time? Leave your questions and comments in the box below.

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    Wednesday, March 30, 2016

    Eaves And Fascia Board: How (Not) To Fix Them

    Eaves are a vulnerable part of your house, exposed to weather and damage by falling limbs.  Luckily, they aren't too hard to repair when the inevitable happens and repair is needed.  So, if your eaves are wooden, and you have some damage to your fascia board to deal with and if not why are you reading this? 

    Fascia? That's the name for the vertical board or panel on the front of your eaves.  It's complement is the "soffit"- the board that forms the bottom of the structure.

    The first thing is getting to the eaves, which means using a ladder.  That's the dangerous part, especially if the ground where you need to work is uneven or sloping.  It's important to find or create an even, level surface for the ladder.

    Once you are up there, you need to remove the damaged part of the board.  In this case it was easy because the damaged section of board was already short.  But if you have damage to a long section of fascia board, you may choose to replace just the damaged portion.  That's not easy because the need to protect the roof deck of itself makes it hard to make a complete cut across the fascia board.  A reciprocating saw, sometimes referred to as a "Sawzall" is probably your best option.

    Once the damaged board is removed, you are ready to begin fabricating the replacement pieces.  Often that will just mean the main fascia board itself.  The common board in use for this purpose in North America is a 1x6.

    If you're replacing a corner piece, the easiest way to measure the angle you need is to use the old board as a template.  You can do this even if the old board doesn't have a clean, complete edge due to the damage suffered.  Just use a straightedge to create the straight line you need, as shown below.  

    Once the board is cut to fit, paint it.  I believe in painting both faves of the board to better protect it from moisture and insects, though contractors will usually just paint the outside.

    The next step is to replace the fillet.  You can use a cardboard template or pattern to fill the space.  I actually drew directly on the scrap piece of plywood used for the repair.  Paint the piece as you did for the fascia board, and then install it.  

    Seal joints with a paintable sealant, both for a smooth finish appearance and to keep moisture out.  I used a good quality latex product.  

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