Neat Features

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Improving Water With Plants

March 27th, 2012 Posted in Neat Features, Outdoors, home design Tags: , ,

Sometimes the Neat Features don’t have to be inside your home – they can be on the outside.  Or maybe even on the curb.  That’s what it is with today’s Neat Feature: plants.

One of the great things about modern city living is how effective the roads are at draining off rain water so we don’t get standing pools of water on the road – or worse – around the foundations of our homes.

The problem is that all of this rushing water can carry with it quite a few toxic chemicals.  Everything from that cleaner you spilled on your deck to the pesticide you used in your yard, become fair game for rainwater to pick up.

In small quantities these aren’t much of an issue.  But the more the rain water gathers in one spot, the higher the concentrations become.  That’s why some homes, and now some cities, are taking steps to use plants along the curb to “clean” the toxic chemicals by absorbing a lot of the rain water before it hits the city’s sewage system.  (As you can see in the picture above.)

image from This Old House

Plugs that Switch Off

I am forever turning off power strips.  This drives my wife nuts.  But I can’t help it.  I’m one of those people who hates wasting electricity.  Not because of the environmental impact, although if you can do something nice for the environment, why not?  But because I just hate paying for things I’m not using.  And thanks to Phantom Power (the electricity our TV’s and Xbox’s use when turned “off”) it pays to pull the plug.

Some people extreme coupon.  I extreme power save.

Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

But admittedly there’s a problem with that strategy.  Every time I turn off the power strip to the TV, it means the cable box, VCR (yes I still have one of those) and several other things all lose their programming.  It’s a pain to have to let modern cable boxes boot up.  And it’s annoying to have to reset the flashing 12:00 on the VCR.

Enter the plug that has its own switch.

Now I can turn off the individual device (like at TV or a lamp) and let everything else stay on.  No more reprogramming for me!  Although since this is only a proof of concept device, I may have to continue turning off the power strips, and hope my wife forgives me!

(Of course I could just buy separate power strips, but if I do that, it kind of defeats the purpose of saving money through unplugging.  It takes a lot of phantom power to pay for a $50 power strip!)

Paint a Family Tree Mural

March 6th, 2012 Posted in DIY, Neat Features Tags: , ,

Some societies make their young kill a wild and dangerous animal as a right of passage.  Other cultures have elaborate ceremonies to celebrate a coming of age.  In America, we assign kid’s projects about their family tree.  (I know, it doesn’t sound nearly as cool when said that way.)

Despite this, the day my kids come home asking about our family tree terrifies me.  I know nothing of my family tree.  It seems like a daunting task.  That’s why it’s time I get proactive and instead of trying to make it up on the spot, I’ll simply paint it on the wall.  And thanks to Fresh Paint Artist, I can!

In all seriousness though, I think this is a great idea. We even have the perfect wall, next to the stairs for a mural like this to go!  How about you?  Would you paint your family tree on your wall?