Monday, May 21, 2012

How  Loosing  My Voice Made Me Clean Up The Office.

About 10 days ago I felt a cold coming on - the sneeze and the scratchy throat were typical warning signs. I prepared to do battle. I can usually nip these in the bud but one little germ got through the defense line of power vitamins and, heaven help me, oregano oil. I got sick. Not too bad, but sick.  I thought I was on the mend until Wednesday at three in the morning when the cat woke me up. I tried to tell him off and had no voice. Nothing, nada, zip. Not even a scratchy hoarse squeak.  Nothing. And I felt just fine.
It’s very odd to loose your voice. No telephone is the first thing you miss. Running a home-based business makes the phone crucial to your livelihood. I had calls to return, supply orders to place but I thought I’d just wait a day. Surely my voice would be back by Thursday. I put the radio on and went to work. It was very disconcerting to hear the phone ring and not be able to answer it. Worked a full day and fell asleep on the couch a few hours before bedtime. But I felt fine. 
Thursday - repeat of Wednesday. On Friday morning, still voiceless, I went to my Doctor who, bless his heart, told me to shut up for at least three days. A friend made my return phone calls for me and ordered the supplies I needed, and I went home.  It’s no fun being out and about when you can’t communicate with anyone. But I felt fine.
By Sunday morning, Day 5 without a voice, I was so well rested I couldn’t stand myself. The cat woke me early, again,  and I was surprised that when I said  good morning to him a sound actually came out. I took a minute to think about it all and realized that what I had just gone through was a full-on manifestation of the ramifications of not listening to my body and keeping my life in balance. I hadn’t and mine wasn’t. I had burned myself out, but I felt fine.
So, while I was waiting for the coffee to brew, I  decided that I needed to get rid of the nagging things in my life that I could,  but wasn’t,  controlling. Step 1: clean up the office. Three hours later the job was done, my office looked great, my voice was obviously coming back and I felt fine. 

What Size Centerpiece?

Ever been to dinner and the centerpiece was so high you couldn’t see across the table? Or it was so large there were leaves in your soup?  Even if your centerpiece is stunning, if it isn’t functional --- which means it fits into the plan of the table, it can ruin the whole mood of the table, and the harmony of the tablescape is out the window. So, here is  a bit about centerpieces.
Mimic the shape of the table.  A round table, is well suited to a round arrangement,a  rectangular table is best with an oval or rectangular arrangement.
Clarify the type of food service to determine the space available for the arrangement on dining tables. Family service will necessitate room for serving bowls, for example, plate service will not.
Choose the style of table setting before finalizing the arrangement size. Formal style requires several glasses and side plates per person and may leave little room for a  centerpiece.
Select the height of the arrangement as below the sight line of guests on opposite sides of the table if the table is narrow enough for them to talk to each other, or above the sight line if the table is too wide for conversation.
Set the table with all the required plates, bowls, glasses and stem-ware and test the size of various vessels in the available space. Stand back and look at the table and possible arrangement size and if it is pleasing to your eye, it is probably the right size.
Rule of thumb is to start with a 12-inch vessel  for a table 54 inches wide and let the arrangement extend 2 to 4 inches past the vessel.
Dave Barritt, master florist at Salmon Arm Florist, shares that eye level is approximately the distance from the elbow to the tip of the fingers. If preparing an arrangement away from the table where it will be used, set your elbow on the work surface, extend your fingers, and use this span as an approximation of the sight line level.

A tall arrangement will be less likely to tip over if the height of the arrangement is less than the circumference at its thickest part. This last bit of information comes from my days as a bartender. If the glass is taller than it is around, it will fall over easily. Remember Singapore Slings? Like that.
I recently received some new foam for outdoor cushions. Visit the Archives at my website for more information.

How to choose the right size air conditioner

Summer is coming. I know the robins are here and I saw a blackbird at  my friend’s house the other day. There is green poking through the nasty ‘lawn’ thingy in front of my condo. I moved bedrooms this winter and my current one faces west; that means I may need an air conditioner this summer. I like my sleeping area cool but don’t want to cool down the whole house just for one tiny room so now I have to decide what to get. So, here is how to choose the size of air conditioner for your space.
Start by calculating the square footage of the space to be cooled.  (I know we use meters, not feet, but no one seems to have told the air conditioning manufacturers). For example, if the room is 24 by 24,  the square footage is 576. You need an air conditioner that will cool a minimum of 576 square feet. 
The cooling capacity of an air conditioner is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs). So are your bar-b-ques, by the way. The capacity required per square foot  varies from 30  for a small room down to 20 for a large, open-concept space. For example, a 200 square foot room requires 6,000 BTUs, which is 30 BTUs per square foot, but a 600 square foot room requires 14,000, which is 23 BTUs. 
If the room is a shaded, subtract 20% from the number of BTUs required, if it gets a lot of sunlight, add 20%. If the space has a kitchen, add 4000 BTUs, if more than two people use the room daily, add 600 BTUs for each person. 
Still with me?  Now if you decide to throw caution to the wind and just buy the biggest one you can carry home from the big-box store, consider that a unit that is too large for the space will cool too quickly, shut off frequently and not remove enough moisture from the air, resulting in freezing. Not good. One that is too small will run continuously and cost more to operate than the specs say. Read the box.
So, now that we are all totally confused, take heart and contact a professional. Not only will they be able to determine the size of air conditioner you need, they will advise you on the type of system--- which is a whole other discussion.  Good luck. Check my website, connect to the newspaper archives, for references and more information.

Just The Facts.

I get asked about these things a lot. Especially at this time of year.  Each year I write a bit about these things and hope that those of you who have not paid attention in the past will do so now.  I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t want to reduce their heating and cooling bills. So, listen up, group. Here are the facts:
1. Putting solar film on your windows will reduce the heat transmitted though the windows by at least  68 percent.  This is heat transmitted in both directions. 
Window Film and More: window-film-lower-your-cooling-bills.aspx
2.Just adding blackout lining to your existing window treatments can reduce your heating and cooling bill by at least 15 percent.
Thermal Curtains Lining Efficiency:
University of Wisconsin: Energy Conserving Window Treatments:
3. While risking the wrath of some, I am going to quote the  U.S. Department of Energy and tell you that the proper window treatments --- including manufactured shades and blinds --- can save you up to 25 percent on your heating and cooling bill. 
U.S. Department of Energy: windows_doors_skylights/index.cfm/mytopic=13530
4.The sun will damage your window coverings, furniture and floors. Even if they are on a north-facing window, even if they are under an awning. cat/window/aboutdrapery_linings.htm
There, now you know. Call me if you’d like me to bring you samples and talk about this further. 

“Porcelain” Tile: ??

I learned some things this last week. Always good to learn something new and what I learned may be if interest to all you weekend-warriors, or wives of would-be-weekend-warriors, or husbands thereof, I suppose.
Porcelain tile. Sounds rather exotic, doesn’t it? When I hear ‘porcelain’ I immediately think of the figurines on my Grandmother’s dresser. These were the pieces the grandchildren were forbidden to touch. I really don’t think about floor tiles. So here is what I learned this week:
Porcelain is ceramic. This means it is made from clay. Porcelain is made from a very particular, refined, and usually white clay. This Kaolin clay is  mixed with quartz ferrous sand and fired in a very hot furnace. The heat causes particles in the mixture to turn to glass. That is an incredibly simplified version of the process, but I think it provides insight into the finished product. 
Porcelain doesn’t absorb much moisture. It is ‘impervious’, which means that it has an absorption rate of .5 percent or less. Compare this to cement at 5 to 10 percent. Minimal moisture absorbency does not mean it won’t stain, but it does mean it resists cracking at low temperatures.  
If the porcelain is polished, the pores on the surface of the tile are opened, and the tile becomes more susceptible to staining. So, this tile is often glazed, which involves an additional firing and a product added to the surface of the tile.  If the porcelain is left natural, it is considered “unglazed,” “unpolished,” or  “through-body.”  The color of the tile is through-out the whole tile, chips and dings are much less noticeable than on glazed tiles.
Keeping porcelain clean involves frequent vacuuming with a soft brush attachment or  dust mopping. Warm water and mild cleaning products only, please, and do not allow these products to dry on the floor - they may stain natural porcelain. Don’t use bleach, ammonia  or acids, oil-based detergents or wax cleaners. 
You will pay more for high-quality porcelain tile than box-store ceramic but the advantages are durability, resistance to staining, and resistance to chipping and cracking.
Every wonder why we call the dishes made of good porcelain ‘China’? Because that is where the process was developed. 

Care of Your Shades and Blinds

OK, first off, shades are usually made of fabric or a fabric-like product. They are manufactured as pleated, honeycomb or Silhouette-type coverings and are considered a ‘hard’ window covering. As opposed to soft window coverings, such  as custom-made drapes and Roman shades --- which I make.  Blinds are coverings made of slats of wood, metal or plastic and these are also considered hard window coverings. For ease, in this article, I’ll just say ‘shades.’
Whether custom-made or purchased from a big-box store, shades  can be expensive.  Keeping them in optimal working order will increase their longevity and keeping them clean is the first step.  Dust accumulation in the lift mechanisms will interfere with the smooth operation of the shades and dirty cords tangle more easily.
Please don’t assume that because the coverings are made of a fabric-like product they are washable. Water may stain the product and  the cords could shrink if they contain cotton. So, spot clean with a damp cloth, no detergent or cleaner. Do not use  pre-loaded cleaning sheets on any window covering; they contain products that can stain and damage the shades.  One of the largest shade manufacturers states that use of these sheets will void their warranty.  If your shade becomes heavily soiled have it professionally cleaned;  please don’t try to wash it in the bathtub. 
Vacuum your shades regularly, using a clean, soft brush attachment. Lower the shade and, starting at the top of the covering, vacuum in a cross-wise pattern.  Moving the brush up and down the covering may damage the folds.
 Between vacuumings, dust  the coverings with a wool duster.  Man-made dusters simply move the dust along the shade. Dust sticks to the wool and is moved off and away. Buy a wool duster with a removable head that you can take off and throw in the washing machine.  Non-removable head dusters come with cleaning instructions, but the removable ones are the best.
Spray your covering  with a spray static inhibitor.  Lightly cover both sides.  This will help prevent dust from sticking to the shade and make the vacuuming easier. This is the big-deal tip for those of you who hate all the dust that settles on your venetian blinds.