Home & Garden

Getting a handle on to-do list

With the exception of doing dishes, I find housework therapeutic. Except that time when I almost electrocuted myself.

I once rewired all the outlets and switches in my condo and, well, not all of them worked afterward. Go ahead, laugh.

At least now I’ve found help.

The “You Can Build” series, with two titles, “Wiring” and “Trimwork” (Sunset Books; $24.95 and $21.95, respectively), offers hundreds of instructions and photos on basic and advanced techniques, such as replacing or installing light fixtures, water heaters, window casings, baseboards and crown moldings.

Maybe now I’ll try three-way switches.


Don’t throw away glass containers with trapped candle wax.

Try the Crock Pot Lady’s candle recycling idea, found on her blog, crockpot365.blogspot.com.

I’ll leave the details up to her, but here are the ingredients: old candles in glass containers (or wax and empty containers); 3-inch wicks; candle fragrance, essential oil, or cooking extract; candle coloring dye (not food coloring); and, of course, a crock pot.

You basically freeze, chop and cook the wax, add the wick and enjoy.


Writing on walls is fun. Just ask a toddler, or try it yourself with IdeaPaint.

The single-coat roller- applied paint turns smooth surfaces (walls, fridges countertops, and more) into dry-erase boards, where you can write, draw or doodle.

Compatible with standard dry-erase products, the paint is formaldehyde-free and uses limited packaging, energy and materials.

Remove it from surfaces by coating them with regular paint. Cost is about $4 per square foot. Details: Ideapaint.com.


I used to think stiffness was an unintended result of elegance.

We’ve all seen homes so elegant that you wonder how anyone lives in them.

But as it turns out, comfort, simplicity, function and individuality are the key elements of the look, according to Atlanta Bartlett.

In “Easy Elegance: Creating a Relaxed Comfortable and Stylish Home” (Ryland Peters & Small; $29.95), she provides an alternative to cookie-cutter home trends.

Emphasizing that “what you choose to leave out is just as important as what you include,” the book helps you define your style (modern, country, retro, feminine or faded elegance) and offers examples of how to put it together in every room.

An even more important concept, she adds, is creating a home that reflects your own interests and personality – not those found in magazines.