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A Waterproof TV0

Some people enjoy just floating around in the pool with no interruptions, nothing but the gentle lapping of the water against their skin, a frosty beverage in hand, and silence.

I’m not one of those people. 


Cabinets, Backsplash & Countertops0

A kitchen is the heart of a home, so undertaking a total renovation of this space requires flexibility and perseverance on everyone’s part. Washing dishes in the bathtub, living with the refrigerator in the hallway, preparing meals and cooking in the entry way all start off as a fun adventure, but when two months stretch to three and more, the novelty is often replaced with frustration and sqabbling.    


Vintage Kitchen Appliances0

I can be picky about my kitchen appliances.  For example, I despise glass top stoves.  I like that they come up to temp rapidly, but they are a royal pain to clean if something boils over.  Sure, I know there are new cleaning agents out there that make it a lot easier than it used to be to scrape burnt gravy off of a glass burner—but call me a purist.  I’m an old-fashioned gas stove kind’a guy.

Take this stove from Elmira  for example:


How NOT to Deep Fry a Turkey0

I’ve lost track of how many turkeys I’ve deep-fried in my past.  Probably around 30 or so.  But I did my research first.  There are several precautions that are necessary when lowering something the size of two bowling balls into a cauldron of super-heated fluid.   And some serious consequences when you do it wrong. 


Need an Extra Washing Machine?1

Having visitors this week for Thanksgiving? 

A big dinner or a few overnight houseguests will mean extra laundry.  And who wants to spend a holiday weekend doing laundry?  Especially after you’ve already spent most of the week cooking!

Sevin Coskun, a designer from Turkey, figured out how to slip an extra washer into your home – and maybe even encourage your guests to throw in their own towels and sheets on their way out the door. It’s called the Washup



OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode—a little innovation that changes the way future televisions will be made.

Let’s start with the obvious.  Just look at how thin these televisions are:

Sony XEL-1 side photo


More Toilet Talk0

If your home is anything like mine,  you have a bathroom that’s about the size of a phone booth.  For those of you too young to know what a phonebooth is,  just picture a coffin with a phone in it. Now for the bathroom image,  simply replace the phone with a toilet, sink, and shower, and you get the idea.

Caroma, an Australian bathroom fixtures design company, has come up with a solution to the space problem in a tiny bathroom:  the Profile 5 Toilet Suite:


Putting the sink on top of the toilet (rather like the drinking fountain/sink/toilet combo used in prison holding cells—don’t ask me how I know that) not only saves space, but also maximizes water usage.

Utilizing an integrated dual-flush push button and a unique spout, the Profile 5 is designed to save water.  When you’re done using the toilet, the fresh water from the sink faucet pours down into the cistern.  So, as you wash your hands, you’re also filling up the toilet for the next flush.

But, as usual, saving environmental resources always costs a bit more than you would expect.  In this case, the Profile 5 runs a hefty $1069.  That’s around $790 more than the American Standard Champion 4  (which cracks me up as the name of a toilet, by the way—I feel like a champion ‘cause I took a dookie!!!).

Still, if you’re in need of space and environmentally conscious, this is a sound—and well designed—investment.

by John Barker

Hands Off!0

I once had a cousin who would eat all of the food in my house.  Well, not exactly all – but select portions of food, in hopes that we wouldn’t notice.

Let’s take Shrimp Creole, for example.  This spicy, delicious dish has been one of my favorites for years.  I generally prepare it a day ahead of time to let all of the flavors meld together overnight.  And it works great—until your houseguest (my cousin, in this case) sneaks into the fridge at night and eat ALL of the shrimp out of it.  Not one.  Not even a few.  ALL OF THEM.

I suppose what’s left is plain ol’ Creole at that point.  And as a dish, that’s sorely lacking.

And, so, I was happy when I found this thing:  

This is the Fridge Locker I know it looks like a little animal cage (and can probably double as one), but it apparently, its small combination lock, like the one of found on a briefcase, can protect your food from grabbing hands.   

Rather than show you the actual infomercial for the Fridge Locker, watch this sequence from Ellen instead.  Watch it from the beginning and all the way to the end.  

Look like the thing really works – at  least in the hands of a thirsty reporter looking for something to drink. 

At $19.95, this looks like a pretty good investment.  That’s at least how much the shrimp for my Creole cost.

by John Barker

Brush the Cobwebs from your Furnace Before the Snow Falls0

If you live anywhere north of Miami, October is a spooky furnace season. The Old Farmer’s Almanac lists many first frosts in October,long before Halloween, so don’t wait much longer to tackle  pre-winter furnace maintenance.  If you live in Helena, Montana, the frost date was predicted for September 18th –  a full eight days before even Juneau, Alaska!  If all you did is switch the thermostat to HEAT, you’re already a month late!

So what does it take to get your furnace ready for the winter heating season? Mostly, it’s a phone call to your HVAC contractor.  But what will they do when they get to your house? 

Here’s a quick checklist:

  • test the electrical system and safety shutoff
  • clean or replace the air filter
  • clean the combustion chamber
  • inspect and clean the flue pipe and chimney
  • clean or replace the oil filter (if an oil furnace)
  • analyze the burner for efficiency, and adjust
  • clean floor vents

More detailed information on these maintenance tasks is available here.

Paying for an annual furnace cleaning and inspection might feel expensive, but it pays off in a number of ways.  First, the more efficiently your furnace operates, the less expensive it will be to run.  Your up front investment will likely pay for itself in reduced monthly heating bills. 

Think, too, about the last time you woke up on a below-freezing day and the furnace wasn’t working.  Do you want to be guy whose teeth are chattering while you wait for the emergency service call (not to mention those fees) or do you want to be the guy who’s cozy and watching the weather channel while the snow falls?

Most importantly, good maintenance of your furnace keeps you and your family safe.  Your family, home, and peace of mind is well-worth an hour’s visit from your HVAC professional – in October!

Latch Key Cook0

Mom and Dad not home?  Nobody to make dinner for you?  Well, come on down to the FIY Robot Emporium and pick up a Motoman SDA10 Robot!

Okay, actually we don’t sell this robot.  It’s a prototype, designed by YASKAWA Electric Corporation to show the possibilities of robots in home and commercial applications.

Introduced in 2008 at the International Next-Generation Robot Fair in Osaka, Japan, the Motoman SDA10 is just under 5’ tall.  It has 15 joints, making it quite versatile for both kitchen and factory applications.

In the picture above, Motoman makes Okonomiyaki,  a  savory pancake that is a comfort soul food to the  Japanese, sort of like the fried chicken or meatloaf is to Americans. 

The Motoman uses speech recognition technology to take orders from customers.  Then, the robot is able to mix the batter, pour it into the pan, flip it, transfer  it to plate, and serve it with condiments.   Ingredients can include bacon, port, green onion, cheese, and a wide variety of vegetables.

Sounds like a perfect after school snack for the kiddies.   And I wouldn’t mind at all coming home from work and having some ready for dinner.

I’m sure it could be programmed to make other items such as omelets—or just plain ol’ pancakes with syrup.

Odds are good that stuff like this will show up in our houses within the next 20 years.  And I’m okay with that.  I’ll take some delicious Okonomiyaki for breakfast when I’m getting up waaaayyyy too early to contemplate cooking. 

Breakfast, lunch, snack, or dinner – leave it to the Motoman.

by John Barker

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