25 September 2018

Drain Clogs 101


I live in an older home and for the most part, when things are working around here I don’t pay too much attention to them. However, one of the charms of living in an older home is that the line between working quietly in the background and catastrophic failure can be a painfully thin one.

This house has been added onto at least three times in the last 50 years and with each addition, the already stretched-thin plumbing system has been stretched even thinner. When someone’s undertaking a major renovation, it’s easy to try to save money on the parts no one can see. Parts like drain lines.

While I understand the motive, I hate that I have to live with the results of someone else’s long ago decisions.

We have to have our drains cleaned professionally about once every two years. It’s expensive and disruptive while it’s happening of course but the lead up to needing it is no fun either. Our drains slow down months ahead of that point and I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks over the years that help extend the time between professional cleanings.

The first thing I’ve learned is to keep things out of the drains in the first place. Buy a decent strainer and get into the habit of using it.


Keeping things out of the drain in the first place has increased the interval of our required draining cleanings from once every nine months or so to once every year and a half. But then again, I live in an older home and we have some issues related to the drain lines themselves.

Since the last time we had our drains done I’ve been using Roto-Rooter Gel Clog Remover on a monthly basis and it really has keep them running and draining the way they’re supposed to.



Our house has iron waste lines, they’re the actual root of our problem and for most of you, they’re something you won’t ever have to deal with. Iron waste lines aren’t used in homes anymore for a very good reason --they degrade and rust from the inside out over time. We haven’t replaced them yet because the two lines that drain this whole house meet under a slab in our den and continue under that slab through the laundry room and garage and then they run under the driveway until they meet the city sewer line in the street.

Replacing our iron drain lines will entail jackhammering them out and in that process, we’ll have to replace the floors in the bottom third of our house and we’ll have to replace a pretty long driveway. It’s not my idea of a good time and I shudder when I think about it. In the meantime, I’m keeping those lines as clean as I can and Roto-Rooter is helping me do that.

Because our drain lines are corroding on the inside and they’re too far gone to reline, ours have to be replaced eventually. You see, corroded iron pipes develop a pitted rusted interior that catches just about anything that flows over them. I actually have video of our pipes in action and they look like the aorta of someone with a cholesterol problem.

Photo credit: Blogspot.com

Acids further corrode iron so anything I put in there has to run on the opposite end of the Ph scale --I need a good alkali and Roto-Rooter is that and more. Roto-Rooter Gel Clog Remover has 25% more active ingredients than its competitors and it’s thick enough to stay together until it does its job.

As Roto-Rooter Gel Clog remover works its way through my iron lines it dissolves what it comes across; be it food particles, congealed oils, hair and all of the rest of the things that get hung up in drain lines.

It’s working for me and it’s saving me from the need for yet another $700 professional clean. It’s extending the life of my pipes too. I know that I’ll still need professional cleanings and I know we have to bit the bullet and replace those iron pipes eventually. But for now I can buy some time and that’s due in a large part to some extra vigilance about sink drain hygiene and my periodic use of Roto-Rooter Gel Clog Remover. Give it a shot!

The power of Mean Green


Mean Green has been a part of my life for nine months already and I have to say that in all honesty, it’s become one of my go to products for cleaning up around the house. It gets used all over the place but the place where it gets used more than anywhere else is my kitchen.

I’ve been baking and cooking instructor for three years now and as culinary instruction has taken over a larger portion of my professional life, so has the amount of time I spend in our kitchen.


It seems that I’m forever testing out new recipes, developing new courses of study and prepping for classes. For example, I have a class of 20 students this week and I’m teaching them the fine art of laminating pastry dough for croissants. What this means is that I’ve spent the last two days cranking out 20 batches of croissant dough my students will later use to roll out and shape croissants. It’s a lot of fun and the expression on my students’ faces when they pull off something as deceptively complicated as a croissant makes my exploits as an instructor worth it.

In the meantime, my kitchen at home just cranked out 20 batches of dough and looks like a bomb went off in it. Baking for a household generates a mess as it is but baking for multitudes while at the same time keeping Frank and me fed leaves me with a kitchen that has to be cleaned up and cleaned up properly.

Enter Mean Green. Nothing I’ve ever used gets my granite counters so clean so quickly. My stainless cooktop stays looking new(ish) and I’ve ever started using it on my floors. I add about a quarter cup to hot mop water and my travertine floors look like something you’d find in the home of someone who doesn’t cook at all.

A year ago we replaced our dying double wall ovens with a new model from Fisher Paykel Professional and honestly, it’s the best oven I’ve ever worked with. One of the features that drew me to it in the first place is its full extension oven racks. They're great and they make using my ovens a lot easier. However, they have one design flaw and they have it in common with all oven racks. They can’t be left in the oven during the self cleaning cycle. Due to their bearings they can’t be immersed in water either.


This leaves me with a great appliance but dirty oven racks and that makes me crazy.

Again, enter Mean Green. I sit my racks in the sink, spray them with Mean Green, let them sit for five minutes and then wipe them down with a paper towel. They look brand new.

This is not some half baked endorsement of a product in exchange for a sample. Although Mean Green did send me samples I have to say that the stuff works to keep my kitchen ship shape. And given the amount of mileage I put on my kitchen that’s really saying something.

21 September 2018

5 Ways to Make Your Rooms Lighter and More Spacious


When designing a new kitchen, or indeed a house as a whole, it's essential that it's functional, of course, but also that it's spacious, stylish, and welcoming. It may be, however, that you're looking to remodel, renovate or redesign existing rooms; if so, making them appear lighter and larger can be easier than you think, and it can cost you much less than you imagine too. Here are five simple tips to help you change your rooms for the better, giving you modern kitchens, living rooms and bedrooms without losing any of their functionality.

1. Adopt a Minimalist Style

We live in an age of rapid technological advancement and innovation, and we all love a new gadget, but this and the increasingly consumer-oriented nature of society can easily lead to cluttered rooms if left unchecked. Minimalist design is the perfect antidote to this, and it's not only the height of fashion, but it will also give you rooms that have lots more space to walk around in. Minimalist design and décor can be used in every room of your house, and at its heart is the importance of space and clean lines. White and silver are the perfect minimalist colours, and these also create the impression of lighter rooms that are still warm.

2. Replace Curtains with Stylish Blinds

Curtains are very effective at blocking out light but they're not so great at letting light flood into a room, and if not carefully chosen, they can also give a room an old-fashioned feel. That's one reason that more and more people are choosing blinds for their window coverings, allowing them to regulate the amount of light entering a room with ease and precision. Elegant blinds come in many styles, designs and colours, meaning that you can easily coordinate them with your soft furnishings and walls, and expert soft furnishing companies such as freshideas.co.uk can help you find blinds that perfectly meet your requirements. They have a wide variety of blinds from the traditional roller and vertical options to motorised and child safe products. 

3. Add Up-lighting

Lighting is one of the most important aspects to consider in kitchen and interior design, as the correct lighting can show your rooms off at their very best, while understated lighting can create a less than thrilling experience. This is especially important if you like to entertain guests, and one easy way to make your home more welcoming is to install carefully positioned up-lights. Commercial and retail properties have long known the importance of up-lighting, but it can make an invaluable addition to a domestic property as well. They help to create extra light in the areas that need it most, so that they can be used to negate naturally darker areas of a room, or as feature lighting to pick out pictures or other items of décor.

4. Use the Illusion of Mirrors

There often comes a time when we feel we need just a little more space in our rooms, but moving house can be costly and expensive, and is one of the most stressful things we can do in our lives. There's another solution, however, that is much more practical and much less stressful, and that's to install beautiful mirrors in your rooms. High-quality mirrors are not only an exciting design feature in their own right, but they also create an illusion of more space in your room, which can, in turn, make them feel a more relaxing environment to live in. There are mirrors in many styles, shapes and sizes, so take the time to find a mirror or mirrors that are perfect for your home; long and wide mirrors can be particularly effective with regards to making rooms look and feel more spacious.

5. Favour Brighter Colours

Scientists have shown what artists have long known, that colours can have a massive impact on how we feel. That's why it's so important to get colours that make us feel happy and contented when we're in our own home, and the way to do this is to favour brighter colours such as yellows and light blues. We can all react differently to individual colours, however, so study colour charts and think about the effect they're having on you and your mood. Brighter colours can also make a room seem much lighter, and that can be particularly helpful when the dark, gloomy months of winter make their appearance.

These five tips can all be acted upon without having to break the bank, and yet they can have a significant transformational effect on the way your rooms look, and just as importantly on how they feel. When you remove clutter, install beautiful blinds with matching soft furnishings, adopt brighter colour schemes and add up-lighting and mirrors, you'll have rooms that seem bigger, bolder and brighter. It's a quick and easy way to turn your house into a home, and whether you're entertaining guests or just relaxing with those you love, you're sure to feel the benefits.

11 September 2018

How New Cabinets Can Highlight a Reborn Kitchen


According to the poet/philosopher Robert Bannister, there is no single more effective contrivance, which an incompliant husband can wield, for saving a failing marriage, than an extensive kitchen remodel.  And criteria for the use of the word ‘extensive’ certainly includes a complete refitment of all the countertops with some material like ‘Brazilian Granite’, or at least the fiscal equivalent.

Rather than see kitchen remodeling as a ridiculously expensive chore that is not only going to disrupt your home life for a couple of months, but also as a means for hemorrhaging cash at an astonishing rate, you should consider the benefits.  More than any other home improvement, kitchen remodeling is one of the best means to enhance your home’s value, and increase its salability.

But kitchen refurbishing doesn’t necessarily need to break the bank, if you just take a few precautionary measures in the early stages of planning your modifications so that you can step, incrementally, into the makeover pool – before you get to the deep end.

Some Simple First Steps

The easiest way to change the look of your kitchen is by simple, but thorough, cleaning and decluttering of it.  Strip it down to the basics so you can see what you really have here.  Once you do that, you might notice that some of the cabinet and drawer handles, along with other basic hardware don’t match.

If this is the case, why not strip off all this dissimilar hardware and replace it with high quality cabinet pulls and hinges that all match.  Get a design theme going here. 

Then step back and take a long, critical look at these appurtenances and seriously evaluate the result.  This simple step, along with the cleaning and decluttering, might just be enough to satisfy stage one of your kitchen disquiet?

If you feel that handles and pulls are not quite enough to float your improvement boat, consider taking the next step in kitchen conversion upgrades – the refacing of your drawers and cabinets.  This is not as expensive and extensive of a remodeling chore as you might think. 

Many cabinetmakers now have clever estimating applications right on line at their websites.  These days, you can routinely get a cabinet refacing estimate by just measuring your kitchen and a tapping those dimensions into the database. 

The entire catalogue of different woods, faces and textures is often right online along with the estimating functions and with a few simple clicks you can choose which faces you prefer, ending up with a very good idea of how much it’s all going to cost and how long it will take to upgrade.

In a matter of minutes you have enhanced the potential look and style of your kitchen considerably, with hardly any effort at all.  And it could very well be much cheaper to do than you would have ever thought.

Taking the Next Step

But maybe your kitchen improvement needs just a little more boost, and that probably means tearing out the countertops and replacing them with expensive granite, right?  Not necessarily.

There is an extraordinary new product where you can simply refinish the countertops you already have, by yourself, and make them look just like they came from the depths of some remote Amazon, rainforest quarry.

It’s called Rust-Oleum Countertop Transformation Premix Kit and comes in all sorts of colors and stone-like textures.  The application process is not that hard at all.  Just mask-off your sink and sideboards, paint on the base coat.  Let it dry.  And then apply the texturing coat and finally the sealer and you’ll have tough, stain-resistant countertops that look brand new and will last a long time – at a fraction of the cost of new granite countertops.

Going for Broke

But maybe, once you see how great those new cabinets look; you’ve just got to go for the whole gestalt.  Nothing but genuine granite countertops, maybe even with double bevel edges, will do for your kitchen masterpiece. 

Actually, if you’re going to go for it; why not Carrara marble countertops with a stunning, sky’s-the-limit ‘waterfall’ edge?  And if you’re going Carrara, you might as well custom-cut the matching back splashes – giving your kitchen that elusive ‘je ne sais quoi’ that qualifies for the pages of Architectural Digest.

And while you’re at it, why not replace those old, dreary appliances with the latest, restaurant-grade kitchen equipment, just like the homes guest chefs visit on the Food Channel?

You could even knock out the wall separating the kitchen from the dining room and create one, fabulous culinary space.  Shoot the moon.  Why not?  You only live once and you aren’t taking that money with you.

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