10 Popular Home Renovation Trends in 2020

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Home floor and walls renovations.
Home floor and walls renovations

Remodeling, whether done for contemporary style, preparation for sale, or just general repairs continues as usual. The most popular home renovation trends vary from year to year depending on a number of factors. Renovation budgets are always high on the list. Going green not only lowers your bills but helps the environment. Other factors can influence decisions but let’s look at how 2020 is shaping up thus far.

  • Floors, ceilings, and walls. Traditionally, these surfaces get a lot of attention and 2020 is no exception. The Joint Center for Housing For Housing Studies says homeowners average $3,282 per year on these surfaces.
  • Prioritizing on saving money. This trend is not specifically tied to aesthetics. Rather, it is focused on frugality. Migrating to lower operating-cost lighting like LED bulbs, for one. Beefing up attic insulation and adding radiant barrier foil may not boost curb appeal, but oh, what a difference when the power bills come due each and every month.
  • Slapping on another coat of paint. This is always one of the most popular weekend DIY projects. The cost of paint is reasonable and the outlay of cash for tools is minimal. You can even employ paint illusions to make a room look larger.
  • Be a DIY weekend warrior. This is the best way to stretch your budget. Plus, who doesn’t love that sense of pride? DIY varies in the level of difficulty but with the help of sites like this one, I Can Fix Up My Home, you might be surprised at what you can accomplish. The Senior Director of Customer Insights at Lowe’s, Amy Anthony, says, “Seventy-four percent [of consumers] do research to get as much information as possible before making a purchase.”
  • Preparing for climate change. Whether you are an ardent believer in global warming (now called climate change) or believe Al Gore is just out to make a buck preaching about it, there’s no doubt that the preparation steps saves money. So, weatherstrip, caulk, upgrade your windows; all changes are cumulative.
  • Home sanitation and wellness is moving up. This is understandable and goes hand in hand with many other home improvements because the topic of off-gassing is more well-known that ever. Forbes.com puts it this way, “Wellness-focused changes can include paint, flooring or cabinetry with non-toxic materials, touchless faucets that reduce germ spread, circadian lighting that improves sleep, water and air purification systems, bidet style toilets for enhanced hygiene, and many others.”
  • Focus on lower budgets, bigger consequences. Smaller projects encompassing a big wow factor are becoming more popular and are expected to continue. For example, instead of gutting the bathroom and re-doing it, why not have your tub re-finished, update all faucets, put in a new recessed medicine cabinet, and re-paint?
  • Smaller brand names are becoming more competitive by adding luxury features. Kitchen cabinets are a good example of this. After Hurricane Harvey, when our home flooded, one of the things we needed to replace were our cabinets and countertops. Home Depot gave us a lot of modular options with freebies like self-closing doors and stainless steel sinks thrown in.
  • Home automation is going mainline. Once the purview of science fiction novels, it’s coming at us fast and furious now. I recently installed a Ring Doorbell. It not only responds when someone rings it, but also when someone just approaches it.
  • More services are becoming negotiable. When emergency repairs are called for instead of long thought out projects, it would seem that the repair person has you over the barrel. Not always the case. Since our economy has shifted to being service-based (some hands-on crafts still can’t be outsourced to China), the competition for your business has become fiercer. Good news for the homeowner.

These 10 popular home renovation trends for 2020 are likely to continue as the COVID-19 lock-down continues. It’s just the new-new. Many employers are not only accepting work-from-home staff, but embracing it. It saves on the overhead. And I might say, as a writer I am used to working from home but it has been really nice having my wife working from home rather than in her downtown high-rise office.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Loneliness as an Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Loneliness and depression during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Loneliness and depression during the COVID-19 pandemic

Although the COVID-19 pandemic (or Coronavirus, if you prefer) has caused abundant death, the toll in terms of depression and loneliness is even more widespread. Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy reffers to it as a “loneliness epidemic.” Spending so much time in isolation wreaks havoc on our emotions. When we do get out, it is increasingly harder to see the person behind the mask; it is essentially dehumanizing. It can cause what has become known as pandemic dreaming.

Our Brains Operate in Two Modes

Matthew Lieberman is a founder of the field of social cognitive neuroscience and he discovered that our brains operate in two distinct modes. He found that one is utilized for engaging with the physical world around us. Looking for shelter when a hurricane is blowing in, for example. The other for is utilized for considering mental states; it views other people in terms of being psychological entities with distinct thoughts and feelings of their own. He used MRI imaging to show that the second mode, what he called the social brain, is actually the default mode. That could explain our some of our current issues with isolation.

We are Wired to Mingle with Our Fellows

Some 2,348 years ago Aristotle told us that man is by nature a social animal. By in large that is true, although introverts are the chemical exception to the rule; they are more governed by a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, which warms up as they turn their focus inward. Extroverts, on the other hand, are governed more by their dopamine reward network. This is triggered when external stimuli and sensory input happens. In other words, if you are a party animal or used to spend a lot of time at the office moving through the cubical farm gossiping or being a kvetcher, this lock-down is hurting you more that your more taciturn neighbors.

Social Media is a Poor Substitute for Real Interaction

We have all grown used to social media over the years, texts, emails, Facebook, etc. But are these really good substitutes? Not at all, although talking on the phone and Skyping may be marginally better. In fact, social media may make things worse. Just look at how bad and polarized things were even before the lock-down. Does Donald Trump bashing and BLM and Antifa ring a bell? Too many trolls, so little time.

One study conducted in 2018 of 18 – 30-year-olds concluded that the odds of depression were significantly decreased by face-to-face encounters, but significantly raised by interacting via social media. Yet another study discovered that lowering time spent on social media lowered feelings of loneliness in 18- to 22-year-olds.

According to Primack, using social media may be simply a way of projecting a version of ourselves out there or perhaps they’re fostering real social connections we otherwise wouldn’t be able to have. There is just no way to know at this point.

How Can You Cope with Pandemic Loneliness and Depression?

  • Maintain a Schedule. A consistent routine can make things feel more normal. Go to bed at a reasonable hour, use an alarm clock, lunch at noon, tea and scones in the afternoon if you are a subject of the Queen; you get the idea. If you are sick, try keeping a log to monitor your symptoms.
  • Keep Yourself Informed. Staying up to date on health information and advice on precautionary measures will make you feel more proactive and in control of your situation.
  • Learn lucid dreaming. If you are experiencing pandemic dreams, follow these techniques to learn lucid dreaming. I learned it long ago out of curiosity and I’ve been controlling and actively participating in my nocturnal adventures ever since. It is easier for some than others but well worth the effort.
  • Maintain an active lifestyle as much as possible. The authorities want you to stay indoors as much as possible. But, and then this is only my opinion, you can still get out to walk, bike, or run (if allowed where you live). If you must stay in, you can still do resistance exercises with household objects or get up and walk around. My Garmin 235 watch not only counts my steps but also alerts me when I have been sitting too long.
  • Indulge in some self-improvement. Take an online course. Pick up that instrument, dust it off, and start practicing. New Years resolutions are valid anytime. Myself, I’m learning Irish Gaelic. Ta go maith!
  • Stay connected. Use Skype. Watch a Netflix movie at the same time as one or more friends and critique it as it plays. If you have ever watched Mystery Science Theater 3000 you know what I mean! Write letters. Remember when that was a human function?
  • Cook some new comfort food. Here are some of my recipes. I like to experiment much to the chagrin of my wife.

In short, none of us is immune to loneliness as an effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is just good to understand it, accept it, and mitigate it as much as possible.

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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Checklist of Must-Have Tools for Living Off the Grid

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An urban homestead with vegetable garden.
An urban homestead with vegetable garden

Homesteading has become a buzzword du juor and an increasingly-popular lifestyle. But what is it exactly? Dictionary.com gives this somewhat legal definition, “a dwelling with its land and buildings, occupied by the owner as a home and exempted by a homestead law from seizure or sale for debt.”

More popular usage means living in a self-sufficient manner as much as possible. This means growing your own food, keeping livestock and fowl, and living off-the-grid in as many ways as you can. This includes generating your own electricity with wind turbines or solar panels, etc. This also means acquiring some must-have tools and supplies for living off the grid. Here are some essentials.

General Repair Tools

  • Duct tape. You already know — a million different uses. My Grandpappy swore by Scotch tape but I prefer to go industrial-grade.
  • Heavy-duty scissor car jack. Not just for changing flats anymore. This all-around tool will be a willing helper that won’t talk back or complain.
  • Belt sander. When building or repairing/refinishing furniture this is an invaluable tool.
  • An assortment of rope and tie-down straps. These will find a use on a day-to-day basis on your homestead.
  • Cordless drill, sawzall, circular saw, etc. Cordless is the way to go because you won’t always be working where an outlet is available. Just be sure to buy all your cordless tools from the same family (manufacturer) of tools so the batteries are interchangeable and you only have to keep up with one charger. I use and recommend Ryobi but Milwaukee and Makita are good as well.
  • Chainsaw. Useful for clearing brush, cutting up firewood, and heck, your artistic endeavors, if you are into that kind of thing.

Gardening/Farming Tools

  • A set of gardening tools. This comprehensive set should ideally be kept in a container that can be transported to to the garden/field as one unit so you won’t be making multiple trips. It should contain at least a kneeling mat if you use one, a shovel, gloves, limb trimmer, a basket to carry your daily harvest, and pruning shears.
  • Rotary tiller. If you have a good sized plot of land to work, this tool is essential for good root growth. You can rent one but it will be more cost-effective to buy your own in the long run.
  • A bucket or two. This is a multiple use tool, as simple as it is. I usually use one for mixing soil and amendments when planting.
  • Rain barrels. While a rain harvesting system might not technically thought of as a “tool,” it is essential for irrigating your crops close to the house. In general, plants prefer the pH (a figure expressing the acidity or alkalinity) of rainwater to tap water. And what would happen if your public water supply is cut off or contaminated?

Health-Related Tools and Supplies

  • Tweezers. Handy for close work and removing splinters. Keep one in your medicine cabinet and another in the glove box of your truck.
  • Antiseptics. You will need to apply this lickety-split, quick, and in a hurry when you get any cut or abrasion.
  • Bandaids. Keep an assortment of sizes and shapes on hand.
  • Moleskin. Take care of those inevitable blisters on your feet.
  • Safety glasses. This is one that many people ignore but do yourself a favor. The good Lord only gave you two eyes; replacements not currently available.
  • Soap. Yes, we’ve all got some but do we use it often enough? It should be a habit with the onset of COVID-19 pandemic or the Coronavirus as it is also called, but you can also pick up undesirable things in your soil and mulch in your vegetable garden.
  • Hearing protection. Save your hearing! The ones I use are headphones with a built-in AM/FM radio.
  • Fire extinguishers. Keep one in the kitchen, one in your pantry, one in your wood shop (next to your wood shop dust collector is a good spot), and one in your truck. They are cheap; there’s no excuse.

This is not an exhaustive list of must-have tools for living off the grid in the homesteading mode but it’s a good start. When the SHTF you will be glad that you prepared in advance. And you don’t have to live out in the country; we have a modest 1,200 square foot home but over the years I’ve surrounded us with fruit trees and my vegetable garden and my herbs for cooking and medicinal purposes. My latest addition is a Don Juan Avocado tree.

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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Ring Video Doorbell and Chime Review

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Ring doorbell from Amazon.com
Ring doorbell from Amazon.com

The Ring Video Doorbell and Chime (sold separately) are riding the wave of home automation and all things connected. As such, this is one more component of your home security. DIY setup is fast and easy. The doorbell has a rechargeable battery that’s connected via the included USB wire. The chime simply plugs into an outlet. Everything is controlled by an app on your phone.

Ring Doorbell Features

  • It senses when there is movement at the door and the chime rings.
  • When mounted 4 feet off the ground it provides 155 degree field of view.
  • 1080p HD view.
  • Pleasant chime sound.
  • Adjustable motion zones (5 feet – 30 feet)
  • Standard video capture. Don’t you want to know when Antifa comes calling?
  • Customizable motion zones.
  • 2.4 GHz Wifi connectivity.
  • Powered by rechargeable battery or can be hardwired.

Although setup is straightforward, the documentation leaves a little to be desired (isn’t that typical nowadays?). For example it references a green and red light on the battery to display charging status. I couldn’t find either. I had to call Ring HQ and was informed, “Oh, that’s for a model with a removable battery.” Welllllll, why didn’t it say so in the first place?

My chime setup was easy as well but it didn’t make any sound at first. It was turned off by default and I fixed it by going into the settings on my iPhone app. All in all I give the Ring Video Doorbell and Chime a rating of 9 out of 10. It would have been a 10 but for the documentation issues.

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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

5 Ways to Form New Good Habits

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Old habits vs new habits
Old habits vs new habits

From Dictionary.com: Habit: an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary. The hope here, of course, is that habits are good healthy ones. All though most of us focus on New Years resolutions to modify our habits, any time of the year is prime time. In fact, embracing behavior modification on a steady basis is commendable. Let’s look at 5 ways to form good new habits.

  • Use a system of cues and rewards. “We form a habit when we repeatedly do a certain action in the presence of a particular cue,” Benjamin Gardner who is a professor of psychology at King’s College in London. A cue can be anything as long as it is as specific as possible. When I so much as touch the leash that I keep on a side table in the living room, my dog, a Black-Mouth Cur, gets whacko. He knows a 5-mile walk is in our immediate future. The reward can be anything. A long shower at the gym after a workout was my reward before the COVID-19 pandemic shut it all down and turned us all into anchorites.
  • Learn the concept of if-then thinking. This can take the form of an affirmation. For example, you might say, “if I just fed the dogs, then it’s time to take my blood pressure medicine.” This one works for me every day.
  • Take your time, no pressure. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are new good habits. Just keep working on it and sooner or later the “involuntary” magic happens.
  • Learn to be a choice architect. This is a somewhat nebulous term but it simply means making things easy to do. For example, keep a bottle of Vitamin C and Zinc next to your water bottle on your desk during flu season. You are much more likely to take them than if they are on a kitchen shelf or in your medicine cabinet.
  • Check your progress and adjust your behavior accordingly. Make time each week to evaluate your goals. Are you having success? If not, try injecting some smaller, incremental goals. Developing new habits is not always going to be easy. If they were easy it wouldn’t take reinforcement.

Self help is a huge deal. That’s the reason there are so many books published on the topic. It’s right up there with weight loss. Following these 5 ways to form new good habits will get you on the road to a brand-new improved you. Start today and invest in yourself.

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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

CDC Urges Doctors to Mislead about COVID-19 Deaths

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COVID-19 as cause of death.
COVID-19 as cause of death

COVID-19 deaths are up here, and down there. Here a hotspot, there a hotspot. Such are the earmarks of a pandemic. The mainstream media is frantically relaying the most recent numbers to us and the deaths are going up, as are the confirmed cases. The number of confirmed cases might correlate with a greater number of people being tested. However, the number of fatalities is suspect because the CDC is urging doctors to mislead about COVID-19 deaths on death certificates.

Popular TV shows lead us to believe that the coroner, and doctors in general, are all Sherlock Holmes when it comes to diagnosing the cause of death. But as you will see in the following video that is not the case. Even when some other immune system issue caused a death, it is supposed to add another check on the Coronavirus side of the card.

Dr. Annie Bukacek Explains CDC “Suggestions”

Dr. Annie Bukacek explains CDC “suggestions”

Granted, if the good doctor hadn’t backed all this up with the CDC’s actual verbiage, the story would have all the makings of a good old conspiracy theory. But the only conspiracy theory that might be bandied about is this — why is the CDC urging doctors to mislead about COVID-19 deaths via death certificates? What is to be gained by doing so? Logic tells me that there is no more vested interest in generating hysteria than in minimizing it. The media certainly understands it as they minimize Antifa riots, going so far as to call them “peaceful protests.” Bottom line? Believe nothing. Sadly.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

The History of Antifa

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Antifa Thugs Facts
Antifa Thugs Facts

Although the term Antifa may be relatively new to many people in the U.S., as an organization its many composite factions stretch far back. All of these factions have contributed to the history of Antifa. They strive to project an image of being disorganized because that’s what has always worked for this type of organization. They do not wish to be seen as a secret society such as the Illuminati. Such would lead them to be seen as kooks rather than randomly angry youth.

The pro-Antifa website CrimethInc puts it this way, “This leaderless format has proven effective for guerrilla activities of all kinds, as well as what the RAND Corporation calls “swarming” tactics in which many unpredictable autonomous groups overwhelm a centralized adversary. You should go to every demonstration in an affinity group, with a shared sense of your goals and capabilities. If you are in an affinity group that has experience taking action together, you will be much better prepared to deal with emergencies and make the most of unexpected opportunities.” Swarming notifications are regularly transmitted on social media, who are glad to do their bidding.

Regardless of whether you believe that they have a kind of central organizing structure or not, one thing is certain — they have habitually convened en masse to protest, burn, loot, and beat up opponents, journalists, and bystanders. They may not be directly getting marching orders from Obama’s shadow government, but to some extent their goals are the same.

Early Origins of Anti-Fascism

They initially took form during during the street-fights of the 1932 Weimar Republic and called themselves Antifaschisitsche Aktion. The Stalinist Communist Party of Germany (KPD) formed them. This wasn’t the KDP’s first foray into this arena; various Communist “anti-fascist defense” organizations were associated with the KPD much earlier. Under the KPD their task was to fight other political parties to gain control of the streets in the revolutionary politics held by the rapidly failing Weimar Republic.

Ostensibly, their directive was to fight the Nazis but their role was malleable; they also sought conflict with liberals, conservatives, and any other opposition that presented itself. They were a tool of their masters. As today, the very definition of idealistic, useful idiots.

As that struggle floundered and the movement faded away and, these radicals also melted into the background. But in the early 1980s, they resurfaced Germany. This time they fashioned themselves in the image of Communist urban guerilla units of ’70s and ’80s like Red Army Faction and the Red Brigade who operated in Europe. The central ideology this time was autonomism. Autonomist Marxism focuses on the ability of the working class to impose changes to the organization of the capitalist system independent of the state, trade unions or political parties.

Antifa in the United States

When the Antifa movement came to America, it began as an effort of young punks to expel neo-Nazis and white supremacists from the music culture. This coalesced into the Anti-Racist Action (ARA). Surprisingly, it started in the Midwest rather than on the more liberal east or west coast, and once established, spread outward. Soon chapters formed in numerous cities, and regional councils and networks were conceived. Notably, one was called the Midwest Anti-Fascist Network (MAFN), founded in 1995.

Some members of the ARA were the remnants of the domestic terror group Weather Underground. Guiding the young anti-racist punks in the formation of the ARA were members from the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee (JBAKC). Some separate ARA units endeavored to put together one of the largest Antifa networks in the country called Torch Antifa.

JBAKC itself was conceptualized as a front for the May 19th Communist Organization (MCO). This organization was founded from what remained of the Weather Underground, Black Liberation Army, the FALN, and various other terrorist groups that formed in the ’60s and ’70s. How appropriate that the date May 19 was picked for the name. That was the birthday of both Malcolm X and Ho Chi Minh.

The central philosophy of both JBAKC and the May 19th Communist Organization is the same which Antifa embraces today: at its core the belief that the U.S. was founded on white supremacy, and therefore needs to be destroyed.

The Antifa Movement Today

Earlier we mentioned Antifa’s loose but well-connected organizational structure. The primary units are called “affinity groups.” Moving up the structure, multiple affinity groups form “clusters” of affinity groups. A member of any one affinity group can be a member of other radical left organizations. Protocol allows them to call upon them for assistance. Antifa thugs are likely to have connections with political organizations that support Antifa committees. Examples are the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), The International Workers of the World (Wobblies), and the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). Antifa accepts resources and recruits from them as needed.

Now that we know the history of Antifa, the question remains — what will its future bring? Already both Congress and local political bodies are assimilating their supporters. The Democrats have become so polarized that they have developed a tunnel vision of hate and rage, manifested by three years of trying to impeach President Trump rather that doing any meaningful work. Large capitalist companies have “taken a knee” to Antifa and removed their brand identities. The thugs are now in charge.

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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Growing Mint: An Herb Garden Staple

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Chocolate mint in the garden next to tomato plant
Chocolate mint in the garden next to tomato plant

Mint is a perennial herb with very fragrant, toothed leaves and tiny purple, pink, or white flowers. It has a fruity, aromatic taste and offers many health benefits. There are many varieties so you have a wide range to select from. One thing is certain — mint, grown organically, is an herb garden and kitchen staple, much as basil is.

The Many Varieties of Mint

The number of mint flavors can be a bit overwhelming; I like to keep at least two of them growing. An odd thing is the way you can identify it other than the smell. If you look close, the stem is actually square. The oddities of nature, yes? Anyway, pick your favorites from this list:

  • Chocolate. Yes, it really does look and taste like the real thing. My favorite additive to go into my dark-roast coffee grounds in the morning. None of those artificial chemical flavors for me.
  • Apple/Pineapple.
  • Spearmint. Was this your favorite chewing gum flavor as a kid?
  • Pennyroyal.
  • Citrus Mint. Just the thing for iced tea on a summer afternoon.
  • Corsican. This is one of the strongest tasting of mints and it is also the smallest; growing tight-knit it makes a good ground cover in semi-shady areas. Unlike most mints it can be difficult to grow. It likes to be well-watered. It makes a good companion plant for things like chives and tomatoes.
  • Peppermint. For adding a bit of candy flavor without all the sugar.
  • Banana.
  • Orange. Also good in tea and cold brew coffee.

Planting and Care of Mint

  • First, consider that mint spreads rapidly. This means growing it in a container or enclosed within some kind of root barricade to rein in the horizontal runners and underground rhizomes.
  • Mint likes light soil with good drainage; its native habitat is along stream banks.
  • Most varieties prefer some shade; check the exact requirements of your favorite variety/s.
  • It likes a thin layer of compost or organic fertilizer every few months.
  • Keep the area covered with a layer of hardwood mulch to retain moisture. Do NOT use any colored mulch. Those color chemicals and dyes are not your friends, especially if you intend to consume the leaves.
  • Other than watering, a light top-dressing with compost, some mulch, and occasional organic fertilizer, these are easy plants to grow.
  • Prune them back regularly. the smaller, younger leaves are the most flavorful… but, where you let them flower, the butterflies will thank you!

Nutritional Benefits

  • Aids in digestion.
  • Eases dizziness and nausea.
  • Helps with nasal congestion.
  • Boosts dental health.
  • Improves blood circulation.
  • Boosts immunity. That’s not a bad thing during the CORVID-19 pandemic.

By now you can see why growing mint in your garden or containers is a good idea. It’s healthy, tasty, nutritious, and importantly to many of us, easy to grow.

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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

7 Common Drywall-Taping Problems

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Drywall in new home construction
Drywall in new home construction

Drywall finishing, or taping and floating, is hardly rocket science. But it is more of an art and things can go wrong. The upside is that most of these things are easily corrected. The key thing is to prevent issues right from the get-go with this DIY project. Here are 7 common drywall-taping problems and how to deal with them.

Drywall Finishing Problems

  • Concave and crowned seams. The seams are where the drywall panels meet. There are tapered edges on the long side of the panel and square edges on the short side. Square seams are called butt-joints. Obviously tapered edges accommodate your drywall tape. Crowned seams happen when taping compound (mud) is applied too heavily and the center of the seam is left higher than the surface of the panels. This is more common on butt-joints. When light shines across the seams on your walls, they crowned seams are apparent. Catch these before painting, and sand them down with 120-grit or 150-grit paper or just use your widest floating knife to float it out wide. Concave seams are the opposite of crowned seams. To correct this just float the joint again.
  • Photographing. This happens when you apply glossy paint. The drywall and the joints and screws show up differently because they have different textures. To prevent this, either skim the entire surface with mud (drywall compound) or paint it with a sealer/primer. Applying a drywall texture with thinned-out joint compound will also help.
  • Bubbled tape. This happens when you have a poor bond between the tape and the mud. If the tape isn’t embedded well in the mud, it can easily loosen and form a bubble. It might be a round spot as small as 1/2 inch in diameter, or it may encompass the whole length of a seam. The solution? Smaller bubbles may be cut out with a utility knife and re-taped. For larger areas, you can remove the entire section of tape and embed new tape. Finally, apply a second and a third coat of mud. To avoid bubbled or loose tape to begin with, apply a thick enough layer of joint compound before you embed the tape and apply sufficient pressure with your taping knife to embed it properly. Or as I do, use mesh tape rather than paper; it’s much easier to work with.
  • Pitting. This looks like a number of small pits on the taped finished surface. They are small air bubbles that were either not properly filled or were exposed in the sanding process. Usually they are the result of over-mixing or under-mixing your mud or if insufficient pressure is applied when smoothing your mud. Much of your pitting can be covered up with these drywall texturing techniques.
  • Loose or cracked corner bead. When this happens, remove any cracked mud and re-apply. Be sure that there is a 1/2 inch gap between the bottom of the bead and the floor. If you use metal corner bead, reinforce the border with paper tape. This will reduce the chance of cracks developing.
  • Popped screws or nails. These don’t always show up until a few months or even years after the taping and floating, but they can show up before you paint your drywall. When you sand over screws or nails, your pole sander can apply a lot of pressure against the drywall panel. If the fastener hasn’t pulled the panel tight against your studs, the pressure can push the panel tight and pop the fasteners. This raises a bump on the surface or exposing the fastener head. Popped screws or nails are more likely with warped wood framing. Secure with new fasteners and re-float. I like to place screws or nails at 12 inch centers. Nails should be applied in pairs; one being a “helper” nail.
  • Shrinking or cracked drywall seams. Seams can develop drywall cracks during your taping process. This is most likely when your mud dries too quickly. This can happen because of direct high heat or sunlight. If your tape and mud are still solid, just re-tape the bad spots. Be sure that your seam is completely dry; use enough pressure to force the mud completely into the crack. If the tape is cracked or the compound is loose, you’ll have to remove the affected areas. Avoid this problem by keeping the heat low to extend your drying time. If the outdoor temperature is high, above 80°F, close the windows so the airflow won’t dry the compound too quickly.

These are the most common drywall-taping problems you are likely to encounter. The best approach is to take your time and prevent issues before they develop.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Roasted Beets with Herbs and Orange Recipe

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Roasted beets with herbs and goat cheese
Roasted beets with herbs and goat cheese

This is a very easy dish to make. Some people think they don’t like beets, but be forewarned, this is not that processed stuff that old Aunt Martha plops out on Thanksgiving and Christmas along with the turkey. As a bonus, beets are super-nutritious and can help to lower blood pressure.

Buy your beets in a bunch at the grocery store. They are actually the root of the plant and so will most likely have the green leaves attached. These are also edible. Or, throw them in your compost pile. You do have a compost pile, right? Compost is just as important as mulch and you’ve already paid for the food.

Roasted Beets Ingredient List

  • 1 dozen (preferably organic) beets
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 large cinnamon stick, crumbled
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped tarragon
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 – 4 oz. crumbled goat cheese (the pic above used about 3 oz. to give you an idea)
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives

Preparation

  • Preheat the oven to 375°. Cut the leaves and the roots from the beets, wash them, and arrange them in a roasting pan (I use an 8″ X 8″ Pyrex) and add the cinnamon and water. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour.
  • While it’s baking, make the dressing by pouring the vinegar in a bowl, mixing in the minced shallot, orange zest, tarragon, parsley, chives, and oil.
  • Let the beets cool a bit and cut in 1/4″ slices. Some people might want to peel the beets but I prefer to leave it alone and get the added nutrition. Arrange them overlapping on a serving plate or platter.
  • Spoon the dressing over the beet slices and sprinkle the top with the goat cheese.
  • Eat.

Health Benefits of Beets

With all the good things going on with beets, it is a wonder that people don’t eat more of them. Consider:

  • Beets can lower your blood pressure. This is because they are high in healthy nitrates, which are converted to nitric oxide inside your body. Nitric oxide can help dilate blood vessels and lower your blood pressure.
  • Beets give your energy a boost. By dilating your blood vessels it delivers more oxygen to your muscles.
  • Lots of fiber. One cup of beets contains about 3.5 grams of fiber. Regularity is a good thing, even if we don’t talk about it much.
  • Many, many antioxidants. That is why beets have that vibrant red color. One in particular is betalain, higher in fighting off free radicals than vitamin C.
  • Good for your brain power. This, because of increased blood flow.

So there you have it. There’s no reason not to make roasted beets with herbs and orange for dinner today.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.