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  • Renovations with the Best Return on Investment

    Be sure to get the best return on investment for renovations.
    By Linda Merrill, Networx

    Several years ago, when Steve Thomas was the host of "This Old House", I recall he commented in an interview somewhere that during his antique home renovation in Salem, MA, he included all the bells and whistles he wanted. He said that as he intended to stay in the house for many, many years it made sense for him. However, he cautioned anyone who thought they might be moving sooner rather than later to be careful not to price themselves out of the market when remodeling the house. As it turns out, Steve sold the house after 24 years of ownership in 2010 for over a half-million dollars more than he paid for it. While antique homes are notorious cash drains, it's still likely he made a considerable profit. And that was after the real estate crash.

    For years, we've been reading articles about the Return on Investment (ROI) of remodeling projects when it comes time to resell. While the numbers vary a bit from year to year, or market to market, the overriding

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  • 12 Clever Uses for Cheese

    Cheese can be used as a dry skin remedy.
    By Cris Carl, Networx

    There is something special about cheese. Perhaps it's the "mouth-feel" or the seemingly endless forms and flavors that make the dairy product a delight to so many. Even if you are vegan or lactose intolerant there are still products that approximate or duplicate cheese. Whether melting, shredding, cubing, or serving whole, cheese is easily one of the most versatile foods. Whether you are having a party, or just want to make something fun for your family to eat, here are a few ideas of creative ways to use cheese. There are also a few creative uses for cheese that don't involve eating - at least not right away.

    For eating

    Parmesan cheese chips: I've made this myself several times. Parmesan cheese chips are easy to make and can be flavored with herbs, spices, bits of fruit or vegetables etc. Or they are delicious with nothing added. I used freshly grated parmesan. Just make 2-inch round piles (about a heaping tablespoon) of the cheese or cheese mixture if

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  • NYC in the Summer: Pest Control Tips

    New York City exterminators have their work cut out for them.
    By Noah Garfinkel, Networx

    In the summer there's an explosion of bugs everywhere. And, in winter, there's an explosion of mice trying to head indoors. Basically, no matter what season it is, there's an endless cycle of exploding pests in New York City. (The pests aren't literally exploding or there wouldn't really be an issue. You get that right? We're all on the same page here.) But, there are a few basic things you can do to keep pests away. Let's review them? Yeah, let's review them.

    So, uh… put your food away. Obviously. I mean, it seems obvious, but some people seem not to know that. They'll complain about having roaches and then you think, "Well, yeah. Your kitchen is an ocean of food trash." If you build a roach terrarium in your kitchen, you're going to have roaches. And, you'll also have mice sometimes, but the mice you can at least try to keep away by filling wall holes with steel wool. They can't chew through steel wool…or maybe they just don't like it? I don't know.

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  • Virtual Home Staging to Sell Your House Fast and at the Asking Price

    A virtually staged dining room by Virtually Staging Properties.By Chaya Goodman Kurtz, Networx

    Listing your house online requires more than just posting pictures or posting it on a local real estate website. For many home buyers, the first contact they have with a potential property to buy is the online listing. The photos need to be enticing, to say the least. Enter Virtually Staging Properties, a pioneer in the field of virtual home staging. I initially made contact with Krisztina M. Bell, the director of Virtually Staging Properties, on, a social network totally dedicated to home & garden projects. Krizstina posts almost daily home selling and home staging tips on Hometalk, and I was totally impressed by her level of professionalism and expertise. She graciously agreed to an interview. Read on to learn how virtually staging your house could be the thing that sells it fast and at the asking price.

    Q: What is Virtual Staging?

    A: Virtual Staging is a service we pioneered to help owners of vacant "for sale" properties best

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  • Gray Water Systems: Good Idea or Bad Mistake?

    This is a gray water treatment system. Photo courtesy of Carl Seville.
    By Carl Seville, Networx

    Most of us realize that water is a scarce resource and are looking for ways to use less of it in our homes. We need water to drink, for cooking, cleaning, flushing toilets, and, unless we are into xeriscaping, irrigation. We can save water by using more efficient fixtures, taking shorter showers, fixing leaks, and being more careful about how we use it. We can reuse water by capturing both rainwater, and gray water - the stuff that goes down the drains in our bathrooms sinks, showers, tubs, and washing machines.

    It is possible to clean and filter gray water and reuse it both inside our homes and for irrigation, but it takes effort to do it right and it comes with challenges. First, we need to distinguish gray water from black water - the waste from kitchen sinks, dishwashers, and toilets. Black water can't be reused in our homes until it is fully treated and sanitized in a sewage treatment plant, something that most of us don't have in our back yards. Gray

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  • 6 Clever Uses for Coffee Filters

    If you have coffee filters on hand, you can do all six of these projects.
    By Leah Batkin, Networx

    Everyday household items have long been known to serve other purposes, and no object exemplifies this versatility better than the coffee filter. Not only do coffee filters do an excellent job at catching wet coffee grinds while letting the brewed liquid coffee pass through, but their distinct texture, made of coarse long fiber crepe paper, lends itself nicely for other uses. For example, Networx's editor has avoided a clogged drain and a subsequent call to an NYC plumber by covering her kitchen sink drain with a coffee filter when she didn't have a kitchen sink strainer. Here is a list of 6 other uses for coffee filters:

    1. Cleaning Tool

    Coffee filters make an excellent cleaning tool for glass and screens. Spray a cleaning agent on a coffee filter to clean computer monitors, television screens, windows, and glasses. They clean perfectly without leaving residue.

    2. Shoe Polisher

    You don't even need polish when you use a coffee filter to clean

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  • Clever Uses for Olive Oil

    Fresh pasta with lemon olive oil -- an excellent use for olive oil. By s.e. smith, Networx

    Have an old bottle of olive oil sitting around the house? Don't throw it out! I talked to Carol Firenze, author of The Passionate Olive - 101 Things You Can Do with Olive Oil, about some creative ways to use this versatile product around the house. She points out that olive oil is ecologically friendly and can be more cost-effective than commercial products, and she's especially fond of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), although she does have a caution for consumers: "Since the US doesn't have truth in labeling laws, many people buy what they think is EVOO only to find out that it is not good, fresh, tasty, etc., and it is refined."

    Rich Colwell of Thundering Herd Ranch in California adds that consumers looking for high-grade oils might want to consider buying locally. Many olive oil ranches allow people to visit to take tours and taste their products, allowing people to meet the farmers, test oils, and find a flavor they like. Colwell explains that olive oil

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  • 7 Electrical Use Mistakes that Will Cost You

    Save energy by turning the TV off when you leave the room.By Carl Seville, Networx

    It is remarkably easy to waste electricity in our homes. Reducing some of this waste requires replacing inefficient equipment, but much of it can be solved by low or no-cost changes, or often, just a change in behavior.

    Mistake #1: Leaving Ceiling Fans Running

    Starting with the simple stuff, an amazing amount of electricity is wasted by just leaving things on when not needed. Ceiling fans are the worst culprits - if you aren't sitting under a fan, it isn't doing anything but wasting energy. Turn them off when you leave the room, period. If you're too lazy to flip a switch, then invest in timers or occupancy sensors that will do it for you.

    Mistake #2: Leaving the TV On

    TVs run a close second to fans, and since they make a lot more noise, they should be easier to remember to turn off. Far too many people leave multiple TVs on all the time, and truthfully I have no idea why. Are they lonely? I've even seen people who leave them on for

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  • Animal-Free Fertilizers for Your Healthy Home Garden

    Hay fertilizes a field.
    By Sayward Rebhal, Networx

    Did you know that many of the traditional organic fertilizers, for hobby home gardeners, for professional landscapers and for large-scale commercial farmers, are derived from animals and their by-products? Blood meal, bone meal, manure, fish emulsion, the list goes on and on. Animal parts can pop up in almost every phase of a standard growing season. So much so, that using them can almost seem unavoidable.

    But these days, a lot of people are choosing to grow their gardens without the addition of animal products, and for many different reasons: they may be vegan or have an ethical objection, they may have religious limitations, or they may have allergies, just to name a few. In water-strapped communities that are over-tapped by local plumbing demands, like San Diego, non-animal fertilizing practices like mulching can help to conserve water. So for those folks, here's animal-friendly list. A handy dandy cheat sheet, if you will. Your options are as follows

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  • Choosing a Sustainable House to Rent or Buy

    Seattle is a walkable city, so sustainable housing can be found there.
    By Leah Batkin, Networx

    Whether looking to buy or rent, the housing search has only become more complicated in the current market. Prospective homebuyers and renters are coming up with a whole new list of criteria for their future place. Sure, granite counters and central air conditioning are still highly coveted features, but in this economy, people consider the sustainability of their new home more so than ever. Comes the New Urbanism movement, a movement of builders and city planners to promote walkable, sustainable living environments. Transit-oriented development, local and sustainable building materials and proximity to shopping and schools are all features of a New Urbanism community.

    Here is a list of things to look for in your digs to determine whether or not it's a sustainable decision.

    1. Can you walk to the supermarket?

    This is the most important question to ask, since trips to the supermarket are frequent. Relying on personal transportation such as cars,

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