Archive for the ‘How-to’ Category

At least I hope the directions are clear! I thought I would share with y’all a website I made to help fellow journalists post resumes on the web, but of course it works for anybody. 

Go to sueowenresume.wordpress.com and I’ll walk you through the steps of setting up a WordPress site like this one — with a static, unchanging front page that is your greeting to the world, and inside pages to showcase your work and a blog, if you choose to blog.

For $18 you can customize the URL  to yourname.com or whatever, and I offer tips to set up Gmail with your new domain (like my sue@sues-news.com address).

build free resume site

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[Disclaimer: This is NOT official medical, legal or any-other-al advice and I’m not any kind of expert. See full disclaimer below.]

By the way, a great tool for getting into annoying plastic packaging is tin snips.

What to do when a compact fluorescent bulb breaks? CFLs contain mercury and other bad stuff, and I’d heard everything from “It’s no big deal” to “Evacuate and quarantine immediately!” When one fell out of a light fixture and broke on my front porch, I called a hazardous waste cleaning company to ask advice. Actually I was hoping I could slide somebody $50 to break out their hazmat suit and come sweep the porch, but this particular company doesn’t handle cleanups that small.

Advice, however, they did give me. It sounded so practical I thought I’d share it, combined with some EPA tips. So, when a CFL bulb breaks:

Get the hell away from it. The moment it first breaks is when the mercury vapor is most concentrated. Don’t suck it in, and don’t let anybody else breathe it, either.

Air out the place and keep people and critters away while you do. Turn off the heat/AC, open up the windows and stick a fan in there. The EPA says to give it 5-10 minutes; others say 15 or longer.

Check the bulb maker’s website for tips (bulb types change over time). Or call 211 for advice.

Prepare for cleanup. You want to avoid getting cut by phosphor-coated glass and use disposable tools where possible. The guy I was talking to said if he mopped the area, he would throw away the mop; the EPA seems a little more relaxed about this.

      • DON’T vacuum first. Get as much glass up as you can other ways.
      • Personally, I want some kind of hand covering — nitrile gloves or plastic bags, maybe.
      • Cardboard/stiff paper helps you scoop glass shards into a…
      • … solid plastic container that’s sealable. (Not a bag, which the glass can shred.)
      • Duct tape helps pick tiny pieces out of carpet or off a hard surface.
      • Damp paper towels also help on hard surfaces.
      • A strong HEPA-filter vacuum is best, and a disposable filter helps too. When done, take the vac outside, plug it in and run it in the fresh air for a little bit.
      • Dump your tape, paper towels, cardboard, filter, etc. into the sealable container and, er, seal it.

Call 211 to find out how to dispose of it.

I’ll refrain from naming the company I talked to because I didn’t decide to blog this until after we got off the phone, so they were not speaking for publication. But it was great to chat with an expert about this for a few minutes, and it yielded tips I hadn’t heard before. Happy mopping, y’all.

Full disclaimer: This is NOT official medical, legal or other advice, and I am just an ordinary mook of a homeowner. When it comes to your own and your family’s safety, take whatever actions you think best.


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Ladies like me who don’t have pierced ears but occasionally like to wear big sparkly earrings, I am about to share something I wish I’d known 20 years ago.

Look at the earrings you’re thinking of buying. If the main part of the earring dangles from a small ring, you’re in business. Like these dime-store lovelies:

When you are sure your earrings can be altered, buy them. Then hie yourself down to the craft store and buy, for a few dollars:

  • A cheap pair of round-nose jewelry pliers
  • A packet of cheap earring clip-backs in gold or silver-toned base metal (see note at bottom for real gold and silver)
  • A packet of open jump rings, medium-size, say 3.5 mm, in the same metal color

You might not need the jump rings, if the clip-backs you find have an open ring, like the one below. You need jump rings only if you’re hooking together two solid rings, or if you need an extra ring to make the front side of the earring dangle in the right direction (think of how a chain’s links alternate — straight, sideways, straight, sideways). But jump rings are cheap, so you might grab them anyway.

This is an open ring that is very conveniently integrated into the clip-back:

Use the pliers to get rid of the pierced part of your earrings. Here, I just had to open a ring on the French wire:

Next, attach the earring to the back. The metal is pretty easy to break with pliers, so be gentle. Here, all I had to do was hook the solid ring onto the open ring. Make sure the dangly part of your dime-store earring faces forward before you close the open ring with pliers.

You are done! Behold your new clip earrings.

Tools: Read about the different kinds of jewelry pliers here. If you’re gonna make jewelry, you might need expensive ones or several kinds. But if all you’re going to do is repair or alter a few earrings, I think a cheap pair of roundies will do you fine.

Real gold or silver: There is absolutely no reason why you can’t do this with real gold and silver jewelry. (Except that, as you already know, clip earrings fall off your ears much more easily than pierced.) The same pliers will work fine, and the craft store might have gold-filled or sterling parts right there in the beading section. But clip-backs in precious metals are much harder to find than that, usually.

Try sources such as Monsterslayer.com (the name’s a reference to a Navajo origin myth), Artbeads.com and Jewelrysupply.com. Shipping is often free. The parts will cost several dollars more — I find that a single sterling clip-back can cost $8 — and be careful when ordering because these expensive items are in fact sometimes sold singly, not in pairs. Ya don’t want to eagerly rip open your package to find you only have one earring back.

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When I went loopy and redid our two front rooms, I foolishly did all the chair rail part by myself.  The real problem was trying to miter the joints with a cheap plastic miter box and a hand saw — I thought going slowly would allow me more precision, but it didn’t work like that. Precisely joining 45-degree angles ain’t easy; I made gaps so big I literally had to spackle them. Most aren’t too noticeable, and the overall effect of the new paint colors and the molding makes the rooms look nice, but a few of those joints are right out in the open, and I cringe.

Corner joint shows the gap before I spackled and painted it. Small planks temporarily taped to the wall -- my "extra hands" -- hold the trim piece level while I nail it in place.

So my first bit of advice is to pay someone to do this for you. If you’re still reading, my second piece of advice is to rent a power miter saw for this project, which I assume would give you more precise joints. No pre-cutting at the store is going to work, because you have to fit these lengths as you go along — walls aren’t perfect, and all sorts of variables will throw you off. (Usual advice is to start in a corner and work outward from there.)

My third piece of advice is to not mess with laser levels or chalk lines or however you were going to mark the straight line on the wall. Just take a yardstick and mark the same height all around the wall. Fast; and no futzing with tape measure error. And if you somehow marked a line that was perfectly sea-level true, but wasn’t parallel to the floor, it would look wrong anyway. Right?

Standard advice on placing chair rail is about 32 inches from the floor, or alternately 1/3 the height of the wall. You could also go old-school and put it where your chairs’ backs actually strike the wall.

My fourth big tip: Tape a line on the wall first and eyeball it. If the height you’ve chosen looks strange, it’s easier to move tape than to repaint.

Sneakiest of all, though, was how I got around only having two hands. I bought little poplar planks and sawed them off at uniform height. Then I taped them to the wall I was working on (see above). Apply a little glue to the rail and hoist it up onto the slats; the slats prop it up level long enough for you to smack in the first few nails. Voila, spare hands!

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The other day I was attaching a strap to my new purse, and I decided to do it with little leather tabs riveted to the purse. So I needed to make little holes in the leather tabs to put the rivets through, and I didn’t want to use my awl — my awl is cheap, doesn’t fit in my hand well, etc.

So I got out my hand drill. I love my pretty little Ben Franklin hand drill (it doesn’t really have anything to do with Ben Franklin, but it looks like it ought to), and the job took two seconds.  I could choose any size hole I wanted, limited only by my collection of drill bits.

Then I realized I didn’t even need the drill, really: I just needed the bit. With a little patience, you can just spin the drill bit carefully in your fingers. (This is probably easiest with a small hole and thin leather.) [EDIT April 2012: And a sharp new drill bit.]

Scrap leather and a 5/64 drill bit


The bits are sharp as heck, which means watch your fingers, but it also means they carve into the leather smooth as anything. You wind up with a pretty tidy little hole.  So the next time you need your belt to cinch a little tighter, or your stirrups to go up a little higher, or you want to put a carabiner through your tool belt or who knows what, just pick up your drill bits.

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Sewing is, by some estimates, 45,000 years old. Sewing is older than cloth, but not as old as clothes: First we wrapped ourselves in hides, then we tied the hides around ourselves with cords or sinews, and eventually we poked holes in the hides and started running cords through to hold the pieces together.

After another 5,000 years or so, we came up with needles. Another 10,000 years, and we started rolling fiber together in our fingers to make string. That gave us the basis for cloth, which we began weaving on looms about 27,000 years ago. We’ve had scissors for a couple thousand years.

IPads are about six minutes old. You can point an iPad at the night sky and it will recognize the stars and planets from your location and tell you which ones they are. Wouldn’t the cave people have loved it?

This week, an idea that’s at least a few centuries old helped me hand-sew a simple iPad sleeve. Saddlers and other leather-workers use a device called a stitching horse to clamp thick layers of leather together and hold them steady while they poke holes and stitch the leather. I wanted to make my iPad sleeve from 5mm neoprene, which is thick enough to mess up my sewing machine, and I foolishly decided to use a pretty, contrasting thread, which would really show my usually sloppy hand sewing.

It came out fairly even, though:

What I did was clamp on a couple slim pieces of wood, which held the thick fabric in place but also gave a straight edge to guide my needle. This is basically the clamp idea from the top of a stitching horse. (The stitching horse includes a stool or bench to sit on; a stitching pony is the same thing but without a place to sit; so I dub this … a stitching jenny!)

Basically, I cut a 10.5″ by 16″ piece of black neoprene, folded it in half to make a 10.5″ by 8″ rectangle and then sewed the two short ends closed.  (I learned, too late, the cheapest way to get a small piece of neoprene is probably to find and cut up an old laptop sleeve or wetsuit.)

I made my seams about a quarter-inch from the edge. Neoprene is stretchy, which gives you some margin for error in fitting around the device, but still, measure carefully. Another great thing about neoprene is you don’t have to finish or hem the edges, which makes this project real easy.

You can see there, the wood is thick enough you can kind of lay the needle flat along it. This means you’re coming in at the same angle, along the same line, every time, which helps a lot. I did a simple running stitch all along one side (like this: —   —   —   —   –) and then took off the clamps and sewed back the other direction to fill in the gaps (–––––––).

Gave this one to my buddy @omarg for his wife! They’re sweet folks — who let me play with their brand new iPad. Thank you both!

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Aug. 11, 2013: This is the most-clicked post on the blog, which is terrific. Happy white sinks, everybody! Here’s the short version:

THE METHOD: Coat the stained part of your white sink with a layer of dishwasher paste — the thick gloopy stuff you put into the dishwashing machine, not the liquid soap you use for hand-washing dishes. Let it sit for a while (start with a short time span, perhaps). Then wash it off. Hopefully your sink’s now back to white!

CAUTION: Dishwasher paste can etch surfaces. Test it in a small area, or start out by only using it for a minute or less.

SUCCESS STORIES: Victory has been reported over ordinary grunge, blueberry stains, tea stains and other marks. Most of us had tried bleach and other cleaners with no luck. Here’s one success story with photos. Other surfaces it’s worked on: Formica countertops, the Corian-type stuff my shower is molded out of, stone-type beverage coasters that tea had slopped on, my white-enamel saucepan.

WHY IT WORKS: I have no idea. The dishwasher paste smells like bleach, but I’d already tried bleaching the stains with no luck. I’m guessing the cleaning agents in the paste are just super-mega-strong. (See CAUTION above)



Accidental discovery: Our kitchen has a white enamel (or “porcelain,” as I incorrectly call it for reasons unknown) sink, and despite our efforts with bleach to remove stains from tea, blueberries, etc., gradually the sink has been getting yellower and yellower.  Especially around the drain.  Ech.

Recently I dumped out some old dishwasher soap that I’d been informed had gotten too gloopy to use in the washer. Planning to recycle the bottles, I let the soap drain into the sink, where it made a layer about a half-inch thick. It sat there a couple hours while I did other tasks. When I came to rinse it out:  White sinks!  (It didn’t remove scorchmarks, but it clobbered everything else.)

I filled the sink with water, dumped in the remaining liquid and left it for a few hours, stirring occasionally. This whitened up the sides, too.

So try coating your white enamel sink with a layer of dishwasher detergent and letting it sit awhile.  I’m sure you don’t have to use a whole bottle.  But regular hand-washing dish soap has never done my sinks much good, and this does. No scrubbing, either!

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