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Is there a place for holiday cards at this table?

Holiday Card Conundrum

Holiday cards are a great tradition: a way to remember friends and family who you might not think about during the year. But what do you do with cards after you've opened them?

This Apartment Therapy article gives some good suggestions for what to do with cards, including displaying them in an old window frame; buying a holder for business cards and using it to display holiday cards instead; or using them to liven up your holiday table by arranging them among gourds and centerpieces.

These suggestions would work best for households that don't receive many cards, or that only want to display their favorite cards. But in my family, we have trouble throwing things away, and we receive a lot of cards. My mother came up with a solution: she buys red pushpins and tacks our cards up on the exposed wooden beams in our colonial house. That way, all of our cards become part of our Christmas decorations, and we get to enjoy them for the whole holiday season.

Do you have any tricks for displaying Christmas cards? Share them with us!

Would you put this rocking chair in your home? Photo courtesy of BRC Designs.

Bike Chair

When bikes go out to pasture, they can be transformed into innovative, eclectic furniture or décor, as in the case of the chandelier that we featured in our steampunk blog post a few weeks ago.

And now, we bring you another example of furniture crafted from bikes that have pedaled their last. This rocking chair, by BRC Designs, features a seat made of chains and a frame made out of old bike tires. According to BRC Designs, the chair is made of 98 percent recycled steel. It measures 21.5" wide, 30" deep, and 41" tall.

In terms of design, I prefer the dark punk-Victorian look of the chandelier to the more avant-garde, modern aesthetic of this chair. And I have to ask: how comfortable is it to settle down on a seat made of bike chains? But nevertheless, the chair is certainly an interesting design, and a good use of an old bicycle.

What do you think? Fit for the porch or living room, or best left in the junk pile?

Keeping chickens can be difficult, but it doesn't have to be impossible. Talking to other families who are considering getting chickens can help alleviate your concerns.

Chicken Support Group

If you've considered keeping chickens in your backyard, chances are you've also considered the potential difficulties and challenges of keeping chickens in your backyard. It's possible that those difficulties and challenges even dissuaded you from getting chickens.

But perhaps if you had a support group to talk about potential difficulties, you'd be more likely to take a risk and move an avian brood onto your property. That’s exactly what Wivenhoe, a town in the United Kingdom, has set up to encourage its residents to invest in backyard chickens. The organization, part of the UK Transition Towns Network (an initiative to encourage communities to locally respond to climate change), contains five families, but it hopes to expand to 100.

Would you be more likely to buy chickens next spring if you had a coalition of neighbors and friends to support you? If so, you’ll want to pick out a chicken coop to house your hens. Check out our gallery of designs here.

The Rovio is a home surveillance robot that can be monitored from any remote location with an Internet connection. For more information about this robot, visit robodance.com. Photo courtesy of Robert Oschler.

Robot Invasion

Are you worried about your home when you head out of town for Thanksgiving later this week? Are you concerned that light timers, locks, and alarmed windows aren't going to stop burglars from breaking into your house Home Alone-style?

Instead of leaving your dog behind to chase off any prospective home invaders, you might want to invest in a guard robot.

Think it's out of your price range? Think again. This New York Times article explains that recently, homeowners have been purchasing toy robots for as low as $110. The toys are intended for kids to use to spy on their siblings. But the adults who buy them have been slightly modifying them so that they're more effective as home monitors. From anywhere with an Internet connection, homeowners can prowl the house with the robot, checking on the cats and making sure nothing is amiss.

Would you purchase a toy robot to defend your home this holiday season?

Prevent your faucet from freezing this winter.

Weekend Project: Prevent Outdoor Faucets from Freezing

A few weeks ago, our weekend project was to prevent your indoor pipes from freezing. Now, as winter draws ever closer, our project again involves plumbing, but this time, of the outdoor variety. The outdoor faucet that you use to hook up a hose or fill a watering can in summer can freeze up in the winter. Now's the time to prevent it from freezing so that you don’t have to deal with it in January.

This video demonstrates two ways to protect your outdoor faucet. The quick solution is to buy an outside faucet cover, which is incredibly easy to install. But the more long term solution is trickier: installing a freeze-proof faucet, where the valve assembly is inside the house. This process involves cutting the old pipe, drilling a new hole, fitting new plumbing parts together, soldering the parts together, and applying flux to the pipes. Remember, when soldering, make sure to saturate the surrounding wood with water and to insert a fireproof cloth around the pipe.

This pipe replacement process might be tricky, but it will be worth it in the long run when you never have to worry about a frozen outdoor faucet again.

What do you think of this tiny sculptural stove? Photo credit: designboom

Tiny Woodstove

Woodstoves are a great way to heat your home in the winter -- and these days, homeowners with limited space or modern tastes have more choices than just the traditional cast-iron woodstove with a vent pipe sprouting out the top.

For example, last week, designboom.com featured this cute sculptural woodstove. Created by Swiss designer Wuehl Yanes, the compact stove has a dual function as a fireplace or a heater, depending on whether you leave it closed or open. It has a concrete base to store wood, and it vents out the back so that you can warm kettles and basins on its flat top. The stove is small enough to fit in a corner of a room, making it perfect for homeowners with tiny spaces to work with.

What do you think of this design? Would you put a stove like this in your home, or do you prefer more traditional woodstoves and fireplaces?

Properly storing your mower for winter will save you time and money come spring.

Weekend Project: Store Your Mower

With the first frosts coating the ground at night, lawnmowing season is just about over. Perhaps give your lawn one last trim if it's looking unruly; then, it's time to tuck your mower away in the garage to hibernate for the winter.

But before you do, follow the tips in this article about winterizing your mower. Find out about emptying the gas tank; cleaning the mower; charging the battery; replacing or cleaning the air filter; and sharpening the blade. None of these steps should be too difficult or take too much time — you can start and finish this process on Saturday afternoon. Trust us, you'll be glad you did next spring when the grass starts to grow again.

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