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Not my real dad Not my real dad

15 Easy Last-Minute Gifts for Father's Day (Some are Free)

With Father's Day this Sunday, I thought you could use some last-minute gift ideas for Dad. Here are 15 easy suggestions -- some don't even cost any money. Be sure to check our our Father's Day Gift Guide too.

1. Tune up his lawnmower
2. Buy him a case of his favorite beverage
3. Watch the ball game with him in his Man Cave.
4. Take Mom shopping while he watches the big game
5. Help him set up a workshop.
6. Buy him the NFL, NBA, NHL or MLB package on cable/satellite of his favorite team
7. Buy him a gift certificate to his favorite restaurant (I hear Hooters has a great grilled cheese sandwich)
8. Take him fishing or golfing and don't expect him to pay
9. Invite him to poker night with your friends and don't fleece him
10. Clean the gutters
11. Change all the batteries on the smoke detectors
12. If you live at home and you are out of college, pay some rent
13. Organize the garage the way he likes it
14. Get his car detailed
15. Call him or visit him in person and say "Happy Father's day, you're the best!"

My toilet is super clean. Luckily, this is the neighbor's kid.

Help Me Conserve Water

Outside of irrigation systems, one of the chief users of water in many households is the toilet, although the 1.6-gallon models have reduced the flush volume significantly. But what if a toilet it leaking? It doesn't matter if you have a 5-gallon or a water-efficient model. If the flapper valve is leaking (the most common trouble spot) you can waste thousands of gallons of water a month. To test if the valve is leaking, start when the tank is full and not running, take off the toilet tank lid and place a few teaspoons of food coloring into the tank (to make this a greener project, use green dye.) Without flushing, if after an hour it looks like St. Patrick’s Day in the bowl area of the toilet, you probably need to replace the flapper. There is a great Step by Step How To Video on changing the flapper (flush valve) on this site.

My DIY New Year's Resolutions

My husband and I have owned our house for 2 1/2 years. Like most first-time homeowners, we were eager to start fixing up and personalizing our now 66-year-old house. However, one month after moving in, we got the happy news that we were pregnant with our first child, so projects around the house weren't ever given as much time or energy as we had hoped. But enough with the excuses...I mean, explanations. Now that our son is nearly two and becoming more independent every day, I hereby resolve (and by putting it in writing on online, I'm hoping to publicly force myself into taking action) to finish the following projects on my home this year:

1. Fix bare wiring on back porch light
2. Complete built-in TV unit
3. Paint living room
4. Nail down loose wood floorboards

This year we did manage to complete some goals on our wish list. We built a large, fenced-in area for our dog; replaced our mercury thermostat with a programmable one; installed a low-flow, high-efficiency showerhead; fixed a leaky pipe in the cellar; and cleaned up the front yard by removing some dead shrubs, lining the flower beds with stones we dug out of the backyard and adding mulch.

I'll let you know December 31, 2008 how I did on this list.

This Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons image is from the user Chris 73 and is freely available at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:JapaneseSquatToilet.jpg under the creative commons cc-by-sa 2.5 license.

Toilets and More

One of my favorite home improvement blogs is Charles and Hudson, where I can always find new and interesting products, as well as just strange and fascinating things. In a recent entry, I discovered the world's most narrow house, and I read all I ever wanted to know about Japanese toilets.

Building the Future

Last week I attended an inspiring book launch party for Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits by Leslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant. This book fills a hole in the vast library of successful business books because of its unique focus. The authors say that nonprofits, by their very definition, are different than traditional for-profit companies and must employ a variety of techniques in order to be successful. Their extensive, four-year book project included surveying nearly 3,000 nonprofit CEOs and interviewing 75 experts to determine the answer to the authors' big question: What makes great nonprofits great?

One of the nonprofits selected was YouthBuild USA, a Boston-based youth and community development program that addresses core issues facing low-income communities, particularly those of young people ages 16-24. Its programs help these youth earn their GED or high school diploma while serving their communities by building affordable housing, hence learning valuable job skills in the process.

Congratulations, YouthBuild, for this well-deserved recognition. We at renovateyourworld.com wish you continued success with the important work of helping transform the lives of troubled youth and building much-needed affordable homes.

What's lurking in your kitchen sink?

12 Germiest Places

Just in time for flu season, Health magazine reported on the 12 germiest places in America with helpful ways to reduce your risk.

1. Your kitchen sink
2. Airplane bathrooms
3. A load of wet laundry
4. Public drinking fountains
5. Shopping cart handles
6. ATM buttons
7. Your handbag
8. Playgrounds
9. Mats and machines at health clubs
10. Your bathtub
11. Your office phone
12. The hotel room remote control

If you take the time to try to eliminate germs this winter, with any luck you won't get too sick.

Shopping smarter is now easier.

How to Shop Smarter

There's no doubt that most of us have little time for shopping. I had to admit to my daughter just last weekend that I no longer like to shop. "Why," she asked, "because you feel like you should be doing something else?" Smart girl! No, the truth is that shopping takes time. There is so much out there that the research alone to find the right product or best price is overwhelming. Leave it to Consumer Reports to come up with a new, advertisement-free magazine that aims to cut through the shopping maze and direct us to the best choices—SmartShop. These guys are covering everything from vacation packages to moisturizer. Now that's helpful. Just to entice a shopper like me, the cover story is all about best green products. Check it out. It looks pretty handy.

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