Category Archives: My stories in print

Firebrick with History


Colonial brick.

In today’s newspaper I had a brief piece about a product offering from a specialty fireplace company.  Earthcore Industries is now selling historic bricks that they dug out of New England harbors.  The bricks were originally used as ballast on voyages from England during colonial times.  They were dumped into the harbors and replaced with goods like tobacco for the return trip.

The bricks have a distressed, handmade look to them.  Earthcore mainly uses them as firebrick, which is the lining of the inside of a fireplace.  I would insert a link to the story online, but it doesn’t appear to be up there, which I fear will become the norm now that the organization has laid off so many people.  Anyways, here is some useful info from the Earthcore literature about different ways firebrick is laid:

Some common firebrick patterns are: (1) herringbone (2) stack bond (3) basket weave (4) running bond.




Decoupage Floors Story



A story I wrote about McKinney artist Lisa Raymer ran in today’s Guide section of The Dallas Morning News.  For nearly 20 years, Lisa has decoupaged floors and other surfaces in homes and businesses around Dallas.

I was skeptical before seeing her work, but now I am a believer.   It’s hard to tell in that tiny photo above, but the end result has a soft, textured appearance.  This finish would look appropriate in many situations, and it has a high end look.  A lot of faux finishes aim to have those qualities but miss the mark. 

I hope to do some decoupage soon and may try out using brown paper as Lisa does.

Cool Budget Organizing Ideas Story

Sam Moon jewelry display bust, originally uploaded by espeedy123.

bust back

Happy New Year everybody! What better way to start 2009 than by getting organized? I wrote a fun story about organizing that ran in today’s Dallas Morning News.

I asked 6 experts to share how they would best spend $100 or less on organizing. The idea came to me after watching Oprah’s “Clean Up Your Messy House” series. I thought her guests, especially professional organizer Peter Walsh, were really great. But who has the kind of money it takes to Elfa-out your closet like they do on the show?!?!? I went to the Container Store to find out how they would reorganize my 5-by-5 foot closet, and the most basic product package totaled over $1,200.

So anyways, that’s when I started thinking budget ideas for the piece. I actually interviewed Peter Walsh on the phone, and he is as genuine, friendly and funny as he is on TV. His message was the most compelling — that in order to become organized it takes respecting what you own and letting go of what you don’t need. He was quite clear that it has nothing to do with buying boxes and shelves. It’s unfortunate that his part of the story got bumped to the bottom of the piece.

Of the other tips I thought professional stylist Gretchen Ratkovic had really great information. She likes mannequin display pieces for jewelry and accessories, like the one above from Sam Moon. It costs $3.95. She suggests adding a secondary hanging bar if you can, and also hanging things on wardrobe hangers, which allow for multiple pieces on a single hanger unit.

Simple Ways to Keep the Cold Out

Door Before Weather Stripping, originally uploaded by espeedy123.

Just in time for the freezing Dallas temperatures this week I had a story run in the newspaper about strategies for keeping out the cold:

  • Weatherstrip your exterior doors
  • Run a humidifier to feel warmer
  • Use expansion foam to seal between materials in the exterior of the house
  • Insulate the attic

The main takeaway for me was about a door weatherstrip category called “jamb up.” It was the consensus suggestion for old problem doors that don’t have a built-in groove for vinyl weatherstripping. “Jamb up” stripping is made of a rigid metal, composite, or wood frame with an attached rubber gasket. It is installed on the outside of the door around the jamb and butts up against the door when it closes. It fills large uneven cracks, and if you can find the wood type, it can be painted to match the door and blend in with everything else. Not as invisible as the strips on new doors, but better than sticky foam.

Here’s the best online description I found of the product and how to install it, from The Family Handyman:

And here is what it looks like:

How to Choose Landscape Lighting

From John Watston Landscape Illumination.

Recently I visited some of the best examples of landscape lighting in the Dallas area researching a piece I wrote about landscape lighting for The Dallas Morning News.

Having seen these at night, I am a big believer in this use of light and think it shouldn’t be overlooked.  If you’re spending a lot of time and $$ to improve your landscape, why not set aside some so that you can enjoy it more hours in the day?  Read the story for more.

Another tomato season, another tomato gizmo

I wrote a short, product-focused piece for today’s Dallas Morning News about tomato growing contraptions. Of course it includes the Topsy-Turvy upside down planter. I talked to a Topsy Turvy PR rep, and he said the guy who invented it lives in Tennessee. I wonder if he’s a millionaire. I wonder what his backyard looks like. I picture it an odd Super-Mario-esque video game world.

The coolest, newest, item I’d never before seen is called the Ooze tube, sold by my buddy Lars at Clean Air Gardening. What a good idea! A big bladder that holds 40 gallons and drips slowly to water a row of plants. At $30, it seems quite reasonable too.

My second favorite item is the tomato trellis clip from Johnny’s Seeds. This is a simple idea, but I can see how they’d be very handy to have.

Here’s my first set of tomatoes, grown without gizmos I might add…

First tomatoes of the season

Better Garage Doors, Read My Story in Today’s DMN

From flickr.

So they weren’t as cool as the Buddha-faced one above, but the garage doors that made it into the story I wrote for today’s DMN about door trends were pretty cool.  Check it out here.

Plant Swaps: Read My Story in Today’s Dallas Morning News


A story I wrote about swapping plants ran in today’s Dallas Morning News.  More gardeners are joining up on the Internet and organizing meetings to trade plants, and that’s what this is about.

The image above is a grainy one Michael took of the actual paper with his cell phone.  I’m in Chicago and haven’t seen it yet.  What’s cool about it is that it’s on the DMN’s new style that just came out, and they had an illustrator in NYC create the Picasso looking images of plant swappers!  I feel really cool today!!

Concrete counters and tabletops in Dallas



A profile I wrote about concrete craftsman Frank Clements ran in Friday’s Home section of the Dallas Morning News.

This is one of his counters, in a remodeled kitchen in the Little Forest Hills neighborhood.

What makes Frank’s work different are his carpentry and finishing skills.  He is trained in building fine furniture, and he uses what he knows about building odd wood shapes and about painting/staining/coating to create really unique and special concrete surfaces.

Valentine’s Treats, Takeout Style



Isn’t it strange how the best tasting foods aren’t always the prettiest?

This is a photo of cream cheese kolaches from The Kolache Depot, and it was hands down the tastiest, most unique item I tried researching the story I wrote about takeout treats for today’s Dallas Morning News Taste section.

It was not the prettiest, though, and so its relative position on the page is less prominent than some of the others. I’m not complaining, it’s just interesting to note things like that when I see the outcome of what I submit.