Home Warranties - American Home Shield

 People have a lot of negative feelings about home warranties.  Many view them as the extended protection plan of home buying.  Either we've just been lucky in who we've dealt with, or American Home Shield actually has a good warranty. When we bought our home 4 years ago it came with appliances and AC that were each well over a decade old, so we made sure that the purchase contract included the sellers providing a year of home warranty coverage.  We kept our fingers crossed that things would fail in that year so we could have them replaced.  Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your perspective, nothing failed in year one.  When the year came to an end we had to decide whether to keep coverage or let it lapse.  Since the appliances were only getting older we decided to keep it. Luckily for us, that turned out to be a good decision because we soon had our dishwasher break down and developed a leak from the unnecessarily massive 50-gallon hot-water heater.  Having those iss

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Smart ideas for the Smart Home

 When the internet of things was in its early years the concern about hacking run rampant seemed to dominate the conversation.  In addition, did anyone really want to swap a lock and key for a smart lock that just hit the market?  But as the years have passed, the technology has matured and improved, and having a Smart Home finally seemed like a rational idea. Make sure that any product you choose is compatible with whatever smart home system you are using--Google Home/Nest, Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, Samsung Smart Things, etc.  This may become less of a concern once the new smart home standard, Matter, is introduced.  But for now definitely check.  Most products are compatible at least with Google, Amazon, and Apple, but sometimes the only work with one or two.  It's probably also best to choose one ecosystem and stick with it.  That way you can avoid becoming this person whose editor obviously tasked them with making up an article about how challenging it is to manage a smart hom

Outfitting the Peloton home-gym upgrade

PSA--did you know you can probably ask your Peloton-owning friend to make you a profile (each bike can host up to 30 accounts, each free to make) and you can have access to the entire Peloton workout library?  If you dive in and buy a bike , use my referral code for $100 of free apparel & accessories:   2HXYR6 . By now we've all heard of Peloton and you more than likely have someone in your newsfeed who constantly posts their workout summaries.  If you're like me, you've probably spent a lot of time scoffing at the idea of a fancy exercise bike with on-demand classes.  And if you're really like me, you ended up getting a Peloton bike in the past few months and finally understand what the fuss was all about. It's amazing.

Seed Starting Season in Phoenix

Seed starting season never feels quite right in Phoenix.  As I write this, we just got .40" of our first winter rain of the season and the Christmas tree just went up over the weekend.  But, it's still time to start seeds for the spring season.  In fact, it's probably even a week or two late.  When it's time to start getting ready for the fall season it'll be July and you're sure to be more concerned about the 110+ degree temps going away than about getting some squash ready to plant in September.   Nonetheless, it's time to start sorting through your seeds and thinking about what veggies seem like they'll be delicious in the late spring.  Luckily the process couldn't be easier. Equipment needed: Seeds Seed starting mix Planting containers (I use old cardboard egg cartons) Seed starting tray Nursery pots UV grow lights , or a sunny windowsill Wooden kebab skewer, or similar small poking instrument Guide to growing vegetables in the desert (I like So

Gift Guide for the Yard and Garden

Have someone who loves growing a flourishing garden and verdant yard?  Here's a guide to perfect gifts for them this holiday. Lawn: Electric lawn tools.  Maintain your yard without wasting time maintaining your tools.  I've been using the Ryobi One+ system for the past 3 years and will never go back.  No trips to the gas station with a fuel canister in my trunk; no mixing oil and gas for a two cycle engine; no spark plugs to deal with...just throw in a battery and go.  Why Ryobi?  The One+ system has almost 200 tools and appliances that all take the same battery, I use them for lawn care, woodworking, and cleanup, all with out multiple chargers and battery types. Garden Christmas time is also the start of the spring planting season for gardeners starting from seed, and its the perfect time to get the outdoor beds ready for transplants.  With the right shade and water, Phoenix is a great place for backyard/porch garden that can produce nearly year-round.  Nothing beats a home-gr

Transitioning to Winter Rye in Phoenix, Simplified

  Cooper tested, Cooper approved! As with my actual annual transition to a winter lawn, this post is probably coming a little too late to be useful this year.  But since the weather this year has been unusually hot (today we expect record high temps of 89 degrees on November 16...), perhaps there's still a chance for you stragglers to benefit from my experiences. If you have a lawn of Bermuda grass, or another summer grass, and you don't want to have a winter of dead brown grass, then overseeding with rye is for you.  Tools & Materials Garden rake Seed spreader ( drop spreade r preferred, broadcast acceptable ) Shovel Wagon / wheelbarrow Lawn Mower  - I prefer electric for a small yard due to not needing any maintenance Annual rye seed Fertilizer Topper - I prefer Kellogg organic Topper, you can find it at Home Depot. A little work and you'll have a nice winter yard! Overseeding entails a few phases of preparation and work.  First is reducing the water for your Bermuda

Shade cloths, a vegetable garden lifesaver in the desert

Oh what a difference shade makes!  The left-half of the garden only got covered an hour before the photo was taken, while the right-half has been covered for over a month and is still verdant.  Ignore the sunflower mess. Once June heat takes hold in the low desert you will see a decline in garden productivity. Some of your plants, like peas and beans, will probably be done for the season and will die off completely.  Others, like peppers, might not care much that they've been placed into an oven.  But others, like tomatoes, will stop producing yet stay alive until a second spurt of fruiting in the fall--if you give them enough water and protection from the sun. Some of you might be lucky enough to have a perfectly positioned tree that shades your crop in the summer, the rest of use have to rely on shade cloths .  They can be so effective that I have a lavender that lived through multiple 115+ degree days in the most exposed part of my yard because it's under a shade cloth.

My favorite tools for household handiwork

Whether you are a renter or a home owner there are a variety of tools that will come in handy in a variety of circumstances.  Whether it's a simple hammer to hang photos or a table saw to build your own furniture, the tools I prefer to get the job done are discussed below. Avoid in Most Cases  - the little tool kits that purport to provide all you need .  Unless you are resolute that you will never use tools for anything other than hanging a picture or tightening loose screws, they offer more style than substance.

My favorite power tools for the yard

When it comes to lawn and garden maintenance it all starts with a good set of tools. When it comes to the power tools, I'm generally partial to battery powered equipment. The maintenance is practically nonexistent, they're far quieter, and since they don't run on gas they don't pollute or require trips to the gas station and fuel-oil blends. Ryobi's One+ system of 18 volt battery powered tools is the way to go--the entire line of tools use the same battery so you can power your mower, impact drill, and dust buster all with the same power source. Ryobi also makes a 40 volt line of battery powered equipment for those who need more umph, but the product line is far more limited than the 18v options.  I have three of the 4 amp batteries and they are all I need to mow, weed eat, and have juice left over for my driver when needed.

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