Monday, July 30, 2012


If I’m a retailer and a number of my MR 16s are out when I open in the morning, I want to change the bulbs right away.  If I’m out of bulbs, I want a reliable and low priced source and I want service. I want the bulbs I order to be here the next day and I want to be able to return defective bulbs. I want to be able to track my purchases and I want an account representative to answer my questions. is one of the leading distributors and suppliers of light bulbs of all kinds and some of the major brands including GE, Philips, Sylvania, Osram, and many others.

One other thing that a good distributor and supplier of light bulbs does is to educate. Glancing down at the array of MR 16s, I read that bulbs come in degrees. has a page on “beam spread”

Beam spread is the width of light that emanates from a light source. It is measured in angles. A small angle is a focused beam or spot and a large angle is more diffused light or flood light.  I got to thinking about our use of MR 16s in our store and realized that we were using the same angle for all lighting when we could have tried other angles for better light on our furniture and fabric.

In addition to the education on beam spread, there’s an article on color rendering. Color rendering is important because some lighting changes the colors that we perceive.  Another article allows you to compare the cost of converting from incandescent lighting to energy efficient lighting and the ROI. sells Light Bulbs, Ballasts, Fixtures, Grow Lighting, LED light bulbs and Exit Signs.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Power From A Footstep

We are continually amazed by the innovation occurring in green energy.  Whether companies can earn a profit will be determined, but it is fascinating, none the less.

The latest to confound is a company named Pavegen.  They have found a way to harvest energy from footsteps in high traffic areas.  A small percent (.5%) goes to lighting a pad on the floor when depressed and the rest goes into a storage battery to power lighting or other needs.
The tiles are set to make their largest commercial debut in September inside the Westfield Stratford City shopping center in London. The shopping center is estimated to have 30 million visitors in its first year.
The innovation seems to be spurred by our desire to practice sustainability, the peak oil theory and high energy prices. Maybe we can find someone to harvest the energy of sitting in front of a TV or walking to the bathroom during commercial breaks or even from putting the seat down in homes where males live.

Pedro Machado got my attention with his email about a new furniture design that solves the George Costanzo problem of an over stuffed wallet. I love Seinfeld and I salute the creativity of Machado.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Assistance With Home Repairs

Every time we turn around, it seems, prices of every day items increase.  We keep a wary eye on the Shell station nearby.  It’s a good day or bad day based on the gasoline price sign. We also know that heating our homes can be expensive.  We have oil heat and filling the tank can put a hole in our budget.  A cord of wood is expensive.  Lucky you if you heat with natural gas. 

Are you heating your home or is the heat leaking outside and the cold air of winter seeping in.  Fortunately in Oregon, as in many states across the country, you can get an energy audit of your home to see if there are ways to save on heating and air conditioning. For example, in New Jersey there’s The Energy Team, a leading independent energy efficiency expert, who offers energy audits, weatherization and insulation services, LED lighting, solar water heating and solar electric solutions, and water conservation plans.

Many people in this current economic environment might have trouble coming up with the money to spend on energy efficiency.  In Oregon there are all sorts of tax credit programs from local utilities that kick in once you’ve made improvements. However, the Federal Government has grants available if you qualify for assistance with home repairs.

A home repair grant is given to homeowners to make necessary repairs or to make the home safe for living. The grants may be used for bringing the electrical wiring up to code, or energy saving upgrades like insulation or storm windows. Home repair grants are generally reserved for people who can't qualify for a personal loan or a home equity line of credit due to low income, bad credit history, age or other factors.

The great thing about grants: they don’t have to be paid back and the money comes from  all of us taxpayers.Might as well get some of our dollars back!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Love The Vessel Sink!

Many bathrooms that I see in magazines or on House Hunters International feature bathrooms, either new or remodels, have an impactful image of vessel sinks.  These sinks sit on the cabinet like exotic flowers catching water from a great height. In a way they hark back to the hotel room basins and water pitchers seen in so many westerns. 

Our friends at have a variety of designs ranging from glass, copper, stone and ceramic.

  • Glass sinks are tempered, so they are quite strong, come in many beautiful colors and you can use a common bathroom cleaner to keep them clean.
  • Stone sinks are porous and can stain making them a little harder to maintain
  • Copper products from are made in Mexico or India where there are many mines and copper artisans.
  • Usually white, ceramic sinks are very popular because they are very easy to maintain and don’t stain.
I spoke with Deb Seeley of Deb Seeley Designs and member of NKBA about her use of Vessel sinks in remodels and new construction. Seeley cautioned that you must coordinate the height of the vanity with the height of the vessel.  Vanity heights are now 33”, if you add a 5” vessel sink, your vanity is now 38” and too high for a lot of women and children.  Remodels must take the height of the vessel into consideration.

Faucets are different, also.  They can be purchased with various spout heights (SH) and spout lengths (SR) and can be mounted on the vanity or on the wall.

One great thing about vessel sinks versus undermounts is the ease of changing your sink for a new color to match a change in décor.

Seeley also cautions homeowners that vessel sinks may be best in a powder room.  She thinks they take up more room and they can be harder than undermounts to clean around.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

What To Do About Swipe Fees?

Merchants to survive are always looking for ways to cut costs.  Some costs like healthcare rise exponentially and you need more business to make your monthly nut. When freight rates went from a fixed cost to freight plus surcharge, most tried to eliminate the impact without raising prices.  Many passed the direct cost on to their customers, but gave a bigger discount on merchandise.

The Wall Street Journal has an article about another cost that really hurts retailers who take credit or debit cards.  Banks charge an interest rate that is figured on the sale price and those fees have doubled  since 1991.

So, for example, in 1991 if you had $500,000 in retail sales and 90% were on a card, the banks would charge $5,625 at 1.125%. Eighteen years later, you are doing $1,000,000 the banks might charge 2.25% or even 3.25%. Your bank fees may be $20,250 to $29,250. That's a big chunk of money that could have gone to pay the lights or rent or healthcare or another employee.

What's a retailer to do? Some retailers experiment with adding a surcharge for cards or like some gasoline stations, giving a discount for cash. Some wish banks would charge a flat fee for running a card, but you know how that will go over with banks. Whatever you do, experts advise being open about your card policy.

"Financial reform legislation passed in 2010 offered some relief to merchants who have been struggling with rising swipe fees. That legislation allowed merchants to set a $10 minimum on credit-card purchases. It also reduced swipe fees on debit card transactions but it didn't address swipe fees for credit cards."

Hat tip to Home Furnishings Business.

Monday, July 16, 2012

M R Ducks M R! C D E D B D I's?

                   Golden Hybrid Layer Ducklings Best Egg Layers!

We have some neighbors that surprised us with these words: “We have three chickens in our backyard!” Interest in raising urban-chickens is on the rise. In fact for a small fee, you can attend chicken keeping classes in your local area.

Besides eggs, what are chickens good for? I’m told they make excellent pets, they are exciting to watch because of their individual personalities and they rid your plants and garden of slugs, bugs and even moles. There are a variety of chicken breeds from brown egg layers and white egg layers, miniature chickens and a variety of chickens that provide high quality of meat.

You can also buy ducks. Duck eggs are bigger than chicken eggs and the yolk is creamier making them excellent for baking. Ducks also make excellent pets, but are more skittish.  Usually the breeder clips the tip of one wing so they don’t fly away.

Right now, we are in need of chickens and ducks.  Something is eating our basil and I see slug trails glistening in the morning sun. Both chickens and ducks will eat worms, caterpillars and beetles and if you leave grass clippings in a pile for them, both will root

through the pile until it’s gone. One big difference, chickens scratch with their feet to get food, while ducks use their bills.  Thus, ducks are easier on plants.

Another difference, ducks require much more water.  Ducks submerge their beaks in water to clean themselves and that pool of water needs to be changed at least once a week.

Where can you find chickens and ducks for sale? One place is directly from California Hatchery.  Your baby chicks and baby ducks are shipped as soon as they hatch by USPS anywhere in the U.S. and shipping is free on a one-time purchase of 15 or more. You can also choose the sex of your birds and there is most every breed and rarity available.

Now I’ve got to see a man about some slugs!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Sleep Surface Advancements You Need to Know About

As the world changes, the sleep space evolves along with it. In products like a hybrid mattress, shoppers often only see the fusion of individual advancements. It’s worth taking a look at some of the core technologies because several of these advancements have the ability to influence the future of the sleep industry. Here are three that could spawn more innovation.

Gel Memory Foam

During the course of 40 years, memory foam hasn’t changed much. It still feels like the original space-age technology. Thanks to the introduction of gel, memory foam has begun to evolve. Many people criticize traditional memory foam because it retains an uncomfortable amount of body heat and there’s often a sinking sensation that makes it difficult to change sleeping positions. New memory foam also must be “broken in” before it’s comfortable to sleep on.

Gel memory foam mattresses are made from—you guessed it—memory foam infused with gel. Gel is reported to have a cooling effect and memory foam mattresses infused with the substance are more breathable, hypoallergenic, and supportive. They also don’t require the breaking-in period of traditional memory foam. This new technology tends to be expensive but comparable in price to traditional memory foam. Several bedding manufacturers have released hybrid mattresses that combine gel memory foam with innersprings.

Independent Bed Heating and Cooling

Sleeping cool enough is a big issue with consumers and the mattress world is responding to the demand. A new product line of wireless thermostat-control mattresses and mattress pads use a water circulation system to heat and cool the sleep surface in one or two zones. Room temperature water is heated to the desired temperature and circulated around the bed surface. Products like the ChiliPad fit most mattresses.

Co-sleepers can adjust bed temperature independently between 55 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit with a wireless remote. This revolutionary product could relieve arthritis sufferers, injured athletes, women experiencing life changes, or simply partners with different sleep temperature preferences. Thermoregulated mattress technology is in its infancy and will only become more sophisticated.

Anti-Allergen Materials

The typical bedroom houses over 100 million dust mites, which account for 80 percent of allergy complaints. Mattress protectors are the anti-mattress pad, as traditional mattress pads are breeding grounds for dust mites. Five-sided mattress protectors can be removed easily and washed, whereas total-bed encasements envelope your mattress on all six sides and create a seal against dust mites with either a zipper at the foot of the bed or 360-degree zipper for easier removal.

Protectors and encasements are designed merely to protect the bed, not change the feel of the mattress. For the average consumer, a mattress protector alone will suffice as long as it is washed weekly. For severe allergy sufferers, however, a mattress encasement with an easy-to-remove mattress protector on top is ideal. And don’t forget a pillow protector—many allergens, fungal spores, and viruses hide out in there, too.

As more products are introduced to address allergy sufferers, mattress manufacturers are looking to incorporate anti-allergenic materials into their manufacturing process. This trend is likely to grow to prevent consumer objections, complaints, and returns.
Sleep-space technology is changing. We are seeing the mixture of new materials, temperature controls, and anti-allergen protection. These advancements will likely lead to more improvements and eventually the fusion of ideas. 

Guest post and rap from Shawn.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Great Time With Friends

We had a delightful weekend with our friends near Bend.  It’s been quite a while since we’ve spent time together.  The four of us get along very well.  There’s much laughter, fine dining, great wine and some serious discussion. You know when two well-read stockbrokers and two intelligent women get together, I’m an ex-stockbroker, there’s likely to be an in-depth discussion of the world’s economy, politics and what’s coming next.

With some people the conversations between us may border on the silly.  There is little value in listening to the opinions of some.  That’s when I sniff the air and say, “I smell stupidity!” In the case of our Bend friends, I declared their home “stupidity free.”

Over dinner at a wonderful restaurant in Bend named the Brick House, the owner brought out a Sauterne that I understand was perfect for sipping with dessert. Our friend’s passions include Château d'Yquem a Premier Cru Supérieur wine from the Sauternes, Gironde region in the southern part of the Bordeaux vineyards known as Graves. Château d'Yquem was the only Sauterne given this rating in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855.

Port is another of our friend’s passions.  A favorite activity might be a sip of fine Port and some Stilton cheese while discussing whether Gold is manipulated as the LIBOR has been. Here’s a wonderful idea for your friends like ours.  You can send your friends hampers. Hamper is a British term for wicker basket and used to transport food or wine.  Here in the states, we even have clothes hampers. All right the clothes hamper is for dirty clothes that men can’t seem to hit.

Why not send your friends like ours, a hamper of Port and Cheese from Serenata family hampers? It comes with Oatcakes, Taylors port, Wensleydale and cranberry cheese, White stilton and apricot cheese, and Chicken liver pate. You’ll find that Serenata offers hampers filled with wine, chocolate, flowers, plants and even experiences like Ferrari driving