Keep Those Old DVDs Playing Well

In looking for new tips on how to keep your old DVDs playing, I came across the oddest thing. You know how hard it is to clean and maintain them because a non-magnetic cloth (for static) doesn’t always do the job. I hate it when they skip. Sometimes, to my relief, it is my machine and that can be fixed. If it is a serious flaw in the DVD, I must replace it if I want to hear the music again. This can be frustrating if you have a big collection, as I do. I have them organized alphabetically and by genre so I can find things in a flash. I spend a good portion of my early evening listening to favorite bands, sometimes while I eat dinner. One of my best DVDs wasn’t playing properly, hence my interest in cleaning advice. So, what do you do. I welcome any ideas. Otherwise, I will be stuck with the same old wiping cloth. When it gets dirty and I must wash the thing, it has little life.

Okay, I know it is easy to buy a new cloth. I am just looking for alternatives. I suppose I could spend my time listening to music and not dwell on the impossible. DVD problems just go with the territory and I put up with it. My friends complain about the same thing. I have been harping on this for a while and my cousin had to put in his two cents. He was out of his regular solution and couldn’t find the cloth. He looked in the bathroom and spotted some eyelash extension cleaner like these ones: His eyes were riveted on the word “cleaner.” I can’t imagine what he thought it was. His wife gets eyelash extensions every two weeks and from time to time they get little bits of lint sticking to them. She bought the cleaner the beautician recommended. But is any cleaner good for every purpose. Surely not. He tried it out because it was a liquid solution that was gentle and nontoxic. It had no detergent or other strong ingredient. He liked the idea that it could lift lint. If it could do this for eyelashes, why not his dusty old DVDs. To conclude this story, he said that it worked. And it worked beautifully. His DVDs had new life and could be played on and on. No skips or jumps.

But where would I buy this exotic eyelash cleaner? I didn’t want to go into salons asking for something this strange. I tried the drugstore with no luck. I tried the beauty supply down the street. It was less intimidating than the salon since I could survey the shelves myself and not have to ask questions. If I mentioned the DVDs, no doubt I would provoke peals of laughter. I found my target product and rushed home to apply it. I used a soft and thin cotton towel. It was easy, just as my cousin said, and productive. Who knew that a relative would save my collection.

A Mouse in the House

I pride myself on a beautiful, personally-designed home entertainment center. I put in the best gear and even padded the walls for the benefit of the sound system. It is in my basement where I have all the room I need to cover my various needs: big plasma TV, surround sound, top equipment, comfortable seats, lots of storage, wet bar, and more. You can imagine my dismay when I spotted a furry creature scuttering across the floor one afternoon as I gazed as the glowing screen. The floor may be concrete, but it is clean and well kept. Bloody mice! They have invaded my space and they are not long for this world. Be gone!

I don’t mean to anger the animal lovers out there, and it’s an easy thing to do, but there is a time and a place for rodents (in the trash—ha!). And it is not in my man cave. I would have expected to get the cat to do his job of getting rid of mice, but he is snoozing lazily in the sun and is sending signals not to be bothered. I can call a pest control service and they will dispatch of the buggers in no time flat. I can also lay traps and bait. I opt for option number two, the logical choice. I assume it is the most humane way to de-pest your home. I want to be rid of the menace and not give it another thought. I will not be watching Ben on TV tonight.

I also expect to sign up for a pest fumigation contract at my earliest convenience. A nice tidy serviceman comes once a month and sprays god knows what in the nooks and crannies of the basement area. I know that if there are mice down there, there must be other creepers and crawlers. In that kids occupy this wonderful entertainment center from time to time, I don’t want to encourage the little ones from espying any would-be playmates.

Rodents, roaches, it’s all the same to me. They are all to be banned from this moment on. I was assured by the technician that one “chemical” (presumably eco-friendly and not terribly toxic) would cover all the bases except for termites. That’s another story. Just keep the cat out of the basement for four hours, he said. Mmmm. What does that mean? I have to stay out, too. Just a precaution, he said. After all, I go in there, he added smiling or smirking. Mmmm. Not sure what I believe, but I am willing to go for it and get rid of any infestations lurking in the shadows ready to pounce. Surely there is a flea or two that escaped from the cat during a moment of panic. Zap and it will be gone.

Take my word for it, you will want to enjoy your entertainment center bug free. Kids, pets, and other guests sometimes sit on the floor (we have nice area rugs). Learn about pest control and become worry free.

Basement to Cinema

If you own a home and have a basement, you are in luck. You have an available place where you can build out a home TV/cinema area and create a real entertainment center for family and friends. There is nothing like doing it yourself and doing it at home so you can share the joy. Family outings are fine to the park or beach, but not so much to the Cineplex. Have you seen the price of the tickets not to mention the popcorn, candy, and drinks. It costs a veritable fortune to take a family of five or six. So put the van back in the garage and listen up and listen well.

You don’t need a huge basement, just enough for the TV screen and some nice comfortable lay-back adjustable, hopefully motorized seats. It is not hard to turn a dungeon laundry room into an inviting cinematic space. Get those stacks of boxes out of their now. If you have a good little sump pump, this lower floor is probably in pretty good shape, but will need some cleaning up. If the walls have been finished with dry wall, you just need some soundproof coverings there. When I created my own man cave some time ago, I researched a bit and decided on a budget. As you can imagine, this budget can go haywire in no time, so stick to it. You can get all the equipment you need for $500 and up. The more you spend, the more amazing the results. Several thousand will get you pretty nice gear. It depends on the quality you want for yourself and your guests.

I put in a wet bar and refrigerator so I added more to my expenditure. It’s a nice feature on game days, too. Having the cold beer close at hand is a big plus, along with a microwave for snacks. A few cupboards for storage and you have the makings of a pretty nice ambience. But that aside, you need surround sound (Bose is a great brand) to feel like you are in the center of the action, and some additional components. Think “low-note performance.” You will wirelessly stream your Internet radio (like iHeartRadio) and connect other video and audio sources like a Blu-ray disc player and gaming system. Your TV size will be dictated by your wall space. Speakers are super important so choose them carefully.

You want to be able to control everything easily so ask questions before you buy. You don’t need to get too complicated. Systems come ready made or you can buy individual parts. Get help and suggestions. Know your needs and make them clear. You can customize everything to fit your room so look for high quality performance. Sometimes looks matter and you choose finishes you like that blend with your décor scheme, if you have one. And why not. No matter who watches and listens along with you, they will appreciate the streamlined integrated appearance of your home theater.

Lounge Room Cooling

I have a friend who is installing a home theater lounge in his basement, filled with all the required devices of first quality—screen, receiver, surround sound, built-in bar with refrigerator, etc. This is an extravagant gesture for his family and he wants it to be comfortable and inviting. The air is a bit stale down there and he asked me what to do. He plans on game day parties, kids’ get-togethers, personal man cave time, a little private work now and then, and more. He wants a versatile space that is at the optimum temperature all year round. In other words, plenty of air in the underground depths!

It is prohibitive to install central air conditioning and heating for one room so late in the game, although it is rather large and in need of something to make it inhabitable. It is open with one lever-operated long cellar window high up on one wall. The room gets some natural light, but not enough. I suggested a large ceiling fan with a high wattage light fixture. Found with these online ceiling fan reviews. We both started to explore options—on line research of course. Colors, materials, prices, discounts, features, etc.

Your average blade fan looks good and does the trick. It covers a wide area, and the newer ones aren’t as noisy as the older models. If they become too breezy, you just reset the remote. It is old-fashioned, economical, and décor-enhancing. A little investment goes a long way. What more could you want! When you think of a “lounge,” you might have in mind something high tech, so you can go for chrome blades and a sleek light fixture. If you like homey with comfy leather chairs or a sofa, there are great blades in cherry, walnut, oak, and ebony stained wood. Maybe you don’t care about this, but your wife certainly does, so ask! I’m sure she is already planning some girl time down there.

The cost is about the same for good quality, whatever the style and appearance. You don’t have to splurge, but do get a good one that will last over many seasons of TV-viewing fun. It has to be kid-resistant. The tykes will love turning it off and on. A lounge is a place to lie back and relax, your head on a soft supportive pillow, your body on a cozy blanket. Maybe you are reading a favorite mystery on a Kindle. No doubt this will place you within full view of your fan. So make it meaningful when you go out shopping and select something you won’t tire of too soon.

If you do, or the room is converted into a bedroom for a parent down the road, you can paint the fans and change the fixture. A ceiling fan is so much more desirable than clunky portable models, even the new tower designs that pretend they are sculptures. They also help to camouflage ceilings that may be cottage-cheese finish or square tiles. My suggestion to my friend did not go unheeded and he is now enjoying a light, delightful remote-controlled breeze.

Sewing Machine: an Unlikely Tool for Home Entertainment

You say you want to make oversized pillows for the rec room, footrests for the home theater, and shiny satin throws for the sofa and chairs to pimp out the basement lounge (it has a rock star theme). Are you having a breakdown or just plain nuts! These are big projects and you can probably buy everything at Walmart. But they don’t have the right colors, fabrics, and textures, you say. They don’t get your glam style or the needs of your kids while watching the big screen. Their little feet need just the perfect size ottomans in bright red leather. Nothing else will do (especially black or brown).

You are an enterprising mom with some rare free time who wants full credit as a homemaker and creative artisan to boot. You want that nasty Martha Stewart wannabe next door to drool with envy. You will show her a thing or two. After all, your new generation state-of-the-art computerized sewing machine sits ready and waiting for expert direction. It has threaded itself and has been fed with oil.

You have spent hours in sewing class and have tried out a few successful experiments. It’s time to pick up a great sewing machine for beginners and get started. Now you are primed to revamp the old home décor and turn dull into zippy and fun. You have discarded all thoughts of conventional styles and muted colors. Anything goes! This is a young, trendy family with plenty of friends and relatives traipsing through each day. Your husband says go for it.

Heavier fabrics for slipcovers and pillows demands sturdier needles on the sewing machine and looser stitching. You can do it. Adjusted with ease, the sewing machine roars into action. You can even sew vinyl and leather for the mini footrests by changing the foot option and buying heavy thread. You may need to learn a few tricks of the upholstery trade to complete this project! Stuffing material is readily available, however, at most fabric stores (or you can cheat and send them out).

The sofa throws will be your pride and joy. You are copying an idea you saw at an amazing local boutique that specializes in outré Lady Gaga taste. They sell cool plexiglass furniture encrusted with rhinestones and shells, and jazzy jeweled mirrors to accompany neon-hued wastebaskets, tissue boxes, lamps, and vases. You aren’t going whole hog, but the throws will be a nod to rock glam all the way. Fabric choices are so numerous that you are at a bit of a loss at first, but you go for a nice sapphire blue. Edging might be a breeze given the sewing machine’s great talents. You have been waiting for an excuse to use it.

Your imagination goes wild. What accessories will the room enjoy to go with this satin seduction? Nothing breakable or costly, of course. The basement lounge is a fantasy realm for the kids where they can stretch out and be comfortable—eat what they want, blare the music, and make a mess. You can make new stuff next year. 

What a Bore: a 2 Day Power Outage

What is your worst home nightmare! You have friends coming over and the power goes out. (For me, last time this happened, it was two days of darkness in hell.) Or maybe you are alone and you can’t go without your TV routine for one thing, not to mention the refrigerator and coffeemaker. It is a survival crisis of the worst kind! You are at the mercy of the elements and the power company.

If this has happened a few too many times, you may want to consider a backup generator to solve the problem. In most areas of the country, it can really come in handy as a rescue mechanism. It is a bit expensive as you may think but is well worth the outlay. They are state-of-the art lifesavers, superior in construction and operation. Your laptop has a battery, of course, but there are vital services your appliances provide that will benefit. No one wants the food in the freezer to rot – especially those expensive steaks you just bought or the litres of your favourite ice cream.

I, for one, can’t live for long without the TV. I am addicted. I don’t relish the thought of resorting to the tiny screen on my smart phone. My decision to purchase a generator was easy after the last brown out. For me, boredom looms large when I can’t watch the boob tube. I went in search of a good unit. I scoured the Internet and the local builder’s emporium–lots of models with lots of tricks. With too much to consider on the web, I opted for the brick and mortar store to avail myself of expert help. I was told I should spend about $2,500 and up for my alternate power solution. I have an average home with average usage. My need is therefore quite mid-range. Nothing out of the ordinary or exotic.

We are not talking about a carry-it-with-you camping device or an on the job site power source for tools, but something that could light up a single-family home without much ado. It will stay put outside the exterior wall (18 inches) and work its magic in the event of a dreaded outage. I was shown an impressive compact Generac Guardian 22kw air-cooled wizard on special. It is a pricey model but had the all-around features any homeowner could want. It is cost efficient relative to other choices and does its job for days and days. This sounded ideal as preventative protection. Furthermore, it has a remote monitoring system and comes with free customer support and a 5-year warranty.

They promised easy installation, so I went for it. Plus they boasted of a whole house transfer switch—what they called smart power management to handle circuit overload. With this purchase (well beyond a basic unit), boredom will be an obsolete word. It’s quiet and the neighbors won’t even know it’s there. I fully expect another power outage sometime soon. If not, my good intentions may have been in vain – but I doubt it!