Thursday, August 14, 2014

Garden art and performers wanted for Yard Art Day

Laugh if you will about the tour that has people decorating their yards with giant storybook characters or maybe a groovy bus, but Yard Art Day is growing.
This year you could see someone singing, belly dancing or swinging a hula hoop well beyond the original neighborhoods of Plaza Midwood and the North Davidson Street arts district. Word is spreading about the free-spirited, uncomplicated spectacle through its website and Facebook page.
“This year other neighborhoods and surrounding towns are signing on,” said founder and Plaza Midwood resident Deborah Triplett.
The online guide map already has pins dropped at sites as far as Durham, Raleigh and North Myrtle Beach. Locally, look for Yard Art Day signs in SouthPark, Ballantyne, Huntersville, Mooresville, Matthews, Waxhaw and Belmont in Gaston County.
Yard Art Day is open to anyone who wants to create an art display or perform as guests arrive on foot, by bike or by car. This year businesses and gardens can sign up.
“I think we’re all born artists by nature,” Triplett said. “I sort of wanted to give permission to people to let that inner kid out to play.”
If you go, understand that Triplett had more in mind than just distraction when she started the event in 2012. “The indirect goal is to get neighbors meeting neighbors,” she said. “I don’t mean neighbors who live next door. Maybe people get out of their cars and off of their bikes and talk to the people they meet.”

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, August 7, 2014

What your wall colors say about you

Color has power over us. So the first step to choosing a palette for decorating could be to ask how you want the room to feel.
“You start to get an idea of the mood that they’re after, and color can enhance that,” said Kate Smith, chief color expert at Sensational Color in Ashburn, Va.
Smith is mainly a consultant to corporations. Her clients produce products in enough colors to confuse the average consumer. She steps in to help those businesses help their customers make the right color choices.
“Some colors make you feel calmer; some make you feel energetic,” she said. “Most people respond in those general ways, even if they don’t recognize it.”
I was fascinated reading about the psychology of color on Smith’s website. There’s much to recognize about ourselves, family members and friends just by looking at the colors in our homes.
Yellow, the color of sunshine (and much of my home’s interior), relates to happiness and optimism. Tranquil and refreshing green speaks of value for nature and community. Blue, a calming overall favorite, is for the trustworthy and committed. Purple uplifts and calms the mind. Creative people and eccentrics tend to embrace it.
Softer colors can help you relax. For a lively room, use intense hues and high-contrast combinations.
I’m feeling better now about painting our family room a flaming terra-cotta orange.

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Lock up some funding for Habitat

Buying new locks and door hardware for your home can also support Habitat for Humanity’s international work.
Yale Locks & Hardware is donating 10 percent of sales from online orders to Habitat, which builds and renovates homes for qualifying families based on their income and other requirements.
Shoppers get a 10 percent discount on the New Haven, Conn.-based company’s products when they use the program code (HFH14) through Oct. 21.
The pictures on the program website ( are a reminder that the ideal of a safe, secure home is a starkly different vision depending on which side of the door locks you find yourself standing.
For some, safe and secure means having your family and your belongings protected by an alarm system, perhaps one controlled from a smartphone or computer. At the other end of the spectrum are people who can hardly imagine ever owning a home that would be considered safe and secure, much less one equipped with automated locks that open and close without keys. Habitat has made ownership possible for more than 4 million people.
Yale has partnered with Habitat for 13 years and provided more than $14 million worth of interior and exterior door locks so far for Habitat in North America. This additional effort will reach further.
“This new campaign will help raise additional funding vital to Habitat’s mission to create safe, affordable housing in partnership with low-income families around the world,” Colleen Finn, an exec for Habitat for Humanity International, said in a statement.

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Local family's invention wins honors

If businesses can have touchless paper towel dispensers, William “Bryant” Troutman II and his family wondered, then why can’t we have them in our homes?
“I wanted one for my kitchen,” said Troutman, 45, of south Charlotte. “When they didn’t have one, we decided to make one.”
The idea behind the under-cabinet-mounted Innovia Automatic Paper Towel Dispenser the Troutmans created is hands-free convenience and lower risk of cross contamination in home kitchens.
The dispenser has pulled in two awards and appearances on the ShopHQ TV network. It’s also available online for $99 from Lowe’s, Home Depot, Costco and
Skymall, the shopping magazine found aboard airliners, chose the dispenser as the best product of the 2014 INPEX invention and new products expo in June. The dispenser also won a gold medal from INPEX.
Still, Troutman and his partners, dad William Troutman and wife Johana Troutman, have kept their jobs at their printing business, Charlotte-based Graphics International.
“It’s been a challenge developing awareness of our product,” Troutman said. “It requires a lot of money and a lot of patience.”
The family is working to recoup its investment of about $300,000 on the first 12,000 dispensers. The next step is to create a portable version that doesn’t have to be mounted.

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Shred old documents Saturday to prevent identity theft

It's time to do something about the stacks of paper collecting dust in your home office, attic and other rooms.
If you don’t need those old mortgage loan documents, checks, credit cards, bank statements and tax forms, shred them – today. It’s for your own good.
Commercial shredders will be waiting from 9 a.m. to noon today during a Community Shred Event at the Ikea parking lot, 8300 Ikea Blvd. Bring up to three banker boxes, along with outdated prescription medications, says District 4 Charlotte City Council member Greg Phipps, one of the event's hosts.
Identity theft is a problem nationally, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department handles roughly 3,000 cases annually.
“There’s always a problem of someone getting ahold of documentation that they can use to open an account,” said Sgt. Walter Bowling of CMPD. “You’re making it easy on the criminal to gain your information if you’re not shredding.”
Identity theft can include fraudulent check cashing, check and credit card counterfeiting, opening accounts in someone else’s name or taking out loans.
The risks for consumers goes beyond what we throw out. Burglars might take documents and credit cards. Traffickers can use technology to sell your information online or make transactions.

Learn more while you’re dumping those old papers today. “It’s not just for shredding,” Bowling said. “We’re hoping to raise awareness.”

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Before you spray, think of the bees

It was the rosebush or the Japanese beetles. One of them would lose, and that year I sided with my rugosa Magnifica, a fragrant repeat bloomer that produces plump rose hips once the magenta flowers are pollinated.
Don’t think it was an easy decision to spray the shrub with an insecticide to get rid of the pests that had devoured more than a few plants in my yard. The pollinators that made it possible for me to get rose hips from that bush might have been the next visitors. So the flowers had to go, too.
Unfortunately, my homemade spray of soapy water and cayenne pepper hadn’t worked. Manually collecting beetles every day didn’t fix things, either. This year, I’m just watching the bugs munch. I don’t have a solution, but I don’t want to put the bees at risk. They’re too valuable.
Bees, butterflies, beetles, hummingbirds, bats and flies carry pollen among plants as they collect nectar. In the process, they pollinate more than 75 percent of our flowering plants and close to 75 percent of our food crops, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Bee colony losses are an international concern, and household pesticides are among the dangers to those creatures. Before spraying in your yard, read up on protecting pollinators at Post your suggestions for protecting plants from pests at the blog address below.

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Tech companies race to bring more apps for the home

Technology companies are in a race to get inside your walls and fixtures.
We’re already walking around with apps for mobile banking and shopping, navigation, video editing and most other things we want to do.
The next step, the way technology companies see it, is to give us apps to control what happens at home. Switches for lights and door locks are just the beginning. Here’s what’s brewing:

  • Wink, formerly a software subsidiary of Quirky, is planning a home automation platform that will be available through Home Depot. The goal is a product that brings together numerous “smart” devices and wireless protocols (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc.).
  • Nest Labs is partnering with outside developers. The Google-owned company wants to grow beyond its smart Nest thermostat. Mobile controls for appliances might be one outcome.
  • Microsoft has a new startup accelerator program for companies focused on home-based sensor technology, cloud services and tools for analytics. The project comes under Microsoft Ventures.
  • Apple has announced a platform called HomeKit. It would allow users to discover and control all kinds of home automation devices using a smartphone or tablet.

It won’t be long before Siri is telling the toaster how to cook your bread and whistling for the teapot.

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms