Thursday, January 29, 2015

Smaller houses will be in the spotlight this year

This probably won't be the last time you hear about smaller living spaces this year. The fact is, there's a portion of the population that wants or needs less. That's especially true for millennials, according to a report from the National Association of Home Builders.
Income, housing costs, busy schedules, retirement and concern for the environment are factors pushing this trend forward, so it’s not just limited to people who became adults at the turn of the century.
So if you’re moving to a smaller space or considering it, you might appreciate these online resources:

  • Becoming Minimalist: The author of this blog, Joshua Becker, says the best things in life aren’t things. Becker writes about his family’s effort to change their focus from materialism.
  • National Association of Realtors: The association’s “Field Guide to the Small House Movement” is a compilation of links for those considering miniature homes. The association included a reminder that New Yorkers in Manhattan have lived in tiny spaces for decades.
  • Topics range from housing to decorating, recycling, storage and moving.
  • Forbes: Its article called “Downsizing The Family Home: What To Do With All The Stuff?” gives practical advice that might be helpful as you plan and make a move.
  • Kyle Schuneman's "The First Apartment Book: Cool Design for Small Spaces" includes examples of decor for small spaces. One of his makeovers is shown in the picture above. (Photo by Joe Schmelzer) 

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, January 22, 2015

To look after Earth, start in your backyard

Make your backyard a better home for wildlife this year. That's one of the things we all can do for the environment, says Earnie McLaney. Planting trees is another.
But that's not enough, says McLaney, president of Charlotte Reconnecting Ourselves With Nature, or CROWN. We also need to make sure to look after the other natural resources that are special to us, including farms, waterways and parks.
McLaney sent out an email blast last week asking people to get involved in protecting the places we would want our grandchildren to enjoy one day.
His letter is a response to two bills on EPA policy that are moving through Congress.
McLaney’s views on those proposals – H.R.1422 and H.R.4012 – are not the subject here. He does want to remind us that we need a healthy ecosystem for our survival, just like the creatures outside. That means we need to pay attention as changes take place in the agencies we’ve put in charge of protecting it.
So devote some time to making your backyard more welcoming to wildlife. But save some time for working with your neighbors through environmental groups in our area.
He suggests the N.C. Conservation Network, N.C. Audubon, Catawba Riverkeeper and Catawba Land Conservancy. CROWN, the organization McLaney leads, is a local chapter for the N.C. Wildlife Federation.
Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

These apps help you stop junk mail, live "greener"

Your smartphone or tablet can become a tool for cutting household waste and making choices that are better for the environment and perhaps your health.
Apps for “green” living are becoming more popular and useful. These are worth a try:
PaperKarma makes it easier to stop junk mail from filling your mailbox, your home and ultimately the landfill. Take a photo of the pesky mailer you want to stop. PaperKarma goes to work to remove you from the mailing list.
Good Guide gives you ratings on eco-friendly products, including shampoos, cosmetics and cleaning products. Scan the bar code to see pros and cons for the contents.
iRecycle helps you find places and ways to recycle more than 350 materials. Batteries, construction waste, household items, and garden and hazardous waste are some of the items it can help with.
Go Green, shown at left, offers tips for a greener lifestyle, with a new idea popping up each time you open the app. Also get a “green” rating for yourself, based on your habits.
Sierra Club Trail Explorer has information on more than 40,000 trails in North America. Use the app to compile trail lists and write reviews. With an account on, you can also sync to GPS.

Mark your calendar
The Greater Charlotte Home & Landscape Show will be Jan. 23-25 at Cabarrus Arena & Events Center, 4751 N.C. 49, Concord. Jason Cameron, host for DIY Network’s “Sledgehammer,” and “Desperate Landscapes,” will host free seminars.
Karen’s blog:; on Twitter: @sullivan_kms

Friday, January 9, 2015

This school is for learning about honeybees

The school run by the Mecklenburg County Beekeepers Association has been around at least 12 years, and Jodie Rierson is Bee School principal.
It takes a special person to aspire to that position. Rierson, who’ll welcome a new class of students Jan. 13, has been fascinated with honeybees since childhood. The honey she now harvests from her four backyard hives is one reason she continues to enjoy them. And she finds much more to admire about these communal creatures.
“It’s how smart they are,” said Rierson, 51, an association member for three years. “It’s incredible to me that they take the nectar from flowers and they cure the honey, they fan and evaporate the water out of it, they ripen it and cap it. How do they do all of that?”
Honeybees also pollinate plants that produce our food. Colonies have been declining, so Rierson was pleased to welcome more than 100 people – grade-schoolers to seniors – to the school last year to learn how to care for bees and manage hives of their own.
The class costs $70 and will take place 7-9 p.m. Tuesdays, Jan. 13-March 17, at Providence Baptist Church, 4921 Randolph Road. To sign up, register online at
Build, Remodel and Landscape Expo has returned 
The 16th annual Build, Remodel and Landscape Expo continues Jan. 10 and 11 Saturday and Sunday at the Charlotte Convention Center, 501 S. College St. More than 10,000 people are expected to attend the show, which started Friday.
The show includes hundreds of exhibitors (remodelers, designers and landscapers), along with seminars and demonstrations. For more information, visit

Karen’s blog:; Twitter: @sullivan_kms