Handcrafts and Handyman

Writing about everything under the sun and even the sun


All types of information on do-it-yourself home and auto repair. Occasional entries about everything else under the sun and maybe even the sun.



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What are Solar Ovens

Posted on July 23, 2014 at 4:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Solar ovens are a way of letting the power of the sun do your cooking for you, no gas or electricity needed. Solar ovens are not expensive to purchase and when utility savings are considered, a solar oven can pay for itself very quickly. You can also make your own solar oven, saving the expense of purchasing a ready made one.

How they work

Solar ovens are described as a solar crock-pot. Light from the sun is collected and reflected inside the oven producing heat to cook the food inside. The angle in which the oven is placed, and the position of any added reflectors, allow for control of the internal temperatures. They can be used in most winter temperatures as well.

Placed at a 30 degree angle to the sun, the solar oven will collect less sunlight and build less internal heat. This is good for summer cooking or southern environments. Placed at a 60 degree angle, the oven collects more light and can be used in winter and northern environments.


An oven placed in summer sunlight with reflectors can reach a cooking temperature of up to 400 degrees F. For slower cooking or lower temperatures, the oven can be slightly shaded. Most ovens come with insulating materials to help retain the internal heat which allows for longer cooking, even at times when the available sunlight is not consistent.

Benefits of solar oven use

A solar oven can be used almost anywhere as long as there is some exposure to sunlight. They are great for camping or having on hand in case of a power failure. If you want to cut your gas or electric use and dependency, they are a great energy saver. Gas or electric stoves can be large consumers of your overall utility use.


Most solar ovens are light in weight and easy to transport. For camping purposes, you do not need to worry about bringing along charcoal or equipment to cook over a camp fire. Using a solar oven outside in the summer can help to keep your home cooler. You do not need to use the oven inside your home that only adds to the need for air conditioning.

Solar ovens can be used to bake, roast or slow cook and even “fry” bacon or eggs. Burning or over cooking foods is not as likely, unless the oven is in very strong sunlight for an excessive period of time. Drinking water can be purified inside a solar oven. The process will not remove chemicals in the water, but can reduce the bacteria and viruses in the water.



There are many different types of solar ovens on the market depending on the size you need and the amount of use you are considering. Plans are available if you want to create your own solar oven and these can range from a simple foil assembly to a complete permanent cooking station.


Other resources:



Tips for using Almond Oil

Posted on July 22, 2014 at 9:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Almond oil has been used for hair and skin care for centuries. The oil contains vitamins E and A which work as antioxidants. It makes an excellent hair conditioner and moisturizer. The oil is lightweight and not as likely to your clog pores so it can be used sparingly on acne prone skin. There are some tips to keep in mind to get the best benefits from the oil.

Tips for using on skin and hair

Use sweet almond oil, bitter almonds contain prussic acid and should not be consumed. Prussic acid changes to cyanide when eaten. Since the oil absorbs easily into your skin, the same reaction can occur. If you have nut allergies do not use or consume any almond-based oil products.

The oil makes an excellent carrier oil for massaging or aromatherapy. It blends well with other essential oils and the light scent is not overpowering. A few drops of an essential oil, to one ounce of almond as a base oil, will provide the right mixture.

Almond oil should be kept away from fabrics. When the oil comes into contact with clothing or sheets, it can leave a brown stain.

If you use the oil for a hair treatment, massage it gently into your scalp. It can help prevent dryness and flaking while conditioning your hair follicles.


Store oil tightly covered and away from heat or direct sunlight to keep it fresh. Quality oils should last up to one year.

Tips for cooking with almond oil

Sweet almond oil is often used for cooking. It is high in polyunsaturated fatty acids that can help reduce levels of bad cholesterol. When you first start using almond oil, use it sparingly. Almond oil can have a mild laxative property; see how your body reacts before you begin heavy cooking use. Do not overheat almond oil; it can develop a bitter taste. The oil should also be processed properly for consumption to reduce the chances of it containing pathogens.

How to change a flat tire

Posted on July 19, 2014 at 7:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Having a flat tire can not only be a nuisance, it can also be a dangerous situation. Steps should be taken to ensure your safety when attempting to change a flat tire on your vehicle. The first step is to always have a fully operational spare and a jack and lug wrench available for your vehicle.



If you are driving when the flat occurs, pull your car safely off to the side of the road. You can drive a short distance on a flat without causing any major damage to most rims. Be sure to park well enough off of the road to avoid being hit by passing vehicles and park on a flat sold surface.

If you find a flat on your vehicle in your driveway, make sure that the vehicle is on a flat solid surface before attempting to change the tire. Uneven surfaces and gravel or dirt can be hazardous. If you are on a roadway and have flares available, set them out. Have your vehicle set in the “park” position, so it will not roll.

Remove your spare tire, jack and lug wrench and set them near the flat tire. Remove the hub cap, if you have one covering the lug nuts. Slightly loosen the lugs nuts, just breaking them free, so you do not have to apply excess pressure once the wheel is off the ground. Turn the lug wrench to the left to loosen.

Place you jack under a secure portion of the frame of your vehicle near the flat tire. Be sure that the jack is on a solid surface and level. Raise your vehicle enough to get the tire off of the ground and allow enough room for a fully inflated tire to be installed. If you have a jack stand, use it to help secure the vehicle. Finish loosening and remove all lug nuts and place them together in a convenient location.

Remove the flat tire by pulling it out directly towards you and set it aside. Align your spare tire with the holes for the lugs lining up with the wheel. Lift and set your spare on the wheel. Replace the lugs nuts, first by hand tightening - to the right - and then tighten to almost fully tight with your lug wrench.

Lower your vehicle and remove the jack. Finish tightening your lug nuts with your wrench, but do not over tighten. Older lugs can break. Replace your hubcap if you removed it. Replace your jack, lug wrench and flat tire in your trunk or other location in your vehicle. Remember to get your flat tire repaired or replace it. If you are using a temporary spare tire, do not drive over the recommended miles before seeking repair help.

If you are physically unable to change a tire yourself, invest in a membership with an auto club of some sort. The investment can very well pay off.

Getting rid of weeds in your garden

Posted on July 18, 2014 at 10:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Guest post by Grace Bailey

Gardening has always been a popular pastime for many people even though people are spending less time in the garden than in previous years. People still believe there is nothing more satisfying as planting seeds and seeing them reach maturity! The downside to gardening is the problem of weeds and we all know about that. Weeds are arguably a thorn in every gardener's side. They pop up from nowhere, they are an untidy presence and you have to always keep on top of them so they don't get out of control.

Weeds will grow almost anywhere, even in the cracks of pavements. It is certainly true that in order for some plants to flourish you have to get rid of weeds. They are a constant fact of life when growing vegetables in particular. What is a weed? A weed has been described as any plant growing where it is not wanted!

In order to solve the problem of weeds, you have to understand what a weed is and what makes it thrives. If you are wondering why your neighbour seems to have their weeds under control and you don't, maybe you have something to learn! In order to get rid of weeds, you have to decide what is a weed and what is not, as weeds come in many forms and there is no point pulling up a plant that resembles a weed!

Are weed killers that you buy from shops any good? Many Balham professional gardeners believe they should only be used as a last measure because they are considered a pollutant, although you can get many organic versions these days. There are many brands out there, but gardeners find some weed killers will work and others don't.

You have to always adhere to the manufactures' recommendations and always read the instructions on the box making sure you mix up the ingredients properly. You should also apply the weed killer at the right time of the year.

Cut back grass – rake leaves and mulch them into your lawn. Also, reseeding an established lawn will make it thicker and healthier and the envy of the neighbours! Keep mowing as long as it is growing. When leaves sit on your lawn, they will block out any sun and moisture that your lawn needs to survive. Fertilization will keep your lawn green throughout the summer months, many garden centres sell good organic fertilization ranges.

Most fruit trees benefit from being pruned just after the coldest temperatures have passed - you will need a set of good quality hand pruners. For larger trees, there is no point trying to prune it yourself as it is a dangerous task, call your tree surgeon for proper tree pruning.

After you have cleaned your garden, it is a good idea to enrich the soil with composts. This is a great way to add nutrients to your soil.

After you have tidied up your garden, there is an immense sense of satisfaction that all your hard work has paid off and your garden is once again looking its finest. Before you get rid of every last weed, you have to remember that they do a vital job in the ecosystem, they protect and restore soil!

How to repair a dishwasher that will not drain

Posted on July 16, 2014 at 2:55 PM Comments comments (0)

There are numerous reasons that you may open your dishwasher and find it full of dirty dish water. While not a pleasant experience, most drainage problems can be fixed easily, while others need a bit of mechanical experience. To begin troubleshooting, you should know what kind of dishwasher you have and how old it is.

First steps

Most dishwashers drain into the plumbing for the kitchen sink and usually go through the garbage disposal first. If your garbage disposal or kitchen sink plumbing is backed up, your dishwasher will not drain. Remove any blockages in these areas first. If this does not solve your problem, disconnect the drain hose from the dishwasher and see if it is clogged. Even though you may have a dishwasher that does not require any pre-rinsing, food particles can clog the drain line.

If you have just installed a new garbage disposer make sure that the knock out plug was removed before the dishwasher drain line was installed. Garbage disposers are sold to be functional with or without a dishwasher and come with a plug to prevent water from flowing out if no dishwasher is connected.

Second check point

If all of the drain lines appear to be clear, you will need to check the dishwasher basket. If you do not have a manual for your dishwasher, you should be able to look up a diagram for your model online. If you see food debris when you remove the basket, your drainage problem can most likely be solved with a simple cleaning. Use caution when cleaning this area to avoid damaging any parts.

Parts problems

Depending on the age of your dishwasher there could be other more complex reasons for a drainage problem. If your dishwasher is new and still under warranty, you should not take any further steps as they might void the warranty. If your dishwasher is not new, but you are not mechanically inclined, it would be a good idea to call for a repair person.

Mechanical problems can come from motors, drain pumps, belts, timers and drain valves. The problem may even be as simple as a door latch that is not making contact correctly. To make these repairs, you should have a manual or diagram available and access to parts.

You should usually be able to tell if the motor or pump is not operating correctly by listening to it. If you have the skills, troubleshooting and replacing these parts is not difficult, but you should take the age of the unit into consideration. A very old dishwasher may be a candidate for replacement.

Published At: 07-31-2010

Author: B. Leslie Baird

How a Swamp Cooler Works

Posted on July 15, 2014 at 9:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Swamp coolers are also known as evaporative coolers. This type of system can provide an excellent cooling choice for anyone living in warm, dry climates. These units are less expensive to operate than standard air conditioning systems. Swamp coolers are also less expensive to purchase and have low maintenance requirements.

How a swamp cooler works

A basic swamp cooler does not contain a large number of components. The bottom of the unit is designed to hold a set amount of water. The cooler will be attached to a fresh water supply from your home or business. The amount of water in the basin is regulated by a float, the same type of system used in a toilet. If the water in the tank drops below the required level, the float will open the supply to allow more water to enter.

The water in the basin is pumped to the top of the swamp cooler where it is distributed to filter pads. On large outdoor coolers, two or more sides of the unit may contain cooling pads. Small indoor type units may only have one cooling pad. The water saturates the pads and returns to the basin. This process continues the entire time the cooler is running.

Image: Wikimedia

A fan or blower motor is used to pull air through the wet pads. This air, whether outside or inside, is cooled as it passes through the wet filters. The cooled air is then sent into your home, the force of the air will normally be stronger than that of an air conditioner.

How the cooling works

As dry hot air picks up moisture, the heat in the air will work to change the liquid water to a gas state. Changing a liquid to a gas requires work or energy. The heat energy is used in the process, reducing the heat in the air. This can also be described as the movement of the heat from the warmer air to the cooler water.


Very little maintenance is required to keep swamp coolers working efficiently. The basin should be cleaned occasionally to remove any debris and prevent mold growth. The filter for the pump requires periodic cleaning to ensure water flow. The cooling pads should be washed to remove debris that can block airflow. Some units will require oiling the blower, check your owner’s manual for recommended intervals.

Swamp coolers are not effective when humidity levels are high. Air that already contains excess moisture will not pick up more to allow for the evaporation process. The units do make an excellent alternative in areas that only experience high humidity occasionally. Swamp coolers should have a thermostat control. Without a control, these units can provide too much cool air.

Barbara L Baird



Posted on July 9, 2014 at 5:05 PM Comments comments (2)

If you want homemade quilts, totes, pillows or wall hangings, and cannot make them yourself, K-Lee's Kreations can help you. K-Lee can even include personal photos to make your quilt, wall hanging or tote truly unique. Her process allows your photography to remain soft without fading or peeling. Check out the many interesting items that can be created just for you.

Basics of Canning Blackberries

Posted on July 6, 2014 at 1:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Blackberries are an excellent fruit and easy to preserve


Blackberries are very easy to grow and make a healthy snack, delicious dessert or great jam or jelly for breads and toast. If you are unable to grow your own, they can usually be found in most supermarkets or at farm stands. Blackberries can be frozen for later use or preserved by canning. By basic definition, canning is sealing a fruit, meat or vegetable in a glass jar and heating to prevent spoilage. Some canning must be done by pressure cooking, but most fruits and tomatoes don't. Sugar preserving is done by cooking the fruit with large amounts of sugar to prevent bacterial growth. Most canning operations are not difficult, but can be quite messy.



Basic canning information is as follows:

The hot water bath in the pot or container should be one to two inches over the tops of all jars. Your depth will be determined by the size of the pot and number of jars. It is best to sterilize the jars by boiling them in a hot water bath for ten minutes before use. Jars should be packed to about 1/4 inch from the top or as stated in your recipe. This is what is referred to as head space. A raw or cold pack process is done by placing the raw fruit in the jar and then filling it with boiling syrup, juice or water. A hot pack process is heating the fruit in syrup or water before placing in the jars.





A jelly is made from sweetened and jelled fruit juice with pectin as a jelling agent. Jam is made from crushed or chopped fruit with pectin as the jelling agent. Many recipes will add a touch of lemon juice as an acid. Preserves will have whole chunks of fruit. Packages of pectin will usually have many good recipes and suggestions for a variety of fruit canning.





My favorite recipe is:





2 quarts of blackberries





7 cups of sugar





One package canning gel or pectin, about 1 ¾ ounce





½ tsp. butter or margarine





Crushed and sieve the blackberries to remove any seeds. This should leave about 5 cups of fruit.

Heat the fruit with one package of canning gel or pectin. Mix this on the stove with the butter or margarine. Stir while heating to a full rolling boil. Continue stirring while adding all of the sugar at one time. Continue stirring and bring back to a full boil for one minute. Remove from heat and skim.

Pour hot jam into ready jars, seal and invert for five minutes. After 5 minutes turn upright. Allow to cool for one hour and check the seal. A hot water bath processing method may also be used. Recipes are also available for freezer jams, if desired. Remember to use caution with hot jars and also remember that blackberries can stain.










What can specialist domestic clearances do for you

Posted on July 2, 2014 at 7:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Guest post by Grace Bailey

Nowadays people need the services of professional domestic clearances to clear out properties for various reasons. Property clearances are done to completely empty a house or apartment, leaving it free from clutter and rubbish for the next owner or tenant. There are many causes you may need to hire a domestic clearance company and here we take a look at some of the reasons you may need to use a clearance service.

If you are moving house and have a lot of rubbish remaining, which needs clearing, then you will need to hire a professional company to get rid of it properly. Do you need to empty the contents of a house after the death of a loved one? Or are you the landlord of property lets and need to clear out after a tenant that may have left a lot of junk behind? Are you helping an elderly parent or relation move into a residential home and need to get rid of a lot of surplus possessions?

There are many reasons why you may require using the service of a domestic clearance company. It is a good idea to call a few companies to compare services and quotes. Don’t be afraid to ask about any enquiry you might have about using a clearance service. These companies are the experts and have been in the business a long time, so therefore they will know all there is to know about getting rid of more or less any rubbish or junk. You will be advised how to take the next step in clearing out a place.

You should see what you need to keep within the property first. There is likely a lot of stuff to sell or give away to charity, as well as recycling some of the things. Certain items may be valuable or worth something to somebody else. In this day and age we throw away too much good stuff, so try your best to dispose of objects that are not broken.

It is a good idea to have a plan before you start and be well prepared. Allow some time for this type of job as it can be stressful and demanding. When it comes to having a clear out on this scale, there is a lot of stuff to get through. Set aside time to do one room at a time. Sort out what you want to keep and pack it up and label clearly. Any rubbish you have, throw it away. Do you have things you could sell? Advertise in local papers, notice boards and Internet or do a car boot sale. Whatever is left, donate it to a local charity, you can either drop it off or arrange for it to be collected.

Do you have a lot of bits and pieces to recycle? It is an excellent way to make use of things you don’t want anymore. Collect cardboard, paper, metal, plastic and glass and do your good deed for the environment and let it be reprocessed. With the rubbish and junk you just can’t get rid of, call the specialist domestic clearance company and they will know how to dispose of it with care and attention. They have special permits and know the correct measures to dispose of waste and almost everything. They will inform you of the details and supply receipts.

When sorting through these tasks, you could use a colour code labeling system so nothing gets mixed up. You may need to arrange other services to lend a hand such as removal, storage or cleaning. There is a lot to sort out, but hiring expert help will help reduce the stress.

For more tips, go to: Chelsea junk clearance

Fun ways for teaching the periodic table of elements

Posted on June 28, 2014 at 3:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Telling students that they have something new to memorize will most likely not thrill them. You may be lucky and have one that does not roll their eyes back into their head, but for the rest finding a creative way for your students to learn will be more enjoyable for everyone. Your choices in teaching methods will vary with the age of your group, but there are ways to reach all ages of students.


To teach the basic order of the periodic table of elements, the Elements song by Tom Lehrer can actually be amusing for your students. The video of this even includes pictures to help identify and remember each element. Younger students will have the most fun with this, but older students can enjoy it as well. Have contests on a weekly basis with age appropriate prizes.

Prizes can be given to any student that has the table memorized completely, memorized the most, or improved the most over the previous contest and, just for fun, for the student that does the best song and dance. Prizes do not have to be expensive, most younger students love a piece of candy and older students always love a reward that lets them skip a test or get extra credit. You might even hand out raffle tickets for an end of year prize drawing.


A dart board game can be created fairly inexpensively although you might want to use darts with safety tips. A similar option would be a “pin the tail” on the periodic table of elements chart. You or a student could throw a dart or pin the tail and then have another student answer a question about the element.

Questions about the elements can be determined by the grade level of your students. You can start with simply learning the names of each element and the atomic number. Students can be asked to identify the element as a metal, metalloid or non-metal and if the element is a sold, liquid or gas.

Create a blank periodic table and give each student a copy. See how many blanks they can fill in. With older students you can require more than just the correct placement and element names. Various mnemonics can also be created for both the order of elements and their names. You can have your students come up with ideas for the mnemonics themselves. A familiar one to start with is AU. “Ay you, you took my gold.” You might even try different art projects for the organization of the table.

'Chemistry As Fun And Games' has a list of ten additional games available that can be used to teach ionic bonding, electron transfer, problem solving involving moles and mass, stoichiometry and more. Duplication of the material is allowed for educational purposes.

The earlier students learn the periodic table of elements, the more likely the information will stay with them. While memorization and understanding is the outcome hoped for, you have many options for achieving this goal. For students that wonder why learning the periodic table is necessary just explain that life will be easier later on. Even students that do not plan on pursuing any science related fields can benefit from the knowledge that you have taught.

B. Leslie Baird, originally published on Helium




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