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I've lived in older homes most of my life, so I've learned a few easy and affordable renovation tricks. For example, if you'd like a new floor but your wallet is telling you that ain't gonna happen, think about painting for a different look!

One of my friends had an old, faded vinyl floor in her kitchen. Here's a "before" photo. Besides being marred by dark wear spots, the floor color made the whole room dark. She's on a tight budget and still hasn't

Looking for a cool summer treat? Here's the Chocolate Fix recipe for the ever-popular Triple Chocolate Malt! My blender runs overtime on hot days.

Triple Chocolate Malt

2 1/2 cups good quality chocolate ice cream - my favorite brand is regional, so I won't name a company

1/2 cup malted milk powder - Horlick brand is the best but hard to find

1/2 to 1 cup whole milk - Organic milk is preferred

2 tablespoons chocolate syrup - I make my own to avoid high-fructose corn syrup - easy, fun and stores well in the fridge

Add milk to your blender first, as

This is so easy to make, it’s almost like instant!  Better yet, there are no preservatives or high fructose stuff to worry about.  The addition of one of my favorite Italian cheese makes this a protein rich dessert – meaning you really can eat dessert first and stay healthy!

6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (1cup of chips)  (if I can’t find top quality chips, I break up a bar of the good stuff, instead)

15 or 16 ounces of ricotta cheese

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup heavy cream

2 tbsp confectioner’s sugar

Melt chocolate in a small pan on

Squeaky hinges are a great atmospheric noise to have in your house if you’re hosting a Halloween party, otherwise, not so much fun. 

Hinges squeak usually because they are under extra pressure, or because they are rusty.  Cleaning and lubricating may do the trick, but if your hinges have lots of rust, it’s easier to replace them.  I know, bummer, right?

First, try oiling with the pin in place.  Spread a cloth on the floor and squirt some penetrating oil into the moving parts.  Open and close the door to work in the lubricant.  WD40 is great because the main ingredient is fish

I have a number of friends who must avoid gluten, so when I ran across this recipe, I made it for them.  Rave reviews!  It takes a little work, but is oh, so worth the trouble to see smiling faces and clean plates.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

12 oz. Semisweet chocolate, chopped – use a good brand for best results

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter – do not even consider margarine or butter substitutes

4 large eggs – large not extra large or jumbo

1/2 cup sugar – if you use turbinado, cut back the amount a tad

Instructions:

Nails do the job of holding together whatever it is you want to join.  Except for bodies, of course, but we won’t go there right now.  Grin.

Getting back to the subject, while nails are good, screws are better.  Using screws may take a little longer, or require a little more elbow grease, but screws hold better, are easier to remove and look neater.

Screws usually come with either a slotted head or the Philips head.  Look at the top of the screw to determine the type of screwdriver you will need for your job.  A slotted head has just one indentation running straight across

Now that school’s back in session, you may want to reward yourself with some easy to make, luscious brownies.  Or keep the recipe handy for those times your kids come in yelling: “I need a treat for tomorrow, remember, Mom?”  And you know they hadn't told you before.

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Brownies

6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature

1/2 cup old-fashioned-style or fresh ground peanut butter

1  1/4 cups golden brown sugar (packed)

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3/4 cup all purpose

Do you have a job that requires nails and you’re not sure what type to buy?  I know, just take a look in the hardware section of your local hardware store sometime.  The types and sizes available can be overwhelming.  Although, if you idle in front of the bins long enough, that cute guy working on Aisle Six may just walk over to see if you need help.

But, if there is no cute guy on Aisle Six, or if you’re in a hurry, here are some hints on buying the right nail for your job.

Common or box nails are used for framing jobs.  Good for putting up a new wall, not so hot for putting

Working for Jim at Get Smart Builders here in Granville Falls has been a real education.  Sure, I run the Auto-CAD not a nail gun, but I’ve seen plenty.  And then I have my own 1920’s bungalow for self-education.  So I’ll pass along a few common sense hints every month or so to help you out. 

Can’t find studs in your house?  Neither could I until I gave CPR to a dead man and met Cop Sexy.  Oh, wait, he’s reading as I type this.  Just pretend you didn’t see this last part.  But it’s true.

Okay, so finding studs to make sure you’re hanging heavy stuff safely is easier in a new

Mona, proprietor of the Chocolate Fix in downtown Granville Falls, NC, creates a luscious hot chocolate.  She reminded me that chocolate, like tea and coffee, can be brewed then served over ice for a refreshing summer drink.  Yum!

Give Mona’s recipe a try.  I’m telling you, it’s heaven on earth! 

Chocolate Fix Hot Chocolate

In the top of a double boiler, melt two ounces of good Belgian chocolate – you choose the type – with 1/2 cup of boiling water. 

Scald 3 1/2 cups of half and half (or milk, but Mona uses cream) with one vanilla bean.  If you don’t have the

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