Living

Umbra on heat and pipes

Dear Umbra, In your January 6th video advice, you warn people not to set their heat below 55 degrees for fear of frozen pipes. My question is, “On what do you base the 55 degree number?” … I “core heat” with a stove in the fireplace. It heats the core of my house (kitchen and family room) nicely. I let the other parts of my house go to 40-45 degrees when they’re not being used. I’m sure I could safely let them go cooler without danger … Do you have any facts to back up your 55-degree recommendation regarding frozen …

From Chia to Chard

Chia leader The grass is always greener on the other side of the Atlantic. And speaking of decorative planters: It’s O-O-O-bama! She’s a poet and didn’t gnaw it Two buses diverged on a road, and I / I bit the driver of the one less traveled by / And that has made all the difference. A cow by any udder name Cows with names make more milk, says a new study. And we’re pretty sure 982 009 103 981 038doesn’t count as a name. Garbage trick Guess it’s true what they say: One person’s trash truckis another’s treasure. There go …

Umbra on organic fabric

Dear Umbra, First let me say that I just discovered your column and have been happily spending most of my time reading your archives. Excellent stuff! I am a total fabric geek; I love to make my own clothes and other fabric-y items, but I worry about synthetics and chemical dyes and chemically grown fibers. I have spent countless hours on the web looking for a company that sells organic fabric by the yard suitable for wearing. Help, please! Sara Olympia, Wash. Dearest Sara, Thank you. I am not a fabric geek, so I’ve run into a little puzzle answering …

Thar She Blows

A nosy review of recycled facial tissue

As any sensitive nose knows, the quest for facial tissues that are gentle on you -- and the earth -- is nothing to sneeze at. Is it possible to find a strong, soft schnoz-swiper that doesn't strip the forest?

Umbra on smoke detectors

Dear Umbra, How should we safely dispose of old smoke detectors? Don’t they have small amounts of radioactive material in them? We tried bringing them to our town’s recycling center, which refused them, and the board of health would not take them at the hazmat pick-up day. It seems really wrong to toss them in the trash (our trash is incinerated). If you have any suggestions, I would appreciate it. Laura S. Natick, Mass. Dearest Laura, Thank you for this letter, for I have learned much from looking into the answer. E.g.: People! Laura is right. Smoke detectors contain radioactive …

From Foxx to Foxy

Zircon man Now, we ain’t sayin’ Jamie Foxx is a gold digga. But he ain’t messin’ wit no blood diamonds, neither. Get down boy, go ‘head get down. Photo: Monica Morgan/WireImage Is that a green thumb, or are you just happy to see me? Attention men: We cannot stress the impotence, er, importance of this message enough. Grab a hoe and spend a little time gettin’ dirty every week; after sowing your seed, everything’ll come up rosy. Bob and weave Ohhh … Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? SpongeBob SquarePants! Adorning organic cotton T-shirts is he! SpongeBob SquarePants! …

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