Decluttering offers chance to reuse, recycle

December 13, 2011

Habitat for Humanity Store volunteer Cindy Clark (left) and merchandising supervisor Molly Jacobson work in the Bellevue showroom, moving and assembling previously owned furniture donated to sell. By Greg Farrar

The items relegated to closets, crawlspaces, garages and junk drawers need not be banished to the landfill during a home decluttering effort.

Local recycling and reuse experts said the trick is to find fresh uses for old and unnecessary items, either through donations or repairs. Items in good condition make ideal candidates for donations to thrift stores. King County and local businesses offer recycling services for many household goods and items in not-so-good shape.

King County EcoConsumer Tom Watson said options abound for unloading the items cluttering the nooks and crannies in a home.

“Always consider donation, because reuse is better than recycling,” Watson said. “Someone else can use it — family, friends,” online classified services and thrift stores.

Watson adds another R to the time-tested mantra to reduce, reuse and recycle — repair. Often, furniture and other household items in otherwise good condition can be repaired for less expense and hassle than replacement. Old furniture, for instance, is a candidate for reupholstering.

Arie Mahler, donations manager for Seattle Goodwill, said sending items to a thrift store is a solid choice to reduce clutter — and aid a local nonprofit organization in the process, too.

“We’re pretty forgiving when it comes to donations,” he said.

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Puget Sound Energy offers LED bulb rebates

December 13, 2011

Puget Sound Energy customers can receive a rebate for energy-efficient LED bulbs.

PSE customers can receive the instant rebate of up to $10 off a variety of Energy Star-qualified LED bulbs. Depending on the type of bulb, the after-rebate price to customers is between $15 and $50. Customers can purchase rebated Energy Star-qualified LED bulbs at participating retailers, including Costco, Lowe’s and The Home Depot.

Such bulbs use up to 85 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs and last up to 22 times longer.

Learn more about LED bulbs and find a participating retailer at Or call 1-800-562-1482 toll free on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Customers can complete a survey at after receiving the rebate to enter a drawing for a $100 prepaid gift card.

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Fooled by a tree

December 13, 2011

Every time my husband and I drive down East Lake Sammamish Parkway, he asks me what the beautiful trees are that line the west side. As we whiz by my usual reply is “some kind of red maple.” I didn’t ever get too excited, because we have so many red maple trees in Issaquah.

Then this fall I noticed they didn’t drop their leaves at the same time as the other red maples. In fact, on Dec. 7, they still had their beautiful, brilliant red leaves. I became very curious. Since it’s impossible to stop or even slow down on East Lake Sammamish Parkway, I thought some day I can walk down here and check out these trees.

Yesterday I was taking the off-ramp from Interstate 405 onto Northeast Eighth Street in Bellevue, and I noticed a beautiful tree, larger and older than the ones on East Lake Sammamish Parkway, but the same variety. It, too, was in full, brilliant foliage with just a few leaves on the pavement. With a fear of being run over or arrested, I jumped out of my car and grabbed a leaf. It was not a maple.

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Winterizing can save big bucks even in mild winters

November 8, 2011

Checking your furnace can save on winter heating costs. Thinkstock

Even in this area, where winters are fairly mild compared to some other spots in the country, there are numerous steps you can take to help protect your home against winter cold and reduce your energy bills.

“As cooler temperatures are upon us, preparing homes to save on heating expenses and conducting annual safety checks are important for our customers’ pocketbooks, safety and the reliability of their heating equipment,” said Agnes Barard, director of customer care for Puget Sound Energy.

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Picking up apples is a good thing

November 8, 2011

Old town Issaquah is about as good as it gets on a sunny day.

On such a day last month, I had the privilege of being a docent at the old Gilman Town Hall Museum on Andrews Street. In the back of the museum on the neighbor’s property is a wonderful, old apple tree, and while nobody had a good crop of apples around here this year, this tree was loaded. They are beautiful, deep-red apples with a subtle, winey taste. You can bet I was thrilled when the owner offered a basket of them to me.

I asked him what kind they were and he didn’t know. He said they were very old; the tree had been there since the early days. These apples looked like McIntosh to me, like the ones on my tree at home. I checked it out, and I’m convinced that they are. McIntosh is one of the older varieties, developed in Eastern Canada at the beginning of the 19th century. They are very cold hardy, tough trees. I have to say that mine in glacial till on the plateau is not nearly as happy as this one in the good, deep soil of the Issaquah Valley.

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South Cove couple make tired kitchen a keeper

October 18, 2011

Mark and Leslie Gilbert, with son Trey, 4, now enjoy more family time in their ‘great room,’ created by opening up their kitchen space into the little-used living room. By Greg Farrar

With a growing family, Mark and Leslie Gilbert had a tough decision facing them and their two boys (ages 7 and 4) — abandon the home they love for a larger one or upgrade their current house?

“For me, it came down to the question, ‘Do we upgrade within the neighborhood to something with more square feet?” Mark said. “Or do we upgrade our home and reuse the square feet in a different way?”

Leslie looked at the problem from a different angle — what could they do if they stayed?

“We had a lot of floor space that was unused,” she said, adding she thought they could do something better with the flow through the kitchen to the unused formal dining and living room.

After weighing all of their options, they chose to stay in their home and upgrade the kitchen.

The renovation entailed knocking out an L-shaped wall and creating a “great room.” It would feature a central island in the opened-up kitchen that would face a more defined living and dining space, rather than separate rooms.

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Halloween pumpkin’s beauty is in the eye of the beholder

October 18, 2011

Picking perfect jack-o’-lantern comes down to preference

Glenn Dutro hoists a pumpkin on his shoulder in the u-pick pumpkin patch at the Trinity Tree Farm in Issaquah. Photo By Greg Farrar

About 50,000 pounds of pumpkins dot the landscape as far as the eye can see.

There are oblong gourds with ample, flat surface areas for carving.

Others are rotund, boasting a sturdy stem and a thick, perfect shell.

Glenn Dutro, who has offered families a chance to pick their own pumpkins for the past three years at the u-pick pumpkin patch at the Trinity Tree Farm near Issaquah, wants something else out of his Halloween pumpkin entirely.

“The perfect pumpkin is all just a matter of personal preference,” he said. “Most people want a big, bright, beautiful thing. I want one with scars on it. I want it messed up and nasty.”

Ken Allison, a produce manager for PCC Natural Markets, said the perfect pumpkin is all in the eye of the beholder.

“It’s all in a person’s aesthetic judgment,” he said. “Typically, what I look for to carve or to sell is the stem to be attached still. That way you know it’s not knocked or kicked around. You want the pumpkin to feel firm so it won’t rot and collapse right away.”

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Fall chemistry turns leaves from green to gold

October 18, 2011

The mercury dips, rain starts to fall more often and leaves metamorphose from a demure green to riotous colors.

Why? The change of color each autumn involves a complex chemical process as trees prepare for the coming winter.

Throughout the growing season, chlorophyll is produced constantly. Then, as autumn starts and nights turn longer, chlorophyll production slows and then stops. The process allows the other colors in a leaf’s palette —brilliant golds, oranges and reds — to appear.

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Small changes can make big differences

October 18, 2011

Interior designer Cindy Dornon (left) and Eve Ribary show off the interior of Urbanity, an Issaquah home décor store. Joining them center stage is Nike. By Tom Corrigan

A can or two of paint.

The above might be just the answer if you are looking to quickly and inexpensively refresh or renew a room or rooms.

“If you are willing to use some elbow grease, painting is one thing you can do,” said Cindy Dornon, an interior designer with Urbanity, an Issaquah home décor store.

At Issaquah’s Lowe’s, Assistant Store Manager Daniel Pena said essentially the same.

“The quickest thing to do in the area of home improvement is to paint,” Pena said.

Both also talked about not having to do an entire room, but instead applying some color to one wall or entranceway, creating an accent wall.

According to Pena, the current color trend is toward grays.

“But you can never go wrong with bright colors,” he added.

For example, red is perfect for sharpening up a room and it’s a color lots of people think of when they picture an accent wall.

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State Department of Ecology is updating weed permits

October 18, 2011

The state Department of Ecology is in the process of updating a permit needed for the use of herbicides used to control weeds around or near water.

The permit requires that specific actions be taken to protect lakes, rivers, wetlands and marine waters when herbicides are used near those waterways. The permits help state and local governments manage noxious plants, such as spartina and loosestrife.

A different permit, the Aquatic Plant Algae Management Permit, covers the treatment of weeds actually within water.

Comments will be accepted until 5 p.m. Nov. 18.

Email comments to Comments must contain the sender’s name and postal address. Send written comments to Kathy Harnel, Washington State Department of Ecology, P.O. Box 47600, Olympia WA, 98504. Permits are online at

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