News from the Tennessee Valley Living Today


Plan and monitor home design

Figuring out how to choose and work with an architect can be a daunting prospect.

Here’s a solution: an insiders’ guide to navigating the architectural design process, from hiring the architect through the completion of the project.

The American Institute of Architects has launched an online resource to help consumers confidently sort out decisions and choices — with advice that includes examples of other people going through the process.

The Web site is

“We wanted to put this out there as a tool, a resource, to tell people how to choose an architect and then what happens in the course of a project,” Christine McEntee, AIA executive vice president and CEO, said, speaking by phone from Seattle. It’s important to hire an architect who meets your needs, she said. The Web site is designed to help with that — and forestall things that can go wrong.

The resource is designed to cover a wide range of projects, new building as well as renovating, private homes or public-use buildings, AIA spokesman Scott Frank said.

Your purse can be a bouquet

A dainty, special-occasion handbag covered with fresh flowers could be an elegant outfit’s perfect accessory — albeit a short-lived one.

Saundra Parks, a New York-based florist who runs her own business, Daily Blossom, is known for custom floral design. She also makes floral handbags: one-of-a-kind pieces using flowers to transform a functional fashion accessory into a delicate bouquet, too, for special occasions — say, weddings or Mother’s Day. The bags may bloom with hydrangeas or orchids, cactus or roses, or whatever plant life each original design mandates.

The handbags are mostly given as gifts and people who order are usually quite specific, about the recipient or the occasion, she said. “Flowers are very personal.”

Of those she’s done, “My favorite is the ‘organic’ one, using succulents. It’s all green, very clean, simple.” Parks also decorates other wearables, shoes and shawls, with flowers.

The bags last at least a day, she said, and they can be shipped outside New York City. Daily Blossom would need from 3 or 4 days to a week’s notice for the special order, using flowers that are in season. Prices start at $300.

Quite out of the ordinary

“Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things” (Reader’s Digest) should repay its space on the family’s packed bookshelves. The cover tells us it offers 2,317 ways to save money and time, using 204 everyday products.

Take just three:

  • Aspirin may revive a dead car battery. Drop a couple into the battery itself and you may be able to get one last charge to get you to the nearest service station.

  • A berry basket can serve as a small colander to wash individual servings of fruit and vegetables or drain off a child’s portion of hot macaroni shell.

  • Sugar soothes a scorched tongue: Sprinkle it on a tongue you’ve burned from a greedy bite into a too-hot pizza.

    So, which common item has the most uses? Vinegar is a clear winner for house and garden alike, said Neil Wertheimer, Reader’s Digest books editor in chief and publishing director.

    But, “To me the delight is more when you think of Alka-Seltzer,” he said. “There it is in every home, maybe going unused in a medicine cabinet. But it will clean a vase, clean the toilet or clean jewelry. And it’s even useful for fishing — fish are attracted to bubbles, so use a piece with your bait.”

    And don’t forget single socks.

    “Every family has single socks and there are so many clever uses — for cleaning blinds, for putting on ladder tops so they don’t scratch the wall,” he said.

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