time to upgrade: cool kitchen timers

timerselection

momatimer
I’ve never invested in any sort of kitchen timer and, now that I’m doing heavier cooking than box macaroni and cheese, it’s about time I start using one that isn’t attached to the microwave. I’ve been Googling like crazy and have found several very worthy kitchen timer upgrades. For the traditionalist, there’s Crate & Barrel’s retro 60-minute timer, $10.95. For the multi-tasker, Martha Stewart has a fits-in-the-palm-of-your-hand option that can be clipped onto your apron as you dash around the kitchen in a culinary fervor ($13). The Black Cat Timer, $30 from Sur la Table, is equal parts practical and cute. But my personal favorite is Jozeph Forakis’ design, $20 at the MoMA Store. Chefs can pull the ring and set the time for up to an hour. The tape descends as the minutes tick by and you’re left with a chic little silver box when time’s up. — Katie D.

Related: LEGO timer

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From our partners

easy flooring and lighting for outdoor “rooms”

terramats

Balcony season will be here before you know it (promise). You don’t have to settle for cold concrete floors and overhead porch lights! It’s easy and relatively inexpensive to add warmth, charm and style to your small outdoor space and turn it into more of an outdoor room.

Start with the floors! Try these simple suggestions:

· Tile “rug”: Interlocking tiles can look like wood or ceramic, and they interlock or stay put with a light adhesive. An added plus is that they can be made out of recycled materials.
· Weather-resistant rugs: Made of polypropylene, they can look like more expensive oriental or floral area rugs, and they come in many sizes and colors, like these Terra Mats spotted at ThisNext.
· Reed mats: For a more organic feel, anchor these lightweight mats with carpet tape. These should be used in more protected areas, but they’re also available in woven plastic for those preferring the organic look but need a more durable material.

polkalantern
Lighting is an often overlooked feature, both inside the house and out, but it’s one of the quickest ways to add ambience and warmth to any space. If you have a balcony or patio, one of these ideas could do the trick for you:

· Chiminea: Perfect for small spaces. If you aren’t allowed to have open flame on your balcony, add a string of white Christmas lights for a beautiful glow.
· Lanterns & Lamps: Hang colorful and inexpensive Chinese lanterns from your ceiling, or add a lamp on a small table. Floor lamps also work well in tight corners. Check out this DIY for the great-looking dotted tissue paper lantern at The Swell Life. For plug-in lighting, look for an IP rating of x3-x5 for maximum safety.
· Solar Lights: Place inexpensive solar lights in your planters for added subtle lighting.

Paying attention to a variety of lighting sources can really add a finishing touch to your outdoor decorating and create coziness to your seating area. And trust me, it’s easy, quick and inexpensive! — Jenny P.

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this weekend: great backyard bird count 2010

sarahswoodpecker

Today is the kickoff of the annual Great Backyard Bird Count. If you haven’t participated yet, it’s pretty painless. Download the checklist, then simply watch and count the birds you see for a 15-minute span on at least one of the four days of the count, February 12-15. Last year, more than 94,000 people turned in checklists, giving reseplaceers a better idea of the health of bird populations. (Happy to know I am not alone in my bird love geekdom.) If you’re not sure of the identity of a bird, there are two iPhone/iTouch apps for birding and just enough time left to run to your bookstore and pick up a Peterson’s. Of course, the great thing about the GBBC is that you really don’t need anything other than time and a good view. The GBBC site has a link to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds page. — Sarah L.

Related:
Woodpeckers knocking on your house? There’s hope

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From our partners