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Get ready for relatives

Our monthly advice on getting ready for the holidays continues with this Christmas in July tip: Now's the time to get started on those redecorating or remodeling projects you want to complete before the out-of-town relatives arrive in November or December. Order the new sofa or dining table or window treatments; paint, paper or install new lighting. Continue to pick up gifts as you see the perfect item, maybe on your vacation. It's also a good time to take the snapshot of the kids for your Christmas cards. If you're thinking about a formal family studio portrait, schedule it now.

The security of home

It's high vacation season. Before you leave, run down this checklist from NAPCO Security Systems: Lock your doors (a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how often burglars walk in an unlocked entrance). Trim hedges and shrubbery to eliminate hiding places. Don't keep large amounts of cash or valuables in your home, and keep cameras, silver and electronic devices locked up. Use your security system! Other tips: Put lights on timers so it looks as if someone's home. Have the post office hold your mail, call the Times to have us hold your newspapers, and have a neighbor pick up fliers, packages and other items left on the doorstep.

A flood of expense

The July/August edition of This Old House magazine carries page after page of photos of luxury showers. It also carries this splash of cold water from plumbing expert Richard Trethewey. Those multijetted showers pump out 10 to 30 gallons of water per minute. (By contrast, a low-flow showerhead uses just 2.5 gallons per minute.) So you'll need a hot water heater with a capacity of 80 to 120 gallons (the standard size is 40 gallons) if you plan to take long showers (or if there's going to be hot water left for anyone else when you're done). And you may have to replace the standard {-inch supply lines with }-inch or 1-inch pipe to handle the volume and pressure. You also may need to increase drain capacity.

You can take it with you

We can think of lots of uses this holiday weekend for the Mini Flex'N Carry from Rubbermaid. Corral condiments, napkins and flatware to carry out to the table on the lanai. Pack up the Hot Wheels, action figures, juice boxes and crayons for the little guys in the back seat when you hit the road. Organize the sunscreen, lip balm and cosmetics you need at poolside or at the beach. It's 12 inches long by almost 8 inches tall. The flexible handles fold together for easy one-handed carrying. After the weekend, use it as a caddy for shower needs, cleaning supplies, garden gear, tools and more. It comes in blueberry frost or steel; suggested retail is $1.99-$2.49 at Wal-Mart and Target stores.

_ Compiled by Homes editor JUDY STARK

Up next:HOUSE VALUES

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