the toolbox

Soap making book

Soap becomes art in Anne-Marie Faiola's book "Soap Crafting" (Storey Publishing, $19.95).

Faiola teaches the basics of making cold-process soap using lye, water and oil, then offers instructions for making all sorts of colorful and fanciful soaps. There are stark black-and-white soaps, stained-glass soaps, soaps with decorative swirls and even soaps that look like cupcakes.

Oils, colorants and fragrances are discussed, as well as additives such as herbs, oatmeal and coffee grounds.

Hardwood over concrete

Q: I live in a condo with a concrete floor base. A neighbor told me her contractor said she had to use engineered hardwood floors instead of real hardwood because of the base. I currently have an area with hardwood, but want to replace all the flooring with hardwood. Can I use hardwoods, or was my neighbor's contractor right? If I can use hardwood, what would be the preferred installation method?

A: Unless the condo is below ground level, a contractor should be able to install solid hardwood flooring over concrete, as long as the concrete is dry and the contractor uses the right subfloor and vapor retarder, according to the Hardwood Manufacturers Association.

Moisture can be a problem with floors that are below grade, however. In that situation, an engineered wood floor is a better choice.

The association offers guidance on installing hardwood floors over concrete on its American Hardwood Information Center website:

Akron beacon journal

Reusable towels

If you enjoy greening your home, you'll love Bambooee reusable towels. The roll of perforated towels are made of earth-friendly bamboo and hang from any standard paper towel dispenser. They even look like a roll of paper towels.

The towels can be washed and reused 25 times or more. The reusable towels held up pretty well even through heavy cleaning.

They're $12.99 a roll or $20.99 for two rolls at and at retailers nationwide.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch