Home Made Simple, the brand, is a newsletter, a TV show and a website. So it shouldn't be a surprise that its debut as a book, "Home Made Simple: Fresh Ideas to Make Your Own" (Griffin, $27.99), covers a lot of ground. With tips on how to organize, cook, decorate, entertain and garden, the somewhat overreaching guide covers topics in detail (the recipe for cleaning the front of your fireplace) and in general (changing the knobs on your cabinets to update your decor). While it offers plenty of utility on some subjects, it falls short in others. All in all, it's a useful primer for someone who's just setting up housekeeping and needs basic guidance on everything from mixing colors in decor to throwing a cocktail party.



Inflatable sports stadiums and holiday plans weren't the only casualties of our massive snowstorm. Some homeowners were left in the cold when snow drifts blocked furnace vents, causing some furnaces to go out.

Most high-efficiency furnaces have plastic pipes that stick out of the house, usually near the foundation. One is an intake pipe that provides the air necessary for the combustion process. The other is an exhaust pipe that vents combustion byproducts. If either or both of them get buried in snow, most furnaces will automatically shut off. However, some furnaces don't have automatic shut-off features, which is worse, because the furnace could keep running -- even if the vents are plugged -- causing dangerous combustion gases to back up into the house. The same thing could happen if vents for water heaters become plugged.

Jake Barfield, sales and operations manager for Snelling Heating, Cooling and Electrical in St. Paul, recommends keeping your home safe by:

• Clearing a 3-foot area around furnace vents. Check the area regularly to make sure that strong winds haven't caused snow to drift and cover the vents.

• Make sure that your carbon monoxide detectors are working.

• Clear any snow from the top of your gas meter, which has a regulator vent that's vulnerable to plugging. According to Xcel Energy, if the regulator vent gets plugged, it can interrupt the flow of natural gas.