— Photo by Frank Palmeri

Heritage on display along with pride: Frank Palmeri showcases his grandfather’s saw in his family room.

A long time ago, I went to a tool show at the New Scotland Armory. At the time, I didn't have much of a workshop but I always liked tools so I went to just look around.

At one table, there was an English-made backsaw for sale. This is a short, stiff hand saw used for fine cuts in wood. The top brace of the saw was plated gold, and the handle was exquisitely made of hardwood with matching gold rivets.

When I picked it up and held it, I gasped at first — this tool fit my hand like a fine glove, like it was made just for my hand. Before or since, I've never picked up any tool with that kind of feeling, a feel that, with this tool, which was basically an extension of my hand, I could work with total confidence and precision.

The saw cost, if I remember correctly, $45, which was a lot back then. I didn't buy it and I've been kicking myself ever since. A tool of that quality will easily last a lifetime and then some.

What brought this to mind was something that happened with my father the other day. He'd been cleaning out the trunk of his car, which was still full of stuff from a recent move.

One of the things he pulled out and gave to me was his father's wood saw. This saw is strong and stout, maybe 100 years old. There's a little rust on it but overall it's in fine condition.

When I first gripped it, I got the same feeling like I did when I picked up that backsaw at the tool show. It didn't fit my hand perfectly like that saw, "the one that got away," but it was close. It's clearly a quality product built for serious work by a craftsman. Amazing that this classic tool was just bumping around in my father's trunk for the last few years.

My grandfather was retired by the time I knew him, so I never saw him do any real work, but he would always putter around the apartment where he lived. The interesting thing about him was he'd fix everything — including his false teeth — with a file.

Sounds odd, I know, but talk to any craftsman and he will tell you a good man (or woman) with a file can fix anything. To think I now have his saw in my own personal possession is quite an honor.

When my parents moved, I did pick up a few of his other tools, most notably a really nice Stanley hand drill, but this saw is much larger and makes a wonderful visual impression. It still looks like it's ready for anything.

My lovely wife and I used to go to a lot of garage and estate sales where we'd often find vintage tools like this, but we had to stop going. The problem , for every nice thing we'd find we'd bring home 10 other things that we really didn't need, which leads to clutter.

There are reality TV shows about out-of-control hoarders that get good ratings. We're not that bad but I've decided that, until we clear most of it out, we're not "sale-ing" (hitting the yard and estate sales) anymore.

I have a buddy, a tool guy like me, who made a rule for his family — nothing goes in unless something goes out. So, if you want a new TV, the old one goes. Same with furniture, housewares, etc.

I wish I'd done that years ago, believe me. You don't own stuff; it owns you. Everything needs to be stored properly, cared for, dusted, and maintained. The less you own, the less work you have to do.

I like motorcycles but I only want to own a few that I can really ride. I know several guys who have around 50 bikes, and I know one guy with over 100. No way I would ever want to own that many bikes, unless I were opening a museum.

There is a TV show called New Yankee Workshop where master carpenter Norm Abram builds various projects. He does a great job but the thing is, he has a large, heated shop and every power tool ever made.

For regular guys like me, it loses a lot of relevance because of this. I'd like to see him build a cabinet with just two sawhorses, simple hand-held power tools, and old-style hand tools like my grandfather's saw and drill, in his driveway, garage, or basement, the way most normal guys work.

He virtually never uses any hand tools, yet I still do many times. For example, when I want really fine control, or to clean up the end of the cut where the curved circular saw blade can't reach, I still use a handsaw. Works great.

As well built as it is, I couldn't see using my grandfather's handsaw for any real work. Instead, I removed the rust and polished it up real nice.

Here's a tip: To remove rust from an old tool, go to the supermarket or health-food store and pick up some powdered citric acid — about one cup to a gallon of warm water will do. Let the tool soak in there for a few days and the rust will magically disappear.

After the saw was cleaned up, I made a display case for it and it now sits proudly on the wall in my family room. I thought about mounting it behind glass but instead I left it open, attached by magnets. This way, if I ever have an intruder I can quickly pull the saw out to defend myself. I'll bet Grandpa would have loved that!

Displaying Grandpa's saw like this just seems appropriate for such a well-preserved relic from a prior generation. Truly they don't make 'em like this anymore.

I have other hand-saws that are not as nice; I'll use them to do real work. For a special tool with sentimental value like this, celebrating its heritage in this way is the right thing to do. There's nothing like passing down an old tool from generation to generation.

Isn't it funny how things work out: I let the one saw I really liked get away, but the one I really needed found me anyway.


Not long ago, we had a playoff of horrible things, with automated telephone answering systems beating out graffiti by a hair. With vestiges of the holidays and good cheer still hanging in the crisp, cold air, it's time to be positive and look at the bright side for a change.

In that spirit, let's have a playoff of good things. Same rules as before, two divisions of 12 going head to head. Again, we have no idea how this will turn out, so lets get started.

Good Things Division I:

1. Mangos

2. Sex

3. Art

4. Music

5. Vacation

6. Railroads

7. The bveach

8. Books

9. Electronics

10. Solitude

11. Motorcycle riding

12. Walking

1 vs. 12, Mangos vs. Walking — Mangos are the most popular fruit in the world. There's nothing like a fresh one that's not too ripe and not too hard. Makes you glad to be alive. Walking is the most basic exercise, a fundamental human activity that we take for granted but is so key to our personal freedom and ability to do things. As good as mangos are, walking wins.

2 vs. 11, Sex vs. Motorcycle riding — When sex is good, it's very good, and when sex is bad, it's still pretty good. The problem with sex is that you can't get away from it. Even when you're buying a bag of onions at the market, there are the women’s magazine covers shoving it in your face. Motorcycle riding is wonderful on so many levels I can't imagine my life without it. Maybe when I was younger I would have gone the other way, but too much of anything is never good, so motorcycle riding wins (that's one good thing about getting older — I used to think of sex all the time; now I can sometimes go almost 10 minutes).

3 vs. 10, Art vs. Solitude — I've never studied art but I do get great satisfaction from classic Norman Rockwell paintings and wild Salvador Dali paitnings, along with our local masters like thought-provoking Thom Breitenbach and moody Dave Arsenault. I also enjoy contemporary art, classics, sculpture, etc. — just set me loose in a museum and I'm happy. Solitude is hard to come by, but it's a delicious joy when you can find it. I don't mean like in prison; rather, just time to contemplate in total peace and quite so you can reflect and recharge. Art wins but solitude rocks.

4 vs. 9, Music vs. Electronics — Music in all forms is the true common language among humans. If you , you can have it 24/7 no problem, just amazing. Electronics is what makes all our technology possible, from space travel to smart phones. I'll give music the win here only because I can't imagine living without it.

5 vs. 8, Vacations vs. Books — Vacations are a good thing, but, if you're lucky and love your job, they might not be so important to you. Books are the best way I know to share knowledge between eras, races, genders, etc. Books win this one easily.

6 vs. 7, Railroads vs. The Beach — Railroads are the single most efficient way to move mass amounts of goods; nothing else even comes close. The beach is the quintessential summer fun and relaxation destination (don't forget the sunscreen). As much as I love the beach, I'm giving railroads the win because they are so useful.

So now we have:

Walking vs. Railroads — Walking wins here because it's so basic to the human condition, but that doesn't take away from the utility of railroads in any way.

Motorcycle Riding vs. Books — As much as I love motorcycle riding, I can't curl up in bed with my bike, so books win.

Art vs. Music — Quality art can move me, no doubt about it, but I can't slow dance with a painting or a statue, so music wins.

Which brings us to:

Walking vs. Music — This is really tough because I love both so much, but they make some really nice high-end wheelchairs, so music takes it.

And now for the Division I final:

Music vs. Books — Does it get any tougher than this? There's actually an opera called Capriccio by Richard Strauss where the heroine has to choose between two suitors, one who uses music to woo her and one who uses poetry (I won't tell you how it turns out; go see it for yourself). Almost an impossible choice, but I have to choose books since the written word is what great societies are built on. 

Division II

Good Things Division II:

1. Football

2. Watches

3. Tools

4. Friendship

5. Libations

6. Cigars

7. Marriage

8. Disc Jockeys

9. Cursive Writing

10. Democracy

11. Water

12. Crocs

1 vs. 12, Football vs. Crocs — I've been a football fan since I can remember and I still love the game, though all the concussions as players get bigger and faster concern me greatly. Crocs are those ugly rubber shoes that are so comfortable you can't believe it. I'm giving Crocs the win, as my feet are that important.

2 vs. 11, Watches vs. Water — A good watch is a thing of beauty. Now that everyone carries computers, I mean smartphones, around all the time you see fewer watches, but they are still a symbol of status and class. What can you say about water, you literally can't live without it, so let's give water the win.

3 vs. 10,  Tools vs. Democracy — A good tool fits your hand like a glove and lasts a long time. That's why good used tools command such high prices. Democracy is good in principle but has its problems: people can be bought off and there are many other kinds of corruption. Still it's the best system out there. Tough call, but I'm giving tools the win because with good tools a good man or woman can build anything.

4 vs. 9, Friendship vs. Cursive Writing — I've had people tell me they have no friends and I honestly don't know how they survive. Good friends make life worth living. My cursive writing has deteriorated over time. The only way I can make it legible now is to write excruciatingly slowly. At least I still know how to do it — there are now school systems where it's no longer being taught at all. This is a mistake; everyone should learn cursive writing. I'm giving friendship the win because it's so important for personal happiness and well being, but cursive writing is in no way a loser here.

5 vs. 8, Libations vs. DJs — I've always been able to enjoy libations in all their forms without having too many problems, simply because I hate hangovers so much. Still, I realize that alcohol ruins people’s lives, which is a real tragedy. I've always loved disc jockeys as well. How can you not? On a long car ride , the DJ keeps you company, which is a very intimate and special thing. I'm giving DJs the win because I can always live without libations.

6 vs. 7, Cigars vs. Marriage — Smoking is another thing that, done to excess, ruins lives and even kills, but an occasional cigar is something to be savored. Marriage is the cornerstone of our society. I know the only reason I go to the doctor at all is because my wife makes me. I'll give marriage the win, but, if the weather were warm, I'd be outside with a fine cigar for sure.

So now we have:

Crocs vs. Marriage — You might think it makes no sense to compare two things that are so different, but both keep you comfortable and will wear out over time unless you take care of them. I'll give marriage the win, but I've seen new fur-lined Crocs; if these are good year-round this answer could change. Are warm and comfortable feet that important? Heck yes.

Water vs. DJs — Water is truly all you need to drink. We take it for granted but in many parts of the world it's a scarce resource. DJs are falling out of favor as other forms of entertainment take over, but a good DJ, whether on radio or at a club or wedding, is still a great thing. I'll give water the win because it's so fundamental to our existence but not because I don't love DJs, believe me.

Tools vs. Friendship — Tools make our modern world possible, but what kind of a world would it be without friendship? Friendship wins.

Which brings us to:

Marriage vs. Friendship — Two sides of the same coin, don't you think? Let's give friendship the win, since (hopefully) you have to be friends before you get married anyway.

And now for the Division II finals:

Water vs. Friendship — You do need water to live, but in medieval , before they had sanitation, you were actually better off drinking beer, since the brewing process killed off the harmful bacteria. I wouldn't want to drink beer all the time — it would taste terrible on bran cereal — but it would be tough to live without friends, so I'll give friendship the win.


That brings us to the finals:

Books vs. Friendship — Books have been an important part of my life since I can remember. When I lived in Brooklyn, I was lucky enough to have a library within walking distance. I can remember making many trips loaded down with all the books I could carry. Books truly are "a moveable feast" as the great Ernest Hemingway would say. A good book needs no batteries or wi-fi connection, yet it can transport you to another time, another point of view, another reality. Such a deal. I can't imagine a life without books.

When I was small, I had a best friend. Then we moved and I never saw him again. That's the problem with even your best friends — sometimes you or they move, have a falling out, or even die. Friends come and go like butterflies looking for nectar. We savor the good times and hope they never end, but time, the tireless taskmaster of us all, just marches on and on.

I'm giving the win for Best Good Thing to Books, because they're always available and always wonderful. Amazing that in these modern times something so low-tech like books can still be the best thing, but I'm not surprised. Support your local library and read (or write) a good book. You'll be glad you did.


— Photo by Frank L. Palmeri

Drawbridge down: Frank Palmeri has built a storage space all his own, proving a man’s home is his castle.

A Murphy bed is a bed that conveniently folds up into a wall when not in use. These space-saving beds were put to great comedic effect in plenty of old-time movies and TV shows like the Three Stooges and such; there's just something inherently funny about being in bed one minute and disappearing up into a wall the next, with arms and legs flailing and sheets flying.

You don't see too many Murphy beds these days (though kits are available if you want to build your own) but, strangely, I just had something very much like a Murphy bed appear out of nowhere in my house. Yes, I really did.

My four-bedroom house is plenty big, but I have no place in it that I can truly call my own — a place where, if I put something down, I can be absolutely 100-percent positive it won't be disturbed. That place for me just does not exist.

One time, I had a motorcycle gas tank painted beautifully. I received it from the painter in October and needed to store it until the spring. I put it in the furthest corner of the attic, figuring it would be safe from harm.

When I retrieved it in the spring, there was a dent in it. No kidding. Of course, no one knows how it got there. I really, really need a place in my house to call my own.

We have a stairway that goes from the garage to the basement — it cost extra when we had the house built but I use it all the time so it was well worth it. The stairway had a lot of height to it but the space was unreachable because it was, after all, just a stairway.

Over the years, I'd always wished there were a way to access this wasted space. It got to a point where I would sit at the top of the stairs and just stare, pardon the pun, at all the unreachable space, hoping for inspiration. (Getting a freshly painted gas tank bashed in will do this to you.)

Then one day it hit me: I could build a folding ramp to access the dead space over the stairs.

Now I was a man with a plan. I had to think how to build the ramp in such a way that it would be strong, safe, and easy to use. Of course, there's dreaming about it and then there's paying for it.

I don't know if you've been to a lumberyard lately, but wood is not cheap. The plywood, studs, lag bolts, and heavy-duty hinges I bought really added up. Then I purchased adjustable shelf hardware and some other hooks and things to help organize the space.

Finally, I bought a heavy-duty pulley. The idea was to take an old barbell plate and attach it with rope to a pulley to act as a counterweight. Setting it up this way would make it much easier to raise and lower the heavy ramp.

I'm not trained in carpentry or anything like that — I never even had any kind of a shop class in the parochial/college prep schools I attended — but I read a lot and try to learn from my mistakes. Working slowly and carefully, I soon had a working ramp installed.

The shelves I built in front of it are so strong I can store really heavy things like motorcycle engines (I have a few waiting to be rebuilt). To prove how strong the ramp was, I called my wife out and had her watch me jump up and down on it.

Since I've put on an extra 10 or 15 pounds over the holidays (at least), this may not have been the smartest thing to do (though I know I've done much stupider things in front of my wife). Still, the ramp held and it's working just fine.

Of course, now that I had a real functioning stairway storage area, I had to freshen up the dusty and cobwebby unpainted stairwell itself. So this meant more money for primer, paint, wood filler, and all the labor to paint everything in the stairwell — ceiling, walls, stairs, and handrail.

I know a lot of us get quotes from contractors from time to time for various remodeling and home-improvement jobs. Invariably these quotes are rather high, but the thing is, this kind of work just takes so much time and, as we all know, time is money.

I mean, even if you get on a roll and really hack away at it, there are waiting times for glue to harden and for paint to dry that you just can't avoid. Plus there's a limit to how long you can work while still working safely. One should never play around with tools if one is too tired to work safely; it's as simple as that.

So now the job is done and I'm showing it off to my brilliant RPI mechanical engineer future son-in-law. I demonstrate how the pulley works by moving the ramp up and down, etc.

He looks at me and says with a straight face: "You know what you just did? You built yourself a Murphy bed!"

Well, go figure, in a way I really did. All I'd have to do is put a pillow on one end of the ramp and I could just sack right out.

Of course, if I do that, I'll have to add those safety rails you put on kids’ beds so the little ones don't roll off; taking a header off the ramp and down into the basement would be quite the story on the local TV news but not much fun at all.

Actually, all I need to do is add a flat-screen TV over the door and I'd have a mini Man Cave, or, in my case, a Man Stairwell. Hot-diggety-dog!

All kidding aside, with a full basement, a walk-up attic, and a shed, there is no reason I should have needed any more storage space, but, like many, we have a serious clutter problem that sorely needs to be dealt with. It's not time to get a big green Dumpster and just toss everything out (at least I don't think it is), but we're way overdue in sorting and getting rid of our clutter.

I'm hoping my new super-organized and efficient Man Stairway/Murphy Bed with kick start us on the road to de-cluttering, once and for all (and I hope I finally have one place in the house where I can safely put something and not have it be disturbed).

Note: If you see me sleeping on the folded-down ramp, please don't close it up like the Three Stooges did all the time. That's only funny when it happens to someone else.

On the last Saturday before Christmas, I made my annual gift-shopping trip to the mall. I always procrastinate like this, but it's so hard to keep coming up with thoughtful gifts that I tend to put it off as long as I can.

Quite frankly, the whole Christmas gift-giving thing is out of control but it is what it is. Many businesses, they say, can't survive without the annual holiday gift-giving blowout.

So now I'm walking through the mall, by myself, trying to come up with some worthwhile gifts for family members. In the middle of the crowded, bustling, noisy mall (I had to park in another area code) were all these jammed-in kiosks and tables selling myriad sundries and whatnot — dried meats, Tupperware, cell phone cases, you name it.

All of a sudden, a beautiful blonde woman steps out from one of the kiosks and approaches me. Remember, I'm alone at this point — I'm shopping for gifts for my lovely wife, after all — so I must have appeared to be "fair game."

"Give me your thumb," the beautiful blonde says to me. I'm pretty sure all men dream of having a beautiful blonde just come up and talk to them for no reason, but I'm not sure, "Give me your thumb" is the sentence they expect to hear.

Without even having a chance to think about it, I stuck out my left thumb. The next thing you know, the blonde pulls out a small pink sanding block and proceeds to rapidly scrub and buff the fingernail on my thumb, and, when I say buff, I mean buff. I have electric sanders that don't move as fast as her flying fingers did.

At this point, I really didn't know what to do. I mean, I was supposed to be Christmas gift shopping, not getting a manicure, you know?

"Excuse me," I said to the hard buffing blonde, "but isn't this kind of a chick thing?"

"Yes, it is," she cooed, "but guys do it, too, when no one is looking."

Huh. Here I am, 55 years old, thinking (hoping) my days of doing things when no one else is looking were just about over. So I carefully extracted my left thumb from her delicate grip, and promised her I'd return at some point with my wife.

She seemed a little disappointed but OK with that. Later, on my return trip past her kiosk, I could see she had another guy roped in.

I heard him say to her, "But I work construction and my hands are always all messed up." Last I saw, she was still cooing and buffing him. Hard working girl for sure.

The next day, I'm sitting in church, waiting to enjoy the annual Christmas pageant. I removed my coat and got settled in when I noticed something was different. The morning light was coming through the beautiful stained glass as usual, but, when I looked down to read the program, I noticed that my left thumb was shining brightly.

I'm not even kidding here — my left thumb was buffed so finely, it was reflecting light. I've never had anything like that going on with my fingers before; you can trust me on this. It was quite unnerving. I kept my hand down so as not to distract the costumed children as they acted out their intricate and beautiful program.

Then Monday morning, on the way to work, I had to make sure to keep my left hand below the window — I didn't want to blind any oncoming drivers. When I got to my desk and sat at the computer, I couldn't stop staring at my super shiny left thumb.

It was clearly so different from all my other fingers it stood out like, well, a sore thumb. I started to think up stories to tell the guys when they walked over; I didn't want them to think I was having some kind of a mid-life crisis or something. (I prefer the lifetime crisis that I've been living instead.)

Fortunately, I had a remodeling project going on at the house. But, even with the sawdust and paint, my thumb still shone brightly for many days afterward. (The sexy blonde did say it would last two weeks.)

Now that I think about it, I should have bought the buffing block from the blonde and used it on my motorcycle gas tanks. I'll bet the shine I could have achieved with that little pink bad boy would win me some trophies at the bike rallies next year. In fact, I'm sure of it.

Seriously though, what was this woman thinking by selecting me for the manicure/nail buffing treatment? What guys do you know walk around with glistening, shiny fingernails?

Maybe I'm sheltered but my friends — even my gay male friends, of which I have a few, don't do this, even "when no one is looking." I mean, my buffed left thumbnail was so shiny and slippery, it was actually quite disconcerting. It just didn't feel right.

I think showering once a day and trimming my nails once a week or so is about all I want or need. What I could really use is a good way to get the grease out from under my fingernails when I work on cars and bikes. Now, that's a tool or treatment I would buy and use.

A segment on a newsmagazine show one time showed a car on the side of the road with a flat tire. When they had a "normal" person standing by the car, most people would drive by, and occasionally someone would stop and help.

When they changed it to a hot blonde standing by the car, so many cars pulled over, it was almost causing an accident. So there you go. We love young blondes, what a surprise.

Maybe I should add a blonde wig to my roadside hazard kit. I can pack it along with the flares, battery cables, and flashlight. I'll bet, if I wore it, they'd pull over, then, as they got closer and noticed the mustache and the five-o'clock shadow, they'd just peel right outta there.

The lesson is this: If you're a guy and a good-looking blonde says, "Give me your thumb," you may want to think twice before you do.


During the holidays, many homeowners drag out festive lights and decorations to create vivid landscapes bursting with color. In my neighborhood, there is one house that is always outstanding — lights on all sides and levels, wrapping all the windows, including part of the roof and even some of the landscaping.

One time, about 20 years ago, I met the homeowner at one of our sorely missed neighborhood block parties. Just to make conversation I asked him how he did such a wonderful job lighting his house each year.

"Oh," he replied, "you want to know the family secrets!"

Er, no, I was just interested in the Christmas lights. Believe it or not, he wouldn't tell me a thing.

Well, I've been doing holiday lighting myself now for so long I've decided to share my own "secrets," if you will. A big part of getting in the holiday/Christmas spirit is seeing all the nicely lit houses, so in the hope of sharing some of the joy, here we go:

— 1. Holiday lights are discounted so much after the new year, sometimes up to 90 percent, that it makes absolutely no sense to buy them at any other time. Just go into your favorite home center or drug store after the holidays are over and stock up for next year.

— 2. The old-style glass lights have a limit to how many strands you can plug in series. The new style LED (light-emitting diode) lights are much more power efficient, so you can create much longer runs. Just follow the instructions (always a good idea with any device).

— 3. If you're lucky, you have a lot of exterior electrical boxes. If you don't, you can always have some good weatherproof ones installed. The other option is to use outdoor-rated extension cords. Make sure the cords are outdoor rated, and be sure to install them in such a way that no one can trip over them. I like to wrap the exposed connections in plastic and duct tape as an extra safety precaution as well.

— 4. There are all kinds of gutter clips to attach strings of lights to your house. These are also on deep discount after the holidays, so that's when to buy them. I've had to modify some styles of these for particular applications, which is easy to do with side-cutting pliers. Be sure to wear eye protection when you snip the plastic, as the cut-off piece shoots all over the place.

— 5. If you need to use an indoor outlet that's OK, just run it out the window and don't pinch it too hard. Use some kind of insulator to keep drafts out of the small window opening.

— 6. At some point, you'll probably wind up on a ladder. I can't stress this enough: Be very, very careful any time you're on a ladder. I had one collapse under me, which led to rotator-cuff surgery, no fun at all. Just put "ladder+safety" into any Internet search engine — you'll be glad you did.

— 7. How many lights should you put up? Some folks have so many they could land a 747; others have many fewer, maybe only a candle in the window, but it's done so tastefully it works. Here is where I'm at a big disadvantage, as I have no artistic sensibility at all. I just put up enough lights to where I know the kids will be satisfied. Works for me.

— 8. Using timers makes controlling when the lights come on and off easy. Outside-rated timers are insulated for safety, so always use these outdoors. I like mine to come on when it first gets dark and stay on until at least midnight.

— 9. I do all the work in setting up and putting away the lights myself, but, if you can get any help, be sure to take advantage of it. It's easy to damage dangling strings of lights, and you can always use a third hand.

— 10. Strings of lights lead a hard life. They make a tool that injects a brief voltage spike into the string. This will often bring some bulbs back to life. But light strings are wearable items that should be replaced over time. Since the discounts after the holidays are so great, regular replacement is a good thing to do.

— 11. Storing used strings of lights is difficult — you'll never get them back in the box they came in. You can get plastic cord wraps from the home center, or you can wrap them around a tube of some sort and then hang them. If you just toss them in a box, you'll have a nasty mess next year. Anything is better than that.

— 12. To light trees, they make long poles to help you get the strings up there. Again, just make sure no one can trip on the extension cord when you run it back to the house.

— 13. Replacing your porch or garage light bulbs with colored bulbs is an easy way to add a little color with not a lot of work.

— 14. It costs money to really do up your house big time (lights, time, electricity), so it's up to you how much you want to get into it. If you really want a house that folks flock to see from miles away, you're going to pay for it (as well as almost surely annoy your neighbors) so make sure that's really what you want to do.

— 15. I try to put my lights up as soon after Thanksgiving as possible, since it's so much work, you might as well enjoy them for as long as you can. Here's an entrepreneurial thought: removable siding that hides the lights underneath, so all you have to do is pull a few panels each year and you're done! If you start a business based on this, please remember me when Wall Street issues your IPO (initial public offering).

One of my favorite holiday pastimes was always driving around Brooklyn and Howard Beach marveling at what dedicated homeowners who are really into outdoor lighting can do. You'd often see parades of cars driving by slowly and ogling the gala displays.

We'd always park and walk around the block to look up-close. Aside from miles of dazzling lights, there were also many kinds of large stationary sleighs and reindeer, some of them movable.

Many homes even pipe Christmas music outside for your enjoyment as well.

The best one, I think, is on a corner in Brooklyn. This guy replaces his garage doors with Plexiglas, and, inside the garage, there is a very large diorama with model railroad-type structures and scenery. He has all kinds of exquisitely detailed scenes that you really need to see to believe — the attention to detail is stunning.

It is simply lovely, and I always would drop a couple of bucks in the slot to help support him. It was worth it because it was so very, very beautiful. I hope he's still doing it.

So there are my holiday lighting "family secrets." Now go hang some lights.