Byron Scott said Friday morning that Kyrie Irving has a little “old soul” to him. This is what he meant:

As Irving was buttoning his dress shirt tonight after the game, about 15 to 20 reporters were waiting for him to talk. Most players like to be fully dressed for the cameras before the interview begins, but Irving turned around and locked eyes with an Indianapolis radio reporter.

“How are you doing after missing that shot?” the reporter bluntly blurted out.

Irving paused for only a second.

“I’m well, how are you?” he said.

I’ve seen grown men snap on guys in similar moments, but Irving played it cool. Everything about this kid is polished and smooth. Yes, he missed the game-winner at the buzzer tonight. Yes, he missed 10 of his last 12 shots.

But on a court with guys nearly twice his age (Antawn Jamison is 35, Anthony Parker is 36), Irving was fearless to shoot the ball. At 19, he’s already embracing the moment.

We don’t know much about Irving. He only played 11 games in college. But the consensus around the league seems to be as long as he stays healthy, he has all the ingredients of being a superstar. In three years, he could be one of the 5 to 8 best players in the league.

He’s going to miss many more game winners in his life, but it won’t be long until he starts making a few, too. Now the key is to start getting more talent around him.

Key stat
The Cavs made just 18 of 31 free throws (58 percent) and turned it over 18 times.

Quotable
“Ten games from now, he’ll make those shots. I love the fact he wants the ball. That’s a great sign.” — Byron Scott

Up next
The Cavs (1-2) host New Jersey (1-3) on Sunday.

I have, as should be obvious, taken a nice long holiday break. Will resume posting soon and have a number of things to talk about: Brian Kellow’s biography of Pauline Kael, which was part of my holiday reading; Joan Didion’s “Blue Nights,” ditto; the movie “The Descendants,” which I finally saw, and some odds and ends. I hope all of you have had a splendid late December and are ready for 2012.

Stefan

More here.

Akron police detectives are investigating the shooting of a man and woman that occurred about midnight Thursday after they had left a club on Moore Street.

According to a police report, the man, 54, was shot in the lower jaw and the woman, 21, was shot in the leg.

The man drove them to Akron General Medical Center, where their injuries did not appear to be life threatening.

The shooting initially was reported at Interstate 76 near the South Main Street exit. The man’s tan 2001 Chevrolet Impala was located in the hospital parking lot with several bullet holes in the driver’s door and windshield.

The motive for the shooting remains under investigation.

Anyone with information is asked to contact detectives at 330-375-2490.

E.J. Dionne Jr.

MANCHESTER, N.H.: No matter what happens in Iowa, Mitt Romney has a safety net in New Hampshire.

And that could rank as the year’s most perilous sentence. Why shouldn’t Romney be surprised in the state that temporarily derailed Barack Obama’s supposedly rapid march toward nomination four years ago? Hillary Clinton humbled many a pundit here in 2008, reason enough to challenge the rapidly jelling conventional wisdom about the Republican presidential campaign.

In just a few weeks, Romney has been transformed from an embattled and weak front-runner into the real thing. He has a chance of winning the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3 as his dazed opponents scratch at each other trying to emerge as the leading non-Romney. Libertarian Ron Paul, who will never be nominated, now looks to be Romney’s main competition in Iowa. Paul is doing a fine job as Romney’s blocking back, preventing anyone else from emerging early enough to give Romney a stiff race.

The key to wrapping up a nomination quickly has always been an Iowa-New Hampshire one-two punch, and the Granite State, which votes on Jan. 10, seems to be a Romney fortress. Romney’s headquarters here on Elm Street was bustling with activity on Tuesday night, as if Iowa didn’t matter. Leaving nothing to chance, Romney made campaign stops that day in Londonderry and Portsmouth before he left for his final Iowa push. If Iowa is Romney’s venture capital, New Hampshire is his nest egg.

“I don’t see anyone challenging Romney for the win,” said Fergus Cullen, the former New Hampshire state Republican chairman, referring to his state. “Second place,” he adds, “is still wide open,” a consolation only if Romney heads toward the GOP’s Southern contests weaker than he looks now.

Steve Duprey, the Republican national committeeman who, like Cullen, is neutral (though Susan Duprey, his politically influential wife, is a close adviser to Romney’s wife Ann), sees Romney and Paul as having the strongest New Hampshire organizations — precisely what Iowa Republicans say about ground strength in their state. By contrast, he says, Newt Gingrich has little going on organizationally — his headquarters down the street from Romney’s was a quiet enclave on Tuesday — and is depending almost entirely on enthusiastic support from the Manchester Union Leader, the state’s legendary conservative daily. One of the mysteries of the contest is how the Union Leader might pivot if Gingrich stumbles in Iowa.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has “a great professional organization,” Steve Duprey said, but also a core problem: “He started running as a moderate and now he’s saying he’s a conservative. That’s confusing.” Indeed, Huntsman, who is skipping Iowa, now wants to become the conservative alternative to Romney and Gingrich. Hoping that repetition is persuasive, Huntsman’s television and print ads here tout him as “a conservative hero in this race,” “more conservative than Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney combined,” and the author of “the most conservative” program. Pulling together moderate independents and dissatisfied conservatives is the magic Huntsman is betting on.

If everything seems to be going Romney’s way, here is a word of caution from an unexpected source. Former Gov. John Sununu is one of Romney’s staunchest supporters in the state, but also a tested veteran of many a New Hampshire primary. “People have to understand that primary races are extremely volatile because all the candidates are expressing more or less the same philosophy,” this professor of realpolitik explained to me. “So primary races are often won or lost by nuances or small mistakes.” One of Sununu’s greatest political triumphs came in 1988, when he helped engineer a turn in the primary’s last days away from Bob Dole and toward his candidate, George H.W. Bush, with an eleventh-hour ad attacking Dole for “straddling” on taxes.

So what could possibly upend Romney? There are two debates scheduled for the weekend before the voting here. They present Romney with an opportunity to wrap things up — and a minefield of potential troubles. Or Iowa could anoint a new conservative alternative to Romney: A Rick Santorum surge or a Rick Perry comeback could create a new one-on-one dynamic here. Or Romney could simply fall far short of what are now soaring expectations in Iowa.

Still, what is most astounding is that a Republican contest characterized all year by melodrama and comedy now seems headed toward the most conventional and predictable conclusion possible. It’s hard to believe things will really end this way. The biggest upset would be no upset at all.

Dionne is a Washington Post columnist. He can be emailed at [email protected].

Peter Svensson

NEW YORK: Verizon Wireless, the country’s largest cellphone company, said Thursday that it will start charging $2 for every payment subscribers make over the phone or online with their credit cards.

The company said this “convenience fee” will be introduced Jan. 15.

The fee won’t apply to electronic check payments or to automatic credit card payments set up through Verizon’s AutoPay system. Paying by credit card in a Verizon store will also be free, as will mailing a check.

Other carriers have tried to get subscribers to move to automatic payments through other means. AT&T Inc. offers a $10 gift card for those who set up AutoPay. Sprint Nextel Corp. charges subscribers who have caps on the fees they can rack up each month. Those people are charged $5 monthly unless they set up automatic payments.

It’s not uncommon for utilities, universities and even state tax departments to charge convenience fees for online payments. Each credit-card payment comes with fees that the companies can avoid by getting electronic checks instead. Automatic payments mean less trouble for companies in going after late payments.

Verizon Communications Inc., the landline phone company that owns most of Verizon Wireless, tried last year to introduce a $3.50 fee for people who paid their bill for FiOS TV or Internet service month-to-month by credit card. It backed off after complaints.

Verizon Wireless serves 91 million phones and other devices on accounts that pay the company directly, and more who pay indirectly through other companies.

———

Online: Verizon statement at http://news.verizonwireless.com/news/2011/12/pr2011-12-29b.html.

Ann Sanner

COLUMBUS: Ohio’s attorney general has cleared an anti-abortion group to continue with its effort to amend the Ohio Constitution to declare that life begins when a human egg is fertilized.

Attorney General Mike DeWine on Friday certified the petition for a proposed amendment submitted by Personhood Ohio. He said a summary of the issue is a “fair and truthful” reflection of the amendment.

DeWine had rejected the group’s summary in October. Personhood Ohio then changed the amendment’s phrasing to specify that it wouldn’t affect contraception or in vitro fertilization.

The Ohio Ballot Board must still sign off on the proposed issue before its supporters can begin gathering signatures to put it on the ballot. Roughly 385,000 signatures from Ohio voters are needed for the amendment to appear on November 2012 ballots.

TOLEDO, OHIO: Fire has heavily damaged a home in northern Ohio where a mother and three children died earlier this year when they were overcome by fumes from a generator.

Authorities in Toledo tell the Blade newspaper that the house was vacant when the fire broke out Thursday evening. A cause hasn’t been determined.

Neighbors told a fire official that the landlord who pleaded no contest to reckless homicide charges in the March deaths of the four tenants had been working on the house in recent weeks.

The landlord gave the family a generator so it could power a space heater because the rental home didn’t have heat or electricity.

Investigators say he didn’t intend to harm anyone but knew the dangers of running the generator inside the house.

State Sen. Nina Turner announced Friday that she is dropping out of the race for the 11th Congressional District, the new, oddly shaped district that extends from Cleveland to Akron.

Turner, a Cleveland Democrat, said she’s withdrawing for two reasons.

First, she said, the redistricting was “manipulated to allow incumbent politicians to guarantee their re-election.” Secondly, she said, the primary was bumped up to March 6, “a date which gives challengers little time to wage competitive campaigns.”

Turner’s decision might clear the way for U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Cleveland, to hold onto her seat. Turner was the only competition she faced as of the original Dec. 7 filing deadline.

Because the primary was moved from June to March — so Ohio would have only one primary, instead of two, in the presidential election year — Friday is the second filing deadline for congressional candidates.

“Our community faces huge obstacles, which present leadership has utterly failed to meet,” Turner said. “The past few months have only convinced me and many Northeast Ohioans of the necessity for change and reform, and so my work will continue. We can and must do better.”

Turner was out of town and unavailable for further comment.

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (1-1) AT INDIANA PACERS (2-0)

• 7 p.m.; Bankers Life Fieldhouse; Fox Sports Ohio/WTAM

 

• Cavs probables: PG Kyrie Irving, SG Anthony Parker, SF Omri Casspi, PF Antawn Jamison, C Anderson Varejao

• Pacers probables: PG Darren Collison, SG Paul George, SF Danny Granger, PF David West, C Roy Hibbert

• Injury report: Cavs — Semih Erden (thumb) out; Pacers — Jeff Foster (back) out, Jeff Pendergraph (knee) out.

• Officials: Bill Spooner, David Guthrie, Josh Tiven

 

NOTES

• Byron Scott is sticking with Samardo Samuels as his backup center, and for good reason. Samuels looked good Wednesday at Detroit and provides a scoring punch the Cavs need. It’s a mismatch when he has to defend the 7-foot Hibbert, but Scott thinks he can manage the matchups so that won’t happen.

• Scott generally doesn’t like to go beyond a nine-man rotation, but he feels comfortable with his top 10 and doesn’t see it changing anytime soon. As long as the bench players remain productive, they’ll continue to play.

• No player is averaging more than 28 minutes through two games, which Scott likes to see. Particularly in a shortened season, the less wear and tear he can put on guys’ bodies, the better.

• The addition of West might make the Pacers the most improved team in the Eastern Conference. He and Darren Collison are running the same pick-and-rolls they ran as teammates in New Orleans and they’re getting many of the same results.

Amy Kaufman
Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES: Grauman’s Chinese Theatre is hallowed Hollywood tourist ground, the famed site where silver-screen stars such as Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra literally cemented their legends by making hand- and footprints in concrete. On a recent November morning, those movie icons were joined by three gigantic rodents: Alvin and the Chipmunks.

Or, more precisely, as Alvin, Simon and Theodore are cartoon characters, by three anonymous guys in chipmunk suits who stuck their “paws” in wet cement while their squeaky, high-pitched version of Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance blared over the sound system. Some of the goop stuck to Theodore’s belly fur.

The pace of paw and other prints at Grauman’s has taken off in recent months. The complex has hosted 11 ceremonies so far this year for such actors as Robert Duvall, Jennifer Aniston, Mickey Rourke and the young cast of the Twilight movies: Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart. Kobe Bryant, French DJ David Guetta and the Smurfs also have dipped their digits in cement.

That’s the largest number of ceremonies the theater has held since its opening in 1927, when nine individuals put their prints in cement. The influx has raised concern among some film buffs, who believe that Lautner’s cinematic oeuvre doesn’t exactly compare to, say, John Barrymore’s or Jack Nicholson’s. And with limited space available in the forecourt, some say the theater owners should be pickier about whom they allow into the landmark.

Donald Kushner, a movie producer who bought the legendary theater with entrepreneur Elie Samaha in May from Warner Bros. and Viacom Inc., acknowledged that the theater has been holding more ceremonies — which are paid for by movie studios and cost tens of thousands of dollars. Some of the older prints are deteriorating, he said, and will have to be removed from the forecourt to be preserved. But he said that not all the new prints are getting prime real estate in front of the theater, so don’t look for the Chipmunks or the Smurfs there.

“They’re not going in the forecourt. They weren’t real ceremonies — they were mock ceremonies,” said Kushner. Though he said he was still uncertain where the blocks would end up, he surmised that all of the “kids’ stuff” would be displayed at the Chinese 6 theaters, located in the adjacent Hollywood & Highland mall complex and operated by Kushner and Samaha.

Plans also are in the works to relight the forecourt and restore old theater signs to resemble their 1930s appearance. The theater is also trying to entice movie studios to hold after-parties for their premieres in the lobby of the Chinese 6, hiding the concession stands with curtains and bringing in other decorative elements to transform it into what owners describe as a “ballroom.” (Many premieres are already held at Grauman’s, but the after-parties are typically staged at nearby restaurants or hotels.)

Kushner also said he wants to broaden the range of individuals the theater pays tribute to in the forecourt to include athletes and musicians. He revealed that Grauman’s is in preliminary talks with boxer Muhammad Ali and is also speaking with the family of Michael Jackson about a square that could use the imprints of a shoe and glove the pop star donned in some of his music videos.

Currently, forecourt honorees are selected by a committee made up of the theater’s executives who evaluate “the impact someone has had on cinematic history and how they have contributed to cinema today,” said the cinema’s director of operations, Alwyn Kushner, daughter of Donald Kushner. Still, most of the ceremonies seem to be tied to the release of an honoree’s new film — Rourke, for one, got his square less than two weeks before the November opening of Immortals, a sword-and-sandals epic in which he starred. His tablet, along with Aniston’s July imprint and a November block stamped by some West Side Story 1961 film cast members, have yet to be placed in the forecourt.

“It has nothing to do with who is an authentic, for-the-ages star,” said Richard Schickel, a film critic and movie historian. “That has deteriorated. It’s obviously driven entirely by what is hot at this moment, publicity and money. I guess it’s kinda nice, but it’s not the ultimate accolade for a movie actor.”

Studios are willing to cough up the dough for the ceremonies — $25,000 for “cement and labor” directly to Grauman’s, plus around $20,000 to cover costs of the ceremony, according to an executive familiar with the process who requested anonymity to preserve relations with the theater — because they feel the event carries strong promotional value.

“We used it as the kickoff for our advertising campaign and all of the public appearances,” said Nancy Kirkpatrick, president of worldwide marketing for Summit Entertainment, which released The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1 last month. “It’s absolutely a big deal, and we knew the fans would be excited to go there and visit the actors’ squares.”

Donald Kushner insisted that the ceremonies are not a “real big revenue source, but are good for the Grauman’s brand and tradition.” The company that handles publicity for the theater boasted in a recent press kit that the November print ceremonies and AFI Film Festival — also held at Grauman’s — resulted in “over 15 million TV hits” and “$3.5 million publicity value” in one week.

The Hollywood Walk of Fame, which runs up and down the city sidewalk near Grauman’s and is run by the nonprofit Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, charges $30,000 for its honors. About two dozen terrazzo stars with a famous person’s name are installed each year. The selection committee is composed of 36 entertainment industry professionals.

Grauman’s began the practice of having public figures leave their prints in 1927, when silent-film star Norma Talmadge accidentally stepped into wet cement. Sid Grauman saw a business opportunity in the mishap and decided to ask the theater’s principal investors — of which Talmadge was one — to follow in the tradition. Soon, studios began paying to be included as well. There are about 200 squares currently in the forecourt.

“Basically, it was all the important stars in the films of the time until 1960, when things changed dramatically and they started bringing in more modern, younger stars,” explained Marc Wanamaker, a Hollywood film historian and photo archivist. He noted that with each generation, there’s been chatter about whether certain inductees are worthy of a square. “There’s been controversy with purists saying, ‘How dare you put Tom Cruise next to Marilyn Monroe?’ ”

Kushner says the theater will need to begin taking out some imprints in the near future. “Some of the handprints are going to have to be removed so we can preserve them,” he said. “Some of them, like Groucho Marx, have almost disappeared.”

Asked if permanent or even temporary removal might upset some of the honorees, their families or fans, Kushner replied: “Whatever. In three or four years, those squares won’t exist anyway, because they’re disintegrating. They’ll eventually find their place.”

Q: Our neighbor dumps used cooking fat in the vegetable garden we share. Is that a problem?

— Judy Weisbrod

Racine, Wis.

A: Dumping used cooking oil in household quantities — cups as opposed to barrels — shouldn’t be harmful, said Jerry Bigham, a soil scientist and emeritus professor with the School of Environment and Natural Resources at Ohio State University. Soil is a good recycler of organic matter, cooking oil included, he said.

Nevertheless, your neighbor should be careful about dumping animal fats such as bacon grease or oil that’s been used to cook meat or fish. Those fats might smell or attract animal pests if they’re not buried.

Have a question about home maintenance, decorating or gardening? Akron Beacon Journal home writer Mary Beth Breckenridge will find answers for the queries that are chosen to appear in the paper. To submit a question, call her at 330-996-3756, or send email to [email protected]. Be sure to include your full name, your town and your phone number or email address.

Denise Ellsworth

This coming Tuesday, for the first time in 18 years, I’ll be heading in a new direction. Instead of making my morning commute to the Summit County OSU Extension office in Cuyahoga Falls, my drive will take me west, to the OARDC campus (Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center) in Wooster, where I’ll begin a new position with the OSU Department of Entomology as director of honey bee and native pollinator education.

Over the last few weeks, getting ready to move my office has been a cathartic and invigorating process. For about half of those 18 years, I’ve been working at the Summit County Environmental Services building on State Road in Cuyahoga Falls — the building many people know as the old Ameritech building, or the building next to the old State Theater. Before that, our office was adjacent to the Akron-Canton Airport; that building was razed years ago to make way for one of the airport’s runway extensions.

As anyone who has watched the TV show Hoarders knows, much junk can accumulate over the years, especially when we’re not looking. Although I had done quite a bit of sorting when our office moved north, I still had plenty to sift through, and was surprised how many things survived the last move, still tucked safely in the place where I put them eight years ago.

It took the better part of three days to comb through drawers and empty storage containers. On my journey, I unearthed plenty of items I was sure someone else would appreciate, like the books on food crops of the world I gave to our nutrition educators (they were thrilled!) and the plant press passed on to a fellow plant lover. Posters, stacks of note cards (I should have sent more thank-yous!) and more than a few insulated lunch bags were passed to office mates.

By the time I neared the end of my sorting frenzy, I sensed a rolling of eyes whenever I burst out of my work area with yet another fabulous treasure to pass to someone else. The remaining piles of “good stuff” were donated to Goodwill, mounds of paper were recycled, and a few trips to the Dumpster finished off the job, leaving me with (really!) only four boxes to move into my new office.

Much has changed work-wise, from those days in 1994 when I began as a very green Extension educator, fresh from my graduate work at OSU. I can easily track the years by the age of my daughter Kira, who was a baby of about 6 months when I moved from Columbus to coordinate horticulture outreach for the county. This month, Kira finished her first semester at Boston University.

Computers multiply

Back in 1994, our office had a computer for each staff member, which was more the exception than the rule. We thought it was amazing how fast those Intel 386s were, and one of them even had a modem! (Just for fun, I found one today on eBay for $69, no returns accepted). Our longtime secretary Tina would download and print everyone’s e-mail messages, then deliver them to our desks. The Internet was something called “gopher,” and we primarily relied on books to help answer clients’ questions. Our horticulture library grew from two books in 1994 to a peak of about 400 in 2001, now replaced in large part by online references.

These days our computers fit into our pockets, like my ever-present smart phone, and anyplace can be a work space, provided Wi-Fi and coffee are close by. We rarely need paper copies of anything. Who knows whether that filing cabinet even works anymore? A few months ago, a neighboring office was trying to unload filing cabinets to anyone who would take them. My friend Jean, who is clever with container gardening, could perhaps have repurposed them as decorative planters, but other takers were hard to come by.

In 1994, besides learning to balance work and a young family, one of my priorities was to develop a Master Gardener program. Back then, the Stark/Summit Master Gardeners consisted of a half-dozen volunteers who helped to answer gardeners’ questions and sometimes weeded a very overgrown garden area.

For about the first three years in my position, I was endlessly intimidated by all that I don’t know about gardening and pests. It took me at least that long to feel comfortable with saying, “I don’t know, ” over and over, a phrase I now utter several times a day. The difference? I am now at ease with what I don’t know, and try to approach my gaps with both a sense of awe and curiosity. We will never know it all, and that’s OK.

The Master Gardeners of Summit County has changed in that time as well, growing from six to more than 150 members. The volunteers teach hundreds of area gardeners each year through workshops, displays, tours and demonstration gardens, and raise all of their operating funds. Along with their sister group in Stark County, they are a shining example of what empowered, inspired volunteers can accomplish. I couldn’t feel more fortunate to have cut my professional teeth alongside so many talented volunteers.

Besides many other lessons, they have taught me the power of enthusiasm and the great potential that comes from having a beginner’s mind, open to new ideas and approaches. As my OSU colleague and mentor Jim Chatfield reminds us, we can never truly master gardening. To embrace this fact as a challenge and opportunity, not as an obstacle, is our greatest feat. Watching our volunteers continue to stretch and learn (like Lee, a longtime volunteer who has participated in five yearlong specialization programs) has taught me essential life lessons about the importance of both humility and growth.

In many areas of life besides gardening, these wonderful people have taught me by example: how to parent with love and compassion, how to approach life’s setbacks with hope and determination, and how to grieve with love and acceptance. Although they call me teacher, I have learned so much from each of them, and I owe them a debt of gratitude.

Wall of thanks

A favorite element from my old office, the “wall of thanks,” will come with me to my new office. On the back of my door (much to the cleaning lady’s chagrin), I taped thank-you notes and letters sent to me over the years. Any time I was feeling inadequate or underappreciated, I’d just push the door shut and bask in the glow. This month, my master gardener friends provided me with a warm send-off, complete with an ample starter pack of notes and well wishes for the Wooster wall of thanks.

As for the rest of us, we’ll still see each other right here every other Saturday, as I continue taking turns with fellow plant lover Chatfield. With a beginner’s mind, I’ll be delving into the vast area of beekeeping and pollinator conservation and sharing what I learn, along with the latest information about great plants and new pests. My best to you in the New Year!

From staff and wire reports

Here’s a warm weather indicator to look forward to: the 2012 Ohio fair season is about 5½ months away.

A calendar the Ohio Department of Agriculture has released shows the season will begin with the start of the Paulding County Fair in Northwest Ohio on June 11.

Ninety-five fairs will be held around the state, including county and independent fairs and the Ohio State Fair, which is scheduled to run July 25 through Aug. 5 in Columbus.

Northeast Ohio county fairs include: Summit, July 24-29 in Tallmadge; Medina, July 30-Aug. 5 in Medina; Cuyahoga, Aug. 6-12 in Berea; Portage, Aug. 21-26 in Randolph Township; Stark, Aug. 28-Sept. 3 in Canton; Mahoning, Aug. 29-Sept. 3 in Canfield; and Wayne, Sept. 8-13 in Wooster.

The state’s fair season closes with the end of the Fairfield County Fair in Central Ohio on Oct. 13.

For the full list, go to http://www.agri.ohio.gov/apps/odanews/ODANews.aspx.

SmartSeat Chair Protectors take one source of stress out of entertaining: stains from spills.

The waterproof, stain-resistant chair covers protect chair seats while still being soft to the touch. They fit most dining and kitchen chairs from 18 to 25 inches wide, including chairs with arms. Adjustable straps keep the covers in place.

The protectors are made of a polyurethane-coated polyester knit and can be hand- or machine-washed on a gentle cycle and line dried. They come in blue, tan, brown and black.

SmartSeat covers can be ordered at http://www.smartseatdiningchaircovers.com. Prices range from $14.99 to $19.99 each, depending on the number purchased. Shipping is extra.

— Mary Beth Breckenridge

Carole Feldman

In times of economic hardship, “do-it-yourself” is a tempting mantra for many homeowners with dripping faucets, running toilets, leaky windows or sticky locks.

The savings can add up when you don’t have to call a repairman, especially for things like painting, plumbing and appliance repair, said Ken Collier, editor-in-chief of the Family Handyman. “Parts are a small part of the cost. Labor is huge,” he said.

And if things go wrong? With a small job, Collier said, “Worst case, you have to hire a pro and eat some crow.”

There are some home repairs, of course, that an unskilled homeowner should avoid, among them “situations where having heavy equipment makes the job go much better, especially outdoors,” Collier said.

Avoid jobs where you could injure yourself or damage property.

Chris Long, a member of the Home Depot do-it-yourself team, recommends calling an expert to replace a tub or shower valve, or do more involved electrical work. And while “any reasonably careful person can hang drywall,” Collier said, taping it to cover the seams and joints is “very much an art where a practiced hand makes a huge difference.”

But many other household repairs and projects can be tackled by a do-it-yourselfer who takes the time to learn what’s required.

David Frank of Libertyville, Ill., does just about all his own home repairs and remodeling — “from electric to plumbing to concrete. Any of it can be done.” He started working on his first house, a fixer-upper he bought in college, to save money. “I had to learn to do it, or it wasn’t going to get done,” he said. Over the years, he has taught himself by reading books, watching home-improvement TV shows and talking to experts.

Besides the money saved, there’s “definitely a sense of accomplishment” in doing the work himself, he said.

His advice to beginners: Use common sense, take your time and read as much as you can. “The Internet is unbelievable,” he said.

When taking on a project, begin by finding out where in your home you turn off the water and gas, and how the circuit breakers work. If you need a professional to show you, hire one.

You’ll also need a good set of tools. Collier recommends such things as a 20-ounce straight claw hammer, a utility knife, linesman’s pliers, a flexible putty knife, a four-in-one screwdriver, a cordless drill-screwdriver, a 25-foot measuring tape and an adjustable crescent wrench. Add to that a plunger, groove-joint pliers and duct tape.

If you’re going to do any electrical work, be sure to have a voltage sniffer. “Electricity is scary stuff, and a voltage sniffer is a really safe way to know everything is off,” Collier says.

There’s a wealth of material online, including videos for the do-it-yourselfer.

Even unskilled homeowners should be able to do some basic appliance repairs, Collier said, such as changing a dryer belt.

And as winter approaches, homeowners can do a lot of weatherizing themselves, including adding insulation, and applying adhesive-backed foam weather stripping to prevent cold air from seeping in around doors and windows.

Other jobs that a do-it-yourselfer can learn include repairing drywall, replacing a deadbolt, or installing a new light fixture or ceiling fan.

Here’s where that voltage sniffer comes in. “If you know how to confidently turn that breaker off and you can test it to verify it, you can change that fixture,” said Danny Lipford, who hosts nationally syndicated TV and radio shows and is a contributing design editor for Better Homes and Gardens.

Plumbing repairs also can be accessible even to the novice.

“A toilet is really a very simple mechanism and the parts are readily available to change out,” Lipford said.

First, the cause of the problem has to be diagnosed. Find information online, in books, or talk to a worker at your hardware store.

If the toilet is running, for example, one way to figure out what’s going on is to add a little food dye to the water in the tank, said Long, of Home Depot. If the water in the bowl turns the same color, the flapper valve is likely the problem. The flapper seals the tank, then lifts to allow water to flow into the bowl when the toilet is flushed. If the seal isn’t tight, water will leak into the bowl.

It could be that the chain connecting the flapper to the handle is too long or too short. Adjusting that could fix the problem. Or, it could be the flapper itself. In most cases, the flapper snaps out and you can easily replace it with a new one. But first remember to turn off the water to the toilet. It’s also a good idea to bring the old part to your hardware store to make sure you’re purchasing a compatible new one.

Online: http://www.familyhandyman.com/DIY-Projects and http://www.homedepot.com

Arhaus Furniture, the 39-store furniture chain based in Northeast Ohio, is putting smiles on some young faces.

Through Jan. 31, the company is donating 10 percent of proceeds from mirror sales to the charity Global Dental Relief. The effort coincides with the retailer’s Storewide Sale.

The donation will help provide equipment and supplies to Global Dental Relief. Earlier this year, Arhaus worked with the charity to sponsor a weeklong dental clinic in Vietnam that cared for more than 600 children.

Since its founding in 2001, Global Dental Relief has served more than 56,000 children in Vietnam, Nepal, India and Guatemala. It will hold its first clinic in the United States in 2012.

Customers can buy mirrors at Arhaus stores and at http://www.arhaus.com/home-accents/accessories/mirrors.

Shaun White designs

Snowboarder Shaun White has slid into Target’s home-goods department.

The athlete and designer has had a line of clothing with the retailer since 2008. This week, he launched a home collection designed with his brother, Jesse. It includes bedding, curtains, accessories and, of course, a skateboard rack.

The items range from $9.99 to $89.99 and will be available through June.

Green-certified homes

Ohio’s first green-certified residential community is slated to be built east of Cleveland in 2012.

Ground is expected to be broken midyear on the Lakes of Orange development near Brainard and Miles roads in Orange. The 156-home community is being developed and built by Kertes Enterprises Inc. in compliance with the National Association of Home Builders’ National Green Building Standard.

Features will include a 30-acre conservation area, energy-efficient home technology and improvements that protect the natural features of the area.

More information is at http://lakesoforange.kertesenterprises.com.

Events, programs

• WinterShow 2011, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. today, Cleveland Botanical Garden, 11030 East Blvd. Last day for holiday show. Garden admission: $8.50, children 3 to 12, $3; members and younger children, free. 216-721-1600 or http://www.cbgarden.org.

• Knitting and Crocheting Circle, 10 a.m. to noon Tuesday, Brunswick Branch, Medina County District Library, 3649 Center Road. 330-273-4150.

• Journal 2012, 6 p.m. Tuesday, Seville Branch, Medina County District Library, North Center Street. Youth 12 and older will make journals. Free, but registration is required. 330-769-2852.

• Needlework Circle, 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Seville Branch, Medina County District Library, North Center Street. 330-769-2852.

• Knitting and Crocheting Circle, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 7, Highland Branch, Medina County District Library, 4160 Ridge Road, Granger Township. Learn the basics or bring projects and swap tips. Free, but registration is required. 330-278-4271 or 330-239-2674.

Submit notices of classes, programs and events two weeks in advance to [email protected] or Home and Garden News, Features Department, Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640. Please include name and phone number. All events must be open to the public.

Mary Beth Breckenridge can be reached at 330-996-3756 or [email protected]. You can also become a fan on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @MBBreckenridge.

Kathy Antoniotti

It should come as no surprise to pet owners that we spent an astonishing $50 billion on our pets in 2011 — almost double what we spent in 2001.

I admit my husband and I have paid our fair share of that total.

According to the Animal Pet Products Association National Pet Owners survey, 62 percent of all Americans share their homes with a pet. That translates to 72.9 million homes.

Our two Jack Russell terriers, both from rescue groups in different parts of the state, eat high-grade, human-quality dog food. They see the veterinarian when necessary, are spayed and neutered, get their teeth brushed and cleaned and get three walks a day in a different park so they don’t get bored with trails.

Some people grouse that pet owners treat their animals better than they treat humans; I have to admit that sometimes I agree. But I understand the reasons. After all, our pets are part of our families, offering us unconditional love and acceptance.

What a lot of people don’t realize is that animals can suffer the same way humans do. Animals are without a voice to complain of bad treatment, and humans must act as their advocates to protect them.

While I have covered news stories and compelling features about animals for the past few years, the Beacon Journal has not had a pet column since 2008. Today, we are rectifying that. I will write about the pets in your life and try to provide you with information that will help you deal with your favorite pet, be it an iguana, a falcon or a rat named Ben.

I will have several experts helping me in this journey and a lifetime of love and commitment to my favorite furry friends.

I will try my hardest to make readers understand that a well-behaved dog is one that gets regular exercise at the end of a leash. What most people don’t (or won’t) understand is that the person at the other end of that leash will get as much benefit from that daily walk as does the dog.

Training, with consistency and repetition, builds a bond between you and your animal.

I don’t believe in bad dogs, only bad owners.

Cats need stimulation as well. They need something (a job) to do, even if it is chasing a feather on a string to simulate hunting. It is why experts at the Akron Zoo create enrichment toys that satisfy animals’ natural instincts for hunting, playing and recreation — all the same for them.

Just a couple of my rules: Get your dog an up-to-date license. It can be a ticket home if the dog accidentally gets loose. Please don’t call me to ask for help finding an animal that is not licensed. In Summit County, 2012 dog licenses are available online at http://fiscaloffice.summitoh.net/index.php/dog-licensing. Check Animal Control in your county for places that sell licenses.

Do not allow your cat to roam outside. A loose cat is only a moment away from becoming roadkill or, in my neighborhood, coyote bait. Imagine an animal’s terror when faced with that certain, painful death.

It goes without saying that all animals should have medical treatment. Please don’t call me and ask for help for a puppy with parvovirus, an almost always fatal, highly contagious disease, if you didn’t get the necessary inoculations for the animal.

It may sound harsh, but those are some of the questions I will ask when I listen to your stories. A loving, responsible owner protects and cares for his or her pets.

See you next week.

Pet news

PAX Peace for Animals Northeastern Ohio Pet Food Bank — The group provides food to hungry pets in families in crisis. To get help for a pet, call the Pet Food Bank at 216-769-6769 or visit http://www.peace4animals.org.

Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or [email protected].

Browns coach Pat Shurmur met with reporters today before his team practiced in preparation for its regular-season finale Sunday at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Here are some of the highlights from the news conference:

• Quarterback Colt McCoy (concussion), wide receiver Jordan Norwood (concussion) and offensive lineman Tony Pashos (stomach illness) have been ruled out for Sunday, Shurmur said.

• McCoy is officially done for the season. “I think he improved quite a bit from the first game to the last game he played in,” Shurmur said. “I think I’ve said that all along.”

• Quarterback Seneca Wallace will start against the Steelers, Shurmur said. Thaddeus Lewis will serve as Wallace’s backup, Shurmur said.

• With Pashos out, Artis Hicks will start at right tackle, Shurmur said. Oniel Cousins and John Greco could also receive some playing time at right tackle, Shurmur said.

Kathy Van Mullekom
Newport News Daily Press

If feathered friends are frequent visitors to your yard, here are some easy ways to treat them to healthy winter food, which is important when natural sources are gone.

The recipes come from Cole’s wild bird feed, which is sold at garden centers and wildlife stores.

Learn more about different seeds and what birds like them at http://www.coleswildbird.com.

 

PINE CONE FEEDERS

Large pine cones

Ribbon, yarn or twine

1 cup lard

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup shelled seed, such as sunflower meats

¤ cup raisins or chopped dried apples

 

Tie a 12-inch length of ribbon, yarn or twine around the pine cone to create a hanger. Mix all ingredients. Stuff mixture between the “petals” of the pinecone.

Hang on tree or hook on porch.

 

SUET BAGS

You can get pieces of suet from the butcher and slip them into a red mesh onion bag, or place a suet cake in the onion bag and hang with a ribbon.

 

MINI BIRD SEED WREATHS

1 tube of refrigerator biscuits (2 for each wreath)

Peanut butter

Birdseed (small seed works best)

Ribbon, yarn or twine

 

Separate dough pieces. Press ends of two pieces together to form a wreath. Cover top and sides of wreath with peanut butter. Put birdseed in shallow tray and dip peanut butter-covered wreath in seed. Place wreath on baking sheet and bake according to package directions. When cool, tie a red ribbon and hang.

Makes 6 wreaths