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Timing is everything for the big Zimbabwe flush
Posted on Friday, September 28, 2012

Synchronized swimming is a classic Olympic event that beautifully blends gymnastics, dance and aquatic acrobatics. Swim-capped, goggled ladies gracefully swing their arms, legs and bodies around in the water in a spatial ballet that involves about as much mental practice as it does physical prowess. As with any synchronized sport, timing is everything. Which is why if Zimbabwe pulls off the great flush of 2012, it may just be the leading competitor when synchronized flushing hits the Summer Games in 2016.


In Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second largest city, Mayor Thaba Moyo and city officials have asked that residents converge to flush their toilets at the exact same moment. The first synchronized flush has already taken place, and the second is scheduled soon. Why all this flushing?


Bulawayo has been suffering a lack of water for ages, following severe droughts and poor plumbing maintenance throughout the city. According to the BBC, Bulawayo's "big flush" will attempt to keep pipes wet and help avoid clogging. Is it sensible? Some civic activists are calling the endeavor "ridiculous" according to Businessweek's website.


"Our leaders are a joke," one Zimbabwean man told the BBC. "What they should be doing is finding money from donors to buy new sewer pipes."


Donors may be a stretch, but surely the council workers reportedly visiting townships and warning residents of fines for not taking part in the synchronized flush could round up a bit of spare change.


Now that the initial flush has taken place, the BBC reports that most of the million residents of Bulawayo did actually flush on the hour. Whether it works or not, only time will tell.


Activist organization leader Magondonga Mahlangu told the Associated Press that the citizens of Bulawayo have enough going on in their lives and don't need a mandatory evening flush to get in the way. Unemployment and poverty are much more real issues than trying to keep pipes wet and unclogged.


"It just goes to show that someone in the council has lost touch with the real issues on the ground and is failing to deal with real problems," she told the source.


Still, Zimbabwe's toilet situation is much better off than the majority of Africa, where flushable toilets - much less any running water - are extremely scarce. Want to reduce your own water waste in the bathroom? Investing in an eco-friendly toilet may not have the grandiose implications of city-wide synchronized flushing - but it's guaranteed to work!

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Rethinking your mirror's role in your bathroom
Posted on Thursday, September 27, 2012

For many of us, the mirror is a clever ruse that hides the medicine cabinet. How many times have you tried to pull on a bathroom mirror in an unfamiliar home, expecting it to hide the Advil, only to find that it won't give - it's an actual mirror affixed to the wall!


While concealing medications, Q-tips and toothpaste behind the mirror is a fine space-saving technique, it's not necessary in most bathrooms, and in fact, your space could be doing much more with its reflective surfaces. Whether that means expanding your vanity and lengthening your mirror to match or just going with a minimalist looking glass in a unique shape, why not think outside the box - or medicine cabinet, rather? Consider a few of these options.




Try his and her vanitiesHis and hers vanities are about much more than a difference in taste. While he's welcome to decorate his space with his fantasy football stats and beard trimmer, the main advantage of his and hers vanities is to end the battle for the bathroom sink - and mirror! How often have you both been battling for space in the looking glass - he combing his hair, she applying last-minute eyeliner? Instead of doubling your mirror size, just double the mirrors themselves. Having two sinks is useful too - this way no one spits out toothpaste just as the other is going to rinse a brush.


Go wall-length

There's something luxurious about a wall-length mirror. Not only does it give you a better view, but it achieves that reflective magic of seeming to double your bathroom's space. If you're dealing with a somewhat cramped bathroom, this may be the perfect choice for you.


Rules of alignment

But should you decide to go wall-length - or just larger - with your mirror, keep a few of these alignment rules in mind. You don't want to exceed the length of your bathroom vanity at any time. A mirror that oversteps the vanity in length will look sloppily placed and throw off the feel of your space. You also don't want a mirror to be too flush with the vanity counter or the ceiling, leaving a large gap near its top or bottom. Center your mirror between the ceiling and vanity for the ideal alignment that's also sure to give you the best view of yourself.

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A quick course in Bathroom Design 101
Posted on Wednesday, September 26, 2012

So, you want to remodel your bathroom - but you're not sure what style to pick. Do you lean more toward the traditional? No bells and whistles? Perhaps, then, you'd prefer a modern or contemporary style bathroom. Or are you the sort of woodsy individual who'd prefer a city apartment that looks more like an upstate cabin?


There are about as many bathroom varieties as there are people to use the bathrooms, but only one is going to do it for you. While none of these examples are the pinnacle of your bathroom style, they're certainly excellent places to start!


Rustic

Rustic style takes rural home comforts to heart, with earthy and natural tones spread throughout its design and an emphasis placed on wood. Your rustic bathroom will still feature a porcelain tub, but perhaps with unpainted wood walls or stonework fixtures. Warm lighting and exposed beams can complement this style well.


Modern

Modern design is all about clean lines and no fuss. While some might find it antiseptic, for others, it's the ideal mix of efficiency and simple aesthetics. Whites and cool blues complement this style, but feel free to get more creative with brighter hues. A vessel sink might be the perfect fit for a space like this.


Victorian

If you have a flair for the historical, this style may be perfect for you. From stylish bathroom faucets to ornately carved mirror  , the Victorian style is the polar opposite of modern. More is more in a Victorian bathroom, so layer on stylish wallpaper (try a William Morris or art nouveau print), framed photos and paintings and an elegant freestanding tub - feel free to get creative with the showerhead, too. If there's the opportunity to touch up some drapery, go for thick, red or purple curtains.


Craftsman

Similar to Mission style, the American Craftsman style of interior design is iconic for its mixture of handcrafted wood style and clean lines, mixed with touches of the art nouveau movement, particularly in light fixtures. Full of warmth and simple aesthetic design, this may be the perfect medium between modern and rustic.


These only make up a few of the wide range of potential styles you can adopt for your bathroom. Mixing and matching, or experimenting with unexpected color combinations (try some eclectic neons paired with Victorian's traditional wainscoting) can yield surprising results. Find the style that feels most like you and go with it.

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What's harder than getting your kids to clean one of your home's bathrooms? Marathons, for one. It's hard enough to get them to clean their own rooms, so how can you get them to embark on a space notorious for its complicated array of cleaning materials, much less introduce the idea of scrubbing a toilet?


While you could bite the bullet and let them half-heartedly dust the living room while you get down and dirty with the tub and clean up the medicine cabinet, why not give yourself a break and let them do the tough work? You deserve it - you raised them!


Looking for a few tips? Consider these five foolproof tactics for convincing your kids it's time to pick up the scrub brush and do right by the bathroom vanity.


1. Start them young

Not everyone has this option unfortunately, unless you're Marty McFly, but getting your kids in the cleaning habit at a young age - when it's still exciting and fun to "help out" - can be a great way to make the transition to cleaning bathrooms easier.


2. Provide incentive

Perhaps a new Nintendo video game console is worth something to them? Like a full year of bathroom scrubbings? Incentive may feel cheap, but in the long term, they're really just working extra for their Christmas presents.


3. Instill a fear of germs

It's a guerilla tactic, and some might say it's ungentlemanly or cheating, but head on to the internet and print out some quick Wikipedia facts about the number of germs on a toilet seat. Tape this to one or both of your children's bedroom doors, then add on a note reminding them where the sponges are.


4. Drive competition

If you've ever seen a high school gym class, you can be sure that nothing drives activity like competition - especially among young boys. If you're lucky enough to have kids with competitive streaks, why not pit them against each other to see who can clean the most bathrooms, or who can do the most thorough job?


5. Let them mix their own all-natural cleaners

Looking for a more legitimately fun way to get your kids in on bathroom cleaning? Help them mix their own all-natural cleaners. Part science experiment, part eco-friendly learning experience and part incentive to get that shower scrubbed, this is a fun way to work together toward a cleaner bathroom.

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Five incentives to clean your bathroom as a young adult
Posted on Monday, September 24, 2012

Cleaning your bathroom makes for a terrible, no good, dirty day. No one really wants to clean the bathroom - and while it's marginally better to clean your own than the public one at your local fast food joint, can't it just wait until tomorrow? Or next April?


Unfortunately, tub scrubbing and toilet scouring are all part of renting or owning a home. While you're saving up for that dream modern vanity you've always wanted, or perhaps those sterling silver bathroom faucets, it can't hurt to do a little cleaning up.



Need a little cleaning impetus? Consider these five scenarios that are sure to get you on your knees with the scrub brush and some toilet cleaner.


1. Your parents are coming to visit

No one will ever judge your homemaking abilities quite like your parents. While your father surely spent his own young adult years in squalor amid piles of pizza boxes and unrecycled drink cans, he won't be happy to see your medicine cabinet in such disarray and your bathroom mat in need of a washing.


2. You're hosting a party!

So you've got friends coming over. They'll probably need to use the bathroom. While you could consider police-taping it or locking the door from the outside, it seems mean to invite friends over (presumably for a drink or two) and then deny them bathroom access.


3. You have a guest

If your best friend has flown out to see you from wherever he or she happens to live, you're surely kind enough to roll out the futon and set it up with some sheets and comfy pillows. In fact, you probably have a whole itinerary of fun activities planned! Museums, shopping, restaurants, movies... Are you really going to make him or her wade through a bog of a bathroom too?


4. You have a date

If there is any chance that you plan to become romantically involved with someone, you're going to want to work on those bathroom cleaning skills. Crusty toothpaste on your medicine cabinet mirror is no aphrodisiac.



5. You're afraid of germs

Sure, germaphobes probably need a little counseling as much as they need bathroom cleaning tips, but it's still a surefire way to keep your loo nice and tidy! Although, there are far fewer germs floating around your toilet seat than the desk you sit and eat at in your office - so you might want to clean up there too.

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When your hotel room is a real steal
Posted on Friday, September 21, 2012

To be fair, it's rare that someone hasn't felt robbed by a hotel or motel. You shell out a hundred bucks for some out-of-the-way inn and end up with cockroaches in the sink and an odd musk coming from the shower stall drain. Whether you're fed up with the eerie cigarette burns in your non-smoking room's sheets or not, it's not exactly morally appropriate to get back at your hotel by ripping off the toilet seat and tethering the mattress to the top of your car.


Yet people around the world do this every day. Some of them are even stealing wrapped gifts from under hotel Christmas trees in Dublin, Ireland, according to a report by LastMinute.com, which has been covered by The Times of India.


The website has compiled the results of a survey of 500 worldwide hotels, and the findings are a little startling. Guests in Vegas taking their room's carpet with them, a Dubai overnighter stealing the entire minibar (whereas most of us just endlessly debate over how badly we need that 10-dollar nip of Jim Beam), an Istanbul room that had everything vacated from it - except the TV, bed and a desk. It's all enough to make you feel a little unambitious with those mini bars of soap and pens you've pocketed over the years. These guests are clearly dedicated individuals, not content to flop on the bed and order a pizza while enjoying cable television.


"Some even developed enlightened enthusiasm to dislodge every single bulb in a room," the survey punned.


What else are people stealing? Toilet seats are a big one, shower heads, sink plumbing, couches, cigarette machines and even artwork. Hotel artwork, being the lowest of the low, is still apparently a fence-worthy commodity somewhere. Somewhere without taste, at least.


LastMinute.com points out that these thefts aren't just spur-of-the-moment You Only Live Once sprees, either.


"In some cases, the theft is very much premeditated, with guests apparently packing their tool bag to remove some items," Kathy Dover, a site representative, commented.


So next time you're thinking about pocketing that adorable tiny container of sandalwood-scented shampoo you didn't even open, think twice. Although, the real question may be, if you're going to steal a toilet seat - why not filch a new one, a seat that hasn't been the resting place of numerous other guests' posteriors?

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Everyone knows that if you want to conserve on water and energy in your bathroom habits, there are a number of ways to go about it. Invest in a water-saving showerhead to reduce your drain on that resource. Buy an eco-friendly toilet. Start purchasing recycled toilet paper. Turn the water off while you're brushing your teeth. Remember to hit the light switch at night when you leave. All of these are standard green procedures. But what if you've already devoted all your time to them?


For the true eco-friendly, planet-loving tree hugger, what extra steps can be taken to cut down on your resource consumption? Try these four tips for the extra-crunchy and extra-dedicated.


1. Invest in a bidet seat 

Although a fixture in Europe, the bidet just never made it big across the pond. Your average American can go his or her entire life without running into one of these bathroom contraptions - which is a real shame, because bidets are very good at what they do. While you can invest in a full bidet, why not try out a bidet seat first? These attach to your toilet and provide the same washing function as the modern bidet does, meaning you'll feel fresher and your toilet paper consumption will dramatically decrease.


2. An egg timer (or something more stylish)

Maybe you've got a teenager in the house, or perhaps you're guilty of taking long showers yourself. While luxurious, you're better off taking a piping hot soak in the tub, because after a while, your water waste exceeds a full tub! Consider bringing an egg timer into the bathroom to limit yourself in the shower and so that the minutes don't get away from you - especially if you're the type to stand there half-awake in the mornings. If the egg timer doesn't appeal to you, why not set up a CD player and limit yourself to a single five-minute song? Washing up shouldn't take much longer than this anyway.


3. Install radiant heat under your tile

Radiant heat is an energy-efficient way to keep your rooms warm, and it's especially effective and luxurious in the bathroom. We all know the shocking chill of tile on a cold morning, but by installing radiant heat under your floors, you won't need to worry about that again.


4. Buy an eReader

Instead of throwing money at dead trees every time you hit up the bookstore, have them sent right to your eReader device. Think about it! Not only can you read greenly on the toilet, but you can buy books and download them right into your hands. Not too shabby. Why not refigure your magazine subscriptions the same way?

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Next time you turn to flush the bathroom toilet at your office, take a moment to pull out your wallet. Take a few Benjamins and toss them in the bowl. Then hit the lever and walk out. You've paid your fee to whatever toilet plumbing fates are causing Americans to spend a joint $5.9 billion in damaged iPhone costs over the years.


Why are toilets and iPhones so hell-bent on being together? Could it be some ancient mystical contrivance? Did Apple make a deal with the devil - or some septic tank lord of the underworld? Could it possibly be that Americans are really all butterfingers?


SquareTrade is an independent gadget warranty provider, and they're the prime source to come forth with the news that American iPhone damages are approaching the $6 billion mark - and it's only been five years.


According to CNET, SquareTrade surveyed 2,000 iPhone owners before compiling their startling infographic. They revealed that in the last year, 30 percent of the 2,000 had damaged their devices in some way. The interesting news? According to the source, SquareTrade was particularly surprised by the number of iPhones that took accidental baths in the toilet bowl.


According to SquareTrade's handy infographic, iPhone replacement due to accidental damage is 10 times more likely than replacement due to theft or loss. Of those accident scenarios, it lists the top five as being "Fell out of my hand" (30%), "Immersed in liquid" (18%), "Fell out of my lap" (13%), "Knocked off a table" (11%) and "Liquid spilled on it" (9%).


If you consider stylish bathroom vanities "tables" that an iPhone could potentially be knocked off of, that means that four out of five of those potential iPhone deaths could be toilet related. (There's an argument to be made for "Liquid spilled on it" too, but it defies physics.)


When you consider how embarrassing (and gross) it is to lose one's iPhone to a toilet, it wouldn't be surprising if only half the offenders were even coming forward. Maybe a little shaming could decrease these lost iPhone numbers and reduce the number of folks texting or emailing while doing number two.


One thing is for certain. The next time your buddy hands you his phone and asks you to look up directions while he drives - don't touch the thing without a pair of rubber gloves.

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It was on a quiet July night in Colleyville, a suburb of northern Texas, when a group of middle school kids began vandalizing a residence. They threw toilet paper through the trees and shrubs of the Alexandra Drive house and graffitied epithets and rude phrases (the ever-original "suck it" being a stand out) on outer walls. They inscribed more insults all along the driveway using mustard, then coated the flanking pillars in peanut butter. Sanitary napkins were littered everywhere, covered in more condiments. Most curiously, two chicken halves were stuffed inside the mailbox. No source reports whether they were raw or cooked, either being just as disgusting and no less weird.


The mastermind behind this brilliant act of criminal mischief? According to local police, it's 41-year-old Tara Mauney.


Charged with felony-level criminal mischief and free on a $7,500 bond, Mauney allegedly came to the assistance of - and potentially led - the nocturnal attack on the Colleyville home, where a group of girls were having a sleepover.


It's these girls, Texas' Star Telegram reports, who witnessed the perpetrators fleeing the scene and bravely chased them down.


The brunt of the case against Mauney may come from some photographs taken of the mother and children at a local Walmart several hours before the crime. Furthermore, the source reports that "A witness told authorities that she saw Mauney and a group of juveniles shopping at the Bedford Walmart on the night of July 24. Security video from the store also showed that Mauney and juveniles were in the Walmart."


Why the noxious waste of toilet paper? What deep-seeded hate could have let so much of that classic (and eco-sensitive) bathroom product go to waste? Whatever the goals were of Mauney's illegal escapades, couldn't she have just bought herself a new toilet paper holder and just gone on with her life?


Then again, there's the possibility that the Texan mom is free of guilt. Says the source, "Two male juveniles have confessed to their involvement in the acts of criminal mischief, according to the affidavit." Mauney's attorney, on the other hand, has disputed the allegations and is requesting a polygraph test.


Whatever the outcome, it behooves every potentially bored-stiff suburban parent out there to - before resorting to a life of crime - consider an alternative. Bathroom renovation.

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New York's Standard Hotel has hidden perks, like voyeur-equipped bathrooms. These aren't just any voyeurs however. The folks watching you brush your teeth, urinate and worse - they are the entirety of New York City.


The Standard hotel has instituted a number of new bathrooms, all of them equipped with the usual necessities (toilet, vanity, soap) and lacking one primary one - privacy. The loos all look out on the street, offering a gorgeous view of the city. The problem is, the city looks back.


"The view outside is exciting, but the view inside is frightening," Melbourne native and hotel guest David Langdon told the New York Daily News. "I saw people waving at me. Sitting on the royal throne, you don't expect a public viewing."


The giant windows of the Standard's Boom Boom Club restrooms aren't one-way glass, frosted or even curtained. They're just 18 stories up, and not high enough to avoid attention. Or the camera phones of passersby.


The Standard, which sits near the High Line Park in the meatpacking district of Manhattan (there is another Standard in the East Village, although the boutique hotel chain got its start in Los Angeles - news which surely won't surprise any New Yorkers) is no stranger to nudity. Over the years, its giant windows and friendly policy toward public voyeurism has been remarked on a number of times. Local and abutting businesses (not to mention residential housing units) regularly get a glimpse of couples in affectionate states of expression, as well as some racy videos and one incident involving a trampoline that was noted by a number of sources.


So, is the Standard really that much racier than the Waldorf-Astoria, or is it just the habit of folks to play Jimmy Stewart and give new meaning to the title Rear Window? Certainly enough people on the street were snapping pictures to imply the latter.


Regardless, the Standard is taking the several complaints - and plenty of press - seriously, insisting that the bathrooms were meant to be equipped with "black, waist-high curtains," which, according to the source, a manager said "had always been part of the design and were just temporarily removed."


Well, regardless, all those bathroom users certainly got their turns to shine in the smartphone camera spotlight. Thank goodness for newspaper mosaic filters.

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Every season with holidays is guest season, so don't expect much of a reprieve year round. Spring has St. Patrick's Day (which isn't done right without overnight guests) and Easter. Summer is full of vacationers, not to mention both Memorial Day and Labor Day parties. Autumn has Thanksgiving, which requires enough space for guests to suffer through their individual food comas. Winter gives us Christmas and a lot of bored college students lounging around the home for a month.


Guest bathrooms are a necessity - there's no getting around it. While a spare couch or sleeper sofa can make an adequate bed, your guests will need a spot to clean up and refresh in comfort. So when it comes to the guest bathroom, what essentials do you need? Besides the fixtures, everything necessary is going to be in the linen cabinet. Consider these.


1. Extra toilet paper. While it's not world-crushing, it can be awkward for a guest to ask a host for a few extra rolls of TP. Save them the trouble and double-check that your linen cabinet is packed with three extra rolls at all times.


2. A spare loofah or two. If asking for toilet paper is uncomfortable, asking to borrow a loofah is downright terrifying. Your guest will likely agonize for hours over pronunciation before biting the bullet. Hang a few from stylish hooks on the inside of the cabinet door to save them that trouble.


3. Advil and Tylenol. You can go with the generic ibuprofen or acetaminophen as well, but keep in mind that some people have personal preferences for one or the other.


4. Hotel-sized bars of soap. This might seem overly indulgent toward your guests, but providing individual-sized bars of soap can be a nice gesture. Some people simply hate sharing bars, and when they forget their own, it's always nice to have a spare handy.


5. Toothpaste. Think of the number of toothpaste tubes you have bought when traveling and then weren't able to bring home with you. Just keep your cabinet well-stocked with it, alongside dental floss, mouthwash and especially a spare toothbrush or two.


6. Linens. Shocking as it may be, these are essential parts of a linen cabinet. Devote one of your shelves to towels, and consider keeping a stack of hand and face towels as well. Of course, it doesn't hurt to hang a few from a towel bar as well, adding a little color.

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Most of us have a very early photo of our parents giving us a bath in an unlikely place, like the kitchen sink. From there, we graduated to parentally assisted baths - with our hair washed using plastic cups - and eventually to showers. But not everyone has the same bathing style. Some people prefer to keep baths part of their daily routines. Others haven't had one in years. Some folks like long showers, while others hop in and out as if their skin were on fire. A select few might still be using the kitchen sink. Others just don't shower at all.


So what does your bathing style say about you? Probably not quite as much as whatever happens to be in your medicine cabinet (or the deepest corners of your linen cabinet), but here's some speculation.


1. You're a lazy tub person. Despite the fact that you shower every morning, you still like a long soak in the tub at night. If you could (and you sometimes do), you'd eat three square meals a day in your tub. You do most of your reading here, occasionally have conversations (three iPhones have been lost to drowning in as many years - totally worth it, though) and have put serious consideration into telecommuting to work - from the bathroom.


2. You're a hypochondriac showerer. You typically take one shower in the morning (to clean yourself up for the gym), one after you work out (to clean yourself for work), another when you get home (to wash off the work grime) and a final rinse before sleep (so that the bed doesn't get dirty). You use a lot of moisturizer.


3. You're a shower-sleeper. Almost every morning - but especially on dark winter mornings - you fall asleep and accidentally take 45-minute showers. You wake up when the hot water runs out and end up washing your hair in a frantic hurry before the stream turns ice cold.


4. You're still a bubble bath person. This is less about your Peter Pan syndrome and more about the fact that bubble baths are just plain fun. Sure, maybe your sole companion when bathing is a yellow rubber ducky, but at least you know how to enjoy your washing routine!


5. You like to steam shower. An individual of refined taste, you're proud of your steam shower. It's got an iPod hookup, aromatherapy and even a bench. You're riding the wave of the future! (But be honest, you kind of miss water pressure.)

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Innovative accoutrements for your bathroom
Posted on Monday, September 17, 2012

Each day, scientists, inventors and innovators across the world are advancing technology by taking leaps toward quantum computing, discovering new medicines and cures from the bark of Amazonian trees and patenting the PUSHit.


This stroke of genius design is the sort of thing that might not look super sexy on your toilet seat, but it'll save you a world of trouble when it comes to pesky clogs. Designed by Hoe Yeong Jung and entered into 2012's iF Design Talents Awards, OhGizmo.com suggests that this contraption could be the answer to all the problems the PUSHit's last four letters give us. Or, at the very least, it's not an entirely awful pun.


The PUSHit works by sealing off a toilet bowl when you lower the seat and incorporating a plunger into its lid, effectively allowing you to plunge safely, without the danger of overflowing. Or so says the product design, because the PUSHit isn't exactly available for purchase - it's not even past the prototype stage yet.


Looking for some other innovative accoutrements, which are sure to be twice as fun? Consider these options.


1. Bidets and bidet seats. While you could certainly go the classical European route and have a wall bidet installed in your bathroom, toilet seat add-ons also exist. While not to everyone's taste, bidets do offer plenty of incentive by reducing toilet paper waste and keeping you feeling fresh.


3. Mirror defoggers. Do you love long showers? Do you hate having to wipe the mirror only to have it steam over again within minutes? Some radiant heat tech experts have found a way to spread warmth across a mirror's surface, keeping it clean and clear at all times.


4. Heated towel racks. This is the sort of amenity that hotels love to pamper guests with, and it's totally worth installing one in your home. Just imagine the luxury of wrapping yourself in a toasty warm towel on a chilly morning.


5. Steam shower. It may seem unorthodox to the uninitiated, but steam shower devotees say they haven't looked back since making the switch. Instead of bathing in a stream of water, steam showers produce water vapor, which they disperse into a stall to cover individuals' bodies. It's a little futuristic, a little classical (think of the Roman's steam baths) and entirely relaxing. 

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Top 5 major bathroom faux pas for the home
Posted on Friday, September 14, 2012

The Big Book of Etiquette surely has several volumes' worth to say about bathrooms. When do you invest in a scented candle? Is it rude to keep a box of matches on the back of a toilet? When, exactly, is a sliver of soap considered "finished"? All these questions and more plague bathroom users across the world. But among the many mistakes we fear making in the bathroom, the most major ones are also the most obvious - and the most easily fixed. Consider these atrocities and begin avoiding them in your own life with renewed vigor.


1. The speckled sink. No matter how sleek and stylish your contemporary bathroom vanity is, most sinks are still created out of smooth white porcelain, and as anyone who's worn a linen suit around a black cat knows, white shows off whatever sticks to it. If you're a man who regularly trims his beard or a woman who runs a brush through her hair in front of the medicine cabinet mirror each morning, check to be sure you haven't left behind a small wig's worth of excess hair plastered to the wet sink. And clean up your dried toothpaste.


2. Seated business transactions. Despite all conceivable sense, it seems to have become almost acceptable to speak on your cell phone while managing other, more personal business on the toilet. As a rule, don't speak to anyone on the phone while you're on the toilet who you wouldn't be fine holding conversation with through the open bathroom door. (And even then, think twice...)


3. Taking without giving. We've all imagined the nightmare of running out of toilet paper at the worst possible time - usually when the secret object of your affection is the only person who could hand you a new roll - and a few have lived through it. Avoid putting anyone in this situation, and give yourself a dose of good karma by always replacing not only the active roll, but the spare ones as well.


4. The impossible fog. People who don't use the fan during their 40-minute steamy showers aren't just neglectful, they're downright cruel. Nobody should have to brush his or her teeth without being able to see the medicine cabinet through the fog.


5. Horrors upon horrors. Don't ever - ever - leave the seat up. If you've never fallen into a toilet bowl, try it. Then you'll remember to put the seat down.

 

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Four opulent and stylish accessories for your bathroom
Posted on Thursday, September 13, 2012

Your bathroom puts up with a lot, so doesn't it deserve a little pampering? The best part about treating your bathroom to a few luxurious upgrades is that you reap the benefits. If you've always fashioned yourself a lover of the high life, why not indulge in a bathroom makeover shopping spree? Even if you only devote yourself to one of these classy bathroom fixtures, it's sure to make all the difference. Your showers may feel just a bit more relaxing, your makeup may look a fraction better and your floors may stay cleaner just a while longer - all because your bathroom is happier.


Consider these four thank-you gifts for your favorite room in the house.


1. A brand new bidet seat. A sure sign of sophistication, bidet seats are also useful and hygienic. What oodles of toilet paper traditionally has trouble with, a bidet seat can make a breeze. You'll feel fresher, fewer trees have to be cut down and typical bathroom functions will never have felt so classy and Parisian.


2. A designer dual sink vanity. Your spouse will be thanking you for this one. While the marital benefits of having two sinks in the master bathroom are obvious, the more subtle aspects of premium design are just as satisfying. Just like a desk, table or sofa, it's imperative that you treat your vanity like the stylish fixture it is. Whether you go with an antique bathroom vanity or something in a more modern or contemporary design, picking out a dynamic style is sure to imbue your bathroom with necessary character. Just because it's where we floss and shower doesn't mean the bathroom deserves any less style or décor than any other space.


3. A luxurious towel warmer. Bring one of five-star hotels' greatest amenities into your home with a stylish towel warmer. These towel bars are specially heated so that your cottony towels are as toasty as can be when you get out of the shower. Don't risk braving the winter alone without one!


4. An eco-friendly toilet. You've done so much for your bathroom, why not give the environment a gift too? An eco-friendly toilet is a fantastic way to reduce the massive amount of water wasted with every flush of a regular john! Opt for helping out the environment and flush-easy options. Besides, these stylish models blend perfectly with the rest of your furnishings and are eager to be equipped with the (also eco-friendly) bidet seat. Change your bathroom habits for the better - and greener!

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For anyone who's seen a men's lavatory in a college dorm and made it out alive, it may be shocking to hear that bathroom cleanliness ever becomes part of a young adult's routine. More than that, it's a rite of passage. Rather than marking age by crow's feet or male pattern baldness, one could say that bathroom management is a sure sign of maturity. So what about those bathroom staples that only belong to those who have settled lives and know what a 401K is? What kind of medicine cabinet items mark the transition to adulthood? If you can count three or more of these bathroom accoutrements among your own, congratulations, you're a step closer to your golden years.


1. Bathrobe. Most bathrooms come equipped with robe hooks, but it's the rare young adult who actually uses them for that. While Hugh Hefner might have made the crimson smoking jacket robe iconic, it's still failed to catch on among the post-shower crowd. Most people receive their first robes as Christmas presents after all - from their kids.


2. Extra floss (in case you run out). If you ask the dentist up front, with an air of suspicion, how often one actually has to floss every day, he or she may conspiratorially say "Once every 24 hours is fine." If this makes you feel vaguely proud about having remembered to floss the Thursday before last, you're still a youngster.


3. All-natural or baking soda toothpaste. Not that you use it, but that Whole Foods brand toothpaste you picked up is a sure sign that you're concerned about lingering carcinogens and potential health hazards in your everyday drugstore-generic Crest knockoff. Though the Crest knockoff sure does taste better.


4. A stack of AARP magazines on the back of the toilet. Unless you've got your parents' copies on loan, it's highly unlikely you keep up with American Association of Retired Persons' news and are not considered an adult. If you find these in your bathroom, you may want to consult your calendar and calculate whether you were born more than 50 years ago. If the answer is yes, you are - by default - an adult.


5. Shower cap. At a guess, no one under the age of 70 has purchased a shower cap since 1979. Doing so immediately ushers you into the realm of adulthood. 

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If there's ever been a clear sign that Garfield is growing stale, it's the fact that American cartoonists aren't getting slammed with enough jail time. Luckily for India, there're plenty of absurd and archaic sedition laws still in effect that are ready to help disgruntled lawyers and politicians throw the book at artistically minded satirists.


Aseem Trivedi is a freelance artist who has produced and posted to his website a number of cartoons lampooning the state of Indian politics. Sent to jail over the weekend and awaiting trial for sedition, Trivedi is refusing to seek bail until all charges are dropped. According to CNN, Trivedi's lawyer, Vijay Hiremath, reports that his client "had been remanded in custody until September 24th by a Mumbai court."


One of the cartoons in question depicts the three lions of India's national emblem replaced by wolves. Another image showed the nation's parliament as a toilet. This is, perhaps, a touchy subject, considering the Indian government's inability to provide most of its citizens with working and sanitary toilets.


As for Trivedi's potential sentence, should he be convicted for both sedition and what the source calls "insulting national honor," he'll face life imprisonment.


Despite this, Trivedi is putting on a brave face. "I am against this law," he yelled to reporters on Monday as he was taken away in a police van. "I have pride in what I have done and will keep doing it. This is a fight for a second independence!"


So what does the government have to say on the issue? Surely not the fact that the sedition law Trivedi has supposedly broken dates back to British colonization.


Ambika Soni, the country's information and broadcasting minister, told the source that the government doesn't partake in censorship, but rather preferred the media to do it - a practice retitled "self regulation."


"I don't think making cartoons is wrong," said Soni. "But [cartoonists] should not make national symbols as their subject."


Perhaps he means the toilet.


With any luck, Trivedi will beat the system and continue to lead a long and successful life as a cartoonist and critic of his nation's troubled politics. Furthermore, hopefully the many Indian citizens who suffer from poor sanitation will find relief, assuming government reform can be achieved - perhaps one cartoon at a time.

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What your bathroom reading material says about you
Posted on Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Bathroom reading is among the least spoken of and most ubiquitous of activities. Rarely does anyone admit to having read the most fascinating Rolling Stone article while on the john, but chances are that - if someone is telling you about the most fascinating Rolling Stone article - it was read on the john. With the advent of iPhones and the internet in the palm of your hand, classic bathroom reading isn't as popular as it once was. But it's still not unusual to use a home's commode and find a neat stack of magazines perched on the back of the toilet. In fact, if you've got just such a stack of reading yourself, what might that say about you? Consider these fine magazines and books as examples.


1. The New Yorker. More likely than not, you went to a liberal arts college, and despite the fact that you are still paying student loans (only four decades left!), you nonetheless find the cash to drop on renewing your yearly subscription. Also, the free tote bag is really useful.


2. Joke book. You have never once told a single joke found in this book, mostly because they are all terrible. At least four or five (of the 101 guaranteed gut-busters) don't make any sense at all! Despite this, you are a lover of puns and what some might call "dad humor."


3. Book of obscure facts and information. You watch a lot of Jeopardy, and often find yourself befuddled by what seem like general knowledge questions that you don't know. When did Alexander the Great reign? You have no idea, but if someone wants to know the name of his horse, it was Bucephalus.


4. Entertainment Weekly. You subscribed to this magazine as part of a deal way back in high school, but have kept renewing and revising your address as you've moved. While you don't care all that much about Iron Man 4, it's still really exciting to see the set photos. You also subscribed to People Magazine, but just for the crosswords.


5. Anna Karenina. You are a very serious bathroom reader. Or perhaps you have terrible digestion.


6. Nothing. This probably means that you have an extremely regimented sense of hygiene. You regularly polish your vanity, scrub at the bathroom tile and wash your hands often. Or perhaps you're a smartphone user.


7. A library book. Etiquette only counts if you're found out.

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Top 5 tub activities for the bathing inclined
Posted on Monday, September 10, 2012

For some folks, it's been years since they last enjoyed a bath. Bathing is a leisure activity - a way to wash up that people tend to graduate from before starting elementary school. But just because a soak in the tub is both leisurely and luxurious doesn't mean it's any less essential to your health or well-being!


Relaxing in a hot bath is an ideal way to unwind after a stressful day or week at work. But, nonetheless, you probably won't want to sit there for too long without something to enjoy - be it a novel or some jazzy music. So why not light up the scented candles, toss in a few more suds and kick back with one - or a few - of these great tub-time activities?


1. Read a book. You may not want to set out on Ulysses or Proust as you settle into the tub, but indulging in a good page-turner can be a great way to take the edge off your stressful week while the hot bathwater relaxes your muscles. Escape for a little while into a detective story, a turbulent romance or a fantastical kingdom. If a novel isn't to your taste, why not pick up a few magazines? From People to Harper's, you're sure to find something that will steal your attention away.


2. Enjoy some wine. If you really want to unwind, a glass of red wine can perch carefully by the soap dish. Mellowing out with a glass makes for the perfect accompaniment for your book, or even turn on the CD player.


3. Set the mood with soothing tunes. If rock is your favorite thing, go for it, but most folks will probably want easy-going instrumentation and muted vocals - the kind of soft music you can nod off to.


4. Listen to a podcast. Of course, if you want something more engaging than music, there's always a wealth of podcasts out there. Whether you're looking for something on the humorous side or are dying to hear the latest Terry Gross interview from NPR, your computer, MP3 player and smartphone can immediately access any of them. Just hook up your player to speakers and set it on the bathroom vanity for easy listening.


5. Contemplate the universe. While you may not want to get as philosophical as Descartes, there's no reason not to take this extremely relaxing and introspective opportunity to reflect on life, the universe and everything. Consider it meditation - clearing your head of all stress and concentrating on your breathing can do wonders for your well-being, and there's no better place to try them out than in a bathtub.

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Great things to do in the bathroom
Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012

Everyone knows what you DO in the bathroom - number one, number two, showers, blowdrying hair, applying zit cream and so on. But what should you do while you do those things? Let's face it - we're a culture that enjoys our constant stream of stimulation and information. While it's great to zen out every so often while brushing your teeth, consider these options when you're looking for something to take up your minutes as you get your bathroom stuff done.


1. Using the toilet - read a magazine. Magazine articles make for great toilet seat fodder. It may take you a full week to finish the article, but there's nothing like a little regularity in the bathroom to keep your mood lifted. Just be sure to have a stylish rack to keep all your copies of People and The Economist in.

Runner up - do a crossword puzzle.


2. Taking a bath - read a book. Here's the designated bathroom time for indulging in a good novel. If you like to laze about in the tub for a half hour or 40 minutes, why not bring your favorite paperback along for the ride? Sure, bibliophiles will freak out at the danger your book will be in at any given time, but there's nothing like a little thrilling drama and a relaxing soak.

Runner up - take a nap.


3. Brushing your teeth - listen to a song on your iPod. Dentists tend to agree that each brushing session should be a minute or more, plus time to floss. Set your favorite tune on your iPod and begin applying your toothpaste.

Runner up - recite memorized poems from high school English class in your head.


4. Cleaning - enjoy a podcast. If you're giving your bathroom a good scrub down, you'll need at least 20 minutes to devote to it - the perfect length for a segment or two of your favorite podcast! Catch up on a great NPR show while you buff the medicine cabinet mirror!

Runner up - get your kid to do it and go watch television.


5. Taking a shower - sing. When you're in the shower, it's time to test out more than just the water pipes. Belt out your favorite rock, pop, jazz standards or opera to your shower panel and don't forget to wash behind your ears.

Runner up - nothing. What could come close?

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While there's a plethora of styles and fashions for every living room, kitchen or bedroom, bathrooms tend to suffer from a degree of uniformity. As dedicated to hygiene as they are, your average bathroom doesn't afford much of its design to quirky or eclectic style. But that's no reason to give up on your bathroom's eccentric side. Consider some of these quirky storage options to give your home's commode more character while multiplying its efficiency.


1. Hidden medicine cabinets. We all know that a mansion's most valuable jewels are hidden in a safe, which is itself hidden behind a priceless work of art. Why not take this caper movie trope into your bathroom with a medicine cabinet that doubles as a favorite painting? While paper doesn't traditionally stand up well in a moist space, grab a favorite print and slot it inside a medicine cabinet's mirrored frame, then affix it wherever's stylish.


2. Hanging baskets. Many a potted plant has been hung from the ceiling, sometimes in stylish wire baskets. Why not nix the plant and use this lofty locale to store other items? Seasonal affectations such as pumpkins and gourds during the fall or snowman figurines during the winter could be a great choice. Or, if you're particularly tall or the basket is low-hanging, why not keep a few shower items in it? Then again, using it for houseplants isn't a bad idea either, as a little green will improve air quality in your bathroom exponentially.


3. Filing boxes. ApartmentTherapy.com has a great tip for those with a little surplus of office supplies. Desk-side or cabinet-side storage units are slim and stylish ways to store everything from your hair straightener to some of your favorite reading materials. Just mount these mesh-style filing boxes on any fixture, from your vanity or wall to the back of your bathroom door.


4. Toy boxes. Have a snazzy wooden toy box that your kids have outgrown? Why not give it a fresh coat of paint and let it double as a bench and towel storage in your bath? While not all bathrooms will have the space, this can be a stylish opportunity for those that do. You can always use it as a stepping stool for when you need to water your hanging plant!

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Public potty training treads partition of politeness
Posted on Thursday, September 6, 2012

When a mother decides to potty train her toddlers in public, the world is welcome to debate, discuss and generally wonder about her actions. When a mother decides to potty train her toddlers in a public restaurant, the world is welcome to feel nauseated and lose its appetite in unison.


Kimberly Decker caught just such a thing happening at a table in a Utah restaurant, so - like a proper human being - she took a picture of the tableau and posted it to her blog, making - with one snap of the iPhone - history's most awkward family picture.


"While we sat down to have lunch, I noticed this young mother was potty training her two twin daughters at the table. It didn't quite register at first what was happening, "Decker wrote on her blog, "but when I took a second glance I realized this is NOT OK!"


No kidding. Decker and other patrons watched as the mother removed the children's clothes, leaving them birthday suited and eating chicken nuggets while perched atop what everyone soon realized were definitely not just high chairs.


"The more you thought about it, the more unappetizing everything looked around me," Decker told KSLTV in Utah.


The station also interviewed a spokesperson for Thanksgiving Point, the restaurant chain where the incident took place. Erica Brown told KSLTV that they had received complaints from other customers and that the staff hadn't realized what was going on - or at least not until it was already over (whatever that happens to mean, one hates to imagine). She assured KSLTV that measures would have been taken sooner had staff been aware, adding "I think state and local health codes were probably an issue, as well as just social norms."


Yes, health codes probably were an issue. Probably.


So who is this mystery mom with nothing to hide? A brilliant performance artist? Someone on restroom strike? Just one more young mother wanting desperately to know if she was doing it right? While the viral photos and chatty blogosphere hasn't culled up a name yet, hopefully these twins can make it through childhood and adolescence with a firm grasp of why bathrooms have doors, locks and toilets affixed to the floor (it's not just the plumbing). To all future students of potty training - just wear the diaper out.

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When L. Ron Hubbard founded the Church of Scientology in the mid-20th century, it's unclear whether he imbued his sacred texts with commandments regarding toilet bowl maintenance. While most religious books predate the regularity of porcelain thrones in homes across the world, Scientology's range of writings - from Dianetics to the most mysterious scriptures of the upper echelons - have the distinction of laying out the church's doctrines in the age of plumbing and Lysol with bleach. Which is probably why actress Nazanin Boniadi was supposedly forced to scrub a toilet bowl with a toothbrush as punishment for upsetting Tom Cruise.


On the heels of his split with Katie Holmes, Cruise is garnering even more criticism (and twice as many uneasy glances) as news of his Church of Scientology-hosted girlfriend auditions makes the rounds. According to Slate, an upcoming Vanity Fair Magazine exclusive will cover the trials and tribulations of Nazanin Boniadi, who won the role of Cruise's girlfriend in 2004 after the star split with longtime wife Nicole Kidman.


Who is Nazanin Boniadi? An actress with a pedigree above toilet scrubbing, that's for sure. The source reports that Boniadi is best known for a recurring role on the sitcom How I Met Your Mother, and was already a Scientologist at the time of her matchmaking with Cruise. The Vanity Fair correspondent, Maureen Orth, reports that between November of 2004 and January 2005, the Iranian-born, London-raised Boniadi rode the rollercoaster of manic states and severe scrutiny the public has come to associate with Cruise. Toilet bowl scrubbing was only one of many punishments handed down by both him and Scientology officials. When Cruise eventually broke up with Boniadi, it was through the church, reports Orth. Not a word from the man himself - a move most folks abandon sometime after high school.


Vanity Fair and Slate both assure us that Boniadi is no longer involved with Scientology, unsurprisingly. This isn't the first time that former members have gone to press in an attempt to out the church for its practices, most of which have ranged between harmless and odd to illegal and frightening. Toilet bowl scrubbing lands somewhere between the two extremes. Hopefully Boniadi will find some peace, and the next time she has to take care of her own bathroom clean up, there will be a full-sized toilet brush on hand.

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Quick cleaning tips for your bathroom
Posted on Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Most busy folks know that when it comes to cleaning rooms, the bathroom is the first one you should devote your spare time to and the last one you actually want to tackle. If only there were some way to keep those white tile floors super clean and that toilet eternally polished. While you may never find the time - or desire - to keep your bathroom as spotless as the sparkling pantheon to hygiene that you see in interior design magazines, you can certainly keep it looking good with a few quick tips. These won't steal hours of your day from you - hardly even minutes  - and are sure to leave your bath in better shape than it's ever been before.


1. Pick up after yourself. Before getting into the shower, most folks take whatever pajamas or underwear they had on and throw it on the floor - or, if they're a bit pickier, hang it on a spare towel hook. The problem is that these dirty clothes sometimes linger after the shower is over and you're dressed and off to work. The millisecond it takes to grab your PJ bottoms on the way to get dressed will save you a pile of dirty ones later in the week.


2. Bleach the toilet. While that scrub brush may seem intimidating, you don't need to be on your hands and knees all afternoon to clean your toilet. Let your toilet bowl solution (bleach is actually optional for those wanting an all-natural mixture) sit for up to 15 minutes before you give the porcelain a good scrub. All in all, it should take just under 16 minutes, with only about 40 seconds requiring any manual labor on your part.


3. Squeegee the shower door. If you've got a glass shower stall door, don't let it mildew over. Instead, grab a squeegee at your local hardware or department store and give the door a quick once-over daily after your shower.


4. Take five. The editors over at ApartmentTherapy.com have come up with a fantastic five-minute quick cleanup regimen. In brief, minute one clears off surfaces, which are then wiped down and scrubbed in minute two. Minute three asks that you fold towels, straighten your shower curtain and double-check the toilet paper. Minute four is all about the mirrors (more like 30 seconds if you've only got the one above your vanity) and minute five is for taking care of any excess that slipped under your radar - or just taking a breather.

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