What does a Garden Gnome do when she is not gardening, in the kitchen or doing genealogy? Well the answer might just surprise you so read the entries to find out more. This blog focuses on everything we do to make our house a home. There will be a strong emphasis on home energy efficiency and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. At the same time there will also be crafts, knitting and crocheting projects along with any other little tips we do to create that down to earth, I want to be here home. Please enjoy your visit :)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Today is Earth Day so what better way to celebrate but with an entry for how to save energy on laundry. Saving on laundry tends to be one of the top topics on frugal discussions and for good reason. Let's face it, doing laundry is a fact of life. It can be time consuming, overwhelming and costly. Saving even a little in this area encourages us to save in other ways as well.

We raised a larger family so over the years (almost 30) we have done a lot of laundry. Over the years the energy costs have increased and they will continue to rise. But it is not just the price of energy that continues to rise. I've divided this entry into three sections: appliances, washing and drying. These are simply my tips and what works for me.

Appliances: I posted an entry awhile ago about my new front loading washer and matching dryer. I'm serious, if there is any way you can replace your top loading washer to a front loader do it. You will not regret it! Front loaders save on energy, water, detergent and fabric softener. Loading capacity is about three times that of a top loader so you end up saving even more including time. It is a win-win situation all around.

Washers are either manual or electric. If you are interested in a manual washer, Lehman's is one source. Other sources are yard and estate sales. I've seen plans for adapting wringer washers to solar power but have no experience with this. Driers are powered by: air, solar, electricity or natural gas. Choose the cheapest power source that best suits your needs.

Washing: My first rule of thumb is the washer is never run unless fully loaded. My second rule of thumb is I use cold wash/cold rinse most of the time with the exception being whites where I use hot wash/cold rinse. My list of laundry supplies for washing are:

  • unscented laundry detergent (HE now but normal before)
  • bluing (whitener)
  • vinegar (softener)
  • laundry bar soap (normal stains)
  • meat tenderizer (enzymatic stains)
  • Simple Green® (greasy stains)
Missing from this list but used for years are washing soda and bluing. I'm using all liquids because of the front loader but if you are using a top loader washing soda (20 Mule Team) is an inexpensive way to whiten and brighten your light colours and whites. Bluing is getting increasingly difficult to find locally but is available online from several sources including the link above. In most cases you can use about half of what the manufacturer says to use for both detergent and fabric softener. In general dry detergents may be cheaper but you will need to calculate the cost per load to be sure. Store brands are usually cheaper than brand names but again do the calculations. For greater savings eliminate fabric softener entirely and just use vinegar. If you are using a top loading washer, an extra spin will make your clothes drier resulting in shorter drying times.

Drying: By far the most cost effective way of drying clothes is on a clothes line to the point that some in frugal discussions snub those that do not dry their clothes this way. However, many cannot dry their clothes outdoors due to seasonal allergies, physical restrictions, residential restrictions, geographical location, and time constraints. In my case, for quite some time I was out of the home including a long commute that often resulted in me leaving the house at 5 am and getting home just after 6 pm, sometimes later. With the amount of laundry, hanging it outdoors was not practical. Then we started serious allergy control so no hanging clothes outdoors.

I have a folding laundry rack and at the old house had a built-in laundry line in the utility room. Between the two they might have held a load and a half, simply not practical with the amount of laundry for our size family. Another problem with hanging clothes inside is the increased humidity which actually makes your furnace/AC work harder costing you more money and can cause mould problems. I have seen instructions for building a clothes drying cupboard that involves a series of racks, hangers and an incandescent lighbulb. I cannot say how well this set-up works as I have no experience with it.

For a number of years, the main source for drying our clothes was an electric dryer even though I used an outdoor line when possible and an indoor rack when possible. For the past four years my dryer has been natural gas powered, almost 1/3 the cost of electricity here. If you can, always choose the cheaper source of energy. If you can't, use the double spin tip to dry your clothes more so they dry faster.

I'm not a big fan of fabric softeners. I've heard that dryer sheets can gunk the machine and they are definitely not environmentally friendly. Both liquid and dry fabric softeners leave a residue on the clothes. If you can wash a load and still smell the fabric softener, there's a residue! Vinegar is the more economical choice for fabric softening. It works well and helps to remove detergent residue that will cause that dingy look in clothes.

Image courtesy of Clipart Etc

Garden Gnome
© 2007

Friday, April 13, 2007

I've had Adobe® Photoshop® on my computer for quite sometime but up until a few months ago had only used it for resizing images. Talk about not using a program to it's potential. It all started because I wanted to make a custom made blinkie. Then working with the program I quickly saw this had a lot more potential for scrapbooking than the two programs I had. I like that I can customize as I want through my eyes and how the image makes me feel, not to someone else's standard. Over the past few months I've learned a lot about Photoshop® especially through a lot of online tutorials. I would like to make a special mention for Obsidian Dawn. I'm enjoying her brushes and tutorials immensely.

Since our first grandbaby was born in late December, the pictures and video clips have been going back and forth. What I started was a digital scrapbook of her first year but I knew I wanted full control of how it came out. She along with each set of grandparents and her parents will have a printed and CD copy. I plan to make CD copies for anyone who asks. But I want the scrapbook to look like a traditional paper scrapbook when printed. This is where Photoshop
® really will be an asset. The main rule for printing these types of pages is to use a high quality, brilliant white photo paper. I find for scrapbooking that matt works nicely when printing a full layout. This will cost a bit more than regular paper but the detail and colours are crisper. The amount you will save in not having to buy embellishments like ribbon, vellum, brads, stickers and ect. will more than cover the cost for the paper.

I made the image for this post using
Photoshop®, layers and different brushes in about 10 minutes. I started with layers right off the bat while learning how to do simple animations. Then I started playing with layers using digital photographs I take. Once I got the hang of working with layers, I found there were so many things I could do. I use layers for most of the images on my blogs now. So if you have Photoshop® and haven't explored the possibilities, check out some of the online resources in the links section. You will be amazed at what this program is capable of doing!

Have a great day,

Garden Gnome
© 2007

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Well, now that the house is officially listed, I have a whole new daily routine. Much of this is based on what I don't like when house hunting. So I sat down and made a list of what I don't like then created a to-do list to help me achieve the things I like to see in a house. On my list of what I want to see in no particular order are cleanliness, sparkle, homey feeling and order. What I don't want to see is clutter, dust, pets, mess, dirty laundry or dirty dishes. The problem is while our house is up for sale, we are still living in it and that means certain activities have to continue. For that reason I have developed a couple of strategies. To see how I'm dealing with meals and the possibility of a showing during the dinner hour, check out my cooking blog, Mom's Cafe Home Cooking. I'll focus on my modified daily routine.

For awhile I tried Flylady techniques mainly because some of her tips make good sense. While I found it was a little too structured now that I'm home all the time, I still use some of her tips like a once a week 27 Fling Boogie and my dailies. She breaks home cleaning into zones but I had already developed my schedule. I also kept her idea of a 15 minute hot spot declutter. It works well for me. Most days I only need 5 minutes.

So I have a morning routine consisting of 5 morning dailies and an evening routine of 5 things I do before retiring for the night. Some of these things change depending on the season but for the most part most don't. These just make the house run smoother but for selling the house I needed something more so I've added 3 tasks to the morning routine and 2 to the evening routine. In the evening I set out the swiffer duster, 1:1 vinegar solution in spray bottle, 3-4 white terrycloth washcloths, vacuum cleaner and bring down whatever load of laundry I will do next. With the front loader I'm doing a load about every 10 days for dark and colours and once every 8 days for whites. What I do is put as much as possible for that load into the washer but leave the door ajar unless the house is being shown. In the morning, I do my regular routine then go through the house with the vinegar solution (shines & deodourizes) shining every possible surface including appliances. The swiffer duster makes quick work for keep dust under control. Then I vacuum and by then the house is ready at very little notice for showing. I think at most I'm spending an extra half hour in the mornings and about 5 minutes in the evening which isn't that bad if it helps sell the house. The other change I made was to try to run the washer, dryer and dishwasher in the late evenings so they aren't running during the times the house is most likely to be shown. This may sound like a lot of work but really it isn't and if it helps sell the house, it will be well worth it!

Garden Gnome
© 2007

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Dishcloth Pajamas

Presenting ordinary, practical items in different ways can be a challenge for gift giving. Dishcloths are one thing that no new homemaker or even a long time homemaker would ever say no to. They fall under the category of there's no such thing as too many!

Dishcloth Pajamas

I discovered a novel way give dishcloths from a vendor at a farmer's market. It was immediately apparent that these would make a really cute housewarming present. So I bought a set simply to take them apart to see how they were made. Besides, I can always use more dishcloths!

Pictured here are dishcloth pajamas that are just perfect for a novel housewarming gift. They are quite inexpensive and easy to make using simple folds and tacking them together with thread.


Materials Needed:

  • 3 dish cloths
  • 2 buttons
  • thread
  • needle
  • glue (optional)
  • cutsey verse (see below)
Fold the wash cloths to form the pieces:

sleeves: Fold one wash cloth in half to form a rectangle. Fold in half again.
pants: Fold 1 inch of an edge on one wash cloth. Turn so the folded edge in down on the table. Fold one edge to the centre and repeat with the other edge. Tack the cuff edges together using needle and tread.
top: Fold one wash cloth in half to form a rectangle. Fold each short end in to the centre of the rectangle. Turn down the top corners to form the collar. Tack into place with needle and thread. The original pajamas I worked from had the buttons glued on but I prefer to sew them on. Punch a small hole in the printed verse and attach when adding one button. On top of the pants as pictured and tack into place.

To assemble:

Place the sleeves long end facing you. Place the pants on top in the centre of the sleeves, cuff end facing you. Tack these pieces together with needle and thread. Place the top

We look like pajamas
but really we're not
We are three little dishcloths
You'll like us a lot

For washing the dishes or
chasing the dirt
Just take us apart
It really won't hurt


Garden Gnome
© 2007

Sunday, April 8, 2007


Garden Gnome

Free clipart, animations and web graphics

Monday, April 2, 2007

If you have read my other blogs, you will already know there is a possibility of us unexpectedly moving. We are currently on waterfront property as is the house we want to buy. The problem is with waterfront property you have to act fast! So in less than a week we have viewed the house twice and the offer was put in on Saturday and is tentatively accepted. We will know for sure before 5 pm and if accepted our house will be listed this evening. That means everyone from their firm will be doing a walk through tomorrow. Thank goodness I have been doing spring cleaning! If all goes well, this will be our fourteenth move since we were married. I've learned a trick or two about moving in general and those little extras to do when you are selling your house that I thought I would share.

Moving is stressful as it is but if you aren't organized, it will be worse. Reduce whatever you can. There is no point of moving stuff you never use. Donate, give away or toss these items. Do not buy anything you don't absolutely have too unless it is something like appliances that will be delivered to your new address. Eat from your pantry and freezers. The less food you have to move the better. Put your normal food budget money into an envelop and save that for restocking after you are moved. Start packing early, just as soon as you know you are moving. Pack daily if at all possible, fifteen to thirty minutes at a time. Label the boxes according to what room they go into in the new house or apartment.

The biggest tip I have for selling a house is once it is on the market, consider it not yours. Look at it through the eyes of a buyer. You have to do what it takes to sell it. Presentation is everything! Here are some tricks I've learned over the years for selling your home:

  1. declutter - Buyers want to see space and potential. They are trying to visualize how they would used the space. If you can't get the clutter moved fast enough, hide whatever you can in dressers or storage containers but not in closets or built-in storage. Make your house a bright and spacious feeling as possible.
  2. pets - Sorry, your pet might be the centre of your universe and a very pleasant critter but potential buyers might not see it that way. Many people have allergies to cats and dogs as well as just aren't really into other pets like reptiles or rodents. These need to be out of the home when it is being showed and there should be no evidence of any pet odour. The only exception to this is a well maintained, sparkling fish aquarium that tends to be rather soothing.
  3. air fresheners - Gone! All you need is a potential buyer to have an asthma attack or chemical reaction because they are sensitive.
  4. personal items - Most people realize that you still have to carry on your life while your house is on the market. They don't want or need to see all your hair care products, dental stuff, your favourite nightie and house coat, or even your dirty laundry whether in a hamper or not.
  5. cleanliness - Buyers aren't expecting perfection but they are expecting clean. The kitchen and bathroom(s) should be spotless though. Potential buyers will be turned off by a sink full of dirty dishes or a dirty stove even it is not included in the sale. Clean the stove and if you don't have time to do the dishes put them in the dishwasher or covered tote. Shine those sinks using baking soda, rinse well and dry. Shine up the taps with a 1:1 solution of vinegar and water.
  6. sparkle - Your house ideally should sparkle from top to bottom. Remember first impressions count especially when selling a house. Dust everything including light bulbs and keep it dusted while the house is listed. Wash all the light fixtures so they sparkle. Don't forget the mirrors and taps. Again, use a 1:1 solution of vinegar and water. Just before your house is being shown go through and turn on every light even if it is daytime.
  7. appealing to senses - You really need to appeal to a buyer's senses with of course the most important being visual. However other senses come into play. Some real estate agents recommend baking something like a pie or bread. I can you we sold one house that way and because of the buyers lovely comments I left a plant and loaf of homemade bread for them on moving day. Quiet instrumental or classical background music can help too.
Garden Gnome
© 2007