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 :)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Hand Painted Saw

Artwork makes a home from the scribblings of children proudly displayed on the fridge to posters and to anything we enhance our decor with. Artwork is special because it always captures a bit of the artist, constantly giving, evoking feelings and reminding us we are emotional beings. From previous entries, you have seen some of my needlework and bead work that is displayed in our home. I can't wait to display the artwork of our new grand baby on the fridge!

We collect artwork from a particular local artist. His work is absolutely gorgeous! His work is featured at several art shows throughout the year. He does not paint people or animals but his painting are so realistic that you become one with the painting. They take on a life of their own, changing with the lighting. The detail is amazing! We have four at home and one at the office, each signed by the artist who has become a very good friend. After his signature there is always a number that is the number of years he's been married. Each painting has a story behind it written on the back of the painting and comes with a pamphlet explaining in greater detail the painting. I just love going to their home and hearing the stories behind the paintings. What a wonderful gift he gives. Because of the expense (and they are expensive!) of these paintings, I cannot post pictures online as much as I would love to share with you.

So I'm sharing a picture of my husband's latest findings. He was at an event and saw the artwork of a local artist who's medium is old saws. What a remarkable way to recycle something that would have been tossed into the garbage! He loved the work and thought it would work well with our other artwork. It was love at first sight. The work is beautiful! Our great room is divided into four living areas, none of them having much wall space so this piece of artwork will grace the sitting room area.

Grace your home with artwork that speaks to your heart and soul. Let it touch your very being!

Garden Gnome
© 2007

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Homemade Cleaning Solutions

We have been seeing an increase in allergies, asthma and chemical sensitivity due to indoor air pollution in our homes and workplace. The problem is manufacturers convince us that our houses need to smell of the latest, greates scent du jour in order to be clean. An earlier entry focused on what chemical free cleaners I use in my home that don't harm our indoor air quality or the environment. Several recipes for cleaners follow.


My last entry didn't give a picture so I thought today I would post one. My favourite non-toxic, environmentally friendly cleaner is Simple Green®. It can be used for so much! Since I make up my own solutions, I splurged and bought commercial spray bottles at Sam's Club but you can find similar at the dollar stores or if you really want to save, just put the word out to your friends to save their empty spray bottles for you. Notice, I do lable my spray bottles and that is important. The pile on the left is a small portion of my cleaning cloths. I bought two 25 packs of terry cloth wash cloths at K-mart for $2.99 a piece. I use these for wiping up spills and cleaning. The handheld steam cleaner is on the right and by far could almost eliminate everything else but the wash cloths!

Steam Mop

Let's see, floors - we all have them and somehow we have to keep them clean. I use three tool: swiffer, steam mop and carpet steam cleaner. My steam mop is likely the second most used cleaning appliance in my home. Floors are squeeky clean with no chemical or residue. It has more than paid for itself! Not shown in the picture is my Bissell Carpet Steam Cleaner. It is an older model earned though Z-Points years ago. It's still going strong and does a great job of cleaning carpets.

Ok, so you are all gun ho on going towards non-toxic cleaners BUT you don't want to or can invest in a handheld steam cleaner ($39.99), steam mop ($79.99) or Simple Green ($8.99). The first thing is to congratulate yourself on making one more step to a healthier home and you. The second step is to arm yourself with a few inexpensive supplies: vinegar, baking soda, washing soda, spray bottles, pure bar soap and bleach if you can use it. Total cost should be under $15. From there you can start replacing your regular toxic cleaners for more environmentally friendly onew with one or more of the following recipes. Your home will smell clean and be clean without you polluting your indoor air or your body.

Warning: Even homemade cleaners can pose a risk to children and pets. Always label your homemade cleaners including a complete list of the ingredients. Keep them out of the reach of children and in case of accidents, call your poison control centre.

All-purpose Cleaner
50 ml borax
125 ml pure soap
1 drop eucalyptus oil
4 L hot water
Mix thoroughly

Wall & Floor Tile Cleaner
125 ml shredded coarse soap
125 ml washing soda
4 L hot water
Dissolve ingredients in hot water. Use a stiff brush to scrub the tiles with the cleaner. Rinse well as soap based cleaners toend to leave a film. Dry.

Laundry Powder
250 ml pure soap flakes or powder
25 to 50 ml washing soda
*Do not use in high efficiency front loading washing machines!

1 part vinegar
2 parts water
For kettles, pour the solution into the kettle, bring to a boil then let sit for a few minutes. Pour out solution and rinse well. For shower heads or spayers, remove and let sit 30 minutes in the solution, rinse and replace.

Window Cleaner
1 part vinegar
1 part water
Place in a spray bottle. To use spray then wipe.

25 ml chlorine bleach
1 L water
Mix then pour into a spray bottle. Use for killing mould, germs and bacteria.

Non-caustic Drain Opener
125 ml baking soda
50 ml white vinegar
1 kettle boiling water
Pour the baking soda into the drain followed by the vinegar. Leave for 15 minutes. When the fizzing has stopped, pour in the boiling water.

Silver Cleaner
1L warm water
5 ml baking soda
5 ml salt
small piece of aluminum foil
Mix and place the silver in the cleaner. Replace the foil whenever it turns black. Be careful when cleaning silver plated items.

Oven Cleaner
25 ml dishwashing soap
15 ml borax
1 L warm water
Mix and pour into a spray bottle. Spray on dirty surfaces and leave for 20 minutes. You may need steel wool to remove some stubborn spots.

Scouring Powder
50 ml pure sop flakes
10 ml borax
375 ml boiling water
50 ml whiting (fine chalk powder available at art supply or decorating stores)
Dissolve the soap and borax in boiling water. Cool to room temperature and addwhiting. Pour into a plastic or glass container and seal well.

Garden Gnome
© 2007

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Ten Ways to Go Green in Your Home

  1. reduce
  2. reuse
  3. recycle
  4. replace incandescent lights with compact fluorescent lights (CFL)
  5. use non-toxic cleaners
  6. use rechargeable batteries
  7. seal air leaks
  8. repair or replace leaky taps
  9. insulate hot water pipes
  10. wash clothes in cold water/cold rinse

Garden Gnome
© 2007

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Spring Cleaning

I grew up in a household where spring cleaning was a must. I could always tell when Mom was gearing up for it too. There would be empty boxes, a couple of large package of garbage bags and buckets with mops, dusters and any other cleaning aid possible. The ladder would be brought out for the windows and the plank brought out for the one attic. I hated that plank! It rested on the stair landing on one side and the attic opening on the other side. To get to it you had to crawl along the plank over the staircase! Worse than that there were mice in that attic. The other attic had mice as well but at least there was no stairwell. Everything was pulled from the attics, dressers, cupboards, cabinets and I do mean everything. She left no stone unturned! Everything had to be gone through for whatever didn't fit or wasn't of use to us for the donation boxes and bags but nothing was ever tossed in the garbage. Well as if that wasn't bad enough then the cleaning began and it was from top to bottom, one end of the house to the other. It just was not a good experience when spring cleaning time came around.

Spring is a busy time of the year for me and if you've read my gardening blog you would see why. Still despite my childhood spring cleaning trauma, I still spring clean. I still follow a similar way of doing the spring cleaning too. Mom was right, remove the clutter or items you can no longer use first. I made an earlier entry on clutter so here's what I do for spring cleaning. First, I break it down into manageable working units of time focusing on one room at a time since I simply have too many things to do in the spring to spend a week or so just cleaning. Second, since I keep up a regular cleaning routine, I don't find that the big spring cleaning takes as much time inside. Outside is a bit more and then there is the garage. Over the winter it gets piled up with recyclables and anything I've decided is no longer needed in the house. Since the car goes in the garage there is usually a lot of mess on the floor that has to be cleaned out and of course we can't forget the freezer.

Clutter: I use the three box method - keep, toss, donate. I start with the clothes then work my way up. Anything that hasn't been worn or used in the past year goes mainly to donation. The trick is to get the stuff in the appropriate box without thinking. Set a time limit then just go.

Closets: Sorry the only way to deal with closets is remove everything. This pertains to closets being used for storage only. Use the three box method, clean the closet then replace only what you are keeping. At this time you may want to add space saving tips or organizers to make things easier to finds and discourage future clutter.

Cleaning: Unlike my Mom, I have new gadgets to help me so I don't have to lug heavy pails of cleaning solution around and I don't use toxic chemical cleaners. Everything I use to clean our home is on a previous entry. Also unlike Mom, I do not wash every piece of clothing I'm going to donate. It was clean in the drawers and they are going to wash it anyway. I have kept some of the old habits though like working from top to bottom. It makes good sense. Start with the ceilings then work your way down.

Outside: This can be as simple as picking up twigs and broken branches or in my case cleaning the garden beds to prepare them for planting. We tend to get a lot of branches and twigs so even during the winter, if the weather is nice, I'll take a 10 or 15 minute break and pick up whatever I can. It doesn't seem like a lot but it does save from a major having to do it all at once cleaning. Cleaning the garden areas is as simple as removing any rubbish and debris. But this is also the time to look at problem areas or pest problems like mice or spiders. Deal with these problems now.

Garage: Here's our nightmare! We start with the recyclables. During the winter months they pile up because they are in huge bins and bringing the bins back in with winter conditions is difficult for me but I can't leave them out there to blow away either so they pile up. Starting right about now we try to get whatever recyclables out possible. Empty beer cases, while we don't drink it ourselves but I cook with it on occasion, do pile up. We have kids and friends that tend to leave their empties after poker parties despite my warnings they must take them with them. We gather these for one load for our son to take the empties back. The funds goes towards filling his gas tank so everyone is happy. My husband crushes all the cardboard which is taken to a larger recycling drop-off. Once that is done it is time to tackle the clutter. We have three walls of industrial shelving and it holds a lot, too much! What it tends to gather aside of the necessary (Christmas & seasonal storage) things are things we don't need in the house but aren't sure whether we will need it again. We try to pare this down to one shelf. Then it is off to sweeping out the garage.

Spring cleaning is a tradition and one that can easily be worked into most schedules by breaking it down into bite size chunks. Pace yourself. As long as you do 15 minutes per day on the declutter stage followed by the cleaning broke into rooms, it will be more than manageable and your house will be squeaky clean freeing up a lot of time to enjoy those summer rays and that what it's all about.

Image by: Free
Clipart or Photos: www.ace-clipart.com

Garden Gnome
© 2007

Monday, March 12, 2007

Beadwork Banner

I love making decorative things for our home because it gives a cosey, homey appeal. Beadwork is an interesting hobby or craft, one I had not tried much of at least not this way. I had not even considered the following type of beadwork.

Beadwork Kit

I was gifted with a beadwork kit for Christmas 2005. It was a beaded banner kit of a lighthouse made by The Beadery® Craft Products. The kit was heavy enough and looked very complicated. It contained nine packages of different coloured hard plastic beads, two kinds of thread, the hanging bar with end pieces, a plastic needle, the pattern and step-by-step instructions. Not included in the kit but necessary to complete the project were tape, ruler, glue and scissors.

This picture was taken just the first few rows were completed. To begin I secured the pattern with post-it notes instead of tape. The first row consisted of 25 beads with the thinner thread running through them. Then the metal rod was slid through every other bead to form rows 1 and 2. The second row was secured with the thread then the piece was worked from one side to the other.

Making Progress

It only took a few rows to become comfortable with the stringing and the process for the left side turn. I left the beads in their little bags but in hindsight it might have been easier to use small plastic containers.

I had the project in progress set up on the dining room table. Once started, moving the banner wasn't really possible so if you decide to try a project like this, that is something to consider. As with all craft projects, I kept the instructions and pattern as well as the extra beads. At some point I may want to make another one that would only then be the matter of finding the thread and beads.

The Finished Banner

The finished banner measures 6 1/4" x 23 1/4". It took me a few days to finish but that is because I had other things on the go at the same time. The package says it would be great for decorating an outer door and while it does appear to mostly waterproof, I decided to hang it indoors. The banner is rather heavy. The texture of the finished piece is quite appealing and unique enough that it does draw attention. It's nice knowing I make something for our home that others get enjoyment from!

Although I use mini beads in scrapbooking my next beadwork project involves sewing mini beads onto a garment in a particular style and design. While there is a picture to follow it is only of the finished beadwork so this will be a little more challenging. Watch for pictures of that project sometime in the future.

Garden Gnome
© 2007

Saturday, March 10, 2007

With rising energy costs, I think everyone is concerned with saving energy in all areas of their home. Since I spend a fair amount of time in the kitchen, I thought I'd start there. Let's face it the energy costs are not going to get any lower and the kitchen is filled with a lot of large energy users. Then there are all the small appliances that when used add to the energy load. I heard so many frugalistas claim their meal costs under a $1 per serving to make but for some reason they never calculate in the energy costs per serving. When factored in, energy costs could easily increase considerably the cost per serving.

We are currently paying 5.5¢ per kWh (6.4¢ per kWh adjusted rate) but that goes up to 5.8¢ per kWh in April. We also pay a higher fee for usage above 1000 kWh per month. Now in reality we pay a little over that per kWh in service charges (delivery, regulatory, dept retirement and GST) so on the lowest end we are paying a total cost of closer to 13¢ per kWh. The amount of kWh used directly affects all the service charges. We are currently paying 31.9¢ per cubic metres of natural gas plus additional service charges. Water and sewage is averaging about $30 per month. All three utilities are used in food prep in some manner so knowing that, here some of the things I do to reduce energy usage in the kitchen.

Major Appliances: Any major appliance should be replaced with an Energy Star® qualified model if at all possible. But that isn't always possible so take necessary steps to minimize energy wastage by maintaining and using your appliances wisely.

Stovetop: I do a lot of stovetop cooking especially with the amount of canning I do. Stove burners can be larger energy consumers but there are ways to combat that. I think it is important to fit the pot or pan to the burner. Too large or two small of a pot and you are wasting energy. Second wherever possible, use lids! I also prefer to steam vegetables. Steaming is faster, uses less energy and the vegetables don't get that water logged look or feel. I like using pressure cookers for energy savings as well. Not only do they cook food faster with excellent results, they save money. Stovetops must be kept clean especially the drip pans that are designed to reflect the heat from the burner back to the pot. So if your drip pans are heavily stained, you're wasting energy dollars!

Oven: My number one rule of thumb is not to operate the oven for one thing. If I'm making a casserole for dinner chances are good there will be two or three other things in the oven for later in the week. I aways us convect when possible as that not only reduces the cooking temperature by 25ºF but also the cooking time. The self cleaning feature on the oven uses 8kWh on average. By my calculations each time I use this feature at the 2 hr setting it cost me $3.99 despite Hydro One quoting it at 89¢ ($1.98 actual cost) per use. Even at the higher cost, running the self clean feature is still cheaper and less toxic than using oven cleaners plus there are no containers for the landfills. However, to save on this feature, I like to wipe up spills in the oven after each use. That way I can minimize running the self clean feature to bi-monthly. Clean ovens are more efficient to operate than dirty ovens.

Refrigerator: This can be an expensive appliance to run if not Energy Star® qualified. If not, check all seals using the dollar bill test. Place a dollar bill on the seal, short end facing out. Shut the door. Now give the dollar bill a tug. If it breaks free, replace the seals. Keep your seals clean. I wipe them down once a week. If you have a model with coils on the back, vacuum those monthly for better energy usage. I don't like over stuffing my fridge because that interferes with air circulation. I also like to let hot foods cool before placing in the refrigerator.

Freezer: If you have a freezer especially and older one, you could be paying as much as $20 or more per month just to store food. It is best to replace or at least keep fully stocked. Use jugs of water if necessary. Keep the seals clean and replace if necessary. I prefer to have all foods cooled before placing in the freezers. I also don't like adding a lot of unfrozen food to the freezers at one time. Sometimes this can't be helped but in general if I can avoid it, I will. If your freezer is in an unheated space as one of ours is, cover with a heavy blanket. This helps conserve a bit of energy.

Dishwasher: My dishwasher only runs when fully loaded, drying element off! That may mean more than once on busy cooking days or only a few times a week when I haven't been doing a lot of cooking. I like using a liquid detergent with rinse agent included because it does dissolve better in our water. For ultimate functioning, the filters are cleaned regularly and I run an empty load once a month using only vinegar.

Microwave: Sorry folks, I'm not a big microwave user even though it can be a large energy saver. It really depends on your usage and your cooking style. I have an 1100 w that on full power costs 2¢ per 5 minutes. Not bad really except I don't like food cooked in the microwave so it really is used for reheating. However, if you use your microwave more than me, keep it clean. That is really easy to do by boiling a cup of water, letting it sit 5 minutes than wiping out the inside.

Small Appliances: I love cooking so that means small appliances and if you have read my cooking blog, Mom's Cafe Home Cooking, you will know my current goal is replacing whatever small appliances I can with KitchenAid® attachments for my stand mixer. The reason for this is both energy and space savings. So my first tip would be to eliminate any single use appliances if possible. The next step is to calculate the cost per use of that appliance then decide if you really need that appliance. The calculation is kW/1000 x rate adjustment x cost/kWh x hours used x number of times per month used = cost of operation. Some small appliances are going to be worth it just for the convenience but others aren't depending on your use. You might be surprised at how much some of these small appliances are costing you per month. Honestly, there are a lot of electrical appliances that are available in manual form and always nice to have on hand during power outages. Check out Lehman's for any kind of non-electric appliance. I invested in a good set of knives and knife sharpener as well as manual graters, mandolin. I refuse to use an electric can opener and do not have a toaster oven.

Natural Gas or Propane Grills: During the summer, I use my outdoor natural gas grill as much as possible. The cost for natural gas is considerably lower than electricity here. By cooking outdoors not only am I reducing the cost per serving by using less expensive energy, I am also saving on AC costs by not heating the house. I use my grill not only for grilling but as an oven for baking and roasting.

PS. The title I made is supposed to be animated but for some reason the animation is being stripped. I have an SOS out to a help group to see if I can find out what the problem is. If you see it as an animation, please let me know in the comment area. Thanks so much!

Animation Update (March 11, 2007): It still won't animate properly when uploaded directly to Blogger. A very kind soul uploaded the title to his site and when uploaded to Blogger that way, now works.

Garden Gnome
© 2007

Friday, March 9, 2007

Good Old Vinegar

I use a lot of vinegar in my home. For cooking, I have a lot of kinds and like good 5% acetic acid by volume for making some of my homemade herbal vinegar blends. However, vinegar has so many other household uses besides culinary uses.

Vinegar is cheap and non-toxic. When using for household purposes, I buy the cheapest jug I can find. Generally that is about 99 cents for a 4L jug. Here's just some of the ways I use vinegar in my home:

1. fabric softener - 1/2 c per load
2. diswasher cleaner - 1 c once per month, using water miser cycle, no dry,
3. coffeemaker cleaner - run one cup full stength, run through once a month
4. tea kettle cleaner - 1/2 c once per month
5. cleaning sprayer attachments - remove the attachment, soak in full strength vinegar, rinse
6. cleaning rings - let rings soak about 10 min in full strength vinegar, rinse and wipe dry with soft cloth
7. air cleaner - pour about 1 c of full strength vinegar into a bowl, set in area of problem odours, leave about one hour or longer if desired, especially effective against cooking odours but works as a general air freshener too
8. cleaner - pour full strength into a spray bottle, great for windows, mirrors or cleaning chrome
9. mold/mildew control - I just spray on full strength, it does kill both
10. washing ceramic tile - the installer of our previous ceramic tile floor said to wash with water and vinegar only, I use the same tip for cleaning ceramic tile in the bathroom
11. cleaning microwave - place 1/2 c vinegar mixed with 1/2 c water into microwave, heat to boiling then let sit 10 minutes, wipe down microwave
12. drain cleaner - mix 1/2 c baking soda with 1/2 c vinegar, pour the baking soda down the drain first followed by the vinegar; another method is to pour 1/2 c vinegar followed by a quart of boiling water
13. hair rinse - vinegar will neutralize detergents leaving your hair soft and manageable with no build-up

I know I use it other ways as well but am coming up with writer's block at the moment.

Garden Gnome
© 2007

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Doors, Windows & Jack Frost

Jack Frost
on back storm door

When I was little, I used to marvel at the beauty Jack Frost painted on my bedroom window. As the sun broke the darkness of the night, my window would take on a twinkling, magical appearance.

Then I grew up and while I still marvel at the beauty, it has a whole different meaning. Now when Jack Frost paints windows or storm doors it means we are losing valuable energy. That translates into lost energy dollars. We are lucky that the previous owner had the presence of mind to replace most of the windows with energy efficient windows even though he paid little attention to insulation. However, the two 6' x 8' picture windows are still energy losers simply because of their size. They don't frost up so that's a good sign. The front door is a antique, solid wood door with beautiful brass handles. I'd like to keep it for the character of the house. It isn't leaking much air if any. This spring we will be replacing the weather stripping and the storm door. At best the storm door is leaky and even though there isn't a problem with frosting, it is better to prevent a problem from happening. The back door is right beside the furnance. It is a hollow core wood door with a single pane window, not well weather stripped and definitely leaking air. Unfortunately we do not feel this door is worth saving so we will be replacing it this spring with an energy efficient door.

Whenever you see Jack Frost's handiwork on any window or door in your house, take a minute to marvel at the beauty. Then take action! The immediate remedy is to seal around the trim of windows then put up shrink plastic window covering. That will get you through to the nicer weather where you can take the window apart and fix it properly. The quick solution for doors is to hang a quilt or heavy blanket and this is the most common solution floating around on the net. However, I'm not really fond of this idea because I think it creates not only a fire hazard but also creates a barrier in the event you do have to evacuate the house. Another solution that is effective for drafts coming from the bottom of the door is draft stoppers. These are quick and inexpensive to make and they don't impede evacuation if necessary. Simply sew a tube a little longer than your door. Sew one end then turn. Pour in rice or sand until firm then sew up the open end. Place at the bottom of the door. If you really want to save money, use the legs of old jeans. You can even be creative and turn them into little snake critters complete with eyes and trimming. At any rate, they are effective.

Garden Gnome
© 2007

Monday, March 5, 2007

Information Superhighway

Highway 21, Ontario
heading towards Tobermory

There has been a lot of talk although not as much recently about the information highway. With computers in just about every household and most of them connected to the internet, it is no wonder. For advertisers, entrepreneurs, scam artists and even SAHMs this has opened up a whole new possibility. Many now see the internet as a way to make and income and for some it will happen but just like regular self employment it does not come without a heck of a lot of hard work. I'm going to gear most of this post towards SAHMs or SAHDs because quite often they are seaking a way to suppliment their income without sacrificing their lifestyle. Perhaps make a little mad money or extra money for Christmas. I'll give you my experience both good and bad.

A note on advertisers: I'm sorry but I don't want them in my face especially when I'm paying damn good money for internet connection. What the advertisers don't get is this is my equipment and I choose what I want to read, that means by default advertisers do not get through!

Paid to Surf: Paid to surf sites were based on advertisers. These were really big for awhile and I likely subscribed to just about all of them but that is only because I did not realize what cost I was paying. One Christmas I was quite proud of myself when I handed my husband just a little over $300 in gift certificates as my contribution towards the Christmas shopping fund. Those days are long gone! Only a very dedicated surfer would make a few bucks here or there but a few of these sites still exist. What I didn't realize is many were selling our personal information and they continue to do so. Then as I got into internet security issues, I realized there could have been bigger problems. Personally, while most of these sites were kind of cutesy, they were a serious waste of time. With all this aside and if you are comfortable with these types of issues, the best paid to surf site that I recommend is MyPoints. My suggestion is to sign up with a disposable email account like Hotmail to prevent spam in your primary inbox.

Auction Sites: By far the best one is Ebay! This is a rather easy to get around website with items selling on an auction basis for the most part but there are buy it now options for some items. We've been members since 1998 and at one time in my spare time was averaging $400 a month selling items on Ebay. I even ran an online Ebay store for a short period of time. Like everything in life, Ebay has changed some for the good and some for the bad. Ebay is now linked with Paypal something we really like because that means our banking information only goes to Paypal not someone else. We also like it because we can pay immediately within seconds of the auction ending. Ebay changed their fee structure so you, the seller pay more to list the item plus you pay an additional percentage of the selling price. However, if you accept Paypal (and you don't have to) they also charge to an additional fee to process the payment and according to Ebay's TOS you cannot charge your buyers to cover this cost. What this has done is cause some sellers to over inflate their shipping and handling charges. While this seems to go unnoticed by Ebay, there are usenet and other groups that are more than willing to uncover such unscrupulous activity. Believe me you really don't want your Ebay user ID being trashed like that!

What too has really changed is the caliber of both buyers and sellers. Some sellers are now demanding payment within 3 days of the end of auction or they will neg you. Some buyers do not understand once you ship the item, the timing is in the hands of the post office and heaven help you if you are sending to a different country. They are very free with negging as well for the least little thing. More and more sellers are withholding feedback until the buyer gives a positive, likely for good reason but not what the feedback system was initially meant for. Ebay works on a feedback system based on the transaction. While it is good to pay attention to that always consider the aforementioned problems.

Blogging: Back when I got online the in thing was to have a homepage. Now the in thing is blogging. A blog is short for weblog and likely started out as an easy to use online diary but others seeing the potention are now using them for every topic under the sun. People are also making online friends this way without having to deal with the nastiness of usenet or some forums. In short, the author controls the content and whether comments will even be seen. This allows the author some degree freedom and that is really what it is all about. Onto the sceen come advertisers and companies paying for posts. Well the concept is pretty simple. You ad something like adsense (sorry will not link to any advertiser) or you make a post based on what the company wants you to talk about. Sorry, as far as I'm concerned that is nothing more than pimping out your blog! Bloggers, readers do not like to see this post is sponsored by or ads, sorry.

Well that is my experience with earning online and honestly for the most part all have their problems. There are some things I definitely won't do like pimping any of my blogs. I will give credit where credit is due but no stinking ads! I think you can tell were you could make some extra dollars from this post without having to deal with the advertisers.

Garden Gnome
© 2007

Thursday, March 1, 2007



We live in a modern age with a lot of nice appliances to take the work load off of us. Unfortunately, some of these appliances fail pre-maturely simply because they are not cared for properly. In most cases 5 or 10 minutes of simple routine cleaning and/or maintenance can save us so many headaches and a heck of a lot of money in appliance repair bills or replacement. So it is with dishwashers.

This is our dishwasher, a Kenmore Ultra Wash with Quiet Guard, model# 15522000. It is about eight years old and came with the house when we bought it. The previous owner had it installed with the intentions of moving into the house himself then for some reason decided to rent the house out instead. We bought the house sight unseen inside based on location and potential. This dishwasher is not one we would have bought ourselves based on durability and quality. We know how much was paid and honestly that was way too much money for the poor quality of this machine! Cleanliness obviously was not a high priority for the last tenant and this dishwasher was only one of several horrid messes we had to clean. Now in all honesty, I would like to replace the dishwasher and have my eye on a nice Bosch with stainless steel interior. However, it is too new to do so. Besides, the year of major appliance replacements has already been expensive enough!

Aside of the obvious dirt and grunge, the dishwasher had likely not been used by the last tenant, more likely the one before. It had obviously been left open at some point for cats to get into! The bottom rack had one piece of a plate pin missing and there were several cut marks suspected to be from cats chewing on a few of the pins. I cleaned every nook and cranny I could find. Now this is something that should be done with any dishwasher regardless of the age or condition. Open the door and at the bottom of the door spray with a heavy duty solution (1:1) of Simple Green®. This is a non-toxic, biodegradable concentrated solution that you make into varying concentrations based on usage. If this area of the dishwasher hasn't been cleaned recently expect to see huge chunks of gunk! Remove all of this and make sure this area is squeaky clean and keep it that way by doing a weekly wipe down. Another place gunk will build is around the hinges to pay close attention to cleaning there. From there it is simply cleaning around the door, checking the door seals and wiping down that area.

Then my husband removed and cleaned the filters. Most dishwashers will have two filters. The vent to one can been seen in the photo as 5 black squares in the upper left hand corner. This is where the steam comes out after the dishes are cleaned so you would think it would always be clean. Wrong! This can get small food particles and gunk it it as well. Cleaning this filter is as simple as popping the lid off and wiping it out well. The other filter in our model is under the bottom arm on the floor of the dishwasher. The screws have to be removed but this is very easy to do, takes little time and improves the cleaning ability of the dishwasher. It should be done every other month. Once the filters were clean I ran an empty load with 1 cup of 5% white vinegar. This is an inexpensive way to keep your dishwasher running top notch. It removes soap and water build-ups as well as help get rid of any small food particles. This treatment should be used once a month. There are commercial products available that will do the same thing but the vinegar is just as effective and considerably less expensive.

After cleaning the dishwasher the major concern was the seals failing. Unlike some appliances, dishwashers must be used to keep their seals functioning properly. Thank goodness it passed the first test run and has not had any leaks since we've been here. The inside of this dishwasher is white plastic that does turn an orangy pink for a day or two after something with tomato based anything is washed in it. The first inclination for most people would be to put some bleach in the dishwasher to remove the stains. This is one of the worst things you can do as bleach will cause the pre-mature break-down of your dishwasher's seals and valves.

Dishwasher repair is a relatively easy DIY project. After the third plate pin fell of the bottom rack last week and there are several spots of rusting inside the coating of the rack making it look like there is some kind of cancerous growth, I called Sears on Monday and ordered a new rack. It was $27 so the price wasn't bad at all. Then when I was doing the weekly cleaning, I noticed the door gasket is looking a little worn especially at the bottom corners. Since I don't relish the idea of having my floor washed for me at some inconvenient time, I headed over to RepairClinic.com to get a price on a replacement gasket. That $12.49 is looking pretty good in lieu of a late night floor washing! I've already ordered that part so it should be here shortly. I will give a very blatant plug to these folks. I've dealt with them before for other appliance parts. Other than being a happy customer, I have no affiliation. Their customer service is top notch, shipping is very reasonable and extremely fast. In order to find parts from them you will need your model number.

Look after your dishwasher and replace those key little things before there is a problem. With any luck, your dishwasher will give you years and years of service. So much for my Bosch!

Garden Gnome
© 2007