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 :)


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Kitchen Packing



I chose this cartoon by Jeff Bucchino of The Wizard of Draws because for the past few days I've been juggling in the kitchen trying to cope with packing kitchen items in preparation for the move in two days. Out of necessity the kitchen is the last room to be packed and the first to be organized at the new house. It is very important to me that we eat homemade meals as long as possible before the move. This move is different in that we have to do kitchen renovations immediately after moving in order for our JennAir to fit in the kitchen. That means removing and ancient built-in stovetop, built-in oven, and non-working dishwasher. This will free up counter space while replacing the countertop and dishwasher. The kitchen is top priority once moved as a month later we are having quite a large gathering for our anniversary.

Talk about a juggling act! I've been packing the kitchen for the past few days now. There is nothing like seeing a growing stack of boxes to realize you have too many recipe books, too many herbs and spices, too many gadgets and way too much food. It's a great time to purge but unfortunately besides a few outdated by my standards homecanned foods, very little in the way of food was tossed. As far as small appliances and gadgets goes, I purged those a long time ago so nothing went out the door from that category.

It's also a great time to rely on freezer, refrigerator and pantry stores. Not only does this save on the cost of eating out or take-out foods, it reduces what you have to move. It's surprising the meals you can come up with just shopping from your food storage. This helps rotate the foods as well. I'd just about kill for some fresh fruit or a salad about now! We used the rest of the salad fixings on Sunday so I haven't had my daily salad fix since then. We are pretty much out of dairy with the exception of a few cheeses Money I would have spent on these items is in an envelope so I can replenish after the move. We grilled filet mignons last night as a final toast to this kitchen. It's been good to us. From now until we move in two days, we will likely eat out. That gives us a break from the chaos as well.

This is the perfect time to clean all those appliances! Why move dirty appliances? As we are setting up the new kitchen, I want everything ready to use. I washed all the small appliances before packing them. Today the oven is being cleaned (self-cleaning), the fridge washed out and the microwave cleaned. The small freezer is being moved filled while the larger freezer is being emptied to fill the freezer the previous owner is leaving. The dishwasher will be run for the last time today so I can clean it good for the new owners. We'll use disposable from now on as the dishes will be packed today as well.

So that is how the kitchen packing is proceeding.





Garden Gnome
© 2007


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Dishwashers



Dishwashers are great time savers but they can be problematic as well. As I mentioned in my previous post, the payback period for most dishwashers will exceed the lifespan of the machine. So a dishwasher shouldn't be bought with the idea that a newer model will save money in terms of operational costs. There are measures you can take to reduce operational costs that I will discuss later in this post. The two key factors when buying a dishwasher tend to be does it clean and how quiet is it but the key question should be what is the environmental impact.

A dishwasher impacts the environment during its manufacture, its useful lifetime and at the time of disposal. You have no control over how your perspective dishwasher was manufactured but you can do the research and choose a manufacturer based on its environmental track record. If you come across a manufacturer where you like their product but not the way they manufacturer it, write them to explain why you are not buying their product. The energy efficiency of a dishwasher is critical regardless of the payback period. Choose a dishwasher with the environmental impact of disposal in mind. The stainless steel interiors are wonderful during the useful lifespan but not so wonderful when disposing of a dishwasher.

Dishwashers use energy not only to operate but water has to be heated. So those are two areas where you can save a bit. The hot water heater should be set to 140ºF for dishwashers however since most dishwashers pre-heat the water it could be set to 130ºF, the safe temperature to prevent bacterial growth in the tank. Be sure the pre-heating function for the dishwasher is turned on. When it comes to loading, follow your manufacturer's guidelines. Improper loading leads to frustration when dishes are not cleaned as expected and wastes electricity. My rule of thumb is to never run less than a full load if possible. The only exception is during the heavy canning season where I may end running the dishwasher two to three times a day on water miser mode mainly for preparing jars.

Since we have been in this house, I have been using Electrosol 2 in 1 Gel. This detergent often goes on sale for about $2 per bottle so we stock up. Unfortunately stocking up is not always beneficial as we saw when we had an abundance of laundry soap that cannot be used in the front loading washer. This time it is not as bad as I only have 2 1/2 bottles of the liquid dishwasher detergent. Every sales person we have talked to has said to use powdered dishwasher detergent only along with the rinse agent. I don't really mind changing back to powdered as quite often it is less expensive. My only reason for using liquid was humidity both natural and kitchen generated causes the powdered detergents to clump. Some on the various frugal groups are using washing soda (Mule Team Borax) instead of detergent in their dishwashers. While this may not save money it is a more environmentally friendly choice and it is unscented to avoid polluting your indoor air. Finally on the topic of detergents, many on the frugal groups have also indicated using less than the manufacturer's recommended amount of dishwasher detergent. This may be false frugality if the dishes do not come clean and you end up washing them again so you may have to experiment to get the right amount.

One thing I do monthly to keep the dishwasher running smoothly is to run a short cycle using white vinegar. The clears any water deposits build-up without damaging the valves or seals like bleach will. In fact bleach should not be used in a dishwasher because of this problem. Vinegar is an inexpensive way to keep your dishwasher cleaning to its potential.

The final way to save is soon to be available here and already available in other location is called the Smart Meter. This meter replaces your normal electric meter then determines the time of day you are using electricity. The electric company rewards you by giving lower kWh rates for using electricity outside of the peak daily times of electricity consumption as determined by the electric company. An added bonus for rural residents is the smart meters will eliminate estimated billing as well. Now by running your dishwasher during the lower kWh times you will save on the operational costs. It's a win win situation in terms of energy usage.

Garden Gnome
© 2007


Wednesday, June 20, 2007



Despite our best laid plans we found out the day our purchase was signed that the existing dishwasher wasn't working. The real estate agent wasn't very pleased but I wasn't concerned. While it would have been nice to have a working dishwasher in the new house, I had been struggling for quite some time with the dishwasher in our old house so buying a dishwasher was pretty much a given. I've been married a long time, raised kids, do a lot of cooking and canning and a fair amount of entertaining so I knew what I wanted in a dishwasher.

My wants and needs are fairly simple. I want a dishwasher that cleans the dishes, period. I want simple, easy to use controls. Sorry guys 14 dishwashing cycles does not impress me! Here's what I want to see: wash, dry, done. Simple, right? I wanted a stainless steel interior. Those white vinyl interiors stain to high heavens. I really don't want another dishwasher with a vinyl interior. I've heard all the hype about super quiet dishwashers and even though the new kitchen opens into the family room, this is not a real high priority. The reason being is quite often we run the dishwasher when we go to bed not while we are entertaining or watching television. I want/need an energy efficient dishwasher. During heavy canning sessions the dishwasher will be run two to three times in the day. I need that energy efficiency! The canning sessions have also dictated that I need a tall tub unit. Price is a factor as well. I want the best value for my buck, thank-you very much.

Thank goodness for online shopping! I narrowed it down to the Bosch SHE44CO5UC, Whirlpool GU2700XTS and Maytag MDBH975AWW. All are EnergyStar® qualified and all are reported very quiet. All are tall tub modes and they are in the approximate same price range. I really liked a lot of the features on the Whirlpool and because I'm a happy consumer of their other products that started swaying me a bit. Now this is a nice dishwasher but there were two things I found potentially problematic. First the inside finish was something called slate. I've dealt with vinyl interiors that turn orange as soon as anything tomato goes through the dishwasher. The slate to me just seemed to be a darker colour to mask this problem. This dishwasher also had an Anywhere silverware rack meant to be in the door. My husband didn't like this idea at all. Still the Whirlpool was in the running. The Maytag had a stainless steel interior and was in close running. Perhaps we would have considered it further if their website was just a little more user friendly. In the same price range, the Maytag offered a delay function not available on the Whirlpool. The Bosch offered everything we really wanted. It has the energy efficiency by using condensation drying so there is no heater. Why pay for a heater you won't - I never put my dishwasher drying cycle on! Then they eliminate both electricity and noise by using filters instead of a disposal. So all of a sudden I'm really liking the Bosch but my husband doesn't like the idea of no food grinder. Well after much discussion, the Bosch is going to be delivered just after we move in. It is the most frugal choice for our needs.

Dishwashers fall almost into a grey area as far as energy efficiency so you really need to shop wisely. They aren't like going to a front loading washer where you can do three loads in one wash. They aren't like a hot water tank where you can turn the temperature down. But they do use electricity to operate and electricity or gas or heat the water along with the cost of water itself. The problem is going to higher end models that promise savings may not warrant the cost in terms of pay back. Unlike other appliances with quicker pay backs, a dishwasher will maybe go from operational costs of $30 per year to $20 in electricity. Unless the newer model uses less water you will save nothing. Most dishwashers have a heating function to bring the water up to temperature so you are paying to heat the water regardless. The bottom line is a new dishwasher is likely going to save you at the most $15 per year total. At $800 that's 60 years and I doubt the dishwasher is still going to be working. So my advice is to buy as energy efficient as possible for that sake alone but only if you really have to.

Garden Gnome
© 2007


Thursday, June 7, 2007

Ah Yes, The Organized Move



Is there such as as an organized move? I'd say it is more like organized chaos only because even with the best of organizational skills employed moving is disruptive. At best things go very smoothly with no glitches. That is the ideal situation but seldom happens. To minimize glitches, get organized. Don't forget you are the one that will be living in the disruption and you are the one that can minimize that disruption. It is best to find out early in the game the things that can go wrong and take steps to prevent the problem. Make lists and go through them according to priority. This is your plan of action for you to follow through to reach you goal of a smooth as possible move. Ok, so you are moving, what next?

Use a prioritized list system and as one item is checked up move other items up if need be. Remember, you are striving for a smooth, organized move so you have to stay focused. Here's the list for our move prioritized under the ABC, 123 system at this time:

  • A1 - take one day to do a walk through with a notepad and write down everything that needs to be done for each room
  • A2 - make a list of all must be notified of your move - phone, utilities, car insurance, home insurance, cable, banks, doctors, dentist, lawyers, associations
  • A3 - gather all essential document's like wills, house papers, birth certificates, passports, insurance and etc - put them in one easy to access spot or a safety deposit box
  • A4 - make a list of all friends and relatives that need to be notified of your move
  • A5 - pack an weekend bag with essentials including baby and pet needs to last two days
  • A6 - call the movers (or arrange help from family and friends)
  • A7- notify everyone on the A2 list* by telephone**

*Do not discount how long this process can take. First you have to jump through the hoops by pressing all kinds of buttons to finally get a human on the phone then you have to go through almost the same process talking to the human. It took me close to 4 hours just to notify phone, hydro, water and gas because we hit a glitch where the new property was listed incorrectly for the hydro. Then we hit another minor glitch over a rented gas hot water tank. That took some time to work out.
**I do not recommend address changes being filled out online especially if it involves the sale of one place and purchase of another. The last thing you want to have happen is a glitch on either end so you end up paying more. It's best to call, jump through the punch the button game and talk to someone. It's one of the best ways of avoiding potential problems.

At this time packing is a B priority depending on your time frame but don't let it go until it becomes an A priority.

  • B1 - designate a central point***
  • B2 - start packing one room at a time - pack 15 to 30 minutes daily and be sure to label the contents and where the destination of that box is, (if you want to do more by all means but at this rate your house will be packed in no time)
  • B3 - purge while packing - (this is very important, do not move anything you do not need to)
  • B4 - arrange for anything useable purged to be donated or tossed
***Your central point is where filled boxes should be stacked. This should be an area out of the main traffic flow and not interfering with the removal of larger pieces of furniture.
  • C1 - pantry/freezer cooking - depend on both for meals, remember do not move anything you don't have to
  • C2 - email and mail notices to those from A4
  • C3- take a breather - this too shall pass
This move is very organized with a lot of prep work being done while the house was for sale. But even with a short notice move, you can make it a smooth move using your organizational skills. Make lists then form a plan and act. Smooth and easy!

Garden Gnome
© 2007


Monday, June 4, 2007



The unfortunate thing of moving is it does involve at best organized chaos, a feeling of being unsettled and of course the dreaded packing. The biggest hurdle is where to start because at first it does seem overwhelming. The way to approach packing will very much depend on the type of move and the type of help you will have. Some prep work can be omitted for short distance moves or if you are using a moving service for part or all of the move. I'm going to break down my packing method into three sections.

Declutter: The very moment there is even a hint of moving start the decluttering process. There is no point moving things you aren't using and likely won't use again. The general rule of thumb is if you haven't used something in the past year, you likely won't use it so either donate or toss. Be honest and brutal when doing the declutter process. To keep this from being an overwhelming task, break the process into daily 15 minute sessions and focus on one room at a time. It is surprising how much can be accomplished in that time frame. It is also encouraging to see stuff you aren't using going out the door before you even start packing. This is all stuff you won't have to move.

So I've been declutter right from spring cleaning to when the house was listed. I started with the 15 minute daily sessions and thanks to my kids had a huge declutter weekend. All the stuff we are keeping is already packed and in the garage. On moving day the truck can back up to the garage, load up and will be ready to go without much effort. Daily decluttering is continuing inside as well. I am focusing on preparing meals from the freezers, canning rack and cupboards. Not only will this reduce what food we have to move it will bring out a little creativity. Some of the creations will be posted on my cooking blog if you are interested. This will also curb any desire for take-out foods saving us money.

Our moving date is June 28 and because of prior commitments couple with renovations on a specific time line once moved I want everything packed and ready to go by June 15th. The exception will of course be some of the food. A rough layout of the new house will get things where I want them with minimal fuss. A moving company is moving all the furniture, appliances and likely the contents of the garage. Family and friends are helping us move the remainder.

Packing: I think it is extremely important for a smooth move to be very organized with the packing. For this you need good containers and some type of labelling system.

  1. containers - By far the most popular containers are boxes. They are usually easy to obtain and generally free. I like the boxes from the liquor store as they are sturdy and have removable dividers that come in handy for protecting items. My next favourite containers for packing are plastic totes with lids. These keep water out something really appreciated if you've ever had any type of flooding problem. Plastic totes are also great if you are using uncover pick-up trucks for the move and it decides to rain. Your things stay dry. They won't go moldy like cardboard can either. Unlike cardboard, plastic totes are an investment that will serve you well in your new home and for future moves. Of what we are packing for this move about 80% is in some type of plastic tote.
  2. packing - Packing should be done methodically, room by room but before you start this process take the time to pack a weekend bag that includes everything you would need for a weekend away. This will go in your vehicle with you so when you arrive at your new place you have things right handy. Add a second bag with all your important papers and another one with pet essentials if you have pets. Once these are packed, I go through and pack room by room, labelling each box or tote with their destination at the new house. Some have pictures of the contents but others don't
Centralization - Early in the packing process, I set two areas of the current house to put the boxes and totes. This is what I refer to as centralization. As each room is packed the boxes are moved to the central area leaving the room stripped to furniture only. It helps streamline things going out the door for moving and eliminates a lot of unnecessary steps during the moving process.

I hope some of these tips can help you in your next move.


Garden Gnome
© 2007


Sunday, June 3, 2007


The organized chaos has begun. I had been decluttering before as part of the spring cleaning previously mentioned. More decluttering will happen as part of the packing process as well. The number one key factor for a smooth move is organization. Two things I consider essential when moving are a Sharpie marker and a camera. In my case I'm using a digital camera. The first question is why a camera?

A camera can save you considerable time and frustration both during and after the move. Before you do any packing take a walk through your house and take pictures of the rooms. You've now created scrapbook moments and memories to be used later. There may be some elements you would like to recreate in your new home. A picture is worth a thousand words in this case. Next and this is important if you are hiring movers, take pictures of what they will be moving. In the event there is any damage during the move you have a pictorial of how that piece of furniture was before they moved it. This is a good idea to do even if you aren't moving for insurance purposes. There is nothing more frustrating than going to set up certain electronic equipment without some type of instructions for the wiring. Even more frustrating is trying to write this out then losing the instructions in the move. We solved that problem by taking pictures of the wiring layout for things like the receiver, VCR and satellite as it does have to be connected in certain layout for our set-up. One inventive use for a digital camera when packing for a move is to take pictures of what is in the box, print them off and tape the picture to the box. Once at your new residence you have a wonderful visual of the contents of each box to help you organize there. Images should be uploaded to your computer and a back-up CD made just in case. If printing the images for boxes, set the printer to draft or ink saver mode. You will still be able to identify the items but it will be cheaper to print. If you are using actual film, have it developed before you move and keep it with your personal papers.

Ok, so with camera in hand I did my walk through both inside and outside mainly for scrapbooking. This will be the final chapter on this house as it is right now so I want to do a nice layout of how our house looked before we moved. The next thing I did was take pictures of the layout of my bookshelves. I'm rather particular about this so could likely do the layout from memory but a picture will help just in case. I have an inuckshuck in the garden that I'm bringing to the new house. This is construction using only the physics and positioning of the rocks and while I could likely reconstruct it from memory, I decided to take a picture so reconstruction will only take a couple of minutes. I took several pictures of the electronic layout for the television equipment for both televisions. Our stove has a downdraft system so I took pictures of that just in case.

On moving day as soon as we get the word to pick-up the keys, I'll slip to do that as well as stop at the new house to take pictures. I'll go through room by room so that we have pictures of the inside without the current owners possessions and before we start putting ours in. This will serve as another scrapbook moment as well as giving us a pictorial of what the house looked like before we owned it. I am using the tip of taking pictures of what is in certain boxes but only on certain boxes.

When I started this post, I fully intended to discuss both packing and why to use a camera. However, the post is getting long so I'm going to break it into two posts. Watch for tomorrow's post dealing with my method for packing and cameras.

Until then,

Garden Gnome
© 2007


Friday, June 1, 2007


It's all official as of yesterday! Our house was sold on Wednesday but the sign didn't go on until we waived the conditions on our new house yesterday. So everything is a go. We also did final measuring for the major appliances and know what we have to do. We now have 27 days to do everything to make a smooth move.

I started working on a prioritized to-do list for the move, what needs to be done prior to moving and what needs to be done just after the move. We know we will have to do kitchen changes to fit our appliances to get our house up and running. The dishwasher needs replacing so we will buy it before the move but have it delivered the day following the move. The furnace and hot water tank need replacing as does the AC.

I'll post more on my game plan as it develops. I've started 15 minute packing sessions so that will likely be the topic of the next post.

Garden Gnome
© 2007