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 :)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Utility Cart Set-up

heavy duty utility cart

I recently posted about the heavy duty commercial utility cart I assembled for the kitchen.  Pictured is the utility cart all set up in the intended location.   It is a nice, sturdy and practical addition for the kitchen.  I hung two fry pans on the top shelf under the handle.  The upper shelf can be quickly cleared to provide extra prep space during canning or bulk cooking sessions.  Now that the potted herbs have been brought indoors I will likely use the top shelf for them.  When entertaining I can easily clear the shelves and set up as necessary.  The cart can then be used on the patio or moved to the room where the bulk of the entertaining is held.

Of interest is the pie keeper on the top shelf, the Anchor Hocking Fire King peach lustre custard cups and casserole dish on the second shelf and the pressure cookers on the lower shelf.  The pie keeper was made by my husband during our heavy ceramic making phase in the 1980's.  The Fire King casserole dish was made in the 1960's and the custard cups were made between 1942 and 1945.  These pieces are part of my larger collection of antique and vintage glassware.  They are in still in regular use.  My two pressure cookers are a 6 qt Jasi (aluminum) in the middle on the lower shelf and a 4 qt Fagor (stainless steel).  Both pressure cookers see regular use as I prefer them to the microwave oven or slow cooker.  They are actually cheaper to cook with than a slow cooker.    I also have 2 pressure canners (not pictured).  A pressure cooker operates at 15 lb pressure whereas pressure canners operate at 5, 10 or 15 lb of press.  A pressure cooker cannot be used for canning but a pressure canning can also be used for cooking.

Garden Gnome

Friday, October 29, 2010

Hubby's Slippers

The main living area of our house is below grade.  As a result the floors are cooler so slippers keep our feet warm and toasty.  Pictured are a pair of slippers I recently made for my husband.  This is my favourite slipper pattern.  I make several pairs of these in various sizes each year.  They are great for gift giving.  It has a shaped heel and is knit from the back of the heel to the toe.  The original pattern includes an optional pom pom as well as an optional cuff.  I use neither, leaving the slippers plain for the guys and a crochet bow for the gals.

Garden Gnome

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The 27 Fling Boogie

I recently wrote about the 27 Fling Boogie, a decluttering method I learned from Flylady.  I have used this method for on and off several years and am so impressed at the effectiveness I wanted to go into a bit more detail.  The real beauty of this method is it is so simple to implement.  It costs nothing but about 10 minutes worth of time and if you keep at it a good chunk of your clutter will be gone in no time.  When it comes to having your house on the market this decluttering technique really does work!

Essentially what you do is grab a plastic shopping bag of small wastebasket and go through a room our your house gathering 27 thing that will be tossed.  What happens is you end up getting caught up in the moment so the bag fills rather quickly.  It ends up being a bit of fun while decluttering.  Once you get to the point you can't find 27 items in a day to toss switch it to finding 27 items for the donation box. 

Garden Gnome

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Old Man Winter is a Howling!

Old Man Winter is a howling and yet we can't complain since autumn has been rather on the mild side.  As a result we have only used our natural gas fireplace a few times.  We haven't put the furnace on yet which is nice.  Yesterday we had a large, rather nasty storm cell go through.  It was not near as bad as they were predicting.  The winds were high but at least here I don't think they hit the speeds predicted.

This is the time of year where my mind turns to winterizing.  I'm over the busiest part of the canning season so aside of canning dried beans, soups and stews can focus on winterizing.  This year will be a bit different in that the house is up for sale and a good chunk of the draft sealing has already been done.  Since it has been milder we will leave the upper screened sunporch open a bit longer that will help with any viewings without hurting our pocket book.  Still the caulking gun is right handy ready to use anytime I find a draft.  I'm thinking of hanging quilted covers on the windows this year as well.  They will look nice for house showings yet serve a practical function.  More on those to come.

Garden Gnome

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Decluttering is a normal process for any household but it becomes even more important when trying to sell your house.  Removing clutter serves two purposes in this respect.  First it makes your home look more spacious to the prospective buyer which is always a good thing and second it means less stuff to move if you sell your house.  So either way it is a win:win.  There are several ways of dealing with getting rid of clutter:

  • rent a storage unit - I really don't like this idea as there is a tendency to hang on to some things that would be better culled from your belongings.  It also costs $100 or more per month and you end up moving the stuff a couple of times BUT if push comes to shove and you really need to get the clutter out of the house to help it show this can be a viable option.
  • three pile system - Separated your clutter into three piles: keep, donate, toss.  It makes it easier to deal with.  Once separated quickly box or bag up the donate and toss piles.  Get them out of the house!  Put away the keep pile.  If you can't find spots for what you want to keep, cull through the pile again.
  • 27 Fling Boogie - This is a decluttering method I learned from Flylady.  Using a plastic shopping bag or small waste basket go through and quickly gather 27 items to toss.  Do not stop until you have 27 items in the bag.  Once you have 27 items in the bag, tie the bag and put it into the trash. 
  • the one year rule - If you haven't worn an article of clothing or a pair of shoes in the last year chances are very good you aren't going to wear it.  Gather these items and donate them.
  • horizontal hotspots - Horizontal surfaces have a natural tendency to gather clutter.  Clear these hotspots daily.
  • new in, old out - If you buy or bring a new item into the house, remove an old item you are not using.
  • donation box - Place a donation box in an easily accessible place where you will see it daily.  Try to add one item to the donation box daily.  When the box is filled take it to wherever you normally take donations.

Garden Gnome

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Staging Homey Smells When Selling a House

This is not the first time we have had a house on the market.  In fact this is our fifth house we are selling so we know pretty much what to expect.  We have also been through a lot of houses as perspective buyers.  One thing the real estate companies encourage is staging a home with homey smells.  This is usually done with scented candles, fresh brewed coffee or fresh baked goods mainly bread.  Is this a good idea?

Staging a home with homey smells can be a positive or negative thing depending on the buyer.  On the positive side it may help a buyer relax a bit to enjoy the viewing.  It may help them picture themselves doing the same thing in the house so that may influence their decision whether to buy or not.  On the other hand it may make a hungry buyer not focus on the viewing and not everyone likes the smell of fresh baked bread or similar.  Certain odours especially cinnamon can trigger asthma attacks in some.  In my opinion a house should smell clean but not have any staged odours, synthetic or otherwise. 

Garden Gnome

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Back to Getting the House Ready for Showing

The house has been on the market for most of 2010.  We took it off temporarily at the end of the real estate contract the end of August and now have it back up for sale privately.  Since a lot of the clutter was previously dealt with there is a lot less work this time around but there's still work.  Most of it is straightening and putting things away.  I'm still working on reducing clutter further to lessen what we have to move if we sell.  We are doing a few things differently with the new private listing.

  • We are doing a bit more staging.  
  • We are correcting some of those faults mentioned during the first round of trying to sell the house.
  • The emphasis is on neat, tidy, clean and clutter free.
  • Viewings will be by appointment only.
  • Listing on more than one online 'house for sale' site.

Garden Gnome

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Big Bang Theory

Have you ever watched the show The Big Bang Theory?  The title is based on the scientific theory that the universal started with a big bang that was the catalyst for life forms.  Well, 2010 feels like a big bang.  We bought a vacation home in the sunny south back in March two days after deciding to tear apart one bedroom to create a craft room.  By that weekend our house was on the market privately for sale.  We decided that selling our permanent residence made a lot of sense at it would save considerably just in daily travel costs.  When the house didn't sell privately we gave it to a real estate agency to sell.  In May we finally got to see our new vacation home and came home renewed with the desire to sell.  Unfortunately the real estate agency brought us no offers and we heard of problems in the house we had an offer in on.  So when our listing with the real estate agency ran out the end of  August we decided to not renew.  We spent the last two weeks of September and first week of August at the vacation home where we had a wonderful chance to relax and come down to the speed of life.  We were also able to sign the agreement to rent our vacation home out when we aren't there so

During our many discussions we kept coming back to the idea that both of us really want to sell our permanent residence.  It is a gorgeous home with a great view but it is rural meaning higher daily travel costs, more time spent on the road instead of at home and it is very isolating during the winter months.  In addition to that we can't get real high speed internet.  The only choice is dial-up or high cost satellite internet and since dial-up won't meet our needs we have to pay the extra cost of satellite.  Between gasoline and internet service we would save $2,400 per year by moving into town.  However the saving are much more with lower mortgage payments, lower house insurance and lower maintenance.  Another plus is the house we have our eye on has a bigger kitchen and great solar potential.  So we shall see but we decided to first sell our house before getting our hopes up.  We put the private sale sign on the house yesterday.  Let the chaos begin ;)

Garden Gnome

Monday, October 18, 2010

Our Magavox Television Repair Job

There are some days that I really get my knickers in a knot over shoddy workmanship.  So it was with our three year old Phillips/Magnavox television (model number 37MF331D/37).  I blogged about the power problem on this television back in September along with a fix I found online.  First let me say we will never buy a Phillips/Magnavox product again.  There is a class action lawsuit in the US regarding this very problem with their televisions failing often as soon as 90 days.  All I can say is they should be down right ashamed of themselves and their customer service is one of the worst I've ever dealt with!  We were in the position to trash the television or pay upwards of $700 to repair it so I figured doing a bit of research wouldn't hurt.  I found a website explaining how replacing the burned out capacitor with an inexpensive replacement capacitor from Radio Shack solved the problem.

steps repairing the Magavox television
Radio Shack is not in Canada but we have The Source so we stopped in and bought a package of capacitors (1).  The website had recommended a 30V capacitor but their customer service said we could go as high as 50V without a problem.  The package cost us $5.99 for 6 capacitors meaning the actual cost of the repair would be $1 plus time.  My husband took the stand and back off the television (1) revealing the port where the power supply circuit board was (2).  Opening the port (3) he disconnected the circuit board to work on.  The oval highlights the burned out capacitor (4).

Surprisingly taking the television apart to get to the circuit board was not difficult at all.  What ended up taking the time was getting the old capacitor freed from the solder but a bit of gentle persuasion did the trick.  Once the burned out capacitor was removed it took very little time to solder in the replacement capacitor then reassemble the television.

burned out capacitor
The green arrow is pointing at the tell tale signs of the burned our capacitor.  It was oozing black gunk at the website said it would.  Eventually the capacitor would have failed entirely.  At the point he replaced it the tv was taking a good 20 minutes to finally turn on.  Beside the burned out capacitor is the new one showing what the end should look like.

Now here is where I really get ticked off at Magnavox.  They know the capacitors are faulty yet they fail to resolve the problem.  They would rather lose customer loyalty rather than fix the problem.  The sad thing is the replacement capacitor cost us a whopping $1 so I'm pretty sure buying in bulk Magnavox would get the part a lot cheaper than that!

the television works
With the television put back together my husband reconnected all the extraneous equipment that goes along with televisions these days.  We waited with baited breath as he hit the power button on the remote.  The look on his face was absolutely priceless when the television powered on with no hesitation.  It was amazing!

Here I had done a bit of research to solve the problem while he had all the know-how to take the television apart and do the actual repair.  So we really worked as a team on this one.  The best part is our lemon of a Magnavox television is working perfectly at the cost of $1 and about an hour's worth of time.  It's too bad that Magnavox couldn't have put in the proper capacitor in the first place and their customer service really is horrid but in the meantime our television is working.

With that in mind I will say avoid Phillips/Magnavox products at all costs!  They use shoddy workmanship, shoddy and inferior parts destined to fail prematurely and their customer service is beyond horrid.  Perhaps customer service will change their attitude is enough people stop buying Phillips/Magnavox products to the point their jobs are on the line.  As I said we will never buy another one of their products and you can bet your bottom dollar I will give them a negative review on Epinions!  If you have a problem with your Phillips/Magnavox television with powering on this is likely the solution you need.  On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being easiest and 10 being the most difficult I would rate this DIY project a 5. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Heavy Duty Commercial Utility Cart

Storage and organization is always a concern for any household.  Just after we moved into our previous house we discovered heavy duty commercial stainless steel racks.  I had a 6 shelf unit in my kitchen that was a real work horse.  It was amazing just how much I got on that rack!  I even hung my fry pans from hooks on the rack and had a hanging basket for my cooking utensils.  When we moved here we quickly learned the rack would not fit in the kitchen or the pantry so we searched for alternative solutions.

small utility rack
Canadian Tire had a smaller, lighter duty metal rack unit on for $8.  We bought six of them, five  for the pantry and one for the entrance that was later moved to the kitchen.  The utilitarian racks are extremely practical and they look good too.  The racks can be joined together to make a taller unit as well.  As nice as what these units are they are still lighter weight.  They are narrower than the commercial units and they can't hold as much weight so their storage potential is less.  Like the commercial version it is possible to use hooks on the rack to hang items from.  They are also a bit easier to tip by curious toddlers. 

utility cart in the box
Heavy duty commercial grade utility shelving and carts are available at Sam's Club, Home Depot, and Lowes.  Be warned even the small cart carton is quite heavy and racks are definitely a two person carton.  Pictured is the unopened utility cart carton. 

The wheeled utility cart is NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) certified.  It will hold up to 500 pounds total weight.  The top shelf is recessed so I will be able to use it as extra counter space during heavier cooking sessions.  The cart is sturdy enough to hold small appliances if necessary as well.

utility cart pieces
We have put several of these types of units together both commercial heavy duty and light weight.  They are quite easy to put together with the only tool needed being a hammer or rubber mallet.  There are lines on the uprisers.  A two piece tapered heavy plastic clip snaps on to the line desired.  This way you can adjust the height of the self.  The shelf goes onto the uprisers over the plastic clips then is tapped into place.

The cart has three shelves so assembly was quite quick.  The wheels have a cap that sits over the wheel then the threaded end is screwed into the uprisers.  The handle went on before the top shelf secured by the same plastic clips.  On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being easiest and 10 being very difficult this assembly would be a 2.  It's pretty much straight forward and problem free.

utility cart assembled
Pictured is my new utility cart assembled next to the original light duty rack.  The cart is about 6 - inches wider and 4 - inches deeper giving more storage capacity.  It is considerably sturdier than the light duty rack.  Plastic mats were included with the cart for the shelves to help contain spills.  These really are optional.  I put them on for the time being.  There is a break on one of the wheels as well to prevent the cart from moving unless desired. 

What I really like about this cart is it really can be used for any purpose.  I'm using it in the kitchen for the time being but it could easily be used in the laundry room, family room, on the deck or in the garage.  The price was quite reasonable at $54.  Unless severely abused the cart should last a number of years while keeping its nice, clean look.

Garden Gnome

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Bed Sheets

I can remember when we were newly weds having only two sets of sheets.  While they were expensive they matched and they washed up well.  Over the years though the fitted sheets tended to wear faster.  Like many young couples raising children our money was better spent on the needs of our kids so I'd buy sheets at resale stores and yard sales.  Once washed up they served their purpose but they didn't match.  That was fine with us as long as they were clean.  After the kids left home we finally splurged on two sets of matching set of bed sheets, one for summer and one for winter.   Then my allergist recommended using special allergy sheets that if I recall correctly were 460 count.  The tighter weave would help with my dust mite problems.  I ended up paying $60 for that set of sheets!

1200 count bed sheet sets
We went to a couple of flea markets near our vacation home where we discovered 1200 count Egyptian cotton bed sheet sets for only $16.  What a bargain if you ask me!  The higher the thread count the softer the sheets making them considerably more comfortable for sleeping.  These sheets are really quite lovely.  They wash well and dry without wrinkles.  We won't go back to using lower thread count bed sheets.  I bought a set for the vacation home and two sets for home.  Mind you this is after we paid $80 for two 450 thread count bed sheet sets for the vacation home so I am kicking myself for not checking the flea markets first.  At that price I could have bought 5 better quality bed sheet sets at the flea market!

I have budgeted $50 for bed sheets the next time we are at the vacation home.  That will give me three more sets for home.  Since I took a lot of the mis-matched sheets to the vacation home there is no real need to buy additional sheets.  Still the price is not prohibitive so a couple.  I am extremely impressed with the quality.

Garden Gnome

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bed Bugs

No we do not have bed bugs!  I thought this would be an interesting posts because across Canada there have been more reports of bed bugs with Simon Fraser University dormitories being recent in the news. Bed bugs have been growing in frequency in the developed world since 1995.   In fact one report I read said bed bug incidence had increased by 5,000 per cent world wide.  So what are bed bugs, how do you get them, implications and how do you get rid of them?

  • what are bed bugs -  Bed bugs are small mainly nocturnal, parasitic insects of the family Cimicidae that feed off of warm blooded animals.  Their preferred habitat is indoors mainly in beds hence their name or other places that people sleep (eg. couches).
  • how do you get beg bugs - We live in a very mobil society that unfortunately helps some bugs and other critters get from point A to point B by hitching a ride in suit cases, travel bags, fruit and vegetable containers, in camping equipment, wheel wells, car trunks and so much more.   That means if you stay at a motel that is infested with bed bugs while traveling you could accidently bring them home with you in your luggage.  Bed bugs can enter your house via use furniture that came from an infested dwelling.  Pets can also be host to bed bugs that hitch a ride into your home.  In general multi-unit dwellings like motels, apartment buildings, condos and dormitories are more prone to any insect infestations simply because once introduced to one unit the insects can easily move and become established in other units. 
  • prevention of bed bugs - If you have been traveling shake out all the clothes in your suitcase outdoors and set the suitcase out in the sun to air dry.   If you buy used upholstered furniture leave it outdoors, clean and vacuum well before bringing indoors.  Both are good practices to prevent other insect hitch hikers from entering your home in addition to bed bugs. 
  • implications of bed bugs - Bed bugs feed off of human blood so that means bites that can be itchy, swollen and become infected especially in children.   
  • how do you get rid of bed bugs - Some bed bugs can be eliminated by dropping the indoor temperature below freezing but in general this is not an effective solution.  Bed bugs can survive about a year without feeding as well.  So that eliminates one of the main ways of controlling indoor insects.  Mattresses should be covered with a zippered plastic or hypoallergenic mattress cover that does not allow bed bugs in the mattress to get out so they will eventually die off.  Wash linens in hot water and dry on hot setting to kill any bed bug nymphs or eggs.  Vacuum, vacuum and vacuum on the bed, in, under and around the bed including the frame and anywhere else bed bugs can hide.  Each time you vacuum you will get bed bug eggs as well as bed bugs at various stages of life lowering their population simply by vacuuming.  The more you vacuum the less bed bugs.  There are specialized pesticides for bed bugs but bed bugs are developing resistance to pesticides compounding the problem.  There are natural predators like centipedes but they are not an effective solution for bed bug infestations. 

Garden Gnome

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Where To Start?

I found myself in the unenviable position of waking up to a house that looked like a cyclone had blown through it.  It many ways it had.  We arrived home Thursday evening after being on the road for a couple of days ending a lovely three week vacation.  Along with our luggage there were various bags of food and other items collected along the way home and during our vacation.  Putting things away that night might have been easier but the foodie finds had to be readied for their photoshoot and we were tired.  I took the foodie shots on Friday and puttered tidying up while being quite thankful that other than the clothes we wore on the way home the other clothes were cleaned so there was no massive amount of laundry to do.  On Saturday we debated going for a much need grocery shopping, I made a homemade chicken noodle soup and we settled in for the afternoon.  That evening we hosted an inpromtu get together of 11 people not including ourselves.  The following morning as we were still cleaning up oldest and youngest grandkids arrived so the toys came out.  We had a great barbequed meal and after they left caught up on Coronation Street while ignoring what needed to be done.  By then we were exhausted.  Sunday morning despite the weather reports was lovely so my husband went to the store for bread for the turkey stuffing, we popped the stuffed bird into the oven, then headed out to do a bit of boating that would likely be our last trip of the season.  When we got home we finished up prepping dinner as one of our kids and significant other were coming as well as a couple of friends who cancelled at the last moment.  The kitchen filled up with the larger pots, pans, roaster and a few platters that all needed to be hand washed, kids toys were everywhere, bathrooms needed cleaning, floors needed washing, vacuuming needed to be done and entertaining extras put away.  In short the house was utter chaos.  That was my morning greeting!

What do you do when faced with this type of situation?  Let's face it everyone gets tired enough or sick that even clean-up gets left for the following day.  The problem is the clean-up can pile up more so it is important to tackle as quick and as systemmatically as possible without getting over tired or discouraged.  Here are a few of my tips for dealing with this type of situation:

  • don't try to do everything at once - A surprising amount of tidying and cleaning can be done in 15 minute bursts.  Do as much as you can for 15 minutes then take a break and do something else.
  • start small but start - Pick up one thing and put it away.  This morning I started by just gathering all the platters into one spot beside the sink followed by putting away those little things like the salt & pepper shakers that had been left out.
  • use the one in one out rule - During heavy household use as in entertaining items from the kitchen end up in the family room and visa versa.  Everytime you leave a room take one item that doesn't belong there and put it in its proper spot.  As you leave that room do the same thing.  All misplaced items will soon be back where they are supposed to be but you won't even noticed you did the tidying.
  • take a stretch break - About every 15 minutes I take a 5 minute stretch break from the computer.  If I spot something out of place or a little task that needs doing (eg. load the dishwasher) I do it.
  • focus on one task - A lot of my cleaning tends to be in the form of multi-tasking however focusing on one task can help big cleaning jobs go a lot smoother.  Noticed how I focused on gathering the platters.  There were 6 platters and while aside of the turkey platter were not really dirty having just held snacks they still needed washing.  Visually those they created a lot of clutter.  Washing and drying them took less than 10 minutes but when put away the kitchen suddenly looked cleaner.
  • once the puttering is done - Once everything is put away I wipe down the counters, shine up the fixtures and mirros in the kitchen and bathrooms then vacuum the floors.  Finally I wash the kitchen, bath and utility room floor.  The house is back to neat, tidy, and presentable for the next round of guests.

Garden Gnome

Friday, October 8, 2010

We're Homeside

Somewhere between our permanent residence and our vacation home the lines are getting blurred.  Both of them are home.  Our personality and lifestyle take centre front for both houses.  They are in different locations, in different climates and yet our personality is firmly stamped on both.  I'm quite please with this because regardless of where we are we are home!

Garden Gnome

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

We Signed the Contract for Our Vacation Home to Rent Out

We finally have our vacation home equipped to the point we were able to sign the agreement to rent our home out when we aren't there.  It is a big step but one that we are confident will work out to our advantage.  It's amazing how much can be done through fax and internet these days.  At any rate we are ready to go with two and a half months rented already so that's a good sign!

Garden Gnome

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Vacation Home Locked Closet Hinge Solution

Like many in our vacation home community we decided even before purchasing the vacation home that we would be renting it out when we weren't there.  We figured it would be better than leaving the house empty and this way we end up with the vacation home paying for itself as well as generating a little income.  Based on the figures renting the house on a short term basis for a total of 5 months all expenses are paid for the year and everything else is extra money.  So this will end up being a nice bit of rental income as well as giving us a free place to stay on vacation.

door hing
Most home owners in our vacation home community do the same thing.  Since we have no desire to cart some of our personal effects back and forth we are doing like many by setting up a locking closet.  This really is not a difficult undertaking.  Essentially all that is required is to remove the existing handset and replace it with a locking handset.  This part went smoothly but then I noticed a potential problem.

The closet we are using is in the second bedroom.  The doors are set so they swing into the room rather than into the closet.  As a result the hinge pins are on the room side of the door which means even if the door is locked someone could pop the hinge pins out to get into the closet.  While this is highly unlikely it made me a bit uncomfortable since we will be storing computer equipment, home canned foods, tools and other items not intended for use by the tenants.  I did a Google search to come up with an easy, low cost, DIY solution to this minor problem.

door hinge security solution
The solution I found was drilling a hole through the hinge then screwing in a screw through into the pin.  This would prevent removing the pin entirely unless the screw is removed but this can only be achieved on the closet side of the door.  If we securing a hinge pin at home this would be a great solution as we already have a drill to make the pilot screw hole.  However, at the vacation home that would mean buying a drill.  So we asked the helpful folks at Home Depot.

They came up with an even easier solution.  Pictured is the solution and it is a bit difficult to tell what we did from the photo.  The two centre screws of the hinge were removed.  Since the screw holes did not line up we improvised.  We put a nail adjacent to the screw hole that would line up with the empty screw hole leaving the nail out by about ¼ - inch.  What happens is when the door is closed the nail head goes into the empty screw hole so even if the pin is pulled out the door cannot be removed.  I thought this was a great solution!  We used two nails on each hinge but that is because of the design of the hinge.  One nail would be sufficient on a normal straight design hinge.

Garden Gnome

Monday, October 4, 2010

Renting Out Our Vacation Home

Renting out our vacation home is considerably different than simply renting a house out as a rental property.  We hope to rent our vacation home during the periods of time we are not using it.  That means it may be rented for a week or two at a time to as long as three months.  We have to options available to us.  We can rent the property out ourselves or we can use the rental agent.  There are pros and cons to both options but using the rental agent is the lower risk option even though we pay them a monthly fee.  In return they do the credit and security checks, security deposit, collect the rent, ensure the tenant is following the rules we set out (eg. no smoking, no pets), arrange for cleaning when the tenant leaves and in short do all the things we would be doing if we were renting it ourselves.  The real plus is they are on site within the community to take care of any problems as they arise.

We have rented vacation homes on several occasions so already had a fairly good idea of what tenants need in a rental vacation home.  In order for our vacation home to go into the rental program the home must look like a home which means it has both function and decor but it doesn't need to be extravagant or fancy.  The furniture must be good working condition and there is a minimum amount of furniture required in each room.  There is also a listing as the minimum specific extras (eg. towels, bakeware, cookware, small kitchen appliances, etc.) that must be provided.  A vacuum cleaner, washer, dryer, iron, ironing board and telephone must be provided.  The telephone is in our name but we have to put a #2 block on it restricting use to local calls only.  Long distance calls can be made by the tenant only through their own calling card or major credit card.  A golf cart must be provided and if one is not available the rental agency arranges for one with the cost coming out of the rent paid to us.  We can provide extras if desired but it isn't mandatory.  For example a popcorn maker is not on the list of required small appliances but I added one because it is a nice option to have.

Common to all the vacation homes in our community that are rented out when the owners are not using them is one or more locked closets.  Personal effects that we don't want tenants to use can be stored in the locked closet.  We can put things like non-perishable foods, clothing, toiletries and any other extras as we need which eliminates us having to bring them with us each time.  Ideally we would like our personal storage to be stocked to the point when flying all we have to bring is a carryon.  The closet we are using for this is 29" deep, 44" wide and 8' high at it's highest point.  The is one open wire shelf for hanging clothes and shelf storage but with good organization it will provide ample storage for our needs.

Garden Gnome

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Vacation Home Office Futon

Vacation Home Office Futon
September 17, 2010

When we bought our vacation home it was pretty much empty.  The previous owner left a kitchen table set, patio set, couch, chair, tv stand with tv, a double sized mattress with boxpring, low boy dresser and 2 night stands.  We were very fortunate that furniture was left as it saved us a bit of money in having to completely furnish the house.  Since our intentions were to rent the house out when we weren't using it, we had no choice but to buy furnishings and all the extras required to put the house into the rental program.

We are rather savy shoppers certainly not above buying good quality used furniture or knock down furniture.  I posted earlier about the knock down furniture we bought for the vacation home office.  This is really a cute little room with double French doors set on an angle to cut one corner from the room creating a rather appealing shape.  We immediately saw the potential to use this room for extra sleeping quarters if necessary.  The problem was we didn't want it to look like an extra bedroom.  As luck would have it we found a used futon in excellent condition that is a very close match to the livingroom couch and chair.  It is the same material, same colour and only differs a bit in design.  This is nice because the office opens to the livingroom so matching colours is a nice bonus.  The futon came with two matching pillows and has extra storage underneath for bedding.  The futon cost $125.  We also bought a floor lamp for $17.99.  The total cost to furnish the den was $271.21 coming in well under our $500 budget.

A couple of decorative elements will finish off the room.  I'm thinking a couple of artificial plants (practical as they won't need care when the house is empty) and a mirror or framed print will finish off the room nicely.  These won't be expensive items either.  It is just a matter of finding something that works well with the room.

Garden Gnome

Friday, October 1, 2010

Two Easy DIY Fixes

Our vacation home is a manufactured home.  While this is a gorgeous home it is still not built like our permanent home.  For that reason we don't want to use a lot of conventional hooks, screws and attachments.  At the same time we need hooks and fasteners so we have been looking for alternatives that will not damage surfaces but still serve the desired purpose.

hook and door stop
The main bathroom in the vacation home is a cheater bathroom.  This is the bathroom everyone uses as opposed to the bathroom off the master bedroom.  It has a full tub with shower on one side with toilet, sink and vanity on the other.  There are two doors, one opening into the hallway and the other opening into the utility room that creates a perfect alternative walk through to the kitchen.  It's not the ideal setup if you ask me but it works.  Anyway we discovered two slight problems with this bathroom that ended up being rather easy fixes.

On of the doors hit the bathtub every time it was opened.  The easy fix was a hinge stop.  What this involves is removing the hinge pin then placing a hinge stop and replacing the pin. With a little adjustment the hinge stop (top right) prevents the door from hitting the bathtub.  This fix cost under $2 and can be easily done with minimal DIY skills.

The second problem was a lack of hooks for hanging things like bathrooms or towels.  We looked for an over the door hanger system but could not find one [note: I will bring one down the next trip] so we settled for two peel and stick heavy duty hooks.  The nice thing is these hooks solve the problem without creating a problem later.  That is one of our concerns in dealing with a manufactured home.  At any rate this solution was very inexpensive at under $4 for two hooks and need minimal DIY skills.

Sometimes when looking for a solution for a home repair it is easy to overlook the extremely easy and low cost DIY solutions.  In many cases the KISS Hypothesis should kick in.  Simple, inexpensive solutions can and do work!

Garden Gnome