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 :)

Monday, January 31, 2011

My New Green with Envy Pant Coat

I have never been one to be up with the latest fashions.  Instead I tend to choose classic style clothing that can be worn for several years.  One of the reasons for this is I simply hate shopping and that includes shopping for clothes.   Our primary residence is in Ontario, Canada so needless to say warm winter coats are a must.  I have a gorgeous long coat (pink silk lined, grey wool melton cloth) for dressier type events during the winter.  It has served me well for over 10 years and still looks good!  Since it is only used a few times throughout the winter this coat will last me several more years.  I have my university leather jacket as my main short winter coat.  It has a heavy liner that can be zipped in for extra warmth.  It's old and nostalgic but very much me.  I did not have an in between length even though there have been several times a dressy mid-length would have been quite welcomed.  The other day I finally decided on a whim and because the coat I saw was at an excellent price ($29.99), to splurge on a new mid-length dressier pant coat. 

my new Green with Envy coat
I chose a Green with Envy Enlightened Outerwear coat.  The picture doesn't really do it justice as the coat is quite nice.  The coat is double breasted with a stand collar and a lot of extra detail, very much shorter trench coat style in my favourite steel grey.  I love steel grey as a colour for blazers and dress coats because I wear a lot of black.  The grey compliments the black nicely and grey tends to not go out of style.  I also liked the coat because it was wool melton cloth.  Melton cloth is a heavy weight, tightly woven fabric usually wool.  The traditional colours are navy blue, hunter green, steel grey and sand.  It is an extremely durable fabric that will keep it's good looks for several years!  Melton cloth is a very practical and frugal choice of material for coats.  I can remember my very first melton cloth coat, a navy blue pant coat with hood, that my Mom bought me when I was about 8 years old.  I've been hooked on melton cloth ever since.

Green with Envy tag
Green with Envy is a line of outerwear launched by Amerex Group in 2008 originally sold in Macy's but is now making its way to Sam's Club.  The premise is you can have nicely designed clothes that are good for the environment as well.  The wool fabric is made from recycled wool using garment dyes that are better for the environment.  The tags are printed with soy ink on 100% recycled paper.  Amerex Group is socially responsible as well by donating 1% of Green with Envt's yearly earnings to 1% For The Planet.  Once you are finished wearing your coat you can send it back to them to be donated to those less fortunate or to be recycled into new coats. 

While the thought of returning the coat for donating or recycling is nice, it really is not an eco-friendly solution as shipping involves fuel that adds to your carbon footprint.  A better solution is to donate the coat at the local level.  There are a wide range of charities that accept donations of coats with one of the most notable in our area being Coats for Kids.  I'm on the petite side so any of my unused clothing would easily fit a smaller teenager. 

Garden Gnome

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Duststop Air Filter (Furnace Filter)

Our Honeywell UtilityPR)™ programmable thermostat installed in May of 2010 has a safety feature that will cut cause the display panel to turn off if air flow to the furnace is restricted in any manner.  This serves as a warning that the furnace needs to be checked for anything that may be restricting the air flow.  Ultimately by keeping the air flow at the proper level it saves money.  The Friday before leaving for our vacation home the thermostat blacked out.  I quickly realized that the burner wasn't being lit so called our repairman.  The problem ended up being the drain was clogged and gunked up contacts so it was a relatively quick and inexpensive repair.  A couple of days ago the thermostat cut out twice but we could find no immediate problem.  When the thermostat cut out again the following day we did a bit more troubleshooting.  The most obvious problem we could find was the furnace filter needed replacing.

Duststop air filter
Furnaces us filters to help keep the indoor air clean as well as prevent dust build-up in the furnace that would result in air restriction causing the furnace to run inefficiently.  Furnace filters should be changed every 30 to 90 days.  My husband bought a 2 pack of Dustsop air filters (made in Canada).  These are premium MERV 8 furnace filters that help remove dust, pollen, mould spores, bacteria, pet dander and other household fibres from the air.  MERV is the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value.  This is an industry standard used to evaluate the filter's ability to capture various sized airborne particles.  The MERV scale ranges from 1 to 16.  Under test conditions it measures the ability of the filter to remove particles from .30 to 10 microns in size.  A higher MERV rating means the filter will be more effective at capturing smaller particles from the indoor air.

Changing the air filter seems to have corrected the problem somewhat.  It was apparent the filter needed replacing so changing it out was a wise decision.  However, the thermostat cut out as I was writing this post so we still need to do a bit more troubleshooting.  So that will be this afternoon's DIY project.

Garden Gnome

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Carters - Extreme Frugality

When it comes to frugal living everyone has their own definition.  For some it means getting the essentials for free or very low cost, ideally the cheaper the better.  For others like us it means getting the best value for our dollar.  I came across this video by Gourmet Magazine on the Carter family of Maine.  They are a family of six who have recently adopted the frugal lifestyle.  They have cut out all unnecessary expenses like buying toys, going out to eat and birthday parties.  While this seems like a logical plan they really have set themselves up for failure by trying to drastically change their lifestyle.

The Carters live on 40 acres.  Like many newbies adopting the frugal lifestyle they are focusing on their food costs which in many ways is their first mistake.  They plan to grow all they eat in that space.  This is unrealistic at best for many reasons.  While they are raising their own chickens he did not do a cost analysis as to whether doing so was really frugal.  Speaking from experience over more than three decades, even the best planned gardens simply cannot produce all the produce a family of six needs annually.  They don't want to buy any greens or fruits until at least December but in Maine this would mean going without a lot of fruits as you simply can't grow all that is needed and without greens unless growing indoors.  Nothing is mentioned as to home preserving (eg. canning, freezing, drying, fermenting) either although I suspect at some point they would have had to consider preserving their harvest for later use.  I honestly don't agree with buying something that is less expensive then putting it into a more expensive container basically for show.  Sorry, but this is a superficial keeping up with the Jones' attitude that will spell disaster when changing to a frugal lifestyle.  What they have missed is on 40 acres there is a wealth of free food available for foraging.  What I do agree with is cutting down on eating out especially with a family of six.  Speaking from experience raising a larger family eating out is costly.  However, we chose to give our kids that experience at least once a month and it was rarely fast food but rather sit down restaurants.  Here's their video talking about their beginning aspirations into the frugal lifestyle.  Enjoy!

Garden Gnome

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Introducing Infolinks

I have introduced a new ad system that uses links only called infolinks on a trial basis.  From time to time you will see these special links on this blog.  You can distinguish them from other links in that they are a deep burgundy with a double line below.  Please leave feedback to let me know what you think.

Garden Gnome

Monday, January 24, 2011

Frugal Times

Many Canadians have been faced with cutting back during the recent hard economic times.  In many ways the economic downturn has forced folks to become a bit more frugal.  The best way to become more frugal is to start with small steps with the full realization that the little things do make a difference.  For example if you stop at a coffee shop once a day during the work week (5 days) at a cost of $1.25 it works out to an expense of $7.25 per week or $377 per year.  Replacing this habit with a nice coffee maker, thermos or insulated travel mug and a couple of syrups to make gourmet style coffees would cost about $100 for a net annual savings of $277.  Simply by changing one small thing can make a difference!

Frugal living really means getting the best value for your dollar.  It means making a conscious choice or informed decision on what is important to you to soend your hard earned dollars.  In today's times it also means factoring in how consumerism affects the environment.  We have never been above shopping the thrift stores because even back in our newlywed days we recognized that buying used helped keep unwanted items out of the landfill.  We also realized that we could easily have what we wanted as far as household furnishings and clothing for the fraction of what it would cost to buy new.  Living frugally has helped us get to this point in our lives where we are basically semi-retired at well under the age of 60!

One inspirational proponent of the frugal lifestyle has been Amy Dacyzyn aka the frugal zealot and author of the Tightwad Gazette.  Amy and husband Jim raised their six children in the frugal lifestyle that many simply did not understand especially when the appeared on the Phil Donahu and Oprah talk shows.  What many missed is Amy and her family were able to live just the same as everyone else but at a reduced cost.   I have three of her books that have served me quite nicely over the years.  Some of Amy's advice is outdated but most of it still applies today.  New Hampshire Public Television caught up with Amy Dacyzyn  Amy's message has always been that frugality works, both in good times and bad.  I agree with her philosophy that if you are frugal during the good times that the bad times won't hurt as much.  Living frugally, below your means is a lifestyle that can have huge rewards.  Here's a short video of the interview at her home in Maine:

Garden Gnome

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Back into the Routine of Showing the House

We are back into the tiresome routine of showing the house again.  We arrived home on the 9th and have showed the house three times since getting home with a fourth showing tomorrow afternoon.  After the house being on the market for 10 months, the novelty has worn off of doing a spit and shine at the drop of a hat.  We told our real estate agent to not worry about giving us 24 hours notice for a showing.  That is a good thing and a bad thing but hopefully it will help get the house sold.

Garden Gnome

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

That Dry Winter Air

We were very lucky at the start of the 2010-2011 heating season that it was unseasonably mild here.  We used the gas fireplace for much of the heating turning on the furnace only to be sure everything was working fine.  It's a good thing we did as there was a bit of a problem but we solved that quite quickly with minimal expense.  

When the winter sets in here we suffer from dry house sydrome!  Everything from nasal membranes to hair, anything wood and pretty much everything feels the effect of the dry air.  Walking across the carpet is enough to set off a round of static electricity zaps when touching anything.  The only neat part is the eerie greenish lights caused by the static electricity at night.  To counteract the effects of the dry winter air, we installed a new furnace humidifier about this time last year.  While the humidity level is still lower in the house it is more comfortable.  Of course on days we only use the gas fireplace the air looses moisture but it takes a few days to get uncomfortable.   This time of year we can only go a day or two or even just the afternoon without having the furnace on.

Garden Gnome

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

House Sale Update

We had showings suspended while we were on vacation. The last day of our trip while still in the US our real estate agent called wanting to know if another agent could show the house on Monday. We of course said yes even though we would have a lot to put away from traveling. The Monday appointment was changed to Wednesday then postponed to Thursday because of the snowstorm. That showing was a bit hard to read but the feedback a couple of days later is the elderly couple felt the house was too dated. Sunday our real estate agent called again as another agent had someone who wanted to see the house in a couple of hours. That showing seemed to go rather nice. They were here for almost an hour so hopefully that's a good sign. Hopefully we get an offer soon so things aren't up in the air so much!

Garden Gnome

Monday, January 17, 2011

An Simple Stroke Frame for Pictures

We are back home at our primary residence after spending a month away mostly at our vacation home.  I took a lot of pictures while away so have been busy getting some of them ready for using on my blogs and digital scrapbooking.  I decided to use a unifying theme for the blog pictures that involved adding a rather simple stroke frame. 

picture without stroke frame
The first thing I did was copy the picture from iPhoto to the desktop so I could open it in Photoshop.  Once opened in photo shop I did whatever editing I wanted on a duplicate layer.  In this case I used the unsharpen mask filter to crisp up the picture a little.  This filter has quickly become one of my favourite Photoshop tool.  From there I was ready to add my frame using the stroke tool but first I had to decide what colour to use for the matte colour.  This is the frame accent colour that picks up a coulour in the photo to draw your attention to that particular colour.  To do this:

  • click on the eyedropper tool
  • select any colour of interest from the picture usually from the subject of interest; I chose a reddish brown (A3521D) from the duck's chest
  • selecting the colour will place that colour into the foreground colour box under the tools
picture with simple stroke frame
To create the frame:
  • working on the duplicate layer with the colour choice set to foreground, click on edit then stroke
  • in the pop-up, set the stroke width to 140 px making sure the foreground colour appears in the box (it should automatically), location set to center, blending normal, opacity 100% then click ok - this will apply the stroke in the eyedropper colour (don't worry as it will look a little odd until you do the next step)
  • working on the same layer change the foreground colour to black,  click on edit then stroke
  • in the pop-up, set the stroke width to 100 px making sure the foreground colour is black, location set to center, blending normal, opacity 100% then click ok
  • your frame is now complete with a narrow matte of the highlight colour
  • resize your image if desired
  • flatten you image and save as or save for web depending on your desired use.
Simple frames like this are not only very easy and quick to do they can be further customized to include bevel and embossing, textures and styles with only a few more steps.  I will go into greater detail with those over the next couple of days.

Garden Gnome

Sunday, January 16, 2011

GE Nightlight

Night lights are rather popular lighting for adding a bit of low light just enough to see where you are going during the night.  The most common locations for night lights are hallways, near stair wells, children's bedrooms and bathrooms.  They are available in a wide range of styles to fit most decors and tend to be rather inexpensive.  Night lights are either controlled using a small switch, by solar or they are on all the time.  The bulb choices are small screw in Christmas light style, fluorescent or LED.  LED lights are the most economical to operate at at 0.5 to 0.7 W but they are on constantly when plugged in.  They give more of a dim glow just enough that you can see where furniture is in the dark.

GE nightlight
When we are away, we usually leave the light over the sink on.  It is an 11 W CFL so slow cost to operate but if we are gone for an extended period of time then the light stays on the entire time, something I would rather not do.  I found this GE Nightlight that has a higher light output than other nightlights I've seen.  It is 5 W so when the light is on would be saving 6 W and it turns on only when the existing room light gets low.  So the light is not on all the time reducing the amount of electricity used. 

This nightlight uses a small fluorescent bulb.  The light output is quite good for such a small light. The shape of this nightlight is rather interesting.  There are three settings - on, off, auto.  When clicked to auto the light will come on when the existing room light dims enough to trigger the light.  This will be a good light that is automatically controlled for those times that we are away and want light in the kitchen.

Garden Gnome

Saturday, January 15, 2011

My Savings Using a Digital Camera on Vacation

Now that we home from our recent month long vacation with a home base of our vacation home in the sunny south, I am taking a bit of time to go through the digital photos I took.  I took a lot of photos!  The total comes to 1,793 but with some deleted as they were uploaded to the computer the true number is likely over 2,000.  I thought it would be interesting to see how much my digital camera saved me.  At 1,793 photos I would have used 56 rolls of 36 exposure film at a cost of about $242.48 at $12.99 per 3 pack of film.  That is a very conservative cost as film tends to be more expensive in tourist areas.  Processing of the 56 rolls of 36 exposure film would cost $839.44 at $14.99 per roll.  This price could be slightly less or slightly more depending on where I got the film processed.  The total cost for film and processing would come in at $1,081.92 on the conservative side!  That mean my main digital camera, a Panasonic DMC-TZ5 bought back in April of 2010 more than paid for itself.  In reality this little beauty along with my Canon PowerShot A540 that I repaired in April of 2010 paid for themselves within the first month of me buying them.  With my savings on film costs I could easy have bought 2 to 3 more digital cameras!  Aside of the cost savings I saved a lot more by using a digital camera.

Film comes wrapped onto a plastic spool, tucked into a plastic film case then packaged in a cardboard container.  Can you imagine how much plastic and cardboard would have been used in 56 rolls of fill all of which would end up in a landfill?  In addition to that silver in used in the film processing creating another environmental problem.  Finally non-rechargeable alkaline batteries work better for cameras that do not have a rechargeable battery pack.  If each pair of batteries gave me 200 pictures then I would have used 18 alkaline batteries that would have ended up in the landfill.  Using the digital camera saved all of this waste from going to a landfill and eliminated the environmental problem of the silver.

Film is subject to light, heat and water damage.  The card in a digital camera is subject to mainly water damage but even that may not be permanent once the card fully dries.  The camera may be sluggish if it is left in freezing temperatures overnight but once warmed it will continue performing as normal.  However, with film there is no way to create a backup system.   The card from a digital camera can be uploaded to your laptop each day and if you don't have a laptop or computer with you, the files can be burned to CD or flash drive at the end of each day at many department and drug stores thus creating an automatic backup of your pictures.  Cards are quite inexpensive now so for well under $100 it is possible to have two or three cards with considerable storage space so you don't have to erase after uploading to the laptop just in case.  When the card is full upload to your laptop but don't erase the card.  Pop in a fresh card and you are ready to go with two copies of the previous card.  In fact you can upload digital photos to a couple of sources just in case.  This is virtually impossible to do with film.

Unlike a flash drive or digital camera card, film takes up a lot of room.  Fifty-six rolls of fill likely would have filled at least two large zipper-loc bags.  Now that doesn't seem like a lot but when you are traveling with limited space whether by car or plane that is a lot.  My one card at 2 GB holds 500 pictures at my settings.  Along with it's little case it takes up about a quarter of space in my purse as a packet of Tic-Tacs.  All around a digital camera is the way to go for day to day as well as vacation photography!

Garden Gnome

Friday, January 14, 2011

Cleaning Antique and Vintage Glassware

Vintage and antique glassware is fun to collect and with the exception of rarer, more valuable pieces is still very much functional.  As a collector of vintage and antique glassware I've learned a few things over the years when it comes to keeping my collection sparkling.  Vintage and antique glassware is no more fragile than modern pieces UNLESS there is a special finish or painting on the glass then it is quite fragile.  Improper cleaning will leave you with a nice shiny piece minus the special finish or painting.  This is a case where you really have to know what you have.  Here are a few of my tips:

  • know what you have, if in doubt do not wash!
  • dust off the piece before washing
  • wash and rise in warm water to avoid any thermal shock
  • use the mildest form of cleanser possible and do not scrub - I suggest vinegar or mild soap and water. 
  • once washed set the piece upside down on a towel to air dry
  • tough grim can be removed from old canning jars, milk bottles and other plain glass using rubbing alcohol sprayed onto the surface then wiping dry
  • never put antique or vintage glassware in the dishwasher or microwave oven as this may damage the finish especially painted pieces, those with metallic trim or those with special finishes like lustreware and carnival glass
Garden Gnome

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thrift and Antique Store Finds

thrift and antique store finds
Thrift and Antique Store Finds
January 10, 2011

My husband and I are both collectors of various items.  There are a lot of places to find pieces to add to our collections.  Two of my favourite ones are thrift stores and antique shops.  During our recent vacation I wanted to stop at both types of shops because I was specifically looking for vintage glass inserts for canning jars.  It always seems when I'm looking for something specific I can never find it but other pieces present themselves.  I found three nice mugs to add to my mugs with food advertisements collection.  They are the Morton's Salt, Maxwell House Coffee and Campbell's mugs.  The Maxwell House Coffee appears to be the oldest of the three.  It was bought at an antique shop.  The other two mugs were bought at a thrift store and while newer are still quite collectible.

I collect pre-Depression (Fairfax by Fostoria) and Depression (mainly Amerian Sweetheart by MacBeth-Evens Glass Company) both mainly in pink although I have a couple of monax pieces.  I have a few odd pieces of Depression era glass, several amber iridescent and lustreware pieces as well as vintage bakeware (peach lustre).  The little hen sitting on a nest reminded me of my Mom.  She had a larger, green irridescent one when I was growing up.  I found this hen at a thrift shop for $3.99.  It was made by the Hazel Atlas Glass Company in the 1940's.  I saw three more just like this one in antique shops we stopped at with an adverage price of $9 and that appears to be the going online price.  It appears I made a little money on this item if I decided to sell but I won't because I really like the piece.

The Fire King Sapphire Philbe custard cup is Depression era glass made by Anchor Hocking in the 1940's.  I bought it at an antique shop for $1.50.  Now in most cases antique dealers know what they have so price accordingly.  In this case the seller missed that the 'Fire-King' mark on the bottom had been double stamped.  The going price for this custard cup without the double stamp is about $6 but this type of manufacturing error makes the piece more valuable so it was well under priced.   This is something to look for when shopping in antique stores.

My husband bought two shot glasses.  One was from Caesar's Palace Casino and the other Excalibur both in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Although they were bought at an antique shop, neither are antiques although they are collectible and will make a lovely addition to his collection.  The large beer stein is not antique either but it really is quite a nice piece to add to his collection as well.

Garden Gnome

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Vacation Home Food Issues

Yesterday I eluded to a few issues with the food at our vacation home.  This year we are planning on using our vacation home for a total of 3 months with the rest of the time spent at our primary residence.  Food immediately became an issue because I am limited as to what I can bring to the vacation home due to space, distance and crossing the border.  I'm limited as to what I can bring back from the vacation home for the same reasons.  Furthermore I am restricted when it comes to refrigerated/frozen foods during those periods where our vacation home will be rented out.  This means that thing like condiments end up being tossed if we are flying so I really must come up with a better solution.  I can however store a limited amount of home canned and dried foods in our locked closet so that helps.

This past trip because we were driving and heading to our kids house before going home, I packaged up all the refrigerator contents and left them at their house.  I also left them any of the dried foods that had been opened.  That worked well for this particular trip.  However, it will not work for the majority of the trips and until we get to know our neighbours there a bit better I feel uncomfortable offering opened containers of food to them. 

Time to rethink how we are doing food at the vacation home...

Garden Gnome

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Living Between Two Homes

Living between two homes is not a new idea by any stretch of the imagination.  Many North American native tribes had a summer and winter homeland.  During the Victorian Era those living in urban settings would head to their summer homes.  Summer cottages have long been a tradition along with camping and RVing.  I can recall my best friend in elementary school always leaving the day after school got out not to return until the day before school started.

Last March we purchased our vacation home which effectively meant we would be spending time between the two homes.  We are not new to having a vacation home but we are new to having a stationary one.  Our RV sat in the driveway when not in use which meant I could equip, load and unload it quite conveniently.  Our vacation home on the other hand involves either a long commute by car or air and an International border.  This by default creates a logistical problem for equipping, loading and unloading the vacation home.  We ended up stocking the vacation home from empty to livable with mostly new and some used items.  We were very limited as to what we could bring from our primary residence.

Food becomes a huge issue because I am used to a well stocked pantry and taking food from home.  I am limited in what I can bring from our primary home to our vacation home not only in space and customs restrictions but when traveling through the colder weather the threat of food freezing.  At the same time I am restricted as to what can be kept in the vacation home when we aren't there.  If we are planning on returning within a month or so without renting it out then the food can stay in the refrigerator and pantry but if we are gone for a longer period of time with renting it out we have to remove everything.  Some pantry items can stay in our special locked closet but all refrigerator items have to be removed.  This actually presents quite the challenge.  More on that tomorrow...

Garden Gnome

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Vacation Home Toilets

Our vacation home has two toilets.  Unlike RV toilets that can be cleaned then a chemical holding tank fluid poured into the tank to prevent odours, vacation home toilets must be shut down during extended periods of absence.  Once the toilet has been cleaned we turn the water off to prevent any problems that could occur in the event of a burst pipe or water leak.  Normal toilets have a P-trap to prevent sewer gases and odours from entering the house.  The P-trap is designed to hold a certain amount of water.  During extended periods of the house being shut down there is the possibility that the P-trap can dry out through evapouration.  This would allow odours to get into the house along with any critters like Palmetto bugs that can come up through sewer pipes.  We learned this tip from our neighbours in our vacation home community.  Covering the top of the toilet bowl with plastic wrap is a way to prevent water in the P-trap from evapourating.  In the event a critter gets in the sewer pipe it will be confined to the toilet bowl instead of getting out into the house.

Garden Gnome

Friday, January 7, 2011

Interior Decorating Inspiration

Like many homemakers I am always on the look-out for interior decorating ideas.  I'd love our home to look like some of the upscale rooms in decorating magazines but homes are meant to be lived in not always staged.  One problem is relying solely on decorating magazines or shows is not being able to see how texture can be used effectively in a room. 

We do a fair amount of traveling which means we have stayed in a large number of motel rooms.  Motel rooms can be a great inspiration for home decorating.  The first thing in common with all the motel rooms we've stayed in is co-ordination of colours.  Everything matches but it is not just plain.  The bedspread may pick up one colour in the carpet.  Carpets are often multi-coloured, low pile and textured.  These are actually practical because they help to make the carpet easier to clean while providing interest.  The carpet is often run up the wall by 3 - inches to form a custom baseboard for a finished yet practical look.  Wall are often a subtlely textured in muted multi light toned neutral colours.  Nothing other than the ceiling is plain and yet everything works together. 

Materials used are quite important and I suspect all were chosen to give good looks while providing durability and cleanability.  Bathroom floors are usually tiled.  Shower stall are acrylic one piece, ceramic tiled or even corion lined.  Walls are usually some type of vinyl coating rather than simply being painted.  About the only surface painted in motel rooms is the ceiling although sometimes the door trim is painted.  Window sill are often acrylic or marble for durablility.  Thresholds are often marble as well. 

What I have noticed too is earth tones (hunter green, beiges, taupes, browns) are the most popular colours used in motel rooms.  Pinks, peaches and turquoises are often used yet blues don't seem to be used as much.  We stayed in one higher end motel where the entire theme was black and white accented with gold.  It was gorgeous but not a colour theme often seen in motel rooms.  Accessories and accent pieces can range from quite simple to a bit more ornate.  There's usually at least one framed print to add interest along with a mirror. 

Garden Gnome

Thursday, January 6, 2011


We bought matching bed-in-a-bag sets for the vacation home and brought another home.  To this point we never really had a need for this type of thing.  Quite frankly they reminded of the highly co-ordinated look of most motel rooms.  A bed-in-a-bag comes set comes with fitted and flat sheets, pillowcases, pillow shams, bed skirt and comforter.  Everything is colour/pattern co-ordinated for a nice finished look.  Some bed-in-a-bag sets have co-ordinating items and accents that can be bought separately for a complete room look.  The prices are more than reasonable especially for what you get, starting at $19.95 for twin size and up.  You can get as plain or as fancy as you want.  The nice thing is with the low prices you could easily have a different look for each season!

Garden Gnome

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Houses are Noisy

Have you ever noticed how noisy your house is?  Even when it is quiet your house is never really quiet.  Each house it's own unique sounds ranging from creaking and crackling, pipes knocking, ducts cracking, to sounds of the house settling.  Large and small appliances make an incredible amount of noise sometimes.  The ice maker in the fridge makes noise as it fills with water then later when dumping the ice cubes into the tray.  There's the subtle hum from computers and the tv receivers.

I notice a big difference in the noise level between our primary residence and our vacation home.  Our vacation home has what I would consider fancy storm windows only rather than the heavy duty windows of our primary residence.  It is surprising how much outside noise the thinner windows let in!  Insulation and storm windows really can decrease the noise level of a house.   There are a lot of things that can be done to quiet down a house.

Noisier rooms can be sound proofed to keep sounds from traveling throughout the house.  Special appliance pads can be placed under dishwashers and washers to lessen the vibration noise.  Scatter rugs and/or carpeting can help quiet rooms as well.  Prevent pipes from knocking by adding a foam spacer between the pipe and wall or beam then secure the pipe with a U bracket to stop any movement.   Heavy drapes can be hung on windows or entire walls to muffle the noise.  Quilts hung on walls can serve as artwork while dampening noise.  I am going to do a fair amount of sound proofing at our vacation home so stay tuned.

Garden Gnome

Monday, January 3, 2011


Lint is a problem with all mechanical dryers.  Essentially lint is the breakdown of clothing fibers so it is a good indication that your washer and dryer is causing your clothes to age.  It can cause slow drying in mechanical dryers if allowed to build up as well as safety issues with C0 emissions build-up for gas dryers and fire risks for both electrical and gas dryers.  Aside of the wear and tear on clothes and safety issues, lint is basically waste.  If the lint contains natural fibers like cotton then it can be used in the compost but lint containing synthetic fibers should not be put into the compost.  In essence, lint is not eco-friendly representing mainly waste.  Some enterprising individuals have turned lint into artwork but really, there isn't much demand for that even for the frugal homemaker.  It can be used for starting campfires or fireplaces though.

We have the Whirlpool Duet HE washer and dryer.  Until that point we had traditional drum dryer and agitator washer.  I honestly never realized the difference in lint production until we started using the regular, traditional dryer and washer at our vacation home.  I had an older pair of flannel pyjama bottoms that were still very much functional.  There were no real signs of wearing out yet I washed them twice at the vacation home and the bottom broke through.  I was quite surprised as when using the HE washer there is very minimal lint in the dryer.  Yet with the traditional drum dryer there had to be at least 4 to 5 times as much lint!  It is quite obvious that a traditional agitator washer causes clothes to wear faster!

Garden Gnome

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Utility Bills

We have slowly but steadily move most of our utility bills over to online rather than paper bills.  This made a lot of sense for us on a few levels.  First going to online ebills is eco-friendly, reducing the amount of paper we as individual households consume.  Second we generally have internet access where ever we are so the bill comes right into our inbox where we can pay it immediately with a click or two.  This is really convenient!  Third, we love to travel and quite often on a whim so we don't have to worry about having anyone pick up our mail from our mailbox (rural) or having our mail held.  I should note that for use to have our mail held during our last vacation home visit it cost $60.  This is no longer a service that Canada Post offers for free!  So using ebills ends up saving us money for shorter vacations where all we are expecting are utility bills.  We really don't get much in the way of mail anyway as more and more businesses move away from paper billing.  Most times we get junk mail, flyers and the weekly newspaper.  I've been told that in town if you don't have a mailbox the mail carrier can't deliver to your home which might be one way to deal with that pesky weekly paper!

Garden Gnome

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Welcoming 2011

Happy New Year!
Today we welcome 2011.  The new year is awaiting for us to fill it.  I have a lot of homemaking plans this year both at our primary and vacation residences.  As usual the focus will be on energy conservation and efficiency.  This year I hope to further our goal of getting off the grid at our primary residence.  It will be delayed slightly until we sell this house but should be in full swing once we move.  Other than that, 2011 promises to be an exciting year around our homes!

Garden Gnome