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

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Snowbird is a term used for those in the northern US states and Canadian provinces spending most of the winter in the southern US states.  While my husband and I own vacation property in the sunny south we are not the typical snowbird because we only go down three times a year for 2 to 5 weeks at a time.  It's not that we couldn't stay longer, we choose not to and my husband isn't ready to fully retire anyway.  We are homebodies enjoying being at home entertaining our family and friends especially during the holiday season.

What is really nice about our vacation home is it is pretty much the same colour schemes as our new home - taupes, moss green, browns and burgundy.  I think the only real difference is our couch set here (permanent home) is navy blue but that works with all those colours too.  So anything I bring to the vacation home from here automatically matches. 

Garden Gnome

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Back Home

We left on December 4th to spend a couple of days in Wisconsin before going to our vacation home in the sunny south.  It was a very much needed break and while we could have stayed longer, we arrived home on the 22nd because I wanted to be home for the holidays with the kids and grandkids. 

We didn't do a lot of shopping in Florida as we were flying without checking a bag.  It's less expensive that way.  We did find a Hobby Lobby that was amazing so I went online to find one closer to our permanent residence.  It was late so we stayed overnight to have a fresh start the following day.  I picked up a few craft projects at Hobby Lobby so will be sharing those with you shortly.  We stopped there along with stopping to do a bit of shopping the day after arriving at the airport.  One stop was Bed Bath & Beyond, another really nice place to shop. 

Without a shadow of a doubt the number one kitchen gift this year was the Keurig single server coffee makers with accessories and K-cups.  We absolutely love our Keurig!  One of our kids bought theirs first to replace their Melitta One:One.  After much consideration along with our badly failing Melitta One:One we bought our Keurig coffee maker and just recently another of our kids bought one.  K-cups are expensive as homemade coffee goes coming it at as high as 79¢ per cup but less expensive than coffee purchased out.  Bought on sale I can find the K-cups for as low as 50¢ per cup and through One Cup Connection I can get them for about 39¢ per cup.  We bought the My K-cup re-usable filter system which brings the price down to 9¢ per cup.  The My K-cup comes with one re-usable filter basket but we found a two pack of the filter baskets at Bed, Breakfast and Beyond for $8.99, not a bad price considering we use our Keurig on average a few times a day and not just for coffee.  There are other re-usable filter systems for the Keurig and now there are various styles of storage systems for the K-cups.  The Keurig was the only noticeable kitchen gift item this year from what we saw.

Anyway we are back home so I'm looking forward to a couple of months of turning our new house into a home.  It already feels like home but I want to make curtains, cushions, paint all of the rooms, add my own decorating style and that type of thing.  I will be heading to the paint store the first week of January so expect to hear a lot about painting!  I need to make a new afghan for the family room just for this house as that has been a tradition for every home we have been in.  I found a really nice pattern so just have to buy the yarn.  I'm planning on redoing most of the landscaping as well as adding new garden beds.  It should be a rather exciting 2012 with everything I have in mind!

Garden Gnome

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Some Home Upgrades Do Not Pay When Trying to Sell a House

We recently sold our fifth house, bought a vacation home and moved into our sixth purchased house.  When it comes to buying and selling houses some home upgrades simply do not pay for themselves when trying to sell a house.  They may help sell the house faster but you won't recoup the costs.  The list of upgrades fitting into this category will depend on the location and the current real estate market.  For example, it would have cost us $30,000 to rebuild our dock at our last house and yet we still would have taken a loss on the house.  The real  estate market had softened to the point we could have spent $100,000 on the house and still see a loss.  'Twas the sign of the times.  In general, in our area the following will not help greatly when selling a house and in some cases may even hurt the sale:

  • swimming pool - In our area we pay taxes on an inground pool but no taxes on an above ground pool. Pools in general are not selling features in our area.  If you are lucky a pool can be used from June to mid-September.  They are expensive to operate and work.  We looked at two houses, one with an inground pool and the other with an above ground pool.  We chose the one with the above ground pool because it could easily be dismantled if we decide we did't want a pool.  In reality, any pool is not a selling feature unless you find the right buyer.
  • landscaping - Landscaping is expected but specialty landscaping (eg. formal garden with greenhouse, ponds, and etc.) is not a selling feature.  About 90% of potential home buyers will see this as a lot of work so won't even bother putting in an offer.  The reality is most home buyers will remove a good portion of the existing landscaping so when sell just make it neat and tidy, without emphasizing any additional work.
  • windows - Prospective home buyers expect windows and they really don't seem to care whether they are energy efficient or not.  Our real estate agent said this is just the way it is but I'm not sure why.  
  • carpeting - Many prospective home buyers are not impressed with newly installed carpeting.  The growing trend is to go with hard flooring, not carpeting.  If you have carpeting, rather than replacing it, have the carpet steam cleaned for selling purposes.  Chances are very good anyone who buys the house will rip out the carpet anyway so just make sure it is clean and stain free for the showings.
  • painting - A fresh coat of paint may make the house more appealing but may not necessarily help you sell your house.  If a prospective buyer smells fresh paint in the house, they may view it as a quick cover-up, hiding something so painting may actually hinder the sale of your house.  Unless you have a garish colour in a room, the best bet is to wash the walls to brighten them a bit then leave them alone when selling.  Any potential buyer is going to repaint anyway so save yourself the work.  

Garden Gnome

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


We live in beautiful Ontario, Canada and own vacation property in Florida.  Windows are an odd thing.  You need windows in your home and yet if you try selling your home you won't recoup the costs of replacement windows.  Buyers expect windows but most don't care about having energy efficient windows.  That little tid bit came directly from our real estate agent.  When I was growing up we had the old double hung wood, single pane windows with wood storm windows.  The storm windows were supposed to make the windows more efficient.  Well they didn't help much but the did help I suppose.  At some point my Mom had aluminum storm windows installed.  They were a bit more efficient but not by much.  There are still many homes in Ontario that have the older wood windows with wood or aluminum storms.  They can be made a bit more efficient using caulk and weatherstripping.

Newer homes tend to have double or triple pane windows.  Our new house has double pane, energy efficient windows.  So far I have not found any air leaks.  Double and triple pane windows save on both heating and cooling costs while eliminating the work of putting up and taking down storm windows.  At the same time they greatly reduce outdoor noise from entering the house.

Our vacation home has what I basically would consider aluminum storm windows or at least that's what they would be considered in Ontario.  These single pane windows do little to buffer outdoor noise or prevent thermal loss/gain.  Our vacation home is in a very quiet resort so dampening noise is not a real issue.  What has become an issue since we bought the house is telemarketers trying to sell us upgraded windows.  I'm not kidding!  The problem is our vacation home is a manufactured home built in October of 2006, erected here in the spring of 2007.  The payback period for replacement windows at this time is not worth the expense especially when we rent the house out when we aren't there so it is either rented or empty.

Garden Gnome

Monday, December 12, 2011

Centipedes At the New House

We first encountered centipedes in our last house.  It was a bi-level house with the main living area mainly below ground with the back opening to the water in what some would call a walk-out basement.  The centipedes were bad because the previous owner was a hoarder so there were ample hiding spots for them to breed.  When we moved in, the clutter was gone so we were left to deal with the numerous centipedes.  I wrote a blog post on how to control house centipedes.  I took a very aggressive knock down then ongoing control approach.  We sold that house in September, buying another bi-level house and weren't even moved fully in before spotting the first centipede.

In fairness, I think since September 1 we have only spotted 3 centipedes in the new house, no where near the number of centipedes at the other house.  It was quite common to see upwards of four or five centipedes daily at the old house.  In all honesty, we should have called in a professional exterminator to deal with the centipede and spider problem at that house.

The lower level in our new home consists of the pantry, bathroom, games rooms and storage under the stairs.  There is an exit door at the end of the hall.  Anytime windows and doors are located near or below the ground level, there is the opportunity for insects and pests to get into the house.  We did a residual spray on the lower level of the new house which was a bit of overkill because the new house has a couple of features that will help to keep any insect controlled without the use of pesticides.  Essentially is does not provide centipedes with what they need to survive but because we have a pool that creates a damper area around the house, we need to stay on top of controlling insects attracted to damp areas.  We also have a sump pump that can attract moisture loving insects.

First, the centipede population is not big enough to be of concern.  The quick knock down will more than likely solve the problem.  The house is only 17 years old meaning it is considerably better sealed than the old house.  Sealing keeps insects and pests out of the house because there is less cracks for them to get into the house.  There is no carpeting in the new house.  Did you know that centipedes actually lay their eggs in carpeting?  This greatly reduces the breeding areas for centipedes.  I vacuum the hard flooring almost daily as part of my dust control which will effectively remove any centipede eggs that may be laid in the house.  Any damp clothing or cloths are hung to dry before going into the laundry hamper.  This is just good practice anyway even if you don't have insects that are attracted to moisture.  It prevents any molding issues too.  Finally, the lower level of our new house (unlike our old house) has an abundance of natural light.  This discourages insects like centipedes that prefer darker hiding spots.

In short, I don't anticipate any problem with centipedes at our new house.  I doubt we will see more than a couple in the year, likely in the spring and fall during the wet seasons.  The nice thing is we already know how to deal with centipedes!

Garden Gnome

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Laundry Woes

My husband and I raised a larger family so I did one or two loads of laundry on a daily basis.  I seriously learned to hate bordering on detest doing laundry.  It was never ending!  Fast forward to my Whirlpool Duet HE front loading machines and doing laundry has been a treat.  I do one or two loads of laundry every seven to ten days.  It's not that I like doing laundry but those machines have made it tolerable.  Then we bought the vacation home and oh good gosh, I'm back into the laundry twilight zone there!  There are two of us and I have to do laundry almost every other day.  When we have guests I end up doing laundry once or twice a day.  It is just horrid if you ask me!

Garden Gnome

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Issue of Closets

Closets present two problems: either there are never enough or they are over stuffed.  Our last house had amazing closet space with built-ins.  There was a tremendous amount of storage space tucked in areas that would otherwise be wasted space.  The previous owner was a hoarder, exactly like what you see on television so when they bought the house about twenty years before we bought it, she had all of these closets custom made.  She likely was not near the hoarder back then.  Anyway, I'm missing my closets!  In perspective though, closets cost both time and money.  They take up valuable real estate that you pay for through mortgage payments and property taxes.  The cost in terms of valuable time especially when they are not organized.  In general, it really is best to reduce the amount of closet space in your home while increasing the functionality.

I grew up in a small house with virtually no closets.  My Mom hung a metal pole between the two walls at the top of the stairs where our good clothes hung and those were put into storage according to the season.  We had a cedar chest in each bedroom for blankets and dressers for clothes.  That's it.  Our second house was a Victorian.  We never knew exactly how old it was as it was built before the town was established but it came on their books in 1904.  Originally there were no closets but a previous owner had created on over the top of the stairs when they converted that space from the landing sitting area to a bedroom.  We had dressers and clothes chests including an old restored trunk.  I stored things like mops and brooms much the same as my Mom did, behind a door.

This house has closets but considering the size of the house I'm surprised at the lack of closet space.  Each bedroom has a closet, there is a very small linen closet, a small closet on the entrance landing, larger closet in the master bedroom and a larger storage closet in the utility room.  I'm back to getting creative at finding closet space.  Surprising the closet I miss the most from our old house is the broom closet. 

Less closet space is not a bad thing so I'm using it to my advantage.  We have more actual living space with less dedicated to storage.  It is helping me on my quest of decluttering while curbing accumulating unnecessary items.  My Mom used to rotate clothing twice a year, spring and fall so I have gone back to that method.  I used it for years but with the last house didn't need to.  Our clothes are stored based on the season with heavy winter coats and sweaters out now but in the spring all but a few sweaters will go into storage as the summer clothes come out of storage.  The same goes for shoes and boots.  This really a more practical way of dealing with clothes anyway and it gives the opportunity to do a bit of decluttering each time. 

Garden Gnome