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

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Field Mice Problems

Until our last three houses, we did not have to deal with field mice getting into the house.  Oh good gosh, these little critters are horrid to deal with.  All of our food is protected in glass, metal or heavy plastic containers.  The problem is when the fields come off the mice come in and if there isn't an easy access they will gnaw one so you have to keep a constant vigilance.  All holes, cracks and points of entry must be sealed.  You can bait outdoors providing the bait is out of the reach of children and pets but this really should be a last resort.  The reason being is poisoned mice will poison any predators, something you don't want.  Predators (eg. hawks, owls) act as a natural population check for mice. 

Even though our community is urban there is ample surrounding farmland surrounding the community and pockets of farmland within the community.  Any building regardless of its age within the vicinity of this farmland is fair game for the field mice.  Our new house backs onto a small stretch of a farmer's field that has residential homes on each side with our street ending at the larger field to the west.  Field mice are a problem for all the homes on both sides of the field as well as a couple of churches and school in the area. 

We saw signs of a mouse in the pantry in late December so took the steps to get rid of it.  The mouse was smart enough to get the peanut butter off of all three traps.  We saw no signs of the mouse so figured it was gone.  Then it snowed and sure enough there was a trail of mouse tracks across our deck into the corner where the garage meets the house, precisely where we thought the mouse got in.  My husband reset the traps with cheese, pushing hard into the bait holder.  The next morning we had caught the mouse.  It snowed again two days ago and I noticed mouse tracks in the same area of the deck.  My husband set another trap with cheese successfully catching another mouse yesterday afternoon.  The trap has been reset and we have a pretty good idea where to look for the point of entry. 

Weather is hindering any sealing on the outside but if we can get to the point of entry on the inside by moving the footer insulation, it will be possible to block from the inside.  We will still have to patch that spot on the outside when the weather permits as mice will simply gnaw their way into the house  again.  So far this looks like the only point of entry but we will continue to keep the traps set even after this entry point is sealed up just in case.  I'll be glad when spring arrives so we can do a good check of the house exterior for anywhere field mice can get in!

Garden Gnome

Monday, January 30, 2012

Nixing the Smell of Paint

I tend to use acrylic laytex paint whenever possible.  While this paint is not as low odour as the newer eco-friendly paints with no VOCs, it has a lot lower odour than oil based enamel paints.  I have extensive experience with the acrylic laytex paints, limited experiences with enamel paints and no experience with the eco-friendly paints.  My winter project is painting every room in the house and given my druthers I would have tried the eco-friendly paints except my local Home Hardware has had no feedback at all on these paints other than they are not selling well.  So I went with the tried and true Beautitone acrylic laytex paint.

Acrylic laytex paints are wonderful to work with and they are easy to clean-up but there is still a smell.  Unfortunately the odour can bother those like me with sinus and asthma, more so when the windows can't be opened to rid the house of the odour.  I use two techniques to help rid the house of acrylic latex paint odour:

  • exhaust fans - An exhaust fan can be quite beneficial in removing odour from painting.  This can be quite effective at removing odour during the painting process.  The downside to using exhaust fans is they suck out the heat along with the odour.  
  • a bowl of vinegar - A bowl of white vinegar neutralizes the paint odour.  Place a bowl with about an inch of white vinegar in the room while painting and leave it there a couple of days.  It really does help.

Garden Gnome

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Problems with Red Paint

I have spent the last couple of weeks getting close and personal with paint.  My winter project is to paint the entire interior of our new home.  The main bathroom was first and is completed with the exception of the custom made trim for the tub recess.  Last Monday I started the kitchen that was originally supposed to be a pale taupe but thanks to my husband is now the same colour as our dinnerware, a deep and rich burgundy.  After almost a full week of working on the kitchen, I'm exhausted.  The room is turning out to be absolutely gorgeous (pictures to come shortly) but talk about a major pain in the keester!  The real problem lies with the red paint itself.

Paints colours are mixed in a base of clear, white, medium or dark.  Now the bathroom, a pale taupe mixed in a base of white covered nicely in two coats.  The burgundy in the kitchen was mixed in a base of clear.  The result was a thinner paint taking three coats to cover.  Red in general when it comes to paint is just a royal pain.  It needs a grey base coat primer if going over lighter colours and don't even think about skipping the primer unless you want to paint the walls about ten times.  It really is not a good choice of colour for any area that will receive a lot of light as for some reason the red pigment is very, very prone to fading.  Getting a nice, clean line is almost enough to pull your hair out as well.  So a room that should technically have taken two days has taken me six days and there is still another two good days of work in the kitchen putting me a bit behind schedule for my winter project.  Knowing how DIY projects go that two days will stretch out to four days.

Garden Gnome

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Choosing Paint Colours

As soon as we knew we were moving here, one of our friends suggested as they did, have a professional painter come in and paint everything neutral. Well, we actually like some of the colours so decided against this. However, I have always maintained that you should not immediately change paint colours upon moving into a new home. Get settled first then observe how the natural light affects the room colours. Chances are the nice creamy yellow in the kitchen was quite welcoming under artificial lighting when you viewed the house and now is a bit garish while sipping your morning coffee.

I spent a couple of days on the Behr ColorSmart site.  This is an amazing tool that can help you find the perfect colours and even shows you what they will look like using your own photo.  After finding a mossy green (Promenade, 400F-5) very close to what was used in the master bedroom and fairly close to one of the colours at our vacation home. All the other colours in the house will co-ordinate back to that green. My husband wanted to deal locally at Home Hardware but they don't sell Behr paint. Home Depot does but that means a good half hour drive each way that will waste a lot of time if I go on a per room basis. Anyway, Home Hardware can mix the paint to the Behr code so that is a real bonus for me!  It will save countless trips outside of our community.

Another great way to choose a colour for a room is to look at one of the fabrics you already have in there.  Squint and the predominate colour will pop out.  Take the fabric sample with you to start building of colours that will co-ordinate with that fabric.  I actually chose co-ordinating colours this way for our old house.  I loved the tone of the existing wallpaper but not the design or age of it.  The end result was quite pleasant to the point I ended up basing the entire house colours on that particular colour!  I even found a wallpaper border later with all the colours.  The neat thing was I had chose the colours for the walls using the squint method and the Behr ColorSmart tool well before I ever found the border and yet the border matched perfectly.  Sometimes working backwards still gets good end results!

Garden Gnome

Friday, January 13, 2012

Let the Painting Begin

Our new house was built in 1994.  It is a 5-bedroom executive house that we moved into in September of 2011.  We really liked the room colours with the exception of two when we did the walk-throughs but after five months of living here I think I have noticed every single painting flaw in the house.  The colours are almost but not quite co-ordinated and the previous owners tried to use a three colour shadowing technique in the entrance/living/diningroom/hall unsuccessfully.  Then the warm taupe tones in that space clashes with the cooler taupe in the kitchen.  In fact the cooler taupe in the kitchen really doesn't work as well as it could with the warm oak, ceramic tile (counters) or marble tile (floor) tones.  The visual aspect could have been overlooked but what could not be overlooked was the amateur painting!  My massive winter project is painting each room in the house.  Over the next few weeks I will be doing a bit of blogging about that.

Garden Gnome

Saturday, January 7, 2012

No House is Perfect

Years ago when we bought our first house it was perfect.  Well, in actuality it was perfect for our needs at that time.  The reality is regardless of how much you spend on a house or how much you spend decorating or renovating it, no house is ever perfect.  This is our sixth owned permanent residence and we do own vacation property.  The vacation property is now just barely 5 years old while our new home is not quite 18 years old.  Both had been well looked after, with the vacation home being empty before we bought it for almost 2 years. 

Problems surfaced in both homes as they did in the homes we owned before.  None of them have been major problems but they were still problems none the less.  From personal experience problems with home will always surface over time because homes age.  There seriously is not much you can do about it other than be on top of problems before they get bigger.

Sometimes it is better to work with what you have as well.  For example, in our last two houses the kitchens were painfully small but we learned how to function quite nicely with the larger scale cooking we do.  There are lots of great space saving and living in small spaces ideas out there to help with even the tiniest space.  This house too has a small kitchen and yet the house is huge (technically 5 bedroom).  Although, unlike our last two houses, there is the opportunity to add onto the kitchen, it would be a massive undertaking so while we are discussing it, I doubt we will add much more than a three season sunporch.

Garden Gnome

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Couple of Mouse Proofing Ideas

I did a bit of volunteer work at our local library today.  One of the ladies, a friend of ours had stopped at Canadian Tire for these rather nice blueplanet totes on wheels.  This is a Canadian made product using 75% recycled content and the totes themselves can be recycled if no longer needed.  They were on sale for $5.99 so I bought four of them.  You see when it comes to mice, I take a very aggressive approach meaning nothing, absolutely nothing in my large, bedroom sized pantry is at risk.  It is protected by glass, plastic or metal.  With just moving here in September there were a few things not as protected as I wanted and besides I am still trying to organize the pantry so the totes were necessary.  As I worked, I eyed up a spot beside my industrial wire food shelving unit.  The space is 17" Wide, 18" Deep and I can basically expand to the ceiling (8') if I want.  This spot would be perfect for a metal storage cabinet with shelves for boxed foods, similar to a locker.  The food would be protected yet it would be a lot more convenient access to the boxed food besides rummaging through storage bins.  I am now looking for something that will work for this purpose.

The second idea I had as I worked was creating a rodent proof storage area for things like potatoes, onions, squashes and apples.  From experience, rodents will gnaw on the foods if given a chance.  The biggest problem is all of these foods need air circulation so I plan on making a lidded bin that uses carpenter's cloth.  This will allow air circulation for the produce but keep any rodents out.  Watch for that design to come shortly as soon as I make it.  I already know what I want it to look like so putting the plan into action is next.  Even with the best of sealing, rodents can and do get into homes because they gnaw their way through.  The key thing here is as long as any rodent that does get in cannot get any food, it will move on to an easier target.   I intend to make our home a horrid target for rodents :)

Garden Gnome

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Mouse in the House

I dealt with mice on numerous occasions in my childhood home.  Believe me I do not have fond memories of them at all!  I did not have to deal with them again until our kids were adults and we had moved into our fourth house.  The house was sandwiched between a farmer's field and the river.  As soon as the crops came off mice would find a way into the house.  Our fifth house was also sandwiched between a field and the river and although the field was further from the home, copious English Ivy gave a natural habitat for the field mice who made their way indoors each fall. 

Our new house is in town but it does back onto a field.  The crops came off shortly after we returned from our fall vacation in October.  We kept a close eye for any signs of mice getting in.  There were none.  We left on our winter vacation on December 4 returning on December 22 and all looked fine.  Then between Christmas and New Year's I was in the utility room where I thought I saw mice droppings.  The following day when my husband brought up the deep fryer there were mouse droppings under it! 

The rule of thumb for rodent control is to remove the critter, seal so no more can enter and remove all sources of food.  We set out three baited traps indoors, a few bait pouches outdoors and I plugged in all the electronic rodent deterrent devices.  My husband picked up a few more plastic food bins from the doughnut shop for the odds and ends in the pantry that were unprotected. Unlike our other houses, this is a newer house so less chances for rodents to get in to begin with.  We only found one possible entry via a cable but looking at it outside a mouse would not have been able to get in, still we blocked it just to be sure.

We think we sealed the mouse out, scared off by the electronic devices or us making a bit of noise as there has been no sign of a mouse since that day (almost a week ago now).  The traps have not been touched, I've not noticed any new droppings and nothing has been disturbed in the pantry or kitchen cabinet. 

This house will be rather easy to rodent proof.  There are no carpets for food crumbs to hide in and I've been doing daily vacuuming anyway.  There is no rodent friendly vegetation like tall grasses or English Ivy.  We will do a thorough perimeter check of the house as soon as we get a warm enough day or as a worse case scenario in the spring.  Any fine sealing will have to wait until spring as will a roof check since there is snow on the roof but any noticeable hole can easily be blocked temporarily.  The snow actually works in our favour in identifying any possible entry points as their little tracks become rather visible in the snow.  It's a rather small field behind us as well so the rodent population can't be very large to begin with.  Essentially as long as any food in the pantry and kitchen cupboards is in heavy plastic bins, metal or glass containers there shouldn't be a problem.  At least we are now aware that somehow at least one mouse got in. 

What we do have to check and that will have to likely wait until spring to be sure, is there are no possible entry points between the attached garage and house.  I suspect this is how the mouse got in as we could find no obvious entry points around the perimeter.  At any rate we have identified where to look, what to fix if necessary and a bit of a temporary knock-down to get us to spring.

Garden Gnome

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Easy Decorative Candle Centerpiece

I love decorative accents that can easily be co-ordinated with other accents yet the elements can be dismantled to be re-used in future projects.  With only two days to prep the house for Christmas this year, I did not have the time to get really fancy.  I needed a couple of simple accents that I could whip up without much time or effort.

materials for decorative candle centerpiece
I needed a simple, holiday theme centerpiece for the diningroom table.  This table was only going to be used for breakfast then it would hold trays of various goodies for snacking while giving a spot to sit and enjoy coffee.  I decided on using a charger as the base.  A charger is the decorative plate that a dinner plate sits on.  We don't burn paraffin candles in our home but I do keep a few on hand for decorative purposes only so I brought out three ivory candles from my craft supplies.  I used the same glittery red, green and gold ribbon as I did making the decorative accent vase and sprigg I didn't use making the vase.  I raided the bathroom cabinet for epsom salts.  While epsom salts is used mainly in the bathroom, it is an excellent crafting medium to work with as well.

finished decorative candle centerpiece
This centerpiece was about a simple and low cost as you can get.  It took me about 5 minutes to put together.  I tied the candles into a grouping of three then placed slightly off centre on the charger.  I sprinkled epsom salts around the base then tucked in the artificial sprigg.  The centerpiece was complete.  That's it, nothing fancy just a bit of a festive touch to the table and one that could easily be dismantled after the holiday season. I like how this simple centerpiece came out. 

Decorative accents do not need to not need to be expensive or fancy, they just need to add that little bit of something special.  In fact, sometimes simplicity wins out when it comes to decorative accents especially during the holiday season. 

Garden Gnome

Monday, January 2, 2012

An Easy and Inexpensive Decorator Accent Vase

Quite often when decorating especially for the holidays, that little extra something is needed.  While the stores are filled with a multitude of decorations to choose from, it is nicer to create a custom-made decoration or accent piece.  We arrived home from our vacation home on December 22nd, leaving only two days to get the house ready for Christmas.  I turned to my extensive craft supplies along with the purchases I made at Hobby Lobby.  Goodness that is a crafter's mecca!

craft materials to make decorator vase
I bought a tall, straight sided vase, glittered twigs, glass beads and Santa Ice Crystals at Hobby Lobby.  I had never seen the ice crystals spray before.  This is a temporary spray frost that can be sprayed on windows, mirrors or any glass surface to create a Jack Frost effect.  The spray contains no CFCs or other ozone-depleting substances.  It can be remove using window cleaner.

The glitter twigs are quite easy to make at home using twigs collected from trees in your yard or along your daily walk.  Allow them to dry until hard then spray with spray adhesive and sprinkle with glitter colour of choice.  I bought them simply because with the move I did not collect any twigs this past fall.  The artificial sprigg and glittery ribbon came from my craft supplies.

vase sprayed with Santa Ice Crystals
I don't have a specific crafting area established in our new home so simply used the counter in the kitchen.  I wan't worried about getting any of the ice crystal spray on the counter as it can easily be removed.  Still, I protected the counter with newspaper. 

I washed and dried the vase then turned it upside down on the newspaper.  Pictured is the vase just after being sprayed with the ice crystals spray.   I held the can about a foot from the vase when spraying.  The spray is quite thin, just sheeting the glass.  The spray is not tacky but it does have a bit of an odour .  It takes a few minutes for the ice crystals to start forming.

ice crystals forming
I sprayed from the top of the inverted vase to the bottom open end.  The instructions said the ice crystals would form within a half hour but I found they started forming within ten minutes.  As the spray dried the ice crystals formed giving a unique, Jack Frost look very similar to the frozen ice crystals that used to appear on our windows during the winter in my childhood home.  The picture does not do the effect justice.  It is a rather pretty look giving the vase a unique look.

I let the vase dry for about an hour until the entire vase was covered with ice crystals.  Then I removed it from the newspaper so I could begin decorating it.

Pictured is the finished decorator accent vase.  I decided against using the sprigg and chose the glittery ribbon with red, green and gold tones rather than the solid gold glittery ribbon.  I used the ribbon, a dollar store find, to further accent a candy bowl and candle centerpiece for a co-ordinated look.  I poured the glass beads into the vase first before adding the glittery twigs.  This hid the ends giving a snowy effect to compliment the frosted ice crystal effect.  It was simple and very inexpensive at under $2.

What I really like about this type of craft is after the event, the craft can be dismantled with the components put back into my craft supplies to be re-used in another craft at some point.  I really enjoyed working with the ice crystals spray.  We have side windows on each side of our entrance door.  I'm thinking of spraying them just to see if I like the frosted look rather than sheers.  The nice thing is the spray can be left as long as I like so if I don't like the look I can simply wash it off!  This crafting product gets two-thumbs-up in my book for versatility.

decorator vase on display
I placed the decorator accent vase in the dining room atop the vintage cabinet I refinished years ago.  The reindeer was made several years ago when I was heavily into ceramics.  The painting is one in our collection of painting from a local artist.  We have known this artist for several years.  Each painting is numbered, signed and comes with a story.  They are very unique!  The look of each painting does change with the lighting conditions taking on it's own persona.  This particular one reminds me of the sand dunes at Pinery Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada where we spent many a weekend camping with the kids.

The decorator accent vase just gave that little extra to that spot for the holiday season.  I might leave it as is for awhile before changing out the look for one that will work elsewhere.  It was an interesting, fun little project that was easily finished in just a little over an hour but the actual work time was only about 10 minutes if that.  I hope you like it!

Garden Gnome