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, February 26, 2013

The Cell Phone Verses Landline Delimna

There is the question as to whether to give up a landline (aka phone service) in favour of cell phones only.  Some of our kids have totally eliminated their landlines and a couple after using only cell phones for a couple of years went back to adding a basic landline.  We have Bell for our landline, Roger's for my husband's cell phone and I put my cell phone of a pay as you go plan through Telus because I seldom use it. 

Here's the problem in Ontario.  We have Bell so pay $54.85 for a very stripped down service that includes caller ID and 500 minutes of long distance for North America.  They were none to pleased when we cut over $30 worth of extras about three years ago after buying a home telephone system offering call waiting, call blocking and all those nice features on board so all we need is call display.  The only feature on our landline that can be reduced is long distance but that won't save us much.  I pay $100 per year for my cell phone pay as you go plan with the only problem being it is only good in the US but I can unlock the phone, buy a sim card and plan in the US which would be good at our vacation home.  I very seldom travel in the US by myself so really don't need a cell phone there.  My husband pays $86 per month for his cell phone which has a data plan.

We looked at getting a new cell phone for me and eliminating our home landline.  A new cell iPhone was $199 special and adding a family plan was $50 plus $16 for caller ID and shared data ($66 total).  We would be up to $152 per month BUT if my husband changes his current cell phone plan that is no longer available he would also have to pay $16 for caller ID which brings the total to $168 per month.  We are currently paying a total of $151.43 for both cell phones and landline so giving up the landline would actually cost us more money for less.  Plus, we have internet and television with Bell so get a bundle discount of $21 per month that we would lose if we eliminated the landline.  After doing the math, we quickly realized giving up our landline in favour of cell phone only would not save us any money but rather cost us more while getting less.  Now technically, we could without changing out my phone, adding US coverage with no data but it would still cost us more monthly. 

I personally would rather go to cell phones only.  It really is a lot more convenient and quite frankly the younger generation has embraced cell phones, choosing to eliminate landlines.  There are a lot of benefits going to cell phones only as you have instant communication pretty much everywhere.   So far, the problem of telemarketers is very low as you aren't listed in a directory so the calls for the most part that you get are for you. 

The downside is cell phone numbers like landline numbers are recycled which means you can have a high volume of calls from debt collectors from the previous owner of that number but the cost of those calls can cost you in addition to your actual cell phone plan.  We dealt with this problem with both our landline phone number and my cell phone number since moving here in September of 2011.  They can be very nasty as well as threatening and if you are on a pay as you go plan can really eat up your minutes AND they will not remove the number from their database even if you request it contrary to the rules set out by the CRTC.  The problem is, you cannot block these calls on a cell phone the way you can with a landline.  The best advice I have after having this cell phone number for 18 months is to not answer the call, find out who they are via a service like Who Calls Me then report them to the CRTC. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Upside Down or Right Side Up

When it comes to homemaking and organization, everyone has their own ways of doing things.  What makes sense or works for some does not make sense or work for others.  There are even debates over which way the roll of toilet paper should be placed on the roller.  What I never really considered an issue was whether to put glasses, mugs and other drinking vessels upside down or right side up in the cupboards.  I used to think it was just a personal preference.

Our first three purchased homes were relatively problem free as far as home invaders.  The worst we dealt with was ants (rarely), house flies, fruit flies and in our third house, earwigs.  Even then, all of these pests were very minor outbreaks that were quickly controlled.  They were not ongoing.  Glassware and mugs were placed right side up in the cupboards.  Then we bought our fourth house that backed onto farmland.  When the crops came off, the mice came in.  Our fifth house was a beautiful house in a beautiful location but it had issues.  It was across the main road with a small road in between from farmland on water front property.  The house was surrounded by English ivy, a rodent mecca.  The mice would scurry across the patio, get into the outdoor grill and loved visiting us indoors.  Not only were mice a problem, the house was a magnet for centipedes (4 or more a week!), millipedes, pill bugs and carpenter ants.  We bought this house in 2011.  There is farmland directly behind it so even though it is a newer house, mice found their way indoors.  After catching four mice, we called in the professionals who quickly took care of the problem.

As part of our pest control, glassware and mugs have been placed upside down in the cupboards ever since our fourth house.  It's a way to ensure that rodents or other pests don't get into them, and it keeps any dust out.  Well, this does make perfect sense.  However, shortly after we discovered mice in this house I was getting platters from the shelf unit in the pantry, I was not pleased to discover the tell tale signs of mice on the top platter.  So, even if the glassware and mugs are turned upside down in the cupboards, other dinnerware or pots and pans in the cupboard can still be contaminated by rodents, other household pests or dust.

Essentially, upside down or right side up ends up being a personal choice.  While it will give peace of mind that nothing contaminated your clean glassware or mugs, it does nothing to eliminate the possible contamination of other items in your cupboard that come into contact with food.  Up or down, 'tis up to you :)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Energy Conservation Incentive Programs

Yesterday, I wrote about our so far nasty experience with our municipal hydro provider setting up the PeakSaver program.  The premise is, the municipal hydro provider wants you to give up a bit of control over your hydro usage if needed and in return they give you an incentive for signing up.  So far, the municipal hydro provider is winning and we are left with a pile of electronic junk thanks to BlueLine.  Seriously, with out experience using the BlueLine Monitor and the BlueLine WiFi Bridge, I wouldn't wish either on my worst enemy!  Talk about crap and I do mean crap!  Now, at the moment I am not naming our municipal hydro provider (although they claim to be all about integrity but so far I've seen none of that) but I will and I have every intention of going through my MP (already contacted) and the BBB as well as reporting BlueLine to the BBB.  Seriously, pissing off consumers is not the way to go about getting them interesting in energy conservation.

Energy conservation programs rightly executed are awesome as it was done through Ontario Hydro.  Everyone was a winner.  We got a new programmable thermostat and they got a customer who didn't mind them cycling our hydro during the summer if needed.  So incentive programs do work. We knew what the incentive was through Ontario Hydro but not through our municipal hydro.  That was our mistake or my mistake because I am the primary with respect to energy conservation especially grants and that type of thing.  I should have came right out at asked the municipality hydro provider what the incentive was and then did the research before saying we wanted it.  This serves as a reminder BEFORE you sign up to any energy conservation program, do your research first.  It will save you a lot of headaches in the end.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The New PeakSaver Goodies - A MAJOR FAIL!

When we moved into our fifth purchased home in 2007 our goal as with all of the houses we have owned was to make it as energy efficient as possible.  At that time we were dealing with Ontario Hydro, who supplies municipal hydro companies and is by far a lot nicer to deal with than the municipal ones.  We signed up for their PeakSaver program which gave us a $25 rebate off our hydro bill and a new Honeywell Programmable Thermostat.  We bought our sixth (actually seventh if you count our vacation home) in 2011 so I immediately called the municipal hydro company to sign up for the PeakSaver program.  What this program does is allow the hydro company to remotely adjust your thermostat by 3 degrees during the heavy air conditioning usage during the summer months if there are brown out conditions.  Honestly, I think they only did it three times in the four years we owned that house.

peaksaver gifts
My husband was very excited that he was going to get a new thermostat.  NO!  What they gave us as an incentive was a BlueLine WiFi Bridge, a PowerCost Monitor and a Coby tablet so we can monitor and control our hydro use online.  Now the real problem is, the technician installed the remote on the AC unit and the sensor on the meter but then just handed me the boxes and the rest has turned into a bloody nightmare!

The WiFi Bridge if working properly would allow us to remotely control our furnace and AC from the cloud (online program accessible anywhere).  Since we are away a lot, this would be a nice cost saving and energy conservation feature BUT after several failed attempts at installing it, several reboots, disabling my firewall and two and a half days on the phone with BlueLine customer support I have nothing but a piece of junk!  The BlueLine PowerCost Monitor is rather nice as you can see the power usage and cost as you are using it BUT it doesn't work properly.  The numbers are off as it right now it is telling me it is 60°F outside when in fact it is 29°F and the dang thing keeps going into sleep mode.  It would be a very nice visual if it worked properly.  I have to tell you I am really not impressed with BlueLine products.  It has been two weeks trying to get this figured out and settled so Monday morning I will be calling my hydro company and ask them to remove the PeakSaver and give them back all their pieces of crap.

You know this really does tick me off.  They want you to conserve energy and set up programs to help you conserve energy then give you a crappy incentive that doesn't even work!  It would be bad enough if one of the pieces of equipment they gave us didn't work, but none of them do.  Oh wait a minute, the Colby table works but it isn't anything I couldn't do on my iPad to begin with.  At least the thermostat they gave us as an incentive last time worked!  In terms of customer loyalty and energy conservation this particular program through the municipality hydro company is a huge FAIL!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Beanies for Bravery

We were in Florida at our vacation home when the word of the horrid events at Sandy Hook Elementary School unfolded.  Like many I was glued to the television hoping it was just a bad dream.  I've been in a knitting and crocheting funk ever since we moved here in September of 2011.  Aside of making a few dishcloths for here and our vacation home, starting a couple of projects, my knitting needles and crochet hooks have fallen silent.  Inspiration comes in strange forms sometimes.

beanies in progress
My daughter who only crochets emailed me asking if I would want to make a couple of beanies to be sent to the survivors of Sandy Hook Elementary School.  I told her I would.  Between Christmas and New Years, she brought me a skein a Red Heart Team Spirit yarn and the pattern designed by Michele Miller to be used for the beanies.  It is not to be used for commercial purposes but is free to use for non-commercial purposes.

Really, this is a simple round with increases evenly spaced to keep the project round then when you reach the desired diameter, discontinue the increases and continue until the desired length.  Basically, what you want to do is start the ring then increase evenly each succeeding row.  The first row after the ring is an increase stitch in every stitch, followed by work one stitch, increase,  in the next and work one stitch continuing around the round, then join, work two stitches and increase, work two stitches, continue around the round.  Each round you make increases the number of the first worked stitches by 1 and increases the number of stitches between increases by 1.  Once you understand how to increase to keep the project round, you could easily create your own pattern, custom tailored to what you are designing.

The beanie starts by making a magic ring.  The magic ring is a slick way to start a round project without leaving that little hole in the centre if using the traditional method of starting a round.  I am very experienced in crocheting but I did have problems starting the magic ring.  There are YouTube videos and it make take a couple of attempts but once you get it, you get it.

the finished beanies
I made two of the beanies as pictured.  Now I am a huge fan of variegated yarns but this is the first time I have used a self-striping yarn.  It does stripe nicely but I was not impressed with the texture.  The yarn was harsher and prone to splitting which I found a bit surprising as Red Heart is one of my favourite yarns to work with.

Together we sent 4 beanies in support of the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School.  I hope a little 'anything' helps give a bit of comfort if only in support.  I am truly saddened at those events so really What was nice is this project actually inspired me to do a bit more so the knitting needles and crochet hooks are in high gear.  What these children gave back to me even though they don't know it is a renewed spirit to get creating with knitting and crocheting.  From the bottom of my heart I wish them the best, the strength they need to get through this ordeal, the courage to face the future knowing the world is not that bad of a place...