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 24, 2015

Loving Our Eclipse California Shutters

Window treatment always presents a problem when you first move into a new home.  You either have no window treatment at all or what was left behind is not to your liking.  The former owners of our home left behind vertical blinds in the kitchen, office and games room.  There were mini blinds in the master bedroom and two lower level bedrooms, and sheers on the Great Room window.  There were no window treatments on the two half circle windows or one bedroom.  All window treatment left was at best suitable for a bit of privacy until replacing.

California shutters in Great Room
We live in southern Ontario so energy efficient window treatment is a must during the heating and cooling seasons.  The uncovered half circle windows presented a bit of a problem as far as treatment but I had visions of California shutters in mind for the Great Room before we even moved into the house.  About this time last year, we had California shutters installed on the Great Room windows and half circle window over the entrance door.

We chose Eclipse 2 1/2 - inch ultra satin with gears in cotton (white).  We had them professionally installed.  They transformed the room with the clean, crisp lines.  More importantly we quickly realized these shutters were quite energy efficient.  There are ten sections on the window pictured.  Each can be controlled individually giving a lot more options than other types of window treatment. 

games room California shutters
Last week, we had the same shutters installed on the games room windows on the lower level.  These windows originally had vertical blinds with one missing vane.  Each window has four sections that can be controlled individually.  The look is clean and crisp,  amplifying the natural light into the room when opened.  They increase the privacy level and energy efficiency.  The California shutters are basically maintenance-free other than dusting.  They won't shrink, warp or fade and never need painting.

Overall, I am very pleased with our California shutters.  Not only do they look good while saving on heating and cooling costs, they have increased the value of our house!  We have one on order to be installed in the soon-to-be completed home gym and we plan on installing California shutters in the three upper level bedrooms.  When all is said and done we will have invested about $8,500 in shutters for all but the patio door and pantry window, all professionally installed.  Now, that sounds like a lot of money and it is but consider that these blinds will be saving us money year round in both heating and cooling costs AND they have already increased the value of our house.  If we average an energy savings of $30 per month, the payback period is 283 months or 23 years, not exactly good but better than no payback.  However, the payback period will actually be less than that given the ever rising cost of heating and cooling.  If we were to sell in the near future, we should recoup the entire amount of the shutters according to the realtor we spoke to.  She said the shutters should also help our house sell quicker.  I say 'should' because there are never any guarantees with real estate.  As long as we own the house, the California shutters will make our experience more enjoyable.  In short, the California shutters are more of an investment that started paying off as soon as they were installed!


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Briggs & Stratton Simplicity 1226L Snowblower

We have been talking of buying a snowblower ever since our third house that had a huge driveway.  Our fifth house was rural with a very, very long driveway so before our first winter hit there, we discussed it again.  However, one of our neighbours cleared all the driveways on our short street with his tractor so we never did buy one.  We've been in this house almost four years.  Each year gets rougher clearing the driveway so until now we have hired it out even though a couple of our neighbours have cleared it for us a few times.  We are getting older, noticing both the cold and work of winter.  Yesterday, we bit the bullet and bought a snowblower.

Briggs Stratton Simplicity 1226L snowblower
Mother Nature decided to grace us with an abundance of snow Superbowl Sunday.  My husband shoveled enough of a path to get to the road then walked to work.  He called to have our guy come out to clear it but his truck was broke down.  On to plan B, a snowblower.  The time to buy a snowblower is not when there is almost three feet of snow on the ground and folks are still trying to dig out!  He made a few phone calls. 

One of our friends had a snowblower for sale.  It had only been used three times so my husband bought it.  He went over with the truck and they both brought it back on a trailer.  The snowblower is a Briggs & Stratton Simplicity 1226L dual-stage, self-propelled  model.  It has an electric start with recoil back-up.  The clearing path is 26 - inches (66 cm) and 40 ft (12.19 m) maximum throwing distance. 
The guys gave me a brief tutorial, left the snowblower running then left as I set about clearing the drive.  The snowblower is heavy, much heavier and considerably bulkier than a lawn mower.  It took a bit of getting used to but once I got the hang of it, the clearing was fairly easy.  Then it ran out of gas so I texted my husband who had just left from dropping off the trailer when the brake lines blew in the truck so I had to go rescue him.  He dropped me off then went for gas.  We had gas tank but no gas since our lawnmower is battery operated.  Once back, it was time to finish the driveway.

The snow was quite deep.  I had cleared the sidewalk portion (bottom right) by hand.  The worst part to clear was at the road where the plow had gone buy pushing a lot of snow into the driveway.  I was rather pleased with the final results especially since we have interlocking brick that is not quite as smooth as an asphalt or cement surface. 

It started snowing again last night and by morning there was a fair amount of accumulation so my husband cleared out the driveway again with the snowblower.  Then he cleared our elderly neighbour's and a friend's driveways.  It took about 45 minutes to clear the three driveways.  Although the snow held off during the day, it was back to snowing in the evening.  At this rate, the snowblower is going to get a lot of use!

I found the snowblower easy enough to use in theory but harder to use in practice.  I'm petite so even though the snowblower is self-propelling, I sure felt the effects.  Much of the soreness was more than likely due to hand shoveling as I had done a fair amount, the sidewalk and almost half of the driveway.   I can't advise on what to look for when buying a snowblower other than buy quality.  A snowblower will need both maintenance and repairs but should last a number of years when cared for properly.  Size does matter as a friend of ours bought a small snowblower that can barely do his short driveway after heavy snowfall but is suitable for lighter snowfall.  A snowblower will lessen the need for manual snow removal although some hand shoveling will still be needed.  At any rate, a snowblower is definitely a worthwhile investment!


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Easy Indoor Clotheline Follow-up

We replaced the existing indoor clothesline with an easy DIY clothesline when we installed the dry bar cabinets.  Our solution was simply a removable, heavy wooden dowel spanning the distance between the closet and furnace room walls set into brackets.  The total cost for this quick project was under $10.  The true test to whether this solution would meet our needs came with the first couple of uses.

easy DIY indoor clothesline in use
We don't hang a lot of clothes but certain items for one reason or another are always air dried, usually on plastic clothes hangers.  There may only be four or five articles that need hanging in our average sized dark load unless it is athletic wear that comprises the entire load.  Once dried, the clothes are easily transferred to the appropriate closet. 

My concern was reducing the drying space from the existing 30' to about 4'.  Even though we never used the entire 30', the space was there if needed.  I hung nine articles of clothing from a large dark load which is about the average.  There was plenty of room for the clothes.  By morning, the clothes were dried ready to be put away.

Overall, this very simple, low cost, DIY solution meets our indoor drying needs nicely.  I leave a hanger on the rod to hang wet T-towels and dishcloths that are then placed in the laundry basket until there is enough for a load.  We have extra capacity, front loading washer and dryer so I do a load of laundry about once a week to ten days.  It takes awhile to accumulate enough whites for a full load!