Friday, October 31, 2008

Tricked Rather Than Treat?

Jack O' Lanterns on my porchHalloween is among my favourite holidays, and celebrating it in my own house this year has made it one of my most memorable. I carved pumpkins for the first time since I moved away from home and prepped my porch to welcome the little witches and goblins this evening.

When I moved in nearly a year ago, I was faced with the 'morning after' that's left behind when the ghouls and goblins head home. On November 2, the remnants of eggs were almost still wet on my front porch and windows.

What if your home has become a victim of "Devil's Night" or tonight's trickery?

Check out this advice from Good Housekeeping magazine, courtesy of John Tesh, Intelligence for Your Life.

  • If your car gets “egged”, you need to act fast – both egg yolk AND egg white can corrode painted surfaces. Hose off the gunk ASAP. Be careful with the shells – rubbing them or trying to scrape them off your car can scratch. Just keep hosing, and they’ll eventually loosen and wash off. The same rule applies if your house or mailbox gets egged – pressure-wash it with a hose until the stuff comes off.
  • What if your yard gets toilet-papered? You’ll want to clean up the TP before it rains. Soggy paper can take weeks to weather off. Clear long streams of TP out of tall trees with a yardstick or broom.Then, wrap a piece of duct tape – sticky side out – on the end of your long object and wave it in the trees.The smaller pieces of toilet paper should stick.
  • Your house gets covered in “silly string.” This gooey stuff eventually stiffens and sticks to surfaces when dry. So pick it off ASAP. If some lands on your car, DON’T pick it off with your fingernails! It’ll scratch the paint. Instead, hose off as much as you can, and use a cotton swab to lift off the remaining bits.
  • Your car windows get “soaped up.” This is when someone rubs a bar of soap all over your windows. If it happens to you, use lots of water and a soft scrub brush – something that won’t scratch the glass – to get rid of the lather.

Have a ghoulishly great Halloween! Check back tomorrow to see my costume!

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My "Wish List" - I wish I knew...

Thinking about buying your first home?

There is a saying out there that buying a house and buying insurance are two of the most important and emotional decisions we make. Yet, we deal with the most unemotional people to make the purchase.

Educate yourself first. It is easy to get wrapped up in the excitement, but take your time to learn about your rights and options. It will save you a lot of headache later.

Here are some tips I can offer:

  • To avoid feeling cash-strapped, consider homes that are less than your pre-approved mortgage amount. Keep in mind, that the mortgage payment is only a portion of your monthly expenses - tax and utilities can be as much as 45% of the mortgage payment.
  • Take the time to find the right agent. You never want to feel pressured into making an offer.
  • 60 amp electrical service or old furnace. No big deal? Think again! These can be costly and time-consuming to correct. Most contractors work 9-5. If these are your hours, will you have to take time off, even just to get a quote? Save the unwanted stress and build these costs into your offer - require the seller to fix them.
  • Consider doing a home inspection before you make an offer if it's an older home.
  • Ask lots of questions! The realtor must disclose everything they know. Challenge them to find out if they do not.
  • Do the walk through yourself before closing. This is your last chance to make sure the conditions have been met, its the same house you made an offer on, and the seller's junk has been removed. No one wants to comb through another person's leftover junk, especially if it leaves you discovering their old marriage trinkets and divorce proceedings (seriously)! If you can not go, send a friend or family member, not your agent.
  • There will always be more houses for sale.
  • Don't go nuts spending when you move in. Take some time to learn what you really need, what can wait, and what you might find at a bargain. I would've saved hundreds of dollars if I'd waited for garage sales.

Thinking at all about buying a home? Check out Home Girl: The Single Woman's Guide to Buying Real Estate in Canada by Brenda Bouw.

Brenda provides excellent advice on everything from selecting your agent to what to expect after the deal closes.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Apple Cheesecake Squares Recipe

Apple Cheesecake SquaresThis is not a home tip, but I am an avid cook, so in the spirit of fall, I decided I would share this great recipe. A co-worker came across it in an issue of Harrowsmith Country Life magazine and passed it along to me. I tweaked it by using a graham cracker crumb crust, as opposed to pastry.

They have been a hit everywhere I've taken them - they're like cheesecake, but a fraction of the effort to make!

Look for firmer apples that will keep their shape when baked, Golden Delicious, Ida Red, Empire or Cortland. Or try adding pears or blueberries!

Apple Cheesecake Squares
Graham Cracker Crust:
1 cup graham crack crumbs
1/4 C honey

1/4 C butter
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix crust ingredients together. Press into a lightly greased 9" x 9" pan. Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden around the edges. Remove and let cool.

Cream Cheese Layer:
1 pkg cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 t vanilla
Whip until smooth with electric beaters. Pour over cooled crust.

Apple Layer:
4 large apples, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 cup sliced almonds
Mix sugar, cinnamon and sprinkle over sliced apples. Arrange apples over the cheese layer. Sprinkle with almonds. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool and chill before serving.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Rake Leaves in a "Snap"

fall leaves
Arguably, the best part of fall is the beautiful colours.... unless they are on your lawn!

Bagging leaves by yourself can be a frustrating chore. Trying to get the leaves from the pile into the bag can take some creative maneuvering. Leave them too long, and the leaves may be wet and rotting, making the task even dirtier!

If you have some beautiful trees that like to share their wealth in the fall, consider purchasing the Magic Ring. This handy little gadget can be big-time useful. Snap it open, pop it in the top of the bag, and you're ready to go. Ta-da! The bag stays upright and open!

Magic Ring can be found at Canadian Tire and Home Hardware for only $7.99.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The First Frost - Out With the Old & In With the New.. BULBS!

Now that we've had a few good frosts, don't forget to plant your spring bulbs. In warmer climates, there is still time - 6 weeks before the ground freezes is the guideline I have found.

Tulips don't like wet feet, and they prefer sunny locations. Fluff the soil, and plant bulbs together in clusters 6-10 inches deep with the pointy ends up. The deeper the bulbs, the hardier, but later they will bloom.

Pink Cactus DahliaNow is also the time to dig up your dahlias. Dahlias add brilliant colour and variety to gardens, but they can be costly to purchase. Saving them in the fall lets you enjoy their beauty year after year.

Once the first frost has nipped the tops off, dig up the bulbs and brush the soil off. Dusting them with powdered sulfur will protect them from insects and disease. Store them in a paper bag in a cool, dry place. Consider labelling the bag with the colour, so you'll know what you have in the spring.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Does Your Yard Get an "F" for Grade?

correct yard grade
Your yard may have a failing grade if it slopes towards your house. This can cause water to pool near your foundation, leading to damage and even basement flooding.

I suspect this was my problem. In some areas, I had 10-12 inches difference in depth from my foundation to the ground a couple metres away from the wall.

If you have a poorly graded yard, you might want to consider fixing it before the ground freezes. By spring, it will be saturated with melting frost, snow, and rain, leaving little opportunity for correction.

To fix the grade:
  1. Measure the area that you need to fix and calculate how much dirt you will need. The landscaping supply company I consulted suggested 1 cubic yard to cover 100 square feet 3 inches deep. To give you a better idea of quantity, I ordered 6 cubic yards and this filled about about half of a dump truck.
  2. Most places will deliver. Consider ordering more if you have plans for future landscaping (flowerbeds, gardens, lawn top dress, etc.), then you can save on the delivery charge.
  3. Put a tarp down for under the soil. Not only does this make easy cleanup, but it will allow you to place all the dirt exactly where you want it. If you are home when the truck arrives and it's possible, have them dump it closes to where you need it. It will save a lot of back-breaking work!
  4. Start throwing dirt! Build up the area closest to your house, gradually creating a slope away from the house. Be sure to pack the dirt down as you go.
  5. Leave the dirt to settle for a few days, then check back (preferably after a rain) to see if you need to add more. Aim for a 2-3 inch drop per 10 feet.
  6. Don't forget to look under decks and porches for problems. We had to remove several boards off of my deck, dump the dirt in by wheelbarrow and rake it out further under the deck.

Finally, be sure that all your eaves and drain pipes are clear of debris and angled away from the house. Consider attaching an extension tile or pipe to carry water further away from the house.

If you need to fix the whole yard, you may want to hire a pro. Here is an article that details this further.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Moxie Trades Takes on the Dragons Tonight

Marissa McTasney shared her experience launching Moxie Trades, work boots and apparel for tradeswomen, with the group at Ladies Who Launch. Tonight she'll enter the "Dragon's Den" to pitch her idea to the venture capitalists.

Be sure to watch on CBC at 8:00pm EST.
Then get your own pair of Moxie Trades "Betsy" work boots today! Women's Pink Work Boot Size 9

Saturday, October 18, 2008

My blog's reason for being

Since buying a house almost a year ago, I have been plagued by a sort of buyer's regret - I wish I'd known...., Why didn't I ask..., How come I didn't see that..., If only I'd realized...

After attending the Toronto Ladies Who Launch BYOB (that's Be Your Own Boss for all you who are thinking Saturday afternoon BBQ like I was) a few weeks ago, I have been searching for a blog or website devoted to women owning homes. Thus far, I have been unsuccessful. Does anyone know of a good one?

So, this morning over a steaming mug of herbal tea (because I have again run out of coffee), I decided to document my adventures in this blog. Most of the 'how-to' I have learned has been from friends and family, so I hope to pass some of this wisdom along for others. Afterall , according to Single Women Buy Homes, Too, Elizabeth Weintraub:
  • More than one in five home buyers is a single woman.
  • Twice as many unmarried women are buying homes than single men.
  • Single women make up more than one-third of the growth in real estate ownership since 1994.

Surely, there are more chicks like me out there with burning questions about how to fix everything from a leaky faucet to a leaking basement (yes, I have both) who are not easily finding the answers through Google or Yahoo.

So here we go! Come back often and share this with all your homeowning friends!