Friday, November 28, 2008

Homegirl's Handy Tips

Looking for a tip that you saw on my blog the last time you visited? I will keep these updated here, so you don't miss any handy homegirl tips!

  • Throw a tennis ball in the dryer with vests and comforters and tumble dry on low to get the "fluff" back!
  • Slow drain? Try pouring baking soda dissolved in hot water down the drain to clear some of the clog.
  • Cleaning out closets to make some room? Turn your clotheshanger hooks forward and flip them around when you wear a piece of clothing. After 3 months, get rid of anything you haven't worn.
  • Wash sponge have a funky smell? "Zap" it in the microwave - it'll kill bacteria and prolong the life of your dish sponge!
  • Wash and lay delicate berries, like raspberries, out on a cookie sheet and freeze. Once they are frozen, you can remove and place in a plastic container or bag. This way, they keep their shape and don't get squished.
  • Wrap duct tape, or similar, sticky side out around your hand or a paint roller (for large jobs) to get pet hair off of bed sheets and furniture.

    Do you have any great household tips that you would like to share?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Stock Up on Wine & Entertaining Ideas

Click for Taste of the Season DetailsLooking for something to do this weekend? Head to Niagara-on-the-Lake wineries to enjoy "Taste of the Season".

You will be bound to get wonderful entertaining ideas that you will want to try this season, such as Smoked Salmon Tarama with Stonechurch Vineyards 2007 Riesling- Gew├╝rztraminer or the 2007 Cabernet from Coyote's Run Estate Winery with Smoked Duck Breast with Cabernet Jelly on Brioche.

2007 is shaping up to be one of the best wine years the Niagara Region has ever seen. The best wines will go quick, and with many just hitting the wineries shelves, the timing couldn't be better!
Tasting Bar at Pillitteri Estates WineryInterested in a winery tour? Plan your day so you end up at Pillitteri Estates in Virgil at 2pm for their free, daily tour.
Held every weekend in November, this is your last chance to experience the best wine & food pairings of the season. Passports to visit 18 wineries are available for only $46.00, and the event runs from 11am - 5pm on Saturday and Sunday. Visit Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake for more information.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hotel Luxuries That Make You Feel at Home

Calgary's Fairmont Palliser LobbyFor the past week, I have been living the lap of luxury. I have been staying at the Fairmont Palliser Hotel, while in Calgary for work. This beautiful, old Canadian Pacific Railway hotel exudes all the details you would expect.

This is not typical accommodation for me while travelling, so I fully enjoyed the experience. The hotel felt as much like home as it could.

For me, the comfort of a hotel always depends on a few key items:
  • Fine soaps and shampoos that you actually want to use.
  • Quiet rooms (I can handle traffic outside but cannot tolerate banging doors in the hallway or conversation in the next room).
  • Full-length mirrors and good bathroom lighting.
  • In-room coffee makers and coffee that actually brews and tastes like real coffee.
  • In-room fridges, that contain real milk and cream for the palatable in-room coffee.
  • Free wireless Internet (which the Fairmont does not have).
  • Conveniently located plug-ins for irons, cell phone charges, laptops, etc.

    The Fairmont's best 'touch of home'? It's a tie!
    Fairmont Terry Bathrobe

The white, terrycloth bathrobe is simple yet comforting, and after slipping it on, I couldn't help but feel like I was curled up on my couch at home with a steaming mug of tea.

The beds! Hands-down, the most comfortable bed I've ever slept in! Fairmont Bed & Linens

And while I will pass on the $75 robe, I was pleasantly surprised that I could bring the luxurious bed set home with me for less than $350. Order online at Travel Comes Home.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Save Money on Your Energy Bill

With the price of crude oil down under $80 per barrel again and gas prices down at the pumps, doesn't it would seem "natural" that home energy prices will also go down?
Unfortunately, the price adjustment doesn't happen just as fast as we see it at the pumps, and most companies just approved a price increase in July or August.

Here are some tips you can do to keep your energy costs under control this winter:
  • Get a programmable thermostat. As a bonus - there are government rebates for doing so!
  • Hunter 7-Day Programmable Thermostat
  • Set your thermostat to 68 degrees F when you're home and 65 degrees during the day or when you're away. Turn it down even lower if you're going away for extended periods of time, but never lower than 55 degrees.

  • Clean or replace your furnace filter every three months

  • Keep drapes open during the day (to let in the sun's heat) and closed at night to prevent warm air from escaping

  • Seal drafty windows or doors with weatherstripping or caulking and put plastic over basement windows that may leak air.Heavy Window Drapes

  • Temporary weatherstripping comes in a tube like caulking, and it can be used to physically seal a leaking window closed. Peel it off in the fall with no mess!

  • Close off and avoid using areas of the house that are not insulated, if possible.

  • Splurge on cute slippers, cozy sweaters and throws to keep warm while keeping the heat down!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Skip the Gym - Clean and Get a Homeowner's Workout!

Missed the gym because you were wrapped up in housework? Don't sweat it - chances are you already have!

Common household chores can burn as many calories as your gym routine! Here are the calories that a 130lb person will burn with 30 minutes of activity. Calorie burn is increased by 4% for each additional 5 lbs. For example, a 145lb individual will burn 12% more calories than listed below.
  • Walking at a moderate pace - 140
  • Vacuuming - 95
  • Gardening, general - 140
  • Mowing lawn with a regular push mower - 172
  • Mowing lawn with a power push mower - 140
  • Housecleaning - 109
  • Raking lawn - 125
  • Shovelling snow, by hand - 187
  • Blowing snow with walking snow blower - 140
  • Car Washing - 117
  • Cleaning Windows - 138
  • Walking up & down stairs, moderate - 255
  • Cooking - 40-50 calories (use a spoon instead of electric beaters to burn more!)
  • Cleaning gutters – 340 calories
Additional tips to make the most of your household "workout":
  • Use a wax polish in a tin rather than a spray – you’ll need to rub much harder to get a nice shine on your furniture.
  • Hit the stairs! Don’t let things pile up at the bottom – take them upstairs as soon as you need to. Plan your housework so you have to run up and down constantly. For example, empty the dishwasher in the kitchen, then make the bed upstairs, then vacuum the living room downstairs, then clean the bathroom upstairs.
  • Keep the laundry basket on the floor when you’re ironing so you have to bend and stretch to reach the clothes (keep those abs engaged!)
  • Peel, chop, stir, whisk and hand beat to burn more calories in the kitchen or make your own bread – kneading the dough is hard work!
  • Pop in your favourite music and turn up the volume to work a bit harder - and don't forget to sneak in a little dance now and then!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Get Out of the House This Weekend - Go to the Royal!

Not looking forward to a dreary, November weekend? You can't stay home all the time, so why not head down to Toronto and check out the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair?

This is the final weekend for the event where the "country comes to the city". Beat the fall blahs by strolling through the enchanted gardens in Heritage Court and energize your festive spirit this Sunday with Christmas at the Royal, a new feature this year. There are daily horse and cattle shows, the always popular Iams SuperDogs, butter sculptures and more! Don't leave without a baked potato, apple dumpling and lemonade, favourites of the Royal Regulars!

Check out my photos, then get to Exhibition Place to take the Royal in for yourself! Get directions and further details here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How to Find a Contractor

There are certainly times when you won't be able to get the job done on your own, but where do you start when it comes to hiring a contractor?

The majority of the complaints received by consumer protection agencies are from homeowners upset with the work done by contractors. Don't let yourself fall into this category also. Here are some tips to find the right person for your job.

ASK! Ask neighbours, friends, co-workers, family, and anyone you trust if they know someone. I received a recommendation for a good general contractor from the local hardware store- you never know!

Searching through the yellow pages? Keep in mind that ad space can be pricey, so a company with a larger ad may be more reputable. You can also check kijiji or Craig's List, but keep in mind that these are FREE and anyone could post an ad.

Get several quotes and ask around at building supply stores to verify they are reasonable.

Be wary of 'under-the-table' deals. If something goes wrong, there is very little or no recourse for you to seek correction.

Some questions to ask (these may vary depending on the size of the project):

  • Is the contractor full-time or part-time. This could affect skill ability and length of completion time.
  • Licenses or certifications? Requirements differ by province. Check out this Government of Ontario website for a list of trades requiring certification.
  • Ask for an appointment that suits your schedule and expected length of completion time.
  • Who will actually do the work? Some contractors hire subcontractors, so you'll want to know who will actually be in your house.
  • Is their work warranted and is the guarantee in writing?
  • For large jobs, ask about cleanup procedures, written contracts, insurance, and to get references from past clients

More times than not, you get what you pay for with contractors. Good ones will be in high demand and can therefore afford to charge more. Don't take the cheapest estimate just to save some money. It may end up costing you more in the long run.

Finally, never be afraid to ask questions if you don't understand something or want more clarification. Spend time with the contractor when he arrives so he can explain what he's doing and why. As a bonus, he may provide you with further preventative advice or corrective suggestions for other related 'issues'.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Leak Update: Fixing a Leaking Copper Pipe

Soldered Copper Pipe Joint
So I tore down the wet drywall to find... NOTHING! There are water pipes, but they are not leaking! ?? My next place to look? Leaking fridge upstairs perhaps......................
I did mention "another leaking pipe", because a few months ago I found damp drywall in my basement. When I ripped it down, I found that water had been collecting between the floor joist and the drywall. The pinprick leak in the copper pipe solder worsened over the months to follow.
To temporarily stop the leak, I purchased Magic Wrap. The leak was on a soldered joint, and two weeks ago, I finally had to call a plumber. Could I have fixed this myself?

Yes - with the right tools and a lot of practice. I had neither. Soldering torches are extremely hot, and until you are comfortable with one, you will want to get someone with experience to work the torch, particularly in tight areas.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Oh no! I have a leaking pipe!

Yes, it's true. I have ANOTHER leaking pipe in my basement! After getting a plumber in a week ago to fix a small leak in a hot water pipe, I arrived home last night to discover molding, sagging drywall and small puddle growing beneathe it! I actually thought I was dreaming. How could I have another leaking pipe?
Since I was already late for work, there was not much I could do about it this morning but shut the water off and come back to it this evening. Just how I wanted to spend my Friday night!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Meet my Roommates

These are my roommates - Fergie and Penny Lane.

I realize some of you are grinning in humour, smirking even perhaps - single woman with cats. Very original, fitting even? My friends have assured me, however, that I am not 'crazy' until I have at least 3. So I am still safe. (No offence to anyone with 3+ feline friends).

The lives of these former barn kittens are both cruel and fabulous; no longer free to roam as barn cats, yet disgustingly pampered and spoiled as residents of my home.

So spoiled in fact, they have staked claim to my office chair, living room furniture, and bed, which has left me with a great and embarrassing dilemma. Cat hair everywhere! I have become the #1 buyer of lint rollers, because washing my throws and sheets does not remove the hair.

Can anyone suggest some solutions to keep my sheets and blankets hair free?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

My Cindy Lou Who Halloween Costume

I promised pictures, and they didn't make it up on Saturday. Here they are! My Cindy-Lou Who costume, including finishing touches on a "Who nose" and my big up-do of Christmas tree ornaments!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Prepare Your Home for Winter

While some of us are still waiting for the leaves to fall, other areas of Ontario have already been hit by the white stuff. With winter creeping closer, getting your home ready with this simple checklist will save you winter headaches and money!

  • Have your furnace serviced before the heating season begins and change the filter. Then change it regularly (monthly even). A clean filter alone would've saved me hundreds of dollars last winter.
  • If you don't already have a programmable thermostat, consider buying one. It will save on your heating bills and many energy companies are offering rebates right now for buying one.
  • Look for drafts around all windows and doors. One way to do this is to run a feather along the edges. Seal with cauk or replace weatherstripping where needed. You may also want to staple heavy plastic over basement windows if you suspect heat loss.
  • If you don't already have them, consider putting up heavy curtains. Open them during the day to let in the sun's warmth and close them at night to keep the heat from escaping.
  • Clean out your eavestroughs and gutters. Replace any missing or worn shingles.
  • If you have a fireplace, call a chimney sweep to clean it. Make sure caps or screens are installed properly to prevent animals from moving in.
  • Inspect for and seal cracks in foundation, chimneys bricks and mortor and driveways.
  • Shut off valves for outdoor water taps and drain pipe and hoses.
  • Drain AC pipes, and shut off any valves, if your unit has them. Consider covering for the winter.
  • Ensure your fire extinguishers, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are all functioning properly.
  • Not digging your 2007-era boots and coat? Give someone else a warm winter and donate gently-used coats to charity. Many stores are even offering discounts on winter clothing with the donation of a jacket.

For more energy-saving offers, shop for your home – from your home at

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Decorating on a Dime

Personal Photo Gallery More than anything, when I bought my house I couldn't wait to decorate it! Growing up with TV shows like "Trading Spaces" and seduced by Debbie Travis designs at Canadian Tire, I got giddy just thinking about the options before me.

Unfortunately, the rooms in the pages of my home decor magazine didn't quite fit into my new homeowner budget. So how did I pull together my cozy little spot?

  • PAINT! The easiest and most affordable way to transform any space. Accent walls or textured paint can create dramatic results in a room and will not require as much decor to make the room look done.
  • Order black and white or sepia reprints of your favourite photos, frame in Dollar Store frames and randomly cluster together for a personal photo gallery.
  • Scour second hand stores, like Value Village, and flea markets for great, one-of-a-kind finds. My favourite piece is a lamp in my bedroom - the shade came from Value Village and the lamp from The Salvation Army. Total cost: $7.50!Vintage Lamp
  • Ask family and friends for old furniture. It may be a little mismatched, but it will get you started and add character to your home.
  • For curb appeal, look for old pots, window frames, and ladders to dress up flowerbeds. If you have access to a farm, ask to see their "rock pile" and load your trunk up for a rock garden. Farmers will be more than happy to share.
  • Look for funky fabrics and textiles in the clearance bins at Wal-Mart and Fabricland, then sew your own cushion covers, table clothes, and place mats. No sewing machine or creative prowess? Check out IKEA for cheap cushions that let you pick the covers.
  • Green thumb? Ask friends and family for cuttings of their houseplants, then grow your own from the cuttings. I was even able to get some cuttings off the plants at work.
  • While it's not decorating-specific, its still a money saver -check the dollar store for your kitchen utensils. All that matters is that your cooking tastes good, not whether you spent $1 or $100 on your spatula!

Finally, always check out free online classified sites like Kijiji and Craigslist to find pre-owned items in your area for significantly less than the price of new.