Friday, January 30, 2009

Its almost February - Resolutions Update

Okay, its not quite one month yet, but with February just around the corner, and possibly 2 of the most busiest weeks I've EVER had behind me, I feel like it is a good time for an update on my New Year's Resolutions. Kind of a status scorecard, I guess.

If you remember, I had three

  1. Get in control of my finances.
  2. Have the electrical service changed over to 100 amp (this will require saving $ and so will depend on #1).
  3. Develop a plan for my basement.

So, here's where I stand.

  1. Finances. I have done something. I am counting that as a small victory. I have updated my budget and spend worksheet to keep track of what I'm spending and try to cut where I am being a little too lavish. I also got the book "The Wealthy Barber" by David Chilton. We read this in university and friend suggested I re-read it, and actually try to apply what I learn. Not a bad idea. Where did I fall down on this resolution? A Nine West sale was too tempting to pass up! With new shoes on foot, now I'm set to keep the spending down and get the finances in control!

  2. Electrical. Okay, really, this one is somewhat dependant on #1. I have a contractor in mind, but I've had the name for four months now and not done anything with it. In February, I will call him and get a quote. In the meantime, my savings account is reserved for this task and my recent, second income will fund this.

  3. The basement. This is more longterm, but I did find this really cute design idea last fall, that I still think would work.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Large Space Requiring Some Colour ? Try a Quilt!

While stalking the internet for storage ideas, I came across this easy decorating idea at Apartment Therapy. Do you have a huge wall that you are in desperate need of decor? Why not invoke a little country charma and hang a quilt!

Be sure to read the comments on some proper ideas for hanging, so you don't damage your grandma's heirloom gift.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Savvy Homegirl - 1, Cats - 0

Caught red handed and obviously guilty!Okay, that is probably not an accurate score. My cats typically win. Always, really. I think I have outsmarted them for now, however.

One of my co-workers loves this story. I came home from 2 weeks of travelling in the fall, and I arrived back at my house late at night. Throwing my bags onto my floor and crawling into bed, I noticed the rooted-up plant in the corner but thought little of it. I must have left my door open, and Penny and Fergie spent the week terrorizing my bedroom.

Only hours later, I was awoke by a loud bang in the basement. Certainly nothing that was normal. Still not fully awake, I ignored it, only to roll over and see a little, furry head poke up from my cold air vent. A few more tries, and Penny pushed the vent cover aside and climbed up out of the vent!!
Since this day, I have been forced to keep my pet monsters out of the basement. I had yet to find the vent they were getting in through, although I knew that they patrolled the rafters of my basement regularly.

But no more! This weekend, after realizing that no open crevice was safe from their nimble limbs, I raided Dollarama's pantyhose section, and I went to work closing all the open duct work. It is not the most attractive handiwork, but for now, it seems to be keeping my rascal cats out of the vents.
Panty hose and duct tape coverDuct closed with panty hose allows air to move through

Now I will wait to see how long it takes them to realize that they can claw right through the barrier. For now though, the score is even!

Friday, January 23, 2009

How to Install Quarter Round

Quarter round trim in my hallway
I moved into my house to discover that it had many 'almost-done projects', and the quarter-round was one of these. There wasn't any in the living room or hallway!

It was not a hard task to finish, and it is incredible the difference in making my house look "done". It was also an easy job to do in the house (or basement) that left very little mess behind.

What you will need:
  • Quarter-round: Usually sold in 8 ft sections at Home Depot. Measure the total amount that you will need. You will also need to decide how wide/high you want the quarter round. For me, this was determined by the width of the gap that I had to cover where my hardwood did not quite meet the wall.

  • Mitre box and saw (look for a combo set at Home Depot)

  • Paint to match your trim

  • Finishing nails, hammer and punch

Installing the Quarter round:

  1. Measure (twice) to determine the lengths you need. Mark with a pencil on the quarter round where you will need to cut. Remember - always measure twice and cut once!

  2. Cut the sections by laying the quarter round into the mitre box. Place the saw in the appropriate groove and cut the quarter round at your pencil mark. The sections should then fit together on an angle.

  3. Paint all the quarter round once it's cut.

  4. Using finishing nails, use the punch to hold the nails, and hammer into place. A nail every 2-3 feet should be sufficient. You'll need to hammer these in on an angle, so they attach to the wall, almost where it meets the floor. All your pieces should fit together.
Now I just need to locate some hardwood caps to cover the gap between my living room floor and the kitchen ceramic tile!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Beat the Winter Blahs

Unique Decor at Value Village According to CTV News tonight, it is common for seasonal depression to set in this time of year - early nights, endless dreary days, and the bitter cold we experienced last week are all contributors. Add to that the busyiest three months of the year at work, and I have a serious case of the winter blahs.

My futile efforts to keep my sanity have thus far proved successful. Here are a few of my strategies:
  • Make a pie, bake brownies, cook up a mini-feast. By now, I've recovered from the baking hangover of the holidays, and I find the whipping and stirring actions in baking something yummy always relax me. Sure, we may be trying to cut back, but there's no reason you can't share your creation with your friends, neighbours or coworkers.

  • Get a massage. It doesn't require much explanation, but I can not believe that I have not been to a massage therapist before recently. Talk about a new addiction!

  • Go bargain shopping! Watching the budget? Head to Value Village for some unique decor finds and pick up a savings calender. For $2, you will get coupons to use throughout the year. I picked up some extra blankets, new curtains and some additions to my "blue" collection in my bedroom.

  • Not a lot of time to visit? Grab coffee with a close friend and spend 30 minutes at the coffee shop enjoying your latte and catching up. It's amazing how refreshed you feel after a good gab session.
  • Spend an evening or weekend curled up on the couch watching one of the 'classics' and don't feel guilty about everything else that's waiting - Four Weddings and A Funeral anyone?
  • Declutter your surroundings. Got the Christmas decorations down but haven't managed to get them put away? Dedicate an hour to getting the clutter gone, and you'll be able to focus on the things that matter, not the mess that awaits you at home.
  • Hit the slopes or the trails. Taking up a winter sport is one of the best ways to make the season pass quicker. The exercise and time outdoors will also energize you, so you'll be ready to tackle the challenges that wait indoors.

Happy Winter!

Monday, January 19, 2009

My Acts of Green

One Million Acts of Green

I often download CBC's "The Hour" podcast to listen to on my way to work. Not only is George Stroumboulopoulos incredibly entertaining, but I always learn or gain new insight into the issues of discussion.

Currently, they are rallying Canadians to carry out 1 Million "Acts of Green" - actions, habits or things you can do everyday to reduce your carbon footprint and make the earth a little less affected.

Thus far, I am already doing 17 Acts of Green, for a total reduction of 1640 kg of greenhouse gases (or GHG). Some of mine include:

A new one I am striving for in 2009 - Using a reusable, stainless steel water bottle.

Go to One Million Acts of Green to sign up your commitment. Only 176,471 acts left to go! (As of today!)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Savvy Homegirl is NOT Savvy Cargirl!!

So, no big surprise here, but I arrived back at the airport last night to find... my car would not start!! I even disconnected the battery before I left, because I heard that it was going to be cold this week.

Turns out, at -25 degrees every night, even that tactic does not work. So, after freezing my tootsies off in my Kansas City-suited footwear (which doesn't stand up as well to the frozen, white north), the parking lot attendant boosted my car, and I was on my way again. A hassle I could do without after five hours of travelling? Most certainly.

Needless to say, since I still haven't bought a block heater or trickle charger, the car's attempt to start this morning was pathetic at best. Now I am waiting for CAA to come out again to give me a boost.

It could be worse. I could be sitting in the dark, waiting for CAA, like many Torontonians are probably doing this morning. That reminds me, I should pick up a flashlight and candles when I get a trickle charger.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dining in Kansas City - So Many Options!

Jack Stacks at The Freight House This week, I find myself again in the "Barbecue Capital of America"... Kansas City. Had I been asked seven years ago, when I made my first trip here during university if I would come back, I would have said, 'likely not'. So, you can be certain that I never would've expected to spend several weeks a year in the Missouri-Kansas-border-straddling city. A city of fountains, the "chiefs" and dining out.

I feel that I have come to know Kansas City fairly well over. The hot spots of Westport, the barbecue joints of choice and the (window) shopping down at the plaza. Yet, I am amazed time and time again at the vast number of restaurants this city boasts. Granted, I spend a lot of time in the 'burbs' - the outlying cities of Olathe, Overland Park and Lenexa, but never have I been to a city that takes 'eating out' quite so seriously. Where there is one restaurant there is always two or three more (one for each side of the corner, of course!). Even more baffling is that each parking lot is always full, and the lobby inside, even busier.

I am particularly interested to see if this lifestyle continues to prevail given the current economic "situation". My suspicion? Kansas City is a town fueled by agriculture, one of few industries that is enjoying a steady state of positive profits and forecasts. If I were to wager a guess, I believe I'll still be waiting for a table this week. But, like the rest of the city, I'll happily wait. Nothing goes better with good barbecue than Boulevard Wheat beer, and no where in Kansas City is better to get it than Fiorelli Jack Stacks!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Update on the Car Battery Situation..

My still good car battery
Car batteries are NOT returnable!! This is valuable information. When I thought I had a no-good battery in my car last week, I bought a new one without knowing for certain. When I learned that my battery only needed a charge, I called the retailer to inquire about returning the battery I had just bought. I was told that I could.

Mistakenly, I assumed (NEVER assume anything) I could return it to a store in any city. After removing the post covers and testing my battery, a very rude parts clerk and parts manager told me that batteries were not returnable. They then proceeded to accuse me of returning a used battery that was 'no good' and did not have a charge.

Visibly upset at being treated like a 5-year-old, I took my battery and left the store. I called the store where I had purchased the battery. I was indeed informed they do not refund batteries, BUT, they would in this case. The next day, I drove to the orginial store of purchase. The parts clerk was expecting me, and he gladly accepted the return. He was also confused that the battery had tested bad, so he tested it himself and showed me the result... "Good. Battery charging." Interesting...

I was amazed at the difference in customer service as I left the store, refund in hand. So amazed, that I am considering a formal complaint at the first store, but before doing so, I am going to send a letter of appreciation to the second. Afterall, we always complain about the bad service, but when do we reward the good?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Savvy Homegirl Takes on Her Car Battery

I returned from Christmas holidays armed and ready to tackle the dead battery in my car that I had discovered before leaving for Christmas. I was sure that it was time for a new battery, so with my new (heavy) purchase in hand, I set to work changing the battery. I discovered very fast that, without the proper tools, this is a challenging job. Finally, a good friend reminded me that my CAA covered battery boosts and install if necessary. Once the truck arrived, I learned that my battery was perfectly fine!! It just needed a charge, and I almost dropped $160 into it on a battery I didn't need.

The driver explained that when your car is off, it still takes a small amount of charge from the battery to power the clock-radio, security system, etc. When a car sits for an extended time in cold weather, the drain on the battery is much quicker, and it can even run your battery dead.

Luckily, this can be easily avoided. Here are some tips to get you out of the cold and get you going next time.

  • Buy a block heater. Most often seen in Western Canada (because no matter how new or how good your car is, it won't want to move any faster than you at -45 degrees), block heaters are also common in diesel cars in Ontario. If you don't have on in your diesel vehicle, they are fairly affordable to install. The downside? It must be plugged in, so unless you're in Manitoba, chances are you won't be able to plug it in at the airport or away from home if its going to be sitting for a few days.

  • Buy a "trickle charger". Again, you need to have a plug, but a trickle charger will charge your battery when it starts to run low. Once charged, it shuts off again. Just don't forget to unplug the charger when you drive away!

  • Disconnect your battery. The easiest way to prevent battery drain? Disconnect the ground post, or the negative side (black), of your battery when you know the car will be sitting for extended periods of time. Keep in mind that this will also disconnect your security system. This might not be a good idea if you are worried about theft.

  • Get CAA! They will come out for free to test, charge, boost or replace your battery if needed. You may need to wait 30 minutes to an hour, but the cost of your membership will nearly be paid for with one call.

My Appearance on Breakfast Television!

Jennifer Valentyne from BT and Jen Christie

Posing as my alter-ego (Tractor Promotions Guru), I made Jennifer Valentyne's Live-Eye on CityTV's Breakfast Television (BT), shot from the Landscape Ontario Congress in Toronto yesterday (Tuesday) morning!

Jennifer Valentyne and Jen Christie on the Gator TE

I'll post video as soon as I can!

Monday, January 5, 2009

What My Home Says About Me

Your Home Says That You Feel Settled and Calm

You come across as somewhat intellectual. You can be quite insightful at times.

Your hygiene is passable, but you may be hiding some dirty secrets.

You are a very domestic person. You enjoy decorating, cooking, and making things homey.

You are a very nurturing person. You find meaning in taking care of others.

You feel settled in your life. You have enough time to focus on little details.

You are a somewhat self sufficient person. You can do fine on your own if you have to.

Your friends see you as courageous, dynamic, and bright.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Space-Saving Storage Solutions for Small Homes

This post is by special request for my friend Patti. She has a beautiful, little condo in downtown Toronto. Unfortunately, when I say little, you are probably underestimating how little it really is. Struggling to fit her lifestyle into her home, let alone find storage space, she challenged me to see what I could come up with.

So, Patti, here is attempt #1. After spending hours scrolling through home decor and apartment owner blogs, I have discovered some ideas that may increase the usable space in your condo, while maintaining that haute sense of style that you absolutely require! I've also brainstormed a few on my own.

Trade in your furniture for 'multi-functional' pieces. End tables, a bench or coffee table that open up for storage are all excellent ways to store extra bedding, magazines, movies and other items to 'declutter' your living area.

Put your TV on the wall. If you want to make the investment in a flatscreen TV, why not mount it on the wall or over your fireplace perhaps? It will save valuable space in your living room, perhaps even making room for more 'multi-functional' seating.

Built in Shoe Storage. Though not the right fit for Patti's condo, I couldn't resist the urge to post this ultra chic idea captured on Apartment Therapy. An inexpensive bookcase mounted against the wall of an entryway makes for easy, functional and stylish shoe storage. Apartment Therapy has many great posts for shoe storage. The wall units in this post caught my eye.
Use a decorative shelf for creative shoe storage Functional yet eye appealing shoe rack
Stack storage pieces you already have. Simple idea actually.

A skirted table can camouflage a file cabinet, storage boxes, or even a television.

Closet organization. Here is a great video on organizing your closet that any of us could take advantage of - small space or not!