Archive for the ‘Home Sweet Home’ Category

get rid of garden pests organically and safely

Friday, August 29th, 2008

Our current home is “closer to nature” than we’ve ever lived before. We back up to a small strip of woods, and since moving here we’ve seen all sorts of critters roaming around. It makes sense when you consider that we invaded their space, and they were here enjoying the land long before our house was on it. We’ve heard noises in the woods at night that sound like raccoons or perhaps a wild boar, and we’ve seen snakes and rabbits and even a turtle or two. The turtles must have a burrow right around here, and they frequently trek across our back yard, much to the annoyance of our lab.

None of our animal visitors have been an issue, aside from the critters that munched on my tomato plant. I’m not sure who to blame – it could have been raccoons, or a bunny, or even one of the squirrels we’ve had climbing on our roof. The end result was a bunch of tomatoes with bites missing, so I tossed the plant and gave up gardening for the time being. Since then, I’ve learned there are natural and organic solutions I could have used to save my little plant, without ending up killing off the local squirrel or bunny population. Havahart® Critter Ridder® can technically be called a squirrel repellent, but it will also take care of skunks, raccoons, dogs, and even cats. I’ve seen people in neighboring homes go to great lengths to keep squirrels out of their bird feeders, and seeing that has actually deterred me from putting up a bird feeder. Matthew built a bird house and has been dying to put it up, so maybe some Critter Ridder is what we need to keep the bird seed from feeding the squirrels!

transform your home

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

You know what stinks?

Wet dog. Even slightly damn dog is not a scent I want to immerse myself in. Bailey went to groomer earlier this week for a bath, and she was completely dry when she came home…but she still had that “just bathed” dog smell. Ick! I hate walking into the house and smelling the scents that come along with owning two dogs, or all of the other smells that come from day to day living. kitchenFor example, Jim cooked bacon for breakfast earlier in the week. I didn’t notice then smell so much then, but every time I’ve walked into my kitchen since, I smell bacon grease. This picture of my kitchen was taken the day we moved in – look how clean and sparkly it was then! It didn’t smell like bacon, or last night’s chili. You can’t tell from this picture, but the downstairs in our house is pretty open – the kitchen connects to the family room, which means any bad smells (bacon, burnt popcorn, etc) easily waft their way around the whole house. I had a vanilla scenty thingamajig in the foyer, but it doesn’t seem to be doing much for the first impressions created when people arrive at our house. I have my coupon all printed out and sitting here on my desk to one of the new Renuzit TriScents – it’s just a matter of getting to the store and picking one out so I can get the house smelling brand new again.

And, in order to promote Renuzit TriScents, the company is sponsoring a $20,000 Transform Your Home promotion! What would YOU do with $20,000 to change your house? I’m thinking hardwood floors in the hall upstairs, and a nice extended patio outside on which I could park a jacuzzi. To enter the contest, just upload a photo or a video and a short essay on why your home needs a makeover, and how you’d Tranform Your Home, as well as how Renuzit TriScents can help you! Be sure to follow the official rules.

need a home loan?

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

I posted earlier about my friend who is now house shopping…that made me think of another friend who is a mortgage broker. Now that my renter friend will no longer be renting, she needs to get pre-approved for a home mortgage ASAP! Mortgage broker friend works for Countrywide, who we have our loan through. I’ve been really happy with them – they’ve got a great website that I can log onto night or day to see all of my loan information at a glance. They also offer flexible payment options. I currently get paid twice a month, so I’ve got it set up so that Countrywide deducts 1/2 of my mortgage payment from my bank account after each payday. It makes budgeting a lot easier, and I don’t need to remember to mail a check to pay the loan before the 1st of each month!

do my dirty work

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

With all of the school and studying that Jim and I have been doing lately, the care and maintenance of the house has gone downhill. Rapidly. Oh, we’re not living in squalor, but it’s amazing how dirty things get when both of the adults in the house are working full time AND attending school full time. The kids, especially my girls, have been huge helpers with their chores, but I can’t expect them to do deep cleaning like I would. I just simply don’t have the time or the motivation. I’ve been seriously considering calling a local house cleaning service so that I can let someone else do my dirty work!

We’ve got about 2300 square feet to maintain, and three kids and two dogs do their part to dirty things up quickly. I’d love to be able to just maintain the small stuff – laundry, dishes, general tidying – and know that someone else can mop my hardwood floors until they sparkle, and make my toilets so clean we could eat off of them. (Uh, not that I would eat off the toilet, I’d just like to enjoy that level of cleanliness!) A service like could free me up to study more and spend time withe kids, since school has taken me away from them on the nights and weekends.

triscents saves stinky houses

Monday, March 17th, 2008

With three kids, two dogs of my own, and a frequent puppy visitor from next door, you can imagine that my house gets a little…funky smelling from time to time. No matter how often you clean and how much you vacuum, all it takes is one wet dog, or a breakfast of bacon to make your whole house smell funny. We’ve got a few of those plug in scent things around the house (in vanilla, yum!) but I’ve noticed I get used to the scent very quickly, and it doesn’t seem to overpower some of the other funkiness we’ve got going on.

I saw a commercial last night on TV for Renuzit® TriScents and I’m definitely going to look for them the next time I’m in the grocery store. It’s an oil air freshener that uses three coordinating scents to keep things smelling fresh and pretty. Your nose becomes quickly used to a scent, so by combining three coordinating scents, TriScents does even more to overcome harsh odors. Right now, you can enter to win a $20,000 Home Makeover from TriScents and Renuzit! (What I could do with $20,000…I’m thinking a sweet landscaping package for my entire backyard!) To enter, just make a video or take a photo showing how you’ve transformed your home thanks to TriScents. (Videos are limited to 2 minutes or less, essays should be 250 words or less – see official rules here.)

Even if you don’t want to enter to win, you can still get a “prize”! There’s a neat coupon for a starter Renuzit TriScents kit available at the contest site – I’ve already downloaded mine, so I’ll be saving $3.00 on my kit when I buy it!

warm up your patio with a gas heater

Monday, March 10th, 2008

Last night after dinner, my husband suggested we take the rest of the bottle of Pinot Grigio outside and light up the fire pit. I looked at him as if he had two heads…it’s COLD outside, and windy has heck. The fire pit isn’t made for windy nights, lest you want to end up with a face full of smoke and sparks on your clothes. Nights like the ones we’ve been having, where the air is so clear and cool and humidity free are calling me, but my goose pimples want me to stay inside where it’s warm and toasty.

The obvious solution for nights when the fire pit can’t be used is to use one of these small patio heaters to enjoy the night air and stay warm all at the same time. They’re designed to look good on your patio while in use, or being stored, and the taller models take up only a small amount of floor space, ensuring that you’ll still have room for your grill, furniture, and your cooler of beer :-)

The site also offers garage heaters that can be wall mounted, for those of you who like to putter around your garage in the winter months, but can’t stand freezing your tush off a moment longer! Fueling options range from kerosene to natural gas, propane to diesel gas – something for every budget, and every taste!

international mortgages for florida vacation homes

Sunday, March 2nd, 2008

I was at a neighbor’s yesterday, helping her to clean out her garage. I know, I know – what’s with my benevolent attitude? It was all self serving, I promise you! This is the neighbor (and friend) who is participating in the Avon walk with me this fall, and we’re holding a garage sale to raise money for our charity in 2 weeks. In order to make sure we’re ready for the big day, I spent two hours helping her sort and price things in her garage.

Once that chore was done, we got nosy and peeked in the house across the street which is wrapping up construction this month. The door was locked, but we looked into the windows to see what options and upgrades the future homeowner had selected. Then we attempted to do the same at her neighbor’s house, seeing as how the neighbor has moved out and all but abandoned the house. The house, complete with pool, was priced $50K less than the competition (also with pool) and still didn’t sell! With home prices being what they are in this area, it’s no wonder that we’re seeing an influx of Britons and Europeans taking advantage of international mortgages. Florida home prices are super attractive to overseas buyers right now, and our close proximity to Orlando, Disney, Busch Gardens, international airports, the beaches, etc, make buyers want to find deals on homes that they can use as a vacation home. I don’t really care who buys the vacant homes in our neighborhood – monkeys can take out mortgages – as long as they maintain the yards and act like good neighbors!

hire a helper

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

I mistakenly thought that when we bought a new house, we’d enjoy some maintenance free living for a few years. Nothing needs to be fixed to added to a brand new house, right?

Wrong. We started by painting every single room in the house, over the course of 4 days before we even moved in. We’ve added towel bars and hung pictures, and my husband created a small patio out of paver bricks just outside our lanai. We had a company do landscape curbing around our trees and shrubs, so what’s next? I’ve got two projects in mind:

  • Adding more closet shelving. The builder standard is to install one shelf in each closest – even in our huge master bedroom closet! The lack of storage is ridiculous.
  • Putting up crown moulding in the main rooms of the house.
  • Ripping the carpet off the stairs and replacing it with hardwood to match the first floor of our house.

None of these jobs are really something Jim can conquer on his own. The shelving, maybe, but with both of us in school, it would be much easier to hire out the work to someone providing day labor services. With the construction market in a big slump here, there’s got to be out of work carpenters and tradesmen who would happily take on jobs like mine, provided they could find a new job daily or weekly.

That’s where Hire A Helper helps people like me, and people who need reliable work. I can log into the website and find someone in my area willing to do work, and receive an instant quote. Each helper has a profile page, where you can learn more about a person (maybe they used to work in construction, or owned a tile business in another state?) and even see reviews from other customers. To me, that’s the most invaluable part of this whole prospect. It’s virtual word of mouth, and I can see if someone completed their past jobs in a satisfactory manner? Did they clean up the job site when done, or leave a job unfinished?

When you select a helper, payment goes through Hire A Helper, which means you’re not out cash if you’re not happy, or a helper doesn’t show up to do the work. In essence, the site acts as an escrow service, making sure that both parties are happy with the work before payment is made.

Hire A Helper isn’t just for construction work and handy man jobs. They also provide moving help, something I could have used before! is endorsed by AND, which speaks volumes about the level of service they’ve provided to past customers. If you’re interested in working with the company, they’re happy to have you. Set your own hours, your own rates, and be your own boss! You pay only a small fee to to cover credit card processing and for listing your profile on the site.

the $4,000 tile job i got for free

Friday, November 16th, 2007

I’ve currently listening to the tile in my master bathroom being pried off the wall, piece by piece. It all started a few weeks ago, when we noticed the floor of our shower had sunk a bit, and there were cracks appearing in the shower floor. Being that our shower is upstairs, this had the potential to become a VERY BAD THING. Let’s face it – no one wants to be chilling in the family room, watching Desperate Housewives, while water from the upstairs shower drips on their head. We called our builder and complained, and the warranty bitch (having dealt with her several times over the past year, let me assure you, she IS a bitch) said there was nothing they’d do because our home is out of the 1 year warranty period. Jim really fought her on it though, and demanded that they send someone out to look at it, because the job wasn’t done correctly in the first place. As soon as the guy from the builder got here, the look on his face said it all – the builder screwed the pooch!

After that, we had no problem getting them to agree to fix the tile, and it’s a good thing – it would have easily cost us several thousand dollars. That brings me to today, and the 2 men who are upstairs ripping apart my bathroom and pointing out all the things the builder did wrong in there to me. I’ll have plenty of ammo should we have any further issues!

For those of you wondering, the problem is such that it passed inspection, and only with regular use did things become worse. The tile on the floor actually sunk down and formed a depression in one area, which led to the cracking and water going into the drain pan and sub-floor underneath.

Good times!

real estate rebates

Thursday, October 4th, 2007

A neighbor of ours put her home on the market recently, for about $20,000 more than she paid for it a year ago. A few years ago, she would have sold it the same day the realtor’s sign went up in the yard, but those days are LONG gone. She won’t sell it at her price. She won’t sell it at the price she paid for it either! I know she’s listed it high to compensate for the fat commission she’s got to pay to her Realtor. Our neighborhood is still under construction, and anyone can walk in and build her exact home, with all the options she selected, and pay a lot less, because the builder has dropped the prices so much to accommodate slow sales.

With the market being what it is, more buyers and sellers are getting smarter and using things that will save them cash in their next real estate transaction, like what offers. Buyers and sellers can save up to $20,000 by using one of the agents they’ll find at, and Realtors can find the buyers and sellers they need in this cut throat market. They’re aren’t ANY agents listed for my city yet, which means Realtors who sign up now will be the first to be able to collect those buyers looking for a participating Realtor. Realtors – sign up and use access code: ep355

Don’t let waiting buyers get away!