Monthly Archives: March 2013

The 5 Best Home Improvement Projects for Your Money


My boyfriend and I are looking to buy a house and we’ve noticed that the listings all a have a lot in common when it comes to what has been replaced. This got me thinking what renovations should you do to see the highest return when you sell. I did some searching online to see what renovations would make the list. Here is some information I got from Remodeling magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report
  • steel-door-imgSteel front door: This renovation not only create a revamped look for the entrance but many of them have magnetic weather-stripping to help cut down on your heating bill. On average nearly 129% of the project’s cost is recouped when they sell the home. Although this made the list at #1 putting a steel door doesn’t work with all houses.
  • 8-attic-spaceAttic bedroom: This renovations is one of the cheapest when it comes to adding more living space. Because the room is already there you don’t have to pay for foundation work and everything that goes along with that. You can expect ro recoup around 83% of the project’s cost when you sell the home.
  • New-Wood-DeckWood deck: This addition to your house will give you usable space in your back yard that will make you feel like you have more livable space. Potential buyers will see the deck as an economical way to enjoy time outside while still having fun. You can expect to recoup 81% of the project’s cost when you choose to see your home.
  • siding1replacing vinyl siding: This renovations makes your house look new again, like a face lift. There are so many options to choose from now and the project is much cheaper than replacing brick. This also makes an older home more attractive to a potential buyer. You can recoup around 80% of the project’s cost when you sell the home.
  • installing-replacement-windowsreplacing wood windows: This is a no brainer if you want to save mony on your heating bill. By replacing older wood windows that are single pained glass with new high-efficiency double pained windows you’ll save money in the long run on heating bills. This also can be appealing to home buyers depending on the style and era of the home. You can expect to recoup about 77% of the project’s cost when they sell the home
If you are thinking of selling your home or buying a new one you should take a look at the GPL’s Business & Career Bank blog, gplmarco has been posting some great info on mortgage rates and the housing market.
Books that can help
Great windows and doors: a step-by-step guide
How to replace & instal windows & doors by T. Jeff Williams
Deck planner: 25 outstanding decks you can build by Jim Bauer
Attics, dormers, and skylights
Make it right. Attics and basements by Mike Holmes

Windowsill gardens


I love having fresh herbs and a windowsill garden is a great way to have them all year and a nice way to bring your garden into your home. It doesn’t even take up much space, I don’t know about you but I don’t really put much in my windowsills.
The best part about growing your own herbs is you get to pick what you want to grow and save money while you’re at it. There are so many cute planter pots at nurseries and so many options for herbs. You can buy the plants already grown or if you are really ambitious start them off from seeds and watch them grow (a cool plant biology project for your kids).
FreezeHerbs04If like me you don’t have an ideal window for growing plants you can always buy the fresh herbs at the grocery store, use what you need and freeze the rest. I freeze mine in olive oil in an ice-cube tray, once they are frozen I pop them out and put them in a zip-lock bag. This makes it so easy to just toss a cube into a frying pan and let it melt. This is also a great thing to do with leftover herbs from your garden if you don’t want to bring them in over the winter.
Books to help you grow your herbs
Growing herbs and vegetables: from seed to harvest by Mark Silber
Herbs: the complete gardener’s guide by Patrick Lima
Window boxes: indoor and out; 100 projects and planting ideas for all four seasons by James Carmer


Are you looking for a cool way to introduce children to gardening? Looking for a winter project? Try your hand at making a terrarium.
terrarium2There are so many options when it comes to creating a terrarium and no two are ever the same. You can use any glass container, the dollar store sometimes has nice mason jars and glass cookie jars if you don’t want to spend a lot of money. If you’re doing this as a project with kids let them put in small plastic animal figurines to creat a small habitat or little people and make a small village in your terrarium.
Caring for your terrarium is easy. Terrarai: The wonder of nature under glass… has a great post on care and maintenance of your terrarium.
Chapters has some great glass terrariums in all kinds of different funky shapes to help you get started.
Here are some books we have at the library to get you started…
The new terrarium: creating beautiful displays for plants and nature by Tovah Martin
Terrarium craft: creat 50 magical miniature worlds by Amy Bryant Aiello

Cooking out of your comfort zone

Here is another installment of Cooking out of your comfort zone. This time I made falafels.

Falafels 500 4583

I love falafels, they are so good. The flavours are so vibrant and bright but you should be warned, everyone around you should eat them too.
This recipe comes from the Moosewood cookbook.
4 cups cooked chickpeas or 2 cans drained
4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp salt
1 medium onion chopped
3 TBS lemon juice
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 cup dried or fresh parsley
1/2cup flour
1/4 cup peanut oil
Put everything except the flour and oil in the food processor and blend until creamy. Make into 32 small patties. Flour lightly, and cook in nonstick skillet with small amount of oil. Let get really brown before turning. Be careful, they are delicate. Brown on the other side. Place on a baking sheet, and just before serving, heat in oven. Serve two patties per half of pita bread and top with Moosewood Lemon Tahini Sauce.
Leave a comment or email us at to let us know what you’ve been making to get out of your comfort zone.

Using your sewing skills

sew what you loveimprov sewingi spy diy

When I was in junior high all the girls took home economics and learned some sewing basics. I know that many of my friends did not pursue sewing after grade 8 because they could not see the value in advancing this skill set.  I have found however that if you think outside the box, there are lots of uses for your basic sewing skills.  You don’t have to sew a piece of clothing to use them.
You can find inspiration in books like Improv sewing, Sew what you love and I spy DIY style.  They inspire us to use long forgotten sewing techniques to make household items like wall art and fabric boxes, or upcycle clothing with applique, studs or lace.
Most of these trendy books are backed by blogs so you can get lots of tips and ideas and be inspired on a weekly basis.
Don’t be discouraged if you do not own a sewing machine as some projects can be done with hand sewing, a staple gun or other tools. For example: Easy no sew Roman Shades
Here are a few more of my favorite sewing resources at the GPL:
• Sew Serendipity : fresh & pretty designs to make and wear
• Sew charming : 40 simple sewing and hand-printing projects for home and family
• The Colette sewing handbook : inspired styles and classic techniques for the new seamstress
• A bag for all reasons
• Dozens of ways to repurpose scarves
• Happy Stitch
• Reinvention : sewing with rescued materials
• Chic on a shoestring : simple to sew vintage-style accessories



While on vacation in Zanzibar I went to a spice plantation. It was amazing, I learned so much about the spices I use on a daily basis.
CinnamonDid you know that you can use more than just the bark off a cinnamon tree? At the spice plantation I learned that the root can be used like Vicks VapoRub and smells nothing like cinnamon. The root is used to treat colds, influenza, and inflammation of the joints. It is also used to treat digestive problems.
nutmegDo you know how nutmeg is grown? Nutmeg is actually the seed of a tree that has been removed from the protective flesh and dried out. You can see a red membrane covering the seed in this photo, that is called mace. It can be dried and ground up and used just like nutmeg. They have similar flavours but mace is the more delicate out of the two and used for its bright orange, saffron–like hue it imparts.
spice tourI also learned that spices can be used as makeup. This particular spice (I cannot remember the name of it to save my life) is used as lipstick and can also be used as face paint.
Cautionary note: If you have food allergies I strongly recommend NOT putting plant makeup on your face. I had to take it off just after this shot was taken because I was getting so itchy.
Helpful books available at the library:
Spice: the history of temptation by Jack Turner
The magic teaspoon by Victoria Zak
The spice merchant’s daughter: recipes and simple spice blends for the American kitchen by Christina Arokiasamy

Backyard bird watching

birdfeeder2In November we installed a birdfeeder at my home that we can watch from our kitchen and have been enjoying the variety of birds that stop by every day. It has been even more interesting since Christmas when my husband received a bird indentificaion book.  We can now identify the small finches that frequent the feeder.  I was thinking how lucky we are to be able to view this little bit of nature every day.  If you can’t place a birdfeeder near your window you can always borrow one of the Library’s Binocular kits and take a walk on a local trail.  This kit includes two field guides so you can identify the many birds that you are sure to see.  Two of the best locations for spotting birds are the Arboretum and the Guelph Lake Nature Centre.
The Guelph Public Library also has many bird identification books as well as books that will help you build your backyard bird feeder.