Category Archives: housekeeping

All by myself….. just wanna be…


Really. I have the luxury (for an introvert) of eight days in my own house by myself.

Susan Cain posted a question on Facebook about what sad songs make you happy. I responded with this, my favourite teenage pick on the jukebox at the Calabria restaurant in Ottawa, that high school hangout that made great pizza and may or may not have served alcohol to minors skipping their afternoon classes (OMG – it closed!):

The only thing I’m sad about now is this cold that has been hanging around in my chest for a week now. I had to miss choir today and have been lazing around watching too much television and eating too many carbs. I had spent last week at the cottage for the long weekend and then in Montreal visiting Michael (more about that in a future post.) I had to take the drive home slowly and get lots of walking around time en route (that may or may not have involved shopping). But I love driving alone, with an audiobook or whatever classic rock station I can find on the dial. My next car will definitely have satellite radio.

I have a lot of plans for this week, to get a whack of stuff chopped off my to-do list and to put some order in the household, now that things will stay put when I move them. Both my men get home next Sunday (I think) and the week is stretching out before me like a gift.

And then all hell broke loose.

Image courtesy Pain in the Drain.

We had a problem with our sewer drain pipe a few years ago. It was clogged with tree roots and during a major rainfall, we had sewage back up into our basement through a drain in the laundry room.

We rented an electric sewer snake and cut out what we could, and everything seemed to run free.

Until last night.

We survived the incredibly heavy rain storms earlier this summer, but my guess is that that city-owed tree on our corner just LOVES our new sprinkler system and has been shooting out roots like crazy. Including into our drain pipes. Last night, around 9 pm, a toilet was flushed in the basement and …. well …. the flooding began.

We called the general Toronto help line (311) and they sent out a guy within about an hour and a half. He snaked the line, ran a camera down, told us that there were roots clogs on both our side of the property line as well as the city side. He submitted a work order for the city to come out as well as the gas company so that they could mark where the gas lines are. Gas man came this morning, said that the city has been asked to clean our lines.

Zou and I took a trip to Home Depot to get a replacement filter and drain cover for our long unused wet/dry shop vac so that we could do a decent clean up. He and Alex had started the process last night and they’d run a fan overnight, so everything was dry by this morning. But dirty.

We’ve now cleaned up, sprayed all the floors with Lysol, and now we just need the slight smell to dissipate. Luckily, it’s windows open weather so we’re getting a full house refresh.

Artist: Diane Romanello

In other excitement, it’s a race to the finish for my book club meeting next Sunday. We’re reading Wolf Hall and I’m 356 pages in to the 517 page total. I like to finish a few days in advance so that I can have a good think and prepare for the meeting, so I figure 40 pages per day over the next four days should do it. I’m not usually like this, but I’m reading another book at the same time which is a little faster paced (ahem), coincidentally called Lone Wolf (by Jodi Picoult) and so I need to have some concrete goals to get the club book done. It’s just how I work best, ya know?

On the platform, reading
On the platform, reading. (cc) Mo Riza

Keeping cool this summer

  1. Sodastream
    sodastreamThis little machine turns tap water into sparkling water. We received it as a gift last Christmas and we’re putting it to daily use this summer. It produces lovely, carbonated water that you can drink plain or with add-ins. Our kit came with two bottle that I try to keep filled and tucked in the fridge. I’m not big on the included flavouring samples, preferring a squeeze of citrus fruit and sometimes a dash of …
  2. Simple Syrup
    simple syrupI’ve been meaning to make this myself for ages. Useful in cocktails, it can also be used in soda or plain water to make lemonade or other sweetened drinks. One can tailor the amount of sweetness to just counterbalance a lemon or lime. I finally broke down and bought a bottle of Loblaws PC Black Label product and it’s well worth the spot in the fridge. A dash of simple syrup with lime juice and soda water is a great way to keep hydrated.
  3. Veggie Patch vegetarian foods.
    I love all things chickpea, and while I’ve got lots of recipes for chickpea fritters, falafel, etc, sometimes you just don’t feel like getting out the food processor and spending summer days in front of the stove or oven. We’ve been enjoying the Mediterranean  patties and the Falafel Chickpea balls. I find them in large packs at Costco and in smaller packages at my local grocer.
  4. A good, quiet fan.
    bionaire fanI picked mine up at Costco last summer. We have air conditioning at our place, but for a variety of reasons, mainly due to the poor construction of our house, all the cool air tends to drop to the basement, leaving our bedroom toasty and humid. Our Bionaire fan has energy saving settings (auto off, for example) and is powerful enough to cool us down while we’re trying to fall asleep.
  5. Cold tap water on demand.
    Bombay Sapphire

    Isn’t that what empty gin bottles cry out for in their second life? We use the lovely blue Bombay Sapphire Gin bottles, scrape off the labels, and keep them full of delicious Toronto tap water in the fridge. No more running the tap until the water gets….er….kinda cold.

Any other tips from my readers on staying cool? Use the comments!

Seven Quick Takes Friday

  1.  Michael and I attended Bésame Ópera last evening, presented by Opera 5, a small group of young singers. Presented at Gallery 345, they staged two Spanish operas, El Retablo de Maese Pedro by Manuel de Fallo and Goyescas by Enrique Granados.  Opera 5 wants to bring opera back to the masses:
  2. When opera was developed it was meant to combine all art forms and we intend to push that to the limit by combining opera with any and every distinct art form such as dance, photography, visual art, performance art, creative writing, and even culinary arts by showcasing new talent in each medium. (About Opera 5 

    Last night’s production included shadow puppets in the first half, sangria and tuna ceviche at the break, and some beautiful visual effects involving wardrobe in the second half. The cast was superb, with the only difficulties being the sightlines in the small-ish space. I will definitely be back for next season.  

  3. I have failed miserably at getting to anything at HotDocs this week. I went down to try to get a same day ticket for Rent a Family Inc on Tuesday but they only had rush tickets and I was there two hours in advance. I decided not to wait around and risk not getting in. Yesterdays pick was bumping up against the opera. So I need to get better organized next year.
  4. I wandered into Belle de Provence yesterday when I was on my dress-hunting expedition. They sell scented soaps, candles, tableware, and other French loveliness. I adore liquid soap from France, even the inexpensive stuff. The scents are very natural, unlike North American products that all seem to have a chemical/not-made-in-nature smell. My in-laws bring Le Petit Marseillais brand soap in these funky earth-friendly tubes when they visit, and when I run out, I get a supply of a similar product in large bottles at Winners (1L of liquid soap for 9.99), which is WAY less expensive than what I saw in the shop. I suspect that the packaging changed, or something. If you see a gal in the bath products section at Winners sniffing all the bottles, it’s probably me.
  5. We’re off to an engagement party this evening, but if we weren’t, I’d be joining Michael at Baroque Idol with the Aradia Chamber Ensemble at the Music Gallery. Young composers have been invited to submit works for the baroque ensemble and then the audience gets to vote. The winning composer gets a commission.
  6. My new to-list app for iphone is kicking my butt. It’s the gamification of personal productivity. Check it out.
  7. It was HOT outside today.
  8. We’re seeing two operas next week at the COC. Because of Z’s travel schedule, we had to switch around some dates, which left us with Strauss’ Salome (directed by Atom Egoyan) on Tuesday and Dialogues des Carmelites (Poulenc) on Wednesday. 
Thanks for dropping by! Feel free to leave a comment below.

I’m a household hurricane…

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Looking forward to seeing my sister and her family tomorrow as they pass by on their way to Southern Ontario.  They’ll have dinner and spend the night, so I’m on a mad cleaning and shopping spree.  Having people over is a great reason to get out that vacuum and tackle the dog hair and the popcorn that’s fallen between the sofa cushions.  

Sis been recently diagnosed with a gluten issue, so it’s also a great chance to try making some corn tortillas for our Mexican supper tomorrow night. Will also be checking out the gluten-free cakes at Dufflet tomorrow morning, and I’ve found some gluten-free oats to make porridge in the morning. (Yes, I know, oats don’t have gluten, but apparently typical crops can contain traces of wheat so these oats are grown and processed to be completely wheat-free.)

Tonight, I descend to the basement to deal with the man-cave, aka, Michael’s music and entertainment room.  It is a big mess of instruments, cases, music, empty pop cans, video game boxes and controllers, dirty socks, and possibly dirty dishes. Also, his spit container, for when he does whatever he does with his instruments to release built-up whatever. And dust. We need to turn it into a serene sleeping space.  We have one other bedroom down there that just needs a vac and dust.  

So, I’m off to Costco, Loblaws, and the hardware store.  This’ll probably be it for blogging today!

[Cute pic courtesy of the Graphics Fairy!]

Seven Quick Takes Friday

7_quick_takes

  1. We had our final choir rehearsal last night before our participation in the Rosary Procession and Eucharistic adoration at the Marian Shrine of Gratitude this Sunday.  We were in a different church hall with rather poor lighting (not to mention a very musty smell).  I had to take my glasses off to see my music, and so could not see Joseph, our conductor, very well.  But it’s all coming together I think.  The chant bits are a bit robotic, but I think it’ll be a great evening.
  2. Zouheir gets home tomorrow evening and I need to get the house in order.  Things tend to slip a little when he’s away, so today will be a big clean-up.  I also want to get the curtains in our bedroom hemmed (and by hemmed, I mean ironing on the hemming tape that came with the panels.  I’ve already done the sheers, so it’s not a big job.  Just six panels.  I don’t even take them off the rods, but just pull them up onto the ironing board and away we go.
  3. A couple of times a day, I get hit with the memory that Josephine is no longer with us.  Because she lived in Europe, we didn’t see her that often.  But we spoke to her at least once a week, and she was always available to chat, especially for Zouheir.  There will be a mass said for her at St. Ephrem Syrian Catholic Church in Montreal next weekend, so we will be there to sort of host it.  The former parish priest, who is now the Bishop of Jerusalem for that rite, is in Montreal and he will say the mass.  He knew her well and we are grateful that he will be celebrating that day.
  4. I got a very nice email from Michael’s bass trombone teacher regarding his progress and dedication.  Michael picked up this instrument last fall so that he could join the Stage Band at school  and had a few lessons from his tuba teacher. But he’s heading to music camp at the end of the month and wanted to get some solid teaching in before that, so he’s had five weekly lessons so far this summer and he’s really improving.  (Trust me, I can hear the practicing.)  I’m thrilled that he’s so keen about music, both playing and listening.  He’s also started to teach himself piano this summer which is wonderful. 
  5. I am listening to Peter Carey’s Parrot and Olivier in America, a wonderful novel with terrific narration by Humphrey Bower.  It’s set in the 19th century, after the French Revolution, and concerns the son of French aristocrats and the motherless son of an itinerant English printer, who are linked through a series of events and end up travelling to America together. Incredibly rich in period detail and funny as heck, I am enjoying this book immensely.  I’m not usually an audio-book reader, but Bower is wonderful at capturing not only the two voices in the novel (one French, one English) but the minor characters as well (women, Americans, a Jewish impresario, etc).  I’m a little over halfway through and highly recommend it!  
  6. I met with Sister Bernadette Reis last night of the Daughters of St. Paul.  She’s doing a retreat in our parish in September and it’s going to be dynamite!  I’m helping put it together with another Catholic Women’s League exec and we’re both very excited about it.  We’re opening it up beyond the parish and hope to get a good crowd out.
  7. I have stalled on both my quilt and my genealogical studies.  I have been preoccupied this week, and while I haven’t been particularly busy, I guess I just don’t feel like working on either of those things.  Bereavement is a funny thing….I thought that these activities would relax and distract me, but I just can’t seem to get enough focus to work on them.  While I’ve got the ironing board out to do my curtains, I’ll press the squares I’ve sewn to date and maybe that will get me back on track on the quilt at least.  I am scheduled to start two new genealogy courses in September, so I’ve really got to get the one I’m doing finished soon.  

Normally hosted by Jennifer at Conversion Diary, this week’s Seven Quick Takes is being guest-hosted at Betty Beguiles.  Drop by to read more Quick Takes!

The list for today

Yesterday was a bit of a write-off.  I awoke feeling like I’d been hit by a truck, and worried that I was getting the flu that Michael just got over.  I couldn’t even get dressed until I absolutely HAD to take Wilson out for a walk.  I didn’t blow dry my hair, so it’s a fuzz ball today.  It wasn’t until just before Michael got home from school that the kitchen got tidied from breakfast (and to be honest, from the half of dinner that didn’t fit into the dishwasher the night before).  I forgot to go to the library.  My decluttering projects didn’t go anywhere.  By late afternoon, I was feeling much better, but I forgot the loads of laundry, one in the dryer and the other in the washer.

So I’m gonna write my big list for today here and cross things off as they get done.  Sort of a public accountability thing.  I’m not committed to getting the entire list done, but at least a respectable amount.

  • Finish laundry and get two additional loads done.
  • Clean kitchen
  • Wash kitchen floor
  • Return library books
  • Pick up prescriptions
  • Declutter filing cabinet
  • Declutter kitchen counter
  • Declutter bookshelf beside desk
  • Organize kitchen drawer
  • Remind Michael to finish moving his stuff out of Z’s office
  • Vacuum living room
  • Vacuum stairs and upper hall
  • Do sewing repairs (jeans, shirt, mattress cover)
  • Make chicken pot pie for supper

The list for today

Yesterday was a bit of a write-off.  I awoke feeling like I’d been hit by a truck, and worried that I was getting the flu that Michael just got over.  I couldn’t even get dressed until I absolutely HAD to take Wilson out for a walk.  I didn’t blow dry my hair, so it’s a fuzz ball today.  It wasn’t until just before Michael got home from school that the kitchen got tidied from breakfast (and to be honest, from the half of dinner that didn’t fit into the dishwasher the night before).  I forgot to go to the library.  My decluttering projects didn’t go anywhere.  By late afternoon, I was feeling much better, but I forgot the loads of laundry, one in the dryer and the other in the washer.

So I’m gonna write my big list for today here and cross things off as they get done.  Sort of a public accountability thing.  I’m not committed to getting the entire list done, but at least a respectable amount.

  • Finish laundry and get two additional loads done.
  • Clean kitchen
  • Wash kitchen floor
  • Return library books
  • Pick up prescriptions
  • Declutter filing cabinet
  • Declutter kitchen counter
  • Declutter bookshelf beside desk
  • Organize kitchen drawer
  • Remind Michael to finish moving his stuff out of Z’s office
  • Vacuum living room
  • Vacuum stairs and upper hall
  • Do sewing repairs (jeans, shirt, mattress cover)
  • Make chicken pot pie for supper

Seven Quick Takes Friday

–1–
There was a terrific interview with Van Morrison on Studio Q yesterday, one of the most in depth that he has given.  Jian Ghomeshi seems to be able to bring out the best in his guests.  The full, uncut interview is available at the website.

–2–
Michael used his Wednesday tuba lesson to pick up some basics on the bass trombone, which he will be playing in the Jr. Jazz Band at school.  It went well, although the first jazz band rehearsal Thursday morning was a little overwhelming.  Now that he knows the slide positions, he can bring an instrument home to practice some of the music on his own.
While he was at his lesson, I checked out the Bloor-Gladstone library, recently renovated.
A couple of interior shots…

–3–
I was at the first meeting of our parish’s Catholic Women’s League Executive last night.  One of the projects that we are getting involved in is the support of a refugee family that the parish is sponsoring.  They are not expected to arrive until next spring, which will be THREE years since the parish started the process.  The holdup is apparently red tape with the Canadian government.  How frustrating for the family, who I believe are living in a refugee camp at the moment.
–4–
Michael has headed off to band camp for four days this morning.  I drove him and his duffel bag to school for 8:30, and as I arrived, he called home saying that he had forgotten his music and mouthpiece, so I drove back with these items.  It was quite nerve wracking driving through the neighborhood, with cyclists and pedestrians paying NO attention to the traffic around them.  I sound like an old fogey, but do they think that ear-buds provide some sort of invincibility?  I saw a group of four teenage boys cross Lawrence West, a busy four lane street, not even looking at the traffic.  Four lanes of cars came to screeching halts while these hooded and budded lads wandered nonchalantly across the street.
–5–
One son at university and one at band camp means four days at home on our own.  ‘Nuff said.
–6–
I am joining an 8-week “Get a Handle on Your Clutter” group hosted by Beth Dargis over at My Simpler Life.  We have our first online meeting (a group chat) Monday evening where we will think about our personal motivations for decluttering and create a plan.  I am looking forward to making progress on the house between now and Christmas.
–7–
We had the exteriors of our windows cleaned yesterday, so my big project over the next few days is to clean the insides, and take down the screens.  With the cool weather descending and the shorter days, we can use all the light we can get!  This is my favorite time of year, weather-wise, and I feel positively energized by the temperature.  I’m also sleeping better at night, now that I’ve got the duvet and cosy blanket out again.

Seven Quick Takes Friday

Media_http4bpblogspot_gojif

–1–
There was a terrific interview with Van Morrison on Studio Q yesterday, one of the most in depth that he has given.  Jian Ghomeshi seems to be able to bring out the best in his guests.  The full, uncut interview is available at the website.

–2–
Michael used his Wednesday tuba lesson to pick up some basics on the bass trombone, which he will be playing in the Jr. Jazz Band at school.  It went well, although the first jazz band rehearsal Thursday morning was a little overwhelming.  Now that he knows the slide positions, he can bring an instrument home to practice some of the music on his own.

While he was at his lesson, I checked out the Bloor-Gladstone library, recently renovated.
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A couple of interior shots…

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Media_http1bpblogspot_jahyb

–3–
I was at the first meeting of our parish’s Catholic Women’s League Executive last night.  One of the projects that we are getting involved in is the support of a refugee family that the parish is sponsoring.  They are not expected to arrive until next spring, which will be THREE years since the parish started the process.  The holdup is apparently red tape with the Canadian government.  How frustrating for the family, who I believe are living in a refugee camp at the moment.

–4–
Michael has headed off to band camp for four days this morning.  I drove him and his duffel bag to school for 8:30, and as I arrived, he called home saying that he had forgotten his music and mouthpiece, so I drove back with these items.  It was quite nerve wracking driving through the neighborhood, with cyclists and pedestrians paying NO attention to the traffic around them.  I sound like an old fogey, but do they think that ear-buds provide some sort of invincibility?  I saw a group of four teenage boys cross Lawrence West, a busy four lane street, not even looking at the traffic.  Four lanes of cars came to screeching halts while these hooded and budded lads wandered nonchalantly across the street.

–5–
One son at university and one at band camp means four days at home on our own.  ‘Nuff said.

–6–
I am joining an 8-week “Get a Handle on Your Clutter” group hosted by Beth Dargis over at My Simpler Life.  We have our first online meeting (a group chat) Monday evening where we will think about our personal motivations for decluttering and create a plan.  I am looking forward to making progress on the house between now and Christmas.

–7–
We had the exteriors of our windows cleaned yesterday, so my big project over the next few days is to clean the insides, and take down the screens.  With the cool weather descending and the shorter days, we can use all the light we can get!  This is my favorite time of year, weather-wise, and I feel positively energized by the temperature.  I’m also sleeping better at night, now that I’ve got the duvet and cosy blanket out again.