Tag Archives: home improvement

Friday Seven – October 23

— 1 —

Our reno is done and we’re really happy with it. New hardwood floors throughout the second floor and in the living-dining room meant that every item in those areas had to be removed to either boxes in the basement or to a temporary storage pod (mainly the furniture.) Now we’ve got to sort all the boxes in the basement and reorganize (or get rid of) a lot of stuff. It’s actually been a great exercise, to see how the house looks with quite minimalist decor. I am taking things slowly and making careful decisions about what to keep and where. One of the good decisions we made was to have cabinetry built in around our (new) gas fireplace so all our decorative items can be placed together, behind glass, and reduce the clutter on surfaces, one of our big issues.

— 2 —

The timer switch for our exterior lights on the front door quit, leaving the lights on all the time. I picked up a new timer and attempted to install it myself. I’ve done minor electrical work before with no problem but this was part of a three switch plate and the installation quickly proved beyond me, even after a lot of googling and referring to my trusty Reader’s Digest Complete Do-it-yourself Manual. So I left the circuit breaker in the off position and we have no lights in the powder room or at my favorite reading position in the kitchen. I tried to hire an electrician the normal way (Homestars) but the earliest i could get an appointment was in two weeks. I called my contractor for a name and he said he’ll get it done for me tomorrow or Monday at the latest. He’s the best!

— 3 —

I’ve been on the hunt for a daybed or sofa bed for my study. I had it painted in a lovely pale yellow, a good colour for creativity, and when I checked out a couple of shops in the nearby Castlefield Design DIstrict (Elte Mkt, Shelter) everything suitable was only available in a cool grey. By chance, Ethel 20th Century Living posted this gorgeousness on their Facebook Page yesterday afternoon and I’m heading there to check it out in person this afternoon. It’s in a warm grey (Pebble), five years old an in apparently fabulous condition. And at a great price.

BluDot One Night Stand sleeper.
BluDot One Night Stand sleeper.

— 4 —

I am almost finished an absolutely terrific novel by Ruth Ozeki called A Tale For The Time Being. It is hard to describe how much this book resonates with me. I’ve been listening to the audio version, read by the author. Watch the trailer.

— 5 —

Kotodama: the Japanese belief that mystical powers dwell in words and names; that ritual words can influence our environment, body, mind, and soul. It’s everywhere in Ozeki’s novel and i want to think about it some more.

— 6 —

If you have a chance to see Remember, the new film by Atom Egoyan starring Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau, I highly recommend it. I saw a screening at TIFF this year and it was a highlight. While I don’t agree with this review (don’t leave early), I do agree that the rest of it is also very compelling.

— 7 —

Some Friday music humour.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

Seven Quick Takes – Heat Wave Edition

Seven Quick Takes Friday

  1. I have misplaced my Kobo ereader and it’s driving me crazy. I have looked everywhere and the little devil is eluding me. I’m halfway through Tender is the Night and I want to finish it up this weekend. Because it’s a download from the library, I can’t read it on the Kobo app on my iPad. The last time I recall reading on it , I was flaked out on the sofa in the kitchen, but I’ve searched all my reading nooks to no avail.
  2. I’ve made some progress on my travel journal. It was great to get the sewing machine out again, and I’ve completed the cover and a bunch of pages. I need to collect some more paper scraps, ephemera, etc to finish it up, but I’m quite happy with the work so far.

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  3. The heat. I’m really a shade plant, and I’m finding spending any amount of time outside a strain these days. My step count has gone way down and I’m starting to use antiperspirant on places that I don’t usually need it. (Curvaceous women know what I’m talking about.) We keep getting calls for storms but it’s been a dry week so far. I transplanted some herbs this morning, but the 15 minutes outside completely did me in.
  4. My wall o’ bookcases is built and filled, but they were filled randomly. So a weekend project will be to re-organize my books. I like to have fiction in alphabetical order by author and non-fiction by topic. I’m also using them for genealogy supplies and photo boxes, so there will be a couple of shelves for that as well.

    Bookcases in need of order.
    Bookcases in need of order.
  5. I had a couple of nice meals out with friends this week. On Wednesday evening, four altos from choir got together at Steak Frites on Yonge Street to catch up. We only sing from September to June so it was great to see these women again and get all the news. Yesterday, I met an old friend, Karen, from my early days in Ottawa who lives in Pickering. She’s a kindergarten teacher and has a pretty busy schedule during the academic year, so it’s great to get together in person a couple of times over the summer. We had a lovely meal at The Copper Chimney on Avenue Road as she was on her way to Waterloo to see her daughter.
  6. Michael played his first of four gigs with the Weston Silver Band this summer, where he’s been subbing on Eb Bass (tuba). They’re playing three music festivals and a fundraiser (for themselves). Last Sunday they were at Music at Fieldcote in Ancaster. Zouheir and I drove Michael and his euphonium-playing colleague Kohei Izuma out there for 5 pm, we slipped away for dinner at the Ancaster Mill, and then joined them at the concert that started at 7 pm.
    Music at Fieldcote. Michael is second from the left.

    Ancaster Mill.
    Ancaster Mill.
  7. I finally downloaded (and deleted) all 1500 photos on my iphone. I’ve been flipping through them and came across this one, taken on Yonge Street between St. Clair and Dupont.
    Ain't that the truth....
    Ain’t that the truth….

    Think on that for a while. Brought to you by The Brand Factory.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.

The shovel’s in the ground.


Pick shovel

Pick shovel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We are undertaking our first major piece of renovation work on the house. It had needed (exterior) painting for three years or so, and the trim is in appalling condition so we’re replacing it with afaux stucco product. We’ll also add quoins to the corners of the house to give it a little presence.

We had a horrid railroad-tie-and-brick front porch/landing in which the bricks were sinking making it a trip hazard. There were also no handrails. Our contractor has dug it all up and is replacing it with flamed granite over concrete plus aluminum handrails. We’ll probably go with “Sunset Granite” and a black handrail, the design of which we haven’t settled on.

Finally, we’re going to replace our aging windows with new ones. I am seriously thinking of getting integrated blinds for our main floor windows so that we don’t need to worry about drapes. At the moment we have louvred shutters which are irritating as you can’t place furniture in front of them (or you have to leave the shutters closed.)

It feels good to be getting going on this, and we have an excellent contractor who does one job at a time, hiring help when he needs it.


In other breaking news, I’m still sick. Don’t think either the antibiotics or inhaler are doing a jot. Missed Kathleen Turner in High at the Royal Alex on Tuesday and the TSO doing The Planets tonight because of my hacking. I haven’t been able to sing with my choir for weeks. So I’m heading back to see my family doc and hope to get in on the secret, heavy-duty cough syrup. Or whatever. My lack of sleep and other nasty byproducts of uncontrollable cough have GOT to stop.

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NaBloPoMo Day 1!


 It’s the first of November, the Solemnity of All Saints, and the first day of National Blog Posting Month,.  I’ve been blogging for 6 or 7 years now, since we left Canada for Atlanta in 2002, I think, so I”ve been in the game for a while, but this is my first year participating in NaBloPoMo.  The discipline of posting every day for 30 days will be good.  I’m going to try to do some more photography this month as well.

It’s hard to believe that November is here already I must say, although yesterday’s wind and rain pretty much emptied the trees in my neighborhood.  There’s a lot of raking to do out there now, and sometimes it’s a short period of time between the last leaves falling and the beginning of snow, so I’ve got to get moving on those final yard work tasks.

A couple of friends are joining me for lunch after choir and mass this morning.  We’re heading to Honeys Beestro,the location just a few blocks from me on Avenue Road.  One of them wants to do some shopping at Royal Lighting, also very close to me so we’ll head there afterwards to look at some fixtures.  I was just in there yesterday picking up some track lighting for our living room.  We had an electrician in to install two ceiling fans in the boys rooms, a junction box in our soon-to-be dining room for our new chandelier, and the track lighting in the study area of our living room.  Now we need to get our carpenters to put up crown molding and a medallion in our dining room and it will be ready for the light fixture.

Early results are in!

As soon as the new water service was installed, I rushed to the kitchen sink to check out the new pressure.  It showed no noticeable difference at individual taps/showerheads.  My heart sank at this.  Did we just blow over two grand for nuthin’?  I mean, it made sense to do it if the city is running a big fat pipe across the street to our house.  They were already in the ground, so it was the right time to extend the service to the house.

But this morning it became apparent that the big payoff is when multiple fixtures are working.  I ran the shower this morning, hopped out, flushed the toilet, and hopped back in.  No change in pressure!  Then I did the same thing, but ran the tap at the sink while running the shower.  No change!  Woohoo!

Next step will be to see if two people can take showers at the same time (in two separate bathrooms, I mean).  This could be the end of Michael’s plaintiff cries from the boys’ shower:  “Whoever is using the water, could you PLEASE STOP!” 

In a house with three full baths, it would be nice to be able to stop coordinating shower times, particularly during the morning rush, or when we have guests in the basement and need to tell them to ask before they have a shower!

Plus it just occurred to me this morning that our expenses quality for the new Canadian home renovation tax credit, so that’s a little bonus.

Oh, and our lawn has frozen solid into a gnarly wreck.  Very unsightly.  But they will resod, once sod is available.  And that will only draw attention to the rest of the lawn, which was pretty pathetic to start with.  I actually asked the city contractor if we could pay him extra to sod our whole lawn, but sadly, no.  He contracts for the city and while they can do the plumbing work to extend the service to our home privately, they’re not lawn contractors.  I’ll see who comes to do the sod and find out if they could do the rest of the lawn.  Unfortunately, we are a corner lot in a neighborhood with a ton of dogs, so it may never look great, unless we fence it all in.

Water water everywhere but not a drop to drink.

Today is the day our water service is getting upgraded.  The crew was here in the dark at 7 am, warming up the excavator.  And they’re still here at 1:40 pm, with lots of dirt piles, water running down the street, but none coming into the house yet.

The city has a huge project to increase the diameter of the pipes that come from the city water mains, and we are also paying to have the upgrade continued into our house so that we get the full effect (more water pressure – yay!).  This also takes care of the dirty little secret here in Toronto – lead pipes.  

By 1:00 pm today, this was the scene from my bedroom window.  Note the three large, deep, holes in my lawn. (Well, one is actually in the neighbours bit of lawn next to her driveway.)

The plumber, who came to do the work inside the house, mentioned that the crew was “having a little trouble” getting the line across the street.  And that my water would be off for longer than the half hour that it usually takes when he arrives at the end of the process.  

On top of all this, at around 10 am this morning there was a strong gas smell in the house.  I stepped outside and it was there too.  I spotted an Enbridge truck (gas company) and a bunch of other white vehicles parked in the vicinity.

When I wandered out to talk to the crew, there was much hemming and hawing when I mentioned I smelled gas.  They said something to the effect that “it’s all under control now” and so I went back inside.

I’m supposed to be cooking dinner for a friend tonight.  We typically meet for lunch once a month, visiting restaurants in the vicinity of her office, but I hadn’t had her over for ages, so a few weeks ago,  I invited her up here after work tonight.  On Monday, I was informed that the water service upgrade would happen today…they are coordinating households that are on the same service (or whatever), so there was not much flexibility on that front.   The plan was to be done with the water stuff by noon at the lastest (so I was told) and then I’d do all my errands, shower, prep and cook.  Because of our nervous dog, I can’t really leave the house while the crew needs access.  I need water.  I need cilantro.  I need limes.

I think we will be dining out.  

Catchin’ Up

I contemplated ditching the blog for a couple of weeks.  I continually felt “behind”, whatever that means.  Then I thought about a redesign, which I may still do, but I’m booked up with reality-based chores at the moment so it will have to wait.

We’ve just completed replacing the flooring in our basement.  We went from smelly, stained carpet installed directly on the concrete slab to warmth and dryness.  We used DriCore subflooring and then a low VOC laminate flooring.  We lost a bit of headroom in our already low-ceilinged basement, but the space is SO much nicer.  After the flooring went in, I painted one room and the storage room, and installed new shelving.  Then began the sorting and purging of all the stuff that had emerged from the basement before the flooring could go in.

Yesterday I went through three quarters of my books, getting rid of duplicates (that’s what happens when you have a lot of books in boxes), books I’ve read and am unlikely to read again, and books I’ll never read.  Also books on lost causes (like houseplants).  I have three boxes to take to Goodwill today. 

I alphabetized all my fiction and interleaved hard and soft-cover books.  I have a lot of great reading material, and should really start reading some of it rather than relying on the next new thing that I get from the library.  On the positive side, I have pretty much stopped buying books, although I still mooch them from time to time.  (Okay, yesterday I mooched two Joy Fielding books but I have all this credit….)

I have gone through all my craft/sewing/needlework stuff and purged UFOs, ugly fabric, tiny amounts of wool, and patterns that I will never make.  Also gone is old craft paint, mostly-used sketch books, and miscellaneous stuff that I have no idea why I had it (googly eyes, pipe cleaners, gold leaf….).  

We need to make some decisions about old stero equipment that has become obsolete with the advent of ipods.  We have a home theatre audio system that we haven’t installed since we left our last house in Ottawa in 2002 and is now likely very out of date (not to mention HUGE).  


On the personal front, I have decided to (try to) grow out my hair a bit.  I’ve worn it quite short for, well, a couple of decades probably.  I’m working toward a bob style, but the growing out phase is going to be a b*tch.  I have thick hair, a LOT of hair, and it’s on the coarse side of the spectrum.  With it short, I could go a day without washing it and it was fine.  Now, I get up in the morning and it’s simply wacky looking.  Flat on one side, puffy on the other.  Me and my hair dryer are getting to know each other again.  



Reading:  I’m currently reading Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday.  As it turns out, I have a bunch of Chesterton on my shelves, so I may start going through that.  I also have Updike’s first Rabbit novel, so I’d like to start that in his honour.

Listening:  I’ve been enjoying Paul Quarrington’s King Leary via the CBC’s podcast Betweeen the Covers.  It won the 1988 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour and the 2008 Canada Reads competition. I listen to it on my ipod when I walk the dog and work in the kitchen.

Watching:  Lost, for goodness sakes.  The Week the Women Went.  Wild Roses.  House.  The Closer.  Being Erica.  The Colbert Report.

Knitting:  Socks.  From some sock yarn I bought on ebay…hand-dyed near Ottawa.  I’m a little worried that they will be loose, but I was too lazy to go out and buy smaller needles.  They can always be bed socks if they’re not good for day use.  

Cooking:  Made mashed sweet potatoes yesterday and they were delish.  The lads sucked them back.  Could it have been the leftover whipping cream from the previous nights swedish meatballs that I tossed in? Along with a stick of butter?  And the Lawry’s Seasoned Salt that my dearheart brought back from the States ‘cos I can’t find it anywhere in this town?


Well, this has turned out to be a novel.  And I didn’t even mention the trip to the SuperBowl (not me, but Z and Alex) or Alex’s early offer of admission to Western.  Yay!  Or the Coach bag that came back from US (along with the Lawry’s).  Too much love, is all I can say.

It’s been a while…

Lots of milestones since I last blogged:

  1. Became godmother to William Joseph. Spent 5 days in Berkeley CA where my brother and his family live and enjoyed very much the ceremony (which took place DURING mass, and was great) and the party aferwards.
  2. The boys finished their first year of school here in Toronto. Alex has one more year before he heads off to university.
  3. Alex got his first job, as a grocery clerk at our local No Frills. It’s four blocks from home which is great, but he hasn’t been scheduled for many hours yet. He’s enjoying the paycheque though. He bought an iPod shuffle to run with and is suddenly hyper-aware of how much everything costs.
  4. Alex is taking Driver’s Ed this week. Yikes! How did that happen?
  5. Michael got contact lenses yesterday.
  6. We replaced five feet of our kitchen counter (a peninsula) that was damaged, and installed a new sink and faucet, and….wait for it….a new dishwasher. Our old one sounded like a jet plane and prevented conversation pretty much anywhere on the main floor of the house. The new baby is flush with features, and you pretty much have to put your hand on it to figure out if it is running. Yesterday, I ran the “Top Only” cycle after breakfast which saves water and frees up space to get the rest of the days dishes in by the evening.
  7. I have started listening to a very inspiring audio book on decluttering (It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh). I gave away all my scrapbooking supplies to a (very grateful) cousin, and a pile of art stuff to Michael’s art teacher. I listed a bunch of books to sell on Amazon.ca and give away on Book Mooch. I’ve got a long way to go, but it feels good so far.

Blogging may be light over the summer. Have a good one!