December 22, 2009

A Winter Night's Carol

Oh when the weather outside is frightful...

...The sheepskin is SO delightful...

As long as I've no place to go...let it snow let it snow let it snow.
Yeah baby, let it snow.

Rory received an early Christmas gift (or maybe it's a birthday gift?) from my mother's cousins who were ridding themselves of some sheepskin rugs. Their loss. Rory's gain. In fact, if I was a lesser person it would have been my gain, because quite frankly that thing is SOFT and I'd love to sleep on it. Rory loves it. The only thing that made it better was when I put it on top of the inflatable dog bed I bought for him for the bedroom. It already had a fuzzy cover. Adding the sheepskin put it over the top.

December 15, 2009

I’ll have a Reuben, crispy on the outside, please.

"Too few people understand a really good sandwich."
                                                                                        James Beard

Possibly. But you don’t have to prove you understand a good sandwich by keeping the pass-through windows from the kitchen to the hub room. From old pictures we’ve seen, it looks like the hub room may at one time have been used as a formal dining room (though what they then used the real dining room for, I haven’t the foggiest) which would explain the sliding glass “sammich windows” between the two rooms. There will be a few disappointed people out there (Susan and Christine in particular) who were so looking forward to having sammiches served to them through the windows. The glass was removed, studs installed and drywall hung over the windows. Besides, I don’t know WHO they thought was going to be making these sandwiches anyway.

You wouldn’t know it from this photo, but the house is actually surprisingly cozily warm. We were worried that the original Pella windows would require replacing, but they are holding up admirably. They’ve really been put to the test this week with temperatures stuck at -27C…the only window with any frost is the one where I broke the storm window. It has since been fixed, but that doesn’t help us if we don’t pick it up from the repair place and reinstall it, does it? There is a draft around the front door, but a bit of weather stripping will fix that. However, Rory’s philosophy seems to be the hotter the better. Since we haven’t had the need to dig out the electric space heater we bought for the old house, Rory found himself a substitute in the form of a halogen work light. The discovery of the worklight made Rory’s previous ability to move out of the way of construction obsolete. It’s difficult maneuvering around with a dog laying right in the middle of the floor of the room we’re trying to work on.

Once the carpet was up and drywalling started in earnest, we really had to find another spot for Rory. He obviously wouldn’t lay on the newly bare floor but with some encouragement (snort) made his way onto the previously forbidden couch. Now he’s out of the way and enjoys sunbathing in the glow of the other work lamp which is on a stand at about waist height…perfect for those afternoon naps on the couch. Note the lovely linoleum …that’s what we discovered under the carpet. That and the carpet underlay which had long since dissolved into dust. I can’t imagine vacuuming would have done any good – it likely would have just pulled the underlay dust up to the surface of the carpet. I’ll assume the previous owners never lived with an asthmatic child.

Oh, and Tamzin? Speaking of bobbleheaded dogs…

And when you just can stand anymore….sit. My arms were so tired from drilling into the ceiling and overhead, I was happy to sit in the corner like this.

November 19, 2009

The Show Must Go On

The house is as livable as we can make it in light of all the things that need doing. The kitchen is clean and functioning. And ugly. Most things work except the fridge that freezes stuff and the dishwasher that makes things dirty. But I've been able to turn out fairly regular meals and some decent apple pies so I'll take what I can get right now. Bathrooms all work but need updating. Again, nothing we can't live with. Master bedroom is okay for now. The hardwood floor in the bedroom has been refinished so that's a start. Oh, and of course the bedroom now has in-wall speakers and "disappeared" wires for the flatscreen TV. That's all we're doing to it for the interim.

Nothing like promising family that I'll make Christmas dinner this year as a bit of motivation to really get cracking. So, we hunker down for some serious stuff. Not the kitchen though. I guess since I can actually cook in it, it doesn't warrant emergency status. What we really do need is a place (other than bed, since that can get really crowded when you have people over) to sit and read, or watch TV.

 First up is what will be the library/TV room, affectionately known as the "hub room" for its centralized location. Strange to type it, but we've been calling it the hub room since before we even moved in.   
One of the things I really liked about the room was that the ceiling has these dark wood beams. They lent a certain coziness to a room I envisioned having floor to ceiling bookcases; said bookcases currently stacked in the adjacent living room together with boxes of books. And more boxes of books. All the more reason to get the hub room finished.

  I've decided not to be attached to them. The ceiling needed to be's the one place in the house that isn't double drywalled. It was made of a lighter material, with a terrible bumpy textured coating. Ugh. In order to remove the ceiling,the beams had to go.

With much prying, grunting and swearing, they went. I don't like 'em anymore. Mainly because they were a real bitch to get out and I suspect not so easy to put back either.We'll repurpose the wood where we can. The orange thingie is a Rory toy that he drags around to whatever convenient spot he can find to lay down and chew it up.

Keelan was enlisted to help remove nails from the wood, and ended up getting pretty excited about the whole tear-down thing that Norm started. So he joined in.

I have no doubt that Rory will be a fine reno-dog. Not phased at all by falling bits, power tools, and big bangs. Just happy to be in the same room with his people. Sometimes, for his own safety, he is relegated to a safer vantage point, but mostly he stays out of the way on his own...usually just sitting and watching. Maybe hoping when the ceiling opens up that kibble will fall like manna from heaven. Who knows?

Happy to discover that things are dry underneath and just as solid as the rest of the house. Whoever put this place together didn't intend for it to come apart without a fight.

As it turns out, some of the walls in the hub room aren't drywall either. The panelling was an obvious no-keep. It's not your parents' rumpus room type's actually quite thick and I'm sure in its day was considered pretty glam, but not for me. It was going to come down, but after I removed the intercom (a whole other blog entry) I found that the panelling was backed by 3/8 plywood. I guess they didn't want anybody punching holes through the walls during tense family get-togethers. Anyway, the whole thing is'll make a lovely solid foundation for the drywall.

November 7, 2009


Today begins the way I like Saturdays to begin. Out of bed and jogging by the river with Rory while the sun comes up. Not always easy when my bed is warm and the temperature outside is hovering only slightly above 0.  Made that much more difficult by the realization that when we come home for breakfast, I’ll only be setting out one of the dog bowls. Today is Rory’s first day as an only dog.

This week, Norm and I made the heart-breaking decision that it was time to help Seth on to the next part of his journey.  I think we were hoping that maybe Seth’s weakening heart would take him in his sleep before his painful hips and joints forced us to make the decision for him. Warm weather, a warm room and pain meds only work for so long.
It’s a hard realization that your companion of more than eleven years is simply existing, hanging in there and relying on you to do the right thing for him.

He was a charmer who eked himself out at least 4,200 extra days on earth. I was graced with his companionship for almost all of them. Charm school began at an animal hospital in Edmonton where his breeder left him as a tiny puppy with instructions that he be put down because of a congenital problem particular to Ridgebacks.  Turned out the vet techs couldn’t do it. They named him Calvin instead. By the time the breeder came in again a few weeks later, the puppy had insinuated himself into the heart of the place. One thing led to another and after some surgery to remove a dermoid sinus, the now four-month-old healthy puppy was back in the hands of his breeder and waiting on an acreage near Edmonton for me to come and pick him up.

 Calvin became Seth. In Hebrew, loosely translated it means ‘chosen one’.  He joined our family of three children and another Ridgeback and fit himself right in.

Those children are now grown, and I’m certain they carry my same memories of Seth – he was everywhere – playing in the snow in the back yard, chasing them down a toboggan hill, camping, hiking, sleeping under the coffee table.

When I was going through the photo album, one thing that struck me was the tolerance Seth displayed. He was forever imposed upon to share his bed and blankets. A lot. With cats, dogs, and people. Secretly, I think he liked it. 

Seth saw the tail end of my twenties, right through to the first year of my forties. For as long as I have the good fortune to look back in time, I’ll always remember him as an ever present companion in my thirties. He was my pillow during some tough times and always my guardian.

Anybody who knew him will know that Seth was a willing love sponge who put up with nothing less than his fair share of pats and scratches. That’s the part I’ll miss the most, and the thing he was doing right up to the end. The muzzle nudge looking for an ear scratch.

March 18, 1998 – November 6, 2009

                             ….doGspeed, old man

More photos of Seth

November 2, 2009

Vad Bibes

The good, the fresh, the hard to find - we’ve spent many Saturday afternoons on the prowl for ingredients for the perfect supper. Not anymore. Actually, there isn’t any point, since the fridge that came with the new house freezes everything that we put in it regardless of the setting on the dial. And trust me, frozen arugula doesn’t recover. I’m not even going to risk truffled goat cheese. In what is strangely, yet comfortingly, similar to our specialty food shop forays, Norm and I have taken to using our free time to visit the clearance section of our local appliance store. The new gas stove/oven has been patiently waiting (it’s patient, but I’m not) in the garage for two months, for the day we are ready to tackle the kitchen reno. In the meantime, we’re on a refrigerator quest. My thinking is that even when we find the built-in model of our dreams (to qualify, it must be perfect for our purposes and definitely not full retail price) it won’t have to wait in the garage…it can replace the current 70s relic immediately. By my reckoning, we’ll probably have energy savings as well as grocery savings since I won’t have to throw out half of everything that goes in.

So, back to Saturday. We did find a great fridge. Floor to ceiling, counter-depth, all fridge (no freezer), huge articulating hinges, stainless steel. Didn’t buy it, but at least we know what’s out there now. I suspect a little more research is in order. On our way out, we wandered through the microwave oven section. Another little item for the list. There won’t be room in the kitchen for a full double oven, but in the old house I had a stainless steel microwave that was also a convection oven, and I think that’s the route to take in the new place too. I’m not brand fussy about any of this and it is quite likely that each of the kitchen appliances will be different makes. I want solid, commercial grade, good warranty, positive reviews etc… None of this stops me from looking at every single brand I walk by, which in turn meant I ended up laughing hysterically in front of one of the microwaves. For blog purposes, it will remain ‘brand-less’, suffice to say it had the word “Professional” plastered to the front. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve owned this brand before, in a gas stove/range, and it was a great unit. Having said that, I never would have bought it if it had buttons like this:

Apparently my laughter precluded Norm from whipping out his Palm Pilot to take a picture of it, so these shots are from the online owner’s manual.

I can buy into the Popcorn button. Never use it, but it is pretty commonplace. But Chicken Nuggets? Is that a food group now? Maybe “professional” cooks get home at the end of the day, and just can’t stand the thought of whipping up anything more complicated than chicken nuggets. But really, I don’t imagine they need a button to tell them how long to nuke the nuggets.

October 3, 2009

This morning's gifts

I will not chew hangers

I will not chew hangers

I will not chew hangers

I will not chew hangers

I will not chew hangers

I will not chew hangers

I will not chew hangers

I will not chew hangers

I will not chew hangers

I will not chew hangers

I will not chew hangers

I will not chew hangers

I will not chew hangers

I will not chew hangers

I will not chew hangers

OKAY! MOM?? I'm finished. Can I go out NOW?!!

September 29, 2009

Just for you

You know who you are. Here are the pics of Keelan's 'crib'. Of course, as soon as the photos were taken, I realized just how much is still left to be done. The rest is up to him. I'll vanquish brick 'n ivy wallpaper, but I won't unpack his boxes. Or sort out his wires. He did take a stab at assembling the Bowflex though. It had spent the last few weeks imitating a defeated Terminator. Problem is, there just doesn't seem to be enough clearance for the top piece. Maybe we'll have to cut a hole in the ceiling. Not.

These could be good chewy bits...

...but they're too high up, on the shelf in the garage. Like this one. It's a coring from when Norm was making a hole in the floor to run some cable or something. Apparently, these are some thick floors!

Or this one, from the garage wall where Norm made a hole to vent the dryer exhaust. It's out of order, but there was drywall, fir board and cedar siding. No particle board. No buffalo board. Dry and solid.

By the time he did those ones, he kind of knew what to expect from the house. What was really interesting was watching him at his first project: retrofitting a central-vac. Every wall he cut through for installing outlets, he found double layers of drywall. Whoever built this house wanted it to last forever. I'm glad for that, but still think they should just give the leftover bits to me. Then I might consider leaving off on the mail that keeps coming through the slot.

September 28, 2009

A Girl's Best Friend

Yes, kneepads are my best friend. If only I had discovered them before day three of floor laying. A worthwhile investment (especially considering I didn’t have to buy them because we had them already) and an interesting fashion statement, no? I think the huge tape measure really makes the outfit.

Don’t get too excited…the only flooring I’ve installed so far is in the basement. Anybody out there with teenaged children knows that renovating with a 17-year-old means first ensuring that he has a habitable space in which to retire when his parents are madly waving power tools and paint brushes. You can see the post below for photos of the basement, which we finished at the beginning of September before we even moved into the house.

Despite our 30+ temperatures last week, fall is fast approaching, which means we have to get all the venting and cabling and exterior painting (and anything else that involves climbing ladders and scrambling around on the roof) done, pronto. This was a regular two-day weekend for me so things had to be prioritized. The one thing that stands out from renovating our last house was that things invariably take three times longer than I think they will. Even if I account for them taking three times longer than I think they will. So with this managed expectation in mind, I ventured out this weekend to paint window sashes and trim. And promptly stopped because the overgrowth of trees and bushes had to be trimmed before I could get anywhere near the windows – upper or lower. Casualty: one extension cord, obviously not designed to withstand the rigors of my hedge trimmer rampage. Result: accessible windows, but only if you first make your way over the four foot piles of trimmings. On with the painting. Which will take at least two weekends. Even with the help of the aforementioned teenager. Casualty: one storm window, obviously not designed to be picked up by its frame, and certainly not meant to be carried up the ladder that way.

The good thing about foliage hacking and exterior painting is it allows you to get close-up with the house and see things that might otherwise go unnoticed. Broken latches on the storm windows. Shingles that need to be replaced. Ladybug conventions in the eaves. Gravesites. After clearing an area at the far side of the house (and subsequently cleaning up more of it after dropping the storm window) I noticed this

on the east side of the house, bordered on two other sides by a 6 foot fence and huge trees. A cool, dark area that doesn’t support much in the way of flowers. I say this because Keelan suggested that it was a flower bed. Sorry to disappoint, but who would put a flower bed here? Besides, I like my idea better. It’s the resting place for a beloved, albeit large, family pet. Or a small man. The stone markers are what broke the storm window. Well, okay, the fall from the ladder probably didn’t help.

Now that I have my own Blogger Account...

I’ll give you a bit of a tour, but first…

This carpet is absolutely the best thing for backskritchers. I don’t know why they want to take it out.

Here’s Seth in the living room before the boxes were moved in.

I think he likes it. Now that the boxes are here, it’s like a great maze and I’ve mastered zipping around in the dark while my people are still stubbing toes and bumping shins. Why don’t they turn on a light, you ask? There aren’t any. At least not in the living room which is where most of the boxes are.

I don’t get to use the camera. Yet. But here’s part of me in Norm’s office during a break in the floor-sanding.

I had to walk really carefully…wouldn’t want to scratch the floor. Now I’m in the guest room.

See how I’m the same colour as the old finish on the floor? I don’t know why they’d want to sand it off…it’s a great colour.

This is my boy’s basement.

Now he’s all set up down there with his bedroom and living room, violin, lizards, computer and Bowflex. Sometimes he even comes upstairs. Actually he has to come upstairs to eat. And to wrestle with me in the backyard. And to take me for walks by the river where we mock the owls.

It’s all done now, but I don’t go down there. Slippery wooden stairs. I did lay at the top of the stairs and watch all the work through the railing. Here’s what it looked like before.

This is my new park. I love it here. And it’s right up the road from my new house, so I get to go lots.

Can you see me?

Here comes my new friend Ben.

He wrestles pretty good for a Golden.

September 1, 2009

Here she is

Norm is calling this his "job jar for life". After months of looking we ended up back where we started. The time seemed right to leave my house, which we had already renovated, in search of something we could make "our" home. With 2 out of my 3 kids grown and gone, we wanted a different space, closer to downtown. Here's the house I fell in love with as soon as I walked in the door. Don't even ask me why. We originally saw the house in June at a price that was out of reach. After that, all the other places we looked at just didn't do anything for me. Some price dropping, good timing on the part of my realtor, and a bit of luck came into play and the next thing you know, we have a new house on August 28. A 1961 custom-built executive home, 1.5 storeys, 70x120 lot (that's huge for inner city). I needed a new project and here it is:

Yah, there really is a house behind there.

Don't panic...the snow is from last year.

I love the stonework on the outside....

View of back

More and more back yard

...but I'm not so keen on the stonework on the inside. We'll fix that. Also, do you think I should keep the rusty coloured plush?

This, folks, is my gourmet kitchen. A chef's dream. What, can't you see it? Visualize, people, come on!

Affectionately known as the "hub room", this will be the TV room/library.

Ah, the basement. Part of the retro tile work was covered with brown shag. Not anymore. The entire basement has already been painted and new flooring is in progress. BTW, you can find anything you need on YouTube, including a demo of how to install interlocking flooring - I hadn't used that kind before.