January 26, 2011

The Snitch, Houdini and Me

I've said before that this isn't a weaving blog. Certainly not a fashion blog (but if you know me you know this must be true). It used to be a dog blog, and it recently semi-morphed into a renovation blog. Pretty much whatever I want, since it IS my blog. That's the beauty of it. Today it's a book blog.

The thing about blogging is you tend to connect with other bloggers. You read their stuff and dismiss it. Or you read it and it makes you think. Or you read it till you almost pee your pants laughing. 15 Minute Lunch is one of my favourites. I stumbled on it because a friend's blog has a link to it. Blogs work that way. I have some favourites that I can't even remember how I found. But this is one, well this one is top drawer. I've been known to laugh hard enough at work while reading 15 Minute Lunch - at lunch time of course - that people get worried for my sanity. It looks like now I will be able to scare people with my maniacal laughter on the bus ride home, since the blogger has written book. Johnny Virgil has a way. If you were ever a kid you need to read this book. If you were ever a kid in the 70's you really need to read this book. I'm 20 pages in and totally comfortable throwing this out on the line: this entire thing will be excellent.

Get it for your Kindle, get it for your Kobo, get it for your Reader, get it for your Nook (seriously, who knew?). Go read about it on Facebook. Just go get it. Now I'm going to go finish reading it.

If you're on Kobo or Reader you'll have to do some sleuthing. If you'd rather buy a crocheted hat, Johnny could probably set you up there too. You'll see.

January 23, 2011


Finally! After days and days and days of -20C and colder weather it warmed up enough to go outside for some fun. And even better, Brianne was visiting from Vancouver for the weekend. I L-O-V-E Brianne. She gives the most excellent scritchers. On Saturday we went sledding with Brianne, and we took Xander too. I totally didn't know what sledding was, but I didn't care. I was out! And I totally ended up liking it. And Xander's favourite word is "totally". It's kinda catchy.

First, I had to get my bearings. We were at the big park where we go lots but never for sledding. Why are we stopping here?

This is Brianne and Xander. Why are they sitting down? We're supposed to go run and play with the other dogs, right? No? Oh, and you could really use some sunglasses you two.

But wait, where are you going? I'm coming too!

Uh, Momma? She stayed at the top so I had to run back up - I couldn't leave my Momma alone. Don't laugh at my ears. You should see this photo cropped and blown up on the big computer monitor. Not funny at all. Just because Momma and Brianne laughed till they cried still doesn't make it funny.

Whatever. See? Those two came back up. After that I thought I got the hang of it. No need to leave Momma's side. I could just watch from the top.

But wait! Now what? Where are YOU going? How can I wait up here with you, if you go down there?!

I don't know what came over me, but Momma didn't like me chasing her. Apparently, the idea is NOT to bowl her over or grab her hood while she's cruising down the hill at top speed (who knew?). After that, Brianne had to hang on to me at the top of the hill every time Momma went down. Then she'd let me go. This time she didn't get a chance to take my leash off. Good thing it didn't get tangled. Oh, and I don't look so graceful when running full tilt downhill. It may have scared people further up the slope, but I always veered around them as soon as I realized they weren't who I was looking for.

We worked out a pretty good system. Once I was at the bottom, then Brianne would come down either by herself or with Xander if Momma hadn't taken him down first. It meant that I could wait at the bottom of the hill for my people to come toward me! And then LOOK OUT, AMBUSH!

Here come Brianne and Xander again!

Sometimes they came down backwards by accident.

I ate a lot of snow on Saturday. A lot. It's thirsty work that sledding.

January 16, 2011


I wasn't operating under the illusion that we could simply leave the plasterwork on the dining room ceiling alone if we were going to keep it. It was white, but not really. White with 50 years of life experience. Two coats of fresh white paint later and things are looking good.

January 7, 2011

Coming Out Of The Closet?

Another thing we had planned on preserving that was original to the house is the terrazzo in the front entrance. I'm sure in its day it added a bit of glam when a person first came into the house. Terrazzo ain't cheap, and neither is restoring it - that is, if you can even find anybody anymore who knows how to work with it. A lost art, apparently. Unless you live in Florida where terrazzo floors are commonplace.

Our floor is two-tone, a lighter colour with darker chips in the middle and a darker colour with lighter chips around the border and in the front closet. The colours resemble what you might have found on the floors of your high school. No amount of restoring is going to fix that particular problem. Added to that is the fact that we installed 3/4" hardwood in the library/TV room which opens up through French doors from the far side of the front entrance. That much of a transition between flooring types isn't appealing. What to do, what to do?

Some sort of stone or porcelain tile seemed the obvious choice, as long as we could find something in keeping with the original intent - a little bit of 'pow' factor if you will. It turns out finding what we wanted was the easy part. Figuring out if a tile over terrazzo installation will work, that's a different story. There are of course no shortage of forums and advice boards and articles on the internet. Books, videos, and tile association publications. There are even real people you can talk to. Yup, really. And we've done it all. But you might as well ask 7 different rabbis the same question because you're likely to get 7 different answers. And I can say that because I've spoken to a few rabbis in my time.

In the end, it comes down to experimentation. Unfortunately, there is no returning from this little adventure, so you'll want to experiment someplace big enough to see results but inconspicuous enough that you don't have to get out a jackhammer if it doesn't work out. In this case the closet seemed like the best option. If it doesn't work, a piece of carpet cut to fit will hide any ugliness. Not ideal, but a viable alternative.

The theory goes like this: if you can rough up the terrazzo and get a skim coat of modified thinset to adhere without any bubbling or other bad reaction, then you can bed and tile over the skim coat. No plywood, no backerboard, no Ditra, no nothing.

Step One: (and please don't make me insert a disclaimer...but here it is: don't do this just because I said so). Make sure you have all your tools handy for the roughing up part. Mask, safety glasses, kneepads, belt sander (and 50 grit paper) or a grinder, if worse comes to worse. Actually, if worse comes to worse, I'm sure vodka will help.

Step 2: Get rough with it. Kidding. Scuff it up enough that any sealers or waxes or other finishes are removed and that there will be something for the thinset to grab. Wipe away all the dust and let it dry. Then sit down on the floor, lean back against the front door and wonder what the hell it is you've gotten yourself into. You could be in Mexico you know.

Step C: Different tools. Trowel, margin trowel, stir stick or drill and paddle attachment, mixing bucket, water, gloves, safety glasses and modified thinset mortar. It's dusty stuff, so keep the mask handy too. Oh, and lesson learned, a little water goes a long way. You can see I don't have very much in the bucket, but it still took a lot of the mortar to get to the right consistency. I didn't use it all, and it doesn't keep once it's mixed. After it's mixed, you have to let it slake for 10 minutes. I found this waiting period to be an excellent opportunity to read the instructions on the bag of mortar.

Step IV: Use the margin trowel to scoop out the mortar, and the flat side of the notched trowel to skim coat the desired area. Wait 24-48 hours and see what happens. I'll tell you, looking at these pictures, one thing that will happen for certain is a coat of paint on those walls. And some kind of organizing system instead of just a hanger rod. And new baseboard...

But floor first. I'll keep you posted.

January 2, 2011

Successful Transplant

There are some things original to the house that we want to preserve. The intercom/radio system in the kitchen is one of those things.
The copper cover plate was some of the inspiration for the revised kitchen which will feature a copper hood fan. Originally, preserving the radio was simply going to involve pulling it out and box framing it for posterity.

But some more thought and some good luck with stud placement and wire accessibility meant that we could at least attempt to install it just around the corner from its original location.

Still in the kitchen, but not interfering with the placement of planned upper cabinets. This old-college-try was also influenced by the apparent masses of people who are planning on 'guesting' at the house when the renovations are complete. To a person, they all insisted that they'd really prefer to place their morning coffee order through the intercom rather than bellowing down the stairs to the kitchen. Which, clearly, is where I'll be waiting. Just chomping at the bit to make breakfast and coffee.

Here's my first view of the innards. It was at about this point I was cursing my own ambition. But a little self-talk and I figured it wouldn't be so bad.

The person who installed it was kind enough to use masking tape to label the wires...the writing was rather faded, but I was still able to make it out. I did end up making new labels because the masking tape was crumbling to bits. No way was it going to make it through to the back side of the other wall.

Here's a close-up of some of the components, after I disconnected the unit from the wall and the wires. Pretty neat looking stuff. Not that I have a clue what any of it is. But up close it looked like a mini sky-scraper city of the future. Which is funny, considering that the radio is 50 years old.

New hole. If I hadn't already cut the hole I suspect that the frustration that ensued might have resulted in guests having to yell for their breakfast. I'll tackle pretty much anything except for power lines. That means that rerouting the power for the radio was Norm's job. Norm doesn't often swear. I find that renos do bring out the foul language in a man though. I kept thinking I should cover Rory's ears.
The new hole on the right makes the light fixture in the main floor powder room accessible. Handy, since the power for the radio was wired into that fixture box. Not so handy, since there was a metal support bar impeding access to the clamps and getting everything back into the fixture box afterward was a pain. But that was yesterday. Norm's much better now. And we discovered that there is a little cabinet built into the wall behind the mirror in the bathroom. I had assumed that the large oval mirror was simply hung on the wall like a picture, but it's actually hinged to a built in medicine cabinet. Which, as it turns out, is a handy place to store screwdrivers and such while you are swearing at the light fixture above it. Hands-free cursing.

Power dealt with (see the wires safely covered and peeking up from the bottom left corner) and a new day upon us, I proceeded to pull my neatly relabeled wires. I had to extend some of them because they wouldn't reach the new location. Today's tool of the day: Soldering Gun. Hot melty stuff. What's not to like?

And there you have it. Okay, that sounded pretty easy. And when I scroll back through the photos it looks pretty easy. But it wasn't. So for all you future guests, you should know that there is also an intercom in the master bedroom. Consider this: *YOU* will stay overnight. And in the morning, *I* will buzz down to the kitchen (where you'll be waiting, of course) and let you know whether I'd like waffles or eggs for breakfast. Or maybe both. Oh, and I like my orange juice freshly squeezed.