Thursday, December 17, 2009

So, ya, I'm engaged

If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or in general just KNOW me, then you probably already know that I got engaged on Tuesday.

You might have even seen this picture and/or my ring.

What you might not know yet is the story.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Back from the land of sun and sand

Me at Flamingo Beach, St. Maarten
We're back.
Belatedly, but we're back.

And I'm tanned. I know, big shock.

You know, I wasn't looking forward to this vacation. What with all the work stress and other stressful events going on in life just before this, I was ready to just do a staycation. I was loathing the early-morning trek to the airport. The stress of travelling with someone who gets stressed about travelling.

But it all turned out great. We spent too much money. We got a bit of sun. I got a pretty bauble. We swam and snorkelled and drove zodiaks and slept and ate way too much and met the most wonderful people.

We definitely took way too many pictures of sunsets and not enough of me enjoying the sun and sand so that I could use that for my blog photo. Quelle domage!

But we're back. And I'm already looking forward to next year.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Powerful women

I'm pretty strongly focussed on my career: doing well at it and achieving.

But I wouldn't necessarily call myself "powerful". Interesting when I work in a company that is so wonderfully rich with female role models. Certainly it's all led by my CEO, Ilse Treurnicht.

She's the first person that I've worked for that I've truly admired. And she's built an environment filled with exceptionally intelligent, talented women who make the organization sing.

Tonight, she was honoured as one of Canada's Most Powerful Women Top 100 Awards, in the category of "Trail blazer". It did what it was likely supposed to do: inspired me.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I'm so tough

It's not often that I get to use a saw, a drill, a stud finder and measure, mark, cut, pre-drill, sand, measure, drill.

My mom and my aunt Jane visited last Tuesday. We went out for dinner like other families do when they get together. (I rode my bike back home and they drove - we arrived at the same time. I love it when that happens. Everyone always thinks that riding a bike is so inconvenient, but really it's awesome: free transportation and parking, free exercise, pollution-free. And less stress biking around the city than driving around the city, let me tell you!)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

another day, another renovation

It's been a crazy couple of weeks -- always something going on.

But this particular project had been planned since my mom's birthday/family reunion, just before Thanksgiving. My uncle told me that he was a whiz with the bricks and mortar.

And the next weekend we had available get down and dirty with my house exterior was this one. So my aunt and uncle came over with my mom who was the main "helper".

Saturday, October 24, 2009


It had to happen sometime.

I had to put art up sooner or later. My walls have been completely bare and cheerless.

And I had a day. A day when I didn't have any particular plans. As I drank my tea and finished reading my recent House and Home, I got inspired to unearth an art project that I'd dreamt up over three years ago at IKEA.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My sexy new thang

It's new and it's here. And you can sit on it.

It's my couch. (Or sofa. Or chesterfield?)

Delivered fresh about an hour ago.

So far, I love it. And I haven't even sat in it at my own house yet. But I still love it. The right colour (too dark? I'm bluffing this confidence.). And it had better be the right size (you see?).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Blue Rodeo. Basically, we're best friends now.

So, you know, you're at a 40th anniversary party for the molecular genetics department at UofT. And, you know, Blue Rodeo happens to come on. Jim Cuddy and Greg Keeler. And they're singing and playing and you're thinking, "Wow, is this really happening?"

But, ya, this just happened.

My brother Matt and I are a little bit stunned right now. And Matt's singing in the shower. After just emailing them.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The couch

You may have seen The Orange Couch in previous pics of my house online. I like The Orange Couch. It's a good couch. A pull-out. Bright. Comfy. Cheap. It's been like a friend for the past five years.

But someone recently told me that I probably need a different couch. And so began the search. I won't say it's been particularly arduous. Certainly not as time consuming as my search for the perfect upholstery fabric for my window seat, which, this weekend (a fine, wonderful, relaxing weekend), led me to break down and use the fabric that I'd long ago picked out, bought, but thought was inappropriate. It probably IS inappropriate, but over six months later, I'm kind of thinking I don't care. I just want to sit on the stupid window seat.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Me, the update

I'm eating my mom's apple crisp for lunch and I'm happy. I just announced on Facebook that I'm learning to calm the f down. My week-long migraine has subsided and my shoulders are as far away from my ears as they've been in weeks.

But, according to Facebook's US-happiness-index, it's likely that I'm not as happy as I was last Christmas. Unless of course, Canadians are as happy as Americans around Thanksgiving. I would say, actually, that this past weekend and couple of days have seen me as content as I can be, given a house of mass-chaos and a behind-schedule project.

But lets back up.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Fenced in

It was a rather productive, busy weekend. My favourite kind, really.

Friday was obviously very hectic -- it being the first day back from vacation, afterall. So I tore some hair out but finally got out in time to meet my mom and Marlene at my house. I showed Marlene around, as she hadn't seen my place yet. She appropriately ooh'd and ahh'd. Whether heartfelt or just to make me feel better about all the stupid work, I appreciated it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

MacGregor Point Camping

Oh, Gordon and I and our sunsets; we love 'em.

This photo was taken at Sunset Point at MacGregor Point Provincial Park. We camped there from Monday until Thursday with Gordon's family.

They stayed in yurts; Gordon and I "roughed it" in a huge tent with a blow-up mattress. I struggled though. I was cold the first night before we figured out the right sleeping arrangements. Even after that, I still didn't sleep well. Finally, on our last day, I was hit with a migraine. Boo!

However, before it struck, I went on a couple lovely walks along the shore and through the woods. Gordon and I did a marathon 17k hike. I was very proud of us. We followed that up with a jaunt to the Pitcher Plant marl and then on to Sunset Point, where we took many gorgeous photos.

We were lucky: we were blessed with amazing weather. The raccoons were particularly aggressive, but otherwise, everything was taken care of.

And now back to the daily grind. For a DAY before the weekend lets me have more relaxation. The trick is not to lose the vacation feeling when I'm back in my desk.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

A girl and decadence in the city

Originally uploaded by benjaminlansky
I love a day on my own.

I woke up early. Showered. I made tea. I read - savoured, really - my new magazine. I made banana bread.

I even cleaned and liked it.

Then I hopped on my bike and rode in the warm sunshine to Yorkville, always a favourite of mine in the fall. All the rich people to watch and wonder at. All the decadence there. And today was my day of decadence. Starting with the Stillwater spa.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Apparently, I'm a dirty girl

It was another weekend of working on my house, mixed up with fun times.

First up: Thursday nights are for artsy-coolness, so after the tenant pub night at work, I met up with my cousin to check out our step-cousin's art store and a friend's art show opening.

Next: Fridays are for suckers. Leave work on time. Bike home. Take frozen dinner items out of freezer. Pick up car, loaded with boyfriend's bike. Pick up boyfriend. Drive to bike shop. Drive home. Make yummy new pasta dinner recipe (lemon pepper shrimp linguine). Have Sarah over for fun dinner. Drink lots of sweet wine.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Stained glass farm

Have you ever been to a stained glass farm? I have. Last weekend.

The Stonehouse of Campbellville. Totally the BEST place to go for stained glass in Ontario.

Yes, I know the photo here sucks, but bear with me.

We looked through racks and racks of refurbished or just reclaimed antique stained glass windows. I had a particular size in mind, for above my door. Because my house is so old, it just looks like it should have one. Many other houses in the area have them. Mine was boarded over. (Which is really just in line with many of the other EXCELLENT reno decisions made by previous owners).

Monday, August 24, 2009

Attack in TO

Well, it happens to everyone at some point, I suppose.

On the weekend, I guess I was involved in skirmish of sorts. It was midnight around Bathurst and Harbord. We were walking our friend home past a school yard and someone there made a lot of noise, so of course we looked. Some kid playing tough guy comes out and starts swearing and harassing us and acting like a charicature -- what you'd say if you were joking around pretending to be an asshole I'm-so-tough kid.

Clearly, there was something wrong with the kid as we were three old-ish people walking along with our bikes. We don't look like a bunch of trouble makers by any stretch. He was probably bored and had some unused hormones raging. He was calling us bitches and telling us to mind our own business and stop looking at him and blah blah blah.

Monday, August 17, 2009

wedding number two

Gordon and I at Julie's wedding
It was the second wedding of wedding season. This time it was a friend from Gordon's lab, Julie.

And, damn, it was hot. But beautiful -- held at Ultra Supper Club's rooftop patio. And with amazing food (hello: medium rare perfect steak?! SWEET!)

Gordon had bought an outfit specifically for this wedding and abandoned it at the last minute due to ridiculous heat factors, settling on a white shirt and dress pants -- no tie or jacket.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Where have I been?

Yikes. How did this happen? How did three weeks go by without me posting my most life stories? (Beyond Facebook - so if you're not on Facebook or Twitter, you'd have no idea what was going on -- oh, the horrors!)

This is what happens when things get complicated. And busy. So where have I been?

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Backyard gardens are so lovely to relax in.

Unfortunately, they're also a pain in the butt to build and maintain. My goal is to take the piece of crap that I was presented with when I moved in and transform it into something simple that looks clean, orderly, pleasant and requires pretty minimal work.

Of course, that means a lot of work.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The great outdoors: Chez moi

I know I said I wasn't working on my house anymore, but then my mom and dad came over to help finish up a few things. Oddly, it didn't seem like work. Of course, that's probably because they did most of the work while I rode around in their car and did errands like:
  • Brought back empties
  • Ordered foam for my window seat (which is much more expensive than I thought)
  • Got propane for my BBQ
  • Picked up colour swatches for the paint for my kitchen (from Ecopaints)
  • Groceries
  • Picked up my new dining chairs from G.U.F.F
  • Bought pots for plants and the start of a blind idea at IKEA
  • Bought patio stones and a laundry line from Home Depot (see below)
  • Oh, and some weeding and pruning/tying up my roses

Saturday, July 04, 2009

The inspiration... the reality

It started with Joe Fresh Style. This ad, in fact.

There is, of course, another page to the ad. With the wonderful grey-green wall colour, white-washed bird houses and the Joe Fresh Style bright orange logo (below).

An orange found in the colour of my couch. Perfect. Let's find that colour. And the search began.

I settled on Oyster Bay by CIL but got it colour-matched for Behr-brand paint. Last weekend and on Canada Day, me and my mom painted. Because I was sick of the plastic wrap over all my furniture and floors.

We painted and painted. I sweated a lot. And I grumbled because I really wanted to be outside, enjoying myself in the lovely weather. My mom was a machine. She always is. It took a whole lot less time than it could have. And it's done. And the plastic is gone.

The result?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Wedding bliss

This weekend, while my house was finally on its way to looking cute, I was on my way to Sarnia for a family wedding.

Let's just pause a moment to admire actual PAINT on my walls.

Yes, it's a good feeling.

But instead of finishing up the cuteness, I went to my cousin's wedding. It was a great opportunity to catch up with the family, although they weren't all able to make it, which was too bad. It was a lot of fun. My cousin looked beautiful in the dress that my aunt made her and I thought: that's the dress style that I would choose... you know, if I were to ever get married. And even though people kept asking me, I'm not even engaged, so there won't be another family wedding soon.

However, I am hoping to have people over for a house-warming party this summer. Which is really quite similar to a wedding, minus the pretty dress and jewelry and ridiculous costs, if you think about it.

It's weird that at the wedding, I just had more views into how much work a marriage and kids are. I saw my cousin's baby for the first time. One month old. And a handful of fussiness. I imagine that the baby will grow out of it, but for the time being I can only envision how horribly I would deal with that situation. There's a reason why people try to have a baby with someone who can help them not go insane...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Insulate this!

What a gorgeous weekend it was!

Too bad I didn't get to enjoy any of it.

I spent most of my time either in the house, painting, or in the crawl space under my extension, finishing up the insulation project.

My mom and Gordon helped me out the whole weekend. They were awesome. If you click on the picture you'll also see that there's a picture of my front room all painted in Oyster Bay (grey/green). In addition to that, the rest of the main floor is all primed, the entryway closet is painted and the front door is also done.

Again, I'm so lucky to have people who will help me like this. Having people around makes it go so much faster.

I will say that the spray foam insulation project wasn't as bad as the insulation project on my old house. It was just as hot but it didn't take as long. I felt just as manly after completing it, though.

Feeling really good about the house stuff getting done. I'm almost to the point where I can do "nothing" for the summer!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Digging for lead

It's always nice when you have about 2 seconds to decide if you're going to spend a thousand dollars on something that you don't understand and haven't had time to research.

That's what happened to me when I found out that:
a) The city of Toronto was digging up the pipe in front of my house
b) They were doing it right away
c) This would be my only chance to replace the lead pipe between city property and my house
d) It would cost me dearly.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Pie and other fattening weekend stories

Dear Mom,

I'm sorry. I've found something to replace a very important part that you've played in my life for the past ~cough~ years. I've found Williamsford Pie Company's strawberry rhubarb pie and I'm not proud of it.

In fact I'm a little sick about the whole thing. Might have something to do with the fact that I just ate half of the pie I purchased yesterday on my way home from Southampton. And when I say "on the way home" I mean, I had to significantly detour to get to the pie store.

In fact, much of the weekend was dedicate to gorging myself on a lot of food that wasn't designed to be (a) good for me; (b) eaten for a meal; or (c) eaten with such staggering gusto.

Friday night, Gordon and I got in our rental car and began the over three-hour trek on Hwy 10 (the whole way) to the Saugeen Shores. When we got there, we ate a rather pleasant, average-sized meal or ordinary composition. Tasty and not yet disgusting.

And then Gordon said that I needed ice cream, which of course I did not, so we all piled in the car to try to find an ice cream store that was open at 10pm. No luck. But Shopper's Drug Mart was having a sale on Ben & Jerry's. So it was that I had a chocolate peanut butter cup and chocolate sauce sundae at 11pm on Friday.

And Saturday morning had us at the local cafe, Armen's, where I devoured strawberry-and-cream cheese-stuffed french toast. With maple syrup of course. And I was able to taste the ham-and-cheese-stuffed french toast as well as the eggs benny that others ordered. At least this was after a significant walk about the town and shore. A walk back home and bike ride followed. To prepare my stomach for more, I guess.

Then we settled on the deck of the cottage to read magazines and feed chipmunks. After which sandwiches, quiche and sunchips were served. Certainly, I wasn't hungry, but how can one say no to their hosts? Especially with really yummy quiche?

And then -- wait for it -- a nap. Excellent follow up move, I must say. Followed by the part of the trip you might not believe: a chocolate gala. A benefit for the local museum just happened to fall on the date of our visit. And so there was chocolate fountain (with fruits and cake for dipping) and chocolate martinis and chocolate dipped potato chips and fudge and truffles and cheesecakes. And finally, when I thought my belly couldn't take any more, I discovered the pie table. This is where I found THE pie. Strawberry rhubarb, just a thin sliver.

"Where is this from?" I asked thinking I could get it at the local cafe. No luck. Williamsford. And we all know where that story led.

Later that night, we ended up at a bon fire where they were roasting marshmallows and hot dogs and I thought I might actually throw up if anyone talked to me about food again.

The next morning, we went for coffee in Port Elgin at Coffee Culture. And a little shopping here and there. We walked around for hours and ended up back at the shore, at an institution of the local culture. Gerry's. It had been talked about and talked about. Hyped up and down. We needed to know. And so we bought an extra large order of french fries and brought it back with us as a "thoughtful gesture" -- the local lore proven true as we munched and worked on our puzzle.

That night, not long after the needless deep fried potato extravaganza, Gordon and I made our hosts spicy Thai soup. With noodles and veggies and chicken and of course coconut milk. Calories from another country are OK. Besides, it had veggies in it.

And later, when the Tony Awards were on and I read the Discover magazine (my Cdn House & Home already finished) I needed to finish up the rest of that Ben & Jerry's because otherwise it would be like leaving garbage for my hosts to clean up, really.

And we know how the ride back to Toronto went, with the detours for pie... well, that, and a short stop at Champs in Shelburne. But back in time to return the car on time and get the subway across to my end of the city. And you know, since we were up at the Danforth we might as well get that amazing french onion soup at the Court Jester. And a peanut-butter-chocolate-banana sundae at Demetre's... and pie when I got home...

So, Mom, I guess what I'm saying is you don't need to make me anymore unhealthy food anymore. I think I'm over it.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Potato Chips

Potato Chips
Originally uploaded by fritish
It's not usually a good sign when I'm eating bags of potato chips for dinner.

I mean, sometimes it is because I'm feeling decadent and it gives me a good luxurious feeling.

But probably not when it's coupled by feeling unproductive. Actually, let's go back and start this with THAT little tidbit. It's not a good sign when I'm feeling unproductive.

I really, really like being productive. I love DOING things. And right now, I don't really want to do anything. Not at work, not at home. I don't want to pack for my weekend away in Southampton. I don't want to clean up the pile of garbage beside my computer, even though it only means walking it to the recycling bin about 10 steps away.

I don't want to do anything from my to-do list. Like call my neighbour about the chimney and the fence and the gutters. Like learn about insulation. Like pick out a colour for paint that I won from EcoPaint (very cool, actually; I won it by tweeting).

Generally, I love this stuff.

But right now, I want to sit in front of my computer and write about how I'm eating greasy chips with dip (finishing off the whole bag, actually) and feeling lousy. And then I want to eat the last bit of rhubarb crisp that I made (perhaps warmed up with vanilla ice cream). And then I want to fall into bed without brushing my teeth or taking off my makeup. And don't even get me started on how much I don't want to go to work tomorrow to work on the ridiculous mound of stuff there, either. I'd be pretty happy to just sit in front of my computer all day tomorrow (actually, I really want to be reading my House & Home that just came in but I'm saving it for this weekend).

Because I just don't want to do anything.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The roof and other things I never wanted to know about my house

Last night, my amazing roofer came over to collect money for the completed roof and eavestroughs project (unsexy reno project #2 as mentioned in my last blog).

He is so great about telling me what he found when he was working. In my pictures (click on the photo for more house porn on Picasa), you'll see the insulation put in on my back extension. That went off without a hitch. But the top and front; well, that's another story.

Top: Apparently, my chimney is flakey. I guess I knew there was something going on from the home inspection done in September. But they only said I needed to continue the liner for the gas furnace venting. OK, no big deal. Now my roofer says he doesn't know that the chimney is venting ANYTHING. That it's possibly blocked. Great.

Front Bay Window: This was done over in metal. When he pulled off the existing metal, he found it was full of holes in all the multiple layers of metal sheet roofing there. And under the last layer was a mound of soaking wet insulation. And we all know how awesome wet insulation works: awesomely. So he took that out, dripping. And then found mushy wood under that. Also very awesome. So he put that out of its misery too and replaced it with, you know, wood of the non-rotten variety. Novel idea in this place, apparently.

Oh the good news keeps on coming in.

Lots of opportunities to help me decide where to spend my money. And by that I mean: not on vacations.

I love my house. I love my house. I love my house...

Friday, May 22, 2009

The house update

Unsexy reno #2, done.

That would be my $8k-roof. Ya, when you're working your butt off to save money while still making your house liveable, it feels pretty frickin awesome to spend way too much money on something like that. Something most people will never see.

So the roof is done. And the back extension ceiling is insulated.

And my deck is back on. With some mismatched wood, but on, nonetheless. It just needs cleaning and painting. Just. Ha. So does my front step. And I need to clean up the backyard again.

But unsexy reno #1, replacing the rotten wood and insulating the extension crawl space, is still underway. You might not notice it's not done because it's basically summer and you can't feel how cold the floor is and you'll probably never go down into that crawl space. At least, I hope for your sake that you never go down there. I, on the other hand, will probably be in there tomorrow morning putting away some of the construction materials that are otherwise lying about.

And I had my friends Sarah and Sharon come over and help me prep for painting. One room down - my front room ceiling and walls are primed white. All the walls need is a light sand, a whipe and they're ready for some Oyster Bay (grey-green).

I realized yet again how lucky I am. I have really great people who will help me with things. All sorts of things. And they're often really good at those things. Even when they're not, they're willing to learn and just do it. I'm so lucky. I hope that one day I can repay all of the favours that come my way.

And now on to bed so I can continue the Great House Clean-Up for the company arriving tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New phone

Last night I got my new phone so that I could take advantage of the new plan offered by Telus. Now, I thought that the plan was super awesome, but it turns out that it's just pretty good.

However, I will say that it's a huge difference from my last phone, which was pretty bare-bones. And I've had it for about three years and the battery was starting to suck a lot. And I thought: what would I like with this new phone? I'd like email.

So I asked for it.
So they gave me unlimited browsing. Which I thought meant great email. But there's no application for email on this thing that can access my email unless I pay $5/mo which wasn't what I'd asked for. So I figured out that I have mobile email from my hosting provider and now I'm all stoked that I can do that.

So now I've become sort-of mobile-cool.

It's not a blackberry, it's not an iPhone. But it has a keyboard to type on. And it's NOT a million dollars. It's a free phone with a $17.50/mo plan. Which really is the best part.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

My week of home-owning bliss

So what did you do for your mom on Mother's Day?

Did you make her strip the paint off your stairs? No? Clean your basement? Hm, not a popular one, huh?

Well, I did.

In fact, I made it Family Day. I brought my WHOLE family over to work hunched over amidst the spiderwebs and crawlies and in the pouring rain in order to get the crawl space under my extension insulated. I'm the Queen of Fun Activities For the Whole Family!

In my defense, I did provide a fairly regular supply of beer, coffee, tea and food. And I also pitched in to help when I wasn't water-treating my patio furniture, sealing the tile grout in my kitchen, cleaning up, installing a new tap or picking up supplies from Home Depot. But the boys pretty much did it all.

Saturday morning, we were digging up the soil, fastening the cement board in place, breaking up bits of cement and tossing them into the hole before filling in the spaces with the remaining soil. All in the pouring rain. Then came the vapour barrier and the insulation when I pretty much became a third wheel in process. So I undertook the aforementioned other projects and made some meals.

My brother, Will, stayed overnight. And everyone else left for the night (when my niece got a little too tired to be staying up with the adults). Sunday morning, I took my brother and my wonderful boyfiend (who seriously must hate my house by this point) out for breakfast. We got back just in time to catch my parents' arrival. And in went the second layer of rigid insulation.

And my mom WANTED a task. I mean, I'd bought her the shrimp ring and her egg tarts and even the bagels and lox. And since I'd already given her the purple scarf, I figured it was OK to give her ANOTHER present. And so I let her strip the paint off my staircase. And it's already looking better!

It was a BIG weekend for the house, thanks to my wonderful, giving, helpful family. I am so ridiculously lucky to have them.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pain in my extension

So I got someone to look at the crawl space under my extension. And, let me tell you, it wasn't good.

So we took off the siding, the deck, the rotten wood -- yes, ROTTEN -- and now we're looking at the ORIGINAL job which was to INSULATE that crawl space.

It's good times when you find out how many crappy reno jobs were done on your 1840s house.

Every day brings more joy to my heart.

And more pain to my wallet.

Click for more photos of the joy.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Starbucks Shmarbucks

Starbucks Shmarbucks
Originally uploaded by miskan
Earth Day @ Starbucks meant free coffee for those who brought their own cups.

Or so I thought.

And then I decided to go with a group of people who don't normally go (I, on the other hand, faithfully go for a London Fog every single day) and I brought my usual cup.

And guess what happened? While everyone else got their coffee, I got denied. Because I didn't have the RIGHT kind of cup. Somehow, REUSING a cup EVERY SINGLE DAY (not just Earth Day) is less environmentally friendly than showing up once a year with ceramic mug.

Really, how many times do you throw out your coffee cups? Not me: I keep em and use em over and over. Probably for about a full week. I have about five cups on my desk right now, rinsed. Waiting for use. I only accumulated so many venti cups because I didn't have a mug with me at the time so I kept the paper ones and reused them. Honestly, I WOULD use a ceramic or porcelain mug but I can't find one big enough.

So I felt personally saddened by my denial at Starbucks today. Fail, Starbucks.

In other news, I went to the AGO for free tonight with my friend, Sarah. It was lovely! I haven't been there since it reopened. Their staircase is really a piece of art. Good thing, too, as it takes up so much room.

And then I rode my bike back home again and found that my furnace STILL isn't turning on. It's been like this since Monday. Or possibly the weekend, I'm not sure. We only noticed it Monday. I keep hoping (in vain) that it will just magically start. Instead, I keep coming home to a colder and colder house. Tonight, it's 14 degrees. Not horrible, but not the usual 20 I have for those hours between 6pm and 10pm when I want to be all relaxed and warm and sleepy.

Instead, I have donned an extra sweater (wearing four layers now). The temperature seems to be pretty stable at 14 -- I'm thinking that my neighbours are heating my house -- the benefits of living in a townhouse.

And on my bed is an extra blanket. And a warm cat, because Gus, my roommate's cat, is staying with us for a couple of days. (He makes me miss my cat, Mao. But not enough to want him back.)

All in all, I'd say I've had a very earth-loving day what with my turned-down furnace, my bike riding and my non-consumption of coffee from Starbucks (I made my own tea at home today - screw them).

Happy Earth Day!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Splashin out!

This morning, my kitchen was naked.

I made my tea before a drywall backsplash. With penciled contractor sketches.

Now, it has a shiny new backsplash.

I'd been planning this for weeks. Ever since I finally got my outlets in the right places. Which apparently takes a long time to get around to. In any case, my handy friends Claude and Rebecca volunteered to help me. They arrived on bikes around 11am. By lunch time, the south wall was hung with subway tiles.

By 7pm we were sitting down to a Cambodian dinner with the whole kitchen clean and subway-tile shiny.

It looks weird. Like when your hair grows out, all scraggely and then you get a good, albeit short, haircut and it takes you a while to get used to it. Suddenly, I have a backsplash. For under $100!? (All I have left to do is grout it.)

And it was really quite fun. I'm feelin pretty powerful.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The big clean up

My parents were over for Easter dinner on Sunday and they took one look at the backyard I'd been working on so hard the day before and I think my mom wanted to get her hands on it immediately.

It's OK, I can admit it: it was a garbage dump. My contractor, although obligated by his contract to clean it up, had left it a wasteland (described in my last post).

So my mom, always wanting to be useful and productive, told me she was coming back on her day off (Tuesday) to continue with my clean-up efforts. I felt bad about that: why should my MOM have to clean up my crappy back yard? But she insisted that she really wanted to do it. And at the last minute my dad found out that he had the day off too and joined her.

By the time I returned home after work yesterday, they had JUST finished picking up the last of the trash, placing my patio stones straight and level. My dad had started regrading the soil and my garden had a stone border on it.

I can't believe the transformation!

I had been so overwhelmed by all the crap back there. I thought it would never look like a place you'd want to hang out. And then this.

Now I can see it all unfolding. I can see that winding gravel or flagstone path back to my gate. I can see my patio set right near my BBQ on the deck. I can imagine that one day, there will be some shade-tolerant low-growing shrubs on the south side and bright, cheery blooms on the north. It will happen. I will one day serve dinner back there and not be embarrassed.

It's a long road ahead, but at least the path has been cleared for this garden-in-the-rough!
Praise to awesome parents!

And check out my bookmarks on planning my garden -- feel free to suggest other good articles.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Turn your photo-wall into a photo-corner

This weekend, I was working on my house and spent a few down-moments to consider my interior decorating (note that right now, I have primer on some walls, splatters of paint stripper on others, the outlines of de-assembled coat racks on still more and some crappy not-quite-white paint on the remaining ones).

I'm considering a palette including sagey green, light blue or a dark purpley/red (or possibly orange so I don't have to reupholster my couch, but maybe it's time anyway), dark brown and white. Inspiration came from a little vignette I have on my bookcase with my gorgeous orchid prominently featured. (Anyone recommending a spot where I should put together my palette?)

Anyway, I started thinking about art and what I'm going to do about it. This is pretty cool: a set of photo frames that wrap around a corner of your walls. Turns an otherwise useless chimney stack or heating duct into an art wall.

I like the dark brown frames. I'm not sure I have cool enough photos to put in there, though. OR do I want to create my own art? Or pay one of my many awesome photographer friends a small amount to create a gallery in my living room?

More here on the frame:

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The joys of garbage

How are you spending YOUR Easter weekend?

I finally managed to get started on my landscaping project. Step one: prep.

Luckily, my contractor's scope of work included picking up after the renovations. As you can see from the photo (click for larger and more photos) he did such a bang-up job that it was all fun and games today.

Which, in my case, means picking up sodden drywall, fibreglass insulation that had melted into the soil, about 20 or so nails, bits of carpet underpadding and full on chunks of concrete that were on TOP of my flower beds. Sorry, former flower beds. Now it's pretty much of a wasteland.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Mesh09 Toronto

Mesh09 Toronto
Originally uploaded by acroll
This is what I'm doing.

Yesterday, today, tomorrow.

And I'm going to work. Because that's what I do. And I'm doing a BIG project there. AND I've got a migraine. AND I've got no medication. AND I was at work until 11pm last night. AND up at 7am. AND the streetcar didn't come. AND that made me late for the keynote. AND I had to pay full price for my London Fog this morning as I didn't have my cup OR my card.

AND today sucks, generally.
Please I would like it to end.

But I wrote a blog yesterday that I think is OK: "Bootstrapping or 'How to be a cheap b@st@rd'".

I am not the greatest company today. I'm sorry about that.

Friday, March 27, 2009


Originally uploaded by GeeSpot1
Oh, to have horns with which to scratch myself.

I have a case of the itchies and I've got them bad. And no one can tell me what's wrong. Only what it ISN'T. No, it's NOT an allergic reaction. So I can't take benedryl for it. And it's not poison ivy or bug bites or a chemical.

My skin just crawls with itchy.

Between my fingers are bumps. That itch. And on top of my feet? Little itchy bumps. And right where my sleeve brushes my wrist? Itch itch itch. Under my scarf right now, my skin is burning with discomfort. My thighs, my ankles, my stomach, my back.

All itchy.

And I know you all know, but just in case you didn't: scratching it doesn't make it better. It just makes it MORE itchy. But it feels SO damn good to do it. Just looking at the photos of animals scratching themselves made me yearn for it.

And now I must go think about something else so I don't tear my skin off.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Stairway to insanity

I had my friend Claude over tonight to take a look at my backsplash and get me to the point where I know what to buy. So there's another project I will get going on next weekend when I have a car.

But I'm trying to stick to one do-it-yourself project at a time so that I don't get overwhelmed and can still feel comfortable in my home.

So I'm continuing to work on the insane stair project. Here you see what I'm doing. Chipping away at the paint on the side. Little by little.

Sometimes I get ambitious and start chipping at the spots on the risers. But I scold myself. "No! that is not for chipping!" So that I don't start doing all of them and take forever to fully restore something that is not worth fully restoring.

The treads are already sanded and you can see where they are pock-marked in the soft pine. You can see where the wood is exposed and malformed by years of wear and likely someone else's ill conceived do-it-yourself project. You may also see the many layers of paint. On top: yellow, and then white and then grey and then possibly some more white and tourquois and more white and then pink and a chocolatey reddish brown and finally a quite nice dark brown, which you see exposed.

I think this dark brown was the last well-done paint job as it seems to be the one that chips off least easily. On the side, there's an additional green stain on the wood. It's quite nice and antique looking. If I could, I would restore it to something like that. But that's not going to happen.

The best I can hope for is a smooth coat of durable paint. Really. That's why I'm doing all this.

And then? And then I work on my banister, which is already half stripped and ugly. For goddessakes, I should have left well enough alone. Rememeber my mantra: one project at a time.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

My stair project

This weekend, I started my stair project.

I had one at my last house too. It was a LOT of work. It was hell. But it was beautiful when it was done.

The difference with this project? More stairs, more surfaces to be stripped, probably can't even strip them -- must chip paint off in many cases -- and won't look nearly as nice when I'm done. But will look better than they do now.

Now, they are horrible.

My house renovations are really coming along. I have a front hall closet, a bay window seat with hidden seat storage, open kitchen shelves with lighting and glass shelves. A basement door, even. And my stairs are a complete mess.

So I decided to stop hemming and hawing and just get to work.

Down to Home Depot, I bought sand paper and pliers and brought out the chisel and palm sander. Two days later, I've taken out hundreds of carpet stables, done a rough scrape of the steps, sanded the steps, and started scraping the paint off the risers. Started. Two days of work and there's still so much more to do.

I did a test step, stripping it. I decide pretty quickly not to do it that way. Too much work for not enough pay back. The wood is not good anyway. I'm just going to paint them, so why bother stripping? but I have to scrape paint off the risers and the side of the stairs because someone did a horrible goopy paint job somewhere along the way and it look lumpy and pretty much comes off in large slices once you get going.

It's almost as enjoyable as picking the nail polish off your nails.

But it's slow going. This is going to be my project for next couple of months. Ugh.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

To paint or restore? That is the question

Next round in the house reno chapters:
  • Built-in open shelves in the kitchen
  • Front hall closet
  • Built-in setee/bench for the bay window
  • Staircase paint-job
All of that is already underway and the top three should be done in the next week. (The staircase I'm doing myself, hopefully with some help from my awesome BF, and I'm pretty slow.) But, YAY, it's looking more and more like a home!

And I'm looking to the exterior now that Spring has sprung. The roof will get a complete revamp (not so sexy but much-needed) and, while I'm doing it, a look at the back extension insulation. I'm guessing that will need to be addressed.

CollegePro Painters just came by to do a quote on repainting my exterior. Scraping off old peeling stuff (it's ALREADY starting to come off!) and repainting the same colours but with some additional trim-work. This cost is about $850 but I looked at my neighbour's house and some other beauties in the area and thought I would LOVE to have the original brickwork restored. That means sandblasting. So I'm going to look into it, get a quote.

And then of course there's the interior painting which I was thinking of getting a colour specialist for. And then either paint myself (with help from friends) or just pay someone to do it if the cost is reasonable. Sometimes you just need to get stuff done, you know?

Oh and did I mention the landscaping? I think I have some crocuses coming up in my front square of ground (I'd call it a "yard" but it hardly qualifies unless that refers to 1 yd x 1 yd?) where the only other adornments are unexplained tar buckets. Ew. Contractor, take them away!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

And the house goes on and on and on and on...

My living room
It was a good weekend.

It started out with a short day at work and then playing curling with the company. What FUN! And I got to talk to people that I never talk to. There are a lot of awesome people working there. And I got home at a really normal time -- which never happens. I was at a loss. What to do?

So I called Sara. And she came over! And I hadn't seen her in months and months so there was a lot to catch up on. It was wonderful to talk to her. And wonderful to show her my house.

And Saturday brought the final door in my kitchen. Check out the sexy doors in my kitchen. Hot. Loving my kitchen. Mostly. Just need that final outlet in there so that I can start putting in my backsplash (white subway tiles). And FutureShop Delivery guys finally came to assess the damage done to my kitchen floors by the fridge. They agreed that it was bad. Lots of "oh, ah, ouch, yikes" stuff going on there.

And my roomie's friend came over and she was so nice and we went out to Lahore Tikka House - my favourite Indian restaurant. So ghetto and so good! We gorged ourselves of course. And returned to get stuck in the mud behind my house. Who knew that there'd be a lake back there? We pushed and shoved the car onto a small island of firm ground for the night and I fell in the mud of course. I felt so decadent afterwards, though, catching up on some internet reading, putting some items on craigslist and other fun computer geeking all before doing some yoga in an effort to calm my curling-muscle-spasms.

Today my parents arrived and helped me move furniture and took me around to do some errands. Note to self: always go to the Curity Home Depot -- they rock. Plus, I decided to wait a couple of months to buy LED under-counter lighting. I can't wait!

In the meantime, here I sit in my living room (see picture) feeling all funny in my stomach because it's really starting to feel like a house. I have a LIVING ROOM for goddessakes! Looking around my as-yet unfinished abode, it occurs to me that I never thought that it would look this nice. In my eyes, I'm seeing the finished product already instead of the unpainted, rough outline of a great place that is actually here. But that outline is here; its undeniable now. And I'm damn excited about it.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The most dangerous cake recipe in the world

Tonight at the learning centre where I teach literacy, I got handed a very dangerous piece of paper.

On it: the recipe for 5-Minute Chocolate Mug Cake

What? Chocolate cake from scratch in five minutes? Who can feel SAFE anymore?!

I had to try this out to see if it was for real. My roommate, Amie, was up for it. Two minutes of prep time and three minutes in the microwave later, a mug of steaming chocolate cake was in my hands.

Spongey, moist, chocolatey goodness. Dear god, now what will I do? Buy ice cream?

I know, you're wondering if you too can do this at home. My recommendation: don't. But if you must, just visit DizzyDee for the recipe and photos. Or watch the video below. Guaranteed to immediately add rolls to your waistline. Consider yourself warned.

Saturday, February 28, 2009


Originally uploaded by tricky ™
Perspective. It's so underrated.

I've been a bit inundated in the past little while with nudges of it.

Kat wrote a blog that puts perspective on life in terms of looking into the future and realizing how different it can be from the present. But she also reminds me that "difficult" means different things to different people. The house problems that make me boil are a luxury compared to the health and the general quality of life of your child.

My roommate returned home this morning from her trip to South America. Refreshed and excited about her trip, she talked about how, especially in Bolivia, people have nothing. And yet they are so inviting and friendly. A reminder of how little one needs in life. That happiness is a state of being, not a state of adequate consumption.

But this is not all her trip brings into perspective. Returning to work after a long vacation is tough, especially when others in your group are on around-the-world adventures and this two-week stint was to them a very small piece of a year-long journey. In some cases, it was an even smaller part of an entire way of life: working just to finance their exploration of the world, culture and themselves.

I also attended a free documentary screening that showed me how the work that I'm doing every day fits into the general massive change of society. The general opening-up of everything. The implications are huge and we are only beginning to see what can be achieved. It will get better... and worse. And it's exciting to be a part of it. It makes me feel a new responsibility for being better at it. But secure that it will happen even without me.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Is this what it feels like?

It's funny how things can change so quickly.

My weekend started out so crappy - getting frustrated with all the crap going on with the house. Of course, it all gets compounded by the stress that is my professional life as well.

But then I started to do something about it. I called. I left messages. It made me feel like I was doing something about it at the very least. And then I went upstairs and finished the final bits of my flooring upstairs. There was a moment there when I just stood in the middle of that room with my hands on my hips and felt powerful.

And then my boyfriend came over and he asked me if I wanted to go for a walk.

I don't know if you know, but I love walking. And he doesn't like the cold. So this was a big deal. We walked down to Queen St. East and just browsed. Gordon bought me lovely chocolates (and himself bad coffee) from Ambiance and a wonderful chocolate hazelnut tart from this amazing, cute pastry shop near me and then we ducked into a few gourmet shops and local joints to pick up dinner items, including Chino Loco. We just walked and gawked and held hands and had a wonderful time.

Then we got home and cooked together, making a wonderful meal and he did the dishes and mopped the floor and I think I'm going to have to marry him soon because he also made my bed two days in a row. Seriously, I'm not making this up.

I have been having moments lately of such intense, overwhelming appreciation for Gordon. I know he will read this and I know he will like it, but that's not what this is about. This is about change.

This is about going from the depths of frustration about my house to satisfaction in the space of a day - partly because of my own toil and partly because my contractor did come over, fixed one thing and promised to return today (which he also did) to do more work.

This is about my recent performance review at work when I considered exactly how much things had changed since last year. And how much I'd accomplished. And how much my stress decreased when I discovered that my bosses think I'm doing a good job.

And it's about everything that bugs me from time to time, all the things I want to accomplish and worry that I'm not doing: it all either passes or happens or wasn't important anyway. Everything just... changes. You go on that trip, you finish that project, you save that money. Or you decide you don't really want to go there, that task was silly, or you can do without that item. Even fears about marriage can turn into confidence that a strong partnership can figure it out... whatever "it" is.

It's a calming thought.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Getting frustrated

Originally uploaded by purpleslog
I'm pretty mild-mannered.

I generally want everyone to get along and people to be happy. I don't cause much of a fuss, really. Even when things go wrong. I try to roll with it and figure out what to do next to fix it instead of pointing the finger for blame. Because pointing makes people feel bad. And I don't like people to feel bad.

But how often can "things" happen before you start to get frustrated and start to fight back?

Before you start pointing fingers and naming names?

  1. MasterCraftsman - I hadn't read about these guys before I had them quote on refinishing some furniture for me. Tired and stressed, I had them take it away to start on the project. That night, I woke up in the middle of the night, convinced that it was the wrong decision. I changed my mind -- I didn't have the money to do what they were going to do. Then I looked them up and realized I had to stop the project. I called. They said OK, they'd get me the furniture back. THREE MONTHS LATER I'M STILL WAITING. After numerous phone calls and voice mails and complaints. Three months. Are they holding my furniture ransom? Do I start calling the police?

  2. FutureShop - I bought my fridge on sale way back. Was it November? Anyway, their first attempted delivery, my contractor decided not to be there, though he SAID he would. I told him to call to arrange for the next delivery. He didn't. Fine. So I arranged for the next delivery. They didn't show up. No call, nothing. Just no show. I call them the next day and they weren't at all apologetic, but set up another delivery time for me. I asked for the next available 5-8pm delivery time. They gave me a date. Then I get a call at 1pm on that date saying that there was no one there to receive the delivery. First, where was my contractor? Second, why were they delivering THEN? They'd scheduled the wrong time. So I rescheduled delivery, got the fridge in and I verified the working order of the fridge before the guys left. Then I saw them: gouges in my floor from the fridge. I call immediately. They say they send an email to the delivery company and I'll hear back in two days. Nothing. I finally call and get another email sent. I wait. Nothing. It's now a MONTH after delivery. After another promised status phone call completely missed, I called this a.m. and Frank is bringing this up the chain of command and calling me Tuesday to report.

  3. Rogers took a MONTH to figure out how to give me internet access. A month and two home visits, four hour-long phone calls and several missed deliverables later, I do have internet access. But NO break on cost at all. No apologies, no perks, nothing at all. First chance I get, I will leave them after being a fantastic loyal customer. I hate them now. Congratulations.

  4. Should I talk about my house renovations and how a three-week project turned into a four-MONTH project? I've mentioned a few things already, but have I mentioned that my washing machine has done leak damage to my basement floor? And that, since not being able to figure out the leak problem, my contractor hasn't been back in my house to do anything whatsoever? I have an HVAC duct that just came undone, fell off, and is just sitting there loose. I have unfinished all sorts of things.I have shoddily-done things.

I wonder how these things happen. Am I too nice? By focussing on solutions and trying NOT to get mad, do people think that they can just do whatever to me? Forget about me, ignore me?

I think it's fair to point the finger at them and tell them that they've disappointed me. I do my best to stay on top of things even though I have stresses and pressures in all corners.

I almost cried last weekend, frustrated. I just want someone to help me: someone to do something without me watching and making sure they're actually doing it. Someone to follow up with me, tell me what's going on if there's nothing else they can do. Someone to take care of a task, even a small one, so I don't have to cram yet another thing into my skull or add it to my ridiculous bulging list.
check list
Check list
Originally uploaded by Great Beyond

Sometimes life gets overwhelming and I want to handle it, knowing that it could be worse and sometimes it doesn't work out. Sometimes I need to shut down.

And now I need to shut up, stop feeling sorry for myself and just focus on a task and just get 'er done. Right now, I just need something to strike off my list.
  1. Take migraine meds - check
  2. Make London Fog - check
  3. Watch Heroes on internet - check
  4. Call FutureShop - check
  5. Call Mastercraft - check (vm)
  6. Call contractor - check (vm)
  7. Take shower once confirmed hot water working - wasn't earlier
  8. Get dressed
  9. Finish up flooring in back room while it's still light out, before boyfriend comes over.
  10. Clean main floor and make it livable with furniture.