Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Big Project

I've made reference to our basement renovation a few times.

It's been going on forever, but the more I read about other renovation projects, this isn't actually that bad.  However, we're nowhere near done.

I thought I took a bunch of before pictures, but apparently the basement was so ugly I never took the camera down there.  I do want to document the process a little bit though.

After months of cleaning the garage, and getting rid of things from every room upstairs and down, we finally took some steps towards getting rid of our semi-finished basement.

This is the moldy bathroom that we lived with for years.  The raised floor was mostly rotten away and there were areas I couldn't step for fear of breaking through.  We kept it because the alternative was to live with one bathroom.

We had actually started tearing it apart years ago by ripping down the ceiling panels and a huge unusable jacuzzi tub.  The plan at the time was to create storage where the tub was and fix the bathroom in the same basic layout without the mold.

Then the upstairs bathroom had an emergency and our money had to go towards fixing that one first.  The basement stayed moldy and now half torn apart for about 3 years.

It started to become a storage space.  Mostly for junk and excess building supplies and tools from the upstairs bathroom.

And this was the girls' bedroom.  I loved it when we first painted it.  And it did work for a few years, but they started to want their own rooms.  And the windows weren't to legal code, being too small to crawl through.

This is what it looked like when we last decorated it.

It was a pretty big space and the girls crammed a lot of furniture and stuff in there.  And it looks cozy in that picture, but it never looked that tidy ever again. 

After a bit of demolition, it looked like this.

And a bit more demo...

Under the yellow-painted paneling was another layer of paneling with cute horsies on it.  It looks like this room may have been original to the house.  We took the opportunity to write on the walls.  Just because we could.

And those weird block of colour on the walls?  They had glued blocks to the foundation in order to attach thin strapping to the walling so that the paneling could be nailed to something.  Glue.  Hmm.  And notice the total lack of insulation.  I think we can do better than that.   

More on The Big Project later.  It's an ongoing thing, but it's most definitely progressing to an exciting stage.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Putzing Day

The days of putzing around the house are what I miss most now that I'm gainfully employed.  This is the kind of day I used to love as a stay-at-home mom, especially once all the girls were in school.  Admittedly I didn't have a lot of them because I did contract work and then part-time work, and the days with no volunteer activity, field trips, or sick children weren't all that high.

However, it's how I'll remember those years.

Wandering around the garden, pulling a few weeds, harvesting and storing a few vegetables, coffee with a friend... whatever the day happened to bring.  It was always different.

Saturday was sort of like that.  So much going on, yet not much really planned.

It started with an early drop-off at a fundraising activity for Beth.  While on the south side and having an hour or so to kill before dropping Alice off at her Engineering for Girls class (I know - how cool is that!), I thought it was time to introduce Laura and Alice to the Sugarbowl Cafe, an old Edmonton institution.  They don't look happy, but they really were.

Oh my!  Their cinnamon buns are so great and the smell wafts through the door as you walk in.

Luckily we were there early, as the lineup went out the door by the time we left just before 9:00.

Going to the south side feels like leaving town for me.  I rarely cross the river, so Laura and wandered through some shops we never visit.  The antique mall and Home Reusables.  We've got the basement renovation and decorating on our minds lately.

By the time we got home, the house smelled like crabapple jelly that Yvon decided to try.  Yummy!  And pretty as a picture, although I didn't take one!

I went back to get Alice and came home to a slightly tidied yard and a fire going in the pit.

They burn fast, but we had a small mountain of 2x4 ends to burn off and are now starting on the old framing strips that were torn off the foundation walls.  It's still beautiful fall weather, but we know the snow can come any day now and I don't want that wood pile buried for months on end.  I'd like it burned out of sight.

All afternoon I fed that fire, and had a lovely visit from my blogger friend.  She is the administrator behind the "Chicken Retirement Home in the Country" and had come to pick up some new residents.

Alice is the best chicken whisperer in the house.  She snuck up on them and caught them one-by-one for their final goodbyes.

Goodbye, Velvet!  You were always my favourite.  And your green eggs were the most abundant and consistent of all your sisters.  I already miss the life in the yard.

That night Yvon and I celebrated our 20th Anniversary by attending a play in the old theatre in Fort Edmonton.   I will never tire of Fort Edmonton and it's so beautiful at night when abandoned by the tourists.

All in all, a beautiful and busy day.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Morning inspiration

Forgive the photos, but it's very dark when I get up in the mornings.

And it's very dark when I try to put an outfit together.  And my brain is still too foggy at that time to deal well with this:

This is generally what my drawers look like.  These are all knits and wrinkle-proof, so I don't usually care how I shove them in there.  They start off folded, but then when I'm searching for that little black tank top or the thin thing that likes to hide under the rest, it all gets yanked around and messed up.

It's very frustrating and hard to deal with while also dealing with morning brain-fog.

Probably the tidiest area of Beth's room are the bins of clothing under her bed.  She doesn't have or want a dresser and the bins work for her right now.  I suspect she'll love the having her built-in drawers and closet in the near future, but this works for now.  She folds her tops and lines them up vertically.   She can see everything in a glance.

I tried that this morning with one drawer.  Now my drawer looks like this and I found a top to wear in the process.

The other will get done tomorrow morning, or the first morning when I can't find "that special something".  Or I'll always dress out of the organized drawer.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The first impression

I was talking to someone recently about shoes.  She was curious how many shoes she owned.  The answer?  15 pairs.  And she thought that was reasonable for one person.

It probably is.  I mean, summer alone means flipflops, runners, black sandals, red sandals, something in brown, something with a heel, something for hiking, something for in the garden.  And in the winter:  warm boots for activities, closed toe shoes for church and work in black, brown and maybe red, fancy boots, something with a heel for indoor use only, something good for walking without slipping, something waterproof for the slushy days, etc.

The list goes on and our seasons here all overlap.  The weather can change 30 degrees in one day.  You can't really just pack away the off-season pairs.  I guess flipflops in January aren't likely, but they aren't really the space problem.

Okay.  So 5 people x 15 pairs of shoes  =  75 pairs of footwear and no closets at either the front or back doors.

The first impression at either door was generally just had a pile of footwear.  A mess.

This is what I found at a thrift shop.

When I say "no closet", I guess we do have that wardrobe.  Typical of other antique wardrobes though, this one has a shelf up top and three hooks on the inside.  Not terribly useful because I can do similar math for our coats and jackets for the five of us.  Where do those go?  And backpacks and purses?  It's a bit of a problem.  

Anyway, I wasn't sure it would look okay or that people wouldn't just kick their shoes off and leave them everywhere as we're used to doing.

The colour was perfect!  And we're all being very good about putting shoes in drawers (we all have assigned drawers).  And the drawers hide it all. 

I just stacked the two units and that still gives me a place to throw (or place gently) my laptop bag.

And the hooks on the wall - I love that.  

I bought that years ago and didn't have an immediate use for it.  Now it hangs just a few purses and jackets.   I don't want anything long or overly bulky there, but this works.

One day I'll take a picture of the inside of that wardrobe and show you the inefficiencies there, but we're working on it.   I think shelves through the whole thing would work.

And the back door?  Still a mess, but that's an area that will be fixed as we get a new backdoor, rip out the drywall, refinish the stairs to the basement and get rid of the toddler hooks that our teens don't need anymore.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A sweet new ride

It came at a cost though.  A cost that I wouldn't personally want to pay, but we didn't have any choice in the matter.  We really haven't seen the price tag yet, because Alice may be hiding her true feelings, but if it was me, the price would have to be "fear".  Even if Alice presumably paid the biggest price, Yvon and I are still left with the fear.  Fear of our girls getting seriously hurt.  Fear of losing one of them.  It was scary.

One day last month Alice was riding her bike home from school and was hit by a car.

My first thought when I saw this bike on the lawn was anger.  Why would someone purposely bash up a bike while locked up at the school?  Senseless vandalism.

It was quickly corrected by my older daughters, saying that Alice and Yvon had gone to the Emergency because Alice had been hit by a car.  She seemed okay, walked part of the way home, but she was just getting checked out to make sure.

I'm glad that my naive mind doesn't jump to the nasty by default, but fear didn't really strike until my neighbour came across to ask for a status on Alice's health.  I knew less than he did because he had been there when Yvon rushed home and he had seen Alice before they left.  I didn't have the benefit of sight at all. Yet he is the one who thought of the internal bleeding issues that can come later, the shock and adrenaline that allows people to walk normally on broken bones....all followed quickly with "Not that that is what happened to Alice!" as he must have seen the fear creep into my face.

I was originally just thinking what a waste of time this all was.  That we needed to be at piano lessons by 7:00, that I had choir to attend and a friend to pick up first.  That now Alice didn't have a ride-able bike.  That we would have to get it fixed, and fast or she may develop a fear of riding over the long winter thinking about her accident.

They were away for hours at Emerg and by the time we drove to see what was going on, the nurse told me they had left, although they hadn't been released.  Why would they leave without being released?  That part turned out to be untrue.  Alice had been Xrayed and allowed to leave with just scrapes and bruises to contend with.

We then went to the Police where Yvon was transcribing Alice's official police report.  It was a relief to see her, to hear her talking calmly about what happened and answer the policewoman's questions.  It was not a happy site to see her tears as the police made her feel partially responsible for the accident.  There were things she could have done perhaps, but ultimately the driver of the car was behind her, should have seen her and been able to stop in time.

However, all seems to be well.

The picture above doesn't really show all the damage.  The entire frame was bent beyond repair and we'll be giving it to the Bicycle Commuter's Group for parts once we take the kickstand off.

Courtesy of the drivers' insurance company, we picked up a new bike and helmet.  While the rest of us live with free hand-me-down bikes, Alice has a sweet new bike that should last for years because she is now into a full size frame and tire.  Some of us are more than a little jealous but we'll get over it.

She has stated that she doesn't want to ride alone right now, but she also says she is not scared of her shiny new bike.  Snow is predicted in the near future, but on the weekend it was warm and we went for ride.  She seemed fine, even excited, to be riding her new bike.

As we say in church, God is good, all the time.  All the time, God is good.  Things could have gone very differently and we're very grateful.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

String Art

Part of clearing our basement for renovation was to prune our belongings, and then once pruned, we also had to find places for what we had left.  The stuff we couldn't bear to part with.  After boxes and boxes of books were brought to Goodwill we were still left with a lot.

Since painting our bedroom, I'd been thinking of using that big blank wall for display purposes.  We don't have much in the way of nice knick knacks or art, but books are beautiful and we've got a lot of those. 

A better handyman would have have the holes patched where our plugs didn't work.  A better handyman would have patched the holes in the ceiling where the old track lighting used to be.  Or a good blogger would photoshop them out to put on a spotless show for their readers.

I'm neither of those.  The plan is to patch the holes when we've got the tools and filler handy while working in the basement. 

Anyway, the original idea was to provide a place for those books, but also hopefully have some blank spaces.  And I wanted to try my hand at string art. 

Not your 1970's camp art, but kind of.  There are some interesting images of string art on Pinterest.  I've done the 1970's string art, sort of like this:
Vintage 1970s Mod Owl String Art Wall Hanging...not exactly a DIY now, but maybe I could learn how to do this!
 Now I had in mind to do something more like this:

But "dream"?  That's right up there with "Live, Laugh, Love" for me.  I'm pretty tired of it. 

While looking for those images just now, I finally read how others have done this project.  Cork.  Hmm.  We did it the hard way with nails and wood.

Anyway, a few banged fingers later, here are our versions of new millenium string art. Do you recognize it?  Bonus points if you do!

I love the detail Laura put into the background of her project.  

Alice had a totally different idea.  I love how complicated the most simple shape can be. 

It deserves more space on our shelf, but that's all we have room for right now.  After we have our basement back, maybe we can spread our belongings out a bit again.

I wanted to do two projects.  Seeing as how it's our master bedroom, I thought I would do a Y and an E.  Although it was a small project, apparently it was too ambitious for me.  I managed to get the Y done.

I've never managed to successfully paint a distressed background.  This is a section of shelving board from our ripped out cold storage.  Truly age distressed.  

As an aside, see that cute yellow duck?  I keep him because it's the first present given to me by my girls that they picked out themselves.   Years ago I had casually mentioned that I liked it while in the cashier's line at the grocery store.  Weeks later I opened it for my birthday.  I love that little guy. 

And this is my second project.

 I'd have it done if all the hammering could be done in front of the tv.  The Y looks lonely on the shelf (in spite of the ducky companion), so I still plan to do it. Again, a better blogger would do her Big Reveal when the project is finished, but I couldn't wait for that.  Neither a good blogger, nor a good handyman.  That's me.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


This isn't about refrigerator biscuits or ready-made pizza dough.  Don't get me wrong - I love those biscuits, and who doesn't love that chubby while Pillsbury Doughboy?

This is about my favourite cookbook. 

While trying to downsize this last year, I got rid of a bunch of cookbooks.  So many had one or two recipes that I kept returning to and the rest of the cookbook just took up space.  I forced myself to copy those few recipes down and brought boxes to Goodwill.

I couldn't part with this one.

It was one of my first cookbooks, a gift from a friend. 

It's been used and used and used and I wouldn't know where to start if I were forced to copy my favourites.  It's so full of classic recipes and I think they've all worked.

I still go to the Joy of Cooking for cooking recipes, but this is my baking bible.

How could I get rid of it anyway?  Who would buy it at Goodwill?  If it's only good for the garbage, I'll keep it on my shelf.

I keep thinking of getting it coilbound, but that may never happen. Besides, it's kind of handy to pull out the page I need and bring it to the counter while baking.   I'll just continue tucking the pages inside the cover.

Good as new.