Friday, July 29, 2011

Stay tuned...

Because this weekend, for the first time in what feels like forever, our attention is honed in solely on the house! In fact, as I write this, our 'electrician' is finally installing some lights upstairs. A sneak peak? Why not.

When I get home, these beauties will be installed and hanging gorgeously over the peninsula in the kitchen. I can't wait. 

In fact, I can't wait to put into action all our plans for this weekend. Check back Monday for a proper progress post and some exciting news!

Happy Friday everyone! May your weekend be relaxing, and fun, and productive, and whatever else you would like it to be!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A True Conclusion

Like the basement apartment, the stove is one of those ongoing sagas that I've done a great job of alluding to, but never actually telling you the full story. It's one of those customer service nightmares, a nightmare that bothered me far more than it bothered the husband.

To refresh, about a month ago, we were falling all over ourselves to recommend scratch and dent if you're looking for a brand new appliance. We probably still are. But I don't think it will be such a carefree recommendation anymore. Sure, they delivered everything, slid it all into place, and it looked great, especially once everything was hooked up. And it was hot. It wasn't like we were using the stove much. No wonder it took us 2 weeks before we discovered the problem.

The oven wouldn't start.

It's a gas oven and there was, simply put, no gas running to the oven part of the stove. We're pretty good at DIY and diagnosing issues, so we pretty quickly determined it wasn't something we could handle. We called up the place we bought it from because, for the first month, they were still responsible for it. Our 14 month warranty would kick in after that. They sent out a technician and that's where it got frustrating.

He came, stood in my kitchen and looked at the stove. He didn't touch it. Didn't try to turn it on. He listened to our own diagnosis of the problem -- something the Husband had already gone through on the phone -- nodded and said, "Oh, yes. That must be the problem." He left, promising the order a part.

Two weeks pass and we haven't heard a thing. Finally, I call on Friday.

"Oh, yes. The part isn't coming in. We'll replace the stove for you on Monday."

On Monday, when I don't get a phone call with specifics, I call.

"Oh, yes. We'll bring it tomorrow. Call at noon, and I'll tell you when."

I call at noon.

"3 o'clock!"

I leave work early. As I'm getting off the subway, I get a message. Guess who isn't coming anymore? I'm livid. I call.

"Tomorrow, tomorrow. At 5:30."

Finally, at 6:00, we meet the delivery guy. In comes the new stove, all wrapped in cardboard and plastic. Out goes the old stove, with its thin layer of dust giving away its lack of use. We pop the new one into place, turn on the oven, watch the pilot light turn orange and the temperature start to tick up.

At last!

Have you any customer service horror stories to share?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Clear Explanation of a Current Situation

Sometimes, as I write these posts, and as I receive all your wonderful comments, I realize that I leave out some pretty big holes in our situation. Perhaps it's time to clear everything up?

It might look like it, but we aren't really living in the midst of our renovation. Not really. Just... kinda. It's a whole messy, inconvenient situation that I am so excited to have end. See, when we confirmed that we were ready to jump into the housing market and started house hunting, we knew we wanted to become landlords at the same time. The extra income of a basement apartment was incredibly attractive, especially with the Toronto housing market as hot as it is.

Enter our bungalow with all it's challenges. The depth of renovations required upstairs meant that, when our lease on our condo expired at the end of April, we needed a place to move into. Without further ado, meet our basement apartment:

It's a comfortable unit, especially considering the heat we had last week. Or, at least, it would be if there were a fridge down here. There's a space for one, and we're on the lookout, but for now, and for the past 4 months, I've been running up and down the stairs every time I need something from the fridge. (And you wonder why we might eat a lot of frozen pizza and not too many gourmet dishes...?)

Unfortunately, there's a lot to do down here before our renters arrive in September. Some baseboard, a wall separating the washer/dryer and utility stuff from the rest of the unit, a fixed counter top (more on that later, I'm sure...) building a bulkhead around the ugly black drain pipes in the bedroom, holes to be patched, tile to be scrubbed, a bath to recaulk, cabinet hardware to properly attach... and of course, all our stuff, to move upstairs.

After walking through it with one of our faithful helpers last night, he shrugged. No problem. The list's not that long. The Husband says much the same thing. Me? I look around and worry just a bit.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Thankless Job

Remember my post from a couple months back about the hack jobs the previous owners left behind in our house? As the end of the summer creeps closer and with it, our desired deadline for moving out of the basement and moving tenants in, some of these issues are becoming higher priority. Like this one:

The tile in the bathroom is in iffy shape, but at least the grout smeared all over them can be fixed. Right? Right?

Well. Right. Except that, after an hour of scrubbing away at these tiles last night, I stepped back to look over my handiwork and felt as if I had made no progress whatsoever. Yes, there was less grout, though I tired well before I could get it all -- that stuff is stubborn! But the grout lines were still yellow and the corners were still cracking. At 8:30, I threw down my scrubbing tools and gave up somewhat mournfully. We'll be painting the tile, but there was a small part of me that had hoped we could avoid it.

Guess not.

(Any suggestions from our knowledgeable readers would be much appreciated!)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Before and During: The Bathroom

Yes, we've finally gotten there. Finally, we have something to reveal.

Let's review, shall we? When we bought this house, the bathroom looked like this:

Oh, goodness, it was bad. 

Not just grungy. The floor was rotting out. The vanity was a write-off and the toilet? Uhg. Also, everything was blue, blue, blue, and the layout was terrible. No one wants to be able to wash their hands while sitting on the toilet. 

We don't have a lot of space to work with, so we didn't have a lot of layout options, but I think we succeeded. But, why don't you tell us? What do you think of our to-the-studs makeover?

A usable vanity, a little extra knee space, and a pocket door. No more awkward corners or partial walls making the room feel smaller. It's only 6 by 6, but it's open and comfortable.

I love our mosaic tile in the shower. I love the vanity we went with. I love the simple mirror on the wall.

Of course, it looks good. But, like everything, it's not actually done. It's comfortable and usable, but there's still a few things.
  • The toilet is the wrong size. A new 14'' rough-in is waiting patiently in a box. All we have to do is remove this one, install it downstairs in the basement bathroom, and put the new one in. 
  • Baseboard is needed along the walls by the vanity.
  • I need to put an extra coat of paint on the door.
  • We need some kind of storage. Open shelves, likely, above the toilet and radiator.
Compared to other lists, it's refreshingly small. Small and so, so unimportant. As it is, I find our bathroom beautiful, despite not really being decorated, despite lacking in proper storage options.Our bathroom situation has certainly come so far from the rotting blue monstrosity we started with. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Backyard Before and... After?

If you will recall, when the snow melted this spring, a few unpleasant surprises emerged from our backyard.

(If you're willing to accept a few surprises, I would highly recommend buying in the winter. Buyer's market, anyone?)

A tangle of weeds, mud, and... garbage. Everywhere. Oh. Joy.

Thankfully, a great group of kids from the church -- the youth group I now lead! -- rolled up their sleeves and got the whole thing cleared out in a matter of a couple hours. By the end of it, instead of a garbage pit, we just had a mud pit.

As spring matured, we started to turn the soil, a necessary, if unpleasant task. In hindsight, we probably should have rented a rototiller and gotten it all done in one afternoon, but we're cheap and I think the Husband enjoyed the legitimate reason to play in the dirt. Besides that, a few inches under the mud we discovered a walkway down the middle, and before we realized we should just leave it there and throw seed over top of it, we had it all ripped up, lying topsy turvy down the middle of our yard.

It sat that way for longer than I would have liked. Fortunately, we got the garden in on time, though not in the ideal spot. Slowly, the Husband worked his way towards to back of the lawn, turning, leveling, throwing grass seed, watering. There was a time when we forgot that last step, so it's a bit of a weedy lawn where the grass died before it ever sprouted, but 2 months later, it's not looking that bad. In fact, I like it.

I even love the wall of bramble in the part we haven't gotten to yet. I love our wild flowers.

It's quite the progress. Not a true after, I know, but I've come to realize that we are unlikely to ever have 'true' afters. None of these projects will ever be totally complete. And I'm fine with that. But I am grateful for our grass, for our dark soil, for our sunny backyard. Some day, I'd like a tree (we suspect our elm is sick -- surprise, surprise), and perhaps next year, we'll take advantage of one of those tree programs, but for now, it's perfect the way it is.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A sneak peek, of sorts

Just after we ordered our granite, I went skimming the Internets trying to find an example of it in a real live kitchen. Couldn't find anything except a little square sample image that looked nothing at all like what I remember of the in-store sample. Queue heart palpitations. Did we just make a big mistake? The Husband thought so, especially since the sample was way more grey than what he expected.

The Husband is not a fan of grey.

And then, I signed on one more time to the company's website and saw this, right there, on their front page:


The Husband is still skeptical. He still doesn't like grey. But guess who loves it?

I love it!

Unlike the wee little sample they display in the bottom left corner, there is a strong grain in this particular granite. It's that grain that drew me to it. Of course, I still had a slight hesitation when the measuring guy (Mike? I think?) asked me to confirm that we had, indeed, picked 'Silver Silk'. Am I sure? This will be our largest single purchase. I keep reminding myself that there's no way we could go wrong with granite. It's not like we went for a crazy colour of cabinets that will clash. And yet, to pull the trigger causes just a moment of pause, a moment of panic. 

And then I signed off on the form, and he packed up his things, strongly complimented our cabinet building abilities, and left me to get back to work while dreaming of a gorgeous kitchen.

Have you melted yet?

Yesterday, I was gripped by insanity. I worked from home in order to let the granite measuring guy in. Yes, this was insanity. Our house has no air conditioning. 

Surprisingly, it wasn't actually too bad for being comfortable. I ran around in the morning and opened all the doors and all the windows, so a gorgeous breeze flew through the living room and out the back door. At one point, I may have even realized I was getting goosebumps and got up to close a window.  Said breeze must have been short-lived though, because by 4, when I had to rush off to catch a bus to meet the Husband for dinner at the pastor's house, I was drained of energy and feeling soaked in sweat.

Because of this heat, I know that not much is going to be accomplished on the house this week. After our spurt of energy this past weekend, it's a bit of a disappointment. I would have liked to have the drywall holes patched in the bedroom, our paint colour picked and the first coat on. I would have loved to get started on putting down the floor next week so we can finally move ourselves upstairs the week after. That's not happening.

But, as the list of things that needs to get done gets smaller, the likelihood of finding a renter for September seems to be growing. We have approximately 4 weeks left. Soon, we will need to start advertising and commit to a move-in date.

Soon, I will need to start decorating. Soon, I will find out if I even can decorate. 

Soon, the heat will break and I will stop mourning the dying process of our raspberry bush.

(Yes, our kitchen has been measured for granite! Soon, they will call us and let us know when we can come pick out our slab. And then, they'll come and install it! And I will have a kitchen at last!)

Have you managed to stay cool? Did you know that, in TO, we're to expect temperatures that feel like 48* tomorrow? That's 118*F for my American friends. Humid. I'll definitely be headed to work and the delightful A/C then.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Perfect Weekend

What makes a perfect weekend? It's like a perfectly mixed cocktail, the blend just right -- not too much sweetness to hide the taste and warmth of the alcohol, not too much alcohol to drain the sweetness and twist your face into a scowl.

This weekend was the perfectly mixed cocktail. Saturday, despite the heat, we worked upstairs with all the doors and windows open. At the end of the day, the guys sat back, checked out their work and wondered aloud what it was that took them so long, but I was pleased, beyond pleased, really. Can you blame me?

Some of you may have been wondering where all the uppers were when I posted about the kitchen last week. Does that picture answer you question? I am in love. Once we have a counter top to go with all this, I'll give you an in depth tour of the kitchen.

While the men-folk were doing the physically difficult labour of throwing those cabinets up on the wall, I painted. We have quite a few doors to tackle in this house -- and by quite a few, I mean 4... Perhaps I need to redefine my idea of 'quite a few'? -- and they're not even halfway to painted. Doors are a pain!

To top our Saturday off with a dollop of ice cream, we got all cleaned and dressed up, and hopped in the car to go the next town over. We spent the evening helping my best friend celebrate her birthday at a country bar. We (I -- the Husband doesn't do country) danced until the lights came on and collapsed into bed well after our bed-time. 

It's a good thing we take Sundays easy. 

What did you get up to this weekend?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Oh, you are pretty...

(Before I begin this post... apologies for the terrible photos. I'm a bad blogger and not necessarily comfortable whipping out my Canon in retail stores, especially ones that have a 'No Cameras' policy in parts of their showroom.)

Last night, I got off well before my usual stop and walked to the Lawrence Square Mall where the Husband picked me up 15 minutes later. A short drive, and we walked into the cool A/C'ed heaven of selection, selection, selection: Taps!

And yes, we were there for a tap.

Well. A faucet. Which I guess is a tap. But I never call it the 'kitchen tap'. I call it the 'kitchen faucet'. Though, I do call it 'tap water'. Does anyone called it 'faucet water'? Now I'm being ridiculous.

Actually, now that I think of it, I might have only started calling it a 'kitchen faucet' since we started renovating. Maybe I did actually call it a 'kitchen tap' before. Either way, what one should call a tap is not what this post is about. This post is about buying a tap.

Taps has selection! Beautiful, beautiful selection.

If you haven't guessed by now, we have Home Depot budget. By that, I mean we are trying to hold on to as much of our money as we can despite the renovation. If you are at all familiar with Taps, you'll know it's a little above our Home Depot budget. You won't find a $100 cheapo tap here. Nu-uh. 

If you haven't guessed by now, we have a Home Depot budget with Taps-level taste. You know that $100 cheapo tap at Home Depot? Ick. Even the $250 tap at Home Depot did not satisfy. 

Suck it up, buttercup. If that's you're budget, that's your budget, right? 

Nah. We splurged. Just a little.* And I'll never regret this particular splurge. Did you know? Kitchen faucets can be beautiful. These were the three contenders.

I know... they all look almost the same, don't they? It quickly became apparent that I have a very specific taste: sleek, goose-necked, slender, and and uninterrupted swoop of brushed stainless steel. I liked simple slender handles with no buttons on the nozzle, and a straightforward connection to the counter top.

Taps customer service sucks -- where are the signs that say you must register at reception in order to speak to a sales person? No where. By the time we finally got to speak to sales person, he did a lack luster job of talking up any of the taps or showing us other options. We were somewhat disappointed with the level of attention we received, especially as such interested buyers, but an hour or so later, we sat down in a sales office and put in an order for a tap. 

Can you guess which one?

Should I leave you hanging? 


After much deliberating, and checking prices, and hemming and hawing over our budget, we settled on the beauty in the centre. I can picture it already, in the center of our peninsula, so graceful and sleek. She'll be in our possession on Saturday, ready for our granite measuring appointment on Tuesday!

And I am feeling so much better about our progress. Perhaps this Monday, there will be no Monday blues!

* I know that sounds irresponsible, but trust me; we're ok. We spent a little more than expected on this, but it's not going to break the bank or anything.  

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Our Backyard Is Pregnant

That is really what a garden is, isn't it? I suppose thinking of the earth as a womb lends quite easily to the Mother Earth myth, but really, that's exactly what our garden is. We planted seeds, and in the safety and the darkness of the soil, things grew.

And now we're eating them.

(Have any of you ever heard of the Arrogant Worms? You should probably watch this video.)

In all seriousness though, I am officially in love with my garden. Almost exactly a month ago, Mocha gave you a very thorough tour. Now, my rows of carrots and lettuce and my ring of broccoli have all filled in that much more. Filled in so much, in fact, that I realized it was time to thin my carrots if I wanted ones of a decent size at all. Perhaps even, too late. According to the vast realm of the Internet, I should have done this back when my plants were only 3 inches tall. They are at lease 5, perhaps 6.

I started to pull. Carrots come up easily, some with just tiny orange roots, others with full blown 'baby' carrots. I was amazed, surprised, pleased with the small pile of carrots beside my garden fence. A quick nibbled and I got a little dirt against my tongue mixed with the crunchy, hard sweetness of the orange flesh. It was delightful.

I took the rest in, washed them up, trimmed their ends and added the handful of real, straight-from-the-ground baby carrots to our pizza dinner. I'm not really sure what I thought would happen when I planted carrot seeds, but somehow, the fresh crunch of the veggies filled me with an overwhelming sense of pride. I grew these!

I could get used to gardening, I think.

A Disclaimer

Since I know food choices can be a touchy subject, I wanted to add this disclaimer before the potential influx of offended readers. The Arrogant Worms video is a light-hearted poke and not meant to be taken seriously. I am sorry if any of my readers choose to take offense to it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Finally, something you might be interested in

On March 31st, when we unlocked our door as homeowners for the first time, our kitchen looked like this:

I know. Bad.

1 month later, we were this far:

It looks a lot different now. I feel a little bad for not sharing more proper progress info with you. We've painted, put together our Ikea cabinets, bought our appliances, and then... waited. For weeks. There was more to order and we were slacking. But, last night, we picked out and ordered our granite, so tonight, the Husband and I shimmied our broken stove back into its proper spot (now that the technician had come and been useless) and he carefully set the height and leveled our 4 base cabinets. And now, even without countertops, or the rest of our cupboards, it's looking pretty awesome.


I can't wait until it's finished and the extra panels are gone from against the hallway wall, and my beautiful pendant lights are hung, and a back splash is added along the wall. This kitchen is going to be beautiful. Small, yes, but so is everything in this house.


Monday, July 11, 2011

A Little Off, A Little Low

It's time to admit it. I'm tired. I'm frustrated. I got the Monday Blues hardcore.

The Monday blues might soon be normal for me.

I wouldn't get the Monday Blues so much if we were actually getting things done on the weekend. Clearly, we've been loving our summer weekends. After all, they've been full of wonderful, beautiful people, new places, puppy snuggles, and sunshine. Our weekends are wonderful.

And I wouldn't trade them for anything, even if it meant I could be happily snuggled into my brand new living room, kitchen, and bedroom already, sans drywall dust.

But then we get home on Sunday night. And the stove is still pulled out into the middle of the kitchen, half blocking the fridge door because it's not working and the technician has been too busy to even book an appointment to come see it. The bathroom is still coated in a thin (thick) layer of drywall dust and the finishing touches are still left undone. The master has no closet doors. Or paint. Or floors.

None of it would be quite so frustrating though, if we hadn't just spent a weekend with 50 (More? Maybe.) caring people who wanted to know how our renovations were going. Time after time, I admitted that, actually, they're not, that we haven't actually gotten anything accomplished in a good 2, almost 3 weeks. Normally, I love talking about our renos, about our big plans, about our progress. But when there isn't any progress, it's probably the last thing I want to talk about.

I am proud with how well I've stood up to the discomforts and inconveniences of renovating. And I can still do it, indefinitely, as long as I've got the Husband and the Pooch to curl up with on the couch at the end of the day. But I have to admit that I'm tired, that I want it to be over, or if not over, at least moving.

I have to admit that I'm sick of sitting in limbo.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Welcome Home!

We're back!

I know; you didn't even know we were gone, did you? Well, some of you did. Most of you didn't.

We spent an extended weekend in San Francisco with my brother and his girlfriend. Wandering around a new city was exciting, fascinating, and saddening all at once.

(Wait... why saddening?)

(Because they have bus transfers that give you 90 minutes of travel on any city bus, forwards, backwards, 10 minutes after leaving the system, whatever.)

(Saddening=city envy.)

We fell in love with the colourful nature of the city. Unlike Torontonians, homeowners in San Francisco seem to embrace colour. Their homes are bright, three or more colours that highlight the intricacies of the architecture. Wherever there's a flat wall, they cover it in murals that tell complicated stories and histories.

The famous Painted Ladies. These seven are the well-known ones, but we actually found them a touch boring in comparison to the many many brightly painted houses in the city.

We did, however, notice the lack of one specific colour, the kind of colour I don't know I could live without: green. If it's not brown, it's manicured, and it probably isn't in your backyard, and certainly not in your front yard. Now that we have a lawn, our own little patch of grass, I can't imagine living without it. SF was bright, colourful, but so, so urban.

We flew in on a red eye Tuesday morning and now, Wednesday afternoon, I'm still tired, still full, and I miss hipster brunch, but I'm happy to be home, despite the two bottles of salad dressing I discovered on the kitchen counter when I walked in the front door, left out in an un-a/c-ed kitchen for five days.

If only we could get our kitchen finished.