Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Project Attic of Awesome: We Have Too Much Furniture

This weekend included yet another productive Saturday in the attic. At this point, we have:

  • Reinforced the roof to remove all the posts that were in the way.
  • Created the stair hole. (Holy crap, there's a great big hole in my dining room ceiling.)
  • Reinforced half of the ceiling joists to become floor joists in the attic.
It doesn't look like much right now, so I have no pictures for you. This is also partially due to my slight fear of falling which currently makes getting in and out of the attic a little inconvenient, especially with my camera in hand. Soon, however, we will have a set of temporary stairs that will make it all so much easier.

Today, I wanted to talk instead about what's going on in the rest of our house.

Since we knew that this weekend would involve the dining room in some way or another, on Friday, we rolled up our sleeves and cleared the whole room out. Furniture-wise, this meant a bookcase, a dresser, a fish tank, and two arm chairs. The table and chairs? We left them there, knowing they would be easy to move as we worked.

Where on earth was all this furniture going to go in our tiny little house?

Here:


The bookshelf found a new home on a postage stamp of space beside our couch and the armchairs got shoved between the couch and the counter top and then piled with various things that used to live near our washer and dryer (which will be under the new set of stairs) or stored on top of the book shelf.

The fish tank found a new home here:


And the dresser, now piled high with boxes that used to be hidden away under it and more boxes that used to live on top of the bookcase, here:


Now, imagine all that with a thin layer of dust, the kind that you can sweep three times without completely conquering it. The kind that seems to still be settling on every surface three days later.

We're living in chaos.

But then, I remind myself that a) it's only temporary and b) when we're all done, I'm going to have 300 square feet more to play with. A whole extra room to allow this stuff space. Two closets to finally store linens and table clothes and couch covers properly. Two closets to store boxes of files that have never had a proper home, and to hide away craft supplies, and fish supplies, and extra computer cords.

A little discomfort, a little chaos? It's worth it.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Update: Project Attic of Awesome

Last weekend was a big weekend. The first weekend of the real work on our attic conversion project.


It was a great day. This is why:

At 8:30, I climbed into the driver's side of our little car and drove 1.5 hours to a neighbouring city and spent the whole day visiting with my best friend. She and her husband just announced to the world that a little bundle of joy will be joining their family in a few months, making me an aunt for a second time*, so I was excited to see her and spend time talking about all the things best friends talk about when they're facing huge life changes.

We had brunch. We went thrifting. We ate greasy mall food. We snuggled under an afghan and ate cherry blasters and dreamed and giggled and settled into each others' comfortable presence. It was the perfect day.

Oh, you thought this post would be about the attic?

It is!

While I was reconnecting with my oldest and best friend, Some of the most important bits were happening at home. The original crew (minus one) that helped us out two years ago when we were working hard to make our house liveable, came to visit. By the time I got home, they had fully reinforced and supported the roof joists so they could remove the posts that run down the centre of the space and the beam under the dormer. These ones:


Now, it's way more open, way more spacious, and I can finally see it all coming together.

This weekend? The husband's dad is coming to visit again! This partially means another Saturday off for me. They may need a third set of hands, but my clumsy inexperience may very well just be in the way. So, while I putter around, getting groceries, baking muffins for breakfasts, working in the garden, they'll be working away at more framing. They'll be cutting out the hole in the attic joists for the stairs, and, hopefully, adding a beam in under the joists so we can remove the supporting wall.

We'll see how far we get!

* No, my best friend is not technically my sister, so I guess, if you want to get all biological, I'm not going to be an aunt for the second time. But, does one really need to share a genetic make-up in order to have a sister-like relationship? I love her like a sister, so it only makes sense that I'll love her little one like I love my nephew.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

This Dusty Bookshelf: Seven Good Reasons Not To Be Good by John Gould

It's been a while, hmm? Not much of a reason. I've been busy, but technically not too busy. I've been crocheting instead of blogging. Working hard at my 9-5 instead of blogging. Reading instead of blogging. Visiting the very best of friends instead of blogging. Snuggling in with the Husband and Netflix instead of blogging. Y'know. Living.

I know you're all waiting for an update on the attic progress. I'll get to that. But not today. Today, a book review!

Seven Good Reason Not To Be Good
By John Gould

Let's start with a synopsis. Matt travels from Vancouver, where his marriage is quickly dying because his wife is cheating on him with the coffee shop girl, to Toronto, where his best friend has contracted AIDS and has decided to allow the disease to run its course uninhibited. Matt goes to save his friend, to convince him that life is worth living, that what he's doing isn't virtuous, as Zane seems to be claiming it is, and, if it is, well, virtue is vice.

By the way, Matt is a film critic. No, wait. a film kritik.

I picked up this book because of the author. I read Kilter: 55 Fictions by John Gould in university, in a contemporary Canadian literature course taught by my favourite professor. I enjoyed it well enough, enough that when I found this book at the library, I was a little excited to give his full length fiction a try.

It was well-written, and there are parts of this book that will stay with me. But this book was a slog. I wasn't excited to pull it out of my bag each morning and each afternoon on the subway. When I reached the middle of the book I was already writing a trashing review in my head. But, as I came out on the other side, at the last page, I discovered an appreciation for it, discovered, in fact, that I almost liked the affect it left behind.

Here was the problem: I didn't like Matt. Matt was pretentious. Matt was the kreative kritik, so above his own role, so entitled, that he didn't even identify himself as a critic. And, since I was being shown the world through Matt's eyes, everything in the book was covered in this slimy layer of pretension. His childhood, his relationships, his messed up marriage, his one-night stands, all of it, Gould seemed to be holding up in a way designed to deliberately push, to shock, maybe, as if to hold up this character as the epitome of art, as if to say, "This is the lifestyle of an artist."

Oh, artifice. I wonder if that's exactly what Gould was doing, building purposeful layers of artifice over Matt's character in order to pull them away. I didn't see it though: Matt never completely loses his pretentious character. But as the novel draws to a close, Gould seems to work in a few truly honest moments with Matt. Through other characters, Gould adds some new layers to Matt's character, layers that go beyond 'The Artist' and dig deeper into 'The Human, The Man, The Friend, The Son, The Lover'.

Is this book worth the read? Yes. It's set in Toronto, which I love, and the writing is strong. And, it covers all sorts of issues and themes - AIDS, homosexuality, infertility, morality, fidelity, home and coming home. But, be prepared to struggle with an unlikable character and some assumptions about what it means to be immersed in creativity. It's a book to be read carefully, critically, watching for nuance and artifice. It's not, maybe, a book to consume, but rather a book to pull you in to deeper engagement with words, life, death, and virtue.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Project Attic Conversion of Awesome: The Beginning!

Tomorrow.

Tomorrow, we start.

Well, really, we're not starting until next week, but we're laying down the groundwork this weekend.


We'll be spending the morning up here in this slightly dark foreboding place, cleaning up all up, sorting it all out. Then, we'll be off to one of our favourite hardware stores for wood. Lots and lots of wood. And electrical cable. But mostly just wood.

It's the official kick-off.

This is our timeline. We're not frozen to it. It's not set in stone. And, we can identify a myriad of places where we'll get off track. But, that ok. At least, once we get started, there will be no going back, no changing our minds. At least, once we start, we have no choice but to finish.

A Reno Timeline for Project Attic Conversion of Awesome


Week 1: Clean-up and purchase materials.
Week 2: Support ceiling joists and remove the downstairs wall by adding a floor beam and column posts.
Week 3: Reinforce ceiling joists to become floor joists.
Week 4: Re-run existing electrical
Week 5: Reinforce roof joists.
Week 6: Frame the walls and put down glorious, glorious subfloor.
Week 7: Run new electrical and, potentially, re-run some existing plumbing lines we roughed in during our last reno.
Week 8: Insulate. Spray foam!
 Week 9: Build and install stairs.
Week 10: Drywall.
Week 11: Mud and sand
Week 12: Paint.
Week 13: Put down flooring and finish off with trim.

In an effort to keep us to it, I now declare Fridays Project Attic-Conversion-of-Awesome Update Day! It needs a better name, I know. Please, leave your suggestions in the comments! 

After this weekend, our little home will be returning to the state of this blog's namesake... bring on the construction dust! 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Three Things for Thursday: Dog Beds, Dog Toys, Dog Treats, Dog Days

Dog Beds


A few weeks ago, Design Sponge shared a pet bed tutorial and I fell in love with it. 


It's nothing I couldn't have figured out on my own, of course, but there's something about having someone else show you how to make something so simple that inspires you to at least want to do it. And Kingsley desperately needs a new bed. We bought him a cheap, $25 one back when he first got too big for a his crate. It's full of holes now and not nearly as much stuffing.

I think I'll leave off that leather strap though. He would only see it as a chew toy.

Dog Toys


Speaking of leather, I wonder how well it would work for creating dog toys.


Would the dogs have them mangled, destroyed and eaten in a matter of a few minutes as they do with most rawhide bones? Or, would a thick, tough leather be durable enough, in the right shape, to stand up to their vicious little teeth?

I expect it would be an epic fail and a waste of perfectly good leather. I will forever be on the hunt for the perfect, enthralling, inexpensive, indestructible dog toy.

I know, I'm asking too much.

Dog Treats


While we're on the theme of homemade things for dogs...


I've been meaning to make homemade dog treats for a long time. But, you know how it is, right? I don't want to make them while we still have a huge box of Milkbones to work through, but, suddenly, we're out, we have none to give the dogs when we leave the house or go to bed and they're looking for their daily treat. And, so, another box of Milkbones makes its way into our house. 

One day, though, I will make these. Especially since I could make them a cookie I could share with them!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Softsoap Gift Basket: Giveaway Winner!


Random.org picked comment #53 as the winner of the Softsoap gift basket.


So, I counted up from the bottom, since my comment platform orders the comments newest to oldest and came up here:


Congratulations Miss T! Check your email!

Monday, April 8, 2013

A Toronto Real Estate Tale: What Were They Thinking?

Two year ago, when we found ourselves house hunting for our very first home, this house was the house that got away.

MLS, two years ago

Everyone's got one, I'm sure. The funny thing is, though, we never even got a chance to see it. It was a mix of bad timing - there were already two offers on it by the time we entered the game - and our own lack of experience with how the real estate thing works. But somehow, it became The House anyway.

This is possibly because this house is within decent walking distance from our house and, occassionally, we stroll past it on walks with the dogs. We know now that it's a good thing we didn't consider it - it's on a busy street full of cars and buses that, back before we were familiar with the neighbour, we knew nothing about. We've found watching this house to be somewhat painful none-the-less.

This is why:

MLS

Two year ago, a builder bought the house. Don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with builders buying bungalows and topping them up. We were going to do it, after all! There's a builder down our street who's doing a phenomenal job of topping up a bungalow. 

But this one?

It started out so cute. That round door! Those double peaks! 

And it ended up so... so... box-like. Every smidge of character has been wiped out and they couldn't even be bothered to do something with the upstairs windows to make them look a little less lopsided. The busy stonework, the understatement of the bay window, it all makes me shake my head, just slightly sad at what could have been. 

Oh. The kicker? The price tag they've added to this box of a house. They're asking a solid $400,000 more than it was listed for 2 years ago, substantially overpriced for the neighbourhood and the street it's on.

I'm sure it will sell, eventually, and I'm sure whoever buys it will love it and enjoy it just as it is. It's beautifully finished inside, after all. But I will always remember it as the adorable little bungalow we wish we could have bought.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Our garage: White and brown and shedding shingles


Our garage needs help.

Proof:


Technically, it's bones are pretty good. It's not leaning awkwardly or anything. But its roof is peeling right off, and I find it just an ugly building. It's too close to the house and we can't even use it as a garage anyway - we can't get a car down our teeny tiny driveway. On top of all that, the electrical went out in the garage last summer and we can't figure out why and aren't ready to call in an electrician to fix it. Sometimes I fantasize about ripping the whole thing down and rebuilding something better.

Maybe something like this:


On the other hand, the husband wants to do something like this with the garage:


How's that for adding square footage to our home?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Three Things for Thursday: A Miscellaneous Room

Once our attic bedroom is finished, we'll be vacating our current tiny little bedroom for the more spacious, and unique space upstairs. Of course, this means our current bedroom will be empty, a blank canvas full of possibility.

Unfortuantely, I know that filling it is going to be one of the easiest things in the world. We have three options. Somehow, I want this miscellaneous room to work hard enough that it can be all three in one.

One: The Office



I've been waiting for an office space for a long time. Somewhere I can close myself off from distractions and write. Or, a proper space in which I can work from home every so often. A space to organize the lives we lead on paper. A space for calendars and blank books full of inspiration. A space to corale our cords and our bills and our pay stubs and our reminders from the vet to get our pets' shots updated.  

Two: The Guest Bedroom



This is an explicit request from my parents, but they can't take full credit for our desire for a place to put overnight guests. Many of our friends and all of our family lives a couple hours away from us. It can be frustrating, not having a bed to offer for longer visits. We'd love to change the situation. 

Unfortunately, we know a full bed isn't an option unless we never want to use the room for anything other than a guest bedroom. As it is, nothing fits in our bedroom other than our queen-sized bed and two bedside tables. There's hardly even space to get dressed in the morning. So, perhaps a sofa bed is the answer.

Three: The Music Room




This desire has been recently rekindled. I've talked before about my itch to get a piano back in my life. For a long time, I've managed to stifle it. This past weekend, however, the husband and I helped my best friend move into her brand new house. The husband flexed his muscles and helped struggle her apartment-sized piano up a full flight of stairs into her living room. I may have felt a little twinge of jealousy as she carefully dusted it off.

Where is the space for all this in our tiny little house, though? 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Review and Giveaway: SoftSoap skin is in™!


A couple weeks ago, a giant box landed on my doorstep. Inside was a cellophane wrapped basket full of bright blue paper straw and soap. So much soap.

Nine bottles to be exact.

And not a-one the same.


Ever since, I've been grabbing a different soap every shower, trying each one out. Softsoap has always been one of my favourite soaps. I have some pretty intense eczema on my legs, so I appreciate a soap that doesn't do its best to turn my skin into a dry, flaky Sahara. My grocery store only stocks maybe one or two fragrances, so, undoubtedly, I end up coming home with the Strawberry Scrub.

My favourite scent now? Black Orchid and Velvet Hibiscus. Holy crap, it's like showering in an exotic jungle of a shower. It's followed closely by Heavenly Vanilla, so indulgent, so delightful.

Softsoap has generously offered to give one of my readers a basket of their own! It comes with all of these intense fragrances:


Want a basket?

Entering the Softsoap Skin is in™ giveaway couldn't be easier. Just leave a comment! Make sure you leave your email address so I can contact you should you be the lucky winner!

For an additional entry on top of that, share this giveaway on Twitter or Facebook! Leave a comment letting me know that you shared it.

There's just one condition: this giveaway is only open to Canadian residents.

The giveaway will run for 7 days - closing on April 9 at midnight! - so make sure you come back next week Wednesday to find out who won!

In the meantime, if you can't wait, snag the coupon found here and pick up a bottle for yourself. (There's also a whack of other coupons at that site, so definitely check it out!)

Disclosure: This is a paid post through my involvement with SheBlogs Media. I was given the soap for review purposes; however, all opinions are exclusively my own. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

How the shoe industry confuses me


I bought three pairs of shoes last night. They're cute enough, three pairs of flats to bring life back to my sad shoe collection. The dogs, as much as I love them, have done a number on almost every pair I own. My flats, especially, since they get worn more often and therefore, left in more easily accessible places, seem to have taken the brunt of the doggy beatings. As spring has hesitantly started to peak out at us, I came to the realization that I had no flats to get me out of my winter boots.

So, I went to Ardene and bought three pairs of cute flats. Three pairs for $15.

Usually, I buy cheap shoes - I'll be the first to say it. I love shoes, but I don't want to spend a lot of money on them. This is partially because of those aforementioned puppies and their teeth. Of course, this means that the shoes I buy end up falling apart by the end of the season.

Sometimes, I wonder if I'm doing it wrong. Would it ultimately be cheaper to buy more expensive shoes? Would I have to replace them as often, or could I wear them year after year? And, would I want to? Would a more expensive shoe actually be more comfortable than the cheapies I pick up at jewelry stores for kids?

Last night, I bought $5 shoes. There's no way I can see that buying a more expensive shoe will actually save me money. I'll stick with these for now and face the decision again next year.

(Once, I bought a gorgeous pair of flats with buckles wrapped across the toe. They were from Le Chateau, originally, perhaps, $60, but on sale from the outlet, so I think I got them for $20. Wore them once. That Saturday morning, Mocha proudly brought them to us in bed, the toe chewed right off. I cried. They were the last good quality pair of flats I have ever bought.)

What's your shoe philosophy? Do you buy the cheapest you can find or splurge so your feet will be happy? Should I take the plunge and spend a decent amount of money on a pair of good quality shoes?

Monday, April 1, 2013

This Dusty Kitchen: How To Make Soup, From Scratch, Without A Recipe

I fell in love with cooking when I started making soup. It was then that I discovered the vast realm of possibilities that cooking held, then that I realized I could do anything with good ingredients and a little technical know-how.

I often make soup on Sunday afternoons. It's become a leisure activity of sorts, a way in which I celebrate the Sabbath, making myself quietly well acquainted with my kitchen, my knives, cutting boards, pots, and the vegetables left in my fridge after the week. I rarely use a recipe, instead taking stock of what I have, what needs to be used up, and going from there. 

Making soup without a recipe is easy. 

Start with oil, onions, and garlic.

This step is common to pretty much every one of my soups. It's a good way to start, to break the cooking cobwebs off my fingers if I haven't done much of note in the kitchen all week. Saute the onions and garlic together until the onions are nice and translucent.


Add meat.

Or don't. You could add beans instead. Or no protein-like thing at all. I added ham leftover from our Good Friday ham, graciously supplied by my parents.


Add veggies.

I went with broccoli. One head.


Add your favourite herbs and let it all cook together for a bit.

(Add more oil if necessary.)

I added basil and parsley. You could add anything though. Curry, perhaps. Rosemary. A bay leaf.


Decide what kind of soup you want.

Brothy or pureed? Just add water or broth.
Creamy? Add flour. Or corn starch to keep it gluten free.

I added flour (5 tbsp or so), cooked it for a couple minutes (stirring constantly!) then slowly added 6 cups of water, stirring constantly to make sure none of the flour clumped up.

Add bouillon.

I went with a vegetable bouillon. If you use broth in the step above, obviously you can skip this bit. But, bouillon and I get along well.


Simmer.

This is the step that leaves plenty of time for cleaning your now messy kitchen. If you want.


Add cream.

That is, if you're making a creamy soup or a creamy pureed soup, the very last step is to add cream. Remove it from the heat first - cream doesn't necessarily like being cooked.


Serve!


Oh, it was so tasty. A creamy broccoli soup with chunks of ham? You can't go wrong. You can make any soup though. Don't tell me you don't know how to cook, or that when you do you must follow a recipe exactly. Switch out the ham for beans, the broccoli for carrot, the creamy soup for a brothy soup, add a handful or two of pasta when you're letting it simmer, and, voila, you have a whole new creation.

Do you have any favourite soup making techniques?