Friday, September 27, 2013

The Basement Apartment: Painted!

Remember this? 


Nearly a month ago, I shared this teaser of the colour we were painting one of our tenant's rooms. Then, I fell into this pit of stress that included rushing to finish the space up, worrying about the type of people who were moving in, and navigating through the actual moving in process. I don't think I was fully prepared for the upheaval of having one set of awesome tenants move out, while another, unknown set moved in.

One month in with our new tenants and I think I'm feeling comfortable again.

Yesterday, I received an email from one of you pleasant readers that reminded me that I haven't shared the photos of the finished basement apartment. It's not like it's an overly exciting space to see - after all, when I took the final photos, it was empty, finally ready for new residents. This time around, because we had tenants lined up months in advance and knew we needed to paint anyway, we gave them the option of paint colours. We had each of them check out CIL's paint colours and let us know which paint chip they wanted. This meant we got to paint the apartment in some really fun colours.


For the main room, they chose a colour called Green Tea. I loved it. It is bright enough for the basement space, while still remaining colourful and fun. Above is the view of the apartment as you come through the door. It's a long, narrow space, just like our space upstairs used to be, before we took down the wall. The door at the end of the room leads to the tenant's laundry room and the utility room.

Walk into the apartment, spin around, and you can see the kitchen.


We put this kitchen in when we first moved in. The plumbing and gas rough-ins were there, so all we needed to do was source cabinets and appliances to put them in. You can read more about that whole process here.

I love how the mint green colour brings out the red in the cabinets.

Now, the bedrooms.

Lake Huron for one.


And Racy Red for the other.


Such bold colours, and so different from each other! Admittedly, I was a little nervous about how these two roommate will get along when I realized how different in personality they are. The thing about being a landlord? Roommate relations is not my problem. This is something I've needed to remind myself of a few times over the past few weeks.

I am settling into fall, happy to have the unit filled, happy that our house is mostly peaceful and stress free again. The Attic of Awesome is back on track, and we're getting a few other projects around this place done before winter.

It feels like things are falling into place.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Book Review: Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Lately, I have been a reader who doesn't read.

I don't know what causes me to go through these ups and downs when it comes to the written word. One month, I'll be devouring any book I can get my hands on, ravenous for new stories and strings of sentences woven together beautifully. One follows another, follows another, follows another because I just can't get enough. And then, something slips, habit, perhaps, and I find myself falling asleep on the subway, my book still tucked in my bag, where it lives for months, unopened, words neglected.

It's been months now. I haven't wanted to pick up a book to read for months.

But then, I got my hands on this book.

Rose Under Fire
by Elizabeth Wein

You might remember my review of Code Name Verity from a few months back. In fact, Code Name Verity was the last book review I wrote on this blog. In June. Nearly four months ago.

I loved Code Name Verity. Perhaps this means I shouldn`t have read this book. I found myself, far too often, comparing it to Wein`s previous book. I guess I was expecting to be blown away by this new one. It wanted it to be better, by leaps and bounds.

In some ways, maybe it was. But my expectations had been set. I wanted it to be better - by leaps and bounds - but within the constraints Code Name Verity had already set.

Rose Under Fire follows the store of Rose, an Air Transport Auxiliary pilot during World War II. In the same style of Code Name Verity, it`s written as a diary, all the left behind bits of communication surrounding Rose`s story. Wein builds up her character through a daily journal of sorts, then presents the reader with the shock of Rose`s disappearance through notes and letters from Maddie - the main character from Code Name Verity - and Rose`s aunt, and then, Ahha! Rose is back!

This may, actually, have been my key disappointment with the book. At the very beginning of the story, the reader already knows how it turns out. As I turned the last page, I realized - there were no surprises. No shocks. No moments that cause you to catch your breath or burst into surprised tears on the subway.

Don`t get me wrong. Rose Under Fire is a great book. It`s well written. It tells the shocking story of Nazi concentration camps in such a way that doesn`t water anything down in the least, but makes it accessible for the young adult crowd. It`s an amazing story of resilience and hope.

You should definitely read it.

But, if you haven`t read Code Name Verity, you should also definitely read that book.

I`m curious: do other people have this problem? Have you had an expectation of an author that they didn't live up to? Is it just me? Is it just this book?

Just. Read both. Read lots. Read for me, because I don`t seem to be reading anything anymore. I read this book really fast and then, phht. Back to sleeping on the subway.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Summer Knitting: A Cowl and a Scarf

Knitting during the summer doesn't feel weird. I know, a lot of people see knitting and fibre arts as a cool weather thing, but, having just spent the whole summer knitting, I must disagree. There's nothing quite like sitting around a camp fire as evening approaches with a ball of yarn and some knitting needles, an easy pattern, and some good friends passing roasting sticks around.

However, sharing those knitting projects once I was finished here on the blog? Well... that felt kind of weird. People are sweating in light summer dresses and flip flops; the last thing you would want to read about are projects designed to make you warmer.

I was grateful for the cool weather of last week. I know, the hot weather made another appearance this week. But somehow, now that we find ourselves fully in September with October looming close, it seems ok to share a little knitting again.


This scarf was an 'in-between' project. I'm not sure which projects it was in between, really. Probably this cardigan, and this lacy beret. It was a project to keep my hands busy and my commute occupied. In fact, most of this scarf was completed on the subway.

It follows the Ostrich Feather Scarf pattern, which came from the brand new Lace One-Skein Wonders book. I received the book to review, and can say honestly, it would be an excellent addition to anyone's knitting book collection. Chalk full of beautiful lace patterns, all completed with a single skein of yarn. How can you go wrong?

Ok. I'll admit. This scarf came out totally wrong. In reality, it was a lesson in following directions. And reading. See, the pattern tells you to repeat the lace rows 30 times or so, then switch to a different lace row for 30 rows or so. I read this and thought, "Hmm. That's not going to make a long enough scarf. I'm going to continue the first lace row for as long as I want half the scarf to be. Then switch. I like long scarves!"

Oh, what a genius I am.

Of course, I missed the direction that told me to go back to the original lace row and repeat the whole thing 7 times. (In other words, lace pattern one 30 times, followed by lace pattern two 30 times, repeated 7 times, for a total of 420 rows.)

It's not that it turned out badly - it didn't - but it didn't turn out right.


It will, however, be delightfully warm and thick for the winter. And soft. Oh, so soft.

Like the scarf, this cowl was meant to be a 'light and easy' project.


I started it concurrently with the lacy beret - which I'll share here next week - as a 'rest' project. I discovered that, when I have a very complicated project on the go, it can be beneficial to have a second project on the needles for the moments when a little easy knitting is needed. I can't, for example, carrying on a conversation when I'm keeping track of yarn-overs every second stitch.

This cowl, unfortunately, comes with a bit of a sad story.

This cowl got eaten by the dogs.

They were having a particularly bad day, I guess. Somehow, they managed to get the half-finished cowl on the needles off the dresser and onto the floor. I don't like to blame Pekoe for things, but there's a good chance he had a hand(paw) in sliding it over the edge. Experiments in gravity that never end. However it happened, Mocha and Kingsley got their teeth into it. I came home to splintered bamboo and slimy yarn.

Fortunately, I had another set of needles of the right size. I managed to slide the stitches off the mangled plastic of the cable onto the new set and didn't loose a-one stitch. Just a poor, lovely, Chaigoo 5mm, 24-inch circular needle that I had simply not owned long enough.


Such is life with dogs. I have finish the cowl and long ago forgiven them. It's pretty and turned out perfectly to go with my fall coat.

Bring on the cool weather! I am so so ready for it!

(You can see more project notes for these finished projects on the Ravelry project pages! Here for the cowl and here for the scarf. I write a lot of project notes.)

(If you want to make these yourself, you can purchase the scarf pattern either as a single pattern on Ravelry or through Amazon in the Lace One-Skein Wonders book - which is awesome, by the way. Or, you could make the cowl, which is a free pattern, found here.)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Story: Attic of Awesome

The ad said 5 old radiators for $400. True, we don't need 5 radiators - only two, really - but the deal seemed too good and would allow us the ability to replace and add as needed. We put on our renovating clothes after work last night and headed up to Forest Hill, cash in hand.

Finding the place was easy. It would have been easier had we not mistaken the address at first. Our knock on the door of number 27 was met by a suspicious stare and a firm shake of the head. The owner of the house was not even going to open the door to us. I stuttered out our reason for being there through the glass door. He shrugged and shook his head again. We apologized and walked away. The Husband pulled out his phone to double check the email with the address.

We were one house off.

I will never understand the mindset that stops people from opening the front door. Perhaps I haven't lived in the city long enough, haven't experienced enough neighbourhood crime and violence. Perhaps we're not affluent enough to understand the perception of danger. It seems an unpleasant way to live, suspicious of every person who finds themselves on your front step.

One house over was under construction and everything seemed like it made more sense. A young couple in power suits greeted us with handshakes, then took us through their empty house to see the radiators. Half an hour, we spent, struggling the behemoths down the stairs, out the front door and into our car. My muscles shook. My hands stung against the roughness of the cast iron. My knees and fingers bruised as they got banged up and pinched. More than once, I looked up at the Husband and said, "We will get these in here. We will. We have no other choice." I'm sure I was reassuring myself more than I was reassuring him.

When we got home, we struggled three of them out of the trunk and into our alleyway. Two remain in the backseat of the car. All our energy was gone. It was 8:30 and we hadn't even had supper yet.


The Attic of Awesome will have two radiators in it, on opposite sides of the room. This should be enough to heat the 300 square feet of open space quite sufficiently. All five are painted, but chipped and flaking, so I'm starting to think about our painting options. Of course, we could go simple and straightforward, and paint them white or the colour we pick for the walls, to blend in.


But I'm thinking of another option. I'd like to paint them a bold colour. Something that will stand out and make the radiators part of the room, make them something to notice. A deep blue against a white wall, perhaps. Or turquoise. Maybe I could even do something with a little ombre, and turn the rad into art.


We're also planning on replacing one or two of the radiators on our main floor with larger ones. Last year, we had some issues with the balance of heat between the basement and the upstairs. There are four huge radiators in the basement; while we have four on the main floor as well, all are much smaller. This meant that, in order to heat the main floor - which is where the thermostat is - our basement was getting cooked. We're hoping that, by replacing one or two of our radiators with larger ones, we can remedy the situation a little.

This morning, my body is telling me that 5 radiators is overkill. It most certainly is. But, worst case scenario, three of them go back on the market and they live in our garage until someone else with a similar renovation project comes along. And even if they end up living in our garage forever, we've still saved money over buying two - or three - brand new ones.

Anyone need an antique radiator?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Guest Post: Errol: House Maintenance for the Unskilled

Dear readers, meet Errol! I met Errol in November, during NaNoWriMo. He wrote his novel in - you won't believe it - 24 hours! He did this because he was super busy with the NaNoMusical, NaNoToons, and keeping up with his daily webcomic, Debs and Errol. Errol is also one half of a geek band and he has a knitting blog!

I have no idea how he found time to write a guest post for me. But he did! And it's wonderful! 


-~*~-

Allo! My name is Errol!

Jeanette posted to twitter about a guest blog and I got so excited about the concept of doing one that I begged to have a chance to participate. She, being a kind and generous person, acquiesced and once my elation calmed down, I was suddenly struck with the notion I know nothing about renovating houses.

This is me. Note the lack of any skills within reality.
Now, I imagine most of you are useful in the real world. If there’s a leak in the faucet, you fix it. If the closet door is jammed, you unjam it. You occupy a world of magic and wonder that befuddles me.

Same goes with farming and decorating.
I have a friend that loves to fix everything. I asked him for advice on a good place to change the oil of my vehicle. He scoffed and offered to do it at his house. What?! I lumped oil changes with all those dangerous endeavours they warned not do at home! For that matter, television had taught me such fruitless tasks ended up with a faceful of oil when an unexpected, but hilarious, interruption occurred, and then Mr. Wilson gave you advice on why you should respect your wife.

Why didn't Tim just use Google?
(File from http://homeimprovement.wikia.com/wiki/File:Wilson_fence.jpg)

Thus, I figured I would blog something similar to a morality play: the folly of those that choose poorly when settling on a mate.

My wife, sadly, is the protagonist of this sordid tale.

She is amazing. She is successful, beautiful, and ensures our home is not only habitable, but even safe for young children and clumsy spouses.

When we were first married, I decided to live up to the expectation of the title ‘husband’. I would be supportive, I would be useful, I would sit on the couch and drink beer. And on one particular day, we needed shelving.

These shelves in fact. Look how simple they are! This should have been easy!

This was exciting! I had never put up shelving before, and it could be a task to prove that I could live in this new world of marital responsibility. We went to Ikea, we picked out some shelves, I put them up after finding out that the metal ruler thing with the little glass cylinder with water was used for ‘levelling’, and voila! Shelves were shelved! I put some books on them (heavy university books on computer science that my wife doesn’t understand why I keep), went about my day, and hoped for a raise by the end of the week. Or at least a bonus. Nudge wink.

Two hours later came the crash.

We both rushed up to assess the damage. The shelves ripped out the drywall. Books lay scattered all over the room. She asked me if I put the shelves in the studs of the wall.

What manner of witchery was she talking about? I remembered a device in the basement called a ‘stud finder’, but its purpose escaped me like that of floral decoration.

These floral decorated albums came with my wife. They hold pics of her old boyfriends.
Dejected, I went downstairs and would have collapsed on the couch with a beer, but I don’t even like beer. That day was not a day for victories.

But this story is not all tragedy; there is a splinter of hope. Five years later, we moved to a new home. No, it’s not because I destroyed the old one. We needed to upgrade because of our second child. As friends were helping us move in, my wife gave me one task: put up a metal rack of serving utensils.

And I did.

Successfully.

One of our friends was impressed by my accomplishment. They don’t have much faith in me.

Rack successfully installed. Achievement unlocked.
However, it is now eight years later, and that rack is still standing! And guess what? I even installed a TOILET! Do you know how much trepidation there was with THAT project? I watched every Home Depot Toilet Installing YouTube video I could find, and even then I was petrified for a couple months that something would go wrong. But it still works, and I am grateful every day for functioning toilets.
(I will not mention why we had to change the toilet, nor will I mention who’s fault it was that two floors were flooded by sewage.)

Is this a happily ever after ending? No, there are a lot of minor household repairs that totally escape me. Will I be handy? No. Tools still scare me. Will I ever be handsome? No. But at least that was evident when she first married me.

But her plight is also not irreversibly tragic: I can learn, albeit slowly and with much damage to the environment.

Still, if you were to garner any moral: celebrate your spouse and do not take him or her for granted. You could have been stuck with someone like me. At least your significant other didn’t overflow the bathroom with grey water such that it permanently stained the ceiling when it gushed to the main floor.

Not that I did that.

Totally... did not... do that.

That crack was totally there when we bought the house. I’m sure of it.