Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Construction Fatigue

I shouldn't be complaining.  The work means improvements for our water and sewer.

Or does it?

Since they dug us last week, our water pressure has gotten worse.  Way worse.  To go from running 2 showers, a toilet and a tap with nobody a toilet and a tap but only getting a drizzling stream in the sink.  Well, that's just atrocious. 

Thank goodness I made friends with the workers, so they're nice to me.  They feel my pain and want to help.  And they did.  Until the water was shut off again yesterday.  When it turned on, our pressure was back to bad.  But then, better.  So...we just have to deal with wonky pressure and war zone-like conditions for another 2 months.

Yes, war zone.  We started out saying "we live on a construction site."  Then it turned into "we live in a dust bowl."  One neighbor called it a dirt pit.  Now, we just look out the window and feel like we should be dodging bullets. 

Our Street BEFORE
Our Street TODAY

It's become a game - we wake up and look out our 2nd floor window down the street and say, "who are they digging today!?"  Then I get a minor heart attack this morning when I see this:


The guys know our water pressure is not right.  But I was praying we'd avoid more digging on our shared parking pad. 

Then I found out the work isn't for us.  It's for our neighbor across the street.  He's getting his water upgraded today.  Lucky for us, the city water main IS ON OUR SIDE OF THE STREET.  So we don't have water again today.


Poor neighbor we share a wall with - more of his pavers had to come's quite a collection now.

Here's my view:

Good Thing They're Nice

The guys are really, really nice.  I have nothing bad to say about the crew.  That might be the only upside to all of this.

So as the fatigue sets in, I'm enjoying the view from the back of the house. 

I haven't seen this much green this early.  It's beautiful and scary all at the same time.  I prefer the beautiful.

Right Side

That right there is a stunning Japanese Maple that I almost killed.  Oh, I felt so bad. 

I brought in an arborist to try and save it from my hack job 3 summers ago.  It pains me to see it on life support.  I was assured it could make it back, but that there would be a long road ahead.  I can see some branches that didn't make it through the winter...but lots more new growth sprouting, so I'm already hopeful for this summer.

Purple Violets

I found violets in full bloom - these almost seem a little past their prime already.

The flowers on the Lungwort are showing up.

Super Hellebore
And this one's my star.  The Hellebore is going crazy.  It will be the third season in my garden for this plant.  You know what they say about planting a perennial...1st year Sleep, 2nd year Creep, 3rd year Leap.  She's definitely Leapin'.

And it's still March!

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Monkees

I managed to get birthday pictures x2 done at the Superstore. 

I started with Jake.  Every birthday is remembered with a picture session at the Superstore.  I buy the pictures no matter what - good, bad or ugly.  For $30, it's a fantastic memory.  In fact, one of the worst sessions got me my favorite shot of Jake & Henry.  I almost cried that day, they were behaving so badly.  But now the picture brings a smile to my face whenever I see it.

Here's my one year old:

G is 1!
And here's my six year old (!):

J is 6...???!!!!!

Time out.  Here's where I almost cried during THIS session. 

I call George my "Jake Part 2" because of how much he reminds me of Jake when he was a baby.  So, watching George stand there holding onto the '1' and then flip to Jake in front of the camera with his hands in his pockets totally threw me.  What happened to my baby Jake??!!

Thank God Henry was screwing around so much behind the camera - it kept the tears from welling up. 

Then I got the good old group shot:

Almost everyone is smiling

And I got one more pose for kicks:

Lookin Like Daddy
Steve circa 2002
Think they're related?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Our Turn

The water & sewer replacement project that's been occupying our street since November finally reached us on Tuesday.  It was our turn to have our sewer drain connection to the city main replaced.

Of course, things did not go according to plan.

Here is our parking pad before.

Right door is us

When we bought our house, our parking pad was atrocious.  It had red brick (not meant to be used as interlocking), bumps all over and a staircase that was close to falling apart.  We went in together with our neighbor and had both sides redone as one, including a staircase that served both entrances. 

View from sidewalk on neighbor's side

It was such a great investment.

Until Tuesday.

View from our porch

With the tree being in the way, they had to attack it from the side where the external water connections were.  That was my neighbor's side.

The plan was to dig a narrow trench to the side, not touch the water connection (ours was replaced with copper a few years before we bought the house) and replace our shared sewer drain...all without damaging the tree.  Until they couldn't find the sewer drain.

Where are you?
So....they dug a little more to the right (neighbor's side) and they dug a little more to the left (our side).  Until - bingo - they found it under our side directly beneath the bottom step of our staircase.  Gulp.

The guy in orange (above) cracked open the old clay sewer pipe and and readied the old connection for a new one.  Then suddenly...

See the splash above the claw?

It all went wrong.


Just before I snapped this picture, the geyser shot up above our tree.  Immediately, the backhoe operator yelled "Shut it down!"  The crew sprinted away up and down our street.

Filling up

At this point, I was starting to get a little worried.  The sewer drain to our house was just cracked open.  Where will this water go and why isn't it stopping???

Everyone important is watching

The audience (me, Jake, Henry, George, neighbor) watching the action figured something was really really wrong when the guys in the white hard hats (city inspectors) came sniffing around.  On their phones.

The hose in the picture above is attached to a sucking mechanism that they dropped in the water.  It was working fast, but the water coming in was faster.

I sent Jake & Henry down to the basement every 2 minutes to check for water.  I was freaking out. 

Finally, the geyser stopped gushing.  Our basement was dry.

Keep working

The water level finally got down far enough for the supervisor to reconnect our water line to the main.  It was sheered off at the box connection, so they had a crazy hard time reconnecting it. 

After the water was reconnected, they got to work on the sewer connection to the house. 


The whole time, I kept thinking, I would sooooooo not go down there.  13 feet deep.  Possible caving.  Watery sludge mixed with waste.  Yuck.

New connection

But, they got the new pipe connected and figured a way around the tree. 

New sewer drain

They ended up digging UNDER the water main on the way to the street...even all the way under the sidewalk.  I was impressed by how delicately a backhoe can work. 

That green pipe/white cap cleanout will be a new addition to our parking pad...but I was assured by the supervisor they can cut it down and cap it flush with the pavers when they put everything back together.

Here's hoping.

Back filled

They put all our dirt back in the hole. 


And now our parking pad looks like this. 

With any luck, somehow they will get it back to looking pretty again...someday...

Monday, March 19, 2012

Ode to the Basement - Before and After

One year ago this week, we began the biggest home project of our lives.

We dug out our basement.

For 8 years we dreamed of doing it.  But never ever did we think it was going to impact our lives as much as it did.

For many reasons...
Good (a whole other floor of useable space in our house)
Bad (dirt everywhere for months)
or Otherwise (an incredible amount of learning)

To fully appreciate the undertaking, my ode will be split into a few posts.  This one is solely before and afters.  Because those are the best.

Entryway to the basement...the staircase:

Staircase Before

Oak loveliness After

Upon descending the narrow black staircase, you used to see this:

Green "bedroom, back storage corner (?), Blue gross bathroom

Now it's this:

TV Area

Hang a hard left after coming down the staircase and you used to see this:

Wall of yellow to the Furnace

Now you see this:

Playroom Area, Bar Nook, Laundry in Bathroom

From here, walk to your 5:00, in the corner of the TV Area at the front of the house.  In that spot, you'd have seen the view of this staircase:

Old Staircase
And be standing in this green "bedroom":
(We used this as a playroom)

From that spot, now you see this:

Staircase with Landing

Last but not least, walk into the picture above and stand next to where that bar is now.  Turn's what you would have seen in that spot:

Green "bedroom" behind Yellow wall, Blue Bathroom, Staircase

And now:

Play Area, TV Area

It took so much blood, sweat and tears.  Some of which were mine.  I'll get into the details of what we planned to do, what we actually did and how it was done in the next few posts this week.

And I'll dedicate a special post to the crown jewel - the basement bathroom.

That lady gets one all her own ;)

Friday, March 16, 2012


I'm in love with this record-breaking weather.

But I'm more in love with what I found in the garden...

Front garden - Crocuses

It's a lovely I thought everything in the front garden was dead, given the beating it took from our basement dig last year. 

More in the back


Not to mention the complete neglect I gave our back garden...which was mostly known as a dump zone for all things renovation-related.  All.  Summer.  Long. 

But with the basement done, I have plenty of time to get back to the garden.  Our dig produced some beautiful & enormous rocks - they used to be under Lake Ontario (a zillion years ago) and have great texture.  I must find space for them in the garden this summer. 

Neglect no more.  I'm so excited to pick up where I left off...!!!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Craigslisting Everything

I go in waves. 

There are times when I can't bear to get rid of anything.  But lately, I'm on a purging streak.  It's the weather.  It's Spring around the corner.  It's the crazy amount of stuff we've accumulated over the last 9 years in this house!

So instead of highlighting something I've done, how about something I've undone.

Here's the room last weekend post-paint:

And now:

Wicker Chairs Gone

The wicker chairs weren't so bad when the wall was sage green.  Or maybe I just didn't see how bad they were when everything else was bad.  But once the white wall went up, those chairs had to go. 

The other things have to go too.

Serving a Purpose

This little guy is blocking my little guy from the outlet and cable connection.  Function stays for now.


But the stool goes (in a pair - there's one on the other side - buyer coming this week), so does the sad lamp, as well as that shiny mismatched pillow.

So picture this with only the couch and window covering in place:

Getting There...

Coffee table going to my sister-in-law, rug is too small and bench is just temporary.

I have a vision and I'm on a mission. 

I may have to craigslist my kids.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Patch + Paint....Plus...

This week was soooo busy.  Weather was nice, boys were crazy and I went out with friends. 

And...we got the kitchen patching and painting done.



See the lines where the patches are?  Me neither.  It's perfect.  I'm in awe.

That's the Patch + Paint.

So here's the Plus: When we called our plumber's guy to do the kitchen ceiling, we thought about having him quote painting the rest of the rooms.  Our grand master plan for the house includes painting everything BM Cloud White, just like the basement.  Why not get the whole first floor done in one shot?

Surprisingly enough, the quote was great.  And he fit us in this past week.  Ready for a hundred amazing before and afters?


Coming In Before


Going Out


And a shot from the staircase:

I'm telling you, the narrowest spot in the house -between the living room doorway and staircase post- is actually wider now.

Walk in that living room doorway, here's the view:



The wicker chairs are going.  ASAP.  As is that lamp.

Here's a look from the same spot but to the left into the dining room.



Yes, we need something here.  The TV needs to be downsized and the stand has to go.  (Don't talk about that purple toy tub) Work in progress.

Now, walk to that opening between the living and dining room and turn around to face the living room. 


After - I love you

Right!?  Stunning.  I'm telling you, sitting here on that couch is amazing.  The room feels 10 times bigger. 

Not to mention new curtains.  The old heavy red canvas ones had to go.  It didn't help that they had a thick layer of renovation dust still sitting on top.  Whoops.  Perfect timing, since I've been dreaming of these babies from West Elm.  I got our designer-by-night's approval and picked them up the same day. 

Now look to the right, toward the front door.


After - love you too

After living with Sage Green on the walls for 9 years, it feels so liberating to have clean, fresh white walls.  I can't believe it took us that long to do it.  Must have been the six year blur of children.

And yes, we fixed that hallway patch behind the mudroom door.

Original moulding & crazy wallpaper


Our painter did an amazing patch job.  You can't see or feel where the hole was. 
At all.

He also painted the trim in the kitchen and in the mudroom.  I only got as far as the walls.  He painted the mudroom door, too.  Notice the knob.

Antique-y White

Cloud White - Black Hardware

I told him not to bother priming and painting the knob & plate.  My plan was to strip the paint back to the metal.  I had half done it on the front - then ran out of naptime...last summer.

Kinda not finished stripping

Beautiful Black

But he offered to paint it black.  It was a quick decision.  I almost regretted saying yes.  Steve hated the knob immediately upon walking in the house.  But funny enough, we both love it now.  The black knob plays off the black rotary phone on the wall and the black wrought iron frame of the hurricane hallway light.

Oh and I was ready to strip again...

Back in the house, through the living room and into the dining room.

Before - with diaper box

After - too many chairs

This room needs the most help now.  But no worries, we'll get there. 

Go left, here's the view from the hallway.

Let there be light

The bay window looks North - little light, mostly shadows.  But lucky for us, we are a key lot and see backyards instead of a brick wall of house.  With the white walls, the little natural light is so much brighter now. 

Lastly, the view from the kitchen:


After - my fave

I love this view, looking all the way into the living room.  It's just so much brighter overall now. 

Broken brighter record?

Here's another favorite of mine.  That bad light switch situation.  The switch on the left is a knob & tube kitchen light.  The double plate on the right are the new downstairs lights.  The patch in between is the we-thought-we-could-put-them-together-but-nope-it's-knob-and-tube situation left over from the basement reno. 



Much better. 

So, now it's off to craigslist.  To post almost all the furniture in these photos.  West Elm's not cheap. 

Ok, not everything.  Just the sideboard, tv stand, wicker chairs, stools, coffee table (unless you want it, sister-in-law), and lamp.  Well, not the lamp - the metal pull is broken.  Maybe we'll just post that one for free...