Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sunday night cleaning task and start of the renos

I obviously live a very exciting life. Tonight, I cleaned my fridge. It had been needing a clean for a long time (esp that lip right under the door where the accumulated stuff drops/collects) but it is one of those jobs that I ALWAYS put off as long as humanely possible. 

Except tonight, I noticed the milk bag that I dropped earlier today had gotten a hole, because the drawer was full of milk. No way I could put it off. Then once I started, I couldn't stop, so I cleaned it all out, pulled all the shelves and washed them, etc. Okay, that's not fully true, I did not clean out all the door shelves, but they look okay so I'm fine with that ;)

For a job that I really seem to not like (wait, isn't that any cleaning task?), I certainly enjoy the outcome. The fridge looks amazing.

Only one bad package of pepperoni and two empty pickle jars (never did make more of this recipe) and one sour cream that had some growth. Otherwise, everything got wiped and put back.

Outcome = looks great!

What job do you put off for as long as possible?

In other, slightly more exciting news than a clean fridge, the bathroom renos started today. Sort of.

We (being my dad and me - Kirk has completely stepped back from any decisions, based on being too busy with school and too nervous about the whole thing. Total faith. Or, more likely, total resignation) decided to build a temporary bathroom in the basement so that we once we start ripping the bathroom apart, we (being Kirk, David and me!) can still be clean. Pretty important that is. We're going to leave the toilet in upstairs as long as possible (for the middle of the night don't want to go down three flights of stairs pee runs) but if we can take out the bathtub and vanity, then we can get a whole lot done before the final take out of the toilet.

It has to be temporary because of the lack of ceiling height in the basement, which is also good because then we can quickly knock it together. It will come back out again once we've finished upstairs.

Yesterday, we purchased a few supplies, including a brand-new toilet from the Restore, which has a soft-close lid (fancy! and only $60!) and some cheap lumber. Today, Dad came over in the afternoon and we knocked up some shower walls and a toilet platform and hooked a lot up. Toilet needs water hooked up (but the sewage out works) and the plumbing for the shower needs doing, but that should all be done tomorrow evening. Then we can stand-up and shower for the first time since we moved in.  And no more rain in the kitchen when hubby is showering upstairs (and no fear of the bathtub ending up in the kitchen).

I'll post up more photos tomorrow and the total cost. Once that's done, actual renos begin!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Uh Oh... time to move up the bathroom/kitchen reno!

Since the day we moved in, we've wanted/needed to do something about the bathroom. See this post for the full down and dirty on it. 

However, the thought of reno-ing and living in chaos for a while doesn't please Kirk and living without shower or toilet at all doesn't please me!

So first option was to build an extra bathroom in the basement. Once that was done, we could do upstairs main bath at our leisure, since we'd have downstairs....

Except, we don't have enough height clearance. Regulations for renovations state it has to be a certain height, once the floors are in, and we just don't have that much space. Not off by much but enough that it complicates everything.

We also don't want to spend too much money on this house, as it isn't the house we will live in forever. Even if we do stay in Canada, we wouldn't want to stay in here. It is a solidly built, good starter home, but not a forever home, for us anyways.

So we've been debating how to do the bathroom upstairs, as quickly and minimally invasive as possible. We I started planning - looking at tiles yesterday in fact. I knew the kitchen ceiling would need to come down at some point to access the bathroom plumbing (and because it was waterstained in some spots. But getting home from the tile shop to rain falling in my kitchen was not quite was I was expecting.

Uh Oh.

The weird gap next to the bathtub and a big guy in a bathtub trying to get water over his chest because he feels sick and wretched = wet floor = water going through the floor into the kitchen ceiling.

I pulled down one section of the ceiling board. Water poured out. Ugh.  

I also noticed that the ceiling board was nailed to strips of pine placed OVER the original painted plaster ceiling. Double ugh. 
So the layers are as follows: Ceiling joists. Lathe strips. Thick plaster on the lathe strips. Green paint. Pieces of wood nailed into the plaster. Ceiling board nailed into those strips.  Oh my.

The plaster in the area where it leaked had obviously fallen down years ago and all came crashing down with the board. In the further half of the kitchen, it was fine, but it all needed to come down for when we replaced the ceiling.

So last night, my father came over and before I had a chance to put anything much away, proceeded to rip out my entire kitchen ceiling. It was dusty and messy but needed to be done. Once done, there was a 10 cm layer of plaster chunks on the floor, boards everywhere which I piled outside for a fire and fne plaster dust on everything. He left around 9:30 by which time we had the most of it cleaned and then I finished cleaning until 11:30. Actually the kitchen is probably cleaner than it has been for a while!

So we now have only joists exposed and we can now see the state of the bathroom plumbing. Old and not good (which we knew because of the sink constantly being plugged).

On top of that, we've found out we've got mainly old knob wiring. All of which will need to be replaced, otherwise we'd trip a fuse every time we turn on more than one appliance (esp once we add a bathroom fan). Plus it just isn't safe. However, since everything is exposed, it will be much cheaper and easier to run new wire through out the majority of the house. Which means a new electrical panel but better for resale too.

I'm not sure yet what the order of things is, but I need to design my kitchen soon, because the stack (for venting the sewage gases) runs behind the kitchen counters and so that will need to be accessed before I can reno the bathroom. Essentially it all has to happen at around the same plan.

I want to be as prepared as possible and have all my ducks in a row. A lot to do but once it is done, it will be awesome. Especially to finally have a shower in our house!!

You'll be hearing more about it very soon. I can promise you that! So much so that you'll be sick of it.

Wait, wasn't this once a running/getting fit blog?!...

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Life is busy, but life is good

Life is good:

I'm not running, but I'm creating and enjoying finding that creativity again.

I'm not rich, but we're not poor. We've got a new plan to get our Aussie mortgage down from 23 more years to 15 years - the joys of compound math working in our favour for once. Hopefully we can meet those goals.

David just got the all clear for another two years from his cardiologist today. Another blessing. His heart is healthy and strong and that is amazing. From chest cut open, bypass machine for 55 minutes and with 25 wires and tubes coming in and out of his body at only 7 days old, to a healthy 5 1/2 year old boy with no meds, no restrictions, and a love of life. Blessed indeed.  (For more about David, you can read this post if interested).

I'll post more soon about my creativity lately (mostly to do with sewing) but I can't really share any pictures until the present gets overseas. No spoilers!

Speaking of spoilers, Homeland this week got me good - I did not see that plot twist coming - such a fun show. Glee made me cry the other week with the tribute episode. I've got 5 or 6 episodes of Amazing Race to catch up on with hubs once he is back to the land of normalcy with his crazy crazy schedule right now. And a whole Amazing Race Canada to watch. Grey's is ticking along. And How I met your Mother is hopefully not going to spend the entire last season on the hours before the wedding, right? That would be really awful, since they are 5 episodes in on that storyline, not to mention from end of last season. I have a love/hate relationship with that show and will be happy when it finally wraps up!  And I keep watching Criminal Minds when I'm home alone and freaking myself out. Oh, and I watched Bones on the plane on my laptop the other day, when they completely pulled the skin off a skull. I felt sorry for anyone accidentally glancing at my screen from behind me!! What are you watching these days?

That's all for now, just wanted to share David's news.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Looking forward to house guests!

On Friday night, our first house guests arrive for the weekend. They've been in a number of places around the US and decided they were "close enough" to visit - which is SO exciting, cause really, Thunder Bay is not close enough to anything much in the States except the actual border!

That got me thinking about all the different things I'd like to do before they arrive - most of which are unlikely to happen, seeing as we are now Thursday morning and I have to even work tonight for an hour or so.

I do HAVE to do a few things (likely Friday afternoon in a panic!) such as organise my niece to watch my son while I pick them up from the airport (it's too late for him, which will make him a wreck the next day, defeating any fun we might have). We've definitely got to move his mattress into the office between the desks and put his bed up on it's side. Move all of his toys out of the way...

... SHEETS! I need another set of Queen sheets, because the blow-up mattress (which is hopefully still decent after a non-camping year) is Queen size and I only have one set of sheets. I'm pretty sure I have enough blankets. Is that terrible that I have only one set of sheets at the moment?!

While I know our visitors fairly well, she's even stayed with me once when David was quite little but her husband hasn't and because they live in the same city as my father-in-law, we of course always stay with him. However, they are easy going and they are certainly not silly enough to expect the Hilton. I frankly don't have time to clean the house from top to bottom and with my husband working nights now on top of school during the day, he doesn't either. It will be clean but likely somewhat messy and I'm okay with that. And if they judge my fridge's cleanliness - I'm actually finally starting to think I should do something about it :) - then they can judge away.

I am just so excited to catch up with them and show them my city and the surrounding beauty - hopefully the cold weather that is out west stays away - we've had gorgeous fall days here this week - with weather of 23 C each afternoon and all the leaves looking so amazing.

I'll hopefully post some photos Monday evening. Have a great weekend, with or without visitors!

Monday, September 23, 2013

10K Miles with the Giant - wallowing time is over

If you've been reading for a while, my goal for the 10K Miles with the Giant Thunder Bay Marathon was to beat my previous time. Hopefully by a bunch.

So that didn't happen. I didn't feel it, I didn't have a "fire in my belly" or whatever.

I struggled throughout to get my groove and I don't think I ever found it. I was playing Cat and Mouse with a woman named Diane who was mostly steadily running and I was doing my usual run/walk and kept pace with her the whole way. Another woman, who passed me near the turn-around, I kept trying to catch her and just quite couldn't - she finished with my time from last year, so had I caught her, I would've had the same time.

But in the end, I finished and I had a big sprint to the end, both of which make me feel better.

I was feeling ├╝ber-dejected yesterday and wondering what the point of running was anyways (since I was now sore, two blisters on each foot and exhausted). I may even have told my husband I was going to give up running - to which he asked what else I would do. I suggested nothing and getting fat and lazy sounded perfectly acceptable. He didn't agree, strangely enough ;)

I posted on facebook about my results (203rd, 4th last in gender, 2nd last in age group, almost 4 mins slower than last year) and got some great positive responses, for which I am very grateful.

But the absolute best response was from a virtual friend that I "met" through the Move More Eat Well class last year and I follow her blog and we are friends on, so I can see her activities and comment, and she can do the same. That second comment almost made me cry and made me reevaluate my dejection. Aren't virtual friends awesome?!

So wallowing is done and now I am once again aiming to start over, start again and get better. I need to work on running without walking - once I can accomplish that, I am sure I will be a whole lot faster, because when I do run, I am pretty fast!!

Onwards and upwards. Thanks for the support, thanks for reading. And esp, thanks Katie!!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

My brand new home-sewn 'Lady Skater' dress!

Last night, I was up way too late, hemming a skirt. Not a fun activitiy, but I couldn't stop, because I was "this" close to finishing.  Because it was a dress I was sewing!  First time ever and I realised I wanted to wear it to work the next day, because I was that excited.

So I finished it, slept (not long enough), and wore this to work the next day (today) with the blazer:

And without:

I loved making it! I have never sewn a dress before. Well, I think I may have sewn a dress with tight floral cotton material with lace at the collar (really!) back in the early 90s but I am sure my mother helped me with a lot of it. And it was awful in dark blue with tiny yellow flowers with darts and zippers and all that stuff and long and totally unflattering I'm sure.

I have never bought knit material before. Or not intended too - I accidentally bought a mtr or so of soft bamboo knit years ago and now am itching to find a top to turn it into.

I do know how to sew, but I'm a quilter, not a clothes-maker, so I wouldn't have believed I could do this this fast!

So how did I make the leap and what did it cost and all those other fun questions?

Well, I saw the post on "Delia Creates" blog about the pattern first on Friday night. I just loved the look of it right away and she sews a lot and had great things to say about the pattern. But it wouldn't have made me buy the pattern. But when I clicked on the pattern link (Kitschycoo: Lady Skater Pattern) it was the dress of the blue/black circles (top middle close up and also 2nd down in the third column) that made me buy it. Right away. Looked totally like something I would wear, similar body shape, etc, etc. So I bought it right away! $10ish CDN later (Amanda lives in Scotland, so the price is listed in pounds), I downloaded the file (when you buy it, it talks about that it will be shipped soon, but you get an email instantly that you can now download the file) and started reading through the very detailed instructions.

Saturday afternoon, I went to Fabricland and found the perfect material pretty quickly - I LOVE teal and also knew I didn't want a plain colour and also knew that non-directional busy material would hide more sins that stripes or anything else. Folks, this material was $3 a metre, down from $15!!! I figured if I totally bombed it, the $7.50 I spent on it wouldn't really matter. I also bought thread since it was on special and clear elastic and stretch needles for my sewing machine. So a few extra costs for this time, but I'll use the pattern and of course the needles again, so they don't fully count towards the cost of the dress. Basically, the dress cost me $10!

I then printed the pattern that night, taped it together as per the instructions and cut out the individual pieces roughly. Based on the measurements she provides, I figured I was a 6 in her sizes in the top and a 7 in the bottom. Amanda, the pattern designer, advises that if you are taller or shorter than 5"5', that you should adjust the bodice size. I was too nervous and didn't and in hindsight, I should've just slightly lengthened it, since it sits just not quite in the right spot.

I cut out the armbands and neckband and front and back bodice pieces, nothing dramatic there.

Having never worked with knit material before, I was mildy freaking out after reading about how it can twist and such - you have to get the grain right "or else" and so I posted on her blog's beginner sewing with knits tutorial page about not being such which way was the right way to be cutting out the later pieces. You can see her response in the comments. It was late and my computer was being silly and hence I posted it three times. Sigh.

Then I think on Sunday night, I sewed the front and back bodice and neckband and was pretty excited how smooth it went, since Amanda's instructions were (mostly) quite clear. I would add that she doesn't really explain in the pattern that the clear elastic is used as a stabilizer, so I was confused when sewing that into the shoulders, because I wasn't sure what it was going to be for - but it was mentioned in someone else's blog post and that then made it more clear. Got to love the internet!  The top pieces now looked like they would never fit me (looked so small) but I trusted the stretch and it was all good.

The neckline with the neckband was surprisingly easy to sew (be warned, the stretch stitches use a lot more thread than normal sewing) and it looks SO professional - adding the extra top stitch around it just makes all the difference. I'll try to see if I can add a close-up photo of the neckline later.

I definitely lengthened the skirt piece by adding in a piece as she advises here and I'm very glad I did. I could've even gone another 5 cm or so. Next time.  I also did baste the side seams with a regular straight stitch (not stretch stitch), so that i could try on the dress and make any adjustments and I'm glad I did - not because I made any adjustments but because it made me SO excited to be wearing a dress that I had just made! It gave me the motivation to finish it right away.

Since I was determined to finish it, I decided not to use the armbands on the sleeves, but instead just hemmed them and that is totally fine - they sit right in my elbow anyways, so who would know. Plus I like it without.

I also think the back hem is slightly shorter than the front and again, I'm okay with that - barely noticeable - I think it has something to do with my less-than-careful transition between the size 6 upper and 7 bottom. Not worried at all.

Hemmed it without pre-ironing or pinning (it was late and I didn't really care) and it's so forgiving, it is perfectly fine. The stitching is somewhat crooked in a few places, but meh...

Totally in love with the dress, I plan to make another one very soon (thinking in a fall orangey colour) and I also want to make a bunch of three-quarter length tops, by adjusting the pattern to be a top only. Great for adding to my work-wear options (I am SO not a shopper, so this is fab) and why not, if it works and didn't take too long!?

Overall comments on the pattern/process:
  • If you have at least some sewing skills (such as, you have cut out pattern pieces before, can use your sewing machine, etc), give it a try - I'm so glad I did!
  • The dress is super comfortable to wear (though a wee bit short for me) and I will definitely be making another. I love the way the skirt is a bit full and has a lovely "swing" to it.
  • The pattern could use a bit of minor editing, such as when within a step listing multiple steps, to separate them out a bit clearer, perhaps using 1 a. b. c. within for the sub-steps - easier to not miss things. For example, when it explained to sew on the clear elastic to the shoulders, it also listed to do the same for the front and back bodice, which I didn't notice. Luckily I remembered reading on someone's blog review that the elastic in the waist line helped keep the shape, so I went back and found that missed step and adjusted accordingly. 
So now that I've made my first ever dress, the world of sewing is my new oyster, as they say. Getting off the computer so much at night and into the sewing room has been great. Nice stress reliever and feels so good to accomplish it.

I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Under the front porch

It was a very dirty Sunday afternoon. As in, washed my hair three times and I still found a twig stuck in it when it was dry... I had spent the afternoon under the front porch sliding around on the sand under the beams.

I'm not planning on it being a regular thing or anything and I was REALLY glad there happened to be no skeleton down there (aka the opening of 'Bones' every week) but I was also really sad that previous homeowners hadn't forgotten any gold bars/coins/secret treasure down there. Nothing quite that exciting.

It was a bit exciting though. My dad borrowed my brother's concrete saw and took to the stucco with calm and power. I was petrified simply when he started it, so I am glad I didn't have to do it. I like my power tools but that was a bit much.

The house didn't fall down and in fact, we were very impressed with the quality of construction and the size of some of the porch beams. The stucco/concrete was about an inch thick and stayed perfect. Looks like it was built at the same time as the house, the way the main beams extend into the basement.

So why are we cutting out an access hole into our front porch? The floor gets cold. No wonder - no insulation at all and folks, we get snow, snow and snow and can get down to -40 C (though -40F is the same temp...). Even the last few weeks, with autumn making an appearance, the temp in the front room has dropped.

Yet we don't want to shut the front door (because it needs a window to let light in the front room. Trying to make the porch at least a 3-season porch instead of just summer seems like a good investment.

Now that we had cut out the concrete and taken out the boards, all there was left was to climb inside. It was incredibly sandy and cobwebby and dusty. We then measured the space between the joists, to cut the insulation sheets to match. I cut the first few and cut so crooked that I went in the hole and dad cut instead (which worked out well because his lungs had much more trouble coping with the dust).

We passed the pieces in, pressed them into the joist gaps and kept going. By the end, probably around 2 hours, we had done all the side walls and all the floor joists, with the exception of one small corner that was behind a beam because it was fairly impossible to access.

That was it for the more expensive insulation sheets and I was exhausted and FILTHY! My white bra, which was under my shirt of course, was brown. Completely brown on the outside.

Now the plan is for me to put a second layer on the floor ones with cheaper insulation (well free really, since dad had some left) and glue it to the first layer, as well as on the outer walls. Then seal off all the gaps with caulking, and it will keep out any cool drafts as much as possible. We definitely already noticed the difference on Monday morning which is so exciting.

For now, we've put the concrete back in the hole, held in place with a wedge of old wood. Once the inside is all done, I'll add to gate bolts, allowing access in future if needed, but caulk and paint around the hole so it isn't so obvious.

Hopefully one more day this upcoming weekend and then that's another job to be marked "completed" on the House Projects list.

Actually, I did resolve two further jobs on that list - I cut the holes for the deadbolt and lock on the front door a bit better, so they locked properly! And then I added the weather stripping around the front door... and now the door doesn't close properly... sigh...