Plumbing is the biggest time suck...

... actually, plumbing just sucks.  Period.

Poor Dad.

He's been working on the upstairs plumbing for what seems like ages already, and hit a major snag today.  See the pretty sink with the pretty pretty taps?
The taps that it took us literally hours yesterday to assemble?  Yes, those taps.  They took up so much time (plumbing = time suck, really), that Dad didn't get them actually hooked up yesterday, so he came back today to finish them off.  Small problem...

On Off

Off On

Besides the fact the one little thingy is missing from the tap, they are actually in the wrong position.  "Off" and "on" have been swapped, and although Dad tried to convince me otherwise, I really don't think they'll work this way.

Which means the ENTIRE sink has to be disassembled to fix it.

Even dog therapy doesn't fix a day like today.  I did buy him really good chocolate, so hopefully that will help :)

At least the toilet is happy.  No really, it's very happy, see?

It is a pretty toilet...
 ...with a pretty pretty handle.  And, AFAIK, it works fines. (Here's hoping it's not hooked up to the hot water by mistake)

And look what came to live with me today!!

Let me introduce my new hot water heater.  It also isn't hooked up yet.  Which seems to be the trend with plumbing in this house...

$500 Challenge - February Edition

Yes, I know it's not February yet - but  I couldn't wait for this one!  This month's purchases were the ones I was most looking forward to... mainly because I'm a coffee snob (and some would say addict!!).

I make my coffee in an unusual manner, which came about due to my sister, who, many many many year ago, gave me this:

It's called a filter holder, and is one of the simplest ways of making coffee:  you put that on the top of your mug, add a paper cone filter, coffee, and pour boiling water into it, until your mug is full.

 My sister bought it for me, simply because she thought it would come in handy for a university student, and it was much cheaper than a "normal" coffee maker.  As you can see from the staining, it has received a lot of use, because I think it makes a truly excellent cup of coffee.  It's made to fit a #2 sized cone filter, but I use #4, solely because they are about 1/2 the cost of the #2 filters.  And yes, I do know that I should be using a reusable filter, but I do not like the sludge they leave.  Same issue with French press makers (e.g. Bodum).  I did have a Bodum I used quite often for large amounts, since this method makes only one cup at a time, until it broke.  I also have the usual coffee maker, that I tend to only use when I need to make a full pot of coffee.  (What, doesn't everyone have three different ways of making coffee in their house??)

To boil the water, I used this:

Now, 2-3 cups of coffee in the morning, generally a cup of herbal tea or hot chocolate after work (in the cold weather), and another of the same before bed, means I am using the kettle 3-5 times every day, and the filter holder 2-3 times a day.

And they are both plastic.

So these items were very high on my list to replace for this challenge.

First, the kettle.  As much as I LOVE this one, I cannot bring myself to pay that much for a kettle.  This one caught my eye (glass, cheap), until this happened:

That mug shattered in less than a second after being filled with hot water.  It was bad enough having a cup of hot water all over - I do NOT want to ever deal with a kettle full!  So, I decided on stainless steel.

I realized when I stared this challenge that the two main obstacles would be price, and country of manufacture.  What I didn't realize is how hard it would be to determine the country!  I do a lot of "shopping" on line - not necessarily buying anything, but it is invaluable to do research into the products, before you buy.  However... take that Le Creuset kettle up there.   Le Creuset makes all their products in France.  Fantastic.  Until you realize they don't - the kettle is made in Asia*.  I did find a Canadian company that makes stainless steel kettles (assuming I want to pay ~$70 for one), except they also state they import products, and are not clear on which they make, and which they import.  So if I am going to end up with an imported kettle, then I will take the simplest and cheapest route, and go to my local store to buy one, instead of paying much more (plus shipping!) on line.

Hence, my new "Betty Crocker" kettle:

FYI, I looked at some on-line reviews, and they all said the handle gets hot and the whistle is pitiful.  Neither issue is true with this kettle, so I assume the manufacturer made some changes.
And yes, that is pie in the background - apple pie.  And yes, it is good :)

As for the filter holder, I found a FANTASTIC retailer in Toronto:  Green Beanery.  (Again, to make it clear, I have received no consideration for the Green Beanery, financial or otherwise.)  All profits from the Green Beanery go to their charity, and they also supply organic and free trade coffees.  Perfect!  (I have not looked into this charity, but will if I decide to buy my coffee from them in the future).

This is a #4-sized filter holder, made from porcelain, and made in, as far as I can determine, Germany. 


It fits much better on my mugs (and really, who wants their morning to start off with coffee grounds all over their kitchen, which has happened on more than one occasion!), and fits the #4 filter perfectly - which means I can even make enough for my large thermos in one go!
Put the holder on the mug, put a filter in the holder:
 Add freshly ground, free trade, organic coffee:
Fill with hot water:
 Watch as it slowly filters through:
And enjoy a perfect cup of coffee!  (and of course, put the filter and grounds in your compost!)

Kettle: $34.98 + $4.55 tax  = $39.53
Filter holder: $18.99 + $5.50 shipping + $3.18 tax = $27.67  (I bought some coffee at the same time, and averaged the shipping costs)

Total: $67.20
Balance: $393.26
*This isn't the post to get into the discussion of overseas manufacturing, and why it's okay to buy something made in France (or Germany), but not okay to buy something made in Asia.  It's is a truly complex discussion, and I still grapple with this, but my two biggest concerns are food (and worker) safety and human rights issues.

How high is too high?

So, I got home from work yesterday, and painted the bathroom....


Yeah.  You might have seen the unpainted corner in previous pictures.  I left it unpainted, because that's where the shower stall is going. 

Apparently, one needs to prime before attaching the wall panels.  Who knew? 

And yes, it would have been so much easier to prime that area when I was priming the rest of the bathroom (grumble, grumble grumble).  So let this be a lesson to you - always prime behind your shower :)

 Look!  Primed walls!! (grumble, grumble grumble)

And I had one of those special moments in the hardware store yesterday...

I needed to buy adhesive to attach the shower panels to the wall.  My first mistake was asking for help, instead of trying to find it myself.  I told the dude I was installing a shower stall, and needed adhesive for the wall panels.

"You mean a tub surround"

No, there is no tub.  It's just a shower stall, 2 walls plus a corner.

"So, a tub surround"

  Sure, let's go with that.

"How much do you need?"

Well, it's just two walls and a corner...

(With a very concerned look on his face, and in a very soft tone of voice) "Most tub surrounds are three walls..."

I'll take two, and return the second if I don't need it.

Back at the house... fixtures!  Mind you, they aren't actually hooked up yet, but still!!!

 There is that "bad" part of the flooring - the last area I tiled, where they didn't match up exactly right.  I'm glad it's behind the toilet, and really isn't that obvious :)

 And note about the bead-board.  Most "experts" say the panelling should be 1/3 or 2/3 the height of the wall, and never half.  The upstairs room are all around 93", so 1/3 would be around 31", 2/3 around 62", and 1/2 around 46".  I think 2/3 is too high, but 1/3 wouldn't work at all - I wanted the bead-board to be higher than the sink...

... but didn't want the outlet (and light switch on the other wall) to get in the way.  So, it had to be higher than the sink, and higher than the outlets... which put it right to the centre seam of the drywall.  If it was higher than that seam, then I wouldn't have to do that seam...

So, I had Dad cut the panels in half (to 4'), and mounted them at 50.5" high (the baseboard will hide the gap at the bottom).  Once the trim at the top is on, the entire height should be around 52" - not 1/3, not 1/2, not 2/3, but a height that works for the room, and for me :)

I'm in love... with Mr. Clean

I washed the bathroom floor tonight*, and fell in love with Mr. Clean - well, actually the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.  Since I pretty much suck at tiling, there was a noticeable grout haze left on some areas of the bathroom floor.  It's been in the back of my mind that I needed to find some way to fix this, but the floor has been covered with drop cloths since then (drywall seams, painting, etc.), so it was on my "One Day" list.

Well, today I did needed to clean up the floor where the sink and toilet are going (!!!), and realized today was the day.  

Also floating around in my mind was the fact that somewhere under the kitchen sink, there was an un-used Magic Eraser.

Being the scientific type, I decided to experiment...


It worked like... um... magic.  Really.  With almost no effort, the haze is GONE!  I love it when a plan comes together!  Of course, I killed the Magic Eraser:
Rest in Piece Peace, my friend! 

Oddly enough, I'm not the first person to realize this works well :)  And just to make it clear, I received no considerations, financial or otherwise, from the makers of Mr. Clean, or any other product I complain about review in this blog.  If I ever do, after I finish screaming, I'll be sure to mention it!

And in other news:  HEY!!  LOOK!!!  It's bead board!  And plumbing!!!

*Do you know how long it's been since I washed a floor?  Okay, I have mopped the floors in this house every so often, but "renovation" and "clean floor" don't really go together, especially when all the floors are eventually being replaced...

It's getting there...

 After the primer coat...
 Starting the paint- woot!

 And after one coat - I really think I like this colour!!

It's Benjamin Moore #2047-60 Ocean Spray, for those of you interested in the real colour.  The second coat goes on in a few hours, then tomorrow, according to plan, the bead-board gets installed, and gets a second coat of white (Benjamin Moore # 869 Oxford White).  Then the shower, sink and toilet can go in :)

I think I'm going to start a betting pool, on how long I can go without getting a paint covered dog...

Good omens...

I don't believe in omens, good or bad.


When paint supplies, like tape and rollers, go on sale just as you are starting to paint...

And when buying the first of the paint goes surprising well*, and includes a discount...

And when, after buying the paint, you turn on your car, only to hear your most favourite song ever (which you haven't heard on the radio in years)...

Well, that can only be a good thing, right?


* more on paint buying later, but I was having issues with one salesman and his insistence that I could not possibly think of using the same white throughout the entire house!! 

Frugal+Green+Sustainable+Local = Impossible?

I can buy imported honey for less than Canadian honey.  I can buy Canadian honey for less than local honey.

I live in the middle of one of the most productive agricultural region of Canada, with acres of orchards, but I can't find apple juice in my local grocery store that doesn't come from China.

I can grow a lot of my own food, but preserving and storing that food takes energy.

I can afford to feed my dogs a species-appropriate diet, but I cannot afford to feed them sustainable, local meat.

I can source almost 100% of my diet locally, but the closest central "shop" is over 30 minutes away by car - each way.

I've blogged before about this issue, but it's on my mind more and more. 

Is there a balance between the four?

Is there any one "correct" way that works for everyone?

Then add a fifth element - time.
I work full time.  I have two dogs, that, while they are the best dogs on the planet (!), do require some of my time.  I'm single, so if the windows need washing, the lawn needs mowing, the garden needs tending, the house needs cleaning - I'm the one up to bat.  Groceries and laundry.  Friends and family.  Community.  Time spent researching new topics, sourcing new suppliers for the things I need to live.  And yes, time spent relaxing, on the computer, playing with the dogs, reading for pleasure, and even spent watching TV!

I know that, when (if?) the reno is done, I'll have more time, but I will never, short of winning the lottery so I don't have to work, have the time, money and ability to do everything.  Nor do I have the interest in doing everything that others do.  Maybe it's because I live in a wine region, with plenty of wines readily available, but I have no interest in wine making.  And I grew up in a family that made wine, back when that process started with buying real, live grapes - not juice!  Same as beer making - meh. And while I'll pick up a hammer, a saw, a drill, I have no interest in doing my own car maintenance.   

It seems that many things on this journey are fractals.  The more I try, the more complicated it becomes, the more offshoots, more learning, more time,  more money invested, more more more...

Learn how to bake bread?  Okay, fine, I can do that.  Oh, but now I should mill my own flour.  Spend time researching mills, finding a distributor, finding local, green, sustainable, frugal sources for wheat... what, I should grow my own wheat? 

Learning how to knit turns into learning how to spin turns into learning how to process fleece turns into learning how to raise your own flock.

You can't just make beer, you have to grow your own hops.  Making wine?  Then why aren't your growing grapes?  Gardening?  What do you mean, you don't save seed?!?!

Soap making, vinegar brewing, cheese making, baking, sewing, gardening, transportation, the list is literally endless!

Where is the balance?  What compromises need to be made?  Where do we draw the line?

What are your priorities?  How do you manage to do it all, if you do?  Is it even possible to do it all??

Grrrr... argh....

I tried a new commenting system, and it failed utterly.

We're back to normal, or at least what passes for normal around here :)

Sorry for the comment confusion, and my apologies if anyone's comments got lost :(

In the pink.

My attic is now pink.

From wall to wall, as far as the eye can see... pink.

And I am so happy!  This is the first time since I bought the house that it is adequately insulated.  The crawl space is insulated, the vast majority of the wall space is insulated (and what is left to do actually has old batt insulation, which will do for now), and finally, the attic is insulated!!  I went with blown-in fibreglass, for ease of installation and R-value: 18" has given me an R-value of 50, which is better than the previous scant foot that was there before we pulled the ceilings down!

Dad cobbled together this box for the attic access hole, and insulated it with some "scrap" insulation, kept in place with the old rope bits from the sash weights we found in the walls, left when all the original windows were replaced.  I've been wondering what to do with all those weights, but this isn't the first, nor the last, time the rope has come in handy!

The only problem with the access  hole - it's not perfectly square.  So, putting the box into the hole was... challenging :)

 This way...
 Maybe this way...
 Third time's the charm?

That dark strip of wood?  And the parts that go into the attic to form the "walls" around the access hole?  Scrap wood from my old, built-by-me bedroom furniture.  Best $200 I've ever spent, I think - that gave me a headboard, two bedside floating shelves, and a surround for my old TV, and most of the wood has now been re-used in this house.  I love recycling :)

And I cannot wait to see what my gas bills will be now!

Double fail.

As hard as I find it to make the "finished" picture in my head a reality when it comes to decorating, I find it about a million times worse to pick out paint colours.

Hence the Mint Green Bathroom of Doom in one apartment (and yes, this is why most landlords do not let tenants paint.  Sorry about ruining it for the rest of you.)

I need to pick out a paint colour for the upstairs bath, since the rest of the renos are pretty much on hold until that bathroom gets finished, and the bathroom can't get finished until I paint.*

I want a pale aqua for the walls, and white on the bead-board and all the trim.  The perfect colour of aqua, that I know is out there, and it somewhat in style right now.

A pale aqua.

Not too green, not too blue, not too light, not to dark, not too grey.

(Goldilocks ain't got nuttin' on me when it comes to being picky.)

I've been to paint stores.

I have dozens of paint chips.

I still can't decide.  So, I decided to go shopping, to look for something, anything, in the colour that is in my head, to make it easier to pick out a paint chip.

I went to three stores today after work, and finally - the PERFECT shade.  And, in a hand-towel!  (Can you say "Accessory"?).

I come home, and as is my habit, get out of my work clothes and into my "jammies"**.  I take off my shirt, and look at it.  Guess what colour it is?  No, really, go ahead and guess...

Then I come on here, and look at the main colour of the blog...

Double fail.

I still don't know exactly which colour I'll end up going with, but at least I've narrowed it down.  But really - look at the minuscule differences between all those paint chips - no wonder why it's hard!

Those are Benjamin Moore paint chips, in case anyone wants to help me pick out the perfect shade :)

* in all actuality, the bathroom can get finished before painting, but it would mean taking a lot of it apart again to paint, so it's a LOT easier to paint before installing the shower, toilet and sink.

** A sweatshirt over flannel pyjama bottoms.  No, I do not leave the house dressed like this, except to take out the garbage.

Why I put my cart before the horse.

One of my major headaches with this reno (and with life in general) is that I have a picture in my head of what I want the end result to be, but I have a hard, if not impossible, time trying to make that picture a reality.

Like trying to get the bathroom floor tile - I knew what I wanted, knew it existed, and even knew it was still being manufactured, but had a horrible time trying to find a place that sold it.

So, I tend to buy things before I need them, since I know from past experience that if I wait, the item will be gone, out of stock, discontinued, etc.

And all of the above is the justification for why I have already bought my kitchen tap (okay, there was no worry it would be discontinued, but it was on sale!).  And why I had the lights and towel bars, etc. for the upstairs bath ages before the room was even roughed-in.

And why I've already found the lights I want for the kitchen and dining rooms :)

Which, of course, is a whole other story...

I had a picture in my head of what I wanted - ribbed glass, with a silver-coloured metal - any silver-coloured metal finish would do.

The main issue was that I needed a suite of lights to go in all the areas I want - a large one over the table, a couple of pendants over the peninsula, and something to go over the sink (I also have pot lights (already bought, of course) for the area for over-all lighting).

Looking at the web sites for the big box stores, I found that, while they have lights I like, they either don't have the entire range, or don't have it on their sites.  And I'm not driving 30+ minutes each way to find out if I can get the styles I need.

So, I decide to look at independent lighting stores (oddity: while I won't drive 30 minutes to a big box store, I have no issues with driving longer than that to an independent retailer.  Hrmm.)

St. Catharines is the largest city in this area, and tends to have the most options for items like this, so I make a list of the 4 stores in the area (complete with Google maps), grab Mom, and drive on over. 

We go to the first store - small selection, some interesting things, and PRICEY!  Mom and I are the only ones in the store.  There is a guy behind the counter.  Doesn't say hi, doesn't ask if we need help... nothing.  At one point, he walked out from behind the counter and approached us... just to walk on by.

0 for 1.

Second store has gone out of business.

0 for 2.

Third store is HUGE.  Tons of lights, but no organizational theme that I can determine.  So, trying to look for kitchen lighting means walking through the entire place, picking out appropriate fixtures from all the others.  But hey!  I find something similar to what I want, but there is only one style.  Again, there are clerks walking around, but no offers to help.  I finally trap one at the counter, and explain what I'm looking for and make sure to say that, while I want a silver-coloured finish, it doesn't matter if it's chrome or brushed pewter or whatever.  I take the clerk over to the one I found, intending to ask if there are matching fixtures I can order.  The clerk looks at it, looks at me, and says "But that's a pewter finish, not chrome".

0 for 3.

Go to the fourth store, expecting the same trend to continue.  We go in, I can't find anything like what I'm looking for.  But wait.... a clerk actually approaches, and asks if he can help!  I explain what I want, he says they have none in stock, but that we can look through all of their catalogues, and they can order in anything I find.  He pulls out a bunch of catalogues, flips right to what I want in each of them, discusses different styles, etc. and gives me a photocopy of the ones I've chosen, complete with prices and his card.

Guess where I'm getting my lights from?

Now keep in mind, these stores exist to sell lighting.  They may have other decorative objects, but they are, first and foremost, lighting stores.

Their main competition is the big-box stores.  They cannot hope to compete in certain areas with the big-boxes, but they can out-do them in service and selection.  In this decidedly un-scientific sample, though, two out of three failed, and worse than any big-box store I've ever been in.

And this isn't the first time I've had experiences like this:  basically, I'm standing there, with my money in my hand, and the retailer is making it hard for me to buy from them.

I'm not asking for discounts.

I'm not asking for special treatment.

I'm asking to buy what they are selling, and they create obstacles*. 

This is one reason independent retailers, in my opinion, fail.  I don't expect the clerk in Home Despot to be able to answer my questions on lighting placement.  I DO expect their counterpart in an independent lighting retailer to able able and willing to.

* I have story after story after story about this:  like the shoe store clerk who told me if I wanted to find out if the other store in their two-store chain had the boots I was looking for in my size, I should call them myself (keep in mind, the other store was a 2 hour drive away).  I walked down the street to their competitors and bought boots there.

My favourite, though, was when I tried to buy my car - off the lot, no ordering, no financing.  The first dealership I tried told me it was a lot of work to figure out the price, and that they'd get back to me.  Six years on, I'm still waiting for that call...


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