[sticky entry] Sticky: In the beginning...

Dec. 9th, 2010 12:41 pm
the_plan: (Default)
My darling husband, James, and myself - well it all started in 2004 when we met online. We married in 2006, and moved to Newfoundland where we bought this house in 2008.

But all that is contained in my other journals. This journal details the our ongoing adventures in building our life together here in Newfoundland - literally. Our many adventures in real estate, renovations, building, renting, buying, selling, all towards a lofty goal.

We've always worked on a 5 year plan - "The Plan ®". "The Plan ®" has always been an ever evolving thing and it changes and grows and mutates, but it's always been a looking ahead to where we want to be 5 years from now. Of course where we get 5 years from now may be a very different place.

Mostly this is the story of a life in renovation.

However, PLEASE, this is in no way ever to be construed as professional advice. Many entries will be tagged "making the mistakes so you don't have to". We're just a couple of reasonably capable, reasonably intelligent, fairly dedicated 'Do-It-Yourself'ers. There are many jobs, many times, when we will be consulting with the professionals and I highly encourage you to as well. Still with a little common sense, and a good bit of planning there's a lot you can do for yourself.
the_plan: (Kitchen)
James and I have for the past couple years made a habit of Friday night 'Pizza and a Movie Night' - occasionally it gets moved about for something the kids have on, but as a family it's one of our favourite traditions.

For a while it was frozen pizzas, (yuck), then moved on to 'make your own' with pre-made crusts, not bad but it could get expensive with the crusts being $5 each and not the best pizza crust. Then Fleishmanns came out with a Pizza Yeast. It's an instant yeast - no wait for a rise knock down rise again routine. At the time I was still struggling with mastering yeast breads so the whole no wait thing was good. I found the product worked beautifully, with my stand mixer (goddess bless Kitchen Aid) kneading was no longer an issue. The whole weekly Pizza and a Movie night, now expanded into make your own pizza and a movie night. It became a family event - us and the kids (and the dogs - who yes do get their own pizza) gather in the kitchen and build and cook and talk together ... and then watch a good movie complete with theatre popcorn!

Since the beginning of the pizza building I've had a fairly standardized routine of what I put on pizza - a pretty standard pedestrian pepperoni, red onion, roasted red pepper, green olives (I can *never* get the jars of sliced kalmatas), and a mozzarella/edam mix of shredded cheese. However, life being what it is last week my Kitchen Aid died *sob*, she broke a gear and literally came grinding to a halt. Wasn't entirely sure what I was going to do for pizza this week. In the meantime there was a thread running on the Food Network Canada forums about "What's On Your Pizza?", and I started thinking about all the kinds of pizza sorta flavours I like. It threw me out of my comfortable rut (hey there is nothing WRONG with my standard pizza!) and got me thinking about doing something different (just to mix it up).

First the crust. I've had a lot more success with bread recipes of late. In fact I have a few that I'm becoming quite comfortable and even proud of. Some of those are 'no knead' breads. So with the mixer on the fritz and a bit of time on our hands I thought about using a focaccia dough. I'd had a lot of success with that one in the past. Ok well it wasn't a 'no knead' recipe, if I was gonna have to knead anyway why not use my standard pizza crust recipe? Well... I wanted to try something different, and if I can make my pizza crust work with standard yeast then I can forgo at least ONE bottle of yeast in the fridge (we currently have 4 - traditional, bread machine, quick rise, and pizza - I'm thinking I'm gonna drop the bread machine one pretty soon too).

So for the crust I pretty much just copied straight out of the recipe I snagged from Chef Michael Smith's Chef at Home:
2 cups bread flour
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar
1 tbsp traditional yeast
1 generous cup water

olive oil
toppings of your choice

Mix the first 5 ingredients in a mixer fitted with a dough hook. (or mix by hand and knead) till smooth and elastic. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size. (approx 1 hr). Punch down the dough and then roll out on a well floured surface to approx 1/4 inch in thickness. Transfer the flat bread to a baking sheet that's been generously sprinkled with corn meal (to prevent sticking.

Without the mixer it was a 10 minute knead on a floured board (it did pick up a fair bit more flour - it is a sticky dough). I only did a single rise, and then punched it down, cut the dough in half and rolled each half out to fit a 12" pizza pan. I found it a bit stickier and trickier to work with, and the recipe does make a fairly thin crust pizza, (the cornmeal is the shizzle!) there was some stretching and patting and repairage of holes... but all in all it was a very nice crust.

James stuck with his usual tomato sauce, pepperoni, red onion, roasted red peppers with mozzarella/edam shredded cheese. However, this was the point where I really wanted to play. I brushed the crust with a light drizzle of olive oil, rubbed some crushed garlic into it, a couple of tablespoons of hot salsa for a sauce, some chunks of fresh tomato, some hot spanish chorizo sausage sliced thin, a good handful of rough chopped cilantro, some red onion, a bit of roasted red peppers, and some whole pitted kalmata olives, sprinkled the whole thing with sea salt and finally I sliced some mini bocconcini cheese, and just a dusting of shredded asiago.

Bake at 425°F for 16 minutes... and the results were DELIGHTFUL
This was one of the nicest pizzas I've had in a long time. LOADS of flavours, all working well together; there was some heat, but not too much or over powering. It was 'just right'.

Honestly I still like a thick crust pizza, and I will inevitably try this again with more dough for the crust. I'd also like to do this with a pizza stone. Of course I also want eventually to build a big wood/charcoal brick BBQ with a built in bread/pizza oven, but I think the BBQ pizza will be for another day. I think though that my experimentation with pizza has only just begun.
the_plan: (Why Me?)
And probably someday I'll learn something about it.... but the amount of effort required to learn the particular itty bitty bit of code I need ... is disproportionate to the effort it'll save by having it.

Spent all day buggering around with Canada Post's website trying to work out simple tables for shipping costs. Eventually we'll add a nice little shopping cart to the site - but right now that's a bit more trouble than it's worth. *sigh* So the plan was - now that we've worked out packaging and weights for the glassware for http://www.cafenewf.ca I'd do a nice simple chart for the website for shipping and handling costs. Surprisingly US was easier - there's only 51 states - and they all fit into one of 7 shipping regions. Working that out was fine. I got a nice chart - look up the state, see your shipping region code letter, go to the chart and see how much the glassware you want to order will cost to ship. Unfortunately Canada - while there are only 7 shipping region rate codes that apply they're based on postal code, not provinces. Makes sense, every province has remote regions that cost more to ship to. So having gone through it all, found the rate codes, found the pricing tables for those codes, worked out the fuel surcharges, and the applicable taxes.... there's just no way to nicely incorporate it into the website. Sure I can work out a nice table for the 7 shipping regions. But there's no nice way to look up what code applies to the customer's postal code. I have a lovely comma separated values list - and turning that into a widget where customer plugs in the first 3 digits of their postal code, and it then tells them you're in rate A or rate G which they could then just look at the chart.......

Yeah, it's a simple goofy widget of code. Piece of piss for a first year programming student. Which I'm not. Honestly you'd think Canada Post would already have this code written (and they do - you can look up any parcel rate for anywhere on THEIR web site (that's how I've been manually quoting). However, they don't seem to have any information on such a nifty little piece of code, or even a nice little widget button the small business owner could add to their website that would use their own code and website to give our consumers the information they require. Maybe if I call their 'Business Sales Rep' office they could point me in the direction of something simple to make our little lives a little easier and more expedient. You'd think they'd have it in the Small Business 'Online Business Centre', where all the other little helpful tools like printing out one's own shipping / stamp / postage - self shipping options and tools are.

For now I guess we can post the little US and International charts, but Canadian customers will have to email us for a shipping quote.... and THAT makes me feel stupid.
the_plan: (Seal Cove)
Didn't get nearly as much work done outside this weekend as I'd hoped - considering the weather was fine. Still we got 2 of the rugs pressure washed, and some trees trimmed. However, it did mean wanting to get an early start today before the sun got too hot. I know some of you Aussies are laughing at me calling 21°C "hot", but with the full sun beating down it's still plenty warm for yard work.

It did make for a beautiful morning in the garden though - hat, sunglasses, SPF 45, and bug spray and I actually got in a good 3 hours - which was the plan. Grant you, last night not really cooling off till after midnight, and we two being night owls by nature anyway, we didn't get to bed 'early' as planned. Still for us to be up, dressed, fed, and in the yard by 9am (an hour later than I'd originally planned), is really not all that bad. Work through the cool of the morning, lunch, and nap through the heat of the afternoon.

So the brush from the tree trimming is cleared, the bushes round the edge of the forest have been beaten back, weeding is done, a few more plants in, the lawn mostly mowed, and the edges mostly weed whacked. The yard looks far less like the forest is taking it over now. We managed to lose the soap nozzle for the pressure washer - still looking for it in the grass, so the other two rugs, and the outdoor furniture cushions will have to wait. Still once the sun is round the other side we should be able to finish pressure washing the deck.

Cool drinks, bacon and cheese sammiches, and an afternoon nap are now in order.
the_plan: (Welcome to the Kitchen)
This one was inspired by FoodNetwork.ca's June Cooking Club Challenge, which was in turn inspired by an episode of Top Chef Canada. So with that in mind, and with a nod to Canada Day this week - I took a classic Greek breakfast pastry made with phyllo pastry and Canadianized it by glazing it with maple syrup (instead of the traditional powdered sugar).


2 eggs, room temperature
2 egg yolks, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups whole milk
1/2 cup semolina (farina)
1 cup butter, cut into bits
1 lemon, juice and zest
1 vanilla bean pod or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 454 gr boxes phyllo pastry, thawed, covered with dampened towel
melted butter
maple syrup

Slice vanilla bean pod open and scape the seeds out, add seeds and pod to the milk. Heat milk in medium pot until hot but not boiling.

Beat eggs until frothy; beat in sugar until thick and foamy, about 4 minutes. Remove milk from the heat and whisk slowly into egg mixture.

Return the custard mixture back to pot and set on medium-low heat; cook, stirring constantly, about 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle in semolina slowly whisking the whole time.

Reduce heat to low, stir constantly, until custard is thick and smooth, about 5-6 minutes. Add the pieces cut up butter, continue to whisk until butter is fully melted and beat into the mixture. Add the zest of one lemon, and squeeze in the juice too. Whisk to combine

Cover custard surface with a piece of plastic wrap and allow to cool completely.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Unroll your package of phyllo, keep a damp kitchen towel handy to cover the waiting sheets while you build your pastry.

Place first sheet of phyllo on a work surface, with narrow end facing you. Brush lightly with melted butter. Lay a second sheet on top of the first. Brush again with melted butter. Continue until you have a layer of approximately 8-10 sheets of phyllo.

Place approximately 2/3 cup of custard into the centre of your prepared phyllo, spread out to approximately 1 1/2 inches from the long sides and 3 inches from the short sides (vaguely squarish).

Fold right and left sides (long sides) of phyllo from the edge of the custard towards centre. Fold the top and bottom (short sides) of the phyllo from the edge of the custard towards the centre - till they meet and slightly overlap.

Brush top with butter. Gently lift the pastry and turn and place folded side down on a buttered baking sheet. Brush the top with butter.

Continue to make phyllo and custard packets until you run out of pastry, or custard or both.

Bake until golden-brown, about 15-18 minutes.

Drizzle warm pastry with maple syrup and spread gently over the top with pastry brush

Let cool 20 minutes before serving.

Cut into 9 or so equal squares using a pizza wheel or mezzaluna. Use a wide spatula to transfer the cut pieces to a plate. Serve warm.
the_plan: (Welcome to the Kitchen)
Last night's adventure in "WHAT DO WE HAVE IN THE FREEZER?"

Chicken thighs are pretty innocuous - you can do anything with them. Sometimes that kind of choice can actually stifle creativity - you can get overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices.

I think I ended up with with a bit of a 'Red' theme, peppers and the port wine comes in a lovely dark red labelled bottle. (Wolf Blass Reserve Tawny Port)

It's been so cool and damp this week I'd been craving something hearty and warm and ... stew like. So I started with chicken thighs, port wine seemed like a nice choice (hey it always is!) and went from there....

Port Wine and Roasted Red Pepper Braised Chicken

6-9 chicken thighs
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion - diced
2 carrots - diced
1 stalk celery - diced (I was out of celery and replaced this with 1 tsp celery seed - it worked but a stalk of celery would be better)
3 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
chili powder
2 roasted red peppers (brush peppers with canola oil and roast in a hot oven, or on a hot BBQ grill, cool, remove skins, and slice thinly)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 cup port wine

season chicken thighs with salt, pepper, basil and tarragon. Heat olive oil in a heavy (cast iron enamel works wonderfully) casserole or dutch oven. Brown chicken pieces in oil, then remove and set aside. Add onions carrots and celery to the pot and cook till onions are softened and translucent. Add the red wine vinegar and stir to deglaze the pan, add garlic, bay leaves, roasted red peppers, and port wine. Sprinkle a light amount of chili powder on the chicken thighs and add them back into the pan. Roast in an 350°F oven for 1 hr.

Serve over fragrant rice like basmati or jasmine, or a broad egg noodle.

Asparagus - blanch in boiling salted water for 5 minutes or just until bright green. Plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking and preserve the colour. To reheat heat 2 tbsp sesame oil in a saute pan over high heat, add asparagus and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Toss in the pan to heat through, add a small squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and a sprinkle of course salt.

For dessert I wanted a bit of warm fragrant spice as well, and reworked a simple Chef Michael Smith fruit pudding.

Place 2 cups of frozen mixed berries in a 2 qt sauce pan, add 1 cup orange juice (or as suits - I had orange guava passionfruit.. *shrug*). Add 1 small dried chili, 1 3" piece of cinnamon stick broken into two, 1 tbsp lemon peel, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 3 cloves, 1/4 tsp all spice, 1 vanilla bean pod (open, scraped and cut into two pieces), and 2 tbsp port wine. Simmer over medium low heat for 5-10 minutes or until berries are soft and disintegrating.

Strain mixture through a fine sieve, reserving the juice, and working the pulp to save as much juice as possible. Set aside 2-3 tbsp of the juice, return the rest of the juice to the pot. Add 2 tbsp of cornstarch into the reserved juice - stir well. Whisk the cornstarch slurry into the pot of juice. Simmer over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and translucent. Remove from heat. Pour into 4 dessert bowls, and cool in fridge. Serve with a small dollop of whip cream, or a spoonful of vanilla ice cream

Next up...

Jun. 15th, 2011 08:57 pm
the_plan: (Seal Cove)
The family room...

Spent most of my prep time cleaning up the mess from other jobs. Sorting away tools and electrical bits, and the messes the cats had made of so many things. New cushions will be needed for the wicker furniture, and we lost the sofa bed completely .... I think once we move psycho kitty will have to become a barn cat. It's just too expensive.

We have managed to save the rug - the pressure washer is a GOD SEND! I'd have never gotten it clean with just the steam cleaner, but the pressure washer, with the steam cleaner to take out the water worked da bomb! So much so I used it again on the dogs' rug - which wasn't as bad, but was still fulla a ton of mud.

There really isn't too much to be done here. Paint out the windows and door frames to match the baseboards and casings, fix the couple small patches of wallpaper border where the cats have chewed at it, change over the switches and receptacles to the new ivory decor type, replace the patio doors with the new ones, paint the new patio doors, paint new interior door, replace interior door, and then replace the laminate flooring with the new bamboo. I may or may not paint out the cat condo. We've already replaced the little dome lighting with nice white lighted ceiling fans. At least all the heavy stuff is out, nothing I can't move/shuffle from one side of the room to the other in order to get the flooring done.

Part of the problem has been that this room has never been used much. Oh the kids used it at times for video games, and the cats lived there, but James and I really took to using it to store stuff. And with the gates up to keep the dogs out of the cats it was a bit of a pain to use it. I never really did figure out a better gating system and with all the windows and doors it was a bit of an awkward room to lay out. Then it got to be a great mess...

Once we're done in here though, I think I'll set it up as a craft room. Get my two big sewing tables set up in the TV corner, move the freezer to the garage, set up the seating and the TV down that end of the room, with my herb garden on the bakers' rack, and a small potting table for plants. This will give me a lot more reason to use the room daily, and keep a closer eye on what nonsense the cats are up to.
the_plan: (Welcome to the Kitchen)
He knows me soooooooooooooooooooo well! He understands all my obssessive fetishish behavoirs and loves...

We went to Michael's today hunting for a bottle cutter (did not find), when he found on sale for 50% off the perfect birthday pressie for me! So I get my goodie a month early..

Tools! Baking! Decorating! Little bespoke organizational doors and drawers!

the_plan: (Welcome to the Kitchen)
There's nothing quite as satisfying as food made from ingredients from your own garden...

Strawberry Rhubarb Coffee Cake:

3 cups cut rhubarb
16 oz strawberries
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup corn starch

3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup butter
1 cup buttermilk
2 lightly beaten eggs
1 tsp vanilla

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup butter

In a saucepan combine the rhubarb and strawberries, cover and cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice. Combine the sugar and corn starch; add to the fruit mixture. Cook and stir 4 to 5 minutes, or until thickened and bubbly and the sauce is slightly translucent. Set aside to cool.

In a food processor bowl combine the first measures of flour and sugar with the remaining dry ingredients cut in the butter and pulse till the mixture looks like fine crumbs. Pour into a large mixing bowl. Mix together the milk eggs and vanilla and add all at once to the dry mixture. Stir together just until well moistened.

Spread half the batter in a greased 9x13x2 baking pan. Spread the cooled fruit mixture over the batter. Spoon the remaining batter in small mounds on top of the fruit filling.

In the food processor bowl combine the 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup flour, and 1/4 cup butter, pulse till the mixture looks like fine crumbs. Sprinkle crumbs liberally over the top of the batter.

Bake for 40-45 minutes.

(recipe from Better Homes and Gardens -All Time Favourite Bread Recipes)
the_plan: (Seal Cove)
Let's play another round of 'Let's Guess The Flower!"

In other green news - the wild rhubarb hiding behind the stables has taken off like a mad thing again!!

Darned good thing we love rhubarb - I got some strawberries on sale this week, so I suspect there's a strawberry rhubarb crumble coffee cake coming tonight :)

In honour of happy surprises in our little patch of forest

Wild Strawberries
By Shel Silverstein

Are Wild Strawberries really wild?
Will they scratch an adult, will they snap at a child?
Should you pet them, or let them run free where they roam?
Could they ever relax in a steam-heated home?
Can they be trained to not growl at the guests?
Will a litterbox work or would they leave a mess?
Can we make them a Cowberry, herding the cows,
Or maybe a Muleberry pulling the plows,
Or maybe a Huntberry chasing the grouse,
Or maybe a Watchberry guarding the house,
And though they may curl up at your feet oh so sweetly,
Can you ever feel that you trust them completely?
Or should we make a pet out of something less scary,
Like the Domestic Prune or the Imported Cherry,
Anyhow, you’ve been warned and I will not be blamed
If your Wild Strawberry cannot be tamed.


Jun. 8th, 2011 04:25 pm
the_plan: (Default)
Be still my beating heart...
My Gravenstein Apple tree is blooming!

the peach trees... not so much, one tiny tiny bud... but at least they're growing, new twigs new leaves... they haven't given up on me.
the_plan: (Welcome to the Kitchen)
Last week's focaccia bread:

Kinda got me slash dotted when the Food Network community admins posted the picture to their FaceBook account. Cool exposure... but I looked a git when the recipe wasn't there.

The recipe was snagged off Chef Michael Smith's show Chef At Home - so I figured the recipe was already on the website.

Anyway... I'm out of trouble now, and the bread is a real winner. Chef Smith did his with fresh basil, tomato and thinly sliced parmasan cheese. I did mine with fresh rosemary (it was what I had), tomato, olive and asiago cheese.

Took this from Chef At Home - the Birthday Lamb episode from Series 1.

2 cups bread flour
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar
1 tbsp traditional yeast
1 generous cup water

olive oil
toppings of your choice

Mix the first 5 ingredients in a mixer fitted with a dough hook. (or mix by hand and knead) till smooth and elastic. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size. (approx 1 hr). Punch down the dough and then roll out on a well floured surface to approx 1/4 inch in thickness. Transfer the flat bread to a baking sheet that's been generously sprinkled with corn meal (to prevent sticking. Dizzle and coat the top of the bread with a little olive oil, and add the toppings of your choice. Chef Michael Smith used fresh basil leaves, tomatoes, and thinly sliced parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. I used fresh rosemary, sliced olives, tomatoes, sea salt and asiago cheese.... but you can play around with the toppings based on what you have on hand and what you like. Cover lightly with a clean tea towel and allow to rise again (approx 1 hr) till double in size or soft and puffy looking.

Bake in an oven preheated to 350°F for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and well set.

I think tonight I'll try it with the basil to celebrate the arrival of a lovely new little basil plant from D*, mostly because the scent of fresh basil in the kitchen again is driving me batty!


Jun. 5th, 2011 04:32 pm
the_plan: (Seal Cove)
The septic contractors were good as their word and arrived bright and early yesterday (just as I was on my way out to 'Mom's Day Off').

James was very pleased with how they worked. Their attitude, care and professionalism was first rate! Despite having to wait on the pumping truck they got everything prepared and ready to roll, then got some lunch early while they were waiting. No time wasted. Unfortunately with the ceiling of the tank caved in they couldn't pump out the rocks that were in it. So the answer was to pump out the sewage, leave the rocks, dig a hole right beside the new one and rebury it, filling it in with rock and dirt (no more collapses!)

They had to move the pile of topsoil I had in the driveway for the flower beds, so they very kindly moved it all to the big empty hole at the back where the tree stumps came out (which was exactly where I wanted it). Couldn't talk em into digging the rest of the swamp drainage trench for us, but we're really gonna have to get the mini excavator again anyway to finish smoothing out the BIG hole, but all in all not bad.

They took GREAT care not to damage the flower bed out front, which was quite amazing, it was so close to the hole I figured it was a goner. Not a single flower disturbed! And despite all the digging they did a very neat job of cleaning up after themselves and smoothed the soil out very well. Yeah I've still gotta put a little topsoil down there to cover some rock, and seed it with grass seed... but it's actually quite neat, considering how much we'd had it torn up from the excavator last fall.

When I think about the disaster that the septic tank caving in was, I'm really very pleased and relieved at the eventual outcome.

For the local folks - if you've got an issue, I can't recommend Wade's Excavating and Septic Services in Flatrock highly enough. These guys were just great.

AND as a bonus, James managed to get the laser working again (we won't talk about how BIG a scare having THAT not work was! Fortunately it was a very short lived scare) and did them a sample glass. They then bought an order of 20 on the spot! Ya know we could really make a go of the whole laser, dye sublimation printing thing if either one of us had a clue about marketing or sales (but that's a whole other post ...)

More musings on gardening. Pretty much the majority of my landscaping budget had been spent and I wasn't really planning on doing a lot more to the gardens this year, but MUN Botanical Gardens were having their annual flower and cuttings sale. It was for a good cause and I hadn't seen the Botanical Gardens yet, I slipped a few dollars in my pocket and off I went. I probably spent another $50, and I still don't really have a lot of an idea what I'm doing. I've got a general overall idea what I want to accomplish; so I got some more ground cover plants; a couple kinds of phlox, needed some ferns for the great gaping hole by the forest, some other interesting bits and pieces. But the real value of the trip was the inspiration! They have some amazing shade gardens. The biggest pain for me has always been how much shade I have to deal with here, nothing is completely a 'sunny' spot, and I've always been kind of unimpressed with the plants recommended for shade gardens. What I discovered was "Wow a hosta I actually LIKE!" and that I can have bright colour in a shade garden. Lots to inspire me, but I was also rushing. I did get some lovely photos of the gardens before my camera batteries died. So I think another more paced trip is in order, especially as more of their summer stuff starts filling in, with full camera batteries and a notebook in hand.

where I get carried away with pretty pictures )
Now I think I'll go re-pot some tomatoes and herbs.
the_plan: (Seal Cove)
Waiting on the septic guys to show up.

These are the second crew we called, the first ones promised to come out and have a look that day, then the next day, then the end of the week.... we never heard back from them. They lost our business.

This second guy, promised to have someone out that day, or early the next morning, and lo he arrived bright and early yesterday am.

When the hole first appeared in the yard - well it didn't exactly appear - I was walking across the lawn working on the front garden bed and suddenly ended up up to my hip in the earth. James heard me shriek and came and helped me out of it. We were pretty sure we'd either busted a septic pipe or something .... lord knows it stunk like septic and it bubbled and gurgled with every flush. Buddy had a look at it and it seems that we lost the top of the tank, and yes the whole thing will need replacing.

Honestly the whole thing has been a bit scary and had us on pins and needles. I figured if we were up for a new septic tank it was gonna be a $10K job, James figured $7.5K, turns out he quoted us $2700 + tax. That means that even if Western Bay doesn't sell, we can probably afford to hang on here for another year. It'll be tight, but we could do it. (and as time goes on really a year is gonna end up being closer to 10 months I think). Ya know combined with the shock of the $30K fencing quote, it just goes to show that obviously James and I have NO idea what anything costs!

So yesterday he says if the weather is fine, they had another job they needed good weather to finish up and we probably wouldn't see them till later in the day to start the job, but if the weather was poor they'd have to put a hold on the other job anyway and would be out first thing. Well the weather is gorgeous, so not sure when they'll be here but at least it's getting dealt with and it does mean that the listing will include "brand new septic tank", and now at least we'll know where it IS. (The sellers not knowing where the septic system was located delayed our closing when we bought the place by two days). Guess there really is a silver lining to everything. I just hope they don't have to end up ripping up my garden bed.

Addendum: ... and they were decent enough to call at a reasonable hour to say they won't be able to make it today would first thing tomorrow be alright?
the_plan: (Default)
So ..
A large number of wild bushes and shrubs grow here in our forest. These two are a couple of my favourites, but I have no idea what they are.

This is a 6-7ft tall bush with small white flowers

This is a smaller 3-4ft shrub/bush with small purple flowers (they're not all the way open yet)

Can you...

Guess That Flower?
the_plan: (Seal Cove)
What knowledge and inspiration I do have for the gardens, has come from these that I turn to for answers:

Canadian Gardening subscription (although it does tend to be a bit Ont/BC centric)
Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Perennials (a gift from my Mom when my ex and I bought our first house in 1986. A good reference)
Reader's Digest's an Illustrated Guide to Gardening in Canada - it's a handy reference for the stuff I can't identify
Freeman Patterson's The Garden (a photographer, and philosopher, and spiritualist who finds photographs, life, and god, in his garden - my deepest inspiration)
Kitchen Garden A-Z (a cheapie I grabbed off a remainder table, or at Homesense, it has been helpful for information on edibles)

I like the idea of growing edibles as and as part of an overall untamed ornamental garden, (there's a wonderful article on 'The Edible Garden' in May's issue of Canadian Gardening I'm hanging onto.

This one was one I was reading at my mother-in-law's house the last time we were in Australia.

Apparently they keep rereleasing it every few years (I don't know what year hers is). I can't afford a new 2010 copy at $75, and it seemed rude to hint she might want to gift it to me. So after some hunting around and some patience I did find a 1989 release for $2.94 + shipping. Amazon has a few other Christopher Brickell edited gardening books that look tempting, most of them are new, too expensive, not relevant and reworks of the book I bought, but I did buy a copy of The Gardener's Companion for $4.04+ shipping as well. Together with shipping, they cost me $20. I figure that's not gonna blow my budgets too badly.

And I'm gonna keep my eyes open for any of Peter J Scott's books. They were recommended by a friend experienced in gardening in Newfoundland and he's retired from MUN where he was a professor in the Biology Dept - Botany.
the_plan: (Seal Cove)
I heard back from the contractors - even if Western Bay does sell, there's no way we could afford, or at least justify affording $30,000 to do the fences.

For that price we could buy a used Dingo with an auger which would be the right tool for the job (I'd hope). Of course it'd still take us far too much work, and far too long to do it. The dingo would be worth having..... might consider getting it and then just doing the horse yards with it. (Which in and of itself would cost $10K+ to get the contractors in for it)

I don't know... If we do stay another year, I'd really LIKE to have some better fencing; more accessible spaces for the dogs, but... the cost and the work is just so scary with all that ROCK.

I don't know if we have a Plan B this time.
the_plan: (Seal Cove)
When we last left our intrepid heroes they had a bunch of big gaping holes no plan, less money, and few plants from around the place had been moved.

But not knowing what we're doing has never stopped us before... )

Yeah it's still a long list.
the_plan: (Seal Cove)
Many moons ago I started working on the gardens. Gardens are tricky, really to be done properly they are a looooooooooong effort - years. I know there's all these silly shows on TV... Desperate Landscapes, Yard Crashers, Yard Wars.... they all make it look like it can be done in 24 hours, and given an army of helpers and an almost unlimited budget, there's a LOT you can do in 24 hours, but you can't grow a plant in a weekend.

Oh sure, you CAN buy mature plants, if you have the source and the cash, and don't mind a lot of annuals that'll be gone next year and have to be replanted.

When we moved in here, I wasn't thrilled with what gardening had been done. The bushes in the front beds weren't attractive in my mind, some of the plantings were very nice, but didn't seem to make much sense; things just dropped down in a place with no rhyme or reason. However, it was fall when we moved in, I had NO clue what I was doing, and I wanted to have a plan before we started.

Never did find a plan really... )
the_plan: (Seal Cove)
Wonderful! Found a contractor who actually answers and quotes promptly.

Avalon Fencing, I emailed them on Friday, they called me 10am this morning, "we'll come by, have a look and start a quote for ya. Would the next 15 minutes be good for you?"

They came, they looked, I think the size of the job; 1500 ft give or take over hills and rocks and through the woods; might have intimidated them a little.

I don't think there is anyway we could afford to have them do the WHOLE job, but if they're willing to just set all the fence posts and let us do the wire and rails then it may be possible to get this done.

All we need now is the numbers back from them, and word on the property in Western Bay
the_plan: (Default)
The geek in me finds this abandoned Teleglobe Satellite Sation very intriguing.

(lots more pictures and stories)

Heck 365 acres of beautiful Nova Scotia forest, $245,000 - it's a good deal
But what in the name of all that is good do you DO with it??

The geek in me loves this old abandoned relic of the cold war technology, loves the above ground tunnel, the astroturf tennis court, the ... *sigh* Honestly though, I can't think of a single thing you could do that wouldn't destroy the ambiance of it.

T'is a shame
the_plan: (Seal Cove)
Sooo with thunderstorms and rain I'm not out in the garden today, and I'm less interested in going walkies with the dogs (although I still might if it dries up a little this afternoon). So I've spent the morning lazing about on the computer, updating my long lists of 'Interesting Properties' and doing a bit of daydreaming.

Despite being thoroughly convinced that we really don't want to 'pay for someone else's renovation' every once in a while I happen across some listing over our price range an already renovated home that pings all my bells and whistles, or something so extraordinary it just makes me drool.

In the six plus months of doing this, I've only had 3. Came across the third one this morning. Despite a) not wanting to be in town/village b) wanting 35-300 acres c) wanting ocean frontage d) not wanting to pay for someone else's renovation: This property is damned near perfect. At almost 4 acres it's more than double what we have now, the house has been beautifully sympathetically renovated, it has gorgeous workshop/barn space, it has a separate apartment for the Feychild and her Pippin, it has it's own pond for Buddy, and it already has my three rail fence. It is delightful and charming. And it's $379,000

A few weeks back I bookmarked an oceanfront property in Gabarus Cape Breton. This house needs a bit more work than the other one. But dude! 161 acres of beachfront, 1500 ft of shoreline - of sand dunes and rocks and ocean for the puppers to play in! There's also a barn and fields for my gardens. An oh my word the privacy! We could be right good hermits there! Price? $390,000.

Honestly right now, if we $350-$400,000 to spend I'd be hard pressed to say which I liked better.

I did have one $3,000,000 marked, just because it's the only million+ property I've seen I actually LIKED. But do I like it better than these two... honestly I'd be hard pressed to say I liked it $3,000,000 worth more. After all for all the dramatic 4000' ocean frontage - it's only 70 acres and it's not as private as Gabarus. It's a nice house - biggish at 3300 sq ft, but we have almost that much now and want to DOWNSIZE (I hate cleaning 3000+ sq ft of dog hair). The house certainly isn't as charming in my mind as the Midway house. It's a bit more beach house than century character. And Midway has the charming barn and guest apartment....

Nope I can't see myself spending $3,000,000 on a house even if we DID win a lottery, I think I'd rather buy one of the others and spend a few dollars on it.
the_plan: (Bliss)
One of the problems with trying to chronicle this adventure that James and I have been on is well ... we're so busy adventuring it's hard to find not only the time, but the headspace to write about it.

One of the things I've been doing in my head - and I think this is a mistake - is planning on writing looooooooong posts when each job/room/project is finished. Kinda like DIY TV - see it go from drab to fab in 30 minutes.

But that was never really the point of this blog. It doesn't go from drab to fab in 30 minutes. I'm tired and I'm burnt out about a lot of things, and we still have so far to go, and yes - I've had WHOLE WEEKS of being a lazy cow and getting nothing done. Eventually though we move forward. And I think it's important to document the PROCESS. Whether that's a lazy day, or a full one. Whether I get one flower planted or twenty. This isn't all gloss and shiny and professional. We're just a couple of DIY hacks making do the best we can, sometimes that's better than others, but I think this blog has more value (well it has more value to me, I don't know about it's social value) if I record THAT part of it, the ALL of it.

And maybe you'll hear from me more often

And maybe writing the posts won't seem so long and huge and daunting that I end up putting that off as well.

In other news.. there's no news on the Western Bay property yet. Could be a few days, we'll see when we see.

Still we hope. Spent a large part of this morning discussing and researching the fencing project. This was the ONE job we really would have liked to do, but got cut for budget/sales considerations, however, if Western Bay does sell we're likely to stay here another year, and we'd really like to have the fence done, both for resale value and for the dogs. We'd have a budget for it.

It's a huge job though 12-1500 linear feet of fence. I wanted a nice 3 rail pressure treated wood fence. If the sale goes through we can afford the material - but I don't even want to think about what work putting in 150-200 fence posts in Newfoundland rock would be. It'd kill us both with only the two of us to do the job. Not gonna trade one set of heartbreaking stress for another. So I emailed a contractor, Avalon Rencing, I want to at least have them out for a free quote - maybe do the back sections in chain link and the horse yards in 3 rail, or maybe just get them to set the posts. I am presuming they'll have the kind of augers needed to go through the soil here. We looked at buying an auger ourselves and probably still will after the move, but for the job here, nothing we could afford would do the job.

Hopefully they'll get back to us in a few days. We haven't had much luck with contractors here, the landscaper came by for a look, never got back to us with the quote, the guy we called about the basement took 6 months to return my call with a "I understand you need a quote on a job?" - uh no... we've move on buddy, and now the septic guy... called him twice, he promised to be here before the end of the day, then the end of the week... that was LAST week - not even a call back. I really don't know what it is?
the_plan: (Seal Cove)
So... remember that "Little Bathroom of Big Work"? I had this crazy bloody notion wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy back the end of February, that the thing would be done in one to two weeks.

Ok... you can quit laughing now )
the_plan: (Seal Cove)
James got an email tonight (sent two days ago!) from one of our agents... the property in Western Bay we've had on the market since October of '09... she has someone interested, did we have the survey? huh? I thought we gave her the survey when we listed with her... oh well, no worried I have it here in the filing cabinet. *small aside folks*, however you do it, whatever works for you DO maintain a filing system - even if its one only you understand, it DOES reduce your stress levels my multi-dimensions

Emailed her back, told her we'd call her first thing in the morning, and emailed her a high res scan of the survey. I'm *really* hoping that the two day delay hasn't lost us a deal.

Selling this property would allow us another year to prepare to move here, and we won't lose money staying. It would give us some breathing room to finish the updating here without killing ourselves, and a bit of time to take a break before we have to face moving to another house needing renovation. Heck we could even finally fix the fencing here like we wanted to be safe for Buddy and give the dogs run of the property again, and that would make staying another year a lot more comfortable. It would also allow The Feychild to finish college, and maintain her provincial funding without disruption.

We'll still be selling and moving on - The Plan®, it's just going to allow us to do it more comfortably without a financial gun to our heads.

We're keeping all appendages crossed and hoping for some very good news before the weekend is out.
the_plan: (Welcome to the Kitchen)
So I've been craving a wings night for a while, and had a bag of cut wings in the fridge in preparation of the opportunity. Last night being 'Pizza and a Movie Night' - we backed it up a day for a) the Feychild being home, and b) the season premiere of Doctor Who - I really thought pizza/wings it's a natural right?

Honestly though, I've not had much success with wings at home, not those nice crispy sticky spicey 'right' wings you get at a good pub. Further, I really wasn't finding any recipes that floated my boat.

I should say I rarely, create completely from invention. Usually my creation method is to tinker with, customize, someone else's recipe. However, I knew what I *wanted* - not being able to find anything close, I made my own.

They were fabulous, perfect, crispy, sticky, BBQ, spicey but not burning so hot to kill the flavour. Everyone loved them.

Problem - I almost never measure, and I never take notes while I'm creating (bad me - I need a kitchen minion to take my notes), so what follows here is a close approximation so as always feel free to add / subtract as you go depending on the flavours you like/don't. There are a couple of critical notes: ketchup - very sweet, the sugars here are what caramelize in the oven to give that right 'stickiness', and thus you DO want to finish em in the oven, the dusting with flour and frying is what gives them the required crispiness.

wings - cut into 3 (flats, drummettes, tips - throw the tips in a bag in the freezer for making chicken stock) - I had 24 pieces.

into a large plastic baggie (zipper freezer bag works well):
1 cup plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp smoked paprika (gives that beautiful bbq smell)
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp chili powder
wisk powdered ingredients to mix well

Heat deep fryer, or oil in a deep pan to 375°F
Rinse wings and dry, toss wings in the bag of flour and spices. Do in batches of approx 12 at a time, shake off excess flour and drop into the fryer (do not over crowd). Cook for 8-10 minutes or until toasted coloured and crispy. Drain well. Set side in a bowl lined with paper towel.

Heat oven to 400°F
In a small mixing bowl combine:
3/4 cup tomato ketchup
2 tbsp sweet chili sauce
2 tbsp worchestershire sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
3 cloves crushed garlic
1 tsp ginger/garlic/chili paste (or increase garlic to 4 cloves, 1/2 tsp grated ginger, and 1 tsp well minced fresh chili)
1 tsp english hot mustard (Keens)
1 tsp chipole sauce
1/2 tsp tabasco sauce
(again you can and should tweak the spice mix to your own tastes)

Remove paper towel from bowl of wings, pour sauce over wings and toss to coat. Line a pan with aluminum foil and spray with non stick spray, Arrange wings in a single layer. Sprinkle lightly with large grain sea salt. Cook on middle rack of oven for approx 15 minutes until sauce is sticky and caramalized.

Serve hot with a cool sauce like tzatziki, or blue cheese, or ranch.

P.S: If you try this recipe - do lemme know how it works out for you. I DO Love the feedback. In the meantime I have another package of wings, I'll definitely try it again and see if I can't get more formalized measurements
the_plan: (Seal Cove)
I now have 10 beautiful and healthy mature heather plants, (and two mostly mangy and dead looking hydrangeas - left in the Feychild's room to keep em out of the cats claws they have - expired)

This weekend will be dog washing day and gardening - for pleasure

Bathroom saga still to be told (in several parts)


Apr. 11th, 2011 06:01 pm
the_plan: (Seal Cove)
It keeps getting away from me.

One of the problems with trying to blog this whole process is having enough time and energy at the end of the day to actually compose a decent post about it.

The bathroom that was supposed to take maybe two weeks is now thanks to ongoing issues, errors, problems and a good bout of depression going on six, and I'm praying I get it finished this week. I've only got 6 more weeks to our self imposed June 1st deadline. I shall have updates with pictures later this evening (I hope). What matters I suppose is that I am *very* happy and *very* proud of how it's turning out.

I might even try a couple of back dated entries on the kitchen project, and the hardwood flooring this week if I can manage it.

And I got about 4 posts to make over in the Dog Forum I'm a member of.

So no, we're not dead, just inundated. I just hope something is settled by the time James's sister and her husband visit in October. Whether here or elsewhere I want to see em done properly, it may well be the only time we ever see the folks from Oz on this side of the planet.
the_plan: (Welcome to the Kitchen)
You've heard me talk of my dream of an 'Apothecary Kitchen'. The kitchen reno we've done here is a lot more traditional kitchen than that, but I'm always tinkering with that plan for that perfect kitchen dream.

But what is an 'Apothecary Kitchen', and why?

The apothecary kitchen is one filled with jars and bottles and vials of powders and liquids and herbs and colours and scents. It's filled with tools and devices - some of it seems magical and mysterious. What sort of powders?

the spices the spices
The results of a recent spice restocking trip. I saw a TV show recently where someone opened a spice drawer and the host was agog at the array of 24 bottles.... I have 60. 60 different flavours, spices, and I'm still missing mace, hot paprika, and a few others.

the spices the spices
For me, the one 'art' I consider myself an adept with. I love all the arts, but cooking is where I can call myself talented. Professional? No. I've just not got the hand/eye coordination to be able to do it in a professional environment, but I do have the creativity.

Spices are my paint box. Chicken, fish, beef, pork - they're just meat until you add the spices, add the flavour. They are the canvas, the spice cupboard is what I create with.

the spices the spices

the pantries the pantries
And then there are the pantry cupboards. There simply isn't enough storage in our kitchen. Not enough space fror my spices, for our glassware collection, for our cookware collection, for the small appliances, and for the FOOD.

the pantries the pantries
So we added stand alone pantry cupboards, 3 of them, and they're overflowing. They don't really work in the kitchen, so they're around the corner in the mudroom (which without a door is a bit more of a hallway extension). It's a solution here, but it's not the dream.

The 'Apothecary Kitchen' has a separate pantry, walk in cooler, and it has... OPEN shelving. Yes, yes, I know it's a decorator blashphamy but one thing I've learned: if you cook cupboards are an abomination! How much time do you spend when cooking digging through a cupboard for a bowl, a tool, or a can hidden at the back? It's a frustrating waste. Open shelving, no more than 2 items deep, hanging pot racks these elminate that aggrevation. Look at pro kitchens, look at cooking shows, ask a good home cook - open shelves. The ability to reach one handed and get what you need. 'What about the mess?", you cry. My kitchen will be an artist's studio - it's not supposed to be neat, it's supposed to be functional and creative. "A clean desk is a sign of a sick mind". I'm looking forward to having space to be MESSY!


Mar. 4th, 2011 12:57 pm
the_plan: (Default)
Ya know, what we really need is a 'DIY" TV series of our own...

With the huge proliferation of DIY shows and interest and networks on the cable dial these days, I'm not sure there's really enough Canadian content.

I mean really - we have Bryan Baeumler, Mike Holmes, Sarah Richardson and Ambrose Pryce, there's a few others - Income Properties, Marriage Under Construction, but we've also lost Jim Caruk (now doing his wonderful BIY Workshops), Colin and Justin have got their hands full in a 100 new and exciting projects, and Family Renovation kinda finished up after only one family. So amid a small handful of new shows by already known presenters there's a ton of reruns, and American content (both old and new).

I think we need new Canadian content.
Intelligent content, less about fools and their follies, or experts, but just real, everyday people, doing what most real everyday people do - real projects, real problems, dealt with in real ways. Or maybe that doesn't make good TV.

Of course most real people also don't sell up their executive home to move further out into the wilds to build a sustainable lifestyle and create an over the top artist retreat EITHER.

And ya know, the show would have a little bit of everything.
Money and downsizing in a touch economy
Renovating and decorating for resale
Selling a house
Buying a house/property (out of province no less!)
Next season we could cover the working on the new house, building the barns and cottages

Just to mix it up - we could do guest spots - all those well known and well loved faces? We'd invite them in, Sarah can come do a room, we'll give Colin and Justin one whole cottage to make over, Bryan can come help sort out the kitchen electrical (heck he's looking for new projects to film), and Mike can show you how to build a PROPER country fence that'll actually keep the dogs in. I figure we can get at least 2 maybe three episodes outta James and I flying off to Toronto to do Jim Caruk's BIY Bootcamp. Scott McGillivray can advise on what one best needs to get out of the cottages to make money on em...

Yeah it's a hell of a brief I tell ya...
Brilliance - pure brilliance.

Too bad I don't know any TV production companies I could sell the idea to.
Guess I go back to hoping one day this blog might pick up a sponsor or two.
the_plan: (Woodworking)
My ed-u-mication in spray painting continues....

I loved the way the early attempts at trims turned out, learned a lot doing doors and bifolds

Time to step it up a notch and try something outside my comfort zone.... we're spraying furniture this week

The big concern all along has been, that using an HVLP system with latex paint the paint has to be thinned out to the point where drips are a definite problem and my mortal enemy (see my adventures with the bifolds!), and the coats must be very thin - anything too wet and the paint will separate before it dries. However the colour separation can be useful in giving you a nice natural looking subtle shadings in the colour which in an antique look can be quite good - if it's not too much.

Armed with that, a plan and with 2 backup plans in hand I took on the challenge.

Medicine cabinet medicine chest
The medicine chest was coming along - but dripping was still problematic.
A lack of adequate space to lay our everything flat was going to mean tackling the medicine chest and the vanity separately. Still I was laying down 2-3 coats a day, by the beginning of Wednesday morning I was starting to fear that I was just painting for the sake of resanding it and painting it again and wasn't really getting anywhere. However, I gave it another day (and 3 coats) and a new plan and flat space to lay the doors and shelves out on, and the cabinet flat on it's back.

medicine chest medicine chest
And lo - there was much improvement.
Thursday we turned everything over and sprayed the other side. Between each coat was the frustration of little marks and mars and glitches I wasn't really happy with and more sanding. However, I was seeing enough improvement, and with the change in methodology was improving things - so I stuck it out.

medicine chestmedicine chest
I'm not 100% happy with the results, but I'd call it a decent amateur job. I wouldn't call it a professional finish. On the other hand I've paid professionals to do a job (flooring actually) for a professional finish in the past and not gotten what I consider a professional finish. I'm an awfully picky b**ch, thankfully so is my hubby. There's still a couple little brush touch ups to do later, but it's done - and I can live with it.

medicine chest

Before and After

Now I'm working the vanity today - and that's being even trickier, and I'm still not convinced it'll work. Despite the sanding, it isn't adhering as well as I'd like. With the dark wood colour I probably should have primed it first. (The medicine chest was raw wood, and thus had to primed before hand). I'm also really beginning to wonder whether an HVLP system is the best type for this sort of work, that perhaps an airless spray system wouldn't require as much paint thinning, and thus give a better result. I'll maybe pick up the cheap $35 one see the difference in the technigue and results before I outlay $700 on a professional system, but at this juncture I figure I'm definitely looking at a professional rig - not just for furniture and trims but for WHOLE WALLS! once we move and start doing a whole house of painting again (not to mention the cottages).
the_plan: (Seal Cove)
I've been working - off and on - on the gardens and landscaping since we arrived here. Mostly it's been piecemeal, a bit here, a bit there. Largely it's been destructive - plant removal. Not necessarily because they were ugly or sick, but because they didn't fit overall with the feel of the place.

So here's a nice little rendering (no laughing at my art skills people!) of the layout of the property - back when we were planning on adding a pergola and a workshop (amongst other things)
labled plot plan

As you can see it's mostly wild and forested. We liked it that way. The horse yards and it's accompanying swamp were separated from the house and drive, and the house is well hidden from nosy neighbours or truck drivers.

Essentially there are 4 main planting beds, and 2 minor ones.

front bed
One under the front window...

front side bed
One along the side of the garage.

bed by the forest
One at the front running along the forest edge.

driveway bed
There's a small bed on the far side of the driveway

the day lily bedday lily bed out back
And the bed I made for the daylilies in the backyard under the kitchen windows

We never much liked the bushes and the peonies and the rhododendron that were planted along the driveway - the dogwood etc are perfectly nice bushes, but there's no rhyme or reason to their placement and they look out of place.
driveway bushes

I always thought the front gates needed something to soften them up - a couple large lilacs on either side maybe.
front gates

It didn't look bad when we moved in - it just didn't look right. I didn't love all the pea gravel, and I'm not fond of hostas, and the juniper bush was out of control.
front vistaview from front door

We never did plan on changing the layout much. We just wanted to make sense of the spaces that were there and tie them in with the natural forest that surrounds us. So we moved a couple awkwardly placed rose bushes, took out a young japanese maple that was badly planted. Then we cut down some trees at one end of the yard last year to enlargen the front lawn and brighten things up a little. We took out a small stand of scraggly pines along the forest edge, and one large maple that was killing all the light.

tree stump removaltree stump removal
Finally in November we rented a digger, and managed to pull all the stumps. This left a great gaping hole in that end of the yard and one more enormous planting bed.

While we had the digger here - I took advantage and dug up all the beds. With the sheer volume of rock in Newfoundland soil it was the only way to get any kind of a decent planting bed.
digging the bedsdigging the beds

As usual, we were dreadfully late getting going on all this and after it was dug up all that rock had to be sorted and cleared. James got 2/3 of the trench to drain the swamp dug and I got the worst of the rock out of the planting beds but it was slow nasty cold going and in the end no new bulbs got planted, and I was even too late in the year to get a load of topsoil in.

So as the snow starts to melt - I've got about 4 to 6 weeks to plan what to DO with these great empty beds once I get some fresh soil in them. (we have a great compost heap of lovely dirt but it's at the bottom of a gully where the digger can't go - I'll have to buy a truckload)

Without any bulbs planted last fall there won't be much early colour, but my Spring Garden catalogue arrived today. http://www.springgarden.ca It's time to start ordering plants, but I'm overwhelmed by the choices and my own lack of any kind of experience in planning a garden.


The juniper is gone, I moved the 3 small peonies to the spot under the window but I don't know if they'll take. I got a couple nice gigantic landscaping boulders, a large blue hydrangea I moved to the corner by the garage from out back, a couple of the hostas left and a handful of columbines that seem to want to run rampant have been divided up amongst the beds.

I need ideas. Hell I need a PLAN - not too expensive (planting budget is no more than $500). I just need it to look neat and tidy and not empty and colourful and fit in to the forested lot - nothing too formal. I need a PLAN that will do well in shade and wet and rock and fits into zone 4 and just make the front yard look NICE again.

Surely someone out there has some gardening experience / ideas they could help a girl out?

... and I still think I'll do a couple lilacs by the front gate.
the_plan: (Default)
As we were planning the bathroom the big design problem was the vanity - originally when we were going to use the travertine throughout the bath a dark wood vanity made sense, but then we scaled the travertine back to just the shower area, and decided to paint the bathroom the lovely dark green of the bedroom alcove.

green and gold

Ok now what we need is a beautiful antique white vanity. Now these are more limited. I saw one at Lowes in Hamilton - but that wasn't going to help much and it still would have busted the $500 budget for vanity and counter that we had. As would have ordering one from Vintage Tub and Bath (although I do still highly recommend them for well priced vintage look pieces). After much futzing and searching and debating costs. I found a gorgeous perfect vanity at Home Depot (hey even Sarah Richardson just used this same vanity last week on Sarah 101). It's solid wood (poplar with walnut veneers), has really nice organized storage inside, and is just a lovely piece - only problem - it's still dark wood.

However, by this point I had been gaining a bit of confidence with my spray painting techniques and decided "what the hell, it's perfect, it's inexpensive, it's gorgeous, I'll just spray it". I'd seen some of the gorgeous results of others having cabinetry and furniture resprayed - it made sense. Ok Ok - it also scares the dickens out of me - I've not done something thing complicated before. However, Home Depot was having one of their 20% Off Bathroom Events - with that price and that deal - I could throw in a bisque cultured marble countertop and still be under my $500. Sure I was still gonna have to buy a mirror and a medicine chest, but it was still not a big stretch beyond our original budget plan.

This had the added advantage of being able to buy the mirror, medicine chest etc that I liked and were cheaper options than buying the matching pieces to THAT set. So I was able to pick up a lovely unfinished cabinet at Kent for $60. I've done these pieces before and really had some fine results with them. Although to use this on a wall we had to turn it upside down and rebuild the drawer.

I was also able to pick up a nice framed mirror from Walmart for $30 instead of $200. I got a nice tall narrow butler's pantry cabinet (12"x14"x60") as well - did I mention there's a storage issue with this bathroom? I'm not sure we'll be able to use that one - it may not fit comfortably and I'm still debating more storage options so we'll leave that to last.

Now at one point I did chicken out and called a local fellow who does professional respraying of cabinetry - for the 3 bathroom pieces - $600 (taxes in). That kiboshed that idea. However, very worst case scenario - he'll spray the vanity for $250. I have a back up plan if I manage to completely ruin this beautiful piece of furniture. And if that doesn't work - well I guess I could paint the bathroom the same gold as the bedroom and buy the vanity again during the next Home Depot sale for $450. Ok - I have 2 back up plans.

Still I'd rather get this right the first time. First coat went on this morning. It's going to take a minimum of 4 or 5 sprays to get a nice even sweet finish - so I'm holding my breath for the next couple days (hopefully I can get two coats a day on - morning and evening).

I'm using the semi gloss hard wearing 'Trim, Door, High traffic' paint that has done such a lovely finish on the baseboards, door trims, and windows.

The colour is the same lovely 'Ivory Palace' that all the trims in the house were painted originally, and we've stuck with a) for simplicity and b) because it really does look fabulous back dropped against the chestnut hardwood and the wall colours of the master bedroom. It won't have the same 'aged' look of some of the other off white victorian style vanities, but it's also not going to be $4500.

The bathroom itself is going to have to wait for the painting to be finished. Because of the size and weight of the cabinet there wasn't much hope of painting it in my basement spray booth - so it's being painted 'in situ'. I'd hoped that I could work on 'non dusty' tasks around it while in between coats - but there isn't enough room to swing a dead cat in that bathroom so it's just going to have to wait a day or two.
the_plan: (Default)
We finished up the master bedroom a week ago. Paint, flooring closets, lighting - but with the master bath not done yet I decided I'd hold off on posting completed pictures until the whole job is done.

We'd pulled the shower out of the master bath some time ago - before we knew entirely what the plan was. See we wanted to redo that bath since we arrived, the shower stall was small, badly placed, and you couldn't turn the water on to warm without soaking the wall behind you.

Shower stall Shower stall

The other issue and more critically - the shower stall was showing signs of mold - thanks to a bad installation and little sealing of the seams. It was minor - but it could be smelled, made the shower useless, and with my husband's asthma, it was critical to find out how far the mold went and how bad it was - and to get it cleaned up.

So we pulled the shower stall with the note that if we got the reno monies we'd redo the shower completely, if we didn't; well we'd clean the stall properly fix any wall damage and reinstall the same shower - only better.
master bath under construction

Ok so we have our reno budget, we scaled back some of our original plans for the bath (by about $5000 worth of travertine). The plan is a full length of the wall shower across the back wall (5'), thus taking advantage of the current plumbing. Leave the toilet and sink where they are, but change out the pedestal sink for a nice cabinet vanity. The pedestal sink is lovely, but in a tiny master bath (5'x9') we really really needed SOME storage. So we moved the pedestal sink to the downstairs powder room which was crying out for a more elegant solution than the dreadful vanity that was there.

With the master bedroom complete, it was time to tackle the stacks of materials we've had in the corner for a while and start the bathrooms.

master bath - stuff master bathroom - tiles

The larger main bath is just getting two new vanities and some lighting, but the master bath is getting a total overall.
master bath under construction
We pulled all the drywall around the shower stall to replace it all with water and mold resistant board. Fixes the minor mold problem that was there, and assures us that along with the Schluter Shower System we've done everything we can to do it properly water tight.

When the kitchen was complete we had about 6 boxes of that gorgeous slate tile left over, and it suits the whole rustic, natural, stone and plaster, oil rubbed bronze, gold tuscany look of the bedroom/bath - so we're going to use it instead of leaving the beige porcelain tile that's there.

Pulling up the tile was a pain.
master bath under construction
And it took most of a day to scrap enough old tile cement off the 1/4 inch ply they had it on to be able to unscrew and pull up the ply so we could lay fresh 1/2 inch. However, again, I feel better knowing that ALL traces of mold have been removed, better quality product has been laid (and yes we DID glue and screw it, even if I am grateful the previous folks only screwed theirs). It also meant we were better able to rerun the drain for the revised shower layout.

But by far the most horrific job was the popcorn ceiling.
master bath under construction

Usually this abomination can be removed simply - with a spray bottle of water and vinegar, and a good spatula. However, as it was installed in a bathroom, it was sealed; it was primed; it was painted; it was NOT coming down. The easiest solution in this case - especially in such a small space - drywall over top the crud! However, that said, it still was high enough profile that we had to at least sand down the worst of it to give a good surface to drywall over. Angle grinders with sanding wheels, and orbital sander, try and seal the bedroom doorway, dust masks and goggles. It was still a horrible horrible job I hope we never have to do again! (no I won't be tackling the bedroom). The dust and crud still got everywhere and is most gross, but it's done.

master bath under construction

It was a long week of hard slow demolition. But we now have a decent empty shell to build on in the coming week.
the_plan: (Bliss)
One of the really wonderous parts of this journey we've been on is the fact it really does constantly evolve. We start out with one plan, and it grows and changes and tweaks and before you know it it doesn't really look like what we started out with in the first place at all.

And yet, it is.

In order for the 'new plan' to fit into 'The Plan®' it must contain certain critical elements, answer deep needs for both James and myself. As you're building the life you've always dreamed of it must contain the critical elements of the dream. That's the thing of it, we've always known the dream - we've not always been sure what the dream LOOKS like when it's all built. So we've added pieces, and taken away pieces and tinkered and tailored it.

Recently 'The Plan®' took another left turn.

I think we're going to leave Newfoundland. It even feels a bit odd saying it. I worked and planned and wanted for years to end up here. Largely at the time it was because Newfoundland was somewhere I could work, that would take me back to my own roots on ocean and specifically the North Atlantic, and James needed to be close to water as well. Newfoundland made sense. And the house we bought in Seal Cove made a lot of sense at the time as well - we needed the privacy, the quiet, the serenity that living deep in the forest gave us, and kept me close enough to work. Then I quit working, relations with the neighbours reminded us that we weren't as enclaved as all that, the kids began to move on, in other words - life changed.

We still want the things we were looking for in this property - just more of it. Room for animals (dogs, cats, horses, alpacas, pigs, lambs, - NO CHICKENS!), the quiet and privacy that the forest and large plots of land provide, we still need the ocean, I need water - ocean, stream, pond, something - for me and for the dogs, I need room the dogs can run without harassing the neighbours.

However, there was still the question of what would our lives look like? What would we do with ourselves day in day out, and how would we afford it?

One of the things that became clear after a while, was that what we came to Newfoundland looking for didn't exist here for us. The dream job turned out not to be such a dream, and our visions of private acres of field and forest by the ocean couldn't be ours. Yes! Those sorts of properties, the ones you see in the tourism ads, the quaint life everyone wants to come and see - that IS here. However, anyone who owns an old farmstead or saltbox with more than a few acres by the sea, they're not selling it. They're holding on to those properties for 'when the kids come home', and the kids will come home.

So one day I'm perusing the real estate listings on the internet, as I am oft likely to do and I come across a commercial listing in Sydney Cape Breton for a 23 acre motor speedway 1/4 mile track, all concessions, stands and out buildings. Now I know this is a joke, we can't really afford it, and all of that, but ONE of the great loves James and I have always had is race cars. Could be fun. So we spend a day looking at it joking about it, considering it, turning it over and seeing if it could work. Including property prices in the area for where we might live. Well owning a racetrack isn't really the sort of retirement business we'd enjoy doing all day every day, so the Island Speedway idea fell to the wayside. However, the property search led us to finding that there was a good possibility we could afford a large piece of property (25+ acres) with a livable smaller home, and the possibility of outbuildings (sheds and barns) and still leave us a sizeable chunk of cash to live on while James builds up the laser business.

We started looking further afield. Cape Breton, Guysborough County, Antigonish. As I was looking I came across this:

It's being sold off in 4 or 5 chunks of various prices - but the whole thing together is about a $1,000,000. We can't afford a million dollars. But I knew - just knew then and there on the spot that THIS was the life we've been looking for.

We don't want a B&B, we're too intensely private to have people in our home, but we love having company. We want self sufficiency and sustainability a la River Cottage, but we're no hair shirt people - we like our creature comforts and our technology. We want hospitality and tourism, but without the tourists.

So here's the dream - the latest evolution of 'The Plan®'. A Writer's and Artist's retreat. All along we've both needed our artistic outlets - that's why James bought the LASER, he needs to be creating, he wants to teach and lead again, I want to play, with colour, with fabric, with metal and wood and paint and clay and.... but I have zero talent for any of those things, and I want space, physically and mentally, to write and cook and sew, and I want to organize it all. And we want to share these things, with all of those people we've always connected with so well on the internet - the artists and writers and cartoonists, and creative people. We won't make a fortune. We don't really want to. We'll start with one of two small cottages, hopefully make enough to justify building more and bigger art studios, add another cabin or two, maybe host some weekend workshops, invite established artists to lead a workshop or two, maybe even eventually build a small professional music studio.

So yeah we're gonna need that forested acreage by the sea after all. We can't find it in Newfoundland, but maybe we can find it in Nova Scotia. I don't have a $1,000,000 to buy it already built. But maybe, just maybe, we can find something, somewhere in Nova Scotia - Fox Harbour Advocate Harbour, Digby, Annapolis Royal, Kentville, Parrsbaro, Cape Negro. I think maybe we can. Maybe even this one. It might take us a while yet to get there, and there might be a detour or two along the way - depending on how things turn out, but then 'The Plan®' is an evolving thing, but I think we're on the right track.
the_plan: (Default)
The Cairo Gold thus far has been a pleasant surprise - even to me. It's not like I've ever picked a paint colour, put it on the walls and said "Oh MY! That just won't do!" And while the 'Battleship Purple' in the office is very nice, it wasn't the look I was originally going for.

The colour, of course, looked VERY yellow in the can... scary canary even. However, experience tells me you just don't know till it's on the walls and dry. It paid off. It IS golden, warm, sunlight, deep and comforting. James likes it, I like it, the Evergreen Forest wall likes it, the paprika bed linens like it. I'm still not sure on the blue/green/gray linens - but that's really an after thought anyway.

green and gold

It really does work so much better than the washed out beige did.

I was working with a textured finish - a dry brush technique using a long stiff bristled wall paper brush to give it a linen like finish.
linen texture Cairo Gold
It really has turned out well and I'm very pleased with it.

I am a bit concerned with the lap lines - this is the result of having to work in sections as a thin coat will dry very quickly and if you work a whole wall at a time the first sections will dry out too much to brush them. The solution would be to do this job in tandem - one person rolling, one person brushing.

Close up of the finish
I can always second coat this if I'm still not happy with it tomorrow, but I'm a bit loathe to do so, as I fear some of the linen effect will be lost with the loss of the lighter beige undercoat.

Well we should have the lighting, and the second coat of trim paint finished tomorrow - that means Monday for the hardwood. If James can get the closet doors cut for me, I'll spray them next week and we should be able to chock this one up in the 'done' column in only 2 weeks. Hey I'm getting quicker!


Feb. 2nd, 2011 02:35 pm
the_plan: (Default)
The wonderful thing about paint is - if you screw it up, fixing it isn't that big a headache. But, I'm already behind and don't really want to get into a week of painting the master bedroom.

And of course, I'm all about using what one has, and is available or inexpensive and working it - rather than get locked into an idea or plan that can prove expensive. The problem with this is - the more creative you get with what you already have available - the more difficult it becomes and the greater the chance of messing it up.

Welcome to the master bedroom. Way back when we moved in - I hated, the boring builder beige. A colour so nondescript that ICI has discontinued it. Nevada Sun 20YY 61/231. My original plan had been to do a faux finish in greens (my private forest schema) - Country Cottage light undercoat, Tall Evergreen dark overcoat and accents of Louisiana Hot Sauce and Golden Retriever.

As things go, when we decided we were gonna sell up, that scheme seemed a bit too dramatic, and it went to the wayside. However, the beige was still boring so we decided on a accent in the window alcove - we tried the Country Cottage - too bright (but perfect for the kitchen) and ended up with the Tall Evergreen. (That was when we decided to do the master bath in Tall Evergreen with the ivory marble shower).

All this seemed to work with our bed linens (which had always meant to be a complimenting part of my forest greens theme) which are sorta-mostly paprika-ish red and dark wine and gold duvet cover.

So far so good.

So Walmart has a linen sale on with the perfect King sized comforter sets for $59, very nice, and as our usual linens are inundated with dog fur - an extra set for showings would be a good idea. Except we couldn't get the red; but there's a very nice dark green/blue/gray tones with brown/gold accents set which will still work with the greens and the wrought iron look of the room. I think.

This morning cleaning the walls in prep for doing the hardwood flooring (chestnut bamboo) I decide that parts of the walls are in rough enough shape I should just spruce em up with a quick coat of the last 2 litres of Nevada Sun. But if I'm gonna go to the trouble of painting the walls I might as well brighten it up with a nice finish and some .. depth. In comes the plan for a slightly deeper tone of the same colour, and a dry brush technique to give it a bit of a linen look. Sounds great.

Except - Nevada Sun isn't on ICI's books any more - so we get a VERY close next colour Farmer's Almanac. (20YY 61/231 vs 20YY 63/258) and work from there into a deeper accent of either Moonstruck or Cairo Gold. Still with me?

So ... we got Nevada Sun on the walls now, Cairo Gold dry brushed over it, accent alcove and master bath in Tall Evergreen, Chestnut bamboo flooring, current linens in paprika red with wine and gold duvet cover, and back up dressing linens in green/blue/gray w/brown/gold accents.

Does it work? Frankly I haven't got a clue now. I suspect I may have to keep the back up linens packaged away, and maybe look for a different comforter/duvet cover. But hey, it's only till the house is sold... the next bedroom I start all over again with a fresh scheme!

fighting with colours

the_plan: (Default)
Over the next few days I'll catch up all the earlier posts from the months leading up to now, but today I thought I'd give you a little 'A Christmas Under Renovation'

It isn't so bad... no missing walls or missing windows. Mostly it's just tricky working around all these piles of building materials.

We built a paint booth in the basement to try and get the trims finished before the holidays. We got em done, but we didn't get em installed

kitchen and bathroom trimstrims

I did get the blackboard for the kitchen painted and mounted in time to leave the familia many notes about cleaning and decorating while I disappeared for a week to Toronto.
blackboardpiles of gear

Yeah, piles of gear to finish the electrical. The real pain of electrical retrofits isn't the adding an outlet, or installing the new light fitting, it's the obligation to fix all the mistakes made before you got there. Once you open that can of worms you have to bring it up to code.
in progress

But hey... not having outlets is a pain, and a backsplash would be nice, but the kitchen is at least finished enough to cook a turkey dinner.

And the stacks of boxes of hardwood didn't get in the way of dinner in the dining room too much!

The hardwood looks great installed in Andrew's room - good start. Bit of a learning curve, but the other rooms are gonna be easier. Course it still looks like a teenage boy's bedroom - even with all his furniture out in the hallway still.
hardwood installedAndrew's furniture still stored in the hallway

Speaking of flooring ... still piles of it in the office...
... and the bedroom

Stuff for finishing the master bathroom: schulter shower system, cabinets, shower doors
master bath - stuffmaster bathroom - tiles
.. and stacks of tiles for it as well

And the kids bathroom
kids' bathroom

And the doors in the hallway.... 12 bifolds and 3 interior doors...

We were gonna stack em in the garage, but between getting the Jag inside, and the new compressor and then the new front door and side lights - bought off the NL Classifieds... there just wasn't room
new front doornew front door

So it's all been a Renovating Christmas, maybe next year we'll be prepared in advance without 1000 things on the go on our 'todo' list...
Christmas Stepladder

the_plan: (Seal Cove)
Another thing we can start that won't cost us anything while we're waiting on funds is the downstairs powder room.

wall paper
This hideous 1970's wallpaper, and nasty vanity (matches the kitchen and upstairs bathroom - the previous owners tore it out of the master bath and the laundry). I suspect the cabinetry was all made on the cheap by the builder - they're just NOT nice, and mostly don't work.

We're going to replace the sink in the master bath - in a tiny bathroom with NO storage a pedestal sink just doesn't work. It will however work in a powder room. We'll swap the toilets (one downstairs is bisque, the one in the master bath is white to match the pedestal). It's all about repurposing what you have that's still good. Just because it doesn't work in a master bath, doesn't mean it won't fix another problem somewhere else. Never throw out anything till you're sure it can't be reused, recycled, sold or donated!

But first... the wall paper has to go.
stripes! A Cat can cause trouble with a mere roll of tape and a level
Here we've stripped the wallpaper, washed the walls down well with TSP to remove the remaining glue. Thankfully they'd used pre-pasted paper and it had been up for 30 years, tearing it down was a cinch! We've pulled wallpaper before that was glued on with liquid nails and contact cement - not fun.

After patching and priming the walls a good undercoat of white was applied. Now for the 'fancy stuff'. We've taped the whole of the walls off in a 6"(+) 45° angle with 3/4" painters' tape. The result is a lattice pattern. We'll paint the whole thing in the cheery Country Cottage green that we have LOTS of (it just wasn't going to work in the master bedroom). When we pull the tape, we'll have a lovely white lattice on a cheery green background, and we can do some fun stuff with painting in vines and flowers around the lattice.

It's a small space no bigger than 4x6, the angles on the one wall made it tricky to work with. Even with VERY careful use of the speed square, a level with a 45° angle feature and careful pencil lines, it was very tricky getting the angles to all line up by the time they meet on the 4th wall. I wouldn't have wanted to try this with a bigger room!

James is complaining that the pattern is making him dizzy in a small space. Hopefully once we're finished the trimmings and shelves and vines and flowers on the lattice will break it up enough that he'll be alright with it. Otherwise I guess it'll be the upstairs bathroom for him!

Paint Paint Affects
One thing first though. Because rollering over the tape frequently lifts the edges slightly and you get 'bleeding' under the tape and it ends up looking ratty you need to fix the tape edges down.

There are a number of recommends for this. Some painters will go over the edges in a thin coat of clear polyurethane, some will use a brush to do a quick coat of the top colour over the edges of the paint to seal it. However, we've got a LOT of tape. So what we'll do is roller on a quick coat of the white undercoat - that way any bleeding will be in the same colour as is already underneath. Once that dries it'll seal the tape edges, and we can paint over it in our green.

Next time - we'll see how it all turns out
the_plan: (Default)
Even before my dear daughter leaves us on Labour Day weekend to head off on her own adventure known as "college" I kinda figured we'd start with some smaller projects.

Like painting the man child's room.

The whole thing with painting is: a) it's a super cheap way to make a BIG difference in the look of your home b) if you screw it up - fixing it is also cheap and easy. Honestly, paint is just THE biggest bang for your buck.

So, the Man child is off in St Louis for the summer and not due back until late September. Time to paint. He picked his own colours when we moved in and painted all the rooms. Honestly, it wasn't a BAD blue, just a little dark. Time to neutralize all that dark a bit.

We're still waiting on some funds to come in so - an old trick of mine. Go through the cans of left over paint from other projects and see if we have something already in stock that'll work. In this case - 'Soft Wheat'. We're not sure what the previous owners used it for as I can't see it used anywhere else in the house. Ok, problem, we only have ONE can, and it's a very dark colour we're painting over. General rules say, 'buy a can of primer to cover a dark colour before painting with a light one'. This is true. However, we're not covering fresh plaster, or stains that could bleed through - so there's really no need for the sealing properties of primer. We have a can of base white, that'll work. (Do note, this works because it's what I have on hand - generally speaking you will find that a 4 ltr can of primer is a fair bit cheaper than a 4 ltr can of base white anything.)

Again due to the limited supply of paint, and the fact we don't want to completely destroy the man child's sense of self in his room we're only going to paint the top half and add a chair rail. It's all: looks architectural, saves paint, saves time, saves work, and solves the problem. We're all about the short cuts, BUT, ONLY AS LONG AS THEY WORK,. I know that sounds obvious, but it's not always. I try to save time and money and effort and reuse as much as possible; but, in the end, if it looks like it was put together using bailing wire and spit, or it's not safe, not to code, then it's time to think of a better solution. James and I work very hard at saving money (we don't have a lot to spend on this), but never at the expense of doing a job properly.

Prep Work:
Actually painting is about the smallest part of any painting job. The lion's share of the work is in the prep. What condition are the walls in? Do they need holes filled, cracks? If the walls are in truly dreadful condition consider re-drywalling them. For minor imperfections any plaster patching compound like Polyfilla will do. Things to consider. The higher the gloss level of a paint the more it will show imperfections, but the more scrubbable it will be. Flat paint won't show many wall imperfections, but will pick up every greasy hand print laid on it. This is why satins or eggshell finishes tend to be popular for general usage on walls and semi-gloss is traditionally used for trims, and kitchens and bathrooms - where scrubbability is important.

Now that the walls have any dings patched up and sanded, they need to be cleaned. In the case of this room the paint job on it was only 2 years old - but still general household dust and grime and cooking and ... well the walls still need cleaning first. I always use TSP, an excellent and inexpensive degreaser. Don't skimp on rinsing the residue off with a clear water and a rag after either. If you have had to patch with a plaster compound you will need to use a primer coat to seal the plaster.

There are a lot of methods one can use for doing the line on the wall for painting the upper half. Some are better than others, some are cooler than others. Me? I'm a bit of a gadget freak; a Rotary Laser Level Kit made the job exceptionally simple. However, if you don't have one on hand, and doing the job isn't sufficient excuse to go out and buy yourself an $80 laser toy you can always use a tape measure and a chalk line (helps to have two people available for this method). Last but not least a loooong level, a pencil and a tape measure, but this method is the most prone to error.

Cutting In:
Cutting in is the process of outlining the area to be painted to get the paint right into the corners, and to prevent your roller from getting paint on surfaces you don't want. The question, at least for me, is often, "to tape, or not to tape". I've done both, still often do, it's a matter for me of the size of the job, and my mood at the time. Tape is a bit finicky to put on and is time consuming of itself and a lot of professional painters do insist on taping. On the other hand, a steady hand, a bit of patience and some practice, it's not too hard to do freehand. I learned the knack of it from my older sister, a painting contractor who learned it from her painting contractor ex-husband. Generally speaking, I'll freehand the job if it's a smaller job overall, and I'm not feeling rushed about it. In some ways mindset has more to do with how neatly a job turns out than skill.

I use an angled brush for cutting in. Be careful not to overload the brush with paint, you don't want it dripping, then using the angle and holding the brush at about 45° to the wall, start away from the corner and draw a line into the corner noting at the tip of your bristles there is a small bead of paint. It's that bead you're actually painting with - your brush should never actually get tight into the corner. It does take a steady hand, and patience, and if it doesn't work for you use tape. No biggie.

Cutting inCutting in

The Painting:
You'd think that painting a wall with a roller would be a bit of a 'no brainer', but I've discovered the hard way over the years; it is possible to do it wrong.

Best advise, load your roller - but don't overload it. You want it saturated, but not dripping. Start your roll on in a wide W pattern - this prevents the first roll of the run from being thick with paint and the last overly thin.


Then work from left to right over the entire height of the wall keep the handle side of the roller to the right - the direction you're working in. The handle side receives more pressure, and thus releases more paint, if you work away from that you end up with lines in the paint, but if you work toward and roller over that area you end up with a much cleaner finish.

Base white

In the end painting the chair rail the same colour as the supper wall makes it hard to see in the photos and subtle in person, but trim touches like these do add a little something. You don't have to do crown moldings to give a ceiling a nice finished look - a bit of 1/4 round can give it the look of a nicely turned seam on a suit.

Paint finished

(In the end, we did a lot of patching the walls when we removed the baseboards for the purposes of redoing the floors - the remaining paint we had in his blue colour had spoiled and rotted. So again - we went with what we had - 4 ltrs of the blue from the Feychild's room. The final blue is a bit brighter now as well.)
the_plan: (Seal Cove)
The Walrus said, to talk of many things,
Of shoes and ships and sealing wax,
Of cabbages and kings
And why the sea is boiling hot,
And whether pigs have wings"

The Plan®
Ya know, honestly, this isn't where in the game we were supposed to be right now. After 5 months of unemployment, and not sure where or how I'm gonna get on, we're gonna have to change the plan.

It's time to think about selling up here in Seal Cove. Truth be told we haven't really done any of the work we'd planned on doing when we moved in two years ago, hell we haven't even finished unpacking. However, we can bank a fair chunk of money if we sell up here and move further 'Outport', but the place is gonna need some work before we do. Some minor maintenance, and some of the finishes here are just so dated as to be embarrassing. It was and is a great house - well built with lovely bones, but it was built in 1979 and some of the finishes haven't been touched since, and the ones the previous owners did do - well they didn't always do the best job.

The kitchen is a nightmare - the cabinetry was handmade by the builder in 1979, and they're dreadful and don't work. The vinyl flooring is OK, but it's cheap looking.

So James is gonna see if the Australian government will let him cash in his retirement savings over there and we'll see if that won't a) get us a cheap place Outport ($129,000?? maybe) - we saw one in Fortune that promises to be a very good deal. And we'll put a little money into getting this place dolled up for sale. If we can walk out with $350,000 we'd be doing OK (mortgage is $144,000). If we can sell the property we've got up in Western Bay as well (been on the market 10 months now) - we'll be right as rain. All that happens we should still be able to look for a small income property (2 apartments) in town. If I land a job that has me commuting, well we'll be able to keep the line of credit going, and I'll have an apartment in town to stay in.

If the funds don't come through, we'll do what we can on the super cheap - I've got enough paint to do some work on some stuff, and we can shift the pedestal sink in the master bath to the powder room for instance. Repurposing is the way to go here. Inexpensive, not cheap! is the order of the day. I'll be tackling most of the renovation work, while James focuses on getting the business off the ground.

Still things are starting to get to a scary place. We've got arrangements made to get the Feychild off to college in the fall - although we're still waiting to hear on the government funding for that. The Man Child is away until the end of September. Hopefully things will be more decided by then. We are not derailed yet!

So it's still The Plan®, we've just had to accelerate things a bit faster than we'd meant to.


the_plan: (Default)

July 2011

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