There’s Compensation, and Then There’s Appreciation.

We have progress people! It’s been a busy month. The morning that the men and equipment rolled in to dig the hole was certainly an exciting one.

I couldn’t help but think it marked the beginning of a relationship; I got up early, made sure I was dressed and had a full face of makeup, not to mention an enormous smile when they came to the door.

Some of us, weren’t as enthusiastic.

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This is Second Born Son inside the house, while THIS…

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Was going on outside. While I was dancing around greeting every trade who stepped on the property, SBS was ready to pack his Chicken Little suitcase and head out for the duration of the reno. We have convinced him to stick around under the condition that he doesn’t have to talk to anyone in the mornings.

Things are progressing nicely. We’ve removed the kitchen cupboards and the flooring.

<PAUSE> Don’t you think we should have a moment of silence for the flooring?

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Me neither. <PLAY>

We gave relocated the kitchen to the laundry room and the upstairs fridge is now in the living room. What this lacks in aesthetic, more than makes up for in convenience. I’ve grabbed two fudgesicles since I started writing this post.

The Big Guy has become quite fond of the new dining arrangement. He feels the convenience of having a laundry room, office and kitchen all in one space is worth considering. I suggested that he can continue to have his meals in this room, but I will be moving into the new and improved kitchen when it is complete.

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I gotta say, it’s nice to stand in the middle of the room and plan entire meal without cumbersome cupboards getting in the way.

During our first meal at our new “dining room table”, we remarked at how agreeable and helpful all of the trades have been, especially our general contractor. This man is a Craftsman. His work site is clean every day. He is a top notch communicator – texting and calling on a regular basis so there are no surprises. He uses common sense, which, I think we can all agree, isn’t so common any more. He thinks outside of the box and comes up with some pretty great ideas, and doesn’t flinch at my nutty suggestions. I make impossible requests and he goes above and beyond.

In the weeks leading up to the project, I stock piled baking because I knew my kitchen would be out of commission for a while. Also, I wanted to have some snacks here for the crew. Last week, thanks to the heat, I switched it up from cookies and muffins to freezies, ice cubes and fudgesicles.

Our Craftsman expressed thanks, pointing out these gestures were not necessary. After all, we did sign a contract agreeing to pay for his services, he pointed out.

“Hey, there’s compensation, and then there’s appreciation,” I replied. He’s making our house into the home we have been waiting for, for a very long time.

I’m keeping in all the freezies he needs!

 

 

 

 

The Magic Number

Some clever bloke said, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” The same could be said about this renovation. While the concept of the addition/reno has been kicking around pretty much since we moved in eight years ago, the first step was last fall when I put pencil to paper and drafted the very rough sketch of what we/I envisioned; a larger space that would allow us to accurate our growing family and give us the sight lines to the back of the property that we desired.

The rudimentary drawing was then taken to a professional who made accurate renderings. The tweaked the aspects of my drawing that were impossible (a window underground anyone?) and ensured the dream we dreamed was possible within the building code.

Once we had the blueprints, it was time to get prices to see if it was even financially feasible. Off to find general contractors to quote on the project. We held off until January because, you know, Christmas.

With a sense of anticipate that can only come with a New Year and a completely unrealistic expectation of what is possible, we started booking appointments with contractors.

The Good News: We had interest from general contractors.

The Bad News: They promised to get us pricing, AFTER they took off the month of February.

Yes, February is not a good month to pin down quotes. We are learning many things with this process, but the first, and biggest lesson so far has been this…

  1. THOU SHALL NOT EXPECT ANYTHING FROM A CONTRACTOR IN THE SECOND MONTH OF THE YEAR. FEBRUARY IS SACRED AND CUSTOMERS SHALL NOT BUT KEEP IT HOLY.

Finally we heard back from the contractors and they were asking bizarre questions like; “How much do you want us to allot for the kitchen?”

Whoa! This is a chicken-egg situation here. Do you set a budget when you don’t know how much you can afford? Or do you figure out what you can afford then set the budget?

We headed out on a Saturday with kitchen manufacturers. We were beginning to notice a disturbing pattern.

Admiring a granite countertop that we were interested in: $5,000.

Upgrades from the “standard” kitchen display: $5,000.

Sinks and taps combos: $5,000.

Appliances: $5,000.

Whaaaaaat? DA HECK?! We are tossing around 5K like it’s $20 bills! Yikes.

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Now, I realize that we are used to cupboards of cardboard construction, however, we don’t want to go economy on this project. That being said, we don’t want to have to sell a kidney to afford this either.

We’re not sure either of us has a kidney worth $5,000.

The quotes finally come in. Like the Three Bears, we had a price that was too high, a price that was too low (yes, it’s possible), and one that was just right! Fortunately, the “winner” is also a great guy. I think we’ll be able to work well with him and he’s already come through with some great ideas.

It’s the end of April at this point.

With this crucial part of the process locked in, we started looking around and realized, we have a TON of work to do before the first week of June target for the project to start. We have rooms to pack, a deck to remove, bricks to take off and plants to transplant.

This is when Mother Nature joins the party.

She shows up uninvited the second last weekend in April and brings with it a snow storm the likes of which none of us can remember happening in Spring.

Then there was the windstorm the first weekend of May.

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This brute brought winds up to 110 km/hr. The barbecue was tossed across the lawn, but, for some reason, the deck was unfazed – which is remarkable, because when we finally removed it last weekend, we learned that the deck wasn’t actually attached to the house. It was more or less sitting on a header which was supported from the ground by vertical posts that were rotten at ground level.

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See something off with this photo? I’m sure the perpendicular support REALLY helped the deck.

Yup – whether or not we did this project, that deck was a death trap.

So – here’s where we stand for those of you keeping score at home:

  1. no deck
  2. ripped apart dining room
  3. half packed kitchen
  4. no flooring in the living room.

Thank goodness we have a long weekend coming up, because the next item on the “to do” list is the brick removal. If you don’t hear from me in a week – send out the rescue team!

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Where to Start?

I realize it has been far too long. There’s been a lot of “stuff” going on. For a while, I wasn’t sure how things were going to shake out, therefore – radio silence.

When we bought this house, we knew it would need work. It was built in 1980 and had not had a lot of love or updating since.

The day we moved in, we stored all of our belongings in the garage and set up the boys’ rooms. We then set to work on ripping out all of the shag carpet and wall to wall curtains that were left behind by the previous owners. Flooring was replaced in the living room and dining room. We put new flooring in the boys’ rooms shortly thereafter.

Within the next few years, we replaced windows, blew in more insulation, updated the landscaping, replaced the pump in the well, put a new metal roof on it and painted every room except the laundry room. The only two spaces that were untouched was the Rec Room and the kitchen.

The Rec Room is a total throwback to the 80s: shag carpet, large stone fireplace, wood paneling for DAYS. Without a doubt, the highlight would be the disco lights.

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Yes, this is a DIY special. Tin foil and Christmas lights. Also, enough custom shelving to fit every cd, dvd and vhs we’ve ever owned. Yes, someone had A LOT of spare time.

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There’s enough stone here for the foundation of an entire house!

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We decided early on to leave the Rec Room as it was. To be truthful, it would be hard to start in this room and not stop. Do you rip out the carpet but leave the paneling? Paint the stone fireplace but tolerate the teeny tiny custom shelving??

We weren’t going to tackle the Rec Room any time soon.

The kitchen. Ah, the kitchen. When we viewed the property before we bought it, there were so many patterns going on, it was almost seizure inducing. It started with the floor.

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Would you believe me if I told you I tried to square up this photo but the room started spinning?

The cupboards were poor quality and the laminate countertops were a lovely shade of regurgitated butterscotch pudding. The only saving grace was the tiled backsplash which was SO old, that it was actually back in style again.

We lost two of our very limited cupboards when we installed a dishwasher. The shelves were starting to submit to gravity. There were several days when I thought I’d come home to our food vessels shattered into pieces on the floor.

Well folks, the time has come. We are doing a renovation/addition that will see the kitchen expanded and the dining room more than doubled. We are putting an extra bedroom and bathroom in the basement, along with an office. It’s going to be big project and we were so excited about this that Second Born Son couldn’t wait to start Demo Day!

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Within minutes these two had pulled down all the railings, the skirting and one of the stairways!

At this rate of going, we’ll have this addition done in a week!

Note: thinking of posting a couple of videos to really show the progression. You can advise when you overdose!

 

 

Bathroom Part II

I believe that your relationship will survive anything, if it can survive a renovation.

I say this with ample experience. We had a massive renovation/addition at our previous home that involved our back entrance, master bedroom, kitchen and adding an ensuite. That was almost 15 years ago! Things are looking good for us!

While you “lived” through our emergency bathroom reno from last year, I’m thrilled to let you know that, yes gentle reader, we hate ourselves enough to subject our marriage and family to ANOTHER bathroom renovation. Thank Sweet Baby Jesus that there are only two bathrooms in this house.

Mercifully, there is no dire, structural emergency prompting this reno. Thanks also to the experience (also known as “character building”) of the first bathroom, we are far more prepared for the cost. This time, we are PREPARED!

So let’s start at the beginning…

SHOWER

This is the “shower”, which is only 3/4 of a standard shower, made more difficult to access by the dumbass door which only allows you a foot and a half to squeeze through. The Big Guy and First Born Son took to this bathroom when we moved in, which makes ZERO sense because neither of them can fit under the door frame never mind the shower head. Since the last reno made the upstairs bathroom too “nice”, Second Born Son has taken to showering down here too. Again, at 6’2 this is not logical. ANYWAYS!

TUB

To the right of the door is the Jacuzzi tub. Yes folks Jacuzzi – trademarked and everything. I’m pretty sure this was the first generation, if not the prototype. I tried using it once, and dared not to activate the jets as a quick pre-soak inspection told me everything I needed to know about the condition of the calcified tube work. We were also fairly suspect of the condition of the wiring for the motor after 30+ years.

I’m going to assume you judged me for my poor choice of wall color, but that’s ok, because now you can see there isn’t much you can do with calf-scour brown tiles. Yes, those ARE the same tiles from the upstairs reno. So observant you are! Gold star! 1-inch tile was all the rage in 1983.

You might think the tiles are my favorite feature of this area, and I would say “No, good sir, you are mistaken!” It’s the du-lux hand-held shower modification. It ALWAYS leaked and because a Jacuzzi is not designed to be “shower tub”, water that didn’t hit directly dead centre of the tub, and ended up on the top of the tub, and was instantly redirected around the walls of the enclosure to the floor. Basically, if you tried to bathe in this beast, you’d have a flood on your hands or a fire. Good times.

CLOSET

Here you get a much better angle of the aforementioned shower basterdization modification. You will also see the staining in the tub. Did I mention we have crappy water? Fear not, we spent a small fortune on that too. Nothing like investing in new bathrooms and having them look like century-farm indoor plumbing within a year!

Here you can appreciate how the owner/builders maximized the use of space. Not only did they have a shower installed that could only fit adolescent girls, but they also crammed the world’s smallest linen closet. As we were going to update our doors, TBG pulled this one off as well, only to find out YOU CAN’T ORDER DOORS THIS SMALL ANYMORE. Son of a Doorknob! Yes, I did suggest he go back to the repurpose area of the landfill to reclaim the old door. No, he did not do it. I’m hitting Pinterest hard for a solution. I’m open to suggestions y’all!

SINK TOILET

This is the image that gives me nightmares. We have removed the toilet already, to protect the more sensitive readers amongst you. What remains is what a raw plaster wall looks like when you don’t paint before the plumber comes…30 years later, that is. The shower is to the right of the sink. Not a big room, but a main one as this is the one our guests tend to use. That’s right, we allowed friends and extended family to use this space looking the way it did. Hey, we don’t discriminate!

It was right about this time when I came with an idea! “I’ve got an idea” no longer fills TBG’s heart full of fear, but rather a knowing dread that this “idea” is going to involve him. And perhaps some money.

Originally we were going to close in the dinky shower and use it for a closet, but then I thought, “Why waste the storage space in the bathroom?” While the shower was tiny in its current form, it would make a great pantry for the kitchen which is across from the outer wall!!

Thankfully TBG agreed and made it so.

SIDE BY SIDE

Apparently I like plaster dust throughout my house, because let me tell you, this did it! The attempt at tarping you see in the image on the right was noble, but not as effective as one would hope. Therefore, I’ve suspended any house cleaning until this project is complete. It’s been a month with no end in sight. Don’t drop by, we are days away from being condemned for being a public safety hazard.

DOORWAY

Here he is. The Creator of the dreams I come up with. He spends all his spare time, such as it is, working on this. No comments on the kitchen floor – he doesn’t have time for a kitchen reno right now.

Next year darling???

 

Murphy’s Law in Full Effect!

I’m not a tease. I promise.

I will post a photo of the bathroom, once we get it pulled together. In fairness, it was “together” for about 24 hours: everything installed and cleaned. The next morning, I was putting on my war paint, and stepped away from the mirror for a moment when one of the lights above the vanity exploded. As in, I was about 5 seconds from my face – specifically my eye – catching shards of glass shade.

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So after taking the light down, returning it to Home Depot (shout out to Home Depot who handled this promptly with professionalism), getting a new light and just installing it after the ceiling was touched up, we may have it finessed sometime THIS weekend.

But in case you thought we were just loafing about, you should know that we were on to the next project…the roof. This is allegedly where the water issue that surfaced in the bathroom, originated.

The Big Guy and I looked at every option, from asphalt to shakes to metal roofing. We had numerous quotes, and finally decided on a hybrid metal roof (steel, zinc & aluminum). While the investment in the house played a large role, one of the deciding factors in which company to go with, was professionalism. One company’s reps spent more than an hour in our kitchen trashing the competition; even showing us a binder full of photos depicting faulty roofs. The stories were endless. I’m sure he was shocked when we advised him that we would get back in touch; his binder alone should have been a slam-dunk.

The second supplier was much more gentile. He explained how his product worked, why he thought it was the best and how solid their track record was. When I asked him what would happen when/if we had an issue with his product, he gave us a detailed, straightforward answer. We signed with him, after advising him part of the decision was based on his lack of competition bashing. After all, if the only way you can promote your product is to trash someone else’s, you have a problem!

Thankfully, the rep advised that we could have the roof installed within a month. The Big Guy used the fabulous weather last weekend to remove the problematic chimney that was slowly succumbing to gravity.

It was always a contest to see how many brick chips were on the back deck.

It was always a contest to see how many brick chips were on the back deck.

TBG enjoyed this job a little too much, and was impressed to see how the chimney was still standing, given how easy the bricks were chunking off!

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Honestly, with the wind we get up here, it’s a miracle that thing was still standing.

This chimney was for our old oil furnace, which has been updated. Then the conversation turned to the second chimney…

That that one on the left...

That thar one on the left…

It’s connected to the wood fireplace in the basement. During the Furnace Incident of 2012, this was the only way to heat our house. It also proved to be the last time we would use it. Let’s leave it at the entire house was nicely smoked after an hour.

Eventually, we’d like to convert to a gas insert. But, since we’ve already had our visit to Santa Claus the loan officer for this year, the insert will have to wait.

Murphy needs to stay away from this place!

 

It’s all Downhill from Here

I’ve gotta tell you, it’s awesome to hear from people who read The Bowery Girl and ask “So, how’s the reno going?” I can’t say that I thought my mother was the only person reading the blog, as she has yet to succumb to an internet connection, so it’s rewarding to hear from you. Thank you.

Writing about the renovation means I can refrain from losing my MIND over the Jian Gomeshi trail. I am literally taking notes on stuff I want to rant about following the verdict in March. So there you go – mark that on your calendar. Something to look forward to.

As far as answering that reno question, well, it’s going. The Big Guy is an absolute workhorse on this project; after long days at work, he’s putting in late nights on the dry walling in the bathroom and the hallway.

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**Editor’s Note** TBG says he hates it when I post photos of him while he’s working, because he doesn’t like what he’s wearing. I advised him that when I change The Bowery Girl’s direction to a more fashion-forward theme, I’ll let him know. Until then, I’ll continue posting working man shots. Keeping it real here!

I am excited about an unexpected detail – we (I) decided to install transoms above the bathroom and the Master Bedroom doorways. Since the house was built in the early 80s, the only item of architectural interest is seizure inducing flooring. No, I’m not showing you that. You’d have to sign a waiver first.

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I found a local glass installer who had some remnants from his stained glass days and for a sweet price, we were able to get two panels of “Hammered Flemmish” glass. I’m sorry, every time I say that I think of an intoxicated Belgian and it makes me laugh. Originally he had two other samples for me to look at. I had picked one, and was on my way out when I saw this pattern on a larger piece of glass and hit the brakes. He would sell it to me, he said, but cautioned that it was his last piece and if it shattered when he cut, or when TBG installed it, we’d have to look at a new pattern. He’s not getting any more Hammered Flemmish. (Sorry, giggling.)

<PAUSE> If you really want to go down a rabbit hole, look up glass patterns. It will truly devour and afternoon for you. Start with “Pinhead Glass” and we’ll see you sometime next week. You are welcome. <PLAY>

No pressure on TBG when he received the finished pieces. No anxiety when the glass installer cautioned him AGAIN when TBG asked for advice on how to build a custom frame.

But the results are terrific. I knew he could do it!!

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I love how the light throws a pattern onto the ceiling. TBG does his own drywall work, and because we hate ourselves, we’ve incorporated odd angles all over the place. I’d like you to take a moment to appreciate the corners. They are awesome. That is all.

You might say, “Sarah, what are YOU doing to help with this project?” and I would reply, “Gentle Reader, I am FEEDING the man who is doing the work AND keeping his work clothes clean and at the ready.” Then I would add, “I am also the designer/visionist who brings exciting, yet time-consuming and stressful design elements for TBG to execute! I am also the head cheerleader and task master! That’s not NOTHING you know!”

The truth is, TBG is anal-retentive a perfectionist. The only thing I’m allowed to consider helping with is the painting. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to successfully complete a practical exam before I’m allowed to pick up brush on this project.

So, that’s all for now. Drywall is primed and we are looking to paint this week. Then flooring. Then vanity. Then toilet. Then I’m going to have the world’s longest spa day in this bathroom.

After The Big Guy of course!

 

Out with the Old, In with the New!

In typical Bowery Girl fashion, just as we were prepping (aka cleaning) to welcome The Big Guy’s family to our home for Christmas festivities we made a rather disturbing discovery.

It happened when TBG was cleaning the upstairs shower.

Them thar are some crook'd lines thar Captn'!

Them thar are some crook’d lines thar Captn’!

The tiles were most definitely wonky! I thought I noticed some heaves in the wall in recent weeks, but honestly, didn’t realize how bad it was until now (and figured they had been there all along). Fearing the worst, that water was somehow getting into the bathroom from the exterior (the bathroom borders two rooflines), we slapped a happy face on each other, and proceeded to advise our overnight Boxing Day guests that we were down to one shower.  Thankfully, they were too full of Sweet Potato Casserole to notice.

As soon as the last family member had cleared the driveway, we immediately started the investigation. Now, before you see these photos, keep in mind that this house is more than 30 YEARS OLD and this bathroom has not been updated. To say we were due for a reno would be an understatement.

Remember, you can't un-see this!!!!

Remember, you can’t un-see this!!!!

The vanity doubles as a coffin….

The vanity doubles as a coffin….

"Quality" workmanship….not…. And who in their right mind needs to lock in their toothbrush?!?

“Quality” workmanship….not…. And who in their right mind needs to lock in their toothbrush?!?

And if you like the swirly sink….

And if you like the swirly sink….

 

….you'll LOVE the swirly toilet! :(

….you’ll LOVE the swirly toilet! 😦

There are no words for the flooring. But on the up side, you know where to put the mat!

There are no words for the flooring. But on the up side, you know where to put the mat!

In the 20 minutes it took me to tear down the curtains, decor, etc., TBG was grabbing tools and getting ready to cause havoc!

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The entire process took him less time to get down to the studs and insulation than it did for me to pack the clutter away!! The tiles popped like Tic Tacs. In the end, the good news is, there’s no external leak. The bad news is TBG thinks he may have contributed to the water seeping through the grout with his “enthusiastic” cleaning technique and tools. He was so upset, that he declared that the entire bathroom would have to be renovated.

I, being completed stunned with this revelation and assumed I mis-heard or that he mis-spoke, stammered,  “You mean we’ll get a new tub-surround”, to which I was corrected. No – he said, we would rip EVERYTHING out and start over!

Who am I to argue with someone so motivated by passion. You DID look at those photos didn’t you?! I did try to ease his guilt by pointing out that the insulation proved that we needed to tackle this project before black mould consumed us all. So, actually, he did a good thing! See! I can make a positive out of ANYTHING!

This project quickly dominated the Christmas holidays. My original plan was no plan at all, outside of wearing PJs 24/7 and limiting my social interaction to one trip to the “City” to see the latest Star Wars instalment. This was quickly scrapped when it became obvious that we needed to spend quality commerce time in our local hardware and big box stores.

And folks, I can tell you, it has been an education.

LEARNING POINT #1 Showering isn’t “showering” anymore. It’s an “experience.”

Every time we asked to look at showers, we were shuffled in front of displays of glass, retina-frying chrome and a quarry worth of tile. Showers have become somewhat of a spectator sport, complete with clear glass, rain shower heads, and, if you’re lucky, a surplus of water jets at various levels that basically sandblast your undercarriage.  This kind of luxury is lost on me. TBG has got himself a basic kinda gal. I think I disappointed a couple of sales reps when I didn’t squeal like a redneck at NASCAR.

LEARNING POINT #2 What you gain in water conservation you lose in costly plumber labor.

I do make every effort to consider environmental impact whenever I can, so I was very disappointed to learn that most sales reps are steering customers away from the “dual flush” toilets. You know, the one that has two flush options: a trickle for a #1 and a torrent for #2? Apparently users find these toilets confusing and either a) use the full flush for little tasks thereby negating the efficiency, or b) clog the toilet because you didn’t use the “big” flush for the your “big” job! Time to call the plumber!

LEARNING POINT #3 Yes Virginia, there IS a difference in toilets!

What can I say, I was sadly ignorant in my toilet knowledge. When a sales rep told me she had a “favourite” toilet, I couldn’t help but scoff. Literally. I laughed at her. Then she walked me in front of this beauty, and I apologized profusely.

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Firstly, the base of the toilet curves up toward the tank so there is no nasty place where guck can party; just a nice smooth area that wipes easily. Secondly, LOOK AT THE BASE OF THE TOILET! No weird roller coaster of pipes and capped screws, simply a smooth vertical wall. That means no nasty areas where funky stuff gathers. (You mothers of sons know of which I speak!!!) Let’s face it, you have to wipe the floor around the toilet anyway, but with this model, the clean up is fast and simple!! The lip of the lid is oversized to cover the seat down to the bowl, again, eliminating the amount of dust that accumulates on the horizontal surfaces. Finally, the lid has a soft closing mechanism. No more slamming seats and lids in the middle of the night! I’M. IN. LOVE.

LEARNING POINT #4 I need to find out how to sell a kidney to afford this toilet.

While my tastes are not extravagant, when I find something I like, I have a hard time “settling”.  It’s too bad we don’t pay blood donors in Canada…..

LEARNING POINT #5 Everything old is new again!

TBG is crushing hard on oil rubbed copper finishes for the faucets etc.

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But while he sees THIS (above), I see THIS (below) –

LOOK. AT. THE. HARDWARE!!

LOOK. AT. THE. HARDWARE!!

Not sure I can stomach it, but we’ll see. If he’ll agree to the toilet, I’ll concede on the old-timey taps!

LEARNING POINT #6 All “deals” are not equal!

TBG and I got excited when we were told that we’d benefit from sale pricing at a couple of locations, however, our thrill was quickly tempered but the realization that one man’s “deal” is another man’s pocket change.

LEARNING POINT #7 It’s time to get creative.

Maybe it’s too much HGTV, but I have found it very interesting to see what happens after I tell a sales rep “that’s not in my budget”. I don’t think for a minute every costumer jumps at the first suggestion, but I have been encouraged to see that some of the people we have been working with have been very helpful and come up with some great ideas for those of us who don’t have the billfold for a hotel-calibre salle de bain.  It gives a girl hope!

We’ve made this a family affair…(yes, the kitchen floor can induce seizures – one renovation at a time people!)

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And at present, the project awaits some serious decision making on our end.

Specifically, which son do we sell to afford this, and how much more could we make if we throw in the dogs??

To be continued……