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!

 

Papercut

In an effort to give you a break from the reno madness (Lord knows I want to get away from it!) let’s talk about something that has bothered me for a couple of weeks now.

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As you may know, The Bowery Girl started as “The Bowery” and was a column in a community newspaper I used to work for. I have written for three newspapers, along with two periodicals. Last week, I found out that the paper it worked at during my college co-op and later as a freelancer, was no longer producing a hardcopy edition. Basically it’s finished. The Guelph Mercury was in its 149th year when it was determined by Metroland Publishing to be no longer a viable business venture. In an effort to find some aspect of “glass half full”, the statement released last week indicated that the online version would continue.

That’s kind of like saying, “The Titanic may be sinking, but we’ve got a couple of great lifeboats over here!” With the amount of staff left behind following the layoffs, they wouldn’t be able to fill a lifeboat.

Another paper I used to work for, the one in my current hometown, has also experienced serious downsizing. Pointing to financial considerations, the weekly paper has shut down its storefront, which it has enjoyed since its inception, and moved to a town 45 minutes away. This would allow them to allegedly reduce costs (one would argue that increased milage and decrease subscriptions due to public dissatisfaction would be larger costs). This paper is also owned by Metroland. Now before you think I’m throwing shade on Metroland, please know that I worked for Thompson Media, Southam Media AND Hollinger Inc. They were all terrible. In school, our teachers advised that you wanted to work for a Thompson paper first, because the excellent work ethic environment (read here – they worked you like a slave) along with the fiscal restraint, would position young journalists well for opportunities at the more plush Southam papers. They were wrong. Once my publication became a Southam paper (because community papers were swapped, traded and bought out like NHL contracts), we were told that Hollinger was where the REAL money and opportunities were at. WRONG again!

For me, it was a no-brainer that when it came to being a working mom and contributing to a household, I could not continue as a full-time journalist. I have never made as little money as I have when I’ve been a professional writer. Low income wages are the norm in this line of work, something I kicked myself for not investigating further before applying to college.

Truth of the matter is this; journalism, and in fact journalists, are not overly valued in today’s society. I’m not talking about Katie Couric, I’m talking about the workhorse journalists. The ones who write locally. From a corporate standpoint, editorial was always the losing end of the stick. Advertising is where the money was literally and figuratively. If Advertising cried, the Publisher wiped its tears. Editorial was the hanger-on. Necessary to fill the holes between display ads, or the pages before the classifieds, but otherwise Editorial cost money. Cameras, dark rooms, mileage.

I was angry to hear about the local paper moving away and losing its community profile. I knew it wasn’t a local decision, but rather a corporate one. And therein lies the problem. The farther away you are from the community, the less you relate to it. Faces and stories are lost in numbers and dollar signs. I interviewed hundreds of people while I was a beat reporter. I had people who came to me with stories ahead of other reporters and publications because we had a relationship. That’s what’s at stake with the closure of these  newspapers. The community needs a relationship with its newspaper. Cutting costs, focusing on spreadsheets, slashing and burning. It has nothing to do with community support, investment in people, connecting with the reader.

Sadly, I’m not sure that people understand what they are losing, or have already lost by not having an active and thriving newspaper in their community. You may feel you aren’t impacted because of your internet connection or (God forbid) you find out news faster on Facebook. But you don’t have the balance that comes with the Fifth Estate (no I’m not referencing CBC right now). You don’t have the experience, accountability and conscious that comes with an investigative journalist. You don’t know how your community is unique and why you should be proud to be a part of it.

I do think that was part of the problem; the slippery slope of cutting back coverage to reduce costs, reduce pages, reduce local content all due to a reduction in ad revenues. The public gets their information elsewhere. The paper makes further cuts. The public gives up their reliance on the paper entirely. The paper shutters. The community will suffer.

Is there an answer? I think there is, but the travesty is that no one is looking for it. That would require effort, and heaven help us, money.

I’m just sad that it seems it’s as hard as ever to see the value in the printed word.

 

 

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……

 

 

A Man with A Plan

You want to know one of the things I love about being a Mom? It’s that you just never know where your life is going to take you.  A simple dinner can turn into a complex conversation about prejudice. Getting ready for school can veer off into a political debate.

Take, for example, a conversation last week, around dinner time. Second Born Son has been jonseing for some extra cash, since he has a serious “graphic novel” (comic book to the rest of us) addiction going on. He has every last coin counted out on his desk and he’s done the research for the upcoming Free Comic Book Day (May 3 cannot come fast enough!). However, the books he really wants, will not be “free” this year.

CURSE YOU UNIVERSE!!

SBS is a clever little dude, so he comes to the Mother Ship to figure out a solution to his financial woes.

“Bud, what it comes down to, is if you want extra money, you need to get a job.” I tell him.

“I don’t want a JOB!” he replies, as though I have suggested that he donate a kidney.

I can see the hamster running on its wheel and his eyes light up.

“I know, you can pay me to do chores!” he announces, with a look of excitement that is reserved for Christmas morning.

{{POW}} – DIDN’T SEE THAT ONE COMING BATMAN!

“You mean, like recycling, compost, feeding the dogs and picking up poops?” I ask.

“YES! For $20 a week!!” he exclaims, thrilled that I’m picking up what he’s putting down.

“Why would I do that? You are supposed to do that now?” I ask, almost literally scratching my head.

“I KNOW, but you wouldn’t have to TELL me to do it, I’d just do it. And I’d keep my room clean too!” he generously offers.

<PAUSE >Now, I know what you are thinking. You think, ‘Hey Sarah, the kid is asking for an allowance.’ I am in no way, a fan of allowances. I read A LOT about the concept and aside from the fact that I didn’t have one, nor did The Big Guy, I feel like the items that he’s asking for compensation for, are part and parcel of being part of this family. I understand the dynamic of teaching the child the importance of understanding how to handle money. I get that some feel it is good for a child’s sense of self to be responsible for their own currency. However, SBS has demonstrated that with proper guidance, he CAN save money, UNTIL he finds something he SIMPLY. MUST.HAVE. We have also endured his frustration with himself when the coveted item he purchased last week in the throes of desire, quells into another item for the Not So Cool bin once it’s obtained. Boyfriend likes the chase, is what I’m saying. <PLAY>

So, with this in mind, I size up the situation.

“If I was going to pay someone, and I’m not saying I’m going to, I would want a lot more than that,” I reply. At this point The Big Guy is in the room, as is First Born Son (who, by the way, has never asked for an allowance). They can tell by the look on my face that this is going to be entertaining. I’m waiting for them to break out popcorn.

“You tell me what you want me to do and I’ll write it down, we’ll have a contract!” gushes SBS.

“Well, I’m thinking you need to set the table every day, do the dishwasher, start helping with laundry,” he looks up from his note pad at this point, “and you have to help with outside work.” The pen goes down. He’s not picking up my puttin’ down any more.

***ZOINKS***

“What???”

“Well, if I’m going to pay you $20 a week, you are going to have to earn it!” I tell him.

~HOLY BANK ACCOUNT ROBIN!~

“Go for it! That’s $80 a month!” goads FBS. I shoot him a death stare.

“I don’t know,” says SBS, doodling on his “contract” post it note.

“Well maybe I should tell you about my terms for this,” I offer. The Big Guy is smiling now.

“What terms?!” asks SBS.

“Well, right now, I pay for a lot of things for you. I don’t mind doing that because of the things you do help out with. But if we are going to switch and I have to PAY for your help, then I get to cut back on what I spend.”

“Like what???” he asks, genuinely concerned.

“Well, I pay for pizza and milk at school. I won’t pay for that any more, or any pita days.” I state. His jaw drops. “When we go to the city, I treat you to snacks or lunch. I won’t do that any more. I won’t pay for movies either. And now that I think about it, your brother was doing odd jobs around the neighbourhood and he was earning money for some of the clothes he wanted. So maybe it’s only fair we do the same for you?!” My hubby and elder son are transfixed, as though watching a real life episode of Dragons’ Den.

“NO WAY, I’M OUT!” announces SBS. He packs away the note pad and pen. Said contract is in the trash.

“No, hey, wait a minute,” I call out to him, “this could really work out well for me!!

The next morning, the pad is out again.

Lordy! I don't get paid every Friday!!

Lordy! I don’t get paid every Friday!!

I note the reduced rate, as well as the omission of outdoor work and laundry. He has been asking each morning since if I’ve come to a decision about this “counter” offer.

This conversation is going to resume tonight. I have a feeling he is going to enjoy the status quo!

Christmas Spirit?

I love Christmas.

I really should say, I love everything about Christmas, except the people who gripe and chew about how stressful Christmas is. Several times over the past few weeks, I’ve heard or been part of conversations where people are frustrated at how much they have to do, how commercial Christmas is, how people have lost the “real meaning” of Christmas.

And I want to grab them by the shoulders and yell YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT YOURSELF – YOU ARE THE PROBLEM! You see, Christmas isn’t like Thanksgiving, where it floats around the “second week of the full moon yada yada yada”. Its always the 25th of December. It is always the second last week of the year! It never pops ups on the 10th or moves back to the 28th. So what’s the problem?

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Is it the gift giving? I enjoy gift shopping, NOT because I love throngs of people, but because I truly love thinking of my family and loved ones. THAT’s what gift shopping is: thinking of your husband, mother, father, kids, nieces, nephew (you get the picture) and think about what THEY want, what THEY will enjoy opening on Christmas morning and how your present will make THEM feel.  I bought my first gift this year in September for a certain nephew AND I AM SO STOKE ABOUT IT I CANNOT EVEN BEGIN TO TELL YOU!! It makes me smile every time I think about it. I’ve been told I do well in the gift-giving department, and I think that is due to the fact that I really enjoy putting that excitement into each gift. The funny thing is, when I’m thinking of someone else, there’s no pressure!

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Is it the decorating? Because you know, HALLOWEEN is second only to Christmas for retail sales and I don’t hear anyone moaning and groaning about how much work it is to put up their five inflatables, install their graveyard and hang a oversized spider off of the hand-crafted rope web off the third story of their house. Just saying’…

What about the baking? Well I love making food, so that’s not a huge issue for me, but there have been years when I’ve worked through the holidays and had to host a meal as well. As you know, I live in the sticks, but I still found a place that would cater Christmas dinner and it was AWESOME! Why turn yourself into a zombie for one meal when you can spend roughly the same amount of cash and let the praise fall all over you for being a resourceful AND brilliant hostess for having such an amazing meal.

Is it the Christmas cards? Very few people send cards anymore. Over the past 20 years I’ve watched my list get shorter and shorter as I reduce the number of people I send them to. After the season I go through the cards and check off those who send them to us. If you miss three years, you are a GONER my friend. I understand some people think its dated, but I can tell you, for some, it’s the only way we hear from them and it would be very sad to lose that contact.

Is it the running around seeing family? I know some people who have to split the day (and Boxing Day) several different ways. This is more about your family than about your frustration with the holiday. I’m going to guess that the people who demand you see them on the 25th are the same people who are picky and demanding the rest of the year too! Don’t blame Christmas.

The way I look at it is this, I know people who weren’t supposed to be around for this Christmas. I know people who are going through some really tough times. I know some people who aren’t here for Christmas, and their families really wish they were. Christmas is how we mark the passage of time. We need to have that celebration of life, faith and hope to sustain us. We need to be able to look forward to the New Year, whether its because the one we are in completely tanked, or because we have so much to look forward to.

I refuse to make Christmas the whipping boy of my day to day frustrations. Yes, it is more work – but doing a Christmas task with someone can be twice the fun. Yes, you can spend (a lot) more money – but you don’t have to. Some of the best gifts I’ve been given were not overly expensive.

What it comes down to is this, you get out of it what you put into it. You cannot spend weeks complaining about a religious holiday about peace and love and then wonder why you have no Christmas Cheer.

And if this post doesn’t help you out of your doldrums, I highly recommend popping in Christmas Vacation. Sounds like you need a laugh.

You are welcome.

 

From the Old Files

Before this version of The Bowery Girl, I had another blog, which still floats around “out there”. From time to time I’ll link in some of my favorite posts; it’s called recycling folks, it’s trending….

http://thebowerygirl.blogspot.ca/2010/05/give-or-take-inch.html

http://thebowerygirl.blogspot.ca/2010_05_01_archive.html

DSC_8186

 

Can’t believe it will be three years this week! Congrats LS and C2!!!

 

 

Heart of the Home Part Deux

A number of you have asked what the process was for painting the cupboards, so here’s the saga that was, THE KITCHEN!!

I wanted to change the hardware as it was dated, and since the hinges were mounted on the outside and not hidden, I had to

– take the doors off the cabinets
– remove hardware
– fill the holes remaining with wood filler

Before the wood filler, I wiped them with an environmentally friendly version of TSP from Home Hardware, by Natura. It gets them really clean and lifts the finish (not that these ones had much finish to lift!!!) so the paint adheres well.

I then put three coats of paint on – this is because the originals were so dark and I wanted to go lighter. I painted the cabinets, then painted the doors in the laundry room so they had space to dry.

The Big Guy put on the new hardware – and swore. A lot.

He pulled off the old grout from the counter top to the back splash and TSP’d the counter top.

We used a melamine paint (also from Home Hardware) in the dark brown to help tie in the colors. It went on rather light, more like a milk chocolate, and he panicked, as the walls are more espresso brown. However, when it dried, it darkened down nicely. Although The Big Guy would tell you “IT’S NOT THE SAME COLOR”, it certainly is very close and with the varied colors in the tiles of the back splash, it doesn’t bother me in the least.

We didn’t used the countertop for a week, and even now, are very careful with it. It takes 21 days to fully cure, but when we did this in the last house, we put a small scratch in it within three days. So far, we are doing well!!!

At the time, I told The Big Guy I never wanted to paint cupboards again, but now that I see how well the kitchen turned out, I’m looking at my bathrooms!! lol. Vanities would be MUCH easier as they are smaller. Not nearly as big a project; since there are two bathrooms, we would also have an option. It’s hard having the kitchen out of commission especially with kids that are hungry all the time!

I’m not here to promote a specific product, or company, just sharing what we used based on the resources in our community.

Good Luck!