Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Am bad blogger. Will update more regularly.

So uh it's been 23 days since I last blogged. No drama filled reason as to why, really, just kinda lost interest in it for a time. That's not to say bloggable things haven't happened, just that I haven't blogged 'em. Here's the rundown on why I've been feeling rundown.

House for sale!
Worked frantically with the help of my parents to get the house ready for sale. My jaw still drops when I think of what we did to get the house ready to list (hmm lemme see.... chipped away loose cement and paint, patched leaky cement basement floor, painted basement floor and walls with waterproofing paint, tore basement carpet up that had gone moldy from previous owners' non-disclosure (grr), cleaned, sorted, pitched, donated and organized basement, put tons-o-crap in storage, plastered, patched, sanded and painted hole in kitchen wall; patched, painted sanded, and primed bedroom walls, trim and ceiling, painted 2nd bedroom door; de-wallpapered, patched, drywalled, sanded and painted bathroom walls and painted trim, cleaned house top to bottom, raked front and back yards, re-seeded, cleaned again, and again, organized some, and cleaned again and put more stuff in storage). Phew. Now the fucker isn't sold. We've had two open houses and a few showings but so far only tire kickers (ie nosy neighbours). Am annoyed. Highly annoyed. Am not love struck about agent. Am considering resorting to religious icons.

The upside is that the house looks freaking awesome and I am remembering why I love this place so much, even though I know we're ready to move on. Don't believe me? Come on, take a virtual tour! (Caution! My hyper-advanced web skills have made the link only accessible to non-stalker types. If you are of the stalker/crazy variety then it'll blow your computer up. Yes, really. Sorry 'bout that, crazies!)

Dogs get haircut by owners who should never use clippers without supervision!
Two factors led to that decision. The first is that summer is unbearably hot for them. The second is that hardwood floors + really long dog hair all over them house selling quickly, but does equal owners sweeping four times a day to keep it clean enough and insanity. So, this is the before, during, and after. It was a wee bit short to begin with, but it's perfect now.

Adventures in sudden and unexplained drops in blood pressure!
Just over a week ago I got an ambulance ride! From the mall! Where I passed out mid chopstick of mall Thai food! Second time that's happened in a year! Boy do I know how to have fun.

I donated blood and met up with Dave at the mall for a nice romantic dinner while someone else traipsed their grubby selves through our house with no intention of buying it a promising showing was taking place at our house. I've donated blood a gazillion times and felt fine about an hour afterward, until I was eating dinner and quickly and suddenly got woozy. Apparently Dave caught me before I hit the ground but the only thing I remember was this woman with a crunchy perm hovering over me and the mirrored tile ceiling of the 'shwa mall. Dave said he caught me as I was passing out and she barged over and nearly knocked him out of the way to save me yelling she had first aid. Uh so does he but he said he was afraid she'd snap him in half so he just told her what to do. I also remember this one dude who asked like 3 times if we needed a doctor and Dave telling him 3 times that someone had already called an ambulance. The first ambulance dudes were kinda the trainee variety who had me sit up where I promptly passed out again and then the 2nd dudes arrived who were more experienced. I got a finger prick and an IV right there in the mall and a swift ride to the hospital. They released me that night when my blood pressure was 90/60 and an EKG and a confirmation that no, I'm not pregnant, yes I'll pee in that cup to prove it, and yes my husband is secretly hoping we are pregnant.

So, the family Dr sent me for a whack of tests when I told him this was the second time I'd passed out in just over a year and now get to look like frankenstein with a big ass battery pack and 6 censors attached to my chest and a notebook to record "events." I think it makes my decolletage damn sexy. (In the same way that BP cuffs are hawt.)

New house not just a foundation with boards!
The house? The new house I can't freaking wait to move into? The house where I'm having a giant housewarming party that will be loads of fun and you'll all be invited to (assuming you're not one of those crazy stalker-types)? Where the booze will flow and the nibblies will be lovely and plentiful? Where we can hang out on the uber cool 2nd floor balcony and sip beverages? It's looking like a house! Not just a foundation with some boards on top. We drive by obsessively to check it out and this is what it looked like just a couple of hours ago. I'm sure that when we move in the neighbours will say "oh, those are the freaks that kept driving by and taking pictures every 20 minutes." I love making a good first impression.

The weather this April was abysmal - cold, wet, snowy even. Until this past weekend, when it turned to perfect.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Decisions, decisions

Part of the fun of buying a new house is picking out all the finishes and upgrades. We did that last week.

Some of the things on the upgrade list were unbelievable though. If you want a pullout garbage in your kitchen? The builder will charge you $600.00 to do it. That's right. Six hundred dollars. For just the garbage container (recycling and compost are EXTRA) The same ones you can buy from Home Depot or wherever for $60 are six hundred dollars. We decided to pass on that option.

We had $5000 in upgrades that come with the house, and since we're buying an inventory house (ie partially built already) it already comes with big basement windows, a door from the house to the garage and a few other things.

We upgraded a couple of little things, but the only thing we ended up getting on top of the 5k upgrades was a heat recovery ventilation system, which, from what I've read should make the house lots more energy efficient and keep fresh air flowing through the house and make it more efficient to heat and cool. It's one of the things you need to have your house labeled energy star, and I there are usually rebates for installing them so we got one. It's supposed to dramatically improve air circulation in the house. We also got low E argon filled windows which should also help the energy efficiency of the new house. We'll do other energy efficiency upgrades like better (and more) insulation and a programmable thermostat when we move in (a programmable thermostat from the builder costs $300, whereas us doing it costs $20 when they're on sale). We just got their "standard" fawcets and light fixtures, knowing that it'll be thousands cheaper to upgrade them on our own schedule and our own time.

We were supposed to have two appointments at the decor centre - one to pick out structural upgrades and another to pick out finishes for the house. When we asked about combining them into just the one appointment the lady at the decor centre thought we were nuts and suggested it couldn't be done. After some haggling on our part she said that once we had gone through the structural upgrades if there was still time left we could pick out decor stuff like cabinets, tile etc. She said it in a tone like we were mental institution patients, and that it would be nearly impossible to have that happen, but, in order to appease us she threw us that bone, knowing it would never happen and it was stupid of us to ask about getting it done all at once.

We breezed through where we wanted the plugs and the extra capped fixtures (rather than spending $190 PER pot light, we'll install our own) and were done all the possible structural upgrades within an hour of our 4 hour appointment.

It took us about an hour after that to pick out kitchen cabinets, counter, tile, grout, carpeting, and fixtures and tiles for 3 bathrooms, the foyer, and the rest of the house.

The master ensuite - with sesame maple cabinets, wall tile for above the soaker tub and the shower stall (top right) and floor tile (left). The fixtures will be bone coloured.

The main bathroom will have a dark ceramic tile floor, granite look counter and washed oak cabinets with white fixtures.

Plain white kitchen cupboards with a corion-looking counter and textured ceramic tile (that will also go on the laundry room floor). When they said they wanted $1300 to do a backsplash we decided to do it ourselves. Below is the kitchen in a model house that we based our idea on. Our kitchen is actually bigger and not shaped like this, but you get the idea.

The biggest dilemma, though, came when we had to pick out the paint colour for the walls. We had three options and man was it hard to pick. There were three vastly different shades. Thank heavens the trend has been to move away from builder's beige.

Apparenlty now it's all Builder's White. You'll all be relieved, I'm sure that after hours of arguing that threatened the health of our marriage and many tears shed (the lady nearly threw us out and twice threatened to call the police) that we picked birch white as the wall colour. She said they were all different but I bet that after we left she took the sticker off the "warm grey" sample and swapped it with "cameo white" and probably has a ton of fun doing that to everyone who walks through. I see many painting parties in our future to de-boring the walls.

Sadly, the house still just looks like a foundation with some wood on top, except with less snow than in this picture. Perhaps though it's like a watched pot and me driving by is making it not boil?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Adventures in painting

Some of the fun (that's what we'll call it for now) that comes with owning an older home means that you have tons of work to do before it's ready to list. One of the most fun things we're doing is pitching/giving away stuff that we don't need, putting what we don't need right away in storage, chipping away loose paint and cement, filling the cracks, and re-painting the floor and walls with waterproofing paint.

We've been doing it in stages, not only for our own mental health, but so that the cement patch can cure and paint can adhere, that kinda fun stuff.

Yesterday while I spruced the upstairs up, Dave worked on painting one of the last sections of the basement.

Scarlett came upstairs to visit, and I picked her up for a snuggle, and lo and behold her paws were COVERED in white paint.

I spent the next half hour cutting away fur that was laden with paint, while she growled, hissed, grumbled, and squirmed constantly. What a little monkey.

A 'shwa moment

We're used to comments from strangers when we're out walking the dogs. They're tall, gangly, furry, and not exactly a common breed. It's not uncommon for someone to make a joke about us "getting saddles so we can ride them" or suggesting we "get a cart so they can pull us around." One lady along the riverfront came up and asked us if they were dogs. We haven't decided what else they could be, but said yeah, they're dogs all right. One kid told us they were pandas and once we were told they were llamas but we didn't take that to heart too much.

This morning, though we had one we hadn't heard. Dave was walking the dogs home from the park early this morning when he came across an older gentleman, probably in his sixties or seventies, standing outside his house with a young girl beside him, probably a granddaughter. She was about two or three years old.

As they were going past, the old man yelled to Dave in a friendly voice "with dogs like those, you must have the world by the ass!" Right in front of the little girl.

Unsure of how to respond to such a comment muttered a puzzled "thanks," and walked home.

So, leave a note and define what having the world by the ass means. I'm frankly not sure.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Grocery store epiphany

My good friend Jamie traveled to the 'shwa this weekend for a visit. We hadn't seen each other since my wedding (almost 7 months ago) so a visit was long overdue.

Jamie and I met in residence at university. We met the first week of school in her first year (my second year), but didn't really start to be close friends until the night of my 20th birthday a couple of weeks after that.

The night of my birthday a big crew of people from our residence went to the bar that night to celebrate my birthday, and we all consumed way too many $6.50 triples (served in mini pitchers) and we danced up a storm. My then boyfriend decided he didn't dance (loser!) and decided to watch from the sidelines. I had gone out to dance that night, and figured his non-participation left me free to dance with whomever I chose, so dance I did - with the girls, with the guys, and on the speakers.

On the walk back to residence my boyfriend started an argument about me dancing with male friends, so I decided when we got back that I'd blow him off and send him home. I gave him his marching orders (he'd travelled to see me) and, being in a less than sober state I started hanging out with friends in the hallway, with him still there. I could piss the boyfriend off as he was leaving because I was still having fun, and I could hang out with friends. Jamie was down the hall, and getting help from another friend on a physics lab so I hung out with them.

Since that night we've been great friends, including midnight trips to the 24 hour grocery store, more nights out at the bar, sobering each other up with crackers, long drives home, and a ton of inside jokes only funny to the two of us. Our younger days were filled with tons of partying. We were always relatively responsible, but we always had fun. Even having lost touch for a while we've always been able to pick up where we left off.

This weekend was no exception. We hit the grocery store and wandered around aimlessly selecting items for dinner, picked out frozen drinks, and laughed the whole way through the store catching up. As we were going through the produce section, I decided to pick up a few lemons. With Dave and I getting ready to sell our current house, and a realtor coming over to appraise it, I kinda figured a nice big bowl of lemons would make a pretty centerpiece on our kitchen table.

After having hit every aisle of the giant grocery store, reminiscing the whole way, laughing and talking about our wilder and crazier days, we hit the checkout. As we were loading items onto the belt, we both paused for a second. Funny how the stuff we'd bought was the same sort of stuff we'd bought years before. Jamie joked that thing missing was the jello for making shots, but when we put the lemons on the belt that's when it hit us both. Irrefutable proof we were getting older.

In our younger days, a bag of 8 lemons would have been bought solely for the purpose of tequila shots. Now they were being bought as decorations to spruce up house that's for sale.

The good thing about being older, though is that you have blenders to make fabulous drinks, and fresh rolls can be made faster when you've got a food processor. Getting older isn't all that bad, and memory lane sure is fun.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Not with a bang, but with a whimper

Sorry for the lack of posts lately - we've been swamped working every night after work, and on the days off we've had getting our house ready to sell. Given that our new house closes August 28, and we need to sell this house to buy the new house, we want everything to be in good shape before we list this one. Apart from that I haven't felt much like blogging of late.

So, to say it's been a busy week would be an understatement. We've made pretty much daily trips to home depot. I knew it was going to be a long week when Dave came downstairs and announced that he had "good news and bad news" a week ago.

The bad news was that the bathroom walls we had recently removed (hideous) wallpaper were covered with a thick vinyl wallcovering underneath the wallpaper we'd (now unwisely) taken down, and he had already picked some of the vinyl away, so now it all had to come down.

Here's the bathroom before we moved in, to give you a sense of what I mean. To the left of this picture is the tub, and you can see the sink/toilet there. That's it - another two feet for the tub and a wall!

The only good news was that our bathroom was now a couple of millimeters bigger.

The rest of that night I peeled vinyl wallpaper away while Dave was at job #2 , only to find crumbling lathe and plaster walls below them. The next few nights we bought sheetrock and drywall compound and have slowly mudded up and sanded them down. One last go at it and we should be able to paint. We left the remaining vinyl up and just mudded over it so it'd look smooth. We've picked out a nice fresh spring-ey green.

What else? Well, our basement, like lots of older houses had a bit of a moisture issue (aka it leaks in some spots) and any buyer would go running after hearing that (if only we'd known!), so we chipped away layers of paint and cement on the floor with wire brushes, and putty knives to scrub away loose paint, prep the floors and Dave and I put on patches of waterproofing cement so that the new buyers of our digs will not have to put up with what we have. For good measure we're also coating the floors and walls with a waterproofing white paint. Once that's done we'll buy some cheap-ass carpet to lay down and it'll be done. The worst third of the basement is done, so now we just have to reposition furniture and organize our crap and paint the walls, and get some new carpet down and it should be good to go.

The master bedroom has never had a closet door since we moved in, and we figured new buyers would be lots more interested in the house if there was one there, so we've cut one down to fit (and further sanded it when it was too big to fit), painted it, and now there's this gorgeous door on a freshly patched, sanded, and painted master bedroom (walls, ceiling, and trim, two coats!). It doesn't even look like it should be our house anymore! Definitely an improvement.

We've also moved our king sized bed into storage given that it gave us about 3 millimeters of walking room in the bedroom. The double bed that was in the spare room is considerably smaller, but we'll remake it as an office/workout room. Adjusting to sleeping in a double bed has been interesting... I woke up pinned to my left by Dave, at my feet by the two cats, and walls on my right and at my head. Good thin I'm not claustrophobic. I was practically eating the wall, which would be a bad thing because it's a safe bet that there's lead paint on these walls.

We also put a ton of extra things that have been cluttering up the basement there so that it would look more open and less junky.

My parents drove up to help us today as well - dad made all the windows sparkle (what a difference), and mum swept, cleaned floors, and made a fabulous lunch and did a ton of other things I'm sure we'll discover.

We're still dealing with a house that isn't quite ready to be listed just yet, but progress is being made and, fingers crossed, I think it should be ready before the end of next week. Woo hoo!

The bang and the whimper? After a few panicked calls to the mortgage people this week (why would I provide them with information if the person taking it don't pass it on to their underwriters? You'd think a whole other source of income and info about our down payment and changes of address (THREE TIMES I GAVE THEM MY NEW ADDRESS) would be something they'd pass along... apparently not so much) the deal on the new place officially closed today unless we notified them otherwise. And so, it's ours! YAY! I can't wait to be sipping tea on the second floor balcony reading all your blogs (well, at least for 30 seconds until my laptop battery dies) in my PJs. Next week we're hitting the decor centre to pick out the finishes and then we're just playing the waiting game to sell this place.

This is what our new house looks like right now. For the record I most certainly did not break the condition of going on the property while it was under construction without going with a representative of builder and I also didn't wind up with two soakers as a result of doing so.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

And now for the mushy part

So here goes, finally a gushy post.

My sister is right now in surgery that's completely elective. She chose to have it done. She's donating her bone marrow to someone who really needs it. We of course don't know the details because they're kept strictly confidential, but she's donating her bone marrow to someone else in this world who may need it to live.

Bone marrow donations aren't exactly major surgery, but they're certainly not a cakewalk either. It will take her probably at least a week to recover, and I have no doubt it'll probably hurt. But, she's doing it because someone on the bone marrow registry was a match for her, and after a few appointments and a few vials of blood things were all scheduled for surgery. She's taking a couple of her vacation days (which are few and far between) to recover. All this so that someone might get a second shot at life.

Man am I proud of my kid sister. Love ya, even if I sometimes call you Elaine the pain the booger brain. For the record you're very thoughtful and caring and smart. I'm so glad we're sisters and friends. Will send chocolate to speed your recovery.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Murphy's Law of furnaces

A furnace will break on the coldest day possible, when your housecoat is in the basement two floors away.

We awoke this morning to an icy cold house. We spent last night paring down everything in the basement, which included carpeting and underpad that had seen better days. Fun, smelly times, lemme tell ya. There was a mound of garbage in front of our house for them to pick up this morning that could have probably attracted greenpeace protesters had they had more notice. Last night with the windchill it was about -25 with the wind blowing at 33km/hour and gusting much faster. Brrr! We carried tonnes of stuff from the basement to the curb in that weather, so when we finally got to bed, we slept like the dead.

This morning, though, we awoke to a virtual winter wonderland. Inside the house.

So, being the good and brave husband he is, Dave ventured forth out of the warm bed and fiddled with the furnace and got it to work momentarily but his success was short lived. We both got dressed and ready for work in a house that was 7 degrees Celcius this morning (that'd be 44 degrees for you yanks), ran hot water through the pipes to prevent them from freezing while we were at work and flung myself out the door to work.

The repair dude came by this afternoon and apparently some part had gone, and, had we not signed up for what I believe called a "stupid waste of money warranty protection program that we'll never freaking use" we'd have been out $449 for the part plus labour, and probably some "show up to your house" fee, and quite probably our first born.

As it was the repairs were free on account of said stupid warranty plan and the house is slowly but surely warming up. Except my toes which remain like little stumps of ice.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Holy shit on a stick we did it!

What'd we do this weekend? We bought a new house, a brand freaking new house, closing Aug 28th (two days after our first anniversary).

It ended up being more than we planned to spend, and things will be quite tight at first but we're so excited we're seeing stars. The stars could also be because I'm having trouble breathing, but you get the idea.

In a post last weekend I thought we had the model house all worked out, but some lacking of key details from the "sales" person meant that that house didn't come with the features we wanted (4 piece ensuite) and came with ones we wouldn't really use (cold cellars are great but we weren't interested in spending $2500 for one at this point).

What the sales person neglected to tell us (after we went on about definitely requiring a 4 piece ensuite) was that the one being built was a 3 piece ensuite, that things could not be changed, and that the model being built that we planned to buy had tons of things we didn't really need as upgrades. This was something she told us about AS we were ready to sign on the dotted line. Which meant our choice was to stick with the house we planned to buy and just wait 6 or 7 more months or we could move up a step and go with a bigger place entirely.

The not-so-obvious aside here is that if you're in sales you should try to sell things to people, things they've expressed an interest in, and you should probably endeavour to answer their questions, or at least pretend that the answer you plan to give matters to you, and you should know what's being built currently and don't leave out important information. But that's the aside.

So, the dilemma became wait for house we wanted an additional 6-7 months or get next model up and move this summer as planned. We decided to take the dogs for a walk along the conservation area adjoining the houses and talk about it. When we got there there were kids playing shinny on the pond (that'd be pond hockey for the uninitiated) which just about made my heart melt. I remember learning to skate on a frozen pond and on backyard rinks and somehow the idea of teaching our kids to skate on just such a pond is exciting for me. That walk we took a few months ago with the dogs that left lost in the most awesome cedar forest with a little creek and soaked through to the bone from a sudden rainstorm? It's less than a two minute walk from our new digs. This time next year I can probably be playing shinny on a pond with the neighbour's kids and get my ass kicked by 5 year olds who skate better than me. How freaking cool would that be? I had a chat with a new neighbour (he he he!) and he was telling us how quiet the neighbourhood is and how much he loves taking his mountain bike into the conservation area in the summer and how many kids there are in the area.

I think that's what made the decision easier for us and we signed on the dotted line (multiplied by several thousand copies it seemed) and advised the sales lady that an "indigo blue" door would not in fact be a "greeney-blue."

Here's the floorplan. Please note that I just about drool when I read phrases like "main floor sunken laundry" and "four piece ensuite" and "second floor balcony." Four bedrooms will be big enough for us for years to come.

So, conditional on financing and our lawyer's stamp of approval (Hi Kevin!) Here's our new floor plan. Please note that any of the closets on the second floor are bigger than our current bathroom.

I think low headroom storage" is builder-speak for "Dave's army crap goes here"

Now all we have to do is sell our current house. As with most 65 year old houses the basement isn't perfect, so we're ripping up the carpet someone laid to hide the little moisture seepages (which make mold and mildew! ew!) and scrubbing the walls clean and patching and painting and bleaching every surface. Once that's done (and wow will it be a job) we have to work on a couple holes in the lathe and plaster kitchen, rip the wallpaper down from the bathroom, and paint and sand the upstairs bedrooms. We're going to rent a storage locker for our excessive stuff (like the king sized bed that barely fits in the room, christmas trees, and a whack of Dave's books and art) and then listing it (or selling it ourselves). The really awesome neighbour down the street will refinish our floors for dirt cheap and that should make it sell faster. It's a great house - full of character and very well built, and we've made lots of important improvements (no more brown vinyl wallpaper, fuses instead of breakers, much nicer decor) but since we're eventually planning on kids which will make it seem even smaller when that time comes than it already is. It will be sad saying goodbye to our first home, its gorgeous cedar-lined back yard, the one we spent weeks searching for, but I'm looking forward to all the features the new place will have, including being a stone's throw from a great conservation area and trails.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

we have a drag queen in our midst

Being the lazy bums we are, we're big fans of our roomba, the robotic vacuum who does the floors while we walk dogs, or waste time on the internet.

Given our house is largely fur-laden, we named our roomba Hairy, since after the first time we used it, it was covered in hairs. We leave him alone, and come home to find either level of the house spotless.

It's been awesome and we've been impressed at what it can do, but the other day Hairy caught me off guard. It seems he's picked up a new trick.

The closet in our bedroom hasn't had a door since before we moved in. In fact, when we bought the house there was a hideous blue curtain on it that the dogs managed to pull down by lying on.
So, for weeks it's been wide open, since the door I bought was too big and is currently being sized down before we can install it.

I came home, though, the other day to see that hairy had apparently been in the closet. He'd apparently taken a liking to one of my sundresses and decided to try it on, take it for a spin. I think it suits him quite well.