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Well HELLO, blog.

I've been avoiding blogging for a few months while we got Zaphod sorted out. He's a lovely little dude, and we've been dedicated 100% to sorting out the balance of work - dog - personal time. For me/us, our personal time has not included this blog. :)

However, great things have been happening and I'm willing to make some time to fire up Ye Olde Digital Reporting Tool for some jibber jabber.

In May, a lot of our friends showed up with a truck borrowed from a friend's brother and the boys hauled away our garbage and our concrete pavers. It was AMAZING. Two weeks after that, Mark and I rented a van from Home Depot and we brought home a different kind of baby - about $1,000 worth of lumber and deck blocks. We now have one GIGANTIC deck, some extra deck blocks and wood, and a lot of exposed dirt.

That was miraculous.

Then, another miraculous thing happened. One of our neighbours was working on building a rock wall on the common area property, so she took away a bunch of the big rocks that we didn't know what to do with. AND THEN she (with help from her handy man) FILLED IN THE BROKE ASS POND for us.


And the front hall bathroom looks terrific. I won't bother describing it, because you really need to SEE it and for that, I will have to break out the camera.

So things are proceeding extremely well here. In particular, I would note that a centre unit in the court next to us just sold in ONE DAY for asking price. The asking price was significantly higher than what we paid for our home. My inner skin flint is chortling evilly and murmuring "goooood, goooooooooood".

We have a new real estate agent that I talk to, and I asked her last Thursday if she thought our neighbourhood was "bubbling". She said no, that in fact she felt that our neighbourhood is adjusting upwards as the older residents move out and people our age settle in. She expects the value of a detached home in this neighbourhood to adjust upwards in the next year to two years. Already, Mark and I have found detached homes (fully renovated, turn key condition) selling for $400k. Wow. We had previously thought that the roof for a detached home around here was $377k.

Jesus H. Christ

Do not talk to me about wallpapering, ever. Not ever!

Our powder room has been painted a lovely shade of yellow which I had custom mixed to match lovely yellow wallpaper. (I've blogged about it before.) Now, I considered having a professional do the wallpapering because I've heard that wallpapering is really hard to get right. I also note that there is a guild for wallpapering, which means it's a skilled trade. There are guilds for all the major trades, including thatching roofs. Do YOU know how to make a roof out of straw? No? And a straw roof shouldn't work, should it? But it does. And thatched roofs work because there are bloody professionals who are so skilled THEY MADE A GUILD.

Suffice to say, my non-guild ass had a horrible time wallpapering.It went really badly.

Hygge and West have a video on their webpage showing how to wallpaper with their products. You don't soak their paper in water to soften it, you actually put the paste directly on the wall surface you're working with, and go for it. Looks really simple when you're wallpapering a flat wall with no obstacles and no corners to deal with.

My powder room? ALL CORNERS.

The instructions on the wallpaper adhesive clearly said "apply a thin layer of paste to the wall". I did. Guess what? A thin layer dries out UNDERNEATH the wallpaper, and the wallpaper peels off. What you SHOULD do is apply a thick layer of paste, because that actually allows for air bubbles to be smoothed out, and it's strong enough to hold the paper on.

Also, if your wallpaper has a pattern? You want to make sure that when you try to hang the paper, you don't cut off the pattern awkwardly at the wall. My wallpaper has birds, and I don't want to cut off the heads of the birds at any point.... that would be CREEPY. So I measured my wall and carefully did the math a few times, trying to get the birds into position so that everything worked out. This is because I was an innocent lamb. I have measured the wall so that there's one uninterrupted wallpaper strip, and then two smaller side strips. This should have put the birds in position to NOT be cut off.

Here's what happened next. I tried to clean out the bathroom and the dog helped by being 100% in the way. The boyfriend took the dog for a walk to get him out of my hair, and I started pasting with a thin layer of adhesive on the wall behind the toilet. I intended to put up a thin strip of wallpaper. I held up the whole strip, thinking I would position it on the wall and then would cut the paper down to size.

I tried to put up the wallpaper. GUESS WHAT? The wallpaper cracked and had dirt marks on it (possibly my fault, somehow) and looked horrible. It puckered. Most of this was normal EXCEPT that when it came to getting the stiff wallpaper to accept being put into a 3D corner? IT HAD OTHER THOUGHTS. Like "hell no I'm not going in there! I'm going home!"

I should have just hung one full strip on wall behind the toilet, and to hell with cut off birds.

Well, suffice to say I hung that strip and it looked really bad, but I decided to try a second strip. The second strip was the fulllllll strip, with no toilets or whatever blocking the way. Yeah - didn't work any better.

By this point I was absolutely exploding with frustration and anger. What the hell was I going to do? Accept the wallpapering job I was mangling, or save the wall by ripping the wallpaper off and getting as much of the glue off the wall as possible? I chose the latter. I have 3/4 of a can of yellow paint left, which means I can paint the wall.

...but will paint adhere properly if there's adhesive on the wall?

The glue war began. I tored the paper off and worked like hell. I kept the wall wet, and used a plastic spackle knife to scrape the wall agressively. Wallpaper paste is like snot, you know. It looked like hell coming off the wall.

So here we are in the cold morning light, and I'm still pissed off. What a mess.

Here's my advice - hire a professional. That wallpaper was VERY fucking expensive (for me, anyway. I'm kinda cheap.) and I wish I hadn't tried to put it up myself. I bet it would have cost almost NOTHING to hire a professional!!

So there you have it.
Lesson shared.
Do not mess around with wallpaper by yourself.

Another thing to note - the wall has a slight bump out about halfway down the wall, probably where the two pieces of drywall meet. WALLPAPER THAT, if you wish. It's hell.

*wanders off to be grumpy in the shower*

As we draw ever closer...

To the big day.

This Saturday, the Z-man is going for his final vaccinations and we're doing a BIG breakfast at Cora's with friends. Then it's straight home to begin the major hauling of concrete pavers out of the backyard. Zaphod is going to be beside himself.

There's another big surprise in the works too.....

Tonight, I intend to prune the purple leaf sandcherry. I briefly flirted with the idea of ripping it out, but upon reflection I decided that while the shrub-tree doesn't look right for the backyard NOW, it WILL if I prune it to resemble a Japanese maple.

I will origami all the leaves so the go from oval to five pronged....

Just kidding.

On boxing day this year, Ottawa had quite the little ice storm. It was brief, but it last long enough to flatten the purple leaf sandcherry like a pancake. There's video of me trying to shake the ice off the tree and pretty much destryoing the tree. The sandcherry is a softwood so it didn't die under the ice, but it hasn't bounced back.

It now has a rather PANCAKED shape.

With a little trimming, that pancake can become a FAN, I just know it.

Should be FUN. I love to prune trees!!!

More inspiration

The Bay (yes - the HUDSON BAY COMPANY!! I'm not kidding!) has some really cool outdoor furniture for sale this year, designed by Alfred Sung. Here's a look:

Alfred Sung - patio

Love it. Kind of Georgian!

Alfred Sung - Outdoor

Alfred Sung - lounger

And I love those last two (technically three) pieces more than cupcakes. I DEFINITELY want to snuggle up on that lounger with a book and a black blanket, just so I can roast myself in the afternoon sun. MMMMMM hot nap....

Floors, both indoor and out

The boyfriend and I are drawing ever closer to a solution for our bathroom problem. We don't think it's going to be THAT expensive to replace the floor and do things properly, so I'm feeling very relaxed again.

To amuse people in the meantime, here are some inspiration photographs for our backyard. We want the backyard to feel very contemporary and very LARGE. It has to be safe, a place to entertain, and a place where the dog can do his "business" in peace. With that in mind, BEHOLD! Inspiration photographs!

David Anderson: garden

I love David Anderson's trees in silver boxes! I think in our climate it's not possible to grow a tree in a box, but what if we plant the trees in the ground and then put boxes around their bases? A false box!

David Anderson: boxed tree

Another tree in a box from David Anderson. Note that the tree's box is lit from within. INTERESTING!! That would be a brilliant idea for Mark and I, because the dog wouldn't be able to get at the light to electrocute himself!


I love. Love. Love. that Japanese maple growing up from the grey river rocks in the middle of that deck. That is a FANTASTIC look. Not only that, I adore the mahogany stain on the deck. Outstanding. Photograph from modulargarden.com

Flat deck, planters

Mark and I like this photograph. It's not particularly DARING in terms of design, but the space seems very functional. The large scale concrete planters are fantastic as artificial walls, and I would love to emulate them. Instead of planting boxwoods in there, though, I would plant herbs and make a controlled herb garden at about waist height.

And now, for some frivolous eye candy.

Charlotte Rowe: Urban Fireside Garden

A gorgeous garden by Charlotte Rowe! I love that outdoor fireplace.
Last night, Mark installed shut off valves on the plumbing for the front hall vanity/sink combo, and then tore said vanity/sink combo off. As we all know, when you demovate you will always find something odd. Here is Mark's photo of the bathroom without the vanity/sink, and we'll now discuss what's weird.

Goodbye, Sink!">

What's wrong with this picture?

- what's the pipe running into that wall? Where does it go? That's an exterior wall, people!

- Gosh, are those two different thicknesses of subfloor? Those cracked tiles make sense now.

- wow, is it just me? When I peer into that dark corner I can see LIGHT COMING IN FROM OUTSIDE.

The front hall bathroom has always been ice cold, and how we haven't had a frozen pipe before now absolutely boggles my mind. What we've discovered is that the vent for the clothes dryer exits just under the bathroom vanity, so there's a hole in the foundation where a lot of light and air are passing through, there's NO insulation there, and the subfloor doesn't come even CLOSE to meeting up with the wall. No really. This is what we found.

We also found a shitload of crap that the previous owners had lost under their bathroom vanity. This includes (but is not limited to) a bottle of green nail polish, a hair brush for people, a brush for dogs, a crochet hook, a hair scrunchie, a hair clip, the rubber stopper for the sink and other miscellaneous items.

We've stopped work temporarily. I'm feeling frustrated because my drywall spackle has dried up, and we're in trouble for sure with this uneven subfloor. We should tear the floor out and replace it, which won't be hard. We have the tools to replace baseboards, we can contain the dog in his crate while we rebuild.... all we're missing is the cash. I can put some water into the drywall spackle and whip it back into shape, but I'm not so sure about the flooring issue.

I don't have the cash to fix the floor, and yet... retiling the floor will be FANTASTIC practice for us before we redo the upstairs bathroom. This could be a really great test for us.

And I ask you: if we spend our spare time retiling the front hall bathroom and entryway, when will we have time to redo the backyard??
The puppy, Zaphod, is lovely and awful. His farts are terrible, he nipps like a motherfucker, and he's extraoridinarily handsome. Nevermind HIM, though, let's talk about his relationship to the garden.

Puppies explore with their mouths, because they haven't got hands. This means our orally fixated retriever is currently ripping through the garden finding every single dangerous little element in there. There's a broken thermometer out there: he found it. There were pieces of metal left over from the windows being installed: he found those. Then I found them, too - in his mouth. Very uncool.

So the pressure to fix up the backyard has become immense. The neighbours love our pond and really want us to get it running again. The dog loves looking into the pond and while he's too cautious to go in it now, I'm sure he'll jump into it soon.

What surprises me most of all is that instead of wanting an English country garden or some kind of Moroccan inspired courtyard, I want an ultra-contemporary garden with a flat deck, non-flowering (!!!!) plants and ornamental trees.

This is more Mark's style (contemporary gardens are so masculine, I find) but the more I look into it, the more I think I'm in love with the look. What's even better is that the minimalist nature of a contemporary garden design will work BRILLIANTLY for a dog.

Contemporary gardens are very rule bound: there will be gravel, there will be ornamental grasses, there will be a flat deck made of expensive looking wood, there will be futuristic outdoor furniture, there will be some kind of totally cold and geometric sculpture, the fence will probably be horizontal slats, the ornamental trees will be uplit, if you can afford it there'll be some form of fire, there's always a water feature and the yard will be immaculate. Imagine Dwell magazine being allowed to choreograph Nature: THERE YOU GO. That's a contemporary garden.

I honestly don't know why I'm so into the look. All the other gardens we have are full of flowering plants that are just plopped in any old place. I have never, before now, shown any interest in non-flowering trees, ornamental grasses or gravel. I normally don't like those things.

The problem now is planning the garden. Fact is, I'm great with visual art and I'm pretty good at setting up a room. Gardening, though... it's like sculpture. I SUCK AT SCULPTING. You're putting together plants of various heights, with hardscaping, and you're considering colour, texture, seasonal interest and more. UHM... could there possibly be any more moving parts?

Don't even ask about climate, light sources and problematic garden sheds. Jesus.

So that's where we're at. We've talked about the situation quite a bit, I believe I'll be cutting down trees this summer (shock!) and planting new trees (bigger shock!) and I believe we'll be building a flat deck (ZOMG are you nuts?).

Rock on.

A follow-up from last year: I spent most of last summer screaming myself blue in the face over the goddamn clematis that Wouldn't. This year, it's only the end of April and the clematis is bursting with new leaves, new growth and life. I think I might actually get some serious flowers out of it.


The puppeh hath arrived! He is small, he is yellow, he is soft and he gnaws. In the first six days with us, he's learned his name, to ask to go outside, to come when called, to sit when told to, and to look cute 24/7 because it gets him shit. All of his new skills are dependent upon him WANTING to perform them, but never mind that. That's beside the point. The point is that he's here and he freakin' RULES.

The only problem is his little "night issue". He wakes up in the night and needs to pee. So he cries until I get up, and go downstairs to free him in the backyard, where he makes generous use of the gravel.


I guess we'll need at least a LITTE grass in the backyard AFTER ALL.

We're so goddamn tired.

The Time Crunch

We're late! We're late! We're running out of time! I thought the puppy would come home at the end of his eighth week of live, but he's not! He's coming home at the START of the eighth week of his life! We've lost a week! The puppy comes home this Friday.

Forget that, though. Ignore it! Puppies? Who cares. Fuck that noise.

I'm worried about the spare bathroom. I've finally gotten the right wallpaper from Hygge & West, who were AWESOME about fixing their incorrect shipment of cream coloured wallpaper. I can't install the wallpaper though. Although the feature wall that'll have the wallpaper on it has been fixed and primed, the toilet and vanity rest up against the wall.

We need to install shut off valves for the toilet and powder room sink. We need to remove the powder room vanity, sink and taps so that I can install our lovely new vanity and sink, and for sure we'll eventually pick taps we agree are nice. And before ANY of that is installed, it has to be take out so I can do my wallpapering. I call this demovation: demolition renovation. You tear it apart and suddenly everything is better. All this demovation needs to be done!

And the puppy comes home on FRIDAY!

Yah can't demovate with a new puppy. You need to get the puppy at least a little bit older before you can successfully demovate.

Tonight is Tuesday and I've primed the walls and the ceiling. When I think about how to proceed, I have to acknowledge that the front hall powder room (which is also our coat closet) needs to get functional again RIGHT AWAY. Since that's the case, I need to paint the walls. But normally, I prime twice and paint twice. I can't do that: no time.

So maybe what I need to do is to use a tinted primer. The base primer was a kitchen-bathroom-everywhere primer, and it was very thick. It's gone on the walls and done an excellent job with coverage. If I use a tinted primer, I can cut out a step and get the bathroom functional again within the week.

Within the next 24 hours, though? HM.

Can I, in one Wednesday night, turn a mostly primed bathroom into a fully primed bathroom??? Because if the bathroom is primed to the correct shade of yellow, we can put up our coat hooks and BAM. The powder room will be useful again, and that's FTW.



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August 2010


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