Friday, October 03, 2014

Someone's Seven

Suddenly, I found myself picking up a child at school today for a birthday lunch. 


We walked to Pizza Pizza.  He wouldn't hold my hand until we crossed the street.  And then he forgot to let go for a while.

6 months

He had to go to the bathroom SO BAD.  He wanted to go on a tree in the park, but we made a pitstop at a coffee shop instead.

1 year

We went to Pizza Pizza because he got a Birthday coupon in the mail for a free slice and soda.  He reeeeeally wanted bacon, but he had to choose between cheese or pepperoni.  He chose cheese.  And a root beer. 

2 years

His birthday fell on a Friday, so a bunch of 6th graders from his school were at the pizza place, too.  That was sooooo cool. 

3 years

Cool enough that he didn't feel like talking to me, just looking at the big kids. 

4 years

He did say he couldn't remember if he had math that morning, he wasn't sure if he had gym that afternoon and he really wanted to get back in time for lunch recess. 

5 years

We went back to school.  I walked on the sidewalk.  He walked on everything but. 

6 years

He wouldn't stop talking.  All about random things that I couldn't follow.  I don't think he even knew what he was talking about after a while.

7 years

The second we got back to school, he wrapped his arms around my waist and said "Love you, mom."  Then he walked up to the front entrance, in through the doors and disappeared up the stairs. 

He didn't look back even once. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Closetmaid with Ikea Hack (I Mean) Help

A million years ago, I ripped this out of a magazine:

If you squint, you can see it's from the June 2013 issue of Real Simple.  Soooo, it just feels like a million.  Because I've been dreaming of it for the kid's closet. 

In fact, when we did the big reno, I asked my contractor to build this for their room.  He laughed and said, "I'll do it, but it's gonna cost you about 5 times the price of that kit."  Done.  Don't. 


A few months later, I got all inspired by another blogger's closet, who used the same Closetmaid system.  I got all "if she can do it, I can do it". 

And took 6 months to buy the kit. 

Then went on summer vacation.

But I finally put it together!!! 

Double Door Closet
Mess Inside

This was as far as I got in organizing their closet a year after moving back in.  Fail.  HUGE FAIL. 

The space is not small.  It's 4 feet wide, over 8 feet tall and 20 inches deep.  So with those specs, I was able to match the Closetmaid Selectives 16" Starter Kit

It's sold at Home Depot for around $100.  It was surprisingly easy to assemble.  If you can put together Ikea, you can do this.  If you can't put together Ikea, you can definitely do this.  The instructions have words (in many languages!) along with pictures and helpful hints and what-not-to-do's. 

Bottom Half
Secured to the Wall
Top Half
Click-In Adjustable Hanging Rod
Thank God It's Level
Plus Room On Top

What it does not have is enough shelves.  The three you see in the 2nd last picture above cannot move.  They are screwed in place to keep the tower stable. 

I get that. 

But...then there are a million pre-drilled holes on each side for additional shelf placement.  Annnnnd...two extra shelves.  What a tease :(


So I check my magazine reference.  Seven shelves!  I only have five.  I need two more to recreate the dream.  Back to Home Depot.  Nothing.  No extra shelves for sale.  Not even an empty shelf of shelves.  Uh oh.

I call Closetmaid.  Explain.  Plead.  Beg.  Nope.  Not for sale. 


I'm not buying a whole other kit to get two dang shelves.  I tell them that.  I tell them I regret buying their system.  And they should think about selling the shelves.

(Here's where you ask - why not put in drawers instead?  Those are sold separately!  I would.  But if I move the tower to the right, so the drawers clear the door jamb, the hanging rod doesn't fit.  Boo.)

So I get to cleaning up and a light bulb goes off.  If I can't make a shelf from the bottom, what about from above?  Enter Ikea.

Aha?  Aha!

I have two of these Observator clip-on baskets in my basement pantry/closet from the good old Ivar system days.  So I thought, yes!  Instead of throwing my Closetmaid out the window, which would be hard after securing it through the wall into STUDS, those would work!

So off to Ikea I went.


And since you can never leave Ikea with just the one thing you came for, I got hangers and a box, too.  Score!

Big Boy George

The closet organizer is for George's things, so the hanging baskets are perfect for diapers/pullups and wipes.  When he outgrows those -I can't wait, I can't wait, I can't wait- he can decide what to put in them. 

For now, everything is in the open instead of baskets.  He likes to pick out his own clothes in the morning and a book from the bottom at night.  And no matter how messy it gets, I can just close the doors!

(Those hats aren't his...yet.  But this IS the house of hand-me-downs.)

I never think of Ikea as the help for something else.  I always think how something else can help Ikea.  So this was a nice surprise.  And although the lack of shelves is a bummer, I'm impressed with how versatile and sturdy the Closetmaid system is.  It's not flush with the wall to the left because of the baseboard...but this thing ain't goin' nowhere. 

Good on ya, Closetmaid, but get on those shelves.  And thank you, Ikea, for keeping the dream alive.

(Nothing came for free / Neither of these companies know I exist.  I'm just happy I finally got this project done.)

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Perfect Porch Paint

We made it back home.  The kids are back in school.  I'm back on a schedule.  Perfection.

Kinda how I like my porch.  The porch!  It's been a month!

Behold, the perfectly painted porch.

But, wait!  Last time we spoke, I was figuring out paint.  From afar.  With a neighbor who is attached.  I had a game plan going paint it exactly like it was. 

See, we painted our old porch a few times after first moving in.  The first time, was to neutralize the dark brown floor that showed every single speck of dirt the moment after you finished sweeping.  The second time was to fix that too-light-shade-of-grey on the floor, which competed with the white divider and columns.  The times after that were to freshen up the peeling, scarred, chipped spots after renovating. 

We made the mistakes and finally found the colors we liked.  I crossed my fingers and hoped our neighbor would, too.  And he did.  Mostly...  But we get along well, so it all worked out. 

Color Scheme

We chose the same white as the interior of our house.  Landed on a green that matched our existing brick.  And then found a grey we could both live with.  He wanted darker, I wanted lighter.  Steve couldn't care less. 

Then this happened. 

EEEK!  In the course of two days, the house and porch were complete.  Our neighbor even decided to paint his house the same color as ours. 

But, of course, we all agree to disagree.  That's why we get along as neighbors.  So, while our sides aren't exactly alike, they have the same structure. 

Not that this is a complete before and after.  We're not done painting.  No, sir.  Remember how I mentioned we had to re-paint the floor before?  Well, learning from mistakes is hard when you're out of town and the old floor paint can is somewhere in your basement. 

Old Floor
New Floor

It's just...too...light blue?  Even for an iPhone???

(Don't mind the chips in the threshold.  The silicone holding the old floor boards in place was reeeeeally strong.  Our doormat hides them.)

Bench (and bikes, etc)

And...since we decided to paint the bench the same color as the floor, so the porch wouldn't look and feel super small on the inside, it kills me EVEN MORE to see the wrong color. 

So, I did what any normal neighbor would do.  I found the next darker chip on the strip (that actually matches the old floor paint that I finally FOUND), and told my neighbor he was right the first time.  ;)

And, besides.  It's paint.  Just.  Paint.

I even offered to redo both sides myself, if our contractor can't work a deal with the painter.  I love to paint.  And with the kids in school, what else do I have to do these days?!?!?  Ha.

Wrong paint aside, I'm finally cleaning and pretty-ing.  We re-installed the light, put up a mailbox and numbers (sorry internet, but they do look beautiful) and I even went out on a limb and bought a planter.  Yes, the wrapping is still on because I don't know if it's staying....

Once the painting is finished, I'll update with more details.  But for now, she's lookin' pretty perfect from the street.


I guess she's more blue-green now, than before.  But that's ok.  Still pretty perfect.

That front garden, on the other hand, not perfect at all.....!!!!

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Progress on the Porch

Still away with the kids.  While they still work away on the porch.  And I'm loving the progress in all the pictures being sent to me!!

When I Left

Come on!!!  Can you believe it?  Could I be more in love?  Actually, I could. 

But first let me tell you why I'm in love in the first place.  We live in the city.  The city gives us big garbage bins to use (which we must, or they don't collect).  But they are so big on lots that are so small.  They turn into eyesores against the beautiful curb appeal of the neighborhood. 

Unless you have a contractor who likes to think inside a box. 

Side - Before
Side - After

Or a bench.


You can sit on it - it's normal bench height.  Or you can open it and throw your trash away without your feet hitting the pavement.  It's dreamy.  And it will be amazing in winter.  Yes, I'm excited to throw my trash away in the middle of winter. 

This porch would do that to you, too.

Notice the slats at the back, above the bench.  They echo the fence.  It's the details.

Side & Front

And although they don't match, they work together.  Form and function in both.

Close Up

I'm loving the details.  It helps to have a carpenter who is so good at what he does.

And by good, I mean great.

Our Side

Actually, fabulous. 

Every project has it's story.  And this one is the divider.  We used to have a wobbly, jerry-rigged, 100-coats-of-paint divider.  It was hideous.  Probably slapped up 4 decades ago, and only meant to last until the next neighbor moved in. 

When we started the project, the most discussion was had over the divider.   Wood, glass, slopes, triangles, planters, shorter, taller, wider, you name it.  Then, when the porch was ripped down and the new base was up, our neighbor preferred a divider-less look.  Which was just too hard for a family with three young kids who have a cluttered porch fulls of bikes and boys who wouldn't understand that the neighbor's porch isn't our porch, too.  So, after one last long discussion, we landed on slats.  To compliment the back, above the bench.  But privacy?  Height?  Depth? 

Our carpenter asked if we trust him.  We said yes.  We were both also out of town.

His Side

The open slats are opposite on each side.  It is the same height as it was before.  There is no jerry-rigged support from above anymore.  He dug down to install support from below.  And he jogged the depth back, so the divider starts just a few inches behind the first step. 

Open, yet private, and oh so pretty.  It's true love. 

Who would have thought we could go from this...

to this.

And we're not even done.  The shingles were just applied and the eaves just installed.  Soon it's paint and finishing up the electrical.

But for now, the husband enjoys a pretty view from the garbage bins. 

Which will probably look even better in the middle of winter.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Can't Stop Won't Stop

That's the thing about renovating.  It's like getting a tattoo.  Finish one.  Think about another.  Suddenly, it's on your skin.  (Be it ink or demo dust)

For us, it was a case of necessity.  Our porch was falling down.  Not like tomorrow, but pretty soon after that. 

Who Lives Here!?!

Oh yeah.  Falling down for sure.  Even photobomber George thinks it's pretty bad.

We are lucky, as semi-detached homeowners, to not only get along with our shared neighbor, but to take on exterior home improvement projects together.  We replaced our (rare in the Annex) parking pads together in 2006.  And at that time, we decided to build a single staircase with railings, too.  Best decision ever. 

But two major renovations for us, one rotting railing for him and a sagging century-old porch structure that supported a basement dig later...? 

Thank goodness we knew a certain trusted contractor who could help us out. 

So, after I left for summer vacation with our kids, they got to work.


Oh. My. God.  We gutted two entire floors of our house and found fewer problems than the front 160 square feet that we call a porch.  Rodent -squirrel- carcasses, urine soaked drywall in the ceiling and rotting chewed up beams (thus the sag). 


And we were hoping to save the roof.  Ha! 

Let's Build A New Porch

This is why I love our contractor and his guys.  They're only interested in doing it right.  One could look at it as 'job creep', but he knows it's our forever house.  And our neighbor's side was in worse falling down shape than anyone could have predicted.  So...a totally brand new porch it is. 

With proper brick pillars that are a) able to hold the weight of the new forever porch and b) in keeping with the neighborhood.  Sold.

Then I came home to Toronto for a weekend. 


This is our side.  I can't wait to share the little life-altering upgrades we're making. 


View towards the neighbor.  Same upgrades there.  Kid-barricading divider to come.   

Then I Left

This is as far as things got while I was home.  Which was perfect timing, because I got to see the progress and make some important decisions about structure, electrical and finishing.  I'm not used to being gone while work continues...but that's why my better half is there.

And thank goodness it's just him instead of this guy.

Site Supervisor

My father would be out there every hour of every day, if he could.  But I brought him back to Wisconsin with the kids and I.  Let those guys do what they do best!!!

Stay tuned for those upgrades, the new porch "look" and pictures of the progress :)