Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Down the street, past the Poet's house, lives the incredible powerhouse known to us simply as Emilie. Emilie is the kind of woman that makes most of us wonder what we are all doing with our time. A mother of two small children, Emilie runs her own business, is active at her kids' school, has been the instigator (or in the very least the facilitator) of all manor of community projects AND as if this weren't enough she is now running for Independent Councillor of our Borough.

Despite her "independent" status, Emilie's campaign, like the woman herself, is extremely well organized. She has been everywhere and her posters are omnipresent. So much so that it has spawned a whole slew of questions from our Little Superhero: "Mummy look, there's Emilie on a poster! Look! there's another Emilie... come Emilie is everywhere? Mummy, what is a Borough? Mummy, what's an election?..."

Then after my short explanation, The Little Superhero came to the most extraordinary conclusion "Mummy, Emilie should win. Because she is REAL".

Of course what the little fellow meant was that he knew her and that she was not just a picture on a poster, that to him she was a real person. But the wisdom of five year olds is great. She is real. She speaks like a human being, not a politician. She is completely unencumbered by bureaucracy. And she wants a better neighbourhood for her family to grow up in.

Because she lives here. She has seen first hand the broken swings and slides that her children play on in the neighbouring parks (and she knows what parks to avoid), She has had her heart in her throat when the cars have sped by her house all too quickly while the kids played on the sidewalk, and she has sat up bolt upright in bed in the middle of hot summer nights, completely on edge, having mistaken a car's backfire for yet another shooting in the Hood.

But most importantly she is going to do something about it.

So if you are lucky enough to live in The Hood, this coming Sunday go out and vote for Emilie. You won't regret it. Really.

Monday, 26 October 2009

There is nothing like a few sunny days to put everything right and to make the dust clouds disappear. So although we did very little on the house this weekend, the sun has re energized us and given us our second wind. While the Little Superhero and I prepped the exterior for Halloween and the Princess slept in her chariot, Manu took advantage of the time by calculating the amount of sheets of drywall (55!) that need to be ordered for next weekend's bee.

For if all goes right, our matinee idol named crew of two - Fabio and Casanova - will be making an appearance at the Tall House this coming Saturday and Sunday. Taking on the starring roles in Manu's Dry-Wall Installation Extravaganza.

And Hallelujah, Insha'Allah and God bless! The doors should be arriving on the 9Th of November. News that makes our hearts sing and our mouths water in anticipation, because these gorgeous hunks of metal, glass and wood will make all the difference in the world. Down will come the depressing temporary plywood boards and in will pour the cheery, life-affirming daylight. But more importantly, we will see if the finished space will live up to what we have been imagining all these years.

So although there is still a bunch of stuff left to do, we are moving forward. And even though we most certainly will not be finished by Christmas, the space will at least be air tight. And with the walls up, relatively dust free.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

The great advantage of living in an old house that has been all but abandoned for many years is that it comes pre-decorated for Halloween. Dilapidated victoriana? Check. Old cobwebs? Check. Boarded up, broken panes of glass? Check. For the Tall House's exterior is as much in need (if not more!) of TLC as the inside, but it being the season, we are all too happy to embrace the haunted house look. 

So on this beautiful autumn day, out came the burlap clad ghosts, the glow in the dark skeletons, the yellow police tape and the dollar store cobwebs. With The Little Superhero as director of operations, and myself and the Great Chazz (grandma to the stars and purveyor of said Halloween decorations) as his lowly worker bees the Tall House was Bate's Motel worthy in no time flat.

So hear ye! Hear ye! Wee Goblins and Ghouls, pint sized Princesses and little Superheros of all ilk. You are all invited to stop by the Tall House come next Saturday eve. There will be treats aplenty, and shivers guaranteed!

Just don't use the front stairs, they are badly in need of repair.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

We have been working for over five months now on this phase of renovations and quite frankly, I at least, am starting to wonder if we will ever see the end of it. Money is quickly running out and we are finding it more and more difficult to schedule in DIY time in and around our already busy lives. Thankfully the economic downturn has turned out to be a boon for advertising agencies, but it also means that our day jobs sometime have to be night jobs as well. That coupled with the fact that the cooler weather has ushered in cold season at day care, forcing us to play nursemaid at night, hence sapping us of any desire to log in some after hours activity on the first floor. So although not at a standstill the work is certainly creeping forward at a snail's pace.

Here is the somewhat daunting list of what is left to do:

  • The remaining five metal channels need screwed to the acoustic panels.
  • The exposed brick on the stair case needs to be cleaned one last time.
  • The brick sealer must be applied.
  • The dry wall has to go up.
  • The plaster work needs to be done.
  • The duct work for the kitchen fan must be installed.
  • The brick has to be cut to make way for the French doors.
  • The French doors have to be hung.
  • The stairs must be stripped of their paint.
  • The floors and stairs have to be sanded and stained.
  • The entrance tiles must be bought.
  • The entrance needs to be tiled and grouted.
  • Paint needs to be applied.
  • Heating needs to be installed.
  • All the lights need to be installed.
  • Base boards and crown mouldings need to be installed.
  • The coat-closet doors still need to be stripped of their paint, sanded, painted and have mirrors installed in the openings. Then they need to be hung.
  • AND we need to figure out precisely what we are doing with the kitchen.

Somehow it is looking like our Christmas deadline ain't going to happen. But living in the upper forties northern parallels as we do, there are certain things that must be done and soon. The house needs to be airtight and sealed against the elements. And unless we want our beautiful new plumbing to freeze, the base heaters need to be installed ASAP.

So we have no money, no time and we are on a schedule.

Cue the dramatic music, because we appear to be in a bit of a pickle.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Now, I would be what Jerry Seinfeld once famously qualified as a low-talker, with a voice that is practically inaudible to anybody over forty. But Manu, on the other hand, has a voice that can be heard across a packed rock venue - with the band playing. Believe me, this is no exaggeration. People have stopped Manu in the street and asked him if he could sing (unfortunately he's tone deaf), just on the strength of his speaking voice. And although, in all honesty this is not the reason why we've gone overboard on the sound-proofing of our future living-room/dining room/kitchen, it certainly is a factor.

The Tall House is actually one of two Tall Houses built side by each some 125 odd years ago. And as was common in construction at the time, the two buildings were erected with brick on the outer walls and nothing but large, wood planks, lath and plaster on the walls between the two structures. One of the first conversations we had with Daniel, our neighbour in the Tall House's twin, was about how the walls were so thin between the two buildings that he could actually hear the previous owner (an older gentleman) when he got up for his nightly tinkle. Well we are all for loving thy neighbour but there are things that we would much rather keep to ourselves. And we reasoned, if Daniel would be woken up by a tinkle, imagine what he would think of crying babies, whooping boys, raucous dinner parties, occasional loud music and an animated Manu?

So the top story got the CIA soundproof treatment: Roxul (insulation batting that is itself fire retardant and soundproof), Sonopan (acoustic panels), plastic sheeting, metal channels and finally gyp rock. A winning combination that has had us living completely complaint free from Daniel, since we moved in two years ago! And seeing as Daniel one of our, shall we say more normal neighbours, we want very much to keep him happy.

So this past Sunday, Manu and I set out to recreate this now tried and true soundproofing technique ourselves, on the main floor. After a few false starts, due mostly to our lack of experience, we finally got our rhythm and managed to complete most of the job by the end of the day. One of the great advantages of working with someone you know so well is that it is easy to anticipate what the other is thinking. That and the fact that you can kiss every once and a while, just to keep the energy up! Manu and I toiled away, so into the task at hand that we didn't even stop for lunch. Measuring and cutting and nailing and taping and caulking our little hearts out. It was only when we stopped that we noticed how much our muscles ached.

And although we will only know down the road if we did in fact do a good job, we did follow our contractor Pierre's instructions to the letter, and the wall sure looks the part. In fact it looks downright spectacular! All decked out in green and red and wrapped in clear plastic, rather like a giant Christmas present. And we chuckled ruefully to ourselves, for that was in fact what it was. Our gift to each other for now and many, many years to come. For there, poured inside those walls, was the fancy watch, the latest lap top, the new car, the trip to Italy... 

Oh my god, what where we thinking?

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

The beauteous copper pipes. Basement view.

The living room pipes. Gorgeous.

Oh the pressure!

Well it looks like all our scheming and  trickery has back fired. Call it karma or just plain bad luck but dear Zio Peter is off the hook. When we first started this phase of renovations we naively thought the only plumbing intervention that would be necessary was a simple hook up beneath the floor for the new kitchen sink and dishwasher. Well, we were sorely, sorely mistaken. As it turns out we have had to redo the plumbing of the entire house save for the fourth floor, and only because we already redid that part two years ago. Oh and not only inside, but on the outside as well.

The Tall House was a mess from top to bottom. Drain pipes were spotted and cracked, water pipes were rusted and deemed a general health hazard, water pressure was decent but could be improved on... Not to mention the impending doom a pipe bursting and the subsequent water damage. Something that we of course were loath to happen once the walls were all closed up.  

It took two plumbers three days to complete the job on the inside. While on the outside a separate team (thanks to city bureaucracy) comprised of a back hoe (and of course its driver), a couple of city workers and a city certified plumber replaced the pipes that run underground from the city main to the house.

So 12 000 and some odd dollars later the Tall House has all brand spanking new plumbing. 12 000 dollars that was not budgeted for. And unfortunately 12 000 dollars that was earmarked for the new kitchen.

I would like to say that the new pipes are beautiful and resplendent in all their copper glory, but lets face it they are part of the functional aspect of the house. And bit like having to buy a new iron or a hair dryer (albeit incredibly expensive ones), we sorely wished that we could spend our money on something less, well utilitarian. Something that would make our hearts race whenever we came near it. Something that we could "ooh" or "aah" over.

But now that it is all done and that the money is spent, the security of knowing that the inner workings of the Tall House are pristine and in perfect working order is strangely comforting. 

And there is something more. By doing so, we have turned a corner. For we can now proudly say that we, us, Sam and Manu have saved the Tall House. Or that it is, at least taken it out of intensive care. For even though we have a list longer then the house itself of things to do, from now on it is really mostly cosmetic. 

And so what if we have to live in a dump for the next few years? We have water pressure that could sandblast paint of a wall.

And hey, isn't it what is on the inside that counts?

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