Sunday, November 24, 2013

The One With The Before And After Photos...

The day has finally come! I think every house blogger, whether professional or pathetically amateur (such as ourselves), starts their blog just to get to this moment. Yes, that's right, it's finally time to see the "after" photos! Well, not the complete after, maybe more so the "middle" photos. There's still some renovations to do, but as we mentioned before, we're now a year into owning our home and are pretty proud of how far it's come since that day last August when we walked in the door. The change has been pretty awesome. It's been a lot of work and sweat, but thankfully, not as many tears as we thought! We definitely couldn't have done this without the help of our families, in particular, my dad and my brother in law, Shane. So thank you, thank you, thank you to anyone who has showed up to knock out walls, put up walls, sand walls, wash walls, paint walls, or look at walls. We'd also like to take a moment to thank everyone who has been following our little blog. We love hearing all of the comments from readers, and we hope to keep the blog going as long as we can, so please, keep following! 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Saturday Begins.


That's the collective sound the three of us make when we realize it's Saturday morning and the sun is beginning to rise through the bedroom window. We are morning zombies. Or vampires? Which is it that don't like the sun...maybe both? We are morning zompires.

Ru is the first to wake up. She snorts and wiggles and then squirms her way from the bottom of the bed up to the pillows, and stuffs her nose into my ear. Then she stretches her long legs, and they jab into my stomach and ribs. While I'm gasping for breath and trying to dry out my ear, she flips over and licks TJ's head to see if it will wake him up. It won't. He is immune. So I get out of bed, and we go downstairs into the cold November morning.

Ru rings the bells that hang on the doorknob to tell me she wants outside, so we both go out to survey the yard. No snow yet. But soon. After a quick look around, we're back in for breakfast. Ru loves breakfast (and food in general) and performs her food time ritual of jumping around in a flip before sitting at her food bowl. She gobbles, and it's out again. By now I'm wide awake, and also frozen from our outside trips. No sooner do I lock the door after coming back inside and Ru is already upstairs, snuggled back into bed, fast asleep.

I trudge upstairs, wondering if it's possible to sleep again, or do I just suck it up and stay awake? I sit in bed, and the blankets are still warm. It's so cozy. WOMP. Ru's foot is back in my ribs. I sigh, and pull out my laptop to see what happened overnight. Ru and TJ snore in unison. They stretch like a synchronized swimming team, arching backs and turning to dive back under the covers. Outside, the birds in the bare chestnut trees on our street are screaming across the road to one another.

Saturday begins.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Gutter Toads and Other Things...

Well, so much for the promise of having our blog come back full force in September! It's now....November. Better late than never, I guess! This past weekend someone asked us how the house renovations were coming along. I had to pause and think about it because it didn't really seem like we've been doing much lately, just little things here and there that didn't make a huge difference. But sometimes, little things can really add up.....


This is what was left over after all of the major renos had taken place. All those little bitty things you told yourself you would eventually do.....and then never did.....and now here they are, staring at you all the time, because they are sitting on the coffee table in the living room. And when people come over to visit they look at it and say "Hey, what's this?" and you say "Oh that old thing? That's just my arch-enemy, ignore it, here, have a cookie, it will go away". But it never goes away. Funnily enough though, I actually really like the list. I feel a bit better when I can see everything that needs to be done instead of having it swim around in my head. It feels less overwhelming, somehow.

So that's sort of what we've been working on. And sweeping. There's been a lot of floor sweeping. As it turns out, dogs are really dirty. One of their main activities is going outside and collecting dirt to bring inside. It didn't help that we trained Ru to go out the guest entry door, which is where we've been doing a lot of work and creating a lot of dirt that she had to pass through many, many, many times a day. She's like a little furry dirt magnet.

Remember the guest entry?

We decided that we wanted to try and get it cleaned up a little bit so visitors can actually use it, rather than have them traipsing through our mudroom/laundry room/storage room/place where we throw stuff. The flooring people from Tops to Floors had already started the clean up a year ago when we had new flooring laid in the kitchen. At the time we discovered just how rotted the floor was in this area, as well as how shaky the walls were, but since we hadn't budgeted to do an overhaul in here, we decided to try to fix it for the time being and then worry about it later. Subfloor went down, then laminate. There wasn't much we could do to the walls at the time, other than to tell people to be careful when opening and closing the door. To get an idea of what's going on in this room, here's a picture of a painting we found:

(Fun house fact: You can see what things used to look like before the library area was added on...the door to the far left is the door that currently leads down into our "reading porch")

Originally the entryway was open, and someone had decided to close it in. Pine panelling went over the existing exterior walls, and then they quickly framed in a makeshift door/wall/window section to close it up. Once it was cleared out, it looked like this:

TJ got to work sealing up all of the drafty bits, then we taped it up and he got to work painting. Here is a bit of free renovation advice: When faced with a problem area, paint it. You will feel better.

Here, you can see how painting works. Things are much happier. Except the door, which is a clear example of how terrible things are when they are not painted. Please excuse the frog tape, there has been a small issue with its that it is not removing. Also note the trim that TJ added along the floor to distract from other undesirable areas....

This picture kind of gives you an idea of how the room was closed in. On the left, that white strip down the middle is one of the original exterior walls. On the right, that dark square is a gap where all of the various materials just didn't quite meet up the way they should have.

However, once you take a step back and kind of let your eyes go out of focus, it doesn't look so bad! I'm not sure what will happen to this entryway a few years down the road, I like the idea of opening it back up again but I suspect that wouldn't really help with our draft situation....

So under the Guest Entry section of our list we can now cross off "painting" and "shelf up". Still to go are "clean door", "clean windows", "tape removal", "fix concrete step", "paint concrete step", "get bench" and "new lamp post".

One thing on the list that bugged TJ was the gutter/drainpipe situation. In short, they didn't work. This may be due to the fact that they were pieced together in an unusual way that did not lend itself to proper drainage, but rather to the collection of rainwater. In particular, the guest entry side of the house was quite bad, so it needed to be replaced. We found many interesting things once the gutters were removed, such as...

Holes. Apparently there's supposed to be a metal piece that goes in behind the gutter to keep out things like water and birds. We had no metal piece, but we did have the water and birds. There was actually a nest inside this hole, which would account for some of the weird scratching noises I kept hearing in the ceiling. Sometimes, when the holes were quite apparent, we would also find treasures such as this:

Gutter gloves! I guess TJ found these stuffed into one of the holes and then spray foamed/tarred over? As it turns out, the squirrel that ate our hammock earlier in the summer really liked the gloves, and stole one of them to take home. He actually carried it over the telephone wire that crosses over the street. Very impressive feat for a little squirrel.

We also found this nice little toad:

He wasn't in the gutter, he was on the ground, but I was very excited because I haven't found a garden toad since I was a kid. It took a few tries to catch him, then we put him somewhere safe, away from the squirrel (just in case).

While all of this was going on, Ru managed to scar herself for life by getting stuck in the garden hose.

The garden hose winder (for lack of a more technical term) used to be up by the lamp post. Ru somehow got her leash tangled around it and became absolutely terrified when it started to move behind her, so she ran.....and it chased her, which scared her even more. Then it knocked over a pile of pots and a sprinkler, and Ru ran around the wood pile, smack into the neighbour's car, which also scared her. This picture is taken after all of this, once I uprighted the garden hose and stopped laughing. I'm a terrible mother, but it was hilarious. I had to pretty much carry Ru past it, as she would go nowhere near it. We tried to keep her outside with us but she was shaking so badly that she could barely stand, so we put her in the house for the rest of the day where she felt sorry for herself and did her best impression of a Victorian fainting lady:

Eventually the gutters were fixed:

Overall, things weren't looking too bad:

A huge change from before. Gardens are cleared, grass is growing, leaves are raked. Well, they were at the time of this picture. Autumn happened right after, so we'll have to break the rake out again next weekend before forgetting moving inside for the winter and beginning to plan for next spring. Vesseys Catalogue, here I come! 

So that's what we've been up to over the last month or two. And, as promised, a side by side comparison IS coming! Sometime....

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Autumn Awakening

It seems like almost every night throughout the summer when I would finally sit down at my macbook after a long day of working at the library, followed by working in the backyard, followed by working in the kitchen, etc, etc, I would think to myself, "Hmmm....should really post a blog update". Then I would promptly fall asleep. Thanks to this ritual, I now have a small stockpile of photos and stories from the past few months, and absolutely no idea where to begin.

Luckily, my ability to procrastinate has worked in my favour this time. Instead of writing blog posts, I've been stalling by organizing all of the pictures in iPhoto by the date they were taken. I'm left with a photo history of the last few months, which then acts like an outline for blogging. Pretty crafty, huh? I'm sort of a genius.

So let's look where we left off: We had a ceiling in the sunroom, cupboards in the laundry room, pine boards on the back hall, a garden that wasn't looking too bad, and a brand new puppy. Things were coming up Milhouse, if we did say so ourselves. We moved Ru into her little back hall puppy room, complete with a massive Costco dog bed and a freezer, courtesy of TJ's parents. Ru showed her appreciation by eating the stopper for the manual defrost system on the freezer.

We had some very lovely garden moments in early July....everything was in full bloom, the veggies were vegging in the dirt...all we had to do was sit back and relax, which we did in the double hammock that arrived for my birthday :D

And just because they were so beautiful, and I can't help myself....peonies!

We were able to tear ourselves away from the garden every so often to go to the beach...Ru did pretty well for her first time in the water, although she quickly learned to climb onto the nearest person if she felt the water was getting too deep. She soon let us know that she was not really an outdoorsy type of dog, and she much preferred to spend her summer in the cool shade of the living room, sleeping on a variety of comfy pillows.

Summer wasn't all flowers and beaches though. We did have to change from bathing suits and gardening clothes to our formal work attire every so often, TJ for the lab and me for a new job with Provincial Library Services in Summerside. We also cracked the whip to get things moving in the renovation department, so Shane showed up once more. This time around we needed to extend the tiling around our fire place in order to keep our fire insurance.

The before....

The process....

Moving out the insert, which weighs approximately a half ton....and taping an outline of where the new tiles will go.

The back of the insert Making the first cut and......realizing this is not tile. This is solid brick.

Shane brought out the big gun....the jackhammer. I was thisclose to getting to use it, but apparently you shouldn't use power tools if your footwear of choice is sandals. The brick was finally toast, and the tiles were finally laid....except for when we ran out and had to wait for the tile store to open again.

Once the final tiles were laid, the filling was added in....I forget the correct term for the filling that goes between the tiles. All I remember is that it was a pain to clean afterwards. The stove was slid back into place and....voila!

Now we just have to do some paint touch ups and a little bit of caulking and the fireplace will be ready for action once again.

With all of this work completed, we felt like it was finally time for some house guests. TJ's parents arrived from Ireland to spend two weeks with us at the end of July. However, this was no vacation. No no, they were put to work straight away.

Within a few days they managed to clear out the jungle garden. This included four or five trees, plus all three tiers of the flower bed. Bulbs were dug out and saved for next year, irises, peonies and lillies transplanted, poppy seeds collected and bagged, forsythia trees relocated. It was amazing. There's something to be said for imported labor. And cheap! They worked for BBQed sausages. Brilliant! They were so skilled and quick though that I didn't managed to get any pictures of their work until after they had left. The garden was looking amazing though. All TJ and I had to do was dig up the railway ties, grade the garden down to a less hazardous level and seed. I'll be honest - it was a little hard to make the decision to dig out the garden. It really was beautiful in June and July, but by August things were starting to become extremely overgrown and nothing new was blossoming, so it was looking like a big mess. A lot of the flowers were at the point where they'd have to be divided or cut back, and some were escaping the brick confines of the flower bed and overtaking the back steps. At one point, Ru even became lost in the irises and sat down and cried. I had to wade in and find her, then bring her back out to the yard. With my limited gardening skills, I knew that I wouldn't be able to properly take care of the garden, and I also wanted to have the chance to do my own thing. So out it went.

By early September it was looking like this:

The grass is still a bit patchy in places, but hopefully by next year it will look a bit better. We'll have to keep seeding it out once we see what grows in the Spring. A lot of them have already filled in since these pictures were taken about a week ago. There's still some flowers that we'll have to dig out as well, but really, I don't think it looks too bad compared to what it looked like last August:

Speaking of last August, we recently just passed out 1st year house anniversary! To celebrate, we'll be doing a side by side comparison photo post to show you just how far we've come in a year. I didn't want to post any pictures of the inside of the house in its current stage, as I wanted to wait until all the boxes have been put away, walls have been painted and decorations have been put up, but who knows when that will ever happen! So stay tuned in the next few weeks...maybe TJ will even make a guest blogger appearance! Until then...

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Summertime...and the living is eeezzzzeeee

Well hello! So um...we kinda forgot that we had a blog. Funny how that happens when summer shows up with her golden sun and perfect beach days. We've been taking some time to leisurely complete a few projects, and I do mean 3 or 4 weeks to paint the guest entry that is maybe 10 square feet...or 3 or 4 weeks to make a railing for the balcony...and another 3 or 4 weeks to paint the balcony. Now THIS is the way to do projects! Our new motto is: It'll look nice when it's done. It's the when part that is slightly hazy. But it's summer on the island, and everyone knows that this approach is the island way of doing things.

We have updates coming, and pictures of updates coming, but in the meantime, please know that we have not abandoned the blog, it will be coming back with full force by September. To tide you over, here are some pictures of Ru:

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

On The Street Where You Live

There's definitely been a lot happening on Chestnut Street over the past few weeks. I've been trying to type out an update for many, many days now, but our new addition, Ru, has been keeping both of us ridiculously busy. After an evening of playing with her fur aunt, Mocha, and then a morning of puppy classes and an afternoon of "helping" me garden, she's finally crashed for a nap in her favourite place: my back.

I can tell that she's grown because last week I couldn't even tell that she was there. This week, it feels like there is a small boulder on my spine. At her last trip to the vet she weighed 8.7 pounds, and now I'm pretty sure she's closer to 10! Between the getting up at 5am, cleaning up after accidents, bandaging fingers that she thought were fair game, and lots of snuggles, we did manage to get some work finished.

Continuing on with our list of resolutions, we finally got around to Resolution One: Fix the Back Hall.
Just for a little refresher, this is how our back hall was looking:

As you can see, lots of old plastic tile, plaster, and peg board, as well as a pantry area that needed some serious updating. Cleaned out, it looked like this:

Not as terrible, but not an area that was really usable, especially for the hall where we were planning on being able to let Ru stay in if we were not home. This particular hallway also had the two lowest ceilings in the house. Yes, two. There was a small archway where the ceilings of two different parts of hallway met, and changed height. You can kind of see them in the photos, one has beadboard and the other is flat and smooth. Well, not really that flat - it was pretty warped, and sort of looked like the rolling hills of Borden Carleton. We weren't 100% certain how we'd be able to get rid of the dips, but thought we'd just let Shane and his guys worry about it.

Turns out, they didn't worry about it at all, they just knocked it down. Along with a hundred year old insulation, which was basically just a bunch of black powder at this point. Luckily we have a door to the kitchen that can use to close off the hallway, so my role in all of this was to close the door and then open it at the end of the day to see what progress had been made. Imagine my surprise when one day I opened the door and our hallway went from what you saw above, to this:

No more plaster! No more plastic tiles! Now it's just....pine! At least until we get around to painting it all in the same style as the laundry room. But for now, we can live with pine. Our pantry also got an update - white wainscotting on the back, and new built in shelves, complete with a 9 bottle wine rack! We still need to build some doors to keep Ru out of her kibble, but she's only just been able to reach into the bottom set of shelves, so we've still got four more levels to work through before the situation becomes dire. I also love the cover that was built for the cast iron rad, and that it doubles as a shelf for keys/bags/etc.  You can also see in the picture at the top right that the ceilings are all now one level! They have also been raised up a bit. We did have the option to go with a cathedral ceiling with exposed beams, which would have been cool, but probably cooler in a bedroom or living room than a back hall. So ceiling it is! Choosing the ceiling though also gave us some extra attic crawlspace for storage, which is great due to our severe lack of closets. Besides the pantry doors, we still need to paint in here as well, but for now, I'm happy with the new pine look!

We also got them to install some shelving in the laundry room so we didn't have that awkward window looking into the bathroom. One door still has to go on, and then we need to do some touch up painting, but it's looking better already:

You can also see that a surround has been started around the washing machine and dryer. Eventually we will have a countertop that will go over the machines and then up to hide the taps and pipes on the wall. We're also hoping to use the tin effect tiles as a backsplash if possible. Having the cabinets makes a huge difference.

We also did some work in the sunporch. Remember the old cardboard ceiling tiles? Lots of water damage, discolouration, some completely missing, plus it didn't help that an extended family of mice was living in them over the winter.

We found out the solution was to just tear them down.

Of course, that looked really bad, but hey, we had all that pine lying around, sooo....

up it went. And now the ceiling looks like this:

It still needs some finishing around the edges, but it made a very lovely difference! The room feels a bit brighter now. Now all that's left in here is to paint, get new curtains and figure out what we're actually going to use it for! I'd love to have it as an office space, but since it has no foundation and no heat, we can't use it during the winter, so it gets sealed up. Someone suggested a summer bowling alley, which might not be a bad idea!

Now that we're getting our big projects crossed off of our renovation list, we're just left with a few small ones, like painting all of the cast iron rads (we're still undecided on a colour), sanding and staining the bannister, extending the tile around the fireplace in order to meet fire code regulations, adding some quarter round in various places, fixing the railing on the balcony, painting the trim on the house, painting the shed, putting up a railing around the back deck, extending the back deck, fixing the garden,  getting some new windows for the various Once you put all of those small projects together, they just kind of seem like one big project all over again. I'm not even going to get started on the various furniture projects we still have to attend to! Oh well. People are right when they say that your house is never finished, even if you build a brand new one.

To finish up, I also had to stick in a few pictures of the garden - for being first time gardeners, things are going extremely well out there!

The garden in early June, lots of peonies starting to appear, and the grass along the new fence is starting to grow! You can also see that there's some strange leaves growing all over the ground in the garden. I'm not sure what they are, so if anyone could tell me, that would be great! They seem to grow from a small tuber-like root. They were taking over, so we decided to chop it all down, which left us with what you see below:

It may be hard to tell from the pictures, but it made a huge difference, and we could actually SEE some of the plants and flowers that we had identified earlier in the spring. Also, since the grass was doing so well along the fence, TJ decided to buy approximately 500 bags of topsoil and do along the back trees as well. There was another odd leafy thing covering the ground back there, along with years and years of pine needles and pine cones, and the odd iris that had escaped the garden, so it took a lot of soil to cover it up.

You can see the odd mix of ground cover and pine needles below, but since I can't see anybody being all that interested in pictures of dirt, I stuck in a photo of our pretty poppies growing under the reading room windows:

I love watching all of the colours of flowers arriving at different times. We started with lots of blues in the early spring, then yellows and reds, then pinks, then purples, now back to reds, and I can see hot pinks, light pinks and whites starting to come out at the end of June. There's a giant rosebush which I thought was going to be wild roses, but it looks like teensy little pale pink blossoms. There's also two different kinds of peonies, along with the poppies, which sadly, did not last too long! I'd been looking forward to them since spotting them last summer before we bought the house.

Not sure what kind of iris this is, but it's very very dark, almost black, and it's about the size of Ru! Also, check out the sea of peonies. I think these ones are going to be white.

Our veggie garden is also doing well, despite having barely any sun. We've got cucumbers, red potatoes, peas, beans, heritage carrots, peppers and tomatoes. I have a feeling I've ruined my tomato plants by putting them way too close together, but oh well. Learning process! We also have a little herb garden on the deck with cilantro, chocolate mint, lemon and curry. The lavender, summer savory and peppermint that I planted definitely died out long ago.

I gotta say though, not bad for two non-green thumbs!

Sunday, June 9, 2013


As we're getting closer to our one year anniversary of owning our first home, projects are starting to come together and our list is getting smaller almost every day. As of this week our major renovations are now complete and all that is left is painting, sanding, more painting, and updating the tile surrounding the wood stove insert in the living room. But all of the renovations that included knocking things out and ripping stuff up is now over. It's definitely feeling like our home now. But one little thing was missing. A very, very little thing.

A puppy! I have wanted my own puppy for years and it seems like it has taken forever to finally be in a position where we had the space and time to be able to properly take care of a cute little fur baby. Finally, after searching for the right puppy over the past year, we finally found ours. She came from a litter of 12 (that's a LOT of puppies) at Eastern Dawn Kennels in Uigg, Prince Edward Island. We went down in mid-May to visit and pick out the one that would be right for us. Then, after three loooooong, unbearable weeks of waiting, we finally went to pick her up and take her home this week.
Introducing Ru!
Named after Eriu, the matron goddess of Ireland. If anyone is interested, I've included her story at the end of this post.
Ru likes visitors, as long as they are not too big and furry, so if anyone wants to come say hello, don't hesitate!

Ru has been home for a few days now and has definitely claimed this as "her" place. She is very snuggly and when she takes naps, 99% of the time they are in your lap. Her first couple of nights have been very good, no howling or crying in her kennel through the night, and I've been the one who wakes her up at 6 in the morning to go outside! Then she is very happy to come in and get into our bed to sleep for another few hours.

She is very small as she was the runt of her litter, and only weighed 6 pounds when we brought her home. Despite this, she loooooooves food, not only hers, but ours as well. I made a bowl of soup yesterday and she went crazy trying to get inside the bowl to drink it for herself. Milkbones are her one true love however. We bought the kind that are for puppies and are about the size of my thumb, and have to break it in half to give to her. When she senses that a milkbone is near, she goes nuts and will not rest until the milkbone is in her belly. Then once it's gone she checks her food bowl just in case there are some in there, and then she checks the coffee table to see if she missed any crumbs. I have a feeling she will have no trouble gaining weight.

Click below to hear the story of Eriu.