Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Best $4 You'll Ever Spend

Anyone from Hamilton just said "Agreed."

Back in pur-Galt-ory we used to go to Cora for breakfast.  If you've ever been, you know that you usually drive across town, wait for thirty minutes to an hour, eat deliciousness and pay up to $50 in the end!  (Granted, the one time we did spend $50, Tony and I each ordered two meals... we got a little carried away.  To be fair, usually it was more like $30).

Nowadays, living in Harbour West in Hamilton we saunter over to The Harbour Diner, wait about five to ten minutes, eat deliciousness and pay $4 each.  No kidding.  Owners Erin and Chris provide a wonderful atmosphere and food that makes you feel like someone actually cares what you think of it!  Great presentation and complete happiness in my tummy, every time.  Feast, my friends... feast.

For a whopping four dollars, I got

 eggs - poached easy, seasoned home fries, a side of rye toast....

... and a side of tomatoes marinated in a balsamic vinegar.  

For you omnivores out there, instead of the tomatoes you can get a side of country ham, sausage or bacon... or if you're really splurging, for an extra two bucks, you can have all three!

I bet you're all hungry now.  I definitely am.... blast.


Artist Find: Alexis Anne Mackenzie

I am always amazed at how much inspiration there is out there on the internet.... a web of millions and millions of incredibly talented people, sharing their work.  It's hard not to get inspired, but there the word web is a very aptly chosen one, as each site weaves into the network and connects you to others, which in turn take you on a world wide tour of culture and information.

Recently, while reading a friend's thesis blog - 1000 Hours of Drawing - I followed a link he had displayed and after countless clicks came to Alexis Anne Mackenzie.  She is originally from Michigan and studied at Tufts Univeristy in Boston, MA.  Her description of her work is incredible:

All of my collages are composed by hand - cut from books I've been collecting for years, and painstakingly pieced together as seamlessly as possible. They create themselves through a process beginning with a loose concept, followed by a series of trials and errors, subtle maneuvers, selection/elimination, harmonious unions, and happy accidents. It is a meditative process, and there is a lot of decision-making behind each element involved.

My general intent, throughout all my work, is to portray the world as a flawed thing of beauty - a place that shines brightly, but has a dark side to match.

Here are some of my favourite collages.  In all of these examples, look carefully, because the title of the title of the piece is actually found within the image itself.  I think they are incredible and beautiful, and not despite but even more so because they are poignant and somewhat dark.

It Matters To Me, 2009

Dreaming Is Easy, 2010

Never Be Sad, 2009

Light Moves on the Water, 2010

I definitely know what will be going on my wish list... now if I could only find one for sale...
Check out the rest of Alexis Anne's art on her site.


Friday, July 23, 2010

"Art is the new steel"

A quote, from The Print Studio on James Street North, I have come to really identify with.  Every day I love that Tony and I have decided to move to Hamilton.  It gets a bad rap, and, I will be honest, two years ago, I probably would have had the same opinion as most of the people who have never lived here.  We've only been here a month, but I feel more energy and motivation to get involved with the city and the community than I have anywhere else before.  There is so much potential here, it would be a shame to let it go too waste and let the politicians make our decisions for us... clearly, they are too easily swayed by promises of money, no matter how ridiculous absurd the idea is!

So today I decided to visit my more immediate community and since on fridays we have 'summer hours' at the office, it was the perfect day.  (Though I have to admit, the 40 degree humidex, made it seem less than perfect as the time passed and my clothes felt more like a second, very thick skin).

After leaving work, I wandered over to White Elephant Vintage to peruse their amazing handmade items and vintage clothing.  I was a little overwhelmed so I'll have to go back and get help from my sister on making a decision - I think I'll start off with a tea towel by Jenna Rose, - the pillows, at almost $60, are a bit out of my price range.  I especially love her print of old victorian homes, which look just like ours (except, maybe, slightly more whimsical).

Anyway, I then stopped by a new place with vintage objects and furniture, located where White Elephant used to be... I definitely didn't even get the name, yet.  It's that new.  I'll have to get it and report back.  Jeremiah had some great pieces in there and he's keeping an eye out for me for a coffee table to go with our amazing, but very hard to work with sofa.

Then I popped in to Mixed Media where I got a whole stack of posters for the Our City Our Future movement - the site in support of the PanAM stadium in Harbour West,  as opposed to in the East Mountain suburbs.

*** If you'd like posters to put around your neighbourhood, go here for locations where you can pick them up, or for the link to download and print your own.

I proceeded down James Street North dropping into businesses and asking them to hang the posters in their windows to show support and to spread the word about the site.

Not only were most people super receptive, but I even got into several conversations with groups of older Italian gentlemen about the stadium and the good it can do for downtown, how Bob Young is just after money and not the well-being of Hamilton (clearly), and whether or not I was Italian at all.  No, but "I married a man who is half-Italian, half-Croatian" - "Good combination" they said, but still claimed he got the better end of the deal.  (I had to agree!)

The folks at Our Corner Bar and Grill are also starting a petition and will be going door to door to get signatures of those people who may not go online to sign.  I lef them my number, so that I could help when it gets going.  Bob Bratina - the counsillor for Ward 2 - which Harbour West is a part of, claims we "dont' want the stadium here" ... I don't think he's actually asked anyone, because each person I spoke with says the exact opposite!

On that note, go visit the site to show your support!


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Found object heaven

Sometimes I forget about Kijiji.  And then someone sends me a link with an incredible find for a laughably small amount of money, and I scold myself thinking "How could I forget about Kijiji!?"

Well, yesterday, thanks to Naomi's onslaught of suggestions from the site, Tony and I went out and picked up our first set of chairs from a wonderful woman in Burlington.  I am not going to let you see them just yet... I know, not very nice of me.  But what I will do, is show you where we are looking for inspiration and the sort of vibe we are trying to create in our house.

I don't really do the 'brand new, spic-and-span' sort of thing... I love furniture and objects that look lived in and loved; pieces that have history, that are well made and that have a story to tell always draw me to them.  I also crave to be different, it might actually be a problem.  I always admired my baby sister for dressing in things she seems to just have made up, and yet always looking so cool - okay sometimes she looks like a homeless person, but most of the time she hits it right on.

Anyway, given mine and Tony's love for recycling and reusing and our perpetual lack of funds, buying used goods is a perfect solution.

| Randome Side-note |
I think avoiding new things is also a self preservation thing.  You know when you get something new, say a car, you dread that first scratch, or dent or imperfection that will no longer make it new.  After that, the second or third imperfection is never as bad, because you've already surpassed that first one.  I hate that feeling.. especially when you know it's going to get scratched and used.. it's a car.  And unless you're driving the new Mercedes SLS AMG you're just using it to get around. Yes, you want to respect it, but let's be serious.. rocks, bugs, birds and the occasional rodent will put a little damper on the 'new look' pretty quickly.  So, the point is, used things already have scratches and imperfections.  You never have to experience the disappointment of that 'first scratch' ever again.  Pretty liberating feeling, isn't it?

| End Random Side-note |

One of my favourite sites is; it is an great source for inspiration.  It's also just really fun to peruse and enjoy with great photographs and collections of wonderful spaces, made unique by their owners.

Here are some photographs from the site.  They are of dining spaces that reflect the sort of love and comfort that I am hoping we will be able to eminate in our home.  The colours and styles may vary, but the idea we are hoping for is there.

Very fun, no?  I am very excited.  The table we have right now is from the As-Is section at Ikea (I LOVE that section).  How can you go wrong with a solid wood table for half price?  A scratch? I'm pretty sure I can deal with a scratch or two.  (I'm also pretty sure I've put some scratches of my own in there already).

 Anyway, this is the table, the Bjursta table which seats 14 once you put the two leaves in.
Except we have it in this colour:

It must not be available anymore in the antique stain.  It's a really simple design, so we are hoping that the mismatched chairs will work nicely and add a different dimension to the room without overwhelming the space.  We should have all the chairs by the end of the weekend, so I will be sure to post the pictures then.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Win some, lose some, learn some

Sanding and refinishing floors is supposed to be relatively straight forward and easy.  So says everyone.  However, if you have three layers of paint on your floors, it becomes slightly less so.  Throw in that one of those layers is oil paint and your theory of "Let's refinish the floors in one weekend and move into the bedroom" goes flying out the window.

The good news is that we got the majority of the floors sanded.  The bad news is that there is still the hallway and some edging to do, meaning we have to rent the drum sander again and buy more sandpaper.

Things we have learned

  • The sandpaper is way more expensive than you'd think.  It's more expensive than renting the actual equipment. 
  • Oil paint does not come off with a sander.  It gunks up and destroys the sheet in about 4.356 seconds.

 Exhibit A | Destroyed sandpaper

Exhibit B | Gunk
  • You need paint stripper.  For the most non-toxic option, we chose to use Circa 1850 Soft Strip.  There is also 3M Safest Stripper Paint and Varnish Remover but I wasn't able to find it in stores, just online.  The Soft Strip is biodegradable and the smell isn't nearly as bad as with most paint stippers, however, it is still advisable to wear a proper hepa filger mask and goggles, open up all the windows and keep your pets far away from the area.
  • The edge sander isn't nearly as effective as we had hoped... we're going to try to use the belt sander to do the rest of the edges.

Here are some progress pics.  There is still a looooong way to go, but at least it's starting to look decent - the hardwood floor does look freaking fantastic, if I do say so myself.

So, for now we stay in the living room.  One day we will have a master bedroom... or any bedroom for that matter.  One day....


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Happy Birthday from Danny!

I guess Danny, our beloved Blue Heeler/Aus. Shephered mix wanted to call me to wish me a happy birthday. 

How nice.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Asbestos Abatement Complete!

So the day has come and the asbestos has gone!  Check out these pics of our 'new' floor.

So the step is a bit of an issue, but we'll deal with it.

Chimney flue... toilet flange...? No idea, but it's in the hallway.
A couple holes in the floor.
But look how thick the flooring is!

Next step: remove all the nails with needlenose pliers. Fun fun!



 I left your house this morning about a quarter after nine
coulda been the Willie Nelson coulda been the wine
when I left your house this morning
it was a little after nine
it was in Bobcaygeon I saw the constellations
reveal themselves one star at a time...

My favourite bit of the view above.
[click on the photos to enlarge them]

This past weekend, we were fortunte enough to be invited by our friends up to their cottage in Bobcaygeon (Thank you, Katie and Dave!).  It was exactly what we needed.

It's been about three weeks since we moved in and though things started quite intensely, real life, budgeting, energy and contractors' schedules all play a roll in how quickly things continue to progress.  The main issue has been that we want to finish the flooring upstairs so we can finally move into our bedroom, but aren't able to do anything else until the asbestos tiles are out.  Not having a usable upstairs also means that we can't store any of our belongings up there and so everything ends up in our living/bedrooom... 

Needless to say, it's a bit disastrous at the moment and (almost) enough to drive me insane.  It is, however, definitely enough to drive my husband insane.  And so, for the sake of my marriage, the work seriously needs to start moving forward again.  Lucky for us, the crew removing the asbestos tiles is coming tomorrow morning!

So, there are many reasons why it was so nice to get away, but one really punched us in the face hit the spot.  Right when we moved in, we had some water issues in the basement, mainly due to terrible condition/lack of downspouts.  After the first bit of rain that ended up in our basement, we managed to get our hands on a dehumidifier and turned it on.  After a few days and a final run through with the shop vac, there were no visible puddles.. just a little dampness that would soon dry out.   We also spent the week fixing/adding the downspouts. There are still other issues with the roof (like no drip edge and bad caulking in the eaves) and it's still causing problems with drainage, but we figured most of it was resolved with the new downspouts.

And then it rained.

The puddle you see is about three times as big as the one before we fixed the downspouts (??) and it happened on friday afternoon.

By the time we got back from Bobcaygeon on Sunday, quite a bit of it had dried up, which was good, but the house was still a disaster... and no matter how awesoome a weekend away is, when you come back you are flooded (pardon the pun) with the never-ending list of things to do.  

Still - it was an amazing break and rejuvinated us both.  I can't imagine the shape we'd be in if we hadn't gone!


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

It's like the discovery channel in here

Last night I had the most disturbing wake-up ever.  I woke up as I was smacking something on my neck... which, when I went to the light, turned out to be a millipede... or something in the same family.  I can't even put down the feeling in words... it would be something like .. bllaghhbrpp... bah.  Sounds about right.

The main issue is that our mattress is on the ground in the living room because the upstairs carpet has been ripped up and the tiles have yet to be removed (more on those later).  The other issue is that every single one of our window screens either has massive holes in it or doesn't exist.  Considering the last two day shave been 34 degrees, 43 with humidex and we have no air conditioner, not opening the windows at night has been somewhat uncomfortable... we're trying to stay as non-cranky as possible, so we drink beer and play chess.

So the tiles.  They're asbestos.  Awesome!!  There are several clues pointing to this rather important piece of information. a) they are vinyl, and were under carpet laid in the 80's, which probably puts them 50's or 60's b) they are 9x9... one of the magic numbers of asbestos vinyl tiles c) where there used to be tile and there isn't anymore is a black gunk called mastic, which also has asbestos in it.

So we've had someone come through and have gotten several quotes on the tiles, ranging from under $1000 to $2000.  How it's even possible that the range is so insane, I have no idea, but there it is.

(Angry) Side note |

In all my recent research nto asbestos I found some incredibly disturbing facts about our 'not-so harmless' country.  Did you know Canada is the West’s biggest exporter of asbestos?  That’s right – we have banned it here due to the fact that it KILLS PEOPLE, but we’re apparently completely okay with shipping it out to third world countries whose laws are much more lax. 
Even more disturbing is that "in 2004 Canada successfully spearheaded a coalition of naysayers... to block the addition of asbestos to the Rotterdam Convention, a chemical watchdog list".… and so it has yet to be placed on this list.  All this, so we can continue to export it and make money.  I could go on about this for a long time; it makes me incredibly angry that my country is doing something so hypocritical, capitalist and completely soulless.  Here is another article from Intercontinental Outcry. 

Since it wouldn't be right to introduce you to an evil you can do absolutely nothing about - here are some forums, petitions and groups you can join and sign.
Facebook group "Petition to STOP Canada from selling asbestos to India"
CFMEU Site: Petition link on bottom of page

And here is a page for you to find the name of your local MP and let them know that you are disgusted with what Canada is doing and that he or she needs to stand up for what is right.  Click on "Constituency" for the list to be organized according to that and find your area in the list.

| End of (Angry) Side note.

Now back to my slightly smaller-scale asbestos problem.
We did some research into it and one of the safest options is to just put a new floor over top of the tiles, because as long as it’s not disturbed – and in a solid state such as a unbroken tiles – the asbestos is safe.  We also learned that asbestos in tile form is probably relatively safe to begin with due to low concentrations (as opposed to vermiculite insulation).  However, seeing as there may possibly be perfectly good hardwood underneath (granted, in need of some serious rejuvination), I find it wasteful to purchase a floor just to put it on top.  Also, I would much rather have this stuff out of my house and know that it is safe.

If you are planning to remove it yourself, here are some great articles about safety precautions and other information you need to know to decide if it’s worth the risk to you.

Do-it-yourself Asbestos Abatement from
The Natural Handyman - great list on identifying whether what you have really is asbestos
E-how on asbestos removal

Also, double check that your municipality will accept asbestos waste from you.  In some areas it is illegal for home  owners to do an asbestos abatement on their own and so the landfill will not accept it from you.  It must be disposed of by a professional.

The good thing out of all of this (and there really is a good thing), is that the tiles are glued to plywood, as opposed to being glued straight onto the existing hardwood.  So, my hopes for salvaging the original hardwood floor still remain.

So this is what the asbestos tiles look like.  The black stuff in the top left-hand corner is the mastic. 

It may look pretty sketchy to most people, 
but what I see underneath a layer of tile and plywood is hardwood! Yay! 
(Painted red, apparently)

And here are pictures of the floor we uncovered in the master bedroom.  My favourite part is that we can see the original layout of that part of the house.  It clearly shows two rooms, the entrances and closet.  I love being able to see the history of a house like this and imagine what lives of the original occupants may have been like.

The lightest area between the brown and the blue 
is where the dividing wall would have been between the two rooms.

I guess painting hardwood floors was considered to be a good idea at one point.

The original entrance in the the room and what I suspect is the original closet wall.


The Bathroom

Instead of updating the First Impressions post, I figured the bathroom deserves a little attention of its own - basking in its own 80's glory.

Note: seeing as my grandparents have been following this in Poland, I decided to try and write a bit in Polish for them... I'm just hoping I'm not completely butchering the language; Saturday afternoon Polish classes in elementary school can only take you so far.

Dla Dziadka i Babci | Zdjecia naszej lazienki w nowym domu.  Widac ze byla wykonczona w latach osiemdziesatych - bardzo duzo czarnego i zlotego!  Lepiej by bylo nie w tych kolorach, ale nie mozemy za bardzo marudzic bo jest ogromna na dom z tego wieku - na pewno moglo byc gorzej!


And no bathroom is complete without a vaulted ceiling!

My towel rack - we can always throw it back to bad taste of the 80's, 
but it seems to me that this stuff  always comes back....

The Kohler Karbon.  I am definitely seeing similarities here.
(To jest nowy kran zrobiony przez Kohlera - wyglada bardzo podobnie do naszego wieszaka na reczniki!)

Thanks for stopping by!
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