Thursday, April 29, 2010

Speaking of poorly built houses...

My basement flooded today. It came in through the weeping tile holes. It did the same thing last fall, but I had hoped it was a freak occurance. I guess not.

I wonder how much it costs to have the weeping tile redone?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I've been put in my place.

... and my place is going to have a concrete roof.

I think that just writing out that list of pros and cons convinced me that concrete is the way to go for the new roof. Now I just need to finish checking this contractor's references and it'll be a done deal. In a few months, I'll have a new roof.

Checking references has been a gas. Although I'm leaning towards this roof because of it's eco benefits, most people get it because it lasts so much longer than the typical asphalt roof. It pays for itself over the years, but it costs more in the beginning. Because of that, most people who get it make a lot more green than I do. So, the people I called were all very well to do.

Granted, I grew up with a wealthy family, so I know how the rich can be; but I realized today how little I've followed in their footsteps. My tastes may be rich, but my income is small. It seems that I have changed over the years to fit my lifestyle.

All of the people I called were very friendly to me, but I could barely hold back my laughter as each of them seemed to go out of their way to let me know how grand their home is. "Two and a half stories, not including the basement", "Plaster moulding on the ceilings - which is basically architectural art (he tells me because I wouldn't know)- and very precious", "lots of peaks and valleys", "the pitch is so high that it cost $30K extra, just for the trusses" and one lady told me "Your house would fit in my front foyer".

Good for them. I oohed, aahed and acted impressed because they seemed to think I should. Apparently, they think that everybody aspires to live in a McMansion, but I don't. I grew up in a big home that was a show piece, and that's not for me. I'd rather have a small house that I can live in and use.

However, between all the bragging and the putting on of airs, they all had a lot of great things to say about this contractor. I asked all of them if there was anything - anything at all - that didn't sit right with them, or that they wish had been done differently. They all said that there was absolutely nothing about him, his crew or their work that they'd want changed. So, I guess I've made my choice. A few months from now I'm going to have me a swanky roof.

I wonder if that'll be enough for me to put on airs.

Maybe I should practice drinking tea with my pinky in the air.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The new roof

As much as it pains me to say it, my five year old house is in desperate need of a new roof.

The guy who built my house did a really bad job, but he covered his ass by moving and changing his company name. He's no longer legally responsible. Insurance won't cover it because it was "preexisting", and the new home warranty won't cover it because roofs aren't technically structural. So, what all that means is that I have to foot the bill for a new roof.

It sucks in all sorts of ways.

I'm trying to make the best of it by using this as an opportunity to upgrade to a high end, long term and ecologically responsible roof that will last as long as the house. I have found a contractor who I like and trust, and he specializes in long term roofs. Concrete, rubber, slate, metal, cedar... we discussed all of the above and now I need to make up my mind.

I don't think I like metal. I like the corrugated metal roofs on some houses, but don't think I'd like it on mine. The pressed metal that looks like slate or shakes looks like pressed metal. I wanted to like it, but I don't.

Cedar is nice, but out of my price range. As is slate. I don't like asphalt. It's a petroleum product that's bad for the environment, and it's not going to last. I live in hail central, and asphalt gets damaged too easily by hail. I don't want to have to repair or replace the roof again.

That leaves rubber or concrete.

I had my mind made up to get concrete... those wavy tiles that they have in Europe and down south, except not in a terracotta colour.

Then, both my contractor and a real estate guy I know commented that they thought it might stand out too much. The real estate agent said it was too personal of a choice and a lot of people might not like it (ie - bad resale... not that I plan to sell). The contractor said he thought it'd look good, but that it'd be very, very different from the other houses. He wondered if standing out that much could be a good thing.

So, now I'm rethinking my decision. I'm about to spend more on a roof than I did on my car. I have to make up my mind this week or the contractor has to move on to other jobs; but I can't decide.

I like the concrete. Here's a link
  • It has been used for hundreds of years, and is tried and true.
  • It's good for the environment in that it's made of recycled products and is recyclable. It has no petroleum products in it, and doesn't contain any chemicals that will leach into the water.
  • It's not an imitation of anything, so it won't look fake.
  • It's installation is proven to improve the R value and keep houses cooler in the summer, warmer in the winter. (There's a space between the actual roof and the tiles.)
  • On average, concrete roofs last 80-100 years. It comes with a 50 year warranty.
  • Other than asphalt, it's the least expensive choice.
  • If any tiles do break or repairs are needed (unlikely) it'll cost $25 per tile, including labour.
  • Concrete doesn't burn in a fire.
  • It's manufactured in Calgary, so it'd be supporting a local company and avoiding long distance shipping.
  • I worry about the wavy tiles making my house stand out too much from the others in the area.

There is a rubber roofing product out there that looks like slate. Here's a link
  • It's nice, but it looks like slate. It isn't slate, and it'll be an obvious imitation (possibly one that can be improved upon in a few years... after I've already paid for my 50 year roof and it's too late).
  • It's made from used tires and is actually a part of the solution to all the used tires clogging up the landfills.
  • Something about rubber doesn't sit right with me. Even though it's recycled, I feel like rubber is another product that's bad for the environment, and I don't want to support it's production... even post production.
  • I worry about chemicals leaching into the rain water, off gassing, and about the rubber breaking down in the sunshine over the years.
  • Not tested for R value, but they claim it helps keep the house cooler in the summer and quieter all year round. That seems logical.
  • It's manufactured in Calgary, so it'd be supporting a local company and avoiding long distance shipping.
  • It costs slightly more than the concrete, but just barely.
  • If any repairs are needed (unlikely) a portion of the roof would need to be redone, so labour and materials would cost more than the concrete.
  • Rubber might burn in a fire
  • It's experimental (has been in use only about 10 years) but it comes with a 50 year old warranty.
  • It'll fit in with the neighbours' houses more than the concrete.
It seems to me that I like everything about the concrete tiles except what other people might think about the look. On the flip side, I feel like I've got reservations about just about everything about the rubber, except what my neighbours will think about its look.

I wonder when being different became so important, and if it's really all that bad.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Moral Dilemma

Is it wrong for me to hang out in front of my house, and screen the people who are looking to potentially buy the evil neighbour's house?

Keeping in mind that the devil you know may be a whole lot better than other potential neighbours, would it be that wrong for me to discourage some people? I'm thinking of the partiers, the the guys who own at least 6 hummers and jacked up trucks; or the white trash who promise to have no less than 683 garden gnomes on their front lawn. I wouldn't do anything illegal; I'd just put Sir Barks A Lot (aka Cotton) outside, wind him up and let him yap nonstop until they leave.

Would that be so terrible?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

No Man Is an Island

...but if you put the basket on top of a crate, the cat will be.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

What's in the garden.

I live in central Alberta, and this is the time of year when I'm most jealous of people who live south or east of me. I think we're a month or so behind just about everybody else, and it give me serious garden lust. Some day, I will live in a zone 5-6, or even 6-7.

These pictures are from my back yard. There seems to be a micro climate back there, and plants tend to come up earlier and do better in the back.

This is the second group of the tulips that bloomed.
Like the others I posted a picture of a few days ago, they were an experiment for me to try a new variety.
I only planted a few of them.

At the side of the house, I planted tulips en mass the year I moved in. 200 bulbs, if I recall correctly. 100 in front of each window.

They're thinking about starting to bloom... hopefully in a week or so.

Last year, I also planted a mass of peony plants. ... 7 to be exact.

Then I forgot to water them, and I thought they all died. Luckily, it looks like three - possibly four - might just recover. They don't look like much now, but they're gonna be beautiful when they mature and grow in.
Of course, thinking that I'd killed them, I removed all the tags last fall.
Now I have no idea what colour any of them will be.

The seedum is blooming already.

So's the mystery plant, which has me boggled. All I know is that it came in a 2" pot. It was mostly dead. I rescued it. It recovered, and then it started to grow like stink. Now, it's about to start to blooming like crazy.

Here it is close up. If anybody knows what it is, please enlighten me.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ladybugs and Laundry

Nobody tells you before you get pets that you'll be giving up sleep for them. They should come with a warning somehow... "Adopting this animal may result in frequent extreme fatigue".

It's a good thing they're cute, is all that I can say today.

Winter had a ladybug last night. Somehow, it had gotten into the house and he brought it into my bedroom just as I was trying to go to sleep. At first, I hoped he'd eat the thing right away or lose track of it, but he chased that darned bug all around the room instead. He'd catch it, put it down, flip it on it's back and then poke at it with his paw until it managed to flip over and fly away.

For almost 20 minutes, Winter and the ladybug flew over the bed, batted around the chandelier and then rumbled through the closet. When they came back out and Winter dropped it on my pillow, I scooped the bug up and took it outside. Normally, I'm all for the feline removal of bugs from the house; but I like ladybugs. And I like my sleep even more.

If that wasn't enough, I came back from saving the ladybug to see that Cotton had crawled out from under the covers and was standing on my side of the bed. As walked into the room, he ever so delicately opened up his mouth, gave out a little burp and then upchucked his dinner.

Needless to say, I stripped the bed so fast that Cotton didn't know what had hit him.

Laundry ensued...sleep was delayed. I'm contemplating a gold fish for my next pet.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Spring has sprung

Spring has arrived.

It's +22C outside today. The breeze is blowing, the windows are open and all I want to do is to bask in the gorgeous sun. I don't think that there's anything better than the first really good day of spring.

Even better, look what showed up today: The first blooms of the season.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Red Neck Gardening

The weather channel may be calling for 20-25cm of snow tonight, but I'm making plans for my gardens.

I've got gardening on my mind.

I'm thinking of adding some ornaments to my garden. Red Neck ornaments at that, too.

I haven't had garden ornaments for quite a few years, since some kid in the old neighbourhood got creative and started swapping ornaments on the street. I'd come outside to find my faeries three doors down, my solar lights lining the entrance to the house on the corner or neighbours' wind chimes hanging in my trees. It was a bit annoying, but I had to give the kids points for creativity. Plus, it kind of brought the neighbourhood together because we kept having to meet in the middle of the street to swap lawn chotchkies.

But all bets were off when my CAT sign went missing.

That window was Winter's favorite hangout. He spent so much time lying there and watching the world go by, I was asked all the time if he was a stuffed animal. Then, when I got Cotton and started walking him around, people started asking if Cotton was the white animal who spent so much time sitting in the window.
I made that sign to clear up any confusion, and it sat propped up on the window sill for a few years.

Luckily, Winter continued to hang out there so that it continued to make sense.

Then, somebody stole my sign and the ornament swapping stopped being fun. I packed up the faeries, put away the wind chimes and even moved some of the decorative boulders to the back yard.

I've been a wee bit bitter ever since.

However, I've been presented with a bit of a challenge and I think that it might force me to give up holding the grudge.

My funky argyle boots have split beyond repair, and I'm not ready to give them up entirely. I can't wear them anymore, and all attempts at patching have failed miserably. And yet, they still sit in my front closet, calling out to be used.

The other day it occurred me that they might be fun garden ornaments. I was thinking that I could poke holes in the sole of one of them, fill it with dirt and plant something hardy and trailing in the top. The other one - the one with the split on the arch - I might cut a hole out of the side of it, lay it down flat and fill it up with pansies.

I'm still waffling if this idea is great or beyond tacky. I think I might try it out in the back yard (with limited exposure) this year. If I like it, then I can move the boots out front and hope they don't walk away.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Kitty in the Tub

For the last couple of weeks, I've been hearing large thumps in the house that I can't explain. It was getting the dogs worked up, and worrying me a bit too. I like to know the source of noises that loud, especially when they happen so often.

It took me a while, but I eventually figured it out. I still don't know the why, but now I know the what (or maybe I should say the who).

Himself has been dive bombing into the tub, and then rolling around and chasing an imaginary mouse. He's been doing it a few times a day, and sometimes he even calls out as he plays. It doesn't last long, though. Ever since I figured out what he was doing, he stops as soon as the dogs and I arrive to watch.

I figure he's playing mental games with the rest of us, to see how much how worked up (therefore into how much trouble) he can get the dogs, and/or how long it takes before I drop what I'm doing to come find him.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

No Way, José

I went to see the potential new house and was surprised to see that it is an absolute dead-wringer to my first house. It's been decorated differently, but the layout of the main floor is almost identical to the first house that I bought, gutted and fixed up. The only difference is that my first house didn't have a basement.

As I told my friend who is selling it, there's no doubt that I like the layout because I already bought one just like it. But. It's a starter home. The rooms are teeny, tiny, the ceilings are really low (I don't think that they're even 8' high) and the basement has next to no light. The yard, while quite large, is monopolized by a large parking pad and a garage that's turned sideways (therefore taking up more space.) Both the front and back yard would need to be completely regraded and landscaped.

In comparison, I like to think of my current house as a step above a starter home. The main floor has higher ceilings, lots of light and bigger bedrooms. Also, the basement has more potential. The basement in the house I looked at today would have to be gutted and redone entirely.... and it'd still be too dark. My basement is unfinished, but the windows are quite large. I think I could finish it down the road for the same amount of money that I'd pay to do it in that other house, and the outcome would be a lot better.

I'll think about it for a few days, but my gut instinct is that I'd be happier here.

Also, I should mention that the evil neighbour put a for sale sign up in front of his house today.

On a whole other topic, Miss Tallulah Belle Poodle has a new BFF. Meet José the rat.

Last winter, Tallulah took it upon herself to start carrying my gloves around when we went on our walks. Since it was (mostly) warmed up to the point that I don't need gloves, she's been at a bit of a loss. She's been nibbling my fingers, and grabbing hold of her leash, and clearly looking for something to carry.

Last week when I was Ikea, I picked up the rat for Tula and she fell instantly in love. She's been carrying him around the house all the time. A few days ago, Tallulah grabbed José as we left for our nightly walk and I let her keep him. She's been bringing him along on our walks with us ever since.

No doubt that this has cemented my reputation as the neighbourhood weirdo. As if it's not bad enough that my poodle carries a stuffed rat in her mouth, I got some great looks last night when I turned around in front of the playground last night and told Tula that I was going to take José away from her if she didn't hurry up. In the end, though, Tallulah's happy so I'll probably just go with the flow.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Blather and random thoughts

I'm feeling up in the air lately... don't know why.

Some random thoughts:

I'm watching American Idol this season for the first time, and so far my early picks have all failed me. I really wanted to love Andrew Garcia. Loved his take on "Straight Up", but I don't think I've loved anything by him yet. Crystal Bowersox is good, no doubt; but I think all her songs sound the same. I close my eyes and listen when they sing, and I ask myself if I would listen to a whole cd by them (I'm old school that way. I still listen to cds). While I'd happily listen to a song by her, I don't think I'd like more than a few in a row. I really don't see the appeal of Big Mike. I haven't really loved anything he's done. Ditto for most of the others. The dark horse for me? Casey James. I really didn't like him in the beginning, but he's been growing on me. Man, that guy can play a guitar; and his vocals are pretty good too. I think I'd listen to a whole cd by him.

Mahjongg Dimensions is an evil, nasty game. I used to play Mahjongg a lot. A Lot. So much so, that I was finding myself unable to sleep at night because I was busy playing it in my mind. I'd picture the game in my head, and then gradually pair the pieces and remove them from the board until they were gone. When it got so bad that I was undoing moves by replacing pieces where they started and pairing them up with other pieces in my mind, I stopped playing entirely. I can get OCD like that. Some things, I can't do in moderation so I have to stay away from them entirely.

Anyway, a friend on Facebook has been posting her scores for Mahjongg Dimensions for a few days. I finally broke down and went to play *a* round myself. I ended up playing for two hours straight. I think, perhaps, I should maybe not play it anymore.

It's snowing outside right now. I don't think we're supposed to get too much, but I want it on record that I don't shovel in April. I just don't. We could get 2 feet of snow, but I ain't shovelling. The only thing I want to be digging right about now is the dirt. Gardening season better get here soon.

I owe the Zadge a mental apology. I was thinking bad things about her, but it turns out it was a mistake on my part. I mentioned in an earlier blog entry that I've been doing this reading experiment lately. Any book that is recommended in an article or blog, I'd read. Well, the Zadge has a lot of books listed in her reading list, so I read the one that had the highest recommendation at the time.

Or, so I thought.

I thought she'd recommended What I did for Love, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips; when in fact she'd recommended How to be Single, by Liz Tucillo. I haven't read How to be Single, but I'm hoping it's a whole lot better than What I did for Love. Because, when I thought the Zadge was highly recommending What I did for Love, I was having pretty nasty thoughts about her recommendations. To make up for it, my next read shall be from her list.

I'm going house shopping tomorrow. How crazy is that? And, right after I finally decided that THIS is the house for me; that I would settle in and stay here for the long term.

Maybe I won't.

My friend's father died recently after a long battle with cancer. He's been in the same house since she was a young girl, and it's in a prime location in town. On paper, it's exactly what I want. Big, huge lot. Small house. 3 bedrooms... 2 bathrooms... wood floors throughout.... Fenced, landscaped yard on an inside corner (pie) lot.

It's been really well taken care of, except that it hasn't been updated esthetically for 40 years. It also needs to be rewired and the garage needs to be torn down and rebuilt. They're asking about 2/3 what I can get for my current house, and if I want it, she's willing to do a private deal to avoid real estate fees. So, I'm going to go have a look. If I like it, and if I think I can get it fixed up how I want it and still break even, I might just be buying me a new house.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Not what I hoped for

There are a lot of different kinds of wood in this house, and it didn't look very good to me. Normally, I like wood; but it's not the good kind of wood. Aspen 1x3s slapped up around the perimeter of the room and windows does not make for a rich, warm look. It looks like you've tried to skimp by using your leftover building materials.

(This is what I started with, five years ago.)

Some day, I hope to replace the trim entirely; but in the meantime I decided to paint it in the hopes it would be an improvement. (I think it is.) I've slowly been painting the baseboard and trim, and the banister was the last bit. I questioned whether it should be painted, but eventually decided that it looked too bare as it was.

I forgot to take before pictures - these are "after I sanded the snot out of it" pictures.

It turned into a much bigger job than I expected, and - even worse - I don't think I like the results.

I really thought I would. I've always liked the look of the dark brown trim against the suede wall. Actually, I'm pretty much loved the brown anywhere I've put it so far... except this time.

This time, it looks a little too dark, and maybe a little too... DIY.

(It'll be the same colour as the rest of the trim once it cures.)

I couldn't have done it - you can't stain over lacquer - but I'm wishing that I could have stained the banister in dark brown instead of painting it.

Now I'm thinking of painting the spindles a lighter colour, like cream or beige.

My dad says I should live with it for a while, to see if I get used to it.

No doubt that I'll wait a while (It took three days to do this) but I suspect that I'll be painting it again soon.