Thursday, December 23, 2010

New favorite restaurant

Last night we treated our parents to a night out Toronto-style at Lucien. This has to be by far the best food we've had in Toronto so far. After an amazing dinner at Alinea in Chicago last year I thought I'd never find a restaurant that could even come close to measuring up, but Lucien is probably the closest we've come (we tried Colborne Lane last year but made the mistake of going on Valentine's day so maybe it deserves another shot...).

At Lucien 2 of us had 4 courses and 2 of us had 3 courses (a la carte) and a bottle of wine and the total with tip was still comfortably below the $500 mark and the food was extremely tasty.

Stand out dishes were:
  • French onion soup with duck confit - the flavors in this were so good.
  • Beef bourguignon - this was absolutely amazing. It wasn't the stew but all the ingredients of beef bourguignon with 3 cuts of beef (including the best tenderloin I've ever eaten!) and some vegetables and sauces.
  • Venison gnocchi - this was a kind of simple dish (venison sausage with gnocchi) but the flavours were still really good (I think the member of our party who ordered this ended up wishing he had the beef);
  • Ontario red deer - I only got a taste of the deer on this one but it was tender/good. It was served with some cranberry which seemed really nice.
  • lemon meringue and chocolate beetroot brownie were probably the 2 best desserts (of what the table ordered). I had a hard time finding the beetroot in the brownie dish but it was tasty none-the-less.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Money Pit

We've been pretty quiet the past few months. More about that later. While we've been quiet we've officially finished everything above-grade in the house. We are now also at a point where we can watch this movie without having a meltdown:


Our house was way to close to this state when we bought it...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Happy Sunday!

I was reading the Toronto Star online edition this morning and this story caught my attention. This fellow east Toronto couple found a snake in their house for the second time. They found a snake a month ago while renovating a bathroom but it slithered away. After a month they recovered the initial visitor and within 2 weeks they found another one (apparently a quite resilient one that survived the wash cycle of their washing machine). The Star article does a good job of highlighting all the freaky facts of how far/long snakes can live if they escape from their owners. Given the close proximity of housing in Toronto it's a little disturbing ;o).

One interesting thing the news story links to is the husband's YouTube page where they've done a really nice job of documenting the hunt for snake #1. I hope they got some footage of this new visitor and continue to document their snake saga. It's kind of fascinating.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Deck-ed out

Despite the silence progress has not completely stalled on our place. We got the bulk of the deck done very fast but one of us wanted to spend time getting the lattice work and finish details just right before the big reveal. The deck design was mostly inspired by the deck at 247 Reno . We're pretty happy with how it came out. The deck is 10'x~16' which seemed really big when we were planning it, but upon seeing it done I don't think we would have been happy having it much smaller. It does take up quite a bit of space in our yard but once the garage/shack is torn down next summer it should be an appropriate size relative to the yard.


Without further adieu glorious "after" pictures:


This is Trinity next to the outer corner of what was going to be our BBQ "shrine". It seemed weird to be standing peering into our neighbors' yard while BBQing though so we opted to move the BBQ closer to the house.



Trinity with the stairs to the yard.




Outside of the "BBQ Shrine". Next summer we will probably replant the tree in the barrel into the ground. My step-dad horticulturalist says it's an elm (quite common in Central Alberta our homeland)




A lot of attention went into the lattice work and cladding the pressure treated 4x4s because they didn't look as nice as the rest of the pressure treated wood. I'm really happy with how it came out even though I argued that doing this was madness when it was suggested.



What the BBQ Shrine is used for now. It's so nice to look out on this from the kitchen. It makes it feel like our backyard is some tropical place. Unfortunately we didn't finish the deck in time for tropical weather :P.


Stairs down to the garden. Yeah no rail. We live dangerously. Or rather we value prettyness over safety. Get over it, its 2'.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Backyard update


So after giving up on hiring out the siding we ended up doing it ourselves over labor day long weekend. Since then we've been super busy with building the deck and craziness at work. Here are some pictures of the progress. We'll write more later when things are a bit less hectic.





The beginning of the BBQ alcove:

Sunday, August 29, 2010

All Wrapped up

So, we got a quote for siding. It wasn't outrageous but it didn't seem like they would do the job to the level we wanted it done. Their proposed solution around the window was J-mold and with no mention of building wrap.

When we installed the kitchen window, we caulked around it but it was basically sitting there with caulk around it and a piece of plywood below it. Given that water can pass onto the underside of the siding we wanted to ensure that the edge around the window was really weather tight. By this point we realized that if we wanted this job done how we wanted it it was probably just easier to do it ourselves. So this weekend we prepped the kitchen for siding, we flashed around the window (using a home made bending solution):
Filled in the gaps around the door and added brick mold
and of course wrapped everything in building wrap. Hopefully we will get to side it this week/weekend and then we can move on to the deck!

In other news we used the money we saved on hiring out siding to hire our contractor neighbor to arrange and install a custom size door from the Habitat for Humanity Re-store in the basement walkup. Things are moving along again!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Yard Plan

There hasn't been much in the way of progress made on the outside of our house since the last post. We're mainly being held up since we're hiring out the siding and we tend to procrastinate more when working with pros than when doing things ourselves :P. With the help of Homestars, we got our butts in gear today and contacted a bunch of local companies with the hopes that we can get it set up soon. We would do it ourselves, but we want to make sure the flashing around the new window and door from the kitchen are done right which requires people with equipment + know-how for working with aluminum.

In the mean time we've been thinking about the final design for the deck/yard. Bear in mind this project is still in the realm of "pipe dream" and won't get finished until next summer, but this is the plan:


We're contemplating taking a free table from our neighbour (hence the over-sized table on the deck) but looking at it in the diagram it may not be meant to be... unless we convert our whole yard into a deck... This is also based on estimated measurements of our yard. Depending on the actual length we may need to lose a boxwood or 2 (or shorten the deck).

Our goal for this summer is to get the deck done. Next summer we will tear down the garage/shack, build a new fence and parking pad. And to think when we moved in we thought we'd be parking in the back within 4 months... we were so naive :P.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Almost out of the hole..

So its been a busy few weeks but we have almost finished up the bulk of the walkup. Since last time we have finished the walls, poured the floor and installed a nice new trench drain with a 3 inch drain attached, so hopefully this should prevent any more flooding.



The concrete needed some minor re-contouring after it was poured to fill some low points but now its all gently sloped towards the drain. We still need to call around to find someone to custom make us a door for opening that is smaller than any standard exterior door. The door that was there seems like was a converted screen door that let wind blow right through it in the winter:
Then its on to re- siding the kitchen add on and then a back deck!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rebuilding the basement walk up

Before we moved in, the back of our house looked like this:

the white structure poking out the side of the kitchen is the basement walk up. The home inspector noted that it was a DIY job and that it might need repair at some point. We found out the extent of its problems about 8 months after we moved in and a torrential rainstorm unleashed streams of water through cracks in the side of the walk up. It leaked *really* bad given the right type of rain storm. We went from bone dry basement to 2 inches in some spots, being from Alberta where basements are usually dry it was a bit of a shock.

Our master plan for fixing the walk up had 2 phases. In the first, we ran a 4" drain line to the door leading to the walk up (originally it was a drain hooked to a garden hose type thing that tied into an existing drain in the main part of the house).

We are now embarking on the second phase of this project, tearing off the old walk up enclosure and building a new concrete base (with a drain *outside* of the house). First we tore off the structure. This took all of 10 minutes.


We then dug a 5'x8'x5.5' hole with the help of our contractor neighbor's laborers.

Around the edge of the hole was a trench that our contractor neighbor poured footings into for us last week. Last weekend and this week we've been working on building the walls for the new walk up out of concrete blocks.


Today we were chatting with our contractor neighbor and I guess he showed another contractor in the neighborhood our block work and he had a hard time believing we were doing it ourselves. After slaving away on a project it's always nice to get feedback like that :o).

This project is a part of a larger vision to make the back of the house less ghetto. The next steps are to side the kitchen, build the deck, tear down the shack/garage and build a fence; but all things in time.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

We wish we were as good as this guy...



So it's been nearly a month since our last post. Between our current project and sorting out some logistical issues in our real life there hasn't been much time for blogging. We're currently working on the restructuring of our back walk up stairs (the ones that resembled Niagara Falls whenever it rained). This has so farinvolved digging a 5'x8'x6' hole and pouring footings. We're now building the block wall, then it'll be on to the drain/floor and new stairs. While we knew mostly what to do for this project we grossly under estimated how physically hard it would be. Luckily we were able to call in some manual labor on short notice to help with some of the heftier parts. There will be a blog post with pictures/etc when we get some more time.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Stair railing complete!

The stair case is now 99% complete. It still needs new light fixtures at the base and top of the stairs, a piece of trim where the stair case meets the plaster, and some general sanding/touching up. But for now it's pretty good we think. We have a house guest coming on Friday and need to get the house in shape so this wasn't a minute too soon!

Here's what it looked like before:

Here it is now:

Keep in mind that *none* of this is original to the house. The newels are cedar 4x4s clad with oak/oak trim, the railing is from central fairbank lumber (that was a gong-show and a half...), and the balusters were ripped out of a 1x8 of select pine. This meant that the balusters are rectangular and not square which we think gives the stair case a bit more of a craftsman-type feel.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The prettiest thing in our house right now...


...is this bit of railing we installed yesterday. Once we had all the pieces cut, painted and stained assembling the railing only took about 15-20 minutes. It was pretty sweet. Let's hope the main railing goes as smoothly.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Work on the upstairs railing

We're now getting close to being able to install the horizontal railing at the top of the stairs. We trimmed out the full newel and have started to stain it. We're also prepainting and staining the balusters, railing and baseplate to save us the pain of trying to paint/stain without making a mess when it is all installed.

Think we used enough clamps?


To make it so we could paint all sides of the balusters at once we rigged up this line.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Yet another stairs update...


Custom woodwork/stairs takes a lot of time, but we're really starting to see the pay off. We trimmed out the half newel and started staining it (it's a 2x4 with oak cladding). This is just after the first coat of stain, but it seems like it will look quite good.


We also finally got all the stairs stained! No more skipping other stairs, we can go up and down like normal people again. *woo*

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Stair staining begins...


These stairs are seriously the project that never ends. I think they've already taken longer than the kitchen or either bathroom. On the up side we're finally starting to see some of the pay off. We stained half the stairs last night. We fiddled with blending stains etc, but 2 coats of this stain seems to match our hardwood the best. This is after 1 coat and it's already quite close (camera flash doesn't do it justice).

The staining is going to take quite a while because we need to go up and down the stairs so we have to do half of them at a time.

Dishwasher update

For those who haven't been following, the beginning of the dishwasher saga can be found here.

The technician just left. I didn't get a picture before he did the repair, but the basic idea was to replace the whole inside door panel. It now has some extra holes on the inside to help the steam to vent out the bottom as opposed to out the side of the door. This issue seems to be common when our Frigidaire dishwasher is installed at the end of a run.

(the rectangle made of holes is new)

We will monitor it when we do dishes next and update this post with the results.

*Update* we've run the dishwasher through a couple of times and it appears to have worked. We checked along side the dishwasher while it was running and the side of the cupboard was dry. The new fix vents more air downwards, so it might not work for people with wooden floors, but steam on our tile is preferable to steam on the Ikea cupboards.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Stairs update

This weekend we started working on revamping the stair treads/risers. We removed the carpeting we had added as a temporary fix last year, and cut the nosing off the existing treads. They were all pretty warped and some had split, so revitalizing them was out of the question.

We then spend the better part of yesterday cutting the new oak veneer treads we picked up at Rona to clad the old stairs. The old treads were far from square (of course) so cutting the treads took pretty much all day. Today we used construction adhesive to put on half of the stairs. Since we need to get to our bed room and the bathroom (the basement one is currently acting as a storage closet... but that's another post...) we could only put them on 1/2 at a time. We will also have to stain them 1/2 at a time :P the joys of living in your reno... Here is a picture of the first round of stairs. We ran out of paint cans to hold them down so we used some beer bottles we had near by.



Since sticking the stairs on didn't take too long, one of us finally got to start a much-needed craft project. We're computer geeks and cannot live without a computer to feed content to our TV. So to get rid of the unsightly box we bought an antique radio to build a computer inside of it. It's a long way from completion, but at least it's started now.


On an unrelated note, the part for our dishwasher was backordered and finally came in. The repairman is coming back this Wednesday. Lets hope it will work! I'm hoping to have the guts to geek out on him and ask to take a picture of what the new part looks like to show you all. ;0)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A long time coming...

After we moved in we laid hardwood in the living room and dining room (Nov 2008). Since it was on sale we bought enough to do the upstairs as well and last June/July 2009 we laid the hardwood in the master and guest bedrooms. Since then there has been a no mans' land between the bedrooms and the bathroom that has been unfinished. There has also been a pile of about 5 boxes in a corner of our bedroom waiting to be laid. Today we finally got the landing hardwood done. There is still a closet to be done, but this is great progress.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Happiness is smooth white walls


We finished sanding and priming this weekend. Up next:
- paint
- newel posts
- hardwood at top of stairs
- new stairs
- railing
- new tile for entry way

and then everything above grade will be done !! *woo*

Sunday, March 21, 2010

More plastering


We got back to plastering the stairs this weekend. The first coat of plaster took a bit longer than anticipated because well... plastering on a 16' ladder is a little tricky. Hopefully now we have the hang of it, the next coats will go better.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Dear lazy-Web...

I'm just wondering if anyone else out there is watching House and drooling over the loft House and Wilson share. I've been searching for any info on it online but haven't found anything. Anyone find anything? I'm getting desperate... I may have to resort to screen captures... *ugh*

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dishwasher saga begins...

After discovering steam leaking from our dishwasher damaging our cabinets (thanks to another local blog!) we quickly got on the phone with Fridgidaire and got in contact with our local repair company (for some on-warranty repair). From other sources online we were concerned that this issue is a fundamental flaw with the dishwasher and only bandaid solutions would be offered. But given that we don't have the time to seriously research another dishwasher or the desire to spend yet more money on the house we figured it would be worth taking advantage of the warranty to hopefully buy us some time.

After the repair person attempted for quite a while to determine the cause of the steam leak he got on the phone with another repair person and progress seemed to be made. Apparently this steam problem with our dishwasher is especially an issue when this dishwasher is installed at the end of a run of cabinets (e.g., against a wall or trim piece). Normally if it sits mid-run (both sides blocked) the steam is pushed out the bottom of the unit by the fan successfully but if one side is not blocked the steam is not forced out the bottom with enough force and it just sits there accumulating.

It seems since this issue has surfaced Frigidaire has worked to solve it. The repair person has ordered a new door panel to be installed that is designed to get the steam to vent out the bottom of the door more effectively (something about where the fan is placed etc.)

I'm glad to report we now have some hope that we may be able to keep this dishwasher and not have our cabinets reduced to paper mache. We'll update again once the new door is in and let you all know if the fix is successful.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Stairway progress

This weekend was spent on ladders drywalling the area around the stairs.
While we were hanging drywall in the stairway and upstairs hall we figured we would take this opportunity to laminate some drywall over the grossness that was our linen closet.
We also finally finished demo of the main stair railing. As a cruel joke on us the newel post encased in the veneer at the base of the stairs is totally different from the one at the top. Not a huge surprise given the pile of crap the rest of this house has been. We officially do not feel bad not saving much of the original trim work etc. :oP

In unrelated news, we're cheap bastards. We bought our dishwasher because it was the least expensive all stainless on the outside dishwasher. It has a spotty history, but from what we read online before buying it. We figured it would die in 1 spectacular event (e.g., electrical short, big water leak etc.). What we didn't realize is that this dishwasher's flaw is more subtle. We actually found this out from Jen and Dave's Reno, another local blog. The dishwasher leaks steam out the side of the door which is pretty destructive.. especially for our Ikea cupboards (luckily the damage so far seems minimal). We've got an appliance repair company coming to do some fixing on Wednesday. Hopefully they can put a good enough fix in that we do not have to take more drastic measures like buying a new dishwasher...

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Inside box number 1 ....


After a trip to the home show and home depot looking at newel posts/railings we came home kind of disappointed expecting to have to do a lot of shopping to find the right pieces for the stair case. While taking out our frustration on the upstairs railing we found this little gem.

Our newel posts up until now have been really dull looking squares. We figured they were covered with a thin layer of wood but thought the inner layer would be an even shittier looking square newel post. We were happy when we pulled off some veneer and found this old newel post. Lets hope the main one is in as good shape as this one!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The beginnings of the upstairs hall/stairs/entryway project

With our final energy audit out of the way we're putting the basement back on hold for now and moving back upstairs.

Our next project is our upstairs hall, stairs and entry way. These are our last above-grade spaces that haven't been fixed yet. The plan is to skim coat the plaster on the walls in the hall and drywall the ceiling and walls around the stair case. Skim coating the hallway walls was motivated by a desire to avoid door jam issues that come up when drywalling over the plaster. None of the walls are external so this seemed like the best way to go.

So far we've gotten almost all the wall paper down on the walls that will be skim coated. Tomorrow and during the week we're planning to prep for drywall. With the rest of the space finished, its a little disturbing to see parts of it partially destroyed. We're also having to be more careful to make sure we don't mess up the things we've already done... the joys of living in a house and renovating 1 space at a time :oP.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Weekend baking


We had another weekend with no progress on the house. Instead we made cupcakes and butter scotch sticky buns


Since last week we also had our energy audit. It went pretty well and it looks like we should get all our rebates back. Our neighbours that were just getting the rebate for the furnace didn't get bothered much, but since we are trying to get rebates for a window, insulation, furnace and hot water heater we got asked for receipts. We have most of them... somewhere... We've tried to be methodical, but inevitably in all the shuffling of boxes around the receipts stash has gotten buried.

Next week we're hoping to start on our next project... the stair way. The last part of the house with "old lady pink". We're looking forward to the final "de-pinking" of the house.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Work hard play hard

The long weekend was a great break for us. No renovations got done and much fun was had.

First off we hosted a Mad Men themed cocktail party. We really like to entertain so it was fun to finally have a party in our house. At the request of one of our friends we made it a formal affair so everyone dressed nice and had some tasty snacks and cocktails.


Then for Valentine's day we were off to Colborne Lane . It was a good meal with some molecular gastronomy tricks to boot. After Alinea in Chicago it wasn't totally mind-blowing but still pretty good for TDot.

Today was back to work :P and tomorrow is the energy audit... then we'll see what we get up to next.