Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Ever feel like you're being watched?

Last night there were three of them staring down at me through the skylight in our family room. 

For at least the last six years there's been a family of raccoons living in the roof of the house next door. I remember the first time I noticed them I was sitting in the sunroom with Matthew teaching him to read and looked up through the skylight to see that we were being watched.

Each spring Big Mama has a new litter of at least half a dozen cubs (or pups, or whatever baby racoons are called). We love to watch the babies; they frolic in the eaves, they mischievously pull pieces of the shingles from the roof and toss them into our back yard, they scamper up and down the roof, and they roll around wrestling on the little flat spot above the chimney.

Don't get me wrong. While they're incredibly cute, I'm glad that they're not in our roof. I can't imagine how noisy it is to have a family of eight or ten racoons living above you. And I can't imagine why in the heck the neighbours haven't evicted them yet. Besides the fact that they're crazy. The neighbours, not the racoons.

Anyway, every evening at dusk the racoons emerge and for a short time it's like we are the animals in the zoo.

Monday, 26 August 2013

New garden bench

We have a new bench in our teeny-tiny little front yard.

I've been thinking about putting some kind of seating out front for a while. The boys like to play hockey on the sidewalk and in the empty lot across the street. Cal is still only 7, so I like to be able to keep an eye on him, but we had no place to sit out front.

Enter this absolutely hideous pink bench. Complete with an inexplicable yellow swath of paint on the back.

I had plans to just paint it, but while I was scraping the paint off of the seat I realized that the wood was a little rotten and should be replaced. And I wasn't crazy about the seat back - it kind of reminded me of a crib. I loved the curve of the ends, though, so instead of just chucking the thing I tore off the back, sanded the arms, dribbled in some glue them to firm them up and built a new seat.

And after a coat of primer and a couple of coats of cream coloured paint, I had a cute little bench for the front garden.

Cal and I sat on it last night while we waited for our friend Kyle to pick the boys up for a couple of days at their cottage. It was nice to sit out in the warm evening with my boy, chat about life and watch the world go by. I hope we have plenty more nice evenings this year to sit on our bench and shoot the breeze. 

Sunday, 25 August 2013

More porch progress

While I was cleaning up the spare room last week I realized just how many pictures I have stacked away in there. I still don't have much hanging on the walls since we reno'd; this is partly because I don't love a lot of what we had up before, and partly pure laziness.

When I set up the Ikea shoe cabinet next to the door last weekend I thought that it drew attention to the wall and made it look big and empty. And the cabinet was really off level due to the slant of the porch; it bugged me every time I walked into or out of the house.

So this morning I got to work and unscrewed the cabinet from the wall and leveled it using, of all things, a hockey puck (see below). When I realized how frightfully slanted the porch was and how impossible it was going to be to subtly shim the cabinet, I decided to embrace it in a very Canadian manner.

Then I went looking through the pictures stacked up on the third floor to see what I could find. I had a set of four leaf prints that hung in the hallway on the main floor before we reno'd. That hallway is gone now, and I had no place in mind to hang them. The porch is totally enclosed - we have screens for the summer and windows for the winter, so there's no fear of the weather ruining whatever I hang there.

They're just perfect to fill up the empty space on the wall. And it's really fantastic that they're no longer taking up floor space up on the third floor.

While I was out admiring my handiwork, the door caught my eye. I slapped on a coat of primer last fall and bought a pint of glossy black paint for it, but somehow I had never gotten around to actually painting it. Today was a perfect day for painting - sunny and warm with a nice breeze - so I got to work.

The activation barrier to get out the paint and brushes is so high, and yet every time I end up amazed at how little time and effort it actually takes when compared to the satisfaction and pleasure derived from the completed task.

The door still needs at least one more coat, but it's looking good so far. I love how it pulls together the black frames on the pictures and our house number plate.

I'm now toying with the idea of using the rest of the black paint on the butt-ugly bricks facing our fireplace. But that's a task for another day.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

The great porch cleanout

Living in a house with two sporty boys and no garage is a little trying. They play out front on the boulevard, in the vacant lot across the street, or in the schoolyard around the corner, so storing the equipment in the shed doesn't work so well. No matter how many times I move it to the shed, it migrates back onto the porch as it's easier for them to drop it there.

As a consequence the front porch tends to accumulate a lot of sporting goods, and they're messy. We have a hockey net, goalie pads, rollerblades, baseball gloves, bike helmets, tennis rackets, hockey sticks, and a huge assortment of balls. Case in point

I tried to keep stuff corralled with baskets and rubbermaid containers, but they didn't seem to make a dent. So Friday night I headed up to Canadian Tire and picked up a rubbermaid deck box.

And a miracle occurred.

At the other end of the porch I set up the Ikea shoe cabinet that we had in our front hall pre-closet.

It's perfect for holding baseballs, pucks, tennis balls, baseball gloves, and cleats.

And on the wall between the cabinet and the front door I installed a lockbox. No more leaving the key in the oh-so-clever hiding spot under the doormat. 

Going from this
to this

made for a very satisfying afternoon! Now to finish up in the spare room before our company arrives on Friday...

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Back to reality

I've been shamefully neglecting my blog this summer. I have a lot of projects on the go, but can't seem to actually bring myself to finish any of them. Work has been busy, we've been spending a fair amount of time at the cottage, and I've been feeling generally lazy. Hopefully come September I'll become infected with the back-to-school spirit and get my butt in gear.

I did start tackling a major chore this week - cleaning out the spare room on the third floor. We still had piles o' junk up there that hadn't been sorted since the big reno. In reality, since we've managed to live without the stuff for the past year, I probably should have just rented a giant dumpster and pitched most of it out through the window. But I couldn't quite bring myself to do that.

There is a fair amount of useful stuff, like all of my sewing supplies. My plan, along with clearing the bed and floor so that actual guests can use this room, is to get my sewing machine and serger set up so I can work up there and don't have to drag them down to the dining room table.

While organizing my sewing supplies I remembered that I had a basket that I started refinishing in the spring. It's an apple basket, and although I loved the shape and the hinged lid, when I bought it it looked like this.

I was not in love with the teddy bears on top. In fact, it's safe to say that they made me shudder in horror. So I set to work with some stripper. Unfortunately, although the paint all came off, I was left with this

I tried sanding, but I just couldn't get the ghost marks out of the wood. I gave up in frustration, but decided last night that I would  paint the top and be done with it. I had some very pale green paint left over from the mural I painted in Matthew's room when he moved out of the nursery when Cal was born, and I slapped a couple of coats on.

I'm happy with the subtle colour as it makes the lid blend in. It's at least 10,000 times better than the old teddy bears. Sadly, while I was distracted by this fun and easy task the giant junk pile didn't finish cleaning itself up.

Ah well, maybe I'll find the energy to finish that tonight.
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