Saturday, 20 September 2014

Truly nerdy art...

... or how to repurpose random crap from around your house into art for your husband's office!  

It's September, and I've been struck once again by fall clean-out syndrome. I don't know why it happens, but every year when school starts I'm struck by how many home improvement projects I have on the go and how much junk we have that I'd like to get rid of. 

So earlier this week I made a "gentle" suggestion to Alan that he might want to go through his clothes and perhaps get rid of several hundred old t-shirts. He really likes t-shirts, and has a bigger collection than anyone I've ever met. The majority of which he never has on his back - they just take up space in our closet and drive me little batty. 

Anyway, he dug out these beauties that we get at our departmental retreat every fall that he never, ever wears. 

He felt kind of bad throwing them out (hence the squirrelling them away in the closet), but it's unlikely that he'll ever wear them. So I chopped them up and stapled them to some 12"x16" canvases that I had hanging around in the craft room (he's not the only squirreller - I think that I bought the canvases when Cal was an infant for some big art project that never materialized...). So this actually killed two squirrels birds with one stone. 

They turned out pretty well. Amazingly, the canvases I had were the perfect size to stretch the front of the t-shirt around. I have a couple more to do, but I need more canvases to mount them on. They're going to look good in Alan's office; it's in the interior of the  building, with cinder block walls and no windows, so some bright stuff hanging on the wall will make a world of difference. 

Now to see how long it takes him to actually get them up... 

Monday, 15 September 2014

Queen West Art Crawl

Yesterday my mom came into town and we ventured off to the Queen West Art Crawl. Well, we took in the Trinity-Bellwoods portion of it - we had both Cal and Tessa in tow, so we were lucky to see most of the displays in the park before things started to fall apart.

I was really impressed with how many incredibly talented artists were there. It was similar the One of a Kind show, but better because it was outside on a beautiful fall afternoon and there was live entertainment that could be heard throughout the park while we were browsing. It'll definitely be on my calendar next year, but my mom and I will be smarter and trade in the boy and the dog for my sister/SIL/nieces, who would add greatly to the fun.

While I wasn't looking for anything in particular, I did end up making a couple of purchases. First was a new addition to the boys' skull collection.

I picked out the one on the right for Matthew, and Cal chose the one in the baseball cap for himself. Matthew was thrilled with it when I brought it home, but when I mentioned putting it in his bedroom he flatly refused.  He said he didn't want it watching him sleep at night. Can't say I blame him (imagine waking to that staring at you from your wall), so I think that they'll be relegated to the basement playroom where they can scare the hell out of the neighbourhood children.

I also treated myself to a new painting for the kitchen. I had three black and white photographs that we bought years ago in NYC hanging on the wall above the breakfast table. I was never happy with them - they were hanging too high and they were too small and insignificant looking in the space.

They've now been replaced by a beautiful still life painted in oil on watercolour paper.

It's a perfect fit for the wall space above the bench. I may replace the thin metal frame with something more substantial in the future; I'm not crazy about that style of frame, but it's not bad with the stainless steel appliances. We'll see if it grows on me.

Kind of like this guy.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

The magical bench

The deck is almost finished now. There's just a little work still to be done on the doors that close in the lower side where we put the garbage and recycling bins and we're waiting for the glass railing to be installed, but we've been using it a lot this week. With summer finally arriving and all. In fact, I'm sitting on it right now enjoying the warm sun and my morning coffee. 

I'm soooo happy that I happened to see the idea for putting a bench seat along the side to cover the garbage bins. It's like it was fate. It not only puts our bins in a really convenient spot, it also makes great seating in what might otherwise be a dead space along the side by the door. 

We continued the horizontal rough cedar along the front edge of the bench. We thought about using the decking and running it vertically to match the floor, but I decided that I'd rather have the stair walls wrap along in one continuous line. 

We used the smooth decking material for the top of the benches, and have three hinged lids, each of which perfectly fits two garbage/recycling bins. This weekend I rigged it up so that the lids of the bins are attached so that when we lift the seat we don't have to bend in to lift them. It was pretty simple to do using a few eye hooks and some chandelier chain that we had down in the basement. 

I attached the large eye hooks to the lid of the recycling bins. Luckily, the bins come with a hole in the centre of the front of the lid, so I didn't have to bother with any drilling. The holes were a little large, so I used a couple of washers to keep the eye hooks in place. Then I screwed a small eye hook into the bottom of the bench seat and attached a length of chain to it. 

My original plan was to use S-hooks to attach the chain to the eye hook in the bin, but then I realized that I could just bend the last link on the chain and fashion a hook that would be permanently attached. 

These ends hook onto the lid of the cans and pull the tops of the bins open when the seat is lifted. Like magic. (...or physics). 

The hooks seem to stay attached to the bins after repeated lifting and lowering of the seat. We haven't tried unhooking them from the side yet, but I think that there should be plenty of length to manoeuvre them into a position where you can easily unhook them. 

Next up is deciding what to do for the bench. I originally thought that I would have seat cushions along the length, but I think I've changed my mind about that. The bench is just under 12 feet long - that's a lot of cushions to store when it rains and over the winter. Plus the height of the bench feels perfect to me now and I think that extra height might be less comfortable. The seats are very deep though, and the rough cut lumber kind of sticks to your clothes when you lean back, so I think that I might make some cushions for the back. I tried out the ones from our outdoor sofa and they were just about perfect. 

I think I'll wait and see if we really want cushions here though; I'm afraid that they might be more of a pain than they're worth. It's going to be a struggle to find space to store the ones we have now over the winter, and can't imagine almost doubling the amount of space we need. And since winter is all-too-quickly approaching, this is a decision that can easily be put off until next spring! 

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Slowly but surely...

... progress on the deck is moving along.

The new stairs are finally complete and it's a joy to not be clambering down the unattached, rickety temporary set we were using. It's especially nice for poor old Tessa who had a lot of trouble navigating the top step, which had about a 16" drop.

As I'd hoped, the space to the right of the stairway is the perfect spot for the barbecue. We just bought a new Weber charcoal grill with a propane start; Alan is a purist and refuses to use a gas barbecue, but I can't stand how long it takes to get the coals and electric starter set up, and then to actually get them lit and ready to grill. So this Weber was a good compromise. Not to mention that it has a handy, dandy table to set stuff down on while you're grilling and a tilt-out storage place for the charcoal so there's less running back and forth to the shed.

But best of all, our new patio furniture arrived just in time for the long weekend.

I looked long and hard for a sectional that would fit the space well (and didn't cost many thousands of dollars). A lot of the wicker sofas are built with very wide armrests and backs, and have an enormous footprint. Since our deck is only 14'x12' we couldn't afford monster furniture that would overpower the space. This piece is quite petite for the wicker genre, but at just under 11' fills the space along the side wall.

I'm not sure about the extra piece along the "L" as it's in front of the sliding glass door. We actually switched out a corner piece for that armless piece as I knew that an "L" would be big for the space. I hoped that this piece would look light enough, but I think that I may move it down onto the lower patio for seating there and just have a straight 4-seater sofa.

I also need to figure out what we're going to do for a coffee table out there. The table that matched this set was about 4' square and would have blocked the walkway to the stairs so it was a no go. We really need something long and narrow.

It didn't take long for Matthew to stake out his place on the deck. And he's still there two hours later, huddled under a blanket in the dark watching Netflix on the iPad. This deck may be more valuable than we ever imagined. It's too bad we're finishing up so late in the summer, but hopefully we'll have some warm fall weather that we can take advantage of!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Deck progress and fireplace makeover

Progress on the deck continues to move forward. Our contractor needed to put the guys on another project for a few days last week as they had a tight deadline to meet, so it's not finished yet. We did manage to make all the decisions about the privacy screens, stairs and deck railings so things should move along quickly now. 

We're using the same rough cut cedar that we used for the board and batten on the back of the house for the privacy screens along the sides. While the siding runs vertically on the house, we're running it horizontally on the deck in a two wide, two narrow board pattern.

We also decided to use the same material to fully clad the stairway. In the picture below you can see the old temporary stairs set up where the new ones will be built. So the first step down is inset into the deck, and then on the remaining stairs the horizontal cladding will continue out to the handrail. The front section of the deck will also be clad to ground level so that the concrete pad will be fully hidden.

And with the end for the deck being somewhat in sight, it's made me think about spending late summer evenings in the yard in front of a wood fire. We have an outdoor fireplace that we bought many years ago that's been sitting out behind the shed for a long while. I pulled it out the other day to give it a cleaning, and realized that it needed a lot more than a little scrubbing.

The screens on the sides were soooo rusty. After a good scrubbing, first with a cloth and then with steel wool, I sprayed on a couple of coats of heat resistant Rust-oleum spray paint in flat black...

... and now it looks as good as new. I see some weenie roasts in our near future! 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

The collector

Matthew turned eleven last week. I know it sounds trite, but it seems like just yesterday this little pork chop was splashing in his bathtub on our kitchen counter.

Eleven years.... same dimples.

So what does every eleven year old boy want for his birthday? Why, a white tailed deer skull in an antique display case, of course.

I found it in an antique store when we were in Vermont at the beginning of July. It may seem like a strange choice for a birthday gift for a child, but I knew immediately that Matthew would love it. For he's an avid collector of... how shall I put this... biological samples.

Some of them aren't so bad. He has an enormous shell collection on his bedroom floor (it only smells bad if you open the tupperware boxes it's stored in), and at the cottage a collection of rocks, assorted snake skins and turkey feathers (a surprising number of wild turkeys inhabit our property).

But let's not forget his eclectic collection of "city gathered" biologicals.

That would be a bird's nest, a hornet nest, some kind of tree knot, and two rodent skulls. With teeth. He recently found a racoon carcass that's all flat and dried out on the ground and he's been begging to be allowed to bring the skull home to add to his collection.

I really don't know how I gave birth to such a quirky little creature, but it's certainly entertaining watching him grow.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Deck framing complete

The carpenters have been working on the deck for two days and they've made significant progress. They completed the framing today and I think that they'll start laying the deck boards tomorrow. 

I made a couple of last minute changes to the design of the deck on the weekend. On Friday I read Meg’s (loving albany) front porch update, and was overtaken by jealousy when I saw the ingenious way in which she had her ginormous city-issued garbage bins concealed. Her carpenter cleverly built in a seat at the end of her porch, and stowed the bins under it (see post here). I added it to my Pinterest account so that I would remember it when I started thinking about redoing our front porch, which needs some work in the near future. 

When I was relaxing over a glass of wine Friday night after putting the kids to bed I realized that I didn’t have to wait for the front porch, I could do the same thing on the back deck! Thankfully we have a very easy-going contractor who doesn’t mind making changes on the fly, and he designed me my very own magical garbage bin-hiding seat. Right outside by back door for easy access even in the winter. 

So the plan for the deck (14' wide x 12' deep) is to have 6' privacy walls made with horizontal wooden slats on either side, and a glass railing across the front so that the view of the yard is not blocked from inside the house. Running along the side of the patio next to the door will be a 30" deep, 12' long bench under which the garbage bins can be stored. We'll be able to lift the bench seat to access the bins from the deck. 

We don't have a lot of space between the edge of the deck and the fence, so the area under the seat will be divided into three bays, each with two ~2' wide doors that swing open. This will give us easy access to the whole 12' of storage area. We'll also have access through these doors to the lower storage space under the rest of the deck. It's not very high, but will be good for things like the winter tires. The 12' run will give us plenty of space to store our two big recycle containers, the garbage can, two green waste containers, and hopefully the boys' bikes.

The stairs will be 4' wide and will be aligned with the opening of the sliding glass door. We decided to recess the top step into the deck so that the run doesn't protrude so far into the patio. 

I'm still working out the stairs and the railing that we'll use. I'd like a glass handrail, but Alan seems to want to go with something more substantial. I need to get back to work on Pinterest as we need to make a decision pretty quickly! 
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