Friday, 7 December 2007

I Promise I will not Leave you Hanging!

Hey all!
I know that this is deadline day, and that you are probably all waiting with eager anticipation to find out how it all ends. Well, it isn't over yet and there is nothing to report as of noon Friday December 7, 2007. I faithfully swear that I will not leave this blog without a suitable conclusion and that you will be aptly satisfied before I leave for the sunny south on Monday. Please check back over the next couple of days, to see how the Great Kitchen Demo/Reno of 2007 ends! I hope to have a little treat for all of you who have, without fail, stuck by us through the chaos. Thank you all again for the encouragement, kind words, personal horror stories, and meals. Keep an eye on this space over the next month as well, as we will be having a "kitchen warming" so that anyone who wants to (within reason!), can see the finished product. In the meantime there are new photos from yesterday in the album, so check those out.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Chanukah Sameach!

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Bright Lights, Big City!

I am a proud urbanite! A city dweller! A member of the rat race and all that it entails! I love living amongst hoards of people. I love the culture, the excitement, the shopping and the diversity. (even if I do hate the weather!) I spent most of the summers of my youth in a small little midwestern town weirdly named Zionsville Indiana. Weird in that Zionsville was and still is home to one of the Reform Movement's oldest summer camps, yet paradoxically was, in the 70s, the midwest centre for the KKK! (There is one very frightening memory of this craziness. One Fourth of July, we took the entire camp into town for fireworks, and many of the reddest of rednecks began heaving beer bottles in our general direction to let us know, in no uncertain terms, how they felt about our presence. Needless to say, fireworks have been handled on camp ever since.) Today, Zionsville is kind of like Richmond Hill in that the city has grown up to it's borders. Today, Zionsville feels like a northern suburb of Indianapolis, but back then, it was very small town. The only entertainment that existed off of camp was a Denny's, a laundromat, and a Pizza Hut! If you wanted more, you had to trek the 10-20 miles into the city. So believe me, I understand what small town living is all about, and I will take city-life every time. I know that we here in the cities have issues. We have too many cars and not enough roads. We have too many people and not enough places for them to live. Our public transit leaves a great deal to be desired and we produce to much garbage. Still, here I am, happy in my "little box on a hillside, made of ticky-tacky!" (Malvinia Reynolds was a genius!!!) This morning, however, I witnessed the perfect storm of city dwelling. The snow and ice clearance has been less than adequate and thus has created very narrow streets in this neighbourhood. (I'm sure in all neighbourhoods.) It is also garbage and blue box collection day in the northern hemisphere of the Big Smoke, so there are many trucks on the side streets this morning. We have a lot of school buses for various school boards and private schools that traverse the neighbourhoods before 9:00 am and, to add to the chaos, my neighbour 3 houses down was celebrating her son's bris this morning at around 7:30 am. Needless to say there were cars parked in every available spot within a 500 metre radius of my house. Teenage Son, in his diligence, place the garbage on the end of the driveway along with the 3 blue boxes. My contractors have been wonderful about hauling their trash away, but last night was a late one and, noticing that it was trash day, they left a few large pieces along with our own. I diligently tagged these with paid stickers so as to avoid the inevitable hassles. So here is the scene! Cars parked every which way including directly in front of my house, but not all that close to the snowbanks. Garbage trucks and parked cars on the street directly opposite to us. Cars speeding along my street trying to get to work AND a school bus trying to make a tight right hand turn onto my street directly in front of our house. He didn't make it and got painfully wedged in between the cars and the snow. It was at this exact moment that the husband chose to leave for his morning appointment. He is now totally closed in and cannot exit the driveway between the bus, the garbage and the snow. Horns are blaring, the husband calls me and is cursing words so blue that they would make a longshoreman blush. I, dressed in my sweats, winter coat and sneakers, trek three doors down and politely interrupt the cutting of the child in order to inform my neighbours that their guests have created traffic hell!!! They innocently look at me as if I am from Mars and say, it is not them! What to do? As I trudge back home, I notice the husband has made a three-point turn on our drive way and has squeezed his way around and speeds off. The bus driver is cursing in a foreign tongue and horns are blaring from cars up and down the street. Finally a young truck driver, gets so fed up, he almost yanks the bus driver from his cab, re-aligns the bus himself, and allows for the resumption of calm. The only good news, is that my guys had not yet arrived. This time, it wasn't our fault!!! Only in the city!

We are almost there. Yesterday was interesting. There was a piece missing from the dishwasher. When the husband found out, he blew his usually composed gasket. He not only got the company to admit that they were incorrect, but he had them send the piece over at 7:00 last night by courier. The countertops were not perfectly aligned, so back to the shop they went, hopefully to reemerge today. I have running water, but was instructed by Reliable not to turn it on in case it doesn't hold and he is not here to fix it. Check out the pictures. The place is really shaping up. Raines (formerly Hunky) is supposed to come today to build a step so that we don't kill ourselves walking out the back door. We'll see!

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

It is a Marathon Not a Sprint!

I often say of my job during it's most pressure packed time of the year, that Rosh Hashana is like a series of short sprints. Each service leaves me somewhat winded, but it goes in fits and starts allowing down time for the body and soul to recover. Yom Kippur is more like a marathon. An all day race during which I have to pace myself. If I start out too quickly on Kol Nidre, I will not have enough body or voice left for N'illah. I am often asked how it is that I still have anything left at the end of the day. Some of it is definitely luck and blessing. Luck in that I have managed to avoid major physical pitfalls, (that hollow sound you hear is me knocking my wooden head-no need to aggravate the big guy!) and blessing in that I cannot explain what is truly a gift. For this, I am truly grateful. There is a part to the explanation, however that is most definitely training. Rehearsal, exercise, healthy eating and proper asthma medication (living happily through chemicals!!) all play a part in my getting to the finish line intact. I may not be a world class athlete or even a weekend warrior, but I have learned what my limits are and how to survive the physical beating that devotion to my craft puts upon me each year. Don't get me wrong. As I age, it gets more and more taxing and it takes longer to recover, but I'm still here! This kitchen renovation has been more like a marathon than a sprint. I knew from the beginning that there would be issues, (OH BOY WERE THERE ISSUES!!) delays, (an outside job that was supposed to take 4 days took 6 weeks!) and stuff that nobody anticipated. (finding the cold air returns on both sides of the kitchen wall meant that we couldn't remove as much of the wall as we would have liked or else we wouldn't have had any heat in the master bedroom.) Weather, which nobody would have expected, caused unforeseen issues like the three of us freezing for a couple of nights. (I honestly do not remember temperatures this cold or having this much snow in November and early December in years!) We had to have a stove hood made to order as nothing on the market fit our specs. We have had appliances in the garage for almost a week, because they were ready to be delivered but Reliable wasn't ready for them! We have endured dust, and muck and noise and fast food, all because we knew that it was a marathon and not a sprint and that we had to pace ourselves. And so today, I can finally say that I see the finish line. We are not there yet. We still have the last few miles to go, but the end is definitely in sight. All the parts have arrived. Most of the cabinets are up and some of the island is in place. We have part of a countertop installed and the fridge and freezer found there way into the house last evening. (of course they are not yet hooked up, but they are in their places!) Lovely working people showed up this morning at 9:30am. Overall told us yesterday that he sees no issues with finishing before our self-imposed deadline of Sunday! Of course, I am heading south Monday morning. I will have a bright shiny new toy to play with, and I won't be able to because I won't be here. I told teenage son that he and his brother better not mess up my cooking areas before I have had a chance to use them. I ran this marathon and I deserve to cross the finish line!!!

Check out the new pictures in the album. It really does look great. More to come tonight.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Doesn't PC Mean Progressive Conservative?

Several years ago, while on a theatre excursion to the Big Apple, the husband and I had the opportunity to take in a fantastic little musical called Avenue Q. (If you have never had the opportunity to see a play or more specifically a musical on Broadway, you absolutely MUST put this on your life list!! There is nothing like Broadway theatre and I speak to this having visited London's West Side and the best that Canada has to offer.) Avenue Q is a bit like Sesame Street on steroids. (It is coming to the Big Smoke this spring and summer, so if you can, you should purchase tickets with the understanding that it is definitely NOT for children!) The actors are also puppeteers with Muppet like creations dangling from their arms throughout the performance. There are Ernie and Bert like characters, and a series of friendly monsters that entertain and engage. Only, these characters discuss very adult problems and issues ranging from sex, partying and racism. One of the highlight numbers is a little ditty entitled "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist". The idea behind the song is that we all have pre-conceived notions based on ethnicity and race and once we all understand and embrace this fact, we probably can all learn to get along a bit better.
I like to think that I am a forward thinking, liberal and for the most part, socially tolerant individual. I find ethnic jokes abhorrent and I understand when one group or another is offended by some lack of sensitivity from the majority. We need to be vigilant in trying to understand each other's feelings when it comes to matters of race and we must remain on constant guard so that the bigoted yahoos of the world don't get a foothold. That said, when did PC stop describing a computer and become the be all and end all of our society. I am a proud Jewish Canadian (or Canadian Jew-I never really quite figured out which!) I am not a Semitic Canadian or a Hebraic Canadian. I am a Jew! My cleaning lady (yes she is here again, this being Tuesday!) describes herself as black. She is of Jamaican birth, so African Canadian doesn't quite fit. The men working in my house are proud to be Chinese. True, they are Asian, but isn't that a bit confusing given that Asian is used to describe anyone from that part of the world? Given the historical differences between China, Japan, Korea, Cambodia, Viet Nam etc, isn't it somewhat pompous of us westerners to lump the entire community together? Why wouldn't they all be proud to say where they are from. How would all of us proud Canadians like to be constantly called Americans? It fits given that we are all from the Americas, but I know that I need that little maple leaf difference understood. My country doesn't have the cowboy from Texas in charge, we have the cowboy from Alberta in charge! OY! Race has become so tricky an issue, that newspapers and news networks have taken to avoiding the discussion all together, for fear of being targeted. This week we saw the arrest, trial, conviction, sentencing and finally yesterday, the pardoning of a middle-aged British teacher who committed the crime of naming a teddy bear. While stupid and insensitive given who she was teaching and where in the world she was, I truly felt the world had gone mad for another moment in time. Political correctness taken to the nth degree. PC! Personal Computer. Polish Canadian. Putrid Cigarette. Progressive Conservative. (an oxymoron if ever there was one!) Pickled Chilies. President's Choice. (they make great stuff!) Personal Computer. All are politically correct!

We have made some remarkable progress in the last 24 hours. Cabinet Guy, (my new favourite human being) has been busy installing the cabinets and is here again bright and early. Reliable came early this morning with the final piece for the countertop, the butcher block. Man, is this guy strong. It is an enormous piece of wood that he and one skinny kid carried in together. Get this!!! As I returned from a quick outing yesterday afternoon, none other than.... wait for it..... Hunky was here is the wind, snow and sleet, COMPLETING MY DECK!!!!!! I think he got yelled at. Older Son has re-monikered him as "Raines". (as in Claude Raines the Invisible Man!) So thank you to all who sent in suggestions, but I think we will stick with Raines. He will have to return in the spring to sand and re-stain the wood, but at least we can now exit the house from the rear. I will get the husband to go outside later and take some pictures. (What? You think that I am going out there in this weather?) Check out the latest pictures in the second Kitchen Reno album. More will be added later. Less than a week before I bask in the sunshine. It will be a tight race to the finish. Chag Chanukah Sameach to all!!

Monday, 3 December 2007

Old School or New Age

I am a cynic by nature. (I know that you are all absolutely shocked by this revelation, but you should now all close your agape mouths and continue reading-she says dripping with sarcasm!) The paradox here is that I am also very liberal. My brother calls me his pinko-commie Trudeau loving sister, which I take as high praise coming from a Harper-worshipping fascist Harrisite! (Note to all-believe it or not we really do get along well and love each other very much, as long as we avoid the hot-button topics of politics, religion, sex, money, Iraq, the environment and my personal favourite-GWB!!!) But, I digress. The problem with being a cynical liberal is that acceptance of new-age philosophy doesn't come easily. I find this is especially true in the area of relaxation techniques and stress alleviation. Being the type A that I am, relaxation obviously is difficult to obtain. The experts say that exercise is a key and I do my level best to keep up with my programs. But, let's be honest. How many of us really love to exercise? We do it because we know that we should, or because there is a social component involved. (i.e. we are meeting our friends at the gym and later spend two hours at Starbucks!) Can any of us admit that we TRULY LOVE to exercise? Certainly, the workouts keep my stress level tempered, but just as often I stress over the fact that I didn't work out as much or as often as I should!! Of course there is the accompanying sore muscles and exhaustion, but Dr. Oz says it relieves stress, so I do it! Some of my friends swear by their weekly adjustments with their chiropractors. Now, I love a good massage. A deep tissue, muscle relaxing all over massage. (Note to all the XYs out there-a massage can be JUST a massage!) A massage is truly relaxing in my books and I have been know to fall asleep more than once on the table, but I have a problem with chiropractic adjustments. I cannot for the life of me understand how twisting this vertebrae or that bone is going to cure my asthma! I have no problem with the muscular component but please do not try to sell me on it as a cure-all. (The opinions of this blog are strictly those of the writer. Please do not inundate me with proof text as to the benefits of chiropractics. It is not for me, but if you all want it--go at it!) I have tried yoga! As a workout it is top flight, but as a way of life, well.... Meditation is difficult for those of us who have trouble sitting still, and being in touch with my breathing is something that I live with every day. Meditative retreats? Not my thing. Can't see living in silence for any length of time. (I know there are those who wish I would be silent more often, but that is another story!) I don't like hot baths (more a shower girl) and hot milk has to be lactose free. I will not even seriously discuss reiki, crystals, fortune telling, talking to relatives on the "other side" or manipulation of my aura and chakras! I DO love a good book. I believe in vitamin supplements to replace what is not there. I love a massage. (I know that I already said this, but the husband needs to hear it again!) I believe you are what you eat and that healthy eating on all levels should help the body deal with all sorts of ills. There is nothing like a sauna or a good "shvitz" to help make the day disappear. Music is the salve that calms my aching soul. Crank up the ipod and the world is automatically at arm's length. We live in a stress-inducing world. We need to escape it now and then in order to maintain sanity. Having a bunch of strangers traipse in and out of my house for a month has been nothing short of mind-blowing. I have been doing my level best to cope with the issues, but husband, I am still waiting for my massage!

We have a new player here today. Cabinet Guy! Cabinet Guy showed up late Saturday afternoon with the entire array of cabinets and countertops. Amazing! I think I love Cabinet Guy. He is here now installing said cabinets. Older Son made the observation that we effectively had kitchen in a box with some assembly required. Hopefully some of that assembly will happen today and tomorrow. All of the appliances as still in their crates in the garage, but I think that they will get hooked up when Cabinet Guy is done. Hunky is starting to really piss me off. I will open it up to the floor to come up with a new name for him, as his hunkiness is surely a thing of the past. We may or may not have a deck by April!

Friday, 30 November 2007

Playing the Waiting Game

Have you ever noticed how much of our lives we spend waiting for things to happen? We wait for buses, trains and airplanes to arrive and depart, (usually late!) only to be herded like cattle (MOO!) to our destinations. We spend time waiting for big occasions to happen and then lament how fast they passed us by. We wait with eager anticipation for our children to meet certain milestones in their lives and then wish we could have just one day back when they didn't mind cuddling with us on the couch. (Don't worry boys, I'm not asking--MUCH!) We wait to be seated and we wait for things to start. We often can't wait for things to be over and we wait for whatever comes next. It seems absurd that we have probably spent time that amounts to years of our lives, literally waiting. Time passes so slowly when we are waiting and so quickly when we are in the moment. There is great truth in the watching of the proverbial pot. Samuel Beckett truly understood this absurdity in his classic play "Waiting for Godot". Two men sitting and waiting. Not certain what they are waiting for or if it will ever come, but still waiting. (There are entire university english courses devoted to Beckett and Godot involving spirituality and the meaning of God and life, so if that is what turns your crank, sign up today!) Children can't wait to be adults and some adults wish they had waited a bit longer. I have become a professional waiter over the course of this renovation. I wait for people to show up and for things to be delivered. I wait on promises that are still short on execution and I wait for the weather to change. I wait for phone calls that never come and I wait for e-mails that are days delayed. I wait for teenage son's daily dinner inquiries and I wait for the husband's voice telling me to relax and calm down. On this day, we wait again and this time I have dragged the husband into the game. Today, we wait for the appliances! It is a large delivery as you can well imagine, I just didn't have the Koiach (strength-for all of you who are Yiddish challenged!) to deal with it alone. It has been amusing to watch him pace and struggle with waiting. He knows that the sooner the truck comes, the sooner he can get on with the "important" part of his day. He hates waiting. He carries the phone around with him in the hopes that by cradling it and caressing it, it might be implored to ring. It is easy to charge somebody else to wait for you, but when you have to do it yourself, it can be harsh. When the waiting is finally over and the project is finally complete, I am absolutely certain that we will look back on all of this and ask "Why did we wait so long to do it?"

Nothing new to report. We will take some pictures if (big IF) the appliances show up. The weekend is upon us and I am being promised action on both days. I promise to update the album with progress pictures. It is the end of week 4 and I am still in one piece!

Shabbat Shalom to all who need and observe it!

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Modim Anachnu What?

In commemoration of the recent American thanksgiving holiday, and due to the fact that nobody has been in my house working for the past 2 days, I have decided to write my own personal thanksgiving prayer with regards to the upheaval in our lives over the past month. It is extraordinarily simple to rail against all of the mess and crap that has affected us, (read: me!) but it has been harder to find the bright side, the positive spin, the uplifting. So in a feeble attempt at positivity (very difficult for a pragmatic pessimist) I hereby present that for which I am feeling grateful. (Any resemblance to a Bar Mitzvah speech is absolutely intentional!)

1. I am thankful that we have a two car garage. The husband has been fabulous about parking his fairly new Lexus in the driveway since the chaos started, so that the contractors can use it as their personal dumping ground. (Remember-winter has come early to these parts and the husband has had to scrape ice and snow off of the car on more than one occasion!) At any given time over the past four weeks, the garage has housed old cabinets, insulation, hoses, plumbing tube, shutters, old windows and doors, drywall, large power tools that could easily remove an appendage without being switched on, and hopefully tomorrow five large and brand-spanking new appliances. All that is missing is a large pit bull and I could open my own junk yard. Without the double garage, we may have had to give up the bedroom or basement for the storage and that would have left us literally on the streets!

2. I am thankful that the teenage son has inherited his father's easy-going nature. It is hard enough living with one type A personality (that would be me) let alone try to juggle two or more. Teenage son has a lovely "go with the flow" sort of attitude that allows him to move from one life event to another with relative ease. He has freely accepted our new alternate lifestyle (this is NOT sexual you pervs!) with all of the self-centredness of a teenager. As long as it doesn't touch him he is fine. As long as he is warm, fed and we don't store shit in his room, he is happy. The weekly excursions with Mom for sushi doesn't hurt his attitude either. Now if Older Son were at home-we might have had to deal with Global Thermonuclear War!

3. I am thankful (at this moment in time only, husband!) that I don't have a dog. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am dog crazy. For the better part of my life, I have shared my living space with canine friends, but since my big goofy Lab died 2 1/2 years ago, we have been a dog-free household. I have missed him every day and many things in the house still remind me of his presence. (Believe it or not, we still find bits of hair around. He inspired my obsessive love of vacuum cleaners!) When we did previous renovations to the house, the poor animal didn't know what hit him. All of these people in the house and not one of them there to play with him. He would constantly be underfoot and his hair would find its way into the paint and drywall compounds. Eventually, we just had to succumb to the realities of the situation and lock him up. The poor guy! This renovation would have sent him to a doggie shrink! It is definitely easier to renovate without a four-legged friend around, but just wait until we are finished!! (I am thinking--chocolate!)

4. I am thankful that the husband likes to be involved in the decision making and the design process. There are many of you XYer's that would have no interest whatsoever in what colour the cabinets are or if the hardware is matte finish or high gloss. The husband has been involved with this project from it's earliest incarnation and he has shown great attention to detail. Ok, so he can't tell the difference between lime green and olive green, but he does understand functionality. Where the appliances are being placed and does the room have flow have all been given his seal of approval. He has dealt with the contractors on a regular basis and has even struck up a real friendship with Indoor Reliable. (I think that they may go for pizza when this is all over!) His lack of culinary skills, notwithstanding, he truly understands the importance of this room in our home and has been a true partner in the project. Now, if I could only get him to show as much attention to his clothes, we would be all set.

5. I am thankful that I have an ear for languages. I can speak parts of four different languages-not necessarily well-but I can pick up a phrase or two here and there. I never thought that I would have to study Mandarin, but here I am four weeks into the project and I think that I have learned how to say "Next week!" and "Tomorrow, maybe".

6. I am thankful that my cleaning lady has a sense of humour. I mean, really! How many people would have continued to show up week after week to clean half a house? She has shown great restraint by being one of the only people not to call me nuts throughout this process and for that I am grateful.

7. I am thankful that we replaced the furnace and air filters this past summer. It wasn't something that we had planned to do, but we were without option. In retrospect, it has been a godsend to have the newer super-duper air filter, because without it, I may have had to have been hospitalized from dust inhalation.

8. I am thankful for my laptop computer, (particularly the internet) satellite television and my ipod. I have truly needed the distraction that all of these has provided. (The writer's strike has made TV a bit more challenging in that I hate reality programs with a true passion, but I have discovered The Learning Channel and Animal Planet along with an unhealthy obsession with the Food Network!) Claustrophobia and the shut-in syndrome are much easier to endure when the link to the outside world is so intensely easy. Thank you God for the gift of technology!! In addition, the response to this blog has been nothing short of astonishing. I am grateful to all of the readers (those I know and those I don't) for allowing me to vent my frustrations on a daily basis. I am not sure who is wackier-me for writing this shit-or you all for reading it!

9. Finally, I am thankful for having the opportunity to even be in the position to undertake a project like this. I know that my kvetching has been a bit over the top, but you all must know that it is all in fun. I truly understand how blessed I am. Now if we could just clean the damn house, all would be right with the world!!

The appliances have been confirmed for tomorrow!! Yippee! The cabinets and the countertop are arriving with Reliable and Overall on Shabbas morning and the whole kit and kaboodle is supposed to go in over the weekend. We still have half a deck. Hunky has disappeared again. He is looking less hunky to me! Pictures will follow when there is something new to show.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Poison or Passion?

How many of us are fortunate enough to work at our passion or be passionate about our work? I cannot tell you the number of dentists that I know who would rather be investment brokers, investment brokers who would rather be teachers and teachers who would rather be musicians. How many lawyers out there dream of playing their music on stage and how many physicians have an unfinished novel in their desk drawers? I have always admired those enlightened souls who knew right from the get go exactly what they wanted to do with their lives and made a direct beeline towards those goals. Most of us fumble through a series of misadventures before we actually fall into our life's work. We tend to run away from what we are good at or else we rely on preconceived notions and expectations that usually involve security, family and (the biggie!) money. Believe me, I get it! Security and money are important no matter how much our utopian view of the world would like to say otherwise. It is truly the blessed among us who get to live and do what we want without fear of financial ruin or societal expectations. (as an aside: in high school I was "counseled" to pursue maths and sciences because some jackass in guidance thought that I would make a great dentist. Can you imagine? I still wake up in the middle of the night sweating with the memories of Grade 13 calculus!) I have been fortunate to have been married to one such individual for lo these many years. The husband has always followed a path of passion rather than one of expedience and for this I admire him greatly. (Yeah I know-I am sucking up, but he says that I have been bashing him for weeks, so this is his apparent reward!) It doesn't hurt that he is frickin' brilliant! My man- who stopped going to his engineering lectures halfway through second year and still almost graduated on the dean's list. (Kids-don't try this at home as it really only works for the husband!) When he entered the software industry, it became evident early on that he couldn't handle the rigidity of working for Big Blue, so he struck out on his own, knowing that there was no paycheck forthcoming, and that I was in the fabulously high-paying career of Jewish education. He retired from that life at 37! Who gets to take a sabbatical at 37? (ok-rabbis, but who else?) While he searched for his next career, he decided, on a whim, to build a synagogue. All right-it didn't exactly work out as planned, but anybody in the know will tell you that we are where we are today in part because of his efforts. (synagogue work is thankless and designed only for the truly passionate!-Good Luck Mr. President-elect!) It really should not have shocked me when he came to me with his next venture. (I really want to call it hair-brained, but given where it is now, it seems so inappropriate.) Three years ago the husband and his twin son from a different mother went into the whisky business. You see the husband loves scotch! He doesn't just enjoy it, or imbibe from time to time, he loves it!! (Strange-in that I am not a drinker. My idea of heavy drinking is having that second Diet Coke after 9:00pm!) He savours every dram! The glass from which it is sipped has to be just the right weight and shape. It doesn't matter if the gold elixir comes from Speyside or Islay or Highlands (husband are you impressed?), it is as he describes it "the nectar of the gods" and can cure all ills. I honestly believe that he would romp around here in a kilt and sporn if I didn't feel very strongly that Jewish men from Polish descent with hairy legs should not be parading around in a skirt! I have been to liquor stores in some of the finest cities in the world so that he might discover the one bottle that his missing from the collection. He calls it market research, I call it dull!) It is not an exaggeration to say that the husband is the proud owner of 80-100 bottles of scotch whisky! He even had a special section in the bar built to house them all. He moped around here for days after the contractors encased his scotch within the plastic condom. (Of course, it took him a couple of days to realize that he is in the scotch business and all he had to do was bring a bottle home from the office, but I digress!) Yesterday, the husband did his version of the happy dance! The plastic came down in the family room and he could access the bar! This event was truly monumental in the construction process. Oven and Refrigerator be damned! The scotch has been liberated! The visualization of him caressing long lost friends was truly disturbing, but at least he is happy. Passionately happy!

Check out the newest pictures of the half-completed deck extension. We thought Hunky's guys might return today to finish the job, but that obviously is too much to ask. Overall told me yesterday that we should expect the cabinets tomorrow. He and Reliable were here yesterday with the sink, faucets, instant hot etc... Of course they are all still in the boxes as there is no place to put them, but at least they are in the house. I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

It's Not That Easy Being Green

Are you green? Not green with envy (although I am certain that many of us are) and not the green-eyed monster of jealousy (although I am certain that many of us are that as well!). I am not speaking of green with nausea or even green like Kermit. Are you and yours living the green ideal? As recently as ten years ago, environmentally friendly was reduced to the catchphrase "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle". Anyone who went to school (or had children who did) in the seventies, eighties or nineties has familiarity with this statement. Over the past decade or so, however, the terms "green" and "save the planet" have taken on an almost religious quality with no less than Former Vice President Al Gore appearing as the High Prophet of Planetary Pollution Probe. (You do realize that this is forever his name, do you not?-not just Al or Al Gore, but FORMER VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE!!!) You always can tell when an issue has hit the public mainstream and consciousness. It is not when our politicians come on board, (Stephen Who? and George Huh?) but rather when our Fortune 500 companies and celebrities hop on the bandwagon. You cannot enter a store these days without some t-shirt screaming at you to do your part to save the whales, polar bears, polar icecap, rainforest or oceans, all for the low price of $19.95! We have carpet made from recycled rubber, and clothing made from bio-friendly hemp. We are being implored to turn our thermostats down in the winter (not in my house you don't!) and up in the summer. We need to conserve water and electricity and paper and a whole host of other things that we have been neglectful about over these past one hundred thousand years or so. And so, we move ever so slowly, kicking and screaming into a new age of conservation and responsibility. I must admit, that I have been a bit late in attending to Mr. Gore's crusade, but I am here now, and believe me, I am trying my best. Ok, there are certain things at which I draw a line in the sand. Low flow toilets? Please!! You use more water because you have to flush the damn thing three times to clear it. Public transportation? I am all for it as soon as the politicos make is user friendly, extend it to all areas of the city and integrate the fares. I will not take a bus that takes me 2 hours when I can get there in less than half the time in my car. (I am conserving my time which is also valuable!) When we here in the frozen tundra have a transit system like NYC or Chicago, I am right there! But, for the most part, I am trying. We here in the north Jewish ghetto have been on a forced program of recycling that has recently kicked into high gear with the advent of the green box. This box is for all household organic waste, and while the idea sounded a bit gross at first, I have used it faithfully since it appeared on my doorstep. (Of course there is a slight paradox with the green bin in that you are supposed to put your waste material into small PLASTIC grocery bags, but oh well!) The husband was less enthusiastic about said bin. I think his exact words were "NO F@#$#$*& WAY, that's disgusting." So I handle that end and he and the teenage son have been fairly diligent with the blue boxes. All in all, we have definitely reduced our household trash and I must say we were feeling pretty good about ourselves. Until three weeks ago! I had great plans and expectations about how we would maneouver our way greenly through the reno. We would only use certain plates and cutlery and wash everything in the laundry room tub. That lasted two days! It became ridiculously cumbersome to attempt to wash stuff in a sink that also served to clean our clothes. (not to mention the occasional paint brush and tray) Paper and plastic have become the norm. (Sorry Al!) I am trying to recycle anything plastic, but the soiled paper plates are ending up in the garbage. Everybody has their breaking point, and for the duration of this project, our green lifestyle is mine. I hereby swear on a stack of Greenpeace leaflets and World Wildlife Federation posters, that the minute we are back in the kitchen we will continue the crusade.

Guess who's here? No really--guess! Yup-Hunky Outside contractor. Ok, not technically him, but one of his flunkies. As I write this, he is outside building the extension to the deck. I am so excited that I am positively sweating!!!! It is a good thing that he is finally here as the forecast is calling for less than optimum weather for the next few days. Pictures will follow. Also, check out the newest pictures in the album. We are starting to see some cleanliness through the dust and plastic. The room is now painted and the wall is finished and repainted on both sides. We are now in the process of searching for kitchen stools and chairs. Thanks to those who have offered suggestions for places to look. And to my designer friend who said that she would give me the name of a place to look if I mentioned her in the blog, consider yourself mentioned!

Monday, 26 November 2007

I Love the Smell of Latex (Paint) in the Morning!

Memories are unusual things. Just when the belief sets in that age has messed with one's remembrances, (I can recall almost every Oscar winning Best Picture since 1927, but ask me my son's new phone number and I become a blithering, drooling idiot with the IQ of a turnip!) something as remote as a garlicky taste, the mere mention of a name, or a pungent odor can trigger a flood of once buried thoughts. I find that of all of the five senses, the one that takes me to places that I haven't thought of in years, is the sense of smell. Odour is incredibly powerful. Just ask anybody who has ridden public transit at the end of a long, hot summer's day or walked into a teenage boy's bedroom in the morning. The crisp freshness of the air in the spring, or the decaying wet leaves that usher in autumn, signal the impending change in the weather. The rancid smell of potatoes frying always reminds me of family Channukah parties complete with ridiculous $20.00 gift exchanges. (A note to family members who may be reading this: the husband ALWAYS re-gifts from previous years, so beware the thermal BBQ fork, disposal cameras complete with feminine covered albums or car accessories that dangle from the rearview mirror!) Likewise, the disgustingly pungent odor of gefilte fish, that sends the husband running and screaming from the house like a man being chased by ghoulish apparitions, brings to the fore thoughts of Pesach and seders from years gone by. Smells can also trigger the not so happy. Hospitals, with their strange combinations of bodily fluids and antiseptic, have a way of making us all cringe. I still get the shivers from the smell of certain flowers that remind me of some very unhappy work experiences. When I was a child, my grandmother lived with us. She was the only person that I ever knew who had no sense of smell, having lost it to a bout of scarlet fever. I would repeatedly forget about her handicap as I would always implore her to smell this thing or that. Unlike other physical issues, her loss was not readily visible. There was no hearing aid-like device or cane that would easily help her overcome her disability. She simply learned to live with it. I always thought that if she had to lose a physical ability, then that one would be the easiest to overcome, but now I am not so certain. All of our senses are important. They work in conjunction with one another to help us maneuver through our morass of memories. Our sense of smell is a wondrous gift that we should never take for granted or hold our noses at! I didn't even remember about Bubby's inability to smell until I started thinking about odours and their power! So today, as I am living through the head-reeling stench of paint and drywall compound, I know that this too, will create lasting memories. Good or bad, they are all mine!

Much progress was made on Saturday as the new opening between the family room and kitchen was given some finishing. The ceiling with all of the lights is now completed (although there is one pot light that doesn't seem to work-it is never easy). The primer coat was completed as were the thresholds between all of the rooms. The painter is here. He is a nice enough fellow who only understands the words "Good Morning" and "lunch"! Apparently the walls are going to be painted today! We shall see. As well, we are expecting cabinetry and appliances sometime this week. Outside Hunky is still MIA even though Overall said that he would show today. I think I want to work his hours, about 3 a month! There are some new pictures in the album. Have a look and enjoy. We will post more later.

Friday, 23 November 2007

If Patience is a Virtue....

If patience is a virtue then I am descending lower and lower to the "hot place" with no hope of coolant or fan, on a daily basis. If patience is a virtue then why does the squeaky wheel get the grease? If patience is a virtue then why is it that the loudest voice in the crowd is the only one heard above the din? If patience is a virtue then I must be the least virtuous person on the planet having lost mine close to 45 years ago. (Stop the snickering! Not that kind of virtue, you mono-tracked minded individuals!!) Suffice it to say that I am not a patient person. I am more of a "get it done now, but yesterday is better" sort of woman. I don't do "process" at all well. I try to delegate, but I get upset when it isn't done according to my timetable. I don't accept excuses with the best of humour and I have little tolerance for stupidity. (It is probably why I tend to make such great sport of politics and it's minions. Politicians are full of excuses and stupidity!) I spend a great deal of time trying to atone for these character flaws every year, but in the simplest of terms--I DON'T DO BULLSHIT!!!!! Combine this impatient nature with a quick and volatile temper, inherited from my dad, and you have the makings of Mount St Helen's in Thornhill. In my defense, I have mellowed with age. I still get anxious and upset when somebody tells me that a certain task (read: kitchen renovation) will be mostly completed by a certain date, (read: December 7th-Pearl Harbour-the irony) and it almost certainly will not be. But I have learned some coping mechanisms. Firstly, there is the husband. As calm, cool and patient a man as has ever walked. It takes a great deal to get him riled. He is the water to my fire. I send him into the breach whenever something goes awry and he handles it better than a diplomat. He understands the game that these contractors engage in, and he is willing to play it because he knows that in the end, he holds the most important card-the money! I can't get past the image of them all filleted and skewered served on a bed of rice pilaf. He also works in the real world as opposed to the cloistered existence I sometimes find myself in. He knows how to talk to them and massage the egos and get the best out of everybody. I want to crush them under the weight of my size 4 1/2 heels. (Not incredibly daunting, I realize.) He sees the end of the game, I live in the here and now. His approach is so much better then mine if I ever want to see a kitchen again, let alone cook in one, so I let him handle it. My second coping mechanism is one that I discovered last year. For my birthday, the husband bought me a wonderful gift. He bestowed upon me a standing punching bag and boxing gloves. It is a wonderful workout that tones the arms and abs, and is incredibly aerobic. It also serves the dual purpose of aggressiveness therapy. I fixate on an imaginary image and plaster it on the bag. (Outdoor Hunky's face has been there a lot lately) I then beat the living tar out of the thing for as long as my body will allow. I feel better, I look better and I tend not to blow as easily. Hopefully, I will see the virtue in all of this at the dedication.

Indoor Reliable is again working on Shabbos, so hopefully I will have some fresh photos to share over the weekend. Older son called yesterday to find out if I survived the white stuff and to remind me that even though the snow sucks, at least I have a wall. I always knew he was a smart-ass! Secretly, I think that the two offspring have a bet going on. I really believe that there is a pool out there trying to figure out the date when dear old mom will finally crack. Guess what? Three weeks and counting and I'm still here.

Shabbat Shalom to all who observe and need it.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Creatively Speaking

I had an interesting conversation today with my doctor. It was time for my annual experience in all things humbling and dignity crushing. In other words, the yearly physical. While she was performing some procedure that all women hate and all men hate to hear about, she was asking me how the boys are and in turn sharing about hers. Without getting into too much detail, (in order to protect the privacy of the young men involved!) we pondered on the subject on what young women are looking for in a young man. Dr. S couldn't understand some of today's young females in that they seem to look for the "bad boys" instead of what she termed the "keepers". I was never personally into the bad boys. While I can understand the attraction to adventure and spontaneity, I always preferred (still do!) the brilliant guy with a rounded sense of himself and most importantly, he must have a creative streak. The creative soul is what keeps us all on our toes. We spend a great deal of time worrying about teaching our children the fundamentals of education, but without the arts, what will they be reading and writing about? When I first graduated from university, I spent a summer working in a 9-5 job in a television news office. I have never been so miserable in my life. I felt caged and enslaved as if all of the oxygen had been sucked out of the universe. A musician friend told me that artists (believe me-I do not consider myself an artist-a hack with a guitar maybe, but never a true artist!) and creative people find working traditional hours and jobs daunting. According to her, this is why they prowl the night at clubs and galleries. We need the freedom to create whenever and wherever the mood strikes. I still search for creative outlets. It is true that the music provides an enormous release and I am always searching for ways to make it fresh and entertaining. (OK-maybe it is a stretch to call Kol Nidre entertaining, but I try!) There is a certain creative release in this writing. (Who knew?) But, I am really at home in the kitchen. I love trying new and interesting recipes. I love to bake! I can't eat most of it, given the fear of calories and lactose intolerance, (I inherited the Jewish stomach from both parents) but I love the smell and feel of cookies baking. I am truly addicted to the Food Network. (The husband has a huge crush on Giada Di Laurentis-he says it is all about the Italian cooking. Sure!!) We are, in essence, building a new creative home in our design for the new kitchen. It will be a place that will allow me the freedom to conjure without worrying about whether or not there is space to roll out the dough or chop the onions. It may not make me a better cook, but hopefully it will make me a freer one! Cooking and baking are extraordinarily creative. It is said that baking is a science, but cooking is an art. Both give me the sustenance that I require, and I am not talking only about food.

Inside reliable returned to the mess that he created today. He did a little more guck application and a bit more sanding. He says that he is returning Saturday to finish the sanding and to prime the walls. When that is complete, I will add to the photo album. He swears that the cabinets will be in next week. We shall see. As a result, the appliances' delivery has been delayed until next Friday. Where is Hunky, you may ask? Me too! Given the weather, I figure he may show up when the ground thaws, perhaps April? He exists in his own orbit, so when he decides to return, I will let you all know.


Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Oscar or Felix

The husband and I have had an ongoing conversation (read: fight!!) that has lasted the entire length of our marriage. It is my thesis that a sloppy person has no trouble sharing space with a neat freak, but a neat and tidy individual cannot in any way live with a slob! Now in his defense, the husband is no Oscar Madison. He never leaves dirty laundry on the floor, he always hangs up wet towels, and he would never think to leave dirty dishes or half eaten food on the counter or in the sink. No, the husband is not a slob, but rather he lives in a world of controlled chaos. He has piles of s@#$ all over the house. There are mounds of invoices, magazines, bills, electronic bits and pieces, books and ancient computer discs all over the house. Yet, miraculously he seems to know what is in each of these man-made heaps. Rarely has a bill been paid late or a magazine been left exclusively for the blue box without first being read. His world works for him, even if it has the potential to sometimes make me go postal! I, on the other hand, live in a different orbit. My clothes are neatly folded and I like files for all of the paper work. My sinks are always wiped clean and the fixtures need to shine. (no water spots allowed-Bubby would be so proud.) Those who know me well, know that I have a strange fixation with vacuum cleaners. I own about 8 different types. (no-I am not exaggerating or taking poetic license-8 is about right!) I get a real kick out of examining what is new and cool on the latest models much in the same way that some people check out new cars. I cannot even begin to express how much pleasure an new hand-held gives me. My all-time favourite birthday present was when the husband bestowed upon me a Brother p-touch label maker. The husband and the sons have come to accept and understand the quirks because they know that with the oddities come some o.k. stuff as well. (They also know that if I find dirty, smelly crap all over the place I will go ballistic and it is easier to keep it clean then it is to be on the receiving end of my temper!) It is in this vein that I tell one and all that we have hit a wall in the reno. One could define this as a literal barrier in that nobody, not even tried and true Inside Reliable Contractor, has showed up in 3 days. We are at a loss to explain the absences as nobody has called nor answered their messages. Along with the literal barrier, I have hit the psychological one as well. We are in week three of the controlled chaos in which the husband thrives and drives me to chocolate!!!! (I am starting to wish that I drank) I am having trouble dealing with being cloistered in one room. I am having issues with mess everywhere. Worst of all, I cannot find a thing. Even the simplest of tasks is made ridiculous. Yesterday, I tried to open a package of something non de-script in the refrigerator and found that I needed a scissors. Damned if I knew where it was. Still don't, as the food in question remains intact!! (Probably didn't need the calories anyhow!) The weather isn't helping. November, after all, comes complete with short days, grayness and a dampness that is bone-jarring. I tend not to go anywhere that isn't an imperative right now and I really need to get out. I should probably use the time to organize the closets-if only I could find the damn label maker!!!

There really are now new pictures because nothing has happened. We are supposed to be getting an update from Overall Contractor later today so that maybe we can find out WTF is going on. The appliances are still on schedule to arrive on Saturday, but the husband is adamant that they cannot go in the garage. There is literally no room with all of the other waste stuff that has been stored. Given the weather and tomorrow's expectation of (gasp!) the "S" word, I suspect we won't see Outside Hunky for a while yet. We are really getting down to the crunch if we want the majority of the big stuff finished before our annual trek to the land of our people.


Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Martha, Martha, Martha

Home entertaining can be a wonderful experience. Inviting family and friends to one's home for an afternoon or evening of food and fun can reap rewards and memories that can last a lifetime. There are some among us for whom entertaining is a breeze. Those gifted souls who naturally understand the science of centre pieces, the mystery of luncheon and dinner sets, and have an innate understanding of which foods pleasantly combine with others so as not to create bad breath, bad stomachs or bad feelings for one's guests. My mother is blessed with this wondrous ability. She can throw together a party with the deftness of Michael Jordan throwing a free throw. She always has just the right amount of hors d'oeuvres. The table is always immaculately set. The food is fresh, homemade and perfectly plated. Best of all, are the desserts! Fresh baked and never, ever (God forbid!!) store-bought. And as wonderful as she is at all of this, her twin sister (my other mother) is just as good if not better! The thing is, is that neither one of these incredibly talented women, think that what they do is the least bit accomplished. They blow it off as trivial and suspect, and they have often wondered what all the fuss is about. I am here to tell you that it is a big deal! For some of us, entertaining can be likened to an all day appointment at the dentist without anesthesia. I guess the Martha gene skips a generation, because I do not possess this natural ability to host a gathering. Don't get me wrong! I have certainly learned at my mothers' knees. I am a fairly adequate cook and an even better baker. (Thank you Moms!) I know what fork to use and how to fold a napkin. I understand that fresh is always better and that artificial vanilla should never EVER EVER be used! (It should be removed from store shelves!!) I just don't have the natural ability. I stress for weeks about the details. I worry about the food, the decor, the table, and whether or not I will send my friends home with ptomaine poisoning. It is not logical-but it is extraordinarily stressful for me, and I would suspect that there are others out there like me. I need to tell one and all that fear of entertaining should NEVER preclude one from doing it. Nobody cares if the food is take out and the plates are plastic. It doesn't matter one whit if the cookies are store-bought or if the table is set according to Miss Manners. What matters is the invitation. The invitation is always welcome. It is the company of friends and family that matters. It is the common gathering that matters. The husband, teenage son and I have been blessed with several invitations since the demo/reno started. Some we have been able to accept and some not! (It is incredible how popular we suddenly are!) We need you all to know how incredibly grateful we are for thinking of us. (Please note that this is not a plea for others to step forward!! We would be just slightly horrified if that happened. Please know that we are all doing just fine!) We will be returning the favours after the kitchen is complete. I think I have started stressing already!!!

It is a slow day here today! (If you excuse the cleaning lady attempting her weekly ritual! Yes--she is still coming!) We hope to see somebody soon, but we are sort of in a holding pattern as we await the cabinets, countertop and appliances. There is still plenty to do, but I have given up trying to figure these guys out. Outside Hunky (despite popular opinion that he is a figment of my imagination) has sworn that he will come tomorrow to complete the deck! Yeah, right!

Monday, 19 November 2007

In or Out?

I am not a terribly trendy person. Believe me, I certainly like new and up-to-date things. I am not a moron!! I enjoy the technological advances (read TOYS) that society has afforded. I am composing these little ditties on a state-of-the-art laptop from the fruit company. I would be lost without my cellphone, as it also contains my calendar and my phonebook, imperatives for my controlled lifestyle. My car comes equipped with a wonderful little gadget called a seat warmer. At least my ass is warm in winter. The microwave, the internet (e-mail), cordless phones, Mr. Clean Magic sponges (how do they work?), Ziploc bags and containers, central vacuums--all time saving and life affirming. These gadgets have long past trend, in my mind, and moved on to the realm of "can't live without it"! But, when it comes to fashion and those damned "What's in/ What's out" lists, I fail miserably. I find it exhausting attempting to keep up with dress lengths. I can't understand how to fasten, let alone attempt to wear some of the so-called clothes that designers are foisting upon us season after painful season. (Can somebody please explain the purpose of a sleeveless turtleneck?) Empire waists and low-rise pants don't work for somebody with no legs to speak of and big boobs! I am lost when somebody asks me what the "in" colours are this fall in nail polish. (My nails are short, trimmed, clean and free from polish that will only chip as I attack the guitar!!) I wear clothes that are comfortable, seasonal and appropriate for me. I curse the misogynistic bastard who invented pantyhose and stiletto heels. (It must of been a man, because no woman who has ever experienced childbirth would come up with something that requires that much pain!) This is not style! We are being led through the desert to the mirage and drinking the sand because we don't demand and question something better! So it stunned me, when in one of my initial conversations with Overall Designer, he asked me if the kitchen needed to be functional. I stared at him with a look that can only be described as stupid. "You mean that there are non-functioning kitchens?" I asked incredulously. He explained that more and more people are putting hundreds (yes that is hundreds) of thousands of dollars into kitchen re-designs that have absolutely nothing to do with cooking and eating. Top of the line appliances that never get used. Preparation areas that act solely as receptacles for that day's take-out. Expensive and hidden coffee devices, fixtures, granite counters and Italian marble all installed for show! I find it stunning. Our kitchen is literally and figuratively, the centre of our home. It is the place that everybody congregates. It is where the newspapers are read over morning coffee and where anecdotes about our daily grinds are shared over evening meals. We cook, bake, eat, talk and share in the kitchen. Certainly, I want it to be up to date and fabulous looking, but only if it is functional as well. The idea that I would have something in there strictly because it is trendy is an anathema to me. Who builds a kitchen to treat like a Jewish living room? When these guys finally leave, the plastic is coming off and we will cook and eat with gusto!

We have a floor that would make Fred Astaire blush. Inside Reliable worked all day Saturday and laid the entire thing. The walls are all up and the first coat of tape and guck went up. Sanding begins in earnest today. We may actually be on target for the appliance delivery this weekend. Pictures to follow.

I cannot begin to tell you all how floored I am by the response to these little rants. It really started as a way to keep my snowbird parents up-to-date on the progress, but it certainly has taken on a life of it's own. Thank you all for the kind comments. The technical people in my life have come up with a way for those who are reading this stuff, but are not registered on facebook, to indulge in the blog habit.. Simply go to You are free to share the link with others. I can't imagine why!!

Friday, 16 November 2007

Just Like a Yo-Yo

I have been on a diet for the past 30 years! I know that this sounds extreme, but when you are blessed with the height of a Smurf and the breasts of Dolly Parton, it takes all of the fortitude and will-power afforded you to keep a healthy and proper body type. If anyone were to ask me if I have achieved my optimum goal weight, the usual response that would be forthcoming over these many years would probably be "I really would like to lose 5-10 more pounds." I realize that I suffer from a lack of positive body image. I know that I am a product of my environment, both internal and external. I have a phobia of scales and the yearly physical sends shivers throughout my body as I hope against hope that I have, at the very least, not gained since last year. (This year's annual terror will occur next Thursday!) You name the diet, I have tried it. Ready? Weight Watchers, Diet Workshop, Sugar Busters, The Glycemic Index, The South Beach Diet, The Scarsdale Diet, The Atkins Diet, The Grapefruit Diet (don't ask!), The Cabbage Soup Diet (oy, the gas!), The Banana Diet (supposed to aid in potassium deficiency), no carbs, low carbs, low-fat, no fat, high fat...... the list is endless. Intellectually, I know that the best and only diet that really works is one of common sense eating combined with regular exercise, and believe me I try to follow this plan as best as I can, but I am female. Who amongst us isn't trying to change something about the way we look and feel about ourselves by altering our weight, even slightly? I have watched both family members and friends struggle with this problem for years, and finally I have the cure for all that ails us. Renovate your kitchen!!!! No seriously-do it! It works!! It can't be a bedroom or living room reno, it must be the kitchen. Here's how it works. Move all of the food, food preparation gear and especially the refrigerator to the deepest bowels of the home-the basement. This move serves two purposes. Firstly, out of sight, out of mind. If you cannot see and access the food easily, you are less inclined to want it. Secondly, I have been spending most of my time in the upstairs bedroom. That means that I have to traverse two long flights of stairs in order to get to the calories. Instant exercise!! I have climbed more stairs in the past two weeks then most people do in a year. Not only that, you really think twice about whether or not you need that snack if you have to go up and down the stairs to get it. When you move all of the kitchen stuff, lighten the load. When we were cleaning the kitchen out, we got rid of most of the junk. (with the exception of the husband's chocolate stash!) Into the garbage went the half eaten bags of potato chips and the open cookies. They were not replaced because there is limited storage space. (Not only that, even if I wanted any of that stuff, I couldn't begin to find it!) More fruit went into the fridge because it was easily stored. Yes it is true, that there is more prepared food right now than would normally be here, because we do not have an oven. I am not a fan of prepared food, so I am simply avoiding it. It is also true that fresh vegetables, normally a staple in this house, have been somewhat lacking. Has anyone ever tried to cut up a broccoli on a bridge table? We are making up for it partly with increased fruit and partly when we eat out. Not ideal, but not bad! I was very concerned that 4-5 weeks of take-out and restaurants would lead to those dreaded extra pounds finding their way back onto my midriff. Guess what? The renovation diet has helped me to lose 5 pounds in 2 weeks!

Inside Reliable is still here with his crew and the drywall is almost done. These guys are fabulous! Diligent and hard-working and clean!! There will be some new photos posted later. Outside Hunky has disappeared again. He has been MIA since Wednesday and probably won't be back until the middle of next week to work on the deck expansion. Teenage son finally cried "uncle" and has escaped the chaos for the weekend. That is one smart boy! Shabbat Shalom to all who observe it!

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Sanctuary, Sanctuary!!!!

There is a specific moment in each day that I blissfully look forward to with eager anticipation. It is the time that exists when I return home from shlepping teenage son to the subway station each morning. (Again, I must digress for a momentary rant. What is it about this ridiculous city that there is only one north/ south artery that is available to traffic between the hours of 7:00 am and 9:00 am? Every other possible road is blocked off with no entrance signs, no right or left turn signs or every other conceivable sign short of one of the "signs of the apocalypse". To make the traffic problem that much more intolerable, the geniuses who run this city have closed off 2 out of 3 lanes of traffic near the northern most subway station, creating a bottleneck that would make Coca Cola proud!! It often takes me 1/2 hour to 40 minutes to traverse a route that should take 15 round trip!!) Needless to say, after such a soul-crushing experience as that, this moment of my day is life-affirming. It is the time of day that I am blissfully and peacefully ALONE!!!!! The husband has gone off to his passion, the teenager is on his way to excel and the movers and shakers who are ripping my house to it's studs have not yet made their presence known. Alone time is not necessarily quiet time, although if that is what floats your boat-- all right then! For me, just the knowledge that I am alone with my thoughts, with my needs, with my stuff, even if it is only for a few precious minutes a day, is sacrosanct. There is a difference between being alone and being lonely. Loneliness, it has been said, is everything that it is cracked up to be! Alone time is essential to my mental health. I can stand back and evaluate and figure out what is next on the agenda. It works for me. Finding a place to be alone--now that is much more challenging. This destruction, as has been aptly chronicled, has pretty much shut down the main level of our home. The basement BR (before renovation) was a favourite stomping ground of older son (when he deigns us with his presence) and teenage son and his hoards and minions. Rarely has a weekend passed in the last 5 years that there hasn't been an entire NFTY event in my basement. With the transference of the kitchen paraphernalia to said basement, teenage son is caught between his stuff and ours. (The other day I actually watched him reach over and try to open the refrigerator without extracating himself from the couch in front of the TV!) No, the only viable sanctuary that has been available to me is the bedroom. Now our bedroom is not just a bed. It comes fully equipped with en-suite bathroom, television and a small sitting area consisting of two not all together uncomfortable chairs. It has become my oasis in the desert, my port in the storm and my anchor. My Sanctuary! It is the only place in the house that I can rehearse without interruption, answer correspondence and even play the occasional game of online scrabble. (isn't scrabbulous fabulous?) Unfortunately, it also means that I have had to fight with the husband to keep from turning my sacred space into his dumping ground. He has managed to dump the daily mail on the bed, leave the morning newspapers on the chairs for hours, and (my personal favourite) transferred his life-long chocolate habit to our quarters. (The husband is a self-proclaimed chocoholic! When we were first dating, he would show me his private stash hidden away carefully so as to deter his brothers and his mother. When we were married, he continued this practice so, that even up to the present day, I will still find chocolate hidden in various cupboards and drawers around the house.) Today, on my bedroom table, sits a large glass container of Hershey's kisses that he has moved upstairs so that he doesn't have to tread too far!! When Quasi Moto screamed for sanctuary, he was just searching for a place to be alone with his beloved. I, not unlike Greta Garbo just "vant to be alone!!!"

Inside reliable contractor is working diligently today and it looks like we may have inside kitchen walls by evening. Drywall is being affixed. This is so exciting that I might just plotz! The garage is becoming a bit of an issue as it is being loaded with all of the scraps and other "shit" that is not longer needed. They removed the dumpster at the end of last week and have not yet brought it back. I feel like I am living in the middle of a red-neck's yard sale. More pictures to follow.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Tempus Fugit

There is a wonderful old movie (old for me anyway) entitled "Cheaper by the Dozen". The movie to which I refer is the 1950 version as opposed to the bastardization of a remake and subsequent sequel that Steve Martin forced us all to endure beginning in 2003. The fine film of which I speak, (it stars Clifton Webb, Myrna Loy and Jeanne Crain--sorry but I had to show off my trivia chops!!!) is the true story of the Gilbreth family and specifically of it's patriarch Frank Gilbreth Sr. Mr Gilbreth was a pioneer in the field of motion study and time management. Among other things, he wrote how one could make efficient use of time by actually doing certain tasks by oneself. He himself laid bricks(I wish he still lived so he could come here), did daily chores and even performed minor surgeries on his children. (This scene is comically played out in the film as he assists the doctor with all of the kid's tonsillectomies done in the family living room!) The reason that the book and subsequent film are entitled "Cheaper by the Dozen" is because Gilbreth knew that at the turn of the 20th century, buying clothing, food and other sundry items were cheaper if bought by the dozen, so he and his wife set about having 12 children to take advantage of the bargains. (Sounds like a few coupon-clippers out there that are related to me!!) The long and the short of it is--Frank Gilbreth Sr. understood how fleeting time is and he wanted every second to count. Living through a demolition and reconstruction has taught me that time is a relative concept. Overall contractor: "Don't worry--Outside hunky contractor will be there on Wednesday!" He just failed to mention exactly which Wednesday, but that is a minor detail in the grand scheme of things. Outside Hunky contractor: "The re-bricking of the wall will begin bright and early on Monday morning and be finished that same day!" He neglected to include the following caveat: "If it doesn't rain, snow, hail, locusts, flies, flood or have temperatures hovering around zero!" I hate to mention how insecure I have felt in the house the last couple of nights, knowing that all that stood between us and a home invasion was a small piece of drywall. Inside reliable contractor and his crew show up every single day, like clockwork----at 3:00 in the afternoon and stay some days until after 10! Not that I am complaining. At least they show up, but I would like them to see me in something other than my sweats. They honestly must think that I am a severe depressive who never changes her clothes, washes infrequently and walks around with hair pulled back in a sad excuse for a ponytail. Obsessive compulsives are often time control freaks. We are rarely late. We set our clocks, both internal and external, to get us to our said appointments at least 1/2 hour early. We don't know from "Jewish Time". We understand order, datebooks, blackberries, palm pilots, schedules, watches set 10 minutes ahead and phoning when plans change. We are the types who invite our guests to our son's Bar Mitzvah 15 minutes ahead of the actual start time, because we don't want to be embarrassed by family members who wander in late!! (Yes-in case you were wondering-I did it twice!) We are not flighty and free. We are time-study men and women who just need to know how, when and where. Time indeed flies by much too quickly! I absolutely loathe when it is wasted!!

The Mason is here, the Mason is here!!! Sound the clarion call!! We may have a new wall this day! The Mason is here!!! We also have new lighting in the kitchen and the electrical work is almost done. There are some new photos (Check out the album) and more will be posted later. Those of you who have requested pics of the guys, will have to be patient. Inside reliable contractor will be here later and I will ask him, but Outside hunky has been more elusive. I will see what I can do.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

If You Give a Moose a Muffin

When my boys were small, and they actually cared about such things, one of their favourite pastimes was the evening ritual of bedtime reading. Actually this is still quite the passion, but not by the husband and me. (This is a good thing as given their ages it would border on the creepy.) One of their favourite stories was a charming little tale entitled "If you Give a Moose a Muffin" written by Laura Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond. It is one of those chicken and egg tales that begins like this: "If you give a moose a muffin, then he will want a glass of milk to go with it. If you give him the glass of milk then.....", well you get the idea. It follows a basic plot line until it eventually (SPOILER ALERT for those who require it!) comes back around to giving the moose his muffin. For those of you with small children or looking for an ideal gift, I highly recommend both it and it's sister book "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie"-same premise-different four-legged creatures. I mention this story because I feel that it is important to perhaps provide some context as to why we are currently under siege. Several months ago, I complained to the husband, as I am often wont to do, that the kitchen faucet leaked. Now, the husband is one of the few handy men from the "tribe" that I know. In his younger days, he actually finished an entire basement with his own two hands. Those of you who remember us from our young married days, will recall the "dropping the hot tub through the living room floor" experience. We were moving into a new house and the husband was determined that our hot tub should move with us. Only, he hadn't quite figured out how to get it around the basement corner and down the stairs. No problem!! He cut a large hole through the floor in the living room and recruited several of our friends to come over and carefully lower the thing into the basement. For years afterward, whenever those guys would visit, they would gingerly navigate the area around where said hole used to be. There was never a single problem and no one had the occasion to sue. It has always amazed me that I married one of the few handy Ashkenazi men around. The men in my family have found changing a light bulb to be a challenging home repair project, so having the Jewish Bob Vila around was kind of cool. So we now fast forward to spring of 2007 and my kitchen faucet is leaking. (C)Handy Jew can't seem to fix it and within a few weeks, the entire contents of the Great Lakes is depositing itself under my sink. No problem, right? If you have a leaky faucet then you must replace the sink. If you replace the sink, then the countertop and dishwasher should go as well. If you are changing the dishwasher, wouldn't it be nice if all of the appliances matched? If the appliances are new then the cupboards need upgrading. And if the cupboards need upgrading, then the floor should be changed. And if you are ripping up the floor, then why not tear down a wall or two? The irony in all of this is that the husband DOESN'T COOK!!!! His idea of kitchen usage is opening the refrigerator and making the occasional omelet. A fine culinary experience for him is microwave popcorn. He would rather go hungry, then have to fuss with a meal. So here I am, living like a hermit and searching for some semblance of order, cleanliness, space and food preparation all because of a leaky faucet and I gave the moose his muffin!!!

Outside hunky contractor has finally done his General MacArthur impersonation and returned to the scene of the crime. Hopefully, there will be some progress on the re-bricking today. Inside reliable contractor has been diligently working on the electrical stuff, so real visual progress is not great, but we are definitely moving forward. Onward and upward!!!

Monday, 12 November 2007

Tales of an Asthmatic Cantor

Breathing, as far as bodily functions is concerned, is completely underrated. I, mean really, how many hours in daily life does one actually think about the fact that oxygen is coming in and CO2 is being expelled? Our bodies talk to us all the time. As mid-life has rapidly encroached, there is an endless litany of aches and pains that can only be described as infuriating. It takes me longer each morning to get out of bed simply because I need to stretch and move each individual joint just to see if they still function. My stomach is upset all the time-I suppose that I can't eat French fries, onion rings and chicken wings all at one meal anymore. And please don't get me started on the gas!!! Have you ever noticed that everybody, when they hit a certain age, complains about their decaying bodies. "Oh my_________ is sooooo sore! (insert applicable failing part here!) I once asked my mother what she thought the secret was to the long and enduring marriage she shares with my Dad. Without missing a beat she exclaimed (tongue firmly planted in cheek) "PAIN"! "We understand each other's physical pain". "One of us is always complaining about something-and we accept it in each other." We are crumbling as we speak and there is no amount of exercise, new-aged medicine, pill-popping nor Oprah-endorsed solution that can really help. (Please note that this rant is coming from someone who exercises on a daily basis, takes supplemental vitamins, and usually is quite careful about food.) But, breathing is different. We don't notice that we do it until we can't. We take it for granted. The constant chaos in the house over the last week has put my breathing squarely in the upper-most area of my thoughts. DUST!! It is the enemy of the asthmatic. The constant commotion here has unsettled dust that has probably been in place since confederation. Our house requires an air-quality reading. Our brand new, state of the art air filter has been crying and sputtering "Help Me" for over a week. (I am actually taking pity on the machine!!) I have considered wearing a surgical mask, but it just comes off too SARS inducing. And so-I expel noises that no spouse or offspring should ever have to hear. My puffers are now on permanent stand-by on the night stand and green tea is my elixir of the gods. As we begin week 2 of this project, I have been hearing from many people that if I just take deep breaths and relax, it will be much easier to endure. Oh how right you all are!!!

We have a sub-floor in the kitchen, and much of the plumbing has been re-located. See what happens when I escape for an entire day? More pictures to follow.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Mr. Gorbachev, rebuild my wall...... please!

It was Robert Frost who noted that "Good fences make good neighbours". If this is truly the case then what is the value of a good wall? As I noted yesterday, Outside hunky contractor showed up with a crew of impossibly young and for the most part equally hunky boy/men, (hey I am middle aged-not dead!!) ready to inflict much damage to the outer shell of this house. (I must digress as I tell you that while all of these guys are obviously very skilled at what they do, there is a certain disconnect in some of their intellects. One young man knocked on the door and ask if we had a bathroom--not if he could use it, just if we had one--as if we have been putting the refuse in a glass mason jar. Of course, me being me, said "Of course we have a bathroom (pregnant pause)-Oh would you like to use it? Down the hall, around the plastic condom and to the left.") As documented in the photos, it took a little more than three hours to dismantle a structure that has stood intact for more than twenty-five years through snow, sleet, wind and water. It is amazing what determination, drive, passion and the threat of lost revenue can accomplish. What took three hours to take down, will apparently take up to ten working days to rebuild, reface, re-brick and redesign. At the very least, they have not left us exposed to nature's wrath and have secured us, both physically and in the knowledge, that we will not be set upon in the wee hours of the November night by predators (neither the two-legged nor four-legged varieties). Building walls, both structurally and metaphorically, have both an upside and a down. While we are locking out the creepy-crawlies, we are locking in the heat and warmth. Let's just take care not to reverse that statement. There is a real life lesson in all of this. What has taken a lifetime of love and care to build and nurture, can be destroyed in less time than it takes to drive to Detroit!

Well we have made it through week one (older son and teenage son have been betting on the exact date of my demise, but I am still here!!) in this story of destruction and renovation. Thanks to all who have commented.

While Outside hunky contractor and his impossibly young crew will be labouring on Shabbos, I will not be. Shabbat Shalom to all who observe it.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Oh the noise noise noise noise.....

With apologies to Dr. Seuss' Grinch, noise is not something that I usually take issue with. The noises of the world around us are much like a symphony of sound that most of us have either learned to tune out, escape or embrace with the fullness of our beings. I tend to hear beauty in noise. The constant hum of lawnmowers and snowblowers (depending on the season) is a reminder of the wonders of nature. (with the expressed caveat that there is nothing beautiful about winter!!!) People talking (or yelling, screaming or ranting) tweaks our interpersonal skills and shows us that we are not here alone and we must interact to survive. I love trying to figure out people's accents or playing voice recognition games with celebrity voices. I am one of those unusual people that likes noise. I keep the TV or radio on for company. Music is a constant. There is constant white noise going on in this house. One could even assert that what I do for a living is noise-inducing. (I am certain that there are MANY people who would make that argument!) I tend to shun silence and quiet. It drives the silence-seeking husband crazy at times, but he has come to understand that I am a noisy person with a big voice that cannot be squelched. It is with this understanding that I am embracing the constant noise that is accompanying our destruction. The banging, sawing, crashing, glass-breaking and fingernail on chalkboard like sounds that are pouring out from every corner and crevice of the house, are enough to drive the average person to heavy drink. (As anyone who knows me well, it would take much more than that to cause me to imbibe.) Diet Coke binges aside, I am relishing in these noises. These are the sounds of work and progress. These are the noises of consistency and hopes of completion. I AM PAYING BIG TIME FOR THESE NOISES AND I INTEND TO ENJOY EVERY SINGLE ONE!!!!! For those Grinches amongst you-Whoville is the next town over.

A quick update--the moshiach has indeed arrived in the person of Outside hunky contractor. Jericho's walls had nothing on mine, but it is finally coming down.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

When God closes a window.....

When God closes a window isn't he/she supposed to open a wall? I realize that I am paraphrasing a parable, but in the case of this kitchen renovation it is particularly apt. A wall that was supposed to become a door, and a door that was supposed to become a wall are still in their natural states of being. This part of the destruction was supposed to take place a week ago, but we seem to be in a holding pattern. Outside hunky contractor (think of a way too young Matt Damon) who has great brawn to match his munchkin sized brain, is now on excuse number 35 as to why he still hasn't shown up. Inside reliable contractor (think Jackie Chan with shoulders) can only go so far until outside hunky contractor begins his work. Overall designer (think my brother only Asian and with a baseball cap) is royally pissed. Anyone who has embarked upon such a project will attest, delays are part of the experience. This delay, though, is wrapped around a deeply embedded part of my psyche. I DON'T DO WINTER!!!!!!! I don't mean I don't do winter "well", I mean I don't do winter at all. If I could figure out a way to hibernate and not gain 30 pounds, believe me I would do it. If I could sprout wings and fly south under my own power, I would. I start wearing gloves on October 1st. I spend most of February (when I am not south) sitting on a hot water bottle. There aren't enough sweaters, long-johns or herbal teas to keep me happy. I don't ski (WTF is that all about!), skate, toboggan, or any other such winter induced nonsense. If God had intended me to slide down a mountain he/she would have siliconed my ass. Now this structural delay has meant us entering the cold weather phase of the Toronto calendar. There is a real possibility that the entire wall will be open during some of the first cold snap days of the fall. Overall designer has sworn up and down that outside hunky contractor will be on the job tomorrow and has asked if he could work on Shabbos. (ok-that one was mine, not his!) My answer was if it will keep me from have to don snowshoes to walk up the stairs--well ok then!!

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Oh the absurdities of life!

Life is filled with absurdities. Those niggling inconsistencies that make one wonder the cosmic WHY??? I have always been fascinated with those women who show up at the gym in the wee hours of the morning, ready to work their gluts and abs until they drop, yet are perfectly coiffed and with faces done to the "nines". Who are they trying to impress? Within minutes of beginning their programs, these same beauties look like something out of a Wes Craven movie! Hair hanging limp and wet, and facial colours that would make Barnum and Bailey puff with pride. Oh the absurdity!! Have you ever watched with amusement as the person at the next table in the restaurant clearly describes his/her very specific dietary restrictions to the wait staff. "You see--I am on Weight Watchers and am only allowed 3 more points today--so I will have the HOT FUDGE FROZEN YOGURT SUNDAE AND A DIET COKE!" Oh the absurdity! Today I was faced with just such an absurdity. In the middle of the muck and the dust and the broken tiles and the plastic sheeting-I needed to continue with my weekly Tuesday practice of having the cleaning lady. Now the husband-calm, cool, collected and logical man that he is- quietly suggested to me last night that it might just be a good idea to cancel the poor woman for the duration. "NO!" said I. "We can't do that. The house might go to hell and get DIRTY and how could I live with that?" " And anyway-she depends on us for part of her livelihood." (my pinko commie liberal roots have come to the surface in that I feel that I owe the world a living.) Well-you should have seen her face when she walked in this morning. I calmly explained what was happening, told her what was possible and what was not, and that she would in all likelihood be leaving early. As I write this, she is actually vacuuming. I think that the workers are a bit stunned by her presence but I figure if it gets me through another day, we can live with the absurdity. One more thing. If you think that I am absurd, how about husband who, yesterday amongst the destruction, complained vociferiously that he couldn't access his scotch because the bar had been hermetically sealed. Absurd!!!

Monday, 5 November 2007

and so it begins....

I like to think that I am the kind of person that embraces change with fervor and vigour. Change is good for the soul. Change is life-affirming. Change makes you remember why you are here and what life is all about. That said, for the anal-retentive individuals out there, change is a right cross to the jaw! And so it begins. Today we embark upon a massive project I will be calling "The Great Kitchen Reno of 2007" or if you prefer "Barry's Folly!" As we speak, there are 4 or 5 very capable Asian men in my house doing what I think that we all wish we could do from time to time; wielding sledgehammers, saws and various power tools at my walls and windows. It appears extremely cathartic. All those stresses and other annoying and cloying life interferences disappear in one huge, massive blow to the drywall. The entire lower lever is encased in a massive plastic condom and any access to other parts of the house is severely limited. Oh--they did leave me a pathway to the laundry room as if doing loads of laundry will quell any urge I have towards self-mutilation. I suppose there is some logic in that. As long as she has something to clean she will survive. Of course physical nourishment might be a problem as I need to traverse the maze of shower curtains that adorn the house to find the food. I am comforted by the fact that Barry has to live here too, but feeling less than the adequate mother in the knowledge that Kyle will be subsisting on restaurant and take-out food for the foreseeable future. (That noise you hear is said teenage son doing the happy dance!!) I will post photos and other thoughts as this project hopefully moves forward in a timely and less destructive manner. Please, dear friends and family, keep me in your thoughts. Remember, obsessive-compulsive disorder and anal retentiveness are conditions that need understanding and compassion. Maybe you can all hold a telethon for me!