30 June 2009

Party time!!

You know what happens — you leave your house in the trustworthy hands of a few friends and they use it for party central!! But don’t worry, Paul, this isn’t that kind of party…

Happy canada day wondercliparts

July 1st is Canada Day up here in the Great White North. So in honour of Canada’s 142nd birthday, and because I’m a proud Canadian, I’d like to take this opportunity to help you get to know us Crazy Canucks a bit better.

Silly Canadian facts…

1. The province named Newfoundland is named Newfoundland because Canada lost it in the 1960s then found it again only a few months ago. Before that, it was called Land.

2. When in Montreal, make friends by asking every passerby "Hey, Frenchy, where's the Eiffel Tower?"

Eiffel_Tower northern edu

3. Canadians do NOT pronounce "about" as if it were "aboot". In fact, the Canadian language does not have the word "about". If a Canadian says "aboot," he or she probably means "a large shoe."

4. It is illegal in Canada to use the letter "O" without putting a "U" after it. As in "Colour" or "Poutine" or "Filthy Whoure".

5. Every fact Americans know about Canada was learned on the back of cereal boxes. All American cereal boxes are required to include facts about Canada. So if a Canadian asks you "What do you know about Canada?", an acceptable response is "You contain 190mg of sodium."

trix amazon

No, no, not true!! But I bet you laughed at least once!!

Here are some REAL facts about Canada…

6. We’re the second largest country in the world (after Russia) and make up almost 7% of the total surface of the Earth.

Canada map

7. The total length of the Canada-US border is 8,890 kms (5,334 miles).

8. Some of the names considered for Canada before we officially became a country in 1867 are Cabotia, Urslalia, Laurentia, Columbia, and Efisga. Huh?! It’s derived from the first letters of England, France, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, and Aboriginal lands.

9. O Canada was composed in 1880 with music by Calixa Lavallée and words by Judge Adolphe-Basile Routhier. In 1908, Robert Stanley Weir wrote the translation on which the present English lyrics are based. O Canada was officially named our National Anthem in 1980.

o canada music sheet

10. The red & white on Canada’s national flag were designated Canada’s official colours in 1921 by King George V.

canada_flag_sunset stand up for america

11. Canada’s largest island is Baffin Island. At 507,451 square kilometers (184,000 square miles), it’s big enough to hold Ireland, the United Kingdom, Hungary, and Austria combined, with some room to spare.

baffin-island-sun-national geographic

12. The world’s longest designated street is in Toronto, Ontario. Yonge Street is 1,900 kms (1,140 miles) long.

yonge_street 1901 archives gov on

13. Newfoundland was officially set to become a Canadian province on April 1st, 1949. Premier Joey Smallwood got the date pushed back a day to March 31st, to avoid any possible jokes about joining Canada on April Fool’s Day.

14. Newfoundland has its own time zone.

15. Our football field is longer and wider than a US football field. No idea why.

Canadian_football wikimedia

16. Our money comes in lots of pretty colours :-)

canadian-money angie tarasoff blog

16a. Not to be confused with colourful Canadian Tire money…

canadian-tire-money smart canucks

16b. And we have denominations called a Loonie and a Toonie. Seriously.

LooneyTunesWallpaper sugarcraft

17. If you have a torn half of a $20 bill, it’s still worth $10. According to the Bank of Canada, bills that have 3/5s or more of their original size remaining are worth their full value. Bills that are split in half are worth half their amount. So the half of a $5 bill that our Lab Squirt ate and then pooped out is worth $2.50!!

18. The beaver attained official status as an emblem of Canada when an “act to provide for the recognition of the beaver as a symbol of the sovereignty of Canada” received royal assent on March 24, 1975.

beaver-picture discovery

18a. Some other animals that are representative of Canada…

Bison — The largest native land animal in Canada. A mature male can be 3.8 metres long, 1.8 metres tall at the shoulder, and weigh up to 720 kilograms. That’s bigger than my smart car!!

bison-headshot NG


moose zach oneill blog

Loon (Paul, you know I had to include a loon!!)

common-loon national geographic

Mosquito (it’s either snow season or bug season here!!)

mosquito-researcher the the running tally

19. The first people to drive across Canada were Thomas Wilby and F.V. Haney on 1912. Some parts of the country didn’t even have roads yet, and it took them 52 days to make the trip. My smart car goes faster than that!!

20. Montreal’s Olympic Stadium built for the 1976 Olympics was supposed to cost $120 million. By the time it was paid off, the price tag had ballooned to $3 BILLION. Large chunks of concrete have been known to fall off of it.

o stadium britannica

21. There have been more dinosaur bones found in Canada than in any other country.

Invented by Canadians…

22. Horse race starting gate in the early 1900s by Philip McGinnis of Huntingdon, Quebec.

23. Air conditioning on trains in 1858 by Henry Ruttan of Cobourg, Ontario.

train flickr

24. Java (universal computer programming language) by Dr. James Gosling.


25. The first human cannonball act, folding theater seats, and the modern parachute by The Great Farini of Port Hope, Ontario.

cannonball wikimedia

26. Sir Sandford Fleming proposed the present system of standard time, by which the world is divided into 24 equal time zones.

27. The original McIntosh apple tree was discovered in 1812 at Dundela, Ontario by farmer John McIntosh. It bore fruit till 1908 and died in 1910 shortly after being burnt in a fire.

mcintosh wills orchards

28. The term Beatlemania was coined by Ottawa journalist Sandy Gardiner.

29. Superman was co-created by Toronto-born artist Joe Shuster and his America friend, writer Jerry Siegal in the 1930s.

Superman wiki

30. The first game show on May 15, 1935 was hosted by Roy Ward Dickson. His radio program was Professor Dick and his Question Box.

31. Winnie the Pooh was created by author A.A. Milne and named for Winnipeg, Manitoba.

winnie-the-pooh listen to leon

32. The first light bulb was invented by Henry Woodward and Matthew Evans of Toronto. They had been unsuccessful in exploiting their invention because potential investors believed the idea would be too costly, so they sold their patent so a dude named Thomas Edison.

light-bulb-idea-hand nireblog

33. The snowmobile by Armand Bombardier in 1959. He meant to call it a Ski-Dog, but a typo in the printed literature changed the name to Ski-Doo.

34. Although technically basketball was invented in the US — in 1898 in Springfield, Massachusetts — it was invented by Canadian James A. Naismith. 9 of the 18 players in the first basketball game were Canadian too.

naismith britannica

35. Students from McGill University in Montreal introduced the game of rugby—played with an oblong ball—to their Harvard counterparts in 1874. They were so taken by the game, they adopted it and it eventually evolved into football.

Canadian foods you have to try…

36. If you like greasy French fries, melted curds, and gooey gravy, you’ll LOVE poutine!! It’s a heart attack in a bowl, and a trademark food in Quebec. If you order it, make sure you pronounce it right (pooh-teen). If you ask for a poo-ten, you’ll get something completely different…



Poutin (as played by Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman):

pretty woman boxwish

37. Quebec also does the BEST French fries and all dressed hot dogs steamé. The buns are so soft and tender, and the dogs are slathered with mustard, relish, onions, and coleslaw. Mmmmm…

hot dogs albertakingofsubs

38. And the ultimate Canadian food found right here in Ottawa… BEAVERTAILS!!! SOOOOOOO yummy!!! A beavertail is a long, thin, oval-shaped piece of pastry that’s deep fried and then covered with a variety of toppings. My favourite is the Killaloe Sunrise — lemon juice, cinnamon, and sugar.


If you come to Ottawa, you HAVE to try a beavertail. Preferably from a shack on the canal in the middle of winter to get the full beavertail-eating experience. But really, they’re good in the summertime too :-)

When Barack Obama was in Ottawa a little while back, he ate an ObamaTail — chocolate sauce and whipped cream in the shape of an O in honour of the US President.

obamatail mudpuddle

So there you go — now you know more about Canada!! If that’s not enough Canada for you, I have a tribute to our nice little country on my blog DesignTies today. Head on over and check it out… especially if you like ice cream!! :-)

Thanks for the opportunity to write a guest post for you, Paul :-) Hope you had a great time in the Bahamas!!


29 June 2009

The Joy of Cooking

It's amazing to me how many people have idyllic kitchens and can barely serve up a cold bowl of cereal without reading the instructions on the box. This is a sad byproduct of my generation's "equality" effort. "Equality" seems to mean that we order in each night and think cooking is something our mother and their mothers should be doing. Not us. Certainly not us. 

And yet, the status kitchen - outfitted with the best that money can buy - is expected these days. And when paired with owners that can't or won't cook I find it terribly amusing. The culinary equivalent of owning a Maserati without possessing a driver's license. Or worse...no intention of driving. Ever. 

I can't speak for others, but I want those gleaming stainless appliances and sparkling counters so that I can celebrate the joy of cooking. (And, hey, if I can fix my lipgloss in the reflection on the quartz counter, so be it!).  

Which ties in to the looming photo of Giada de Laurentiis above. Some pundits suggest that her popularity is largely due to the fact that she helps perpetuate the fantasy of the gorgeous wife who just happens to be a regular Julie Child in the kitchen. 

Giada has movie star good looks, killer cooking skills and (and this is the kicker here) she's having a great time cooking. She truly enjoys preparing meals for her family and friends, and I can only hope that some of that enthusiasm spills over onto other girls my age. It's a way of giving, connecting, bonding and living. Cooking - and certainly eating - is in fact one of life's most enjoyable daily activities. Doesn't it make sense to master the skill so you can add yet another skill to your mental résumé?

Giada, please....keep doing what you're doing. Keep smiling, keep teaching us the proper way to pronounce "mozzarella" and most of all, keep showing us how you're bringing sexy back to the kitchen. My "sisters" need a little reminder now and then that an apron can indeed look pretty good if you know what you're doing.

{Editorial note: much thanks to Paul for entrusting us with his blog for a few days. It takes courage to let someone hold the reigns on your "baby" while you're away. I am genuinely flattered to be one of the crew he invited to hold court while he's gone.}

Is it me? Or is this room as fab as everyone thinks it is?

Greetings readers! Paul has graciously handed you over to me for a short time and I thought I’d take advantage of having the ear of so many kitchen professionals and enthusiasts but presenting you with a small battle that is currently being waged under my roof.
We recently moved into this house

With which I am absolutely smitten. It’s in Lancaster Pennsylvania and was built in 1930 of local stone and German design, reflecting the regions settlers and their influences. Paul once described it has having “good bones” and it certainly does. Not only does it look like a small castle, it’s built like one. The stone isn’t some factory-contrived façade, but real stone complete with 18” thick windowsills.

I am fairly happy with the interior except the kitchen and dining room. My husband and I both agree that the kitchen is in sore need of a renovation, but things start to get a little dodgy regarding the dining room. Take a look:

Every single person, and I do mean everyone, who’s seen this room has commented positively on it and I am left standing there, jaw agape, wondering if I’m the one with the problem. I am a biologist by trade and simply do not possess the vocabulary to describe what’s wrong with this room. I just can’t articulate it. Visitors think it looks unique. I think it looks trendy. Like something that may have been all the rage six or seven years ago. Maybe the previous owners went to Lowe’s or the lady of the house found this paint pattern in Woman’s Day magazine and they decided to be clever and pick up one of those do-it-yourself kits. Throw some fir boughs around and coupled with the gold lighting and fixtures, it looks like the storefront of a hardware store mid-December. Eternal Christmas. Not my bag in the least

Or, is it just me? Is there something wrong with my tastes? This room looks like it’s trying to do formal and I think the only people that should do formal are the DeMedici’s and the Rockefellers. The kind of people that have rooms in their homes referred to as “salons” and hire full-time pool boys. For someone like me, it would only look like I’m trying too hard, so I want to keep the house looking accessible, unique and someplace where one doesn't have to be afraid to plunk a beer stien down on the table and fall into a chair.

So, dear reader, I ask you to give me some ammo so that the next time a visitor says “Ooooh! I like this room!”, I have something more substantial than “Oh really? I hate it” in my magazine with which to fire back. Alternatively, if you really like it and find that it’s a work of art, let me know and I’ll try and see your point.

28 June 2009

Away away

I'm taking off tomorrow morning and entrusting the care and feeding of this blog to Melody McFarland from I Like Pigeons Because Nobody Else Does, Kelly James from DesignTies and Franki Durbin from Life in a Venti Cup. I have no idea what they are going to write about or even when they plan to post for that matter. Letting go like this is a lot more freeing than I thought it would be.

This is a short trip. I'll be back in circulation and posting away again starting on Thursday morning. So in the meantime, enjoy these guest posts. I'm looking forward to coming home and reading them, almost as much as I'm looking forward to loosening the reins for the next couple of days.

I'm off to a place where kitchen design doesn't matter and that's kind of cool. Ciao!

That bathroom cost how much?!

One of my brothers and I had a brief e-mail exchange last week concerning a bath renovation project that fell into his lap last week. The brother in question is the king of the do-it-yourselfers. He knows what he's doing and over the years, he's done a great job on his and his family's home.

The bath project in question started out as an expedition into a wall to fix a slow leak. The home in question is 100-year-old-or-so former school that he's converted into a home for his large family. As is usually the case in an older building, fixing a simple leak is never simple and such a job rarely consists of a quick fix.

In the course of cutting into a wall to find the bad water line, he ended up with a full-blown construction site on his hands. It happens. What really got him though was how much money he ended up spending on what was supposed to have been a minor repair in a secondary bath.

I sympathized, but it's not as if there's anything I could do about the cost part. Bathroom renovations are expensive and quick fixes either don't exist or they are not something that will really improve what's already there. I get called on a lot of bath jobs, but I don't end up working on most of the rooms people call me about. I live in a part of the world with somewhat older housing stock. Older housing stock means small bathrooms. Unless a bath is being expanded or it's part of a larger renovation project, I can't make enough money on the job for it to be worth my time. That may sound haughty or cold, but so what. Even a small bath remodel requires a lot of my time, generally the same amount of time it takes to work on a larger job. I make more money on larger jobs, so it makes no sense for me to take on a time-intensive small bath.

I'm not alone in this either. Anybody who's ever tried to find a contractor or designer willing to work on a downstairs powder room knows what I mean.

Anyhow, the great Kelly Morisseau from KitchenSync had a link on Twitter yesterday and it led to a blog called Confessions of a Tile Setter. Confessions is written by a man who goes by the name of Suntango, and Suntango's Texas-based blog is filled with all kinds of insight regarding the renovation business form the perspective of a skilled tradesman. In Suntango's blog entry from last Friday, I found this:
According to an annual construction cost survey by RemodelingOnline, a mid-range remodel of a 5x7-foot bathroom averages $11,585-$14,889; for an upscale expansion of a 5x7 bathroom to 9x9-feet within the existing house footprint, costs run $35,111-$43,050. These are averages; actual costs may be higher or lower.According to an annual construction cost survey by RemodelingOnline, a mid-range remodel of a 5x7-foot bathroom averages $11,585-$14,889; for an upscale expansion of a 5x7 bathroom to 9x9-feet within the existing house footprint, costs run $35,111-$43,050. These are averages; actual costs may be higher or lower.

According to a construction survey by RemodelingOnline, a mid-range remodel of a 5x7-foot bathroom averages $11,585-$14,889.

Here in Texas that is a bit high. However, you could easily shell out $30,000 in a small bathroom with upscale materials like a heated floor, heated toilet, heated towel bars, gem quality Natural Stone Tile, upscale fixtures, TV Monitor in mirror, etc.

For an expansion of a small 5x7 bathroom to 9x9-feet or larger within the existing home, cost can easily get into the high teens to close to $30,000. Again this can escalate with added features and trades.
You can pretty much hang your hat on these figures gang. In my experience, they are dead on. If you're thinking about a bath renovation sometime soon, keep these numbers handy as you work out a budget for it.

27 June 2009

Man! Now here's a contest!

As a sure sign that times is hard, Sub-Zero is sponsoring a Dream Kitchen sweepstakes with a grand prize worth $50,000. Never in a million years would I have guessed that Sub-Zero would some day have a sales promotion of any kind, let alone a give away. But this is no ordinary sweepstakes. As with everything else they touch, they are doing this in a big way. The lucky winner of this random drawing will receive:

A Sub-Zero BI-30UG Glass Door Refrigerator/ Freezer, a Wolf 30" Gas Range and a 30" Wolf Ventilation Hood.

And if that weren't enough, the winner will get a Sub-Zero 424 Wine Chiller.

Then, they're throwing in $5,000 worth of Kohler fixtures.

And $5,000 in Ann Sacks Tile.

Three walnut swivel counter stools from Maguire.

A Shansi dining table from Baker.

Two Guild arm chairs from Baker.

Four Guild side chairs from Baker

And if all of that weren't an embarrassment of riches already, the winner will receive a years' delivery of Fiji water and 48 bottles of wine from Uncorked.com.

As I said originally, Sub-Zero does everything in a big way.

This contest is only open to folks who live in the contiguous United States and the District of Columbia. Sorry Canadian, European, Hawaiian, South American, Asian, Australian and New Zealand readers. Did I miss anyone?

So Lower 48ers, you have until August 15th to sign up for this things so get on it. All you need to do is register. There's no test or tasks involved, just register.

26 June 2009

Mosaics as art, presented by Mosaic Art Now

I mentioned Mosaic Art Now the other day in my post about the mosaic in the Bronx MTA station at Bedford Park Boulevard. Mosaic Art Now (MAN) is an organization dedicated to celebrating the mosaic as an art form. MAN was founded in 2008 by mosaic entrepreneur and artist Bill Buckingham with the publication by Mosaic Rocks Press of the first issue of the magazine, Mosaic Art Now. Since then, MAN's operational scope has grown to include a website, blog, and a Facebook page. With MAN's expansion into cyberspace, Buckingham has been joined by co-editors Nancie Mills Pipgras and Michael Welch.

Spin-off (detail), Sonia King

In its mission statement, MAN describes itself succinctly:
MAN promotes the international understanding and appreciation of contemporary mosaics through quality publications and a lively online presence. We deliver provocative and inspirational content for artists, curators, architects, designers, collectors and educators.
I applaud their efforts on behalf of this ancient and often overlooked art form. What's really cool about MAN is their devotion to the history of the mosaic while at the same time embracing how the art form is expressed today. And besides, this stuff is just cool.

Mosaic Art Now, the magazine, is a 76-page, full-color publication. As its highlight is The Mosaic Gallery, an exhibit in print featuring the works of 34 artists from around the globe. Artists whose work the editors selected for their excellence in mastery, innovation, audacity and intent. Thought provoking and educational articles about mosaics and the artists who make them round out the magazine's content. You can order a copy from Mosaic Art Now's website. This publication page also lists the magazine's back issues which are now available as CDs.

Maria, 2008 --Michael Ferris, Jr.

In addition to being a print publication, Mosaic Art Now is also a blog that combs the Internet every day to find and share interesting work and ideas. It is on MAN's blog that I found the MTA piece I wrote about the other day. Nancie writes the Mosaic Art Now Blog in a knowing, passionate voice. Her understanding and insight leap off the screen. I learn a lot about this medium through her enthusiastic descriptions and that's a good and welcome thing. Here was one of her insights into that Community Garden project from the other day:

Check out the cat's paw shadows. That considered use of tesserae flow, or "andamento" not only separates the shadows from the background, but indicates which way the sun is shining.

This is what separates the "duplicators" from the artists of fabrication. Brilliant.

I noticed the shadows when I first saw the photos of that installation, but I lack utterly the language to describe them. Or should I say I lacked them in the past tense. Thanks to MAN and Nancie, I feel like I know a bit more about all of this.

Mosaic Art Now maintains an extensive Facebook page as well. Follow this link and become a fan, I have.

Many thanks to Nancie and the rest of the gang at Mosaic Arts Now. Keep up the good work and I'll be sure to check in regularly.

A Walk with Blue, Lynne Moor