Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Different Kind of Labour

On Saturday morning, I woke up at 6 a.m. I hate waking up early on days that I don't have to work. Eventually I got up and got to work putting a 2nd coat of paint on the kitchen wall. But my mind kept wandering to my friend Denise who was labouring away at St. Mike's hospital. Around 9:30 a.m., with a paint roller in my hand, I heard the exciting news from Ally, the labour co-coach, that the baby had finally arrived! William (Liam) Elliott Brodie Brown was born around 6:20 a.m. to proud parents Denise and Ian. Weighing in at 7 lbs and 13 oz, he's a healthy little baby who took his time arriving.

I got to see Liam when he was less than half a day old. I was there for his first bath, first feeding and also took his first movie. I was there to help out but also to get some details to report to the world. After two days of labour, the new family needs a rest and requested no visitors. So, I am very honoured to be the family spokesperson. It is such a joy to be the bearer of such wonderful news. Everybody loves to hear about a new baby.

Child labour -- it is quite something. It is hard to believe that women keep doing it. You see the new mom's in the hospital and they all have that weary look of shock on their faces. I am a proud Aunt, but I am BBC - Barren By Choice. (I must credit my friend Kara for coming up with this term. We're planning to get t-shirts too.) And there are a few BBCers in Denise's circle, which is quite handy, cuz that adds up to more well rested babysitters and errand runners. I've even offered to do light housekeeping. Heck, anything but pushing out one of those kids. Yikes.

I'd like to dedicate this post to Ally, Denise's birthing coach. Denise was fortunate to have her on the team and stood with her thru the days of excruciating labour. Ally likes it when I blog about something beyond my kitchen which I think she finds boring. So now I have little Liam to write about and photograph, which is good, since the kitchen is almost done and Ally loves babies.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Mayhem on Montrose - The Ditch Witch

I think that it is a bad sign to come home from work and find an abandoned trailer loaded with a roll of yellow pipe sitting in front of your house. It makes you wonder what the city is up to now.

Our short time on Montrose has been rife with construction. The day that we moved was the day that they decided to tear up all the pavement and dig around in the sewers or water main. I'm not entirely sure what they were doing, but I did have to pay my movers for an extra hour while they sat at the end of the street watching the construction, since the could not get their truck past the work. The de-pinking of the door and pillars was delayed while waiting for the street to be repaved. Then the day before I left on my canoe trip, they dug an 7' deep hole in my garden, destroying all the back breaking work I'd done cultivating and planting. So you can imagine my worry when I see spray painted lines all over the sidewalks, and now this!

I was shuffling off to work this morning in a near blizzard, listening to the roar of machines in the near distance. There were 8 big trucks parked at the south end, all of them up to different destructive behaviour. One machine was drilling holes in every body's yard and then the guys covered it with a plywood square. Then a backhoe passed by. All this to replace the gas lines, I guess. Right now they are working on the east side of the street, so my tulip bulbs and lilac bush are safe for a few more days, but will they survive this next attack?

I got to the end of the street to see the biggest and meanest looking machine in their crew: the Ditch Witch. I wanted to take a photo, but I was intimidated by the half dozen men standing around it. So I went online and found this image which is even better. What does a construction crew need more than a shapely woman perched on a shovel, flying past an orange moon? Maybe the fellas were staring at me wondering where my shovel/broom was, not because I had a camera. But better than the name and sexy logo is the fact that they offer a platinum card for their customers with 3 months at no interest. I mean, how many people actually buy this equipment?

I am scared of the Ditch Witch and what it might do to my garden. Lord only knows what they are up to right now. All that yellow pipe may be in the ground already. Only time will tell. Let's just hope that their isn't a gas explosion like there was last week up at St. Clair and Mount Pleasant, where a house was destroyed and a woman lost her life. Compared to that, losing a few plants is not really that big of a deal.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Grouting: It is like learning the Cadbury Caramilk secret

I previously looked at tiled surfaces with very little interest. I had no idea what grout was or how it was placed so neatly into the spaces between all the tiles. Was it put on when you install the tiles to keep them evenly spaced, or was it just the extra adhesive stuff that oozes out when placing the tiles? Well, I can tell you that finally learning the grout mystery is akin to learning how Cadbury gets the caramel into the Caramilk bar - enlightening but trival.

My friend the internet taught me how to grout. I purchased the powdered grout and mixed it up in my own kitchen, then spread it on to fill the spaces using a basic tool called the "grout float", which is nothing more than a rectangle with a handle. Then you wipe off the excess with a damp sponge and wait for it to dry. Yes, it is that easy. But, it is time consuming, as my 24 square feet of glass mosaic tile represents 3,456 individual tiles. So we had to smear the grout between all 3,456 tiles and then wipe each one off a few times, to make sure that the grout does not ruin the sparkly appearance. I must say we because Dan got into it pretty heavy with the grout float, ensuing that each and every crevace was filled, giving himself with a nasty blister.

So with that mystery solved, I decided to ask my all-knowing friend the internet what it knows about the Cadbury Caramilk secret. Alas, I found a posting from 1996 with a simple yet cool animation and full explanation that unlocks the mystery, and has a wonderful artist's rendering of a Mikrovert ™ chocolate shell moulding plant. This is all very cool but it would be better if I could do it myself, like grouting. Now since the Cadbury plant is only a few blocks west of us, and our neighbour's son works there, maybe a trip to the factory is not really beyond grasp. But will they let me put the caramel into the chocolate shells myself? Doubtful.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Installing Glass Mosaic Tiles

Step 1: Buy 50 lbs of white thin-set and 9.48 litres of mortar admix, because that is the smallest quantity that you can buy it in. (This will cover 120 square feet - we are covering 24 square feet. I think we'll have a bit left over if anybody needs some!)

Step 2: Measure the amount of powder thin-set that you think you'll need by weighing it on your bathroom scale. (We opted for 10 lbs.)

Step 3: Put on your dust mask, goggles and rubber gloves, pour the toxic liquid admix into the power and stir like mad. Avoid inhaling deeply. (note: goggles provide better protection when they are over your eyes, not your hair!)

Step 4: Using a putty knife, smear the thin-set onto the wall where the first tile should go. Using a v-notched trowel, scrape the thin-set so that it creates ridges.

Step 5: Try to steady your shaking hands while you grasp one of the 12x12 tile sheets (that's 144 little tiny tiles per sheet) and place it on the designated spot. Slide it gently to get it level both horizontally and vertically. Press it down gently so that each little tile makes contact, but not too much so that the thin-set oozes between the tiles. (Thin-set between tiles is bad, because that is where your grout is supposed to go.)

Step 6: Repeat steps 4 and 5 until the surface is covered in tiles. Use tiny plastic spacers in attempt to keep the sheets uniformly spaced and level.

Step 7: Throw out the remaining thin-set before it hardens in your bucket. Wash off your brand new counter top and sink, removing all the stray thin-set, and wash all your trowels and tools.

Step 8: Marvel at how good it all looks while enjoying a victory beer. Worry about the next step, when you have to peel the plastic layer off the surface of the tiles without pulling the tiles off the wall (but do not attempt this for several days, when you believe that the tiles are permanently adhered to the wall). Also worry about the upcoming grouting process.

For detailed instructions, read this website. This is where I learned everything that I know about glass mosaic tiles.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

How to Cut Glass Tile

Do you know how to cut glass tiles? Well, neither did I -- until today. In the tile store, they told me that all I needed was a glass cutter, which I have. I figured that it couldn't be that hard, until I was standing there with a ruler and cutter in my hand and an inventory of priceless tiles. Despite my internet research, I had no idea how to get started. After two failed attempts, and a few fruitless phone calls to hardware and tile stores, we hit the road looking for the ultimate tile cutter.

Everyday on my way to work, I pass by a small store on Dundas St. W at Manning Ave. (just west of Bathurst) that does Mirror and Glass. Why not try there? An unassuming storefront full of tacky mirror is just a front for a busy back room, buzzing with activity. A very friendly woman greeted me and then taught me how to use the glass cutter. She took out a scrap of glass and showed me to score and then snap the glass. Humm. It really was as easy as it looked on the internet. But, she took it to the next step by getting me to try it myself. She corrected my technique, showed me again, and then it was my turn again. After four tries, I pulled out one of my coveted mosaic tiles, and she took a try at it. The key to cutting a tile that is smaller than one square inch, is in the pliers. She had these great 1" pliers, which worked perfectly, but she would not part with them. I offered to rent them for the day. I explained that I pass by there every day on my way to work, but she refused to part with her #1 tool at any price. While I already had the exact cutter at home, I thought that for the lesson I should buy something. So, I settled for the glass cutter which set me back a full $3.50.

Armed with my new technique, I returned home ready to cut those glass tiles. Just like she said, I dipped the cutter in vegetable oil and then did a quick firm score, and then snapped the tile with pliers. Much to my surprise - it worked!!!

I spent the rest of the day marking off the horizontal and verticals for the tile sheets, and cutting the tiles for the edges and around the outlets. So, we are ready to go. Tomorrow will be the day - the day that we stick the tiles to the wall. Will it be as low tech and nerve wrecking as the tile cutting?

#1 recommendation: if you need any glass or mirror cut, go to the place on Dundas West. She was very helpful and extremely affordable.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Montrose Ave: The Movie

Do you ever walk down the street and think that you're in a movie? You look around and you find yourself surrounded by characters brimming with life, and you think - hey, isn't that one of the guys from the Soprano's? It's like taking a walk through central casting on MGM's backlot. Or better yet, like being in Nanni Moretti's film, Caro diario. Moretti's movie is a whimsical love letter to Rome, containing three vignettes from his own life. It inspires you to book a flight to Rome, or to try making your own film.

Today it is -15C, so neighbourhood life is stunted to a brief hello when you're out shoveling snow. But I remember back to those warm summer evenings, when the ice cream truck would roll by every night at exactly 5:10 p.m., blaring that ice cream music that delights children, yet gives adults shuddering memories of horror movies. My front porch was like a movie screen, where I could sit back and watch the drama unfold. It is like a drive-in without the car. Neighbours stand at the end of their walkways and chat with one another, or shout take it ease from their front porches to passersby. But since this movie has no subtitles, I'm not really sure what's going on, because all the dialogue is in Italian or Portuguese. So, I just make up my own version of what's going on.

Well, you can only imagine my delight when I recently discovered that there already is a film called Montrose Ave, and it is all about my Montrose Ave. A friend saw a post card for it at a film festival and grabbed one for me. I checked out their website and see that there are two people in my neighbourhood who love the street even more than me. They have created the most charming hommage to the place that they've called home for over nine years. I just love it! The pictures on the website are reminiscent of my front porch summer drive-in. You can visit the Montrose Ave webpage to read all about the film, the filmmakers, and even better, to view a clip. (

How cool is it when your Money Pit is located in such a great neighbourhood that somebody has gone and made a film about it - a time capsule of the Montrose Ave before full on gentrification takes over. I can't wait to see it.

(Photo Credit: Montrose Avenue ©2006 Pat Shewchuk, Marek Colek)