Sunday, December 28, 2014

Reno's With Rosie-The Bathroom Project

Well, with just a few days to go before Christmas and the socializing and the company coming over that the holiday's guessed it, we decided to begin the bathroom renovations. Truth be told, this first phase is a pretty small renovation, just the paint, the sink and toilet and the vanity top, but as with all things Rose related it turned out to be, shall we say....complicated!

My lovely wife loves to get a bargain and I'm all for that! But bargains can be tricky as I have learned with other projects over the years. Sometimes there is a good reason that things have been donated to the ReStore where it seems many of our renovation supplies seem to originate from. The ReStore is owned by Habitat for Humanity and according to it's website,  "All proceeds from ReStore go towards Habitat for Humanity Edmonton’s administration costs so that every dollar donated to our charity goes directly towards building homes and serving families."

So when we make a purchase at the ReStore we can be happy that it's going to a good cause but we also have to be aware that their gently used and new items might be missing the odd part or have some weird design that made someone else throw up their hands in defeat and just give the item away rather than deal with it themselves.

Take the gorgeous brand new in the box Ikea sink Rose got for 20 bucks, what could possibly go wrong with that? Well there were a few challenges, including a slightly warped porcelain sink, no easy way to fasten it down, and the pièce de résistance; no overflow drain. This lovely feature means that all of the drain kits that I have including the one that came with the tap don't easily work without a lot of monkeying around, which fortunately happens to be my specialty.
The spiffy new Ikea sink we got for $20 at ReStore.

My jury-rigged drain adapter - don't ask!

The vanity top that Rose had in mind happened to be a beautiful cherry wood table top that she scrounged from a previous job when she worked there about 15 years ago. It was the top of a broken coffee table that they were going to throw away so she rescued it from them and it sat forlornly in our basement for a few years until she decided to give it to a friend.

When we were helping to clean out that friend's garage a few years later, Rose saw it again, this time languishing away in a mouse infested garage. She rescued it for the second time and once more it sat in our basement for several more years until it resurfaced in it's latest guise as a lovely vanity top refinished with a little gray stain mixed in with the sanded down natural cherry colour.
A beautiful chunk of wood, I hope it lasts a long time.
Yes I did have to shorten it and cut a big hole in it and sand off that bulletproof cherry finish to get down to the natural grain, but at least it's now seeing the light of day once more!

When Rose first mentioned her "vision" for the bathroom I wisely choked back any misgivings that I may (or may not) have had and blithely went along, trusting and knowing that she knows what she's doing even when I don't and that between us we usually do okay.

We picked out a really nice waterfall style tap and a fancy new low flow toilet with a slam-proof, slow closing lid and 2-count em-2 buttons on top for shall we say, "different flushing requirements."
The new tap

The completed space - except for the tile back splash, floor, tub and tub surround. Phase 2 coming soon.

We also took down the old mirror and replaced it with a round, leather wrapped one that we had on hand, we cleaned up and repainted the medicine chest and replaced the toilet paper holder and towel bar.

Renovations in our home are also a fun way of traveling back in time. Paint colours that are trapped under things like mirrors and behind toilets all of a sudden reveal the startling question, "what in the heck were we thinking!"

Some of the gross old colours hidden behind the mirror.

Besides the sink and vanity top though, finding images from our trip to Italy with just the right tone of blue/green and getting them printed, framing them using our existing stock of old frames, cutting the glass and hanging them for viewing was definitely the coolest part of the reno.

I love seeing my work in print, hanging prominently on a wall, (even if it's a bathroom wall) and they do look lovely!

This all took place over just a few days in December and is a minor reno. compared to phase 2: replacing the bathtub and re-tiling the floor and tub surround with the same tile from our kitchen renovation, but it's amazing what a difference it makes.

Now it's the only bathroom I want to use and I get a little thrill every time I slam down the toilet lid and it just - ever - so - slowly - gently - closes - itself, like magic!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Ever since one of my lovely daughters (there is some disagreement about exactly which daughter it was) managed to destroy the cartridge on my old turntable about fifteen years ago, I haven't  been able to play records.

It's funny how okay with that I was at the time because before that, listening to records was a very big part of my life. I have a pretty good record collection with about 400 LP's of many different genre's and I used to listen to them often. Of course CD's came around and suddenly there were a lot of records for sale at garage sales very cheap!

A sampling of records from my collection
Over the years I ferociously resisted the efforts of my lovely wife Rose to get rid of my records and I'm glad I did. Because now after all these years I have something to play them on. My birthday was just a couple of weeks ago and when the girls asked what I wanted, I asked for a turntable (what goes around, comes around!) and now I am enjoying it immensely.

Playing these old recordings is actually a lot of fun! Of course some of them seem completely silly to me now and the lyrics can be a bit on the gritty side, but life is full of grit.

My new turntable that also rips songs to mp3 format. Thanks girls!

Some of these old recordings seem to be tied to memories going all the way back to the time when I was living at home with my parents. The very first record that I owned was a gift from my sister Cheryl and I still own it today, it is an album by the Moody Blues called "Seventh Sojourn" released in 1972, and my copy still sounds great today. 

I have memories of the first time I ever heard "Dire Straights" I think at the time I was riding in my sister's boyfriend's car, (now brother-in-law) and how much I enjoyed then and still enjoy the unique guitar playing of Mark Knopfler.

I'm sure I used to drive my brother in Law Murry crazy with my standard question when we were discussing bands. "if you like Pink Floyd, would you like________"?

I think his standard answer was "probably" because when I think about it now, it's a bit of a goofy question! Thanks Murry for being patient with your future brother-in-law.

Of course what we used to do in those days was buy an LP and then record it to a cassette tape to allow us to play it in the car and in the house without bothering to flip the record over after 20 minutes, that was definitely a pain.

The first thing I did after buying "Scarlet" my 1968 Ambassador that I got while I was in grade 12, was to put a good stereo in with a cassette player. Then I would play music in the car that I had "ripped" from my records at home. 

If you haven't roared around in a classic car with Steppenwolf's "Born to be Wild" blasting out with lyrics like, "get your motor running, head out on the highway, looking for adventure and whatever comes our way", well then you're probably not from my generation! Trust me, it was the thing to do back in the day.

Today both of my girls are among the growing number of young people who now own turntables and the beginnings of their own vinyl record collections. It's funny how these things come around again and the hunger for nostalgia and the "cool" things of the past pushes the industry to provide a way to listen to and even to rip these old recordings to mp3 format. 

Of course, this can lead to it's own set of problems such as your kids borrowing your old records.
And that reminds me, I need to get my copy of T.Rex-Slider back from April before I forget that she has it!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Saying "Goodbye" to my First 1968 AMC Ambassador

Before anyone who knows me gets worried, my lovely wife Rose is doing well and we are still happily married, "whew!"

The "first love" that I am writing about is not a woman, it is a car, the very first car that I ever owned. I have been sentimentally and some would say foolishly hanging onto her for the past 20 years or so, ever since the poor thing was unceremoniously dumped off (by me) at my parents acreage like so much scrap.

Scarlet (that's her name) came into my life on a bright sunny summer day when I was thirteen years old and it was love at first sight! I hadn't really discovered girls yet so a well turned ankle held considerably less fascination for me than did a red bucket seat with a center console and a 343 cubic inch, high compression V8 engine with a 4 barrel carb!

Scarlet and I in 1982, both of us in our prime!

So the girls in my old neighborhood of Goldbar in South Edmonton swallowed their disappointment at my distracted fascination with Scarlet and went on about their lives: a little discouraged maybe that the cute blonde fellow that lived on their block was temporarily off the market.

This is me around the time "Scarlet first became one of the family

For a 13 year old that was accustomed to his dads big 4 door Ramblers, the new 2 door, 1968 Ambassador with it's snazzy 2-tone red and white paint job seemed to be a pretty sexy, exciting mode of transportation!

Gold Bar was a very sedate suburban neighborhood in those days and the Petry household was probably about the weirdest and wildest bunch on that particular block. Between my dad "Ronnie" my mom "Bernie" and my older sisters Cheryl and Chris along with my fuzzy headed older brother "Terrible" (Terry) we all at one time or another gave our neighbors fits.

This was in the early seventies of course so a lot of people were sort of going through the whole "turn on, tune in and drop out" groovy psychedelic phase and the Petry household was not immune. Heady times, what with the moon landing a few years earlier (if you believe it was real!) and the 1972 win over the Soviets in the "Summit Series" Canada vs our arch nemesis, team USSR. Who can forget the last game in Moscow with the Canadian team coming from behind and Paul Henderson scoring the final series winning goal with 34 seconds left! Go Canada!

So for the next few years, Scarlet was a part of the Petry family and I think it was mostly my mom who drove her and of course when I was finally old enough to drive when I was in grade 11 it was mostly the red rocket that I drove. For me there was a very real emotional attachment to the car that I learned to drive in and so when a friend of my dads smashed up the front end one day, I was more than a little bit sad.

Thankfully it all turned out okay when my parents decided to give their smashed up car to me and all I needed to do was find a way to fix her up and get her back on the road. With help from my dad and his buddy "Rolly" a mechanic who worked at my dad's service station "The Saratoga" a Pacific 66 truck stop in South Edmonton we soon had her back on the road.

Of course as soon as that was accomplished my new priority was getting a great stereo system installed. In those days that meant a cassette tape player and I bucked out for a good Pioneer system that rattled a few eardrums as Scarlet cruised down the street. Ah those were the days, faux sheepskin seat covers, Appliance chrome mag wheels on "slicks" (extra wide tires with almost no tread) a leather wrapped steering wheel and Steppenwolfs, "Born to be Wild" blasting from the stereo! Sweet!

But life goes on and Scarlet being a product of the North American auto industry of the 1960's had a few reliability and utility issues and eventually I decided to park her for the duration or at least until I could afford to really do her up nice.

In the mean time I had met Rose, who I might add was never jealous of Scarlet, seeming to understand our complicated relationship. She very kindly made room for "the other woman" in my life and seemed to develop an attachment of her own to my baby.

Scarlet as she looked sitting forlornly on our driveway (for 10 long years)

The cockpit, with some of my embelishments

Kait and Lola say goodbye to Scarlet

Today's me, holding the picture of Scarlet and I taken by Rose in 1982

Speaking of babies, along came Kait and we decided that what we needed was a more reliable, modern car and Scarlet retired to my parents acreage in the Rochester area south of Athabasca and there she remained until my parents sold the place and I had Scarlet delivered to my driveway.

I wish that my kids, Kait and April had been able to go for a ride in Scarlet and had a chance to get to know her a bit but I just never had the perfect combination of money, time and inclination to rejuvenate her once again, oh well.

So after having her sitting on my driveway for the past 10 years or so, I finally gave in to the whispered words in my ear, "sell Scarlet, sell Scarlet" and I did it, I sold her down the river....or hopefully I sold her to a better home where she has at least a chance of being restored to her former glory and once again classing up the streets of Edmonton.

Goodbye Scarlet.....thanks for all the memories!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

In Pursuit of Excellence (In Photography)

"You don't make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books that you have read, the music you have heard and the people you have loved.
-Ansel Adams

Photography can be art, but strangely it is also sometimes nothing more than personal record keeping, what we might term a snapshot. Often we just want to record a moment or occasion in our lives without any attempt at creating anything more and that's okay of course, being a perfectly legitimate use of photographic technology. 

The vast majority of photographs taken on any given day are exactly that and no more, a photographic record destined for Facebook or Instagram, possibly to be "shared" or "liked" by members of the recorder's inner circle, their "friends".

But the potential, ahhh, the potential of the medium is so very vast these days, it's a bit mind blowing, that is to say, EXTREMELY INTIMIDATING!

Every time I start to think I'm making some progress towards transitioning some of my work from digital record keeping to creating art, I come across someone else's photographs that very quickly illustrate just how far I have to go. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on the perspective) photographic technology is advancing incredibly rapidly and as one technique or technology is mastered or at least partially understood, something new becomes possible. It's quite the challenge to keep up!    

I think the best thing I ever did to help my photography skills move forward was to join a photography club. If I am honest with myself I have to admit that I am guilty of being a bit of a lazy photographer (in the past). These days I am trying very hard to learn better habits and skills and to push, pull or drag my photography to a higher level.

When I first joined the St. Albert Photography Club
I was a little bit intimidated (and still am) by the skills of some of the members. Most of the members are not professional photographers, but rather they are for the most part, talented, passionate amateurs who love to learn and share their work with others.

Part of the process of a photography club is the submissions night that takes place every month during the club season. On that special night, members bring printed images, (as large as they can afford to print) up to the maximum size of 11" x 14" unframed but in a simple mat, to pit against the work of other club members.

The other way of entering is the digital submissions category and that is how I first entered the fray in an effort to determine if my images made the cut, if they would stand up to the critiquing of the other members of the club. At first I was regularly disappointed by the response to my submissions and in hind sight I see now that I often submitted badly chosen images, it was quite a revelation. 

A Non-winner from the "Country Roads" submissions theme.

It took quite a while to break into the winners circle and that only happened by accident.

When friends used some of my images in their home, they decided to re-print one of them in a larger size (because they liked it so much, wahoo!) and I asked for the old one printed at 11"x14" which was exactly the right size for submissions night.

My first winning image

I submitted it in the open category in October of 2013 and won first place, a very heady feeling let me tell you! That win ignited my renewed interest (my photo-mojo) and spurred me on to print more images, take more photos and much more carefully shoot, select and enter the various categories.

It's a lot of work planning and executing creative entries for themes such as: weathered wood, opposites, alone in a crowd, broken, fog/smoke or country roads. I've noticed though that it's good to be challenged, it's good to have stiff competition that consistently forces you to submit your best work for even a hope of having your images placing well. 

All of last season I was mentally chasing one particular individual who is consistently entering absolutely great images, technically perfect, exciting, creative and well crafted art. There are lot's of great photographers in the club, but this guy consistently submits excellent work and he makes every month even more of a challenge.

I love this one and expected it to do well......what can I say, it didn't even place but I still love it!

I called this post "In Pursuit of Excellence" because I wanted to make a point about how this kind of a challenge can be such a motivator to up your game, to push you and motivate you to spend more time thinking and creating something beautiful or meaningful that is well beyond what we might create on our own, without outside influence and a challenging environment.

You might believe that art is subjective and of course you are right, but until you have had a selection of your work critiqued by your peers (and betters) and you have truly compared your best to the best that is out there, it is very easy to convince yourself that your work is good or even great and leave it at that. 

After all, it's mine and I'm awesome, at least that's what my mom used to tell me and she should know!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A Marriage Blessing

I've been to many weddings before, including my own and I must say that the day that Rose and I got married is about the closest emotional parallel to my daughters recent wedding. Of course when your daughter gets married: emotionally, physically and financially you are bound to be heavily involved!

It started for me years ago when Kait and I (and sometimes Rose and/or April) would sit  down together and watch "Say Yes to the Dress". That's why when the time finally arrived to pick a wedding dress for Kait, I wanted to be involved. I figured I had earned it after watching dozens, or perhaps hundreds (thousands?) of wedding shows over the years.

So I was there for some, but not all of the appointments and eventually, Kait and I picked up the dress together and I was entrusted with hanging it in my "studio" and keeping it safe until the wedding. I must say that I enjoyed the process, spending time with my wife and daughters and really getting into the part of the cost conscious father of the bride.

She Said "Yes" to the dress!

Just for fun, I dived into the role. "Yes it's lovely....but how much does it cost?" 

Of course there were other aspects of the wedding to plan and when the kids announced that they were planning to have the ceremony at Nick's parents "farm" (3 acres just off of the Manning Freeway) we were excited to see it. Kait had mentioned over and over (and over) about the cute little red barn on the property that she envisioned the ceremony taking place in front of.

When we went to see it, I immediately saw that there was an even better place on the property to hold the ceremony and Rose agreed when I pointed it out to her. (Since that day, there has been some historical revision going on and now it seems everyone involved has stepped forward to take the credit for suggesting that the ceremony take place where it eventually did.)

 The truth however is that it was I who first actually said the fateful words, "let's do it over there" in the lovely spot between two rows of towering, leafy green shade trees that we later began calling, "cathedral grove."

Of course, the problem at that point was deciding how to approach Kait and Nick with our idea, (yes you guessed it, like most good things in my life, the idea was a product of a congenial collaboration between Rose and myself).

Couples planning a wedding can be notoriously difficult to influence without causing undue stress and tension so we gave the matter of how to broach the subject careful thought before spontaneously blurting out our idea at the first opportunity.

Surprisingly, it was quickly decided that "Cathedral Grove" was indeed the ideal spot and so it proved to be, absolutely gorgeous and since the wedding day turned out to be hot and sunny (+29) the shade was wonderful.

It was a beautiful day and everything went perfectly, just a few little hiccups to keep the stress level up such as being short one cable for the wireless mic for the officiant, (Nicks Aunt) but an emergency delivery by the father of one of the groomsmen quickly solved that, whew! 

The ceremony was only slightly delayed and thanks to our intrepid wedding planners Evy and Pam who did everything from setting up chairs to arranging various pretty decorations, everything else went smoothly.

No-one was brained during the smashing of the pinatas, the porta-potty didn't fall over and there was very little traffic on the road during the ceremony, all good things!
Kait, Nick and the "dog of honour" Lola

One of my responsibilities (self imposed) was to say a blessing over the marriage during the ceremony and I managed to get through it with a minimum of waterworks. It proved to be a very emotional ceremony with a lot of sniffles among the audience, and the participants. (Nick developed a curious pollen allergy that lasted the length of the ceremony) 

I enjoyed writing the blessing and speaking it over the marriage of my daughter Kait and her new husband Nick Jewell and I thought I would share it here as well for those who missed the wedding or who may have an opportunity to one day speak a similar blessing over someone they love.

Blessing Kait & Nick, July 13 2014

"Good afternoon everyone, I'm Kait's father and I asked for an opportunity to say a blessing over their marriage today. There are many ways that we can choose to bless someone, it could be as simple as "Live long and prosper." (Vulcan greeting/salute)

And that’s a good blessing, but I’m a little more ambitious than that when it comes to my daughters and when it comes to this marriage.

I could choose to bless the marriage as the father of the bride, as a couple along with my wife Rose, the mother of the bride and of course we do give our blessing to this marriage, (whew).

But you already knew that because Nick came and asked for Kait’s hand in marriage and for our blessing and we were happy to give it.

I believe it's important to speak words of blessing over people and especially over those that we love and we love our children, we love you Kait and we love you Nick as a good man and as our future, (very short time in the future) son in law.

And I believe that there is a blessing that comes from being married and today before God and all of us as witnesses, Kait and Nick will be married. And of course we're not in a church, but God doesn't live in churches, He lives right here (inside us), and right here (all around us).

So the blessing that comes from being married is a good thing, it is,'s incomplete. The full blessing available to us in our marriages is not an automatic part of being married, but instead it comes as a result of inviting God into our marriages and into our lives on a daily basis.

So Kait, as your father and Nick, as your father-in law, that is my hope and my prayer for your marriage and for your lives together. 

So now I'm going to pray and I invite you all to join with me as I invite God's blessing over this marriage.

"Love, Respect, Joy, Won't take each other for granted, Home, Children, Prosperity, Health, Unity."

Rose and I are fortunate to have two wonderful daughters and we now have a great son-in -law added to the mix. For now the immediate family consists of:
Five adults, one dog, two cats and a bunny named Basil.

It was an eventful summer, but it sure flew by fast and now the wedding pictures are in so we can enjoy re-living the adventure as we retreat indoors for the lovely Alberta winter.

Hamming it up at the shower
Barb and Rose doing the reception flowers

Making the center pieces for the reception

Monday, March 24, 2014

Renos With Rosie: This is Crazy!

A couple of weeks ago we took off for a ten day getaway to Hawaii, but as usual we did things just a little bit differently than perhaps I would like, or that might seem reasonable and sane.

Don't ask me how these things happen, I was just minding my own business, trying to keep out of trouble, (off of my wife's radar) and wham!

Our dream vacation to the lovely Hawaiian island of Maui was all booked, it should have been a nice relaxing week of packing and getting those last minute things looked after before our trip.

But how did we spend the week leading up to our flight early on a Saturday morning you ask?

We decided to refinish the kitchen cabinets! Crazy huh?

My lovely wife Rose had been dropping a few subtle hints about the far in the future (I assumed) upcoming project to refinish the cabinets. My early warning radar was apparently faulty though or I would have run for the hills at the first sign of trouble.

Rose had been talking about this miraculous "Transformations" kit that her friend Stacy uses when he renovates kitchens and she had actually already purchased a kit and set it out prominently on the counter for a few weeks. I think she uses the technique of slowly moving it around the house, placing it close to things that I like, a plate of cookies, my book, my microwave beany thing, so that I eventually loose my fear and don't react quite so strongly when she finally springs the trap.

It sounded reasonable, "we have all week, it's not hard, it will look soooooo good!"

I read the instructions, I watched the video, she talked it up how Stacy does it all the time and how it just transforms the whole room, what could go wrong?

What indeed?

If you've been following the Reno's with Rosie series you know that we are in the midst of a series of minor renovations around the house. Since the new year we have:

Repainted most of the house.
Scraped the old popcorn stipple off of the kitchen ceiling. 
(Popcorn and a movie)
Rebuilt an old table that has been in the family for a long time. 
(A table's tale)
Built a "Gallery Wall" for some of my photographs from Italy. 
(Creating the curator wall)
Started on re-tiling the fireplace hearth.
Removed part of the cabinets in the kitchen to open up the room.
And now, we've re-finished the kitchen cabinets. 

It's been a lot of fun and a lot of work and when I look into my crystal ball I see a lot more work on the horizon, a lot more!

Instead of telling you all about the process, (who's got that kind of time?) I will give you quick overview and post some pictures so you can see for yourself what we've been up to.

1. Empty out all of the cabinets and drawers.
2. Remove all cabinet doors, 20 doors plus 4 drawers and remove all hardware.
3. Clean and paint the interiors of all the cabinets.
4. Wash and "de-glaze" all of the cabinet doors and surfaces.
5. Prime all of the cabinet doors and surfaces.
6. Glaze all of the cabinet doors and surfaces.
7. Protector coat on all cabinet doors and surfaces, put it all together and blah, blah blah......
I'm bored writing all of this, it was a lot of work!

We worked every night all week until at least 10 or 11 o clock except Friday night, we finished in the afternoon, had some friends over that evening and finally packed after they left for the flight the next morning at 8:30 am.

We had some friends house-sit (cat sit is more like it) so of course there was all of the preparation for that as well, but we did have a pretty good time in Maui.

Everywhere we go we attract rain but on the plus side, the hills of Maui are much greener than they usually are this time of year! And, we saw lots of rainbows!

Before-during the removal of the "floating" cabinet, with the old paint colour.

2 drawers, one with base coat, one with glaze.

The old beige "distressed look" and the new, gross grey base coat.

Cabinets painted inside and waiting for the glaze and the topcoat etc.

Putting on the glaze (in my pajamas)

Finished: except for the floor and the baseboards and the.......

Nothing to it! Next project is probably the tile floor, I can't wait for that, NOT!
But who knows, maybe I won't have to do it if I keep my wits about me or maybe I'll find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, here's hoping.

Rainbow over Lahaina, Maui.

Click this link if you want to experience all of the fun and excitement of Cabinet "Transformations" for yourself.

Update: No, I didn't manage to avoid tiling the floor, but the good news is that I think it turned out pretty good. Check it out below.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Value of Courage

Recently I have been thinking a lot about the value of courage. I think as a society and a culture we do value courage to some extent but I also wonder if part of that is just idealism. Perhaps we believe that we aught to value courage, that courage is admirable, that courage should be encouraged and rewarded in some way.

In the spring of 1989 after hundreds, perhaps thousands of protesters were killed by government forces in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, the world watched in fascination as one man on his own confronted what seemed like the entire Chinese military machine .

I love the fact that this lone man is carrying shopping bags in both hands as he steps out in front of a long line of tanks and stops them cold.

He wasn't armed, except possibly with a bag of rice and whatever else he had picked up at the grocery store, but he saw those tanks designed for war rumbling through the streets of his city and he knew it was wrong and so he stepped off the curb and did something about it.

To a tank, one person is not an obstacle, or even a speed bump, and it could have ended quite differently, but the tanks stopped and the world watched and took heart from the outrageous courage of one man who dared to oppose the powerful.

It was a small thing really.

The tanks stopped, but after a few minutes some people pulled the man away and the tanks moved forward again as though nothing had happened and the man literally disappeared from history. 

To this day his identity and fate remain unknown and perhaps it's better that way. The "tank man" could have been any one of us on any given day, when we've "had enough" or when we just happen to be the one person in a position to stand up and make a difference.

Practically, it was a small thing and lasted only for a few minutes, but as a focal point and rallying cry after the massacre of the day before, it brought the world to the edge of their seats and taught the value of courage to a whole new generation.

It should not be lost on us that the obedience that is so ingrained in military forces and that those in power, whatever their industry or level or political stripe value so highly, prevented the simple expedient of the next tank in line simply driving around the first stopped tank. 

Obedience has it's place. The chain of command has it's place. No-one wants chaos.

But the problem seems to be that courage often leads to conflict, it often makes it uncomfortable not only for the courageous but especially for those they oppose. 

Usually it is those who have the power and have either forgotten their responsibilities or just become corrupted by that same power who the courageous must oppose and often there are unfortunate consequences when the powerful react. 

When we have the power and are in the wrong and we know it, or we are simply in love with power, prestige or position, we are likely to react with anger, fear, greed, and a desire to shut down any opposition before it threatens us. When this happens we don't care about what is right and if we still do, we are very good at convincing ourselves that our position, however wrong, is actually the right one.

I admire courage. Lately I have seen firsthand the courageous opposing the powerful and it's the courageous person who sees wrong being done and opposes it, who I admire. 

It's easy to go along with the crowd, to get swept away with "group think" and to convince ourselves that we are in the right, but it takes genuine courage to step away from the "consensus" and think for ourselves. 

When all eyes are on us, whether it's just the eyes of a room full of people or the eyes of the whole world, the temptation, the pressure, is to say, "never mind" and take our bags of groceries and go home, having done nothing and having to live with that. 

And that is a tragedy.

Watch any cartoon or read any comic book or look at actual human history for that matter and you will see that except for how courage can be exploited by them, villains always value obedience over courage. It seems that those in the wrong see courage as a threat because courage combined with clear thinking will inevitably lead to confrontation.

If someone sees that wrong is being done or is being contemplated and they understand that they not only can but should intervene and they have courage, they will act. 

The alternative is unthinkable.

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Edmund Burke

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Reno's With Rosie - Goodbye popcorn ceiling!

The day started out okay with a nice cup of coffee, reading a book, lounging around in my pj's, but.....little did I know.

After a while I heard the sound of busyness coming from the kitchen, a lot of busyness and not the pleasant baking or cooking sounds that foreshadow some kind of deliciousness eventually making it's way onto the table. These noises had a very different feel to them, a bit like that hollow feeling of anxiety (or outright terror) that the "dum dum, dum dum" sound from the movie "Jaws" produces.

The sound of furniture being dragged around produces a similar feeling in me and probably in many other husbands out there. I find myself thinking, "oh, oh, this is going to be expensive!" or "So much for relaxing!" or "I think I'll drive to Jasper for the day." I think it's time I started listening to that voice more carefully.

Back to this particular day - after a while Rose popped her head in and very kindly offered to make me a breakfast sandwich, "you better have breakfast, we're going to take the popcorn stipple off of the kitchen ceiling this morning."

"Huh?" was my clever reply. "Sure, I just watched a video on You-Tube about it and it looks really easy. (Curses to you, You-Tube, what did you have to go and do that for?)

"I left it on the computer, come and watch it." Rose called out, "I'll get things ready and we can do it together!" 

"OOOOHHHH, how fun." said my inner voice, my outside voice wisely said nothing.

But I could see the writing on the wall and actually I was excited about getting rid of the 35 year old gross, greasy, smelly popcorn stipple that should never have been sprayed onto any ceiling, let alone a kitchen!

So I surrendered gracefully and dutifully watched the video filled with some good but obvious suggestions: spray ceiling with water, but not too much! Wear a dust mask, put down a drop cloth, don't damage the ceiling, hold putty knife at 30 degree angle, catch scrapings in a paint tray, etc, etc. 

"Hey, it's not brain surgery buddy!"

4 hours later - it was all, "wow, that looks great, but I'm pooped!" It took a few tries and a little compromise to find a good system for us but we settled on this: Rose sprays the water and wipes excess off the walls, I climb up and scrape the ceiling emptying the tray into the bag that she holds for me and then I go and rest while she sprays the next section and so on.

The hanging cabinet is coming down.

The biggest conflict was trying to get her to wear a dust mask, it went something like this: Rose - "I (cough, cough) don't, (cough, cough) need one, this house is (cough, cough) only 35 years old, there's no asbestos!" Me - "you need to wear one, look, I'm wearing one, didn't you hear him in the video, there could be asbestos, at least keep out of the kitchen while I'm scraping!"

But eventually she found an old one and put it on, (the top of her head) but it finally found it's way down to her mouth and that made me happy, she looked so cute.

We ended up scraping about 20 pounds of stipple off of the ceiling and it really brightened up the room. Last week on my day off we took down a floating cabinet that hung right over the counter, blocking a lot of light and making it hard to properly make use of the counter top. That made a huge difference and really let the light in and made the kitchen look more open and modern. 

A few weeks ago we did the gallery wall in the living room and converted an old coffee table into a dining table, (see previous blog posts) and painted about half of the house. Rose also got a hold of an old leaning shelving unit at the Re-store that we mounted in the hallway and now holds some of our antique book collection and some old cameras of mine.

So all in all, the renovations and redecorating are coming along nicely.

Last week we were lucky enough to have a friend in the machine shop business make us a cool piece of decor from an old gear that came out of a big truck transmission and it looks great in the living room! It kind of matches the huge train station style clock that we mounted over the mantle. 

Another interesting, (and weird) bit of decor that we added recently is my dad's old collection of bowling pins and bowling balls, I would call them, "quirky but cool." My father Ron owned "Continental Engineered Bowling Supplies" way back in the sixties and we kept a few things from that era so it's fun to be able to display them now in a place of honor. 

Future projects: as soon as we can get a hold of a big enough tile cutter we've got a whole bunch of tiling to do on the hearth in the living room, the kitchen floor and the bathroom floor and the tub surround, so we have that to look forward to, "Yay, Not!"

But the truth is, it's kind of fun to get these things done and they're usually not as bad as my overactive imagination makes them out to be, thanks to my lovely, creative wife. 

But when she married me, little did she know...... 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Reno's with Rosie - A Tables Tale

There once was a table, a beautiful, round, mission style, tiger oak, wood dining table. This table had a good home, it was well looked after and it was happy. Then something happened. The table didn't know what it had done wrong, all it knew was that it was thrown out of the house, discarded like it was just some piece of mass produced particle board junk furniture. 

They hauled it outside and threw it into an old coal shed, dirty, dusty, dry and crawling with mice and other vermin. There it sat for many years, wondering, wondering what it had done wrong. Over time, parts of it were lost, the beautiful expansion leaf, gone! Now it wasn't even complete, instead of seating 8 or ten happy people, the best it could ever do was maybe 6. 

After many years had passed, a strange thing happened, people came into the dusty old storage room and picked up the table and carried it out into the sunshine and clear air, it could breathe again!

The new people loaded up the old table into the back of a black rambler, a 1972 AMC Ambassador and they drove off with the table inside. It never even looked back.

The new people seemed nice, "Ronnie and Bun" they were called, sometimes Bun and sometimes Bernice, it was all so confusing for the table, but it didn't care, it was going to a new home. Maybe there would be kids!

The new man, "Ron" then did a strange and alarming thing, he started up a saw and chopped off part of the base that made the table a table, now it was a tiny little short, useless, "coffee" table and they hauled it down into the "rumpus room" with the hideous wood paneling all over the place and they put their feet up on the table. "Oh no", the table thought, "this is almost like being in the coal shed."

In time, the table became one of the family and it was happy as a coffee table, almost. When the kids grew up and got married and moved out, it was still okay because now the table was old too. When Ronnie and Bernice moved to the acreage, "leisure acres" they called the place, they took the table with them. When they got sick and moved off of the land into a condo in Westlock, one of the few things that came with them was the table.

When they finally passed away, the table was worried. Would this be the end?

But no, someone wanted the table. A good looking young-ish couple (named Doug & Rose) came and loaded it up into a mini-van and drove it back to Edmonton. "Oh oh" the table thought as it was hauled down to the basement storage room, "Is this the end?"

There were no mice this time but there was a fuzzy feline that looked at it funny, "what was that cat thinking? Was it planning something bad?"

This time the wait was short, only a few years passed before one day the lady came down and looked at the table, "my, she is looking good" the table thought to itself.

A few days later she came back again with the man, they talked and he tried to talk her out of her plan, "we have a perfectly good table" he said, "that's true, but it doesn't owe us anything and this one will be great again if you can fix it and extend the base. You can do it, can't you Dougie? You are so talented, you can do anything!"

The mans stern expression seemed to soften and he squinted in concentration at the table as she squeezed his arm and smiled winningly at her handy husband.

"It wouldn't be hard, if we got a good piece of solid oak and made a new box, we could extend it back to it's original height."

The table listened hopefully, excited that just maybe it was getting another reprieve!

The man and woman went away for a time and then one day, they returned. They cleared a space and rolled the table top out and carried it upstairs. The table glimpsed a fine piece of oak sitting against the wall and did some quick calculations. "Yes! Exactly enough good quality oak to rebuild the base and bring it once again back to life as a proper table, of a proper height, elbows yes, but no more feet!"

And now, the rebuilding story in pictures.

The table (as a coffee table)  at Doug & Roses gift opening in 1983
Our $50 piece of solid oak waiting in the kitchen,
thanks Windsor Plywood!
The operation begins, "anesthetic please."
Table top #222 looks on anxiously.
Ouch, I hope I can figure out how this goes back together.

Building the extension, good old elmers glue.

Now it's back together, time for some stain.

Stained, waxed and waiting for people. 
(elbows only, no feet!)

Looking good, all oiled, waxed and happy again!

That is the story of a table that returned to life, bringing joy and happiness to one and all!

The End (or is it?)