Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Summer DIY Projects - a new deck for out back entry

All I can say is, we should have done this years ago... about a thousand dollars of investment and labour and we love it to bits. The new deck is getting so much use, it helped us appreciate this summer better than any other year. 
Below are some before and after pictures...
Before: Back entry before the deck
Design: Planning the deck to not require a permit application which means keep it under two feet high and not attach it to the house so that differential movement does not damage either structure.
Kaya and Alex tacking in the boards to keep them from twisting overnight - three to five screws each. later Alex would secure the remaining screws.

Construction: Tara helping put in the stair treads. we used the kids plastic slide as a step ladder during construction. we used off-ends for risers for easy snow removal - as you will see in later images.

All finished and decorated - I love the green plastic Adirondack style chairs and yellow benches that we refinished from discards years ago.
We added some christmas LED lights for the night-time enjoyment - you can just about read by them.

Alex was very proud of his handy work, so was I. notice the risers are cut so we can shovel off snow easier.

Tara on a Saturday afternoon

Seasonal flowers

Enjoying our new outdoor living room with family

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The New Floors! - Why, it's a new HOUSE!!

2 parts Red Mahogony and 1 part Ebony stain
warm brown with grades of grey
neutral, modern but with a nod to traditional

Main Hallway with new quarter round moulding - which was a story unto itself.

We bought a 50s house with 90s carpets all over. It was white once, many moons ago, but after 8 years of dog and kids and associate spills and mishaps it would never be the modernist canvass that a white carpet can aspire to be. It took us eight years of second guessing to pull up the carpet to reveal heavily waxed but great red oak floors under neath. pulling out the carpet and the million associated staples was literally a pain in the back. It took us about a month to get it all out of the house, and we are still getting rid of the carpet rememnants... one load at a time.

But oh the new floors, they are so awesome! Smooth, clean, shiny... (Mocha is not happy with them, but then his furry feet find no purcchase on these new floors) and despite what people said, we only sweep our dark hardwood floors once a week or so.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Annual Jackson Family Letter 2013


Winnipeg plowed through 11 million dollars in snow clearing in January alone of 2013, twice their anticipated budget. A further casualty of old man winter that month was Alex's little car. Hidden behind massive snow banks and any signs of roadway obliterated by freshly fallen snow, Alex got T boned by a truck coming out our back lane. Tara's broken finger was the only human casualty, but her cast was quite the hot accessory at school (no pun intended). We got a respectable 4x4 SUV to replace the little compact car and now completely embody the Winnipeg suburban family unit.

The kid's grand parents moved out this summer and we quickly got over the empty nest syndrome. It was a double blessing as it gave Tina a reason to spend countless hours at IKEA.

This was also the year that we finally pulled out all the old carpet and a thousand staples and had our hardwood floors refinished. It was the best decision we ever made. Our only regret was that we hadn't done it sooner.

As usual our summer was spent soaking up the sun at home and at the cottage. Kaya and Tara both love the water and we got in some canoeing this year at Coney Island. K and T also had a blast travelling to Minneapolis for a completely child centric mini vacation (water parks, amusement parks, Lego land and Minneapolis children's library). Tara had a great soccer season.
This summer Kaya transitioned into a big girl bed in a bedroom shared with big sister Tara. Despite Alex's misgivings the transition has worked out great and the sisters are closer than before. Kaya also transitioned into Tara's awesome daycare and our lives are so much simpler for it. Kaya continues to be her amazingly clever self, speaking in complete sentences, rocking jigsaw puzzles and slowly moving towards toiletting independence.

Tara remains utterly sweet and generous with her peers and sister, showing emotional intelligence beyond her years. She had started to read level one books by the end of kindergarten and in the last month she has moved up to chapter books. I am thinking of introducing her to Tolkien... Also she is a pretty good story writer/illustrator herself. These days she is working on mastering "carry overs" in addition and multiplication tables. We are glad that the Manitoba curriculum has gone back to traditional math! Her latest passion is making elastic band bracelets on her home made loom. She's been making one for everyone in her classroom; did I mention she was generous?

Tina moved into a management role this year with Manitoba Housing's Asset Management team. She is managing a group of professionals and developing technical skills in-house, from scratch. It brings a cartload of new challenges, skills to master and wisdom to develop, but, it also comes with a sense of doing some good in our communities and opportunities that come from having a blank slate.

Alex started out the year teaching at a Catholic private school and they invited him back for another extended term in September that runs into the coming new year. He's well liked and making a difference in the school by taking on extra responsibilities, providing the students coaching in composition, running the book fair...

As our very busy year draws to a close, we are hoping to connect with friends and family again. We hope the bitter cold of December also brings some light and joy in your homes. We discovered new things, learnt new skills, overcame setbacks and all-in-all, we had a good year. We hope the new year is just as good to all of us. Happy 2014.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

R.I.P. Dear Versa and Of Perils of Winter Driving

"Winnipeg has already plowed through close to half of its annual snow-clearing budget after last month's heavy snowfall.

This morning, city officials revealed it cost Winnipeg about $11 million to clear snow from city streets in January - nearly twice as much as the $6 million they originally budgeted for."

Well apart from the budget casualty, one of our two cars fell prey to winter driving this year. Alex was just coming out of the back lane one morning in January, flanked by two massive snow banks on either side, following a night of light snowfall when POW! This minor snowfall had as usual obliterated all evidence of curbs, ruts and street markings and Alex was taking Tara to daycare in a bit of a rush when he got T-boned (side impact collision) by a rather large pick up truck. Neither of them saw the other coming, the truck was large, white and camoflaged amidst the freshly fallen snow and Alex's Nissan Versa was shorter than the 8 foot tall snowbanks.
"It was POP! and then we kind of swooped and I was dizzy"

This is very similar to what Alex's car looked like except it was bashed in on both sides  by the truck and a hydro pole. Actuall this is fairly familiar site that you pass by on winter mornings, thanking your lucky stars that it wasn't you today.

That is how Tara describes the collision, three airbags went off and the only injury was a broken middle finger for T. The Nissan however, we could tell, was history. Our insurance adjuster calculated that it would be $15K to fix our dearly departed (It had only cost us $14K to buy new...). The two driver side doors were crushed from the impact, three airbags had deployed, side mirrors smashed, and the car had been turned and pushed into a electric pole and the large snowbank on the opposite curb, collapsing the passenger side quarter panel as well as the front fender... only thing untouched on the outside was the hatch and the roof! We knew before the car was towed away that that was the last ride in it for Alex.
the Versa at the Manitoba Insurance "graveyard"
I actually saw this happen as I drove up 45 seconds behind Alex, not realizing it was them till I saw Alex scamper out of the car... that should tell you how high the snow banks were.

I hear my dad saw 5 cars in ditches that evening on his way back from work. If we could sue the city for damages I would consider a class action suit for all the car crashes. This happens every year and after every fresh snow fall around the city. The plows clear the streets and pile the snow on curbsides making visibility at crossings impossible!! Now a month later, I am still driving blind at intersections, on severly snow-rutted roads that seem to push the cars towards each other in an inexorable collision course. However, as a result of the car crash, we now own a bigger (higher) and brighter (red) vehicle with four wheel drive. I cannot say enough good things about side impact airbags and carseats though: they kept the daddy and daughter safe - which we are all thankful for. The new RAV4 is supposed to be our answer to our winter reality. This is why Winnipeggers are cross every January-February... the wonder of winter wears off with the twelve days of Christmas to be replaced by snowy-slippery-rutted roads to be follwed by slushy, gravelly, icy, pot-holey, mucky roads of March. If you go off on a holiday to escape the winter doldrums, you often come home to your car moated and buried under snow and a slew of parking ban tickets.... grrr.
Notice the yellow ticket sticking out for the overnight parking ban and that grey snow is hard-as-rock stuff and heavy to boot, heart attacks are not uncommon from trying to manually clear this concrete like snow.
Good luck to any pedestrian trying to walk home from the bus stop, on the street with next to nothing visibility.

O, can you tell that I hate Spring! And as if that is not enough, the snow ploughing on the sidewalks is everybody's last priority forcing pedestrians down onto the slippery streets. Motorists hate it because they are sometimes unable to control their vehicles due to the snow ruts and the black ice that forms on the roads from the tires compressing and polishing the snow at every intersection... and when all this now is gone we'll have a fresh crop of potholes to deal with in April. JOY.

About Me

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Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
I am a forty-something mom of two girls, an architect by profession and an avid sci-fi and My Little Pony fan. I love to cook, but only occasionally and am in the middle of rediscovering my heritage through food.