2012, A Year in Review

For me, 2012 was a bad year. Between a host of medical issues (brutal chest cough that led to pulled muscles, to appendicitis, to strep throat, a couple nasty colds-cum-killer flus, and a minor outpatient surgery), ridiculous amounts of stress, the ever-present struggle of being a parent to young children, a general malaise, and an unfulfilled burning need to travel, it’s truly a wonder I got out of bed in the morning.
So it wasn’t with any reservation that 2012 walked out of my life on Monday night, yet it still managed to leave me rather depressed. Sadly, 2013 woke me up looking already a lot like 2012, so I’m not sure if I’m able to look at this new year with much hope yet. Instead, I suppose I shall have to try harder to make things work more my way.
This not to say that I “didn’t like” 2012. It’s hard not to like an entire year in one’s life, especially one that brings so many new things to learn and experience. I just wish it hadn’t been so darned painful…
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A long-overdue renovation update

Yeah, the renovations are still going. You’ll know when they’re done — thar’ll be a “we’re done” post, which will include before/after shots. But until then, please understand that we’re poking along pretty slowly at this point, with only little things being done, and most of the remaining “big” stuff (notably painting, furniture placement, and decorating) solely being in our hands.┬áSo yes, this is all for you, Therese…
Some of our work is dependent on when some of the other renovation work is completed (we can’t finish painting until the drywalling is complete), some is dependent on time (when you have two small kids running around, it’s hard to paint), and then there’s this minor illness that’s temporarily sidelined me. Y’know, the usual stuff.
Okay, so where did we leave off?
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Renovation update: no, we're not done yet

So the fun continues. Still. Things aren’t done, though our kitchen it, at least, mostly functional. (Except for the mechanical dishwasher. The backup dishwasher works fine, mind you it’s hard to type after washing all those dishes.)
The new doors are hung, but without handles it’s a little hard (read: painful) to open closet doors, and we can’t actually close any other doors since … well, there’s no handles. The kitchen cabinets are still missing a couple of doors, which are hopefully going in soon, and some drywall is still needed around the new closet door framing.
But at least we can live in the place…
That’s the key thing, really. Live. It’s not perfect live, yet, since we’re also painting. (And that’s “we” as in Alex and I, not the contractor.) The painting is a bit of a sticky point at the moment, since we’re having issues choosing a paint colour, and matching other colours. We need/want something good, and we’ve got a wall we rather like. Alex has already done the ensuite, and the main bathroom will get its update once all the other painting is done.
Left on the list? Living room, what’s remaining of the kitchen walls (not many), all the baseboards, the new doors, and touch-ups here and there. And then, hopefully, the reno will be done, done, done and live officially continues as it did back when all this mayhem started.
Which would be nice. Because mayhem isn’t remotely as fun as it sounds…

The kitchen reno may yet kill me…

So here we are on Day Whatever-I’ve-Stopped-Counting, and we’re still going. As you may imagine, I’m a tad stressed. Things just seem to … keep not going the way I want them to go. (Notably in the fact that what should take very short periods of time — in my mind — goes undone for days.)
Today just added more salt to the wound, with things that didn’t necessarily go wrong so much as things that went unexpected. I like surprises, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a world of difference between people leaping out from behind a couch, and having your hopes dashed by a change.
It would be nice for this to all be over…
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How to really succeed in (any) business

Recently, if you’ve been following this blog, you know my family has been going through a kitchen renovation. It’s not quite done, but it’s turning out very nicely, and we really, really, really cannot wait for it to be all over and done. It’s not that it’s been particularly frustrating — inconvenient for day-to-day life, maybe — it’s just that it’s extra stress that I really do not want.
The entire process has really reinforced my belief that if you want to succeed in business, you need to do two things well: Communicate, and set expectations. If you do nothing else right, these two will save your ass, not to mention help you get out of the mess you got yourself into.
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Renovating: a word on LED lighting

For our renovation project, one thing we decided to do was take the leap to using LED-only lighting. This is a trend we started a couple of years ago, just as commercial LED bulbs were really coming available. It’s something we strongly believe in, and something I think everyone should consider.
Are they cheap? No. A standard incandescent bulb is easily 10-50x cheaper. A compact fluorescent (CFM) bulb at least 10x cheaper. Halogen (usually) gives off more light. And you’re still a little limited on options in terms of dimming and colours, and so forth.
So why do it? Because you should.
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Kitchen reno, day 22

I’d like to say the end is in sight. I really would. But I’m still struggling with little things that just aren’t getting done. The “finisher” has been MIA for over a week now (I keep expecting Mr. Wolfe to show up at my door), which would help get the cabinets get past the “merely installed” state. The lights are in, but the basement lights are still out for some inexplicable reasons. The wood flooring still isn’t all done. Doors were supposed to be hung Saturday, and only now our contractor’s realised that they’re odd sizes and it’s not that easy…
Yep, it’s a typical renovation, alright!
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Home, half-assembled home

Well, our time out of the house has finally come to pass, and we’re back under a mostly-familiar roof. The roof itself is intact, and save for a taped-over vent hole (no longer in use) — it’s the inside that’s still in disarray.
The renos are still on-going, and while we might be quite a ways further a long than when we moved out three week ago, we’re still a ways from having our house complete, functional, and dust-free.
But at least it’s our house.
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Kitchen reno, day 17

The progress has been slower the last few days, but we’re ramping up to another major push. On Saturday, the ceiling in the kitchen was mudded, and then knocked down on Sunday. The walls were patched, and some plywood laid down in preparation for tiling. In many ways, it felt like we were building up to the climax of a great action film.
Have I mentioned that Alex and I have seen the Bourne Trilogy, like, a hundred times? We know how a good climax should go.
Not that I’m hoping for someone to come crashing through my front door or something (although if Alex has her way, that’s next).
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Kitchen (and living room and bathroom) reno, day 13

Earlier today, I was tired and depressed. Tired from having to live outside of my own home, worn down by the complete breakdown in schedule and regularity, and worry that things aren’t exactly going according to … well, not so much plan as “expectation”. And I’ll freely admit that my expectation is (was, and remains) out-of-whack.
Budget’s the big thing. I know it’s gone WAY past what I expected (see above note), but I also understand and respect that we’ve pushed it that way for a hundred reasons — none of which I disagree with, or don’t look forward to. Just that it’s more weight than I wish to carry. But, in the grand scheme of things, it’s something I know I’ll move past before too long.
The other issue is schedule. Now, for the record, I’m in no way suggesting that this reno is moving slowly. Given that it hasn’t even been two weeks yet, this reno’s clocked at a rate that seems almost unimaginable (especially when envisioned from the perspective of doing it myself). Walls removed, floors pulled, wiring ran, plumbing … plumbed, patches made, surfaces smoothed, structure reinforced, and so on and so on and so on. It’s almost inhumanely fast.
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Kitchen reno, day 9

This is one of those days when I really had to sit back, after a beer, and really think hard about how much this entire process must mirror my day-to-day work life, only that I’m the client, and I’m making the requests that normally drive the person on the other end nuts.
Or rather, I would, except that I know damned well that there’s a fair share of communications failure on the other end, and it’s not from a lack of us trying to keep things straight and even. (That said, having talked with some of the guys doing the work, this is normal within the renovation/contracting biz. Go figure.)
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Kitchen renovation, day 8

Just over a week ago, our kitchen officially went out of commission. Today, it looks oh-so close to being functional once again. Considering the short period of time, and some of the challenges that have come up, I’m rather amazed at the progress (and pleased with the results thus far).
At the same time, I’m starting to get worried. I can see what remains. I know how things tend to get rushed towards the ends of projects, and how corners get cut. I know how things can go from “good” to “okay” to “terrible” in a shockingly short period of time.
I’m hoping I’m way, way wrong.
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Renovations, Day 6

It’s not even been a week, and the changes at the house are so dramatic as to be unrecognisable at the moment. Given, that’s largely due to the things that have been torn out. But that alone would not produce drama — for that, we’d also have to have a few misunderstandings, bouts of miscommunication, and a few problems.
But above all else, we have progress. Dramatic progress.
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The kitchen reno moves along

Well, since I last wrote, much has happened in the house. In our previous installment, the floors were starting to come up. Since then, a lot as happened, and we’ve had the prerequisite miscommunications, strange discoveries, and mild panic attacks (from us, the client — our contractor is likely annoyed as hell with us at this point).
But if there’s one thing I can say, we have progress. Lots of it.
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The floors start to disappear

Funny thing. Yesterday, when we’d thought the renovations were due to start on Tuesday (that’d be tomorrow), we weren’t exactly in a pressing need to finish getting certain appliances and a massive table out of the kitchen. Instead, we did what we could before passing out, exhausted, in bed. (Which, of course, didn’t last all night, as Choo Choo woke up crying because she wasn’t in her crib and was completely in the dark.)
It’s funny, because at just after 13:00 today, I got a series of text messages from Alex saying the floor was coming out of the kitchen. The same floor that wasn’t supposed to be coming out until tomorrow. This, of course, soon turned into bits of frustration, as I was already struggling with my project at work, and suddenly my home was under attack.
It’s very safe to say that I’ve had better/easier days.
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Kitchen goes bye-bye

Well, if you read the note about Choo Choo’s birthday, then you know that we did a little bit of the reno work today. The single most major part of our reno work upstairs is the kitchen, and it’s basically getting stripped right down to the floor — the subfloor, that is. So that means everything needs to come out, and that’s an opportunity to try and make back a few bucks on our rather large reno bill.
Thankfully, Alex — the Queen of Kijiji — found a buyer for our cabinets, who was quite happy to take them off our hands. We didn’t get a lot for them, but when all’s said and done, we’re up on their disposal, rather than being further in the hole. Not that they’ve eliminated the total cost of the reno…
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Upstairs Reno: The fun begins!

Well, about five years ago, we bought our current house. We knew that when we moved in, we were going to make changes. Our plans were lofty, and while we didn’t hold true to all of them (the tankless hot water wasn’t much of an option at the time), we did succeed in totally tearing out and rebuilding the basement — the single biggest thing to start with.
Then we moved to Costa Rica for a year and a half. When we got back … well, we started to notice a couple of things. First, this house was okay, but once you’ve got a very active person (or two) under your foot, you need a bit more ease at knowing what they’re up to, and having walls that obscure the view can be a problem.
And second, the kitchen was just plain uuuuuugly.
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2011, A Year In Review

I like long years. Really. Yes, I complain about when things seem to drag out far longer than they should, or if I’m busting my arse far harder than I think I should. That’s part of being human, no? In the end, though, I like long years because I get to look back and not worry about how quickly time has flown by. Time should never fly by quickly — it means I’ve missed something, and … well, darn it, I just hate missing things!
This last year was a big one for me in one major way: it was a redefinition of my professional existence. Since the end of 2009, I’ve transformed from a professional manager to a … hmm … well, my title (however formal it needs to be) is “Solutions Lead”, but that belies a lot of what I do every day, and just using “web developer” or “programmer” — even with a “Senior” prefix — completely understates the reality. This year was really about taking all the skills and knowledge I’d acquired as a leader, and merging that back into my day-to-day development practices.
And that, as the saying goes, was only the tip of the iceberg…
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A new window on the world

One of the many things we identified with our home as needing improvement when we purchased it was the windows. Nearly all of them (save for an odd bay window added on an extension that seems to have gone on in the 1980s) dated back to the house’s original construction, in the early 1950s. Single pane, and no matter how much foam you jam in there, fairly drafty.
Our first winter in the house, we used that fancy shrink plastic to improve the draft-factor. To a degree, it helped, but the rooms still felt cold. Last winter, the rooms were outright frigid. And after Choo Choo’s window displayed signs of mould, Alex and I started talking much more seriously about replacing the windows not as part of a larger renovation, but for a sense of urgency.
Urgency finally arrived today. And boy, do they look spiffy!
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And She said: I want new lights!

Okay, it wasn’t just Alex. Truth is, our “Florida Ceiling” bothered me from the moment we bought the house. In our original walk-around, it was one of the things I noted as needing “urgent replacement”. I personally found it rather hideous, and cast so much light into the kitchen as to be a little overwhelming.
[flickr]photo:2105105085[/flickr]
I’d hoped today’s job would go reasonably quickly. After all, I don’t want to spend the entire day tearing things apart (although it is terrible fun) and putting in new things (admittedly, rarely ever as much fun), when I could be … well, doing other things.
But I digress…
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Nothing but the kitchen sink

It’s been a long time since we’ve done anything significant to the house. The last time, we gutted and rebuilt the basement, a much-needed effort. It is now the most comfortable and pleasant part of the house (except maybe the utility room, which is in need of some shelving, and maybe some spackle, tape, paint, a ceiling…). That leaves the upstairs as … well, as needing some “love”. And by “love”, I mean a few walls removed, rooms rearranged, bathroom(s) redone, and a much better light transfer.
But that’s a long time away. We’re talking a major improvement, which we can’t afford right now. So we’re going to start with the room that bothers Alex and I most — the kitchen. It’s too small, dark, and frankly doesn’t work well for us. (That, and I’m constantly comparing to our home in Garrison Woods, which had a kitchen that I loved.) As the saying goes, you gotta start somewhere.
So I threw out the sink.
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Basement renovation almost complete

Sigh. Just in time for us to leave the house, too. Oh well, at least it’ll improve the overall value of the place, right?
Here are the before/after pictures. Because it’s important to know what we’ve done here. We started off with a 70s reno gone wrong. We’ve ended up with a nice, modern space ready for almost anything.
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Renovations nearing completion!

It’s been a long, hard slog since all this began a year ago. Demolition, plumbing, heating, framing, electrical, gas, contractor nightmares, self-realisation, and now the end of the tunnel is fully lit. This weekend, barring disaster, the basement will be done.
Just in time for us to leave the house and let someone else enjoy it. I’ve still not really come to grips with that part.
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Renovations Update

Since we went off world-hopping, a lot has happened. That’s not to say the basement is done yet. Sadly, we had hoped for completion by May. A couple of starting delays, and then a labour disruption with our contractor led to a bit of a slowdown. It’s almost the end of April, which means it’ll be an Act of God to get the basement done by May.
I think we’re okay with that. But it can’t go on much longer. Time’s a-runnin’ out.
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Renovations renewed

Well, as you already know, I’ve accepted the fact that I cannot renovate my own home. I’m neither skilled enough, nor have the time to handle it. (As it stands, there is considerable discussion that I’m not spending enough time with my family as it is.)
Anyway, we finally decided it was necessary to get a contractor to come in and finish the job.
No, scratch that.
To undo the mess I made, and do it right.
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2007, A Year in Review

I just realised — after I’d already posted this year’s review — that this is the 10th one I’ve done. Ten years already! Man… I’ve been doing this longer than I’d thought!
It’s that time of the year again — to look back on the year passed, and reflect on the things I’ve done. Where did I go? What did I do? What have I honestly got to show for myself. It’s been an insanely long year. Sure, it was still 365 (and 1/4) days, but it felt at least three times longer…
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My baby's back!

Over the last week-and-a-bit, I’ve been without my family. Alex and the wee one were out in BC visiting with family. Me? On self-imposed exile in the basement to try and wrap up as much of the renovations as possible.
Yes, I need to provide pictures of progress. But you’ll understand why I can’t in a moment…
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Drywall ain't light

After work tonight, I zipped down to the Home Depot to get more building supplies. Namely, sheetrock. I’m almost ready to start putting the stuff up (I might even start tonight, if I can get all the insulation in place), and I’m running out of time before Alex gets back.
This is sort of my own private “While You Were Out”. The problem is that this is a one-man job. I don’t have any help. That means I have to do everything myself. Including lugging 30 sheets of sheetrock.
And this stuff ain’t light.
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