Sunday, June 22, 2008

Bathroom Trim

Some shots of our bathroom trim (colour is a little warmer than the real thing)

N here, S figures it's about time I put down my tools and stop tirelessly slaving on the 'ol house to write a blog entry and to put an end to all those rumors that I'm just a figment of S's imagination (although this could just be a clever change of voice). The bathroom has been progressing (albeit slowly). Over the last few weekends I have reconstructed the doublehung windows and installed the window sills and trim. S had already stripped and repainted the sashes. Reassembling the old windows was pretty straightforward, the terminology I am going to use may not be, but if you are interested check out The Window Glossary from the WDMA. After reinstalling the original (now refinished) sill, the the upper (outer) sashes needed to go back in. But in order to get the parting strips installed the sashes needed to be installed at the bottom of the window and then raised into place. Unfortunately after the parting strips were installed the sashes wouldn't budge, so the strips had to come back out (they were a snug fit so I had already tapped them in with a hammer -- removing them without breaking them was not easy). Getting the sashes to move freely required lots more old paint to be removed from the blind stop and the addition of Gamblin cold wax painting medium (basically beeswax petroleum distillate) courtesy of S's studio. With the parting strips and the upper sashes in place, the strips needed to be painted. S and I took turns, it was tedious: First the lower part of the strips were primed, then we had to wait for primer to dry, lower the sashes, prime the top, wait, raise, now paint, wait, lower, paint, wait...second coat... All for 4 little strips of wood. When the paint was fully dry, I finished assembling the windows. The lower sashes were put into place and then the interior stops reinstalled and secured with finishing nails (in my case I used 1 1/4" brad nails from a pnuematic brad nailer). The newly reassembled windows work great (probably as well as they did in 1890 -- I think removing 100 years of paint is mostly responsible for the like new operation). Finally the original trim was reinstalled with finishing nails and here is the result:

The newly restored, refinished, and reassembled original window

On the south wall of the bathroom we had a brand new double hung window installed (*cough* over a year and half ago). Trimming this window has been a bit of a challenge. First there were the jamb extensions. New windows aren't designed to be installed in 12 inch thick double brick walls. So S's Dad and I fabricated new jamb extensions using 5/4 clear pine. The new window was already made of pine, so it didn't make sense to try to use fancier hardwood like the original windows. The next challenge was the sill. Luckily one of my neighbours is a woodworker and had a piece of red elm which he milled into a new sill. The edge profile was difficult to match, the closest matching router bit we found at Lee Valley tools.

With the sill pre-cut to specification, assembling and installing the trim for the new window was pretty-straightforward. One piece of trim wouldn't sit flat against the wall so I used a power planer to gouge out the center of the trim piece before nailing it in place.

The new window (detail)

The refurbished window showing accurate daylight colour and the original trim profile for comparison with above

The final problem: filling the nail holes. I bought a number of coloured wax pencils from MinWax., none of which matched closely but strangely enough the No 1., which I though was way too yellow, seemed to disappear.

Our next trim dilemma will be the door. The inside of the door will need to be stripped and refinished to match the trim, but the other side should match the rooms beyond. So should we keep all the rooms outside dark, or strip and stain to match the bathroom. The strip and stain with white stain method we have employed is a nice compromise between the typical male, "don't paint the trim, keep the natural wood" and the female, "paint the trim and brighten the house".

Daytime shot of the trimmed out bathroom window

Friday, June 20, 2008

Garlic Scapes in the Landscape

Our harvest of garlic scapes

Last year we started to despair that all of the garlic in our local grocery stores was imported from overseas, which seems outrageous since garlic grows so beautifully here in southern Ontario. So during the months of August, September, and October we bought dozens of garlic bulbs from the local farmers' market and directly from some farms we visited. We ate most of our local garlic stash, but kept a dozen or so bulbs, to separate and plant in our own garden. We don’t have an assigned vegetable garden yet, so I planted both hard and soft neck varieties anywhere I could shoehorn them in around our other plants. This year our young garlic is thriving and blocking out some other plants, notably our new yellow roses bushes (which are extra small after being eaten down to the ground by rabbits). Garlic is not quite as inconspicuous in the landscape as I’d thought it might be. Next year I will designate a garlic growing area.

Bling scape

Today we harvested the first fruits of our garlic crop: the scapes. A garlic scape is the flower stalk of the garlic plant. As the flower stalk grows, its stem coils, making it very easy to distinguish from the rest of the plant. A farmer we’d spoken to said that removing the scape encourages a bigger bulb below ground. This necessary harvest is a delicious early harbinger of the garlic crop to come. We’d noticed the appearance of the developing flower stalks a couple of weeks ago, and today they seemed at the perfect degree of curliness to be harvested. As I snipped the pale green stems, I discovered that the cut scapes can be conveniently worn as bracelets--allowing me to keep both hands free. The smell of the freshly cut garlic scapes is delicious, like garlic, only milder, and with an underlying bright fresh green scent. The scapes I’ve bought from farmer’s markets before have been fairly tough, but these freshly harvested ones are crisp, tender, and easily bitten.

Today for lunch, we had garlic scape pesto over linguine, a recipe which a quick Internet search reveals in many variations. Essentially, garlic scape pesto is one in which the scapes take on the dual role of the traditional basil and garlic.

Garlic Scape Pesto

Our Garlic Scape Pesto recipe included:

  • Garlic Scapes (about 40 with the tougher flower end removed)
  • Olive oil (several tablespoons)
  • Parmagiano reggiano (a generous grating—maybe ½ cup)
  • Pine nuts (about a ½ cup)
  • Salt to taste (less than a teaspoon)
  • Lemon juice (of half a lemon)

I made the pesto, not in the food processor, which I was too lazy to haul out of the cupboard, but in our new two-speed Osterizer blender (which we bought to replace the Kitchen Aid after I broke the blender jug. We kept the base of the Kitchen Aid and will replace the glass part if we come across one, but we are delighted with the handsome new Osterizer so far).

Our perfect, pungent lunch

The pesto was beautiful: bright pale green, and very, very pungent. The pesto had a fresh green taste with a strong undertone of garlic and quite a bit of heat after a few bites. The garlic taste is not nearly as intense as raw garlic, but unless you are a true garlic lover, this pesto won’t delight you. We we’re delighted. This pesto was wonderful on pasta, but tonight we might try it on a wild salmon fillet, which we plan to barbecue if the rain stays away. The garlic scape harvest will definitely be an anticipated yearly event for us (provided we remember to plant our garlic in the fall).

Monday, June 16, 2008

Our First Tag

We’ve been named for a game of question tag by Ramblings of a Renovating Couple. We’re flattered. Since we’re two, our answers may part ways.

1. What did you do 10 years ago?

This one I can answer for both of us. We were looking for our first house. The one we ended up buying was only three doors away and around the corner from the one where we rented a main floor flat, but we resisted looking at it at first. We were through with grad school and had been recently married and were starting to form an attachment to our leafy downtown neighbourhood and the easy walk to the library, art gallery, and local farmer’s market, not to mention a 5 minute commute to N’s office, and lunch times spent together. I was giving up my warehouse studio lease and preparing to move my small business home. We had no idea what we were getting into, but it was a time of big dreams and optimism.

2. Five items on your to-do list today:

S. This one makes me smile. I am a compulsive list maker, but seldom refer back to my lists once made. Every item on my list usually requires 10 or so prior steps before it can be accomplished.

So, looking at my most recent (non work-related) list, I read

  • Prune the boxwood hedge
  • Write letters to...(I like to think of myself as someone who writes timely notes, but although I compose them in my mind while working on other things, I seldom actually write)
  • Test the new paint colours on the house (which means first scraping, washing, priming, and possibly stripping/re-puttying the windows)
  • Roast a chicken on the barbecue
  • Begin laying/digging out the future parterre vegetable garden

N. I don’t make lists. My next todo is: Tear out the old plaster, flatten, and drywall the ceiling in the kitchen, without making any mess or disrupting its day-to-day use. (counts as > 5 items)

3. Snacks you enjoy:

S. This is so contingent on time and place. Is wine a snack? If so wine, wine and cheese. Wine, (artisanal) cheese, and dark chocolate…and, local fruit in season, but not necessarily together. I’m not really a big snacker, but I love to eat. I am a gourmand (somewhere in between the competing meanings of glutton and epicure).

N. Chocolate (preferably dark). Bananas. Any sort of baked good, bars, squares, cookies, cakes.

4. What would you do if you were a billionaire?

S. Oh you know, the usual—become a wonderful benefactor to friends and family, set up some kind of trust/bursary to allow creative people to take a year away from their workaday lives to wholeheartedly pursue a creative endeavour (this, inspired by a story from author Camilla Gibb whose career as a writer was enabled by a no-strings donation which allowed her six months of uninterrupted writing), collect art, buy a tract of farmland and a woodlot to be sustainably farmed and managed in perpetuity (or as long as climate change allows), indulge all of my current whims, but moreso: travel, dining, wine collecting, cooking, hiking in gorgeous places, gardening, reading, painting. Too bad money can’t buy more time in a day. Finally, I would have a house designed and built by a like-minded architect and be done with home renovations forever.

N. Build a carbon-neutral, zero-footprint, eco-friendly, computer-automated, fully-self sustaining, solar/wind powered compound/island to weather the coming apocalypse. S. says she probably wouldn’t want to live here.

5. Places you would live:

S. Of the places I have visited and could truly envision my life, I’d choose mostly cities: Toronto (which I still regard as my own), San Francisco (if I weren’t so attached to Canada), some parts of Montreal, or Halifax; if I were truly bilingual (and wealthy), Paris; if I needed a rural refuge, then the unfathomably beautiful south shore of the Saint Lawrence between Quebec City and Riviere du Loup, or the equally beautiful south shore of Nova Scotia, or someplace in southern France. I’d also love to live near a large body of water. But so much about where we live is circumstantial and, as others have mentioned, family keeps me from thinking of life too far afield. (I think if this question had come in January, my answers might have been different. I crave a longer spring, shorter winter, and more sun all the time.)

N. ditto (until the compound is completed)

6. Who will be next?

The blog authors I would like to tag are not necessarily readers of our blog, so I hope I won't make a tag etiquette error by notifying them by email of my choice to tag them. Also, I notice that many blogs have participated in other games of question tag and I don’t want to fatigue anyone. The blogs are Toronto Gardens, Ellis Hollow, 247Reno, The Krakow Files, and Are You Gonna Eat That?

We’d like to add bonus question of our own for anyone who’d care to answer: Why do you write a blog?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Farewell to a Beloved Aunt

It’s been difficult to know how to approach this resumption of our blog. If we use this semi-public forum to acknowledge the death of a family pet, how can we fail to mention the untimely death of an adored family member? N and I have made two trips to Ottawa in the past month, one, gratefully, for a final visit with his truly beloved aunt, and the next, heartbreakingly, to attend her wake and celebrate her life with her children, daughter and son in law, grandchildren, friends, devoted students, and extended family. She leaves a gaping hole in so many lives, but especially in those of her tightly knit family. She taught us some excellent lessons, by example, about how to live life well, to the fullest, and on one’s own terms. We will miss her so much.