Monday, August 30, 2010

GOOD customer service!


Oh, I do love it when I receive good customer service, as happened today. What? No, I'm not being sarcastic. I really did come away as a satisfied customer today.

Not that it was easy. And I did have to refrain from raising my voice, crying or hanging up the phone. Several times. But, in the end, it all worked out.

Here's what happened.

When we first moved in, none of the phone jacks in the house worked, so I called Ma Bell. Ma Bell assured me that they would send a technician, at a cost of $99 - or we could sign up for their "Wire Care" package at a cost of $6.95 per month and the repair would be free. Adding new jacks, of course, would cost extra. Well, I signed up for the Wire Care package.

The technician came. He found that the person who "flipped" our house had accidentally cut the phone wires, and the old jacks were outdated, so he fixed all three of them.

The next bill came; there was no $99 charge, so I thought nothing of it. But then, on today's bill, a $99 charge suddenly appeared, and I noticed that the monthly Wire Care charge was not being billed. I was not a happy camper. So I called Bell to point out their error: the Wire Care package hadn't been applied, and the repair was just that - a repair to existing equipment, not the addition of new jacks.

Unfortunately for me, I had not kept track of the all-important confirmation number for my Wire Care request. Heck, I had made the tech support call from a hotel room before we had actually moved into the house! Without it, I was essentially screwed. Furthermore, the technician had posted the visit as an installation of new jacks rather than a repair of existing equipment. So even if they had posted the Wire Care program, I still would have had to complain!

Okay, so we're not seeing any good customer service yet. Hang in there.

In fact, at this point, I was livid, but still controlling my voice. I was doing a good bit of deep breathing. Pausing carefully before I spoke. That kind of thing. Finally, I accepted defeat and asked the rep how I could go about cancelling my Bell service.

Finally, finally, they transferred me to a good customer-service rep, one who understood that Bell was about to lose a loyal customer, all for the sake of $99.

She asked how I was, and I replied that I could be happier.

(Yeah, not the best "winning friends and influencing people" reply. I was in full-on Incredible-Hulk-turning-green-and-busting-his-shirt mode. Which, when you're me, comes out as passive-aggressive sarcasm. And at the very same time, I'm trying not to cry. Don't you hate that kind of anger where you're beside yourself?)

She stayed calm and said, "I understand that you're very unhappy right now. I've heard our technician's side of the story, but I'd like to hear yours."  And she listened. She did some more checking and regretfully told me that, without a confirmation number and a record of the technician's visit, there was nothing she could do about the $99. BUT she could offer me a deep discount on our regular monthly service - about $25/month. Which adds up to way more than the $99 service charge!

So, they screwed up, but in the end I came out feeling like a winner. Not the best customer service ever (that would've been doing their jobs right in the first place), but all's well that ends well.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Is there such a thing as "karma cramps"?

If so, that's what struck me down yesterday.
Shortly after I realized our error with our neighbour's fence, my tummy started imploding. I was never actually sick (no vomitting, diarrhea or constipation), but, man oh man, was I in pain! Even the movement of my diaphragm as I inhaled and exhaled was painful. I was this close to calling Steve home to take me to Emerg - I thought for sure I had a blockage or twisted colon or something.

All my soap-opera fantasies were in full swing: I pictured myself laying on pristine white sheets, hair (clean and gently curled on hot rollers) strewn wildly (but in an esthetically pleasing way) in a halo about my head; my beloved struggling to hold back tears as he feared losing me to this mysterious, incurable illness. A single tear escaped down his bronzed cheek. The monitors beeped steadily. 

And then, suddenly (well, in the space of about 10 minutes), it stopped. Just like that, leaving me in no pain - NO PAIN AT ALL, but just exhausted.

Not that I'm complaining, but this is actually the second time this has happened to me - though the pain this time was worse and lasted longer than the other time. But afterwards, I was reminded of that Monty Python scene where the old man declares he's feeling much better. Here's the clip (skip to the 1 minute mark):


All that to say I'm feeling fine today, thank you, and I think I might go for a walk.

Thank you for all of your suggestions regarding our neighbours and the fence catastrophe. Just a couple of comments:
  • It's not that they dislike the style of fence we chose - they have no problem with it. The issue is that it was their fence. They had it for more than 25 years and they were quite happy with it. It's sort of like someone throwing out your favourite sweater just because it has holes and stains and it sags like a 90-year-old's bosom.
  • We definitely always planned to plant lots of greenery along the back - some lilacs and such. So, eventually, the private, leafy view will be restored. (I don't think we'll plant a tree there, as it is under the power lines and would have to be clipped away from the wires, which just looks off-kilter.)
  • I think there is a little passive-aggression in their rejection of planting something on their side of the fence: "No, I will not allow you to mollify me. I'm going to hold my breath and let you feel miserable." Fine. Whatever. I can't force them to take any compensation, but at least I demonstrated willingness to do so.
  • We will definitely invite them to whatever party we host next. Sounds like fun. Yeah.
Today, all is quiet at the Sibbald household. Yesterday, there were lots of big machines and sweaty men all over the place. (Maybe I'm in the wrong business?) They left us with this:
Yeah! It is starting to look like a pool!

And they started work on this:
Weeping tile (in a coil)
Because there is such a slope to our lot, we are putting weeping tile all the way around the pool, and tying it into the drainage around the house. This should prevent water building up under the pool liner and causing the liner to displace or tear.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

We screwed up.

You may remember from a previous post that we spoke with our neighbours, and that they were not happy about what we were doing in our backyard. They had quite liked the overgrown cedars at the back of the property - they, in fact, relished the privacy it afforded and were sorry we had ripped them all out. Even in their front yard, the hedges and shrubs are so overgrown that you can hardly see the house at all - just the front door and garage. As our neighbour put it, "You can easily see what our style is." They like green. They like privacy. They were sadder still when we cut down our half of the shared silver maple tree, but they did not protest.

Here is a glimpse of their backyard (which we can now see), and what they would like to see more of:

A leafy haven.
Then we blew it.

There is one key sentence in that previous post:
"They implied that, if we put up a new fence they would probably take down the old one."
Key point: although it was built right on the property line, the fence was theirs (a previous owner had built it). It matched the fences on the other two sides of their property. Although it was falling apart on its own, and would render any fence we installed quite climbable, they had no intention of taking it down, necessarily.

Imagine their shock when they came home from work on Tuesday evening to find the fence GONE! They had gone from a situation where they could barely even see our house behind theirs to this view of our backyard:

Barren landscape, ugly house.
Not exactly "leafy," is it? He sent me an e-mail this morning, asking, "What is going on?"

Steve and I had simply forgotten our neighbour's statement, forgotten that the fence was not ours to remove, and had gone ahead and had the fence torn down with the intention of putting the new, unclimbable fence right on the property line (with a jog inward to prevent kids' using the trees to climb the fence).
Can you say, "Oh, crap"?

I like to think that we have always been good neighbours. And we will be again, even with these neighbours. We'll make amends (we've offered a gift certificate so they can plant a couple of trees in their backyard). But, dang, I hate getting off to such a bad start!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Dig it!

Men with big equipment showed up at our house today.



And they had fun playing in the dirt.
Note the elevation change between the front of the property
and the house. About 3.5 feet.
They made a BIG mess!

Which they hauled away.
But while they were digging, they accidentally did this:
OUCH!

Not to worry: they'll be repairing those bricks. (I think we found some while they were excavating.)

It's wonderful being a girl!

Don't ask me why, but the other night as I lay tossing & turning (and NOT sleeping), I remembered the little sex-education pamphlet that provided me with my initial enlightenment about puberty. It was called, (if I remember correctly), "It's Wonderful Being a Girl," and was published by Playtex or Kotex or something.

Like most girls of my generation, I was absolutely fascinated with the glorious changes that puberty held in store. As far as I was concerned, that principally meant breasts. I wanted them. I wanted big, cantilevered breasts that would enter a room whole seconds before the rest of me did. I wanted boobs that would be so distracting they might cause car accidents and would definitely have boys fighting for my favours.

Hey, a girl can dream, can't she?

Menstruation was also something I looked forward to. I just knew I would be one of those girls who rides horses, swims and does cartwheels during her period. (As if I did any of those things prior to puberty. Well, I did used to do cartwheels. And I rode a horse once.) Hah! The joke's on me.

While waiting for those two great manifestations of womanhood, I read my little pamphlet many, many times. I kept looking at the classic cross-section diagram of a woman's inner workings, expecting to find something ... more. What weren't they telling me?

Of course, the biggest thing they weren't telling us was about boys and their parts. When educators finally saw fit to teach us about male anatomy, they used the classic diagram with a flaccid penis. The erect penis was never so much as alluded to. My girlfriends and I knew, in theory, about erections, but none of us had actually seen one (or would admit to having done so), so we had conversations about what way it pointed when the guy was sitting, standing or lying down. Whether it could break. I guess we couldn't figure out the whole hinged nature of the workings. It is pretty mind-boggling when you think about it.

And I couldn't fathom that any boy would want his privates touched any more than I wanted mine touched. I actually told a girlfriend that if any boy had the effrontery to touch my breast (clearly a look-but-do-not-touch zone), I would - get this - touch his penis! That would show him! I couldn't think of anything more off-putting or dreadful. Any boy in his right mind would obviously be horrified and would immediately stop touching my fabulous breasts. Duh!

Ah, the innocence.

Eventually - fortunately before my breasts were ever touched - I learned a thing or two.

Now, flash forward to high school. Grade 13 Biology included a section on, ahem, human procreation. The test for the unit included a many-times-reproduced, hand-drawn, blurry diagram of a woman's reproductive organs. Various parts were numbered, and we were required to label them and give a one-sentence explanation of their function.

Ovary. Fallopian tube. Uterus. Endometrium. Cervix. Bladder. And ... what was that one? The number was positioned towards the front of the labia. Would they really ask us to label the clitoris? It had never once been mentioned in class, this little mystery button.

I struggled. In high school, I was the goody-two-shoes leader of the Christian club. Such a good girl was not supposed to know about something as naughty as a clitoris, let alone explain its purpose.

But I was also a bit of an over-achiever. I could not bear to leave a blank and possibly not get a perfect score on my test. So I labelled it. And I stated that it was meant to stimulate lubrication to facilitate intercourse. (I didn't dare go so far as mentioning orgasm. At least lubrication served some practical purpose.)

Eventually, the time came to "take up" our tests.

Urethra. It was the frigging pee hole! GAAAAH! Fortunately, the diagram was bad enough that the teacher gave me full marks for my unorthodox answer.

Interestingly enough, when I googled pictures for this post, every single diagram included the clitoris in its labels. Times certainly have changed.

But the writers of that little pamphlet were correct: it is wonderful being a girl. Especially one who knows her anatomy.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Quiz!

Question: What is worse than spending a morning at the Department of Motor Vehicles (a.k.a. the ServiceOntario office)?
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Answer: Having a gastric attack after waiting in line and finally reaching the counter. And there being no restrooms on-site. And leaving without what you came for.

First a little background: [TMI alert! Quit reading NOW if bodily functions turn your stomach.]

According to my gastroenterologist, I have "microscopic" colitis - intestinal inflammation that shows up only under the microscope and results in chronic diarrhea, cramping and other unseemly afflictions. It's not severe, and is mostly well controlled by diet, but every so often it catches me off-guard -- and when it does, it can happen very suddenly. My biggest fear, like anyone else with chronic gastric trouble, is having an "accident" in public, which has never happened to me. I learned, early on, that when I'm having one of "those days" I don't dare even try to fart unless I am on a working toilet. And, like most people with this kind of disorder, I've become quite adept at scouting out restroom locations whenever I enter a public place.


(One of the fringe benefits of my last job was that our office was right beside the women's restroom!)

But, oh, there have been close calls, one of the most memorable being when I was directed to restrooms only to find that they were closed for renovations! I couldn't even bust in and disturb the cleaning staff - the plumbing was not connected.

So there I was this morning, trying to clear up one of the last pieces of bureaucracy from our move - registering our vehicles and getting plates for them. When Brian and I arrived at the office, there were six people in front of us. Not bad!

But as the minutes wore on, I gradually felt something building. The line moved slowly. The wave of urgency abated. I marked a doorway near the back of the room that I hoped might lead to a restroom, though there was no signage to indicate so. The line moved. The gastric wave began to crest again. I debated whether I should give up my spot in line and make a dash for the restroom. I was first in line. Dammit, I would just have to exercise that sphincter! I breathed. The wave abated.

About an hour into it, I finally made it to the counter. The efficient clerk flipped through the kazillion papers I'd brought with me. We were missing one form. And, for some reason, the van is registered in Steve's name only, so I couldn't register that today.

Fine, I thought, just tell me what I need (and let me go find a toilet). She had to go consult a colleague to get the final answer. She left.

Tick. Spasm. Tick. Clench. Tick.

I asked the adjacent clerk if there was a bathroom I could use. "No. Sorry." (But not really sorry, sort of a happy, isn't-that-funny sorry.) Right. When was the last time an office was built without at least a staff washroom?

Finally, my clerk came back. I leaned over the counter and whispered, "Excuse me. I'm having a gastric attack. I really need to go to the bathroom! Is there a restroom I could use?" I gave her a desperate "sh** will start flowing soon if you don't help me" glare.

She stuck to the story that the office had no toilets. Instead, she directed me to a skivey restaurant a couple of doors down. Sensing my desperation, she told me to go ahead and come back to the front of the line when I was ready.

I skedaddled to the restaurant, leaving Brian standing in limbo. I ignored the "customers only" sign on the women's room door, praised God that it was unoccupied, turned a blind eye to the decades of grime that caked the door, floors and walls, and found sweet relief.

When I got back to the ServiceOntario office, I waited just a couple of minutes while the clerk dealt with her current customer, then she told me which forms I still needed.

So I survived, but still have to come back some other day. Because evidently this isn't enough paperwork to get plates in Ontario:

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Read between the lines.

I've had inumerable meetings with pool contractors, landscapers, gas contractors, neighbours and arborists. I've signed lots of money away. And, so far, here is what we have to show for it:
Yup. An outline of where the pool will go. (Peter's comment: "Oh, so it's going to be amoeba-shaped!") Of course, lots of work has gone on. Here's what the yard was like when we moved in:
And here's what it looked like once we got the meadow under control: But LOTS is going to happen this week:

  • Steve and our neighbour will hack back the hedges on the right side as far as possible, so we can put a fence in front of them without losing much property. (Our neighbours really love the cedar hedge and begged us not to cut it down. So, although we really don't like or want the hedge, which is on our property, we will leave most of it on that side. Gotta keep your neighbours happy.)
  • A big dude with a big truck and backhoe will come and level most of the yard, leaving a raised area at the back.
  • More big dudes will come with more equipment and dig the hole for the pool. This is when we may come upon ugly [and expensive] surprises, like a high water table or rocks so big that they have to be blasted. Keep your fingers crossed!
  • An electrician will come to connect a "ground" wire to the metal shell of the pool.
And then next week:
  • Steve and the boys will build the retaining wall along the back and sides. At $210/linear foot if we contracted the work, we decided this was one way we could save a significant chunk of change. We're talking $13,000 plus HST.
  • The landscaper will put in the interlock. I'm quite excited about having a nice, clean patio out there. Here's a picture of the block we have chosen:
It's a concrete product, but has a nice texture and mix of colours. And do you notice anything? It's got lots of straight lines! Despite my love of curves, I fell in love with this stone, so, although the patios themselves will be nice and curvy, they will be filled with this stone.

You can expect pictures - I'm a big fan of in-progress shots.
On an unrelated note, in case you were wondering about the humungous spider on our patio door, it is still there, and getting bigger by the day. This morning, Brian noticed that it had captured a big moth in its web and was having itself a big ole feast. I managed to capture an awesome photograph. (What is it with my fascination with this hideous thing?) Here she is:

I can't look at her without thinking of The Who's song, "Boris the Spider."

So maybe "she" is a "he." Maybe it's not pregnant; maybe it has the spider equivalent of a beer gut. At some point, however, we are going to want to start using that door. At which time, Boris will be compost.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Is it too much to ask?

All I want is for ^this young man, Brian, to grow up, find the love of his life, have a child (or four), enjoy his career, grow older, get fat, grow even older, and have sore knees and aching hips. Grow even older (if such a thing is possible) and have a receding hairline and grandchildren of his own.

Complication: that young man (oh, who am I kidding? He's a BOY!) wants to be in the military, like his Daddy, his Grandpa, and his uncle before him. With that, I have no huge problem. However, that young man wants to be in the Army, and wants to be a sniper, he wants to be on the front lines. With that I have ginormous problems. (Every mother on the planet, shout with me, "NO!")

Brian is already 14 years old. In three short years, he could enlist. Seventeen. A child. I remember being 17. I was, not to put too fine a point on it, stupid. And so very young.

Tonight, I again told Brian that he should really consider the career path of a librarian. (He laughed. It's an old joke now.) Or an engineer. (Still, a laugh.) Or, okay, a civil engineer. (A chuckle and, "Oh, Mom!") Or a public affairs officer, still in the war zone, but not on the front lines. ("What's the difference?" he scoffed.)

He told me, in his words with a heartfelt sense of being "called," that he wants to make a difference. He wants to stop the terrorists. He wants to stop militant extremism in its tracks. This isn't just a macho or filial urge. He wants to win their hearts and minds.

I told him I wanted him to find the love of his life and have a child before he went to a "war zone." That gave him pause. I hope that he was thinking that these were things he wanted, too.

"Well, how do you think the military will feel about that?" he asked. (As if I could care, as if it matters to me.)

"Well," I hedged, "if you go to military college, you won't graduate until you're, oh, 21, and then you could take one tour here..." And I was thinking, if he falls in love, he won't want to go. If he has a child, he won't ever leave.

I'm buying time.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

And the eentsy-weentsy spider crawled up the spout again.



It's been a very rainy weekend, and the spider has to rebuild her web. That's the only reason I can think that she'd be out so late. (She usually only comes out when the sun shines directly on the patio doors.)
So, tell me, does it look like she's "gonna blow" compared to the previous picture? As in, about to spew hundreds of tiny, icky creatures into my backyard?

And, may I just add that I am SO glad that I do not live in the land of banana spiders?
Notice that the spider is not actually ON the hand, but is in front of it, on a pane of glass or something. Bad enough.

Thirty. Eight. Thousand. Dollars.

Yup: $38,000.00. That's the estimate for the landscaping in our back yard. And that doesn't even include fences (required) or levelling the yard (which has about a 6-foot drop from the fence to the house). Oh, and it also doesn't include ... the POOL!

Ain't gonna happen. Nope.

I go barefoot, barefoot, barefoot!

If you know me well, then you know that I prefer to go barefoot, like Sally Henny-penny in Beatrix Potter's Tale of Mrs. Tiggy Winkle. (That's Sally herself, above.) The only time it really bothers me is when the floors are dirty. Then the little specks of sand and dirt stick to the soles of my feet and I feel like they should make clickety-clack sounds as I walk around the house. It irritates me like a tap that won't stop dripping. And it makes me feel all grotty, so I won't go to bed without a shower because I can't stand the thought of introducing all that crud between my sheets.

For the five years we lived in Colorado, we had wall-to-wall broadloom throughout most of the house. Oh, and I did complain about that carpeting: that it trapped dust, that it never looked clean for more than 48 hours after it had been steam-cleaned. (This was especially true in the hallways - it drove me batty! You can ask the kids about some of the more draconian measures I took in trying to keep that floor looking nice.)

And here we are in a house with absolutely no broadloom. Instead, we have glistening hardwood and ceramic tile. I had forgotten how balls of cat hair accumulated in corners. I had forgotten just how much dirt our family brings into the house in an average week. (Carpet grabs that dirt, hence the perpetually nasty-looking smudges in our back hallway at the old house.)

Sigh. I guess there's no perfect solution for those of us who prefer to go "barefoot, barefoot, barefoot." But given my druthers, I'll stick with the solid-surface floors. [Good thing, isn't it, since that's what we've got!] They're easier and less expensive to clean, and I really rather enjoy walking around the house after I've done my white tornado of sweeping and mopping and having nothing stick to my feet. It's as satisfying as a crisply ironed shirt.

See? Happy feet! (Please ignore the need for a new pedicure.)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Good-bye, tree.

Well, I finally spoke to the City's inspector for pool enclosures. I sent him a picture of our tree/fence dilemma, and he agreed with me that the tree was too climbable. We would have to build our fence a few feet in from the silver maple. At which point the part of the tree that is on our side of the property line (but on the other side of the fence) would be a climbing hazard, and we would have to build our fence some 15 feet inside the property line (because of how our tree hangs over).

So, with much sadness, we decided to cut down our half of the tree. Here she is before the carnage:

And here are the two cute, young tree fellers, talking all macho-like about the chainsaw:

Some in-progress shots:


And all that's left:


So sad to see her go. We'll think of the tree as we burn this wood a couple of years from now. (Yeah, a silver lining from the story of the silver maple.)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Anniversary 26b

As with many military couples, Steve and I have not one, but two anniversaries: the date we were officially (legally) married, and the date when we had the big shebang. Lucky me! I get anniversary celebrations in April, and one in August. And, yes, we celebrate both.

So this morning I woke up to find flowers and chocolate at my breakfast place, and tonight we went out for dinner at The Keg Manor, formerly the Maple Lawn Café. We had a really amazing dinner, then strolled the lush gardens before coming home. Yup. It was a good day.

(And I wasn't attacked by a single insect, though I screamed loudly enough at TWO yesterday that I woke my teenagers from deep slumber.)

And now I leave you with this high-brow anthem, which shall forever ring in my ears upon hearing the words, "Happy Anniversary."
Update: thanks to Diane for helping me figure out the video sizing.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The curse of the flashing cursor

In the world of the writer or communicator, is there anything worse than that flashing cursor that seems to pulse, "Well? Spit it out!" like an incessant nag? As it is doing now. (Pulse. Pulse.) In my case, it's pulsing in two windows: the one here as I write my blog, and the one in Word where I am writing the cover letter to accompany my résumé as I put myself out there for a job.

The cover letter, of course, is the tougher one, the one in which the cursor has been flashing longest and most haranguingly. ("Haranguingly," by the way, is not an actual word, according to my spelling checker. But it should be. With all of my word-anointing powers, I hereby dub it a word. Bam!) I've been encouraged by the person who told me about the possible job (it isn't even an actual solicitation yet) to send my résumé and "probably a cover wouldn't hurt either, to show off your dazzling writing skills." So there's pressure. And it's not that I don't know how to start my letter - I do. In fact, I just have too many ways to start my letter. Well, okay, two ways, but neither is good.
I could start with a straightforward, "I am writing to you because I am
interested - very interested - in becoming part of the team...blah, blah, blah."

or
I could start by saying, quite honestly, "Let me begin by telling you that I am
a huge fan of [________] and that I truly would be honoured to work for
[organization]."

The former is, well, boring. Expected. The latter? A little over-the-top. Okay, a lot. They might think I'm a stalker. Certainly, they would doubt my credibility. Obviously, I need something more moderate, that conveys my enthusiasm without making me seem pathetic. Something that shows creativity and dazzling writing skills without being laughable. (Pulse. Pulse.)

I'm sure it'll come to me. You may return to your previous programming.

Monday, August 9, 2010

What the heck is going on here?

Continuing on my theme of "things Wynn Anne despises most," I offer you this picture of what greeted me when I stepped outside this afternoon.

What the hell is that? Are there any entomologists out there who can tell me what exactly is happening at that ant hill? Is it being attacked by another colony? Is it celebrating the 9th of August? (Hey, could be a much-celebrated ant holiday - you don't know!) Are they splitting up to form a new ant colony?
Whatever it is, could they please do it in someone else's backyard? Or at least in a far corner of mine? They're freaking me out!
(Pardon the crappy video quality. I took it with my regular camera, not a video camera. Still can't figure out how to work that darned thing.)



video

Here's a close-up:

Reconcilable differences?

I am drawn to organic lines. Like this ethereal wrought iron gate by artist blacksmith David Robertson:

My dining table? Round. My living room furniture? All angled around a round coffee table. Curves - I really like them. (Also have them, and that's a good thing.)
I am not a big fan of rectilinear: They feel "prickly" to me, cold, not cosy. It's not that I don't see the beauty in contemporary design, like the landscapes by H2O
Their work is breathtaking. It's just not my style. It doesn't invite me to touch. I don't find it as relaxing.
So how do I reconcile my desire for organic lines in our backyard, as in my sketched-out vision (nary a straight line in sight, except for the property lines and house, of course):

with the need for a rectilinear fence all the way around that curvy shape? We'll just have to see what my landscaper and I can come up with. I just really hope it doesn't end up looking like this: Could they make that lovely pool look less inviting? Don't think so. (And maybe that's part of their safety program.) Note: that picture is from Protect-a-Child fence system in Toronto. The fence is meant to be removed whenever the pool is in use. Right, like I'm going to take down a fence every time we want to go swimming!

So that's what I'm mulling over today: reconciling curves and straight lines, safety and esthetics.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Good fences make good neighbours

I fully agree with that sentiment - especially when it comes to being a pool owner, in which case, fences are not just ornamental or a boost for privacy, but are a safety feature. Steve's family has experienced the lifelong trauma of losing a child to drowning. We will do our utmost to ensure our backyard is a safe place, including unclimbable fences and self-latching gates and doors.

But we have a problem. There is a beautiful tree in the very centre of our backyard, right on the property line. The current fences (yes, there are two - I'll show you in a bit), cut right through the middle of it. I love that tree. It gives shade, and green and privacy. It is beautiful. Plus, it suspends one end of our beloved hammock. Our plan is to keep the tree, and on our side of the fence, it's safe to do so, but there's a hitch.
Looking at that picture ^, you'll notice that any ten-year-old could probably climb the tree on our neighbour's side and hop the fence, no matter what kind of fence we install. We spoke to our neighbour yesterday, and they have no intention of doing anything about the tree on their side of the property. They implied that, if we put up a new fence they would probably take down the old one. (But no gesture of splitting the costs of said fence.)
So I'm trying to come up with some non-ugly - maybe even esthetically pleasing alternatives. What if we built a secondary wrought iron fence well inside our lot, just around the tree, so kids could climb the tree, sure, but then would have to scale a secondary fence? How weird would that look? We'd still have to cut down our half of the tree, or kids could use that half to climb the second fence.
Have any of you seen creative solutions to fencing off pools around trees?

(And here's a close-up, so you can see the ugly little metal fence that the tree has also grown right around. It doesn't make any difference to the fence challenge, but I thought I'd show you one more of the ugly things we've found.) And, finally, as a "Sunday smile," here is an example of bilingualism failure. Today, Steve is putting up blinds in the kitchen. They came with a small box of parts. Printed on one end of the box was this:
Fair enough. So he turned the box over. And saw this:
Which (for my English-only friends) means, "Open at other end," thus rendering the instruction completely redundant. (Or perhaps they really meant for English speakers to open it at one end and French speakers to open it at the other?) It reminds me of one of Brian's favourite practical jokes: he writes "Please turn over" on both sides of a blank sheet of paper, then watches to see if anyone will get caught up in the turning-over loop. Silly boy!
I wonder how many times Steve turned the box over before he gave up and just opened it.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sigh.

How did we ever live without one of these? Seriously. I've never had a hammock before, and it's been years since I swung in one. They are pure bliss. I think that gentle swinging motion must take us back to some pre-memory sensation of being rocked in a cradle or a rocking chair.

Purr.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Backsplash - option 4

Well, the results are in for my poll about your backsplash tile preferences, and the vast majority preferred either the subway tile with steel strip, or the stone-look tiles, with the subway tiles winning the day. But I have to confess that I'm not warming to the steel strip. I really do think it'll date the kitchen.

Anyway, Katie and I played around with the tile samples a little more tonight, and I think we hit on a design that I will really like. (I also bought some sticky-tac so I could place the layout on the wall vertically and get a better feel for how it will look.)

Note: there will be a 3-inch granite backsplash between the countertop and the wall tiles. It's a long story. Don't ask.

So here's the tile layout we came up with:


See how it combines options 1 and 2, and ties the cupboard colour into the wall tile? What do you think? I think I like it!

Our little piece of heaven

A big part of why we bought this house, rather than the many other (larger) homes we saw, was the park that is right across the street. This park has the usual things: baseball diamonds, basketball hoop, wading pool, butterflies. (No, those aren't butterflies in the picture, just yellow leaves.)

But even better than that (look to the very back of that picture), it has a forest! A beautiful forest, laced generously with mulch-softened paths, and dappled with green-tinted sunlight. So beautiful!

It even has bridges, which, like windows, are always a captivating image for me, as transitional spaces between here and there, between now and the future.
And these beautiful little plants that grow about four inches high. Are they a kind of fern? I don't know, but they remind me of miniature pine trees.

It's a magical place, which I look forward to exploring in all seasons.

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