Monday, 8 February 2016

Our Basement Renovation - Part Three -- Paint!

Now that we're on my third home renovation blog post we're entering into my favourite part.  Starting to make it all pretty.  Sure electrical and plumbing are nice and necessary yadda yadda yadda.  Walls are good and the drywall was kinda of exciting (as much as it can be called exciting) but when you start to pull out paint samples?  Ooooo baby.  That's when mama gets excited!

If you follow me on Pinterest you'll know that I pin a fair bit and you can tell when I'm interesting in something because I'll obsess about it whether it's fireplace stone veneers, shaker cabinets or the delight that are Ryan Reynold's abs.  *le sigh* ......  But I digress.  

One of my Pinterest boards is devoted to everything that inspires me for our basement renovation.  Pinterest is so addicting and such a time sucker and yet I can't help but keep coming back for more inspiration.  Brad and I obviously haven't used every idea I've pinned but it's nice to see some awesome things that others have done.  A little tip of the hat to their ability to make nice spaces.

Ok, this is much more in my wheelhouse!  I love seeing the drastic change when you begin painting!  But first we had to decide on paint colours.  

For the main colour I knew that I wanted it to be gray but there are about a bazillion different grays each with their own subtle hues.  When you start putting them beside each other it gets a little ca-razy.  We started getting overloaded with inspiration so we went to our local Sherwin Williams dealer for some help.  Normally we're strictly Benjamin Moore people but SW had a sale and my sister (who is equally picky) had loved their paint.  It's pricey with a capital P but we waited for their 40% off sale.  This is not our first rodeo.

We ended up with two gray colours that we liked.  One was a very 'elephant' gray colour   -- Argos (SW 7065) -- and the other, Mindful Gray (SW 7016), had more of a beige hue (or 'greige').  We ended up buying a tester can of each colour and a small sheet of underlayment (thin board) - about 2'x4'.  We painted half of the board with a sample of each gray knowing that we'd probably go for the Argos.  But when we brought the board into the basement and saw how it looked down there with the lighting we surprised ourselves by going for the greigey Mindful Gray.

Tip: Paint up a sample board.  It may cost you a bit of money but it'll pay off in the long run.

We decided on the rest of the colours fairly quickly and we love how they all go well with each other.

Poolhouse (SW 7603) is the colour Brad chose for the den.  At first, I admit, that I was afraid it would look too 'under the sea' and dark but it looks amazing and I love the colour it adds to a fairly gray basement.

Grizzle Gray (SW 7068) we're using on an accent wall (which will be in a future DIY post -- so excited!!!), and on the wall behind the TV.  It's a nice, fairly dark gray.

Watery (SW 6478) is the colour I chose for the powder room.  It was a beautiful soft blue on the paint chip and in the can.  But when I start to paint the walls it took on a slightly bright and greenish 'oh-em-gee what was I thinking!!' tinge and I started to worry I had chosen wrong, wrong, WRONG! I had a 'Sweet Mary Tyler Moore what have I done?!' moment.  But once the white vanity, light counter top and toilet went in the colour miraculously toned down and so did my anxiety.  S'all good now.  Crisis averted with a toilet.  Who knew?

The last colour, Cityscape (SW 7067) is the colour we chose for our custom wet bar cabinetry.  It's a nice medium gray that's in between the main colour, Mindful Gray, and the dark Grizzle Gray.  We love it!

Painting - The Process Brad and I are weird because we actually like to paint.  A lot of this enjoyment of painting stems from the fact that we make a good painting team. We have good painting mojo, if you will.  You can't buy that at the Home Depot (at least I don't think you can).  Typically I do all the cutting with an edged brush and he is the Wonder with the Roller.  In this case it was such a big job that we each did both jobs.  

We took a week off work to get all the painting done.  At first I thought that a week was overkill but as you'll quickly learn (and Brad has known for almost 19 years) I am the poster child for poor time estimation.  Once we got started I quickly figured out that a week would be a good amount of time.  It took us five days of painting to get one coat of primer and two coats of paint on all of the walls.   This is a big space! With some good music and conversation it was actually a fun time.

I think that part of what Brad enjoys about home renovation with me is that I'm some serious renovation eye candy.  I'm not gonna lie, I'd totally bring all the boys to the yard if they were to see me in my old capris, old MS Run T-shirt and green striped fluffy socks!! Back off boys!  I'm all Brad's. Lucky, lucky lad.

I'd like to say that I like to have a more organic look when I pick my painting attire and that I prefer to focus on creating beautifully painted walls ... but I'd be lying.  When I'm in the painting zone all sense of fashion (obviously) goes out the window.  I'm in it to be comfy and not worry about wrecking good clothes - and I'm obviously not thinking about being in future blog posts.  Hence the old capris, ponytail and fluffy green socks.

Final coat is done! The fluffy socks worked 
their magic because we love it!

The den looks amazing with that punch of blue
Here's a picture of the two-piece bathroom. 
Now do you see why I was getting nervous about the colour?

It was hard to get a good picture of the powder room's real wall colour due to lighting and the size of the room.  But here's a picture of the cabinetry paint colour (we're going for a shaker-style cabinet instead of what's pictured), our Formica counter top pick and the paint stick with the SW Watery to give you an idea of where we're going with the powder room.

So that's where we stood at the beginning of October 2015.  The painting is done!

Next up?
Picking furniture and flooring -- To Carpet or not to carpet?  That is the question!

Choosing custom cabinetry and finishes - 'Um, I think you mistakenly added a few zeros at the end of that quote, madame!'

Previous Basement Reno Posts
1. In the Beginning (planning things out and moving plumbing)
2. Insulatin', Lighting and Drywall ... Oh my!

Friday, 5 February 2016

Fatal Whispers

Author: Sandra Nikolai
Genre: Light Mystery, Canadian
Series: #2 in the Megan Scott/Michael Elliott series
Type: e-book
Page Count in Paper Copy
Publisher: Vemcort Publishing
First Published: August 29, 2013
First Line: "There were times when I wished I could change the future."

Book Description from GoodReadsA millionaire’s beautiful young wife. A homeless woman. A parish priest.

Three baffling deaths within days. No sign of foul play. No police leads. An unprecedented occurrence in Portland, Maine. Even medical authorities can’t explain the cause of death.

Ghostwriter Megan Scott and investigative reporter Michael Elliott look for answers when their trip to this alluring New England town coincides with the mysterious deaths. After police question Megan’s cousin, a flower shop owner, in connection with one of the deaths, the investigation hits close to home. A fire at the shop, stolen documents, and blackmail threats prompt Megan and Michael to probe deeper. They discover ominous secrets buried decades ago and ruthless killers who won’t let anyone get in the way of revenge.

My Review:  I jumped right into this series with Fatal Whispers, the second book in the Megan Scott/Michael Elliott series by Canadian author Sandra Nikolai.  Normally that's not something I like to do but Nikolai gives her readers enough background story to help them figure out how Megan and Michael first met while not giving anything away about her first mystery.

This was a good mystery with lots of twists and red herrings.  Even though I predicted a few of the twists it was still an engaging and enjoyable read.  The budding romance was sweet and believable but takes a backseat to the mystery which I liked.  Personally, romance is nice but I'm in it for the mystery!  

The characters were pretty well fleshed out and I like how certain characters' behaviours made me keep questioning who I thought had 'dunnit'.  I think having Michael being a crime writer is a good way to ensure many more interesting plot lines and I would like to see him play a bigger role in future books.  As a proud Canadian I was happy to see that Megan and Michael are also Canucks and that the next book in the series, Icy Silence, brings readers back to Quebec for a new adventure.

The first two-thirds of the book had a cozy mystery feel to it but Nikolai writes a fabulous heart-stopping scene in the last third that upped the energy level considerably as the mystery was coming to a close.  If a few more of those nail-biting scenes were sprinkled throughout the first part of the book I would have given Fatal Whispers a higher rating.  As it is, this was an easy read and kept my attention so much so that I finished the book in two days.  I look forward to more from this author!

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Disclaimer:  My sincere thanks to author Sandra Nikolai for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of her book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Super Bowl Munchie Ideas

This weekend something big is happening.  Everyone is talking about it.  Many people are extremely excited!  Lots of fun, shouting, cheering and dishes upon dishes of pub grub will be lovingly made for my family ... 

apparently there's a big football game on too.

Yup, it's Super Bowl weekend!  Woot woot!

The only real hitch I see is that our family isn't into football.  Brad and Boy 1 understand it better than the rest of us.  I kind of get the gist of the game but it's not something that I'd sit down and watch ... except for the Super Bowl.  Because during Super Bowl people lose their minds when it comes to eating and the fact that there are funny commercials on in between snippets of the game is the icing on the cake for our family.

I have a couple of friends, Beth and Kym and even my dear ol' Mom and Dad to be precise, who are avid football fans.  They know the game inside and out and regularly cheer on their favourite teams.  They are probably going to shake their heads when they are reminded of my lack of football love.  And yet they still love me.

Boo!  Hiss!  from the football lovers out there.  I know.  I get it.  You love your sport and that's great.  The Bookworm Family loves eating dips, chicken wings and cheesy bacon fries with abandon.  S'all good.  There's room for everyone's bliss.

To give you some inspiration for this weekend I've prepared a list of Super Bowl Worthy snack ideas.  You can check out my mega list of appetizer ideas on my blog under the Recipe Index heading at the top of the page.

Good luck to the two teams (whoever you may be).  We'll be (sort of) watching, cheering at inappropriate times and stuffing our faces.

Buffalo Chicken Dip
Consistently one of my top blog (and Pinterest) posts. Spicy and good!

Cheesy Bacon Fries with Ranch Dip
Fries, cheese, bacon ... the trinity of yum!

Hot Broccoli Dip
One of my all-time favourite dips.  Don't let the broccoli scare you away.  This dip is awesome!

Crispy Breaded Goat Cheese with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
For those wanting a more upper crust affair these goat cheese bites are fantastic and rather impressive.

Loaded Ranch Pull-Apart Bread
A definite crowd pleaser!

Jalapeno Popper Dip
Another one of my top Pinned appetizers because it tastes exactly like those delicious little poppers!

Layered Greek Dip
Looking for something easy to bring to a Super Bowl Party?  This dip is easy to whip up and a nice cold dip idea.

And finally, one cannot attend a Super Bowl Extravaganza party without the signature
Super Taco Dip.  Layered with a spicy cream cheese layer, diced veggies and black olives, salsa and cheese this is always a hit.

Good luck to the two teams.  I'll be cheering on the Toronto Blue Jays. ;) 

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination

Author: J.K Rowling
Genre: Non-Fiction
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 80
Source: Local Public Library
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
First Published: April 14, 2015
First Line: "The first thing I'd like to say is 'thank you'."

Book Description from GoodReadsIn 2008, J.K. Rowling delivered a deeply affecting commencement speech at Harvard University. Now published for the first time in book form, Very Good Lives offers J.K. Rowling’s words of wisdom for anyone at a turning point in life, asking the profound and provocative questions: How can we embrace failure? And how can we use our imagination to better both ourselves and others?

Drawing from stories of her own post-graduate years, the world-famous author addresses some of life’s most important issues with acuity and emotional force.

My Review:  I remember vaguely hearing that J.K Rowling had spoken at Harvard's commencement years back and my initial thought was "Oh man!  That would have been a speech to remember!" followed quickly by some rather large feelings of envy since I can't even remember who spoke at my commencement.

In this short book people can read her speech to Harvard's class of 2008 where she instills them with some good insight using her signature dry humour and some rather amazing quotes. 

She speaks about the merits of failure in her life so far

“Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to 
myself that I was anything other than what I was and began to direct all my 
energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in 
the one arena where I believed I truly belonged.”   

Personally, my favourite quote from this speech will be the following: 

"It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default."

She also shares her experiences when she worked for Amnesty International in her early 20's.  She worked with people who had survived horrific experiences and how learning about these experiences changed her.  Real change in the world can start with a single person imagining that it can happen.  Imagination breeds compassion - the more people can use their imaginations, the less violence there will be as we imagine what others have experienced.

"Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people’s places. Of course, this is a power, like my brand of fictional magic, that is morally neutral. One might use such an ability to manipulate, or control, just as much as to understand or sympathise."

"We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better."

The book itself is very short (shorter than I would have expected for her speech) and I read it in 20 minutes.  I think anyone, fan of Harry Potter or not, will enjoy and get something out of this speech.  Rowling is undoubtedly well spoken and gives her readers, and especially the grads, a lot to think about.

Note: Readers should know that sales from this book will go to Rowling's international charity, Lumos whose goal is to end the institutionalization of children. Lumos is the perfect name for this charity because, as Harry Potter fans will know, Lumos is the spell from Harry Potter that is used to create light. By using her charity she hopes to bring light and hope to children suffering in institutions worldwide.

My Rating: 5 stars

Monday, 1 February 2016

Platinum Doll - Review and Interview with the Author

Author: Anne Girard
Genre: Memoir, Historical Fiction
Type: Paperback
Pages: 352
Source: Author
Publisher: MIRA Books
First Published: January 26, 2016
First Line: "April, 1928 - "Slow down, Chuck, or you'll get us both killed!"

Book Description from GoodReads: Set against the dazzling backdrop of Golden Age Hollywood, novelist Anne Girard tells the enchanting story of Jean Harlow, one of the most iconic stars in the history of film.

It's the Roaring Twenties and seventeen-year-old Harlean Carpenter McGrew has run off to Beverly Hills. She's chasing a dream;to escape her small, Midwestern life and see her name in lights. In California, Harlean has everything a girl could want; a rich husband, glamorous parties, socialite friends; except an outlet for her talent. But everything changes when a dare pushes her to embrace her true ambition :to be an actress on the silver screen. With her timeless beauty and striking shade of platinum-blond hair, Harlean becomes Jean Harlow. And as she's thrust into the limelight, Jean learns that this new world of opportunity comes with its own set of burdens. Torn between her family and her passion to perform, Jean is forced to confront the difficult truth; that fame comes at a price, if only she's willing to pay it. Amid a glittering cast of ingénues and Hollywood titans: Clara Bow, Clark Gable, Laurel and Hardy, Howard Hughes, Platinum Doll introduces us to the star who would shine brighter than them all.

My Review: Platinum Doll is an interesting look into the life of the young Hollywood ingénue who took Hollywood and the world by storm.  Filled with many references to Hollywood elite like Laurel and Hardy, Clark Gable, Greta Garbo and Carole Lombard this book shows the struggles, both personal and professional, that teenager Harlean Carpenter, who later became Jean Harlow, experienced during her rise to fame.

Underneath it all, Platinum Doll is a coming of age story. Seventeen year old Harlean arrives in California as a very naive and impressionable young bride from Kansas City.  Initially she wasn't interested in pursuing a career in Hollywood but soon she changed her name to Jean Harlow, set her sights on Hollywood her rise to fame began.  She paid her dues and found that she had to fight to be taken as a serious actress and not a brainless blonde bombshell the studios thought her to be.  As her star rose she quickly became one of the most famous actresses of the time but not without many struggles along the way as she tries to take control of her life and career from those around her.

At the heart of the book is Jean's relationships with her family.  Readers get an up close look some of these relationships including the very complicated, dysfunctional yet sometimes touching relationship Jean had with her mother.  "Mama Jean" was a controlling woman who was living out her former dream to be a Hollywood star through her daughter.  She fought hard for her daughter but took just as much (if not more) than she gave.  Theirs was a tumultuous relationship as was her rocky marriage to her childhood sweetheart, Chuck McGrew which affected some of her future romantic entanglements.

This book has many references to old Hollywood - the glamour, the limitations for young women and all the dazzle of the Roaring 20's.  While I enjoyed this book I think people who know more about Hollywood in the 1920's would love this book even more.  There were so many famous names referred to that I sort of recognized but didn't have a good enough grasp on their careers to fully get the reference.

I was eager to read Platinum Doll because I wanted to know more about this infamous actress and Anne Girard gave me a good look at the young woman behind the Hollywood glamour.

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Disclaimer:  My sincere thanks to author Anne Girard for providing me with a complimentary paperback copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I'd also like to thank Anne Girard for taking the time to answer my questions in the following interview.

My Interview with Author Anne Girard

I didn’t know much about Jean Harlow before reading this book.  What is the most important thing that you’d like people to know about Jean?

That she was far more than the stylized iconic photos we see of her today. Jean, whose real name was Harlean, was a funny, well-educated, and sensitive young woman, one who loved books and animals—who was only 17 years old when she first became a star, and 26 when she passed away.

Why did you specifically choose to write about Jean Harlow instead of another actress/actor of the era?

It intrigued me to learn that Harlow was the first blonde bombshell and that she was an idol to another huge icon—Marilyn Monroe, who had actually planned to play Harlow in a film. That was what initially piqued my interest. When I discovered how young she was, and that she was married to a hot-headed young man who was threatened by her career path—and by her domineering mother, for me, those were the seeds of a book I knew I wanted to pursue.

What was the hardest scene for you to write in the book?

Definitely it was the scene that takes place in the car with Harlow’s mother. Jean Bello was such a dominant force in Harlow’s life, and she trusted her mother absolutely, which made for most of the conflict between Harlow and her husband, who was threatened and entirely out-matched. It was definitely difficult to put myself into the mindset of a panicked young woman being forced to do something she didn’t want to do, but having no unearthly idea of how to get out of it. I thought that was really poignant and sad. I hope I conveyed that.

How rigorously do you adhere to historical accuracy when writing about such a well-known celebrity?

Very rigorously for the exact reason that she is so well known. As I was writing, I learned that there is a large and devoted Harlow fan base alive and well out there. If I strayed too far outside the lines of fact, even though PLATINUM DOLL is a novel, they would let me know about it! Also for them, I really wanted to make certain that I honored Harlow in the way I portrayed her.

Did you fictionalize some encounters to make your plot work?

Obviously there was no tape recorder there so exact exchanges must be imagined, particularly for the car scene, or the speakeasy, so that is where the work of a novelist is involved when writing about true characters from history. We take the outline of known facts, and then we are required to write scenes that flesh those facts out believably and hopefully entertainingly.

Do you think Jean could have made it in Hollywood on her own, without the help of her strong-willed mother?

That’s an interesting question. While she was ‘discovered’ and found work without her mother’s help, Jean Bello most definitely pushed and prodded her daughter forward. If her mother had remained in the Midwest, I think there is a good chance that Harlean would have had a child during that period before her star rose. She could well have stayed married and grown content with that life, which she was before her mother arrived in Hollywood. She was quoted years later as saying that she missed Chuck and still mourned the loss of their child, so it seems to me a definite possibility.

Can you share what your next book will be about?

I would love to but right now it’s still top secret. What I can say is that it is about another super interesting character from history. I’m knee-deep in research and writing at the moment and loving every discovery…. Thanks very much for having me, and letting me talk a bit about PLATINUM DOLL.

About the Author

Diane Haeger, who currently writes under the pen name Anne Girard (Madame Picasso), holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University, and a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature from UCLA. A chance meeting with the famed author Irving Stone 25 years ago sharply focused her ambition to tell great stories from history, and write them only after detailed research and extensive travel to the place her character lived. That determination has provided a fascinating journey that has taken her from the halls of Chenonceaux, to a private interview with one of Pablo Picasso's last surviving friends, and most recently an invitation inside Jean Harlow's home.

Since the publication of her acclaimed first novel, Courtesan, in 1993, a novel that remains in print today, her work has been translated into 18 different languages, bringing her international success and award-winning status.

Platinum Doll, a novel about Jean Harlow, is her 15th book. She lives in Southern California with her husband and family.

Twitter:            @annegirard1

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Blood Rose Angel

Author: Liza Perrat
Genre: Historical Fiction
Type: e-book
Series: Bone Angel series
Page Count of Paper Copy: 412
Source: directly from author
Publisher: Perrat Publishing
First Published: Oct 2015
First Line: "Christ's toenails, ignore him Héloïse", Isa chided, as I glared at Drogan sauntering towards us through the marketplace stalls and customers."

Book Description from GoodReads1348. A bone-sculpted angel and the woman who wears it––heretic, Devil’s servant, saint.

Midwife Héloïse has always known that her bastard status threatens her standing in the French village of Lucie-sur-Vionne. Yet her midwifery and healing skills have gained the people’s respect, and she has won the heart of the handsome Raoul Stonemason. The future looks hopeful. Until the Black Death sweeps into France.

Fearful that Héloïse will bring the pestilence into their cottage, Raoul forbids her to treat its victims. Amidst the grief and hysteria, the villagers searching for a scapegoat, Héloïse must choose: preserve her marriage, or honour the oath she swore on her dead mother’s soul? And even as she places her faith in the protective powers of her angel talisman, she must prove she’s no Devil’s servant, her talisman no evil charm.

My Review: Author Liza Perrat once again has written a vivid tale set within a notable historical setting as part of her Bone Angel series.  This is the third book in her historical fiction trilogy but all three books are great as stand-alones (I had only read 'Wolfsangel' before this book) so readers can pick up any of the books without the fear that they're missing out on personal histories/story lines.

Blood Rose Angel centres around the 14th century pandemic plague that killed nearly fifty percent of Europe's population.  It was a time of great terror and extreme loss that was only exacerbated by superstitious, prejudicial and ignorant beliefs of the time. Perrat paints a vivid picture of life in a small French town during this plague complete with social, religious and personal issues that draw the reader into her story.  That doesn't mean it didn't have its frustrating parts that were hard to read - namely some of the (now silly) views that somehow everything from cats, lepers, amulets or Jews were the reason for the pestilence and disease spreading and killing so many.  Or how superstition trumped science when it came to hygiene, health and the treatment of women as lesser.

Perrat tells her story using a wide array of characters within the small French town of Lucie-sur-Vionne each with their own vibrant personalities.  I guarantee that you won't like all of them but you will remember them.  I found Héloïse to be a strong female character.  She was smart and went to great lengths to protect her family, friends and townspeople.  She was also stubborn and sometimes hard to support as she brazenly and sometime stupidly would put herself in harm's way because of her actions or, more likely, her big mouth.  There were a few times when I wanted to shake her and yell "Just shut UP!" because you could see that her mouth was, at times, her biggest adversary.

Readers are given a startling look at life back in the 1300's.  Perrat shows with vivid clarity the effects of the plague physically and emotionally on those who suffered its effects as well as the devastation it had on whole communities.  There was rampant fear, fear mongering as well as their misguided beliefs in medicine, general hygiene and the blatant lack of women's rights.

Midwifery is a big part of the story line as are the real threats of witchery and heresy claims that many midwives had to deal with due to ignorance spread by fear and patriarchal powers.  Within this tumultuous time Perrat also showcases the female bond between family members as well as women within the community.

My only negative about the book was that the pace in the middle lagged a bit and the big reveal of Héloïse's father was a little lackluster and felt like it was thrown in quickly to sum things up.

Overall, this was an enjoyable historical fiction book that was the wonderfully absorbing read that I've come to expect from Liza Perrat.

My Rating: 4 stars

Disclaimer:  My sincere thanks to author Liza Perrat for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

No Priors

Author: Sophie Bérubé
Genre: Suspense, Canadian
Type: e-book
Print Length: 271 pages
Source: Directly from author
Publisher: Self-Published
First Published in French: 2011 
First Published in English: October 14, 2015
First Line: "The first time she walked into the bookstore, I knew right away that I wanted her to bear my children."

Book Description from GoodReadsThis best-selling novel tells the riveting story of Thomas, a seductive bookseller and underground artist, who falls in love with Roxanne; an ambitious lawyer looking for commitment. His dream of raising a family with her soon turns into a real descent to hell where the line between good and evil can be blurred. 

Told from each character’s perspective, the story does not reveal until the very end who is ultimately responsible for the tragedy hanging over them. This romantic suspense will stay with you forever. 

My Review:  Bérubé has written an energetic psychological thriller which is quite reminiscent of Gone Girl in that she reveals a volatile relationship by showing the reader two sides of the same story.  The only difference is that, in this case, I actually liked both characters at some point or other in the book.  

Sometimes reading a book that focuses on one situation from two different perspectives can feel a little monotonous.  A little of that happened here as various situations are rehashed from the two different points of view.  It's inevitable but the author also threw in some deeper insights which helped to slightly lessen these déjà vu feelings. Readers will be surprised at how they may switch allegiances when they get both perspectives.  Seeing the two perspectives on the same experiences was eye opening to say the least. 

I admit that I found it hard to read some passages because of the emotion and passive aggression.  To see someone try to bring their 'loved one' to their knees emotionally and psychologically was hard to witness ... but it also makes for a good read.  Both characters had their own issues (quite large ones in fact) that influenced their relationship.  Some were chilling, others were sad as you witness someone losing control and/or allowing others to control them.  Bérubé vividly shows how destructive words can be and gives the reader a lot to think about.   

She also shows different versions of love as well as the darker side that relationships can take.  This was an easy read and quite a page turner. Due to the various issues raised in this book I think that it would make a great book club selection.

NoteNo Priors was was originally printed in French here in Canada under the title Sans Antécédents and became a best seller back in October 2011.

My Rating: 4 stars

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to author Sophie Bérubé for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Our Basement Renovation - Part Two - Insulatin', Lighting and Drywall - oh MY!

Now that we completed the nitty and oh so gritty work of moving our bathroom plumbing across the room we could focus on getting some walls up.  Exciting stuff! Not that electrical and plumbing aren't fascinating .... er, but what gets me excited is seeing walls start going up and the basement start to take shape.  

Because we wanted an open concept space Brad only had to build a few walls.  He also framed in the two closets and created framework around the duct work in the ceiling. Bulkheads are a necessary evil of basements.  

Our builder had already insulated all of our outer walls with the pink stuff to keep the cold out but we chose to insulate the basement ceilings and the walls around the furnace room with sound reducing insulation.  There are a few reasons for this -- so we could play movies with the new surround sound LOUD, so we didn't have to hear the furnace going on and off during a movie and, quite honestly, we didn't want to hear the boys yelling at the TV with their friends as they played video games. 

This is not our first rodeo, people!

Armed with rubber gloves and masks (we were bringing sexy back!) Brad and I insulated walls and ceilings - okay, Brad insulated all the ceilings and I helped with a bunch of the walls.  Besides the safety stuff, you'll also need sharp retractable utility knives, some measuring tapes, a basic ability to measure and you're good to go.

Obviously fashion and good hair aren't prerequisites for insulation work.
Insulation is a messy business.  Health-wise, masks (like the sexy one I'm sporting above), are a MUST when dealing with insulation but they're also extremely hot and if you get insulation on your skin it's itchy (long sleeves are a good idea).  My point?  It's not a fun job but it's also not a hard job to do and I was quite pleased with the walls that I did myself.  We think it makes a big difference in keeping the noise between floors down especially since we have tile and hardwood throughout the main floor.

Result? - worth the extra money to make it more sound resistant.  I love my family but I don't always want to hear them.  AmIright?

Lighting is something that you may not notice if it's done right but if it's done 'less than right' you'll sense it.  It's also something you have to map out before you start to do your ceilings.  Brad and I thought long and hard about what we wanted.  We always try to go for less energy usage so LED was the way to go.  They are pricey bulbs but they've come down in price a little and with some offered rebates it was a no brainer for us.  We opted for LED pot lights throughout the basement and since we were going for a 'transitional with a slightly industrial vibe' in the basement we chose non-LED Edison bulbs for the cool lighting fixture in the stairway.

Love the slightly industrial look of this
fixture in the stairwell with its Edison bulbs.
When Brad mapped out his pot light plan each pot light would be 4 feet apart to minimize dark spots or shadows in the room.  The plan looked good.  But remember, our entertainment space is a honkin' 40 feet long so once the pot lights were installed it kind of resembled a runway.  God love 'im we had a lot of lights but they look great!

The pot lights are all on dimmers and are divided into different areas of the room so the entire basement isn't on one switch.  Brad, of course, took some ribbing from family members about the amount of lights we had.  Sure, we could probably have a doctor perform surgery in the basement or land a 747 but we don't have any dark spots in the basement!  Mission accomplished!

Note: The pot lights in the picture above had to be (easily) removed while the drywall was installed then reinstalled.

Part of getting older and wiser (and having a little more cash flow) is knowing when to do things yourself and when to call in the experts.  Installing and especially mudding drywall is a skill which Brad and I know we do not possess.  We are also fully aware that we are picky about quality when it comes to finishes because finishes are what we (and others) notice.  So we opted to hire out for the drywall and we're so glad we did.  It would have taken us forever to do and it wouldn't have near the quality that we ended up with.  Our drywaller Peter was even more quality conscious than we were, had amazing pride in his work and did a wonderful job.  He even guarantees no nail pops ... evah!

Peter also suggested that we drywall the ceiling.  We were originally thinking of doing a drop ceiling to save money but since Peter could do it for less than a drop ceiling we went for a fully drywalled look.  And we LOVE it!  It doesn't feel like a basement, the ceiling feels quite high and the California stucco looks great with the LED pot lights we installed.  It pays to listen to the professionals.

But along with drywall comes the inevitable drywall dust.  Drywall dust is like sparkles in the crafting world.  You will be finding that stuff on you and around your house for weeks afterwards!  It's the gift that keeps giving.  Gah!  I didn't think things would get THAT dusty.  

A view towards the media area and
the door to the bathroom. Now things are

taking shape!  Look at that DUST!!
Oooo baby!  Drywall dust seemed to creep up the stairs onto the main floor and our basement was layered with it.  It was a necessary evil though and the drywall guys cleaned it up really well.  After we mopped it a couple of times we were dust-free and ready to move on to the next {much more fun} stage - paint!!

Result? - totally worth it to get a professional to drywall and mud.  You'll notice a difference.

Tip: We have three good-sized windows in our basement but when we were building our house we had our builder increase the size of one of them.  Why?  Not only does it provide a tonne of natural light but we could also get 4'x8' sheets of drywall (or a long counter top for the bar) through the window.  Peter just made a makeshift slide for the drywall and easily slid the sheets through the window.  He was ecstatic and we saved a lot of time and money on labour.  If possible, think ahead to make your drywaller happy and save money.

That's where we stood in September 2015 for our renovation.

Next up for Our Basement Renovation blog posts 

"Do these painting clothes make me too sexy?" and 

"I know we're half way done painting but are you SURE you love this colour?" (and other things you shouldn't ask your spouse during a renovation)

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