How To Plan a Bathroom Renovation

The toilet in our master ensuite is broken.

First it stopped up. So Luc unstopped it. Then it stopped up again and no amount of plunging, snaking or cursing could make it flow.

This meant one of two things had to happen:

  1. We needed to replace the toilet OR
  2. We needed to completely gut and renovate our bathroom.

Guess which one we chose.

After 15 years in the same house, we’ve tackled our fair share of upgrades. We’ve replaced everything that needed replacing (windows, doors, furnace, A/C, hot water tank, roof), painted every room in the house (some more than once), switched out carpet for hardwood, refinished the finished basement and fully landscaped the front and back yards.

But somehow, except for some minor decorative updates, we’ve managed to put off overhauling the bathrooms. Yes, they’re all original to our circa 1986 Minto home, but up until the toilet fiasco, they functioned just fine, and the ivory toilets, tubs and sinks weren’t nearly as aesthetically offensive as, say, the pink ones of some of our neighbours.

But it’s been a few months of waffling. And a few months of sharing the kids’ bathroom (just for the record, ew). And we’ve finally decided it just doesn’t make sense to put a nice, new toilet into a sad, old bathroom. So a reno it is.

Of course, it’s not as simple as that. First we need a plan. And my idea of planning is WAAAY different from Luc’s.

Here are my steps to planning a bathroom renovation:

  1. Spend fourteen and a half years poring over decorating magazines and dreaming about your perfect ensuite.
  2. Tear inspiration pages from said magazines and keep them in a file so that when the time comes to renovate, any vision you have is hopelessly outdated.
  3. Spend fourteen and a half straight hours poring over Pinterest desperately looking for inspiration.
  4. Ask your husband which of the 87 pinned photos of remarkably similar bathrooms he likes the best.
  5. Walk away in a huff when said husband says he really doesn’t care as long as the toilet flushes.
  6. Hire a designer to bounce ideas off of.
  7. Create a detailed budget outlining every item from drywall to tiles to toothbrush holders.
  8. Blow said budget on the custom glass shower enclosure you can’t live without.
  9. Put off the reno until after Christmas.
  10. Briefly rethink the custom glass shower enclosure once the Christmas credit card bill arrives.
  11. Decide that not only can you not live without the custom glass shower enclosure but that you will also require a custom vanity to really make the room work, Christmas credit card bill be damned.

And here we are. We know exactly what we (and when I say “we” I mean “I”) want. Plus, we know exactly what we (and when I say “we” I mean “Luc”) are willing to pay to get it.

Demo should start in the next couple of weeks. And if all goes according to plan we’re going to end up with the bathroom of our dreams.

And oh yeah…a toilet that flushes!

Check out Luc’s thoughts on planning a bathroom reno.


How to Read the Newspaper

Luc and I have a pretty good system when it comes to reading the weekday paper on a busy weekday morning: he finds the section with the comics, opens it up to that page, and sets it by my place at the counter. The rest of the paper is his to enjoy.

But the Saturday newspaper is another story. With the kids parked in the family room watching too much TV, we often (and by often I mean sometimes when the stars align) take the time to read the entire paper.

And this is where it gets a little complicated. Because we each have our own way of tackling this enjoyable task. Here’s mine:

  1. Putter around the kitchen making coffee and otherwise looking busy until Luc gives in first and goes to get the paper out of the mailbox so that I don’t have to head out onto the front steps in my PJs and risk being seen by a neighbour mowing his lawn, say, or a random jogger.
  2. Nab the paper from the kitchen counter while Luc makes his tea and escape to the dining room.
  3. Remove the stack of flyers from the middle of the paper.
  4. Divide the flyers into three piles: “Can’t be bothered” (Princess Auto, Dymon Storage and anything related to lawn care or hearing aids), “Flip through and recycle before I’m tempted to drop everything and go shopping” (Home Outfitters, Bouclair, Target) and “Save for later when making the grocery list so that I can painstakingly plan the meals and price compare, only to forget the damn things at home when I head to the grocery store and not save a single cent after all.”
  5. Make sure the edges of all the flyers in the three piles line up neatly. Yes, even the ones going straight into the recycling bin. I’m weird that way.
  6. Glance quickly at the first page of the first section to make sure the world isn’t ending.
  7. Pull out the sections I actually want to read (Homes and Condos, Books, Travel, Life, Comics…) and set them neatly on the table to my left. (Gotta have my coffee hand free…)
  8. Give the rest to Luc when he arrives in the dining room, tea in hand, looking for the paper he’s sure he brought in.
  9. Read each of my sections one at a time–carefully folding the pages back as I go–including all articles and ads.
  10. Lay each finished section face down on the table so that I can fold them back up neatly when I’m done.
  11. Briefly consider doing the crossword puzzle.
  12. Realize that any time and/or energy I may have had to complete the crossword puzzle was sucked out of me when I had my first child 10 years ago.
  13. When Luc has finished reading his sections (World News, Canada, City, Opinion, Business…), flip through them quickly, scanning the headlines and skimming the photo captions, making a half-hearted attempt to stay somewhat current with what’s going on in the world without being completely traumatized by all of the death, destruction, pain, suffering and downright stupidity going on out there.
  14. Except for the Sports section. I just ignore that altogether.
  15. Fold the remaining sections into the others. Neatly. Like the paper had never been opened. Kinda like a stealth mission except with all the sections out of order. Which bugs me, but I force myself not to fix it.
  16. Recycle.
  17. Neatly.

Check out Luc’s thoughts on how to read the newspaper.


How to (not) do nothing

Every once in a while Luc and I have an evening–or better yet an entire Saturday or Sunday–with nothing scheduled.

No kung fu. No baseball or hockey. No swimming or piano lessons.

No book club for me. No beer club for Luc.

No appointments, family engagements, neighbourhood get-togethers, recitals, birthday parties, drop-offs, pick-ups or errands.

We smile at each other. We sigh. “Ah!” we say in unison. “Let’s enjoy this! Let’s relish it! Let’s just do NOTHING!”

I’m not saying we’re experts or anything, but over our 17-year marriage, we’ve learned some very enlightening things about relationships and communication. One of which is “When you are both in total agreement in a particular situation, chances are you aren’t.”

This is what Luc means when he says “Let’s do nothing”:

“Let’s do nothing.”

This is what I mean when I say “Let’s do nothing”:

“Let’s do SOMETHING!”

For me, having a great swath of free time on the weekend (or even just a few free hours on a random Tuesday night) means the opportunity to tackle all of those household projects that just keep getting put on hold because we never have time to get around to them. You know, the decluttering of the basement. Or the reorg of the garage. Or at least the cleaning of the bathrooms.

Or if that’s too ambitious, there’s always stuff to pick up. Put away. Tidy.

Even if there’s absolutely nothing that NEEDS to get done (like that’s ever happened), I’ll putter. Move things around. Straighten piles. Fluff.

Drives Luc crazy.

Sometimes when we have these pockets of nothingness, Luc can actually convince me to JUST SIT STILL long enough to watch a movie together (which is about as far as his definition of “doing nothing” will stretch). But even so, chances are I’ll be simultaneously flipping through a magazine I haven’t had the chance to read, folding a few loads of laundry or balancing the budget.

I’ve tried to do nothing. I mean consiously sat down and tried NOT TO DO ANYTHING. But then I find my brain goes into overdrive and I start analyzing the fact that by trying to do nothing I’m actually doing something so really this is all just beside the point and I might as well get up and go do something else…

I’m pretty sure we’re free tomorrow night. A few free hours we can both enjoy and relish.

If I know Luc, he’ll be happy to do nothing.

And if he knows me, I’ll be doing…something.

Check out Luc’s thoughts on how to do nothing.

How to Shop for Women’s Lingerie

Shopping for men’s clothes is a walk in the park compared to shopping for women’s lingerie (Is that redundant? Is there such a thing as men’s lingerie?)

While I don’t shop for lingerie on a regular basis (sorry about that, Luc) I have had two drastically different lingerie shopping experiences in recent years that I’d like to share. Not to name names, but both took place at a well-known lingerie store that starts with La and ends with Senza. And they illustrate how important the sales staff is when a woman embarks on such a nerve-wracking quest as buying some sexy lingerie.

Let’s start with How NOT to Shop for Women’s Lingerie

  1. Book a trip to Mexico for your 15th wedding anniversary with couple-friends who will be celebrating their 10th anniversary.
  2. Realize that you have not shopped for sexy lingerie since well before the birth of your first child, 8 years (and 30 pounds) previous.
  3. Head to La Senza with the female half of the above-mentioned couple-friends to find a little something to spice things up on the trip.
  4. Enter the store.
  5. Be completely ignored by the 16-year-old size zero salesgirls comparing manicures at the cash.
  6. Wander around the store with your friend, looking at and commenting on the least intimidating items (bras, panties, robes) while trying to casually check out the super-sexy bustiers, babydolls and merrywidows that you really want to try on.
  7. Be completely ignored by the 16-year-old size zero salesgirls fixing each other’s hair at the cash.
  8. Get up the nerve to grab several items to try on.
  9. Interrupt the 16-year-old size zero salesgirls talking about their boyfriends at the cash to ask to be let into a change room.
  10. Be led with a sigh and an eye-roll into the change rooms.
  11. Stuff yourself into the first item.
  12. Stuff yourself into the second item.
  13. Laugh hysterically at the third item.
  14. Losing all sense of embarrassment and/or modesty, fling open the change room door and show your friend the fourth item, which you both agree for the price should cover WAY more than it’s currently covering.
  15. Press the pretty little buzzer to get the 16-year-old size zero salesgirl’s attention.
  16. Press it again.
  17. And again.
  18. When she grudgingly appears, ask her if she could bring you the same item in a larger size.
  19. Listen, shocked, insulted and humiliated as she answers “We don’t make them that big.”
  20. Shoot icy daggers into the 16-year-old size zero salesgirl’s back as she walks away.
  21. End up buying a bra, some panties and a robe.
  22. Go home and obsess for days on end about the witty, cutting come-backs you should have spouted to put that snarky little 16-year-old size zero salesgirl’s skinny little ass in its place.

And now, How to Shop for Women’s Lingerie

  1. Gaze with horror into your dresser drawer as you realize that all of your once-white bras are now grey (as are all of your once-black bras) and that all of the elastic is shot on your comfy, faded, worn out 100% cotton Jockey undies.
  2. Decide that the time has come, as a mature, well-adjusted 40-something wife, mom and woman, to throw out everything in the drawer, start over and treat yourself to some sexy undergarments.
  3. Head, against your better judgment, to La Senza (not the same one as last time).
  4. Walk confidently up to the first salesgirl you see.
  5. Say a mental prayer of thanks that she appears to be over the age of majority and at least a size 6.
  6. Inform her that you are replenishing your supply of bras. Tell her that if she can find something that fits you and makes you feel good, you will buy one in every colour it comes in along with the matching panties in every style they come in, bikini, boy-cut, thong or otherwise. Let her know that you want her to wait on you hand and foot and in return you will spend extravagant amounts of money adding to both her commission and quotas.
  7. Nod approvingly as she gets on her little headset and rallies two other salesgirls, one of whom leads you to the change room and performs a quickie bra sizing while the other starts whipping an astonishing array of push-up, full coverage, demi-cup, lace, gel and microfiber bras over the door.
  8. Less than an hour later, leave the store with a bag full of new bras and panties in every colour of the rainbow, a shiny La Senza discount card in your wallet and a smile on your face.

Check out Luc’s thoughts on buying lingerie.

How to Shop for Men’s Clothes

Every five years or so I look at Luc and say, “Man, you gotta get some new clothes!”

It’s taken 20 years (what’s that, like four wardrobe changes?) but I’ve come up with three nearly fail-proof approaches to shopping for men’s clothes. None of which involves spending an entire day at the mall, visiting each and every store, scouring the racks for bargains, trying on anything and everything, not buying anything until you’ve covered the whole mall, then retracing your steps and buying your favourites, which is, of course, the classic way to shop for women’s clothes.

Each of these ways to shop for men’s clothes has its own pros and cons…maybe one of them will work for you!

The Passive-Aggressive Play

  1. Leave the man at home.
  2. Go shopping by yourself.
  3. Buy everything you’d like to see your man dressed in.
  4. Take it home and force him to try it on (during the commercials of the NHL Stanley Cup Play-offs is a particularly effective time, as his distraction quotient is at its max).
  5. Keep what he likes.
  6. Return what he doesn’t.

Pro: Your man becomes a life-size Ken doll that you can dress as you please.

Con: A return trip to the mall to take back and exchange anything that doesn’t fit. No wait. That’s a pro…

The Caged Animal Tactic

  1. Lure the man to the mall with the promise of a stop at Home Depot on the way home.
  2. Trick him into entering the menswear shop of your choice by saying something along the lines of, “They’ve got a really good sale on. It won’t take long. It can’t hurt to take a quick look.”
  3. Convince him to try on one non-threatening piece of clothing. A golf shirt, say. Or a pair of jeans.
  4. Trap him in the change room.
  5. Take his pants if you have to.
  6. With the help of a bored, eager-to-please, yet not-overly-pushy salesperson, continue to throw various items of clothing over the door into the change room until your options are exhausted and your man has tried on and agreed to purchase enough clothes to get him through the next five years.

Pros: a) You are still mostly in control of the wardrobe renewal process. b) Your man gets some say in what he’s going to wear. c) One-stop shopping. No wait, that’s a con…

Con: You may blow your entire clothing budget for the year in one shot. But since you only do this every five years, you’ve actually saved the equivalent of four year’s worth of cash for clothes. Which means more money left over for shopping for yourself! OK, hold on, are we talking about pros or cons again?

The Leave It to the Fates Manoeuver

  1. Send the man to the mall by himself.
  2. Stay home and drink wine.

Pros: a) You get to stay home and drink wine. b) You get to stay home and drink wine. c) You get to stay home and…OK, you get the point.

Cons: He may come home empty-handed. Then again, he may come home with three new suits, six new shirts, four new ties, socks, undies, shoes and a belt (yes, this has actually happened). In which case, you can celebrate with a glass of wine. Win-win!

Check out Luc’s thoughts on shopping for men’s clothes.

How to Load the Dishwasher

There are some things that Luc and I will never agree on. Most times we can agree to disagree. But when it comes to loading the dishwasher, I’m not even graciously admitting that maybe there’s more than one way to do it or that maybe his way is just as good as mine. Because it isn’t.

Why am I taking such a stand on this? Because he comes along behind me and reloads the dishes I’ve already loaded. It irks me. Because I know my way is fine. In fact, I know my way is best. (I’ll admit I’ve been known to do the same to him. But that’s only because he does it wrong.)

Here are my rules for loading the dishwasher:

Plates: Bottom, facing the middle.

Bowls: Bottom, also facing the middle.

Glasses: Top, wherever they’ll fit.

Pretty straightforward, right? (I think even Luc and I can agree on those three basics.) But here’s where the differences in dishwasher loading techniques really start to show…

Tupperware: Always on top–manufacturer’s instructions. Unless it doesn’t fit because the top is already jammed to overflowing with 48 individual pieces of Tupperware (damn those litterless lunches!) or because it’s too big to fit on the top. Then on the bottom. I’ll take my chances with it melting and leaving behind a sludgy plastic mess rather than taking the time to wash that blasted plastic by hand.

Note (clarification: Note to Luc): Do not jam all of the lids together in a row. The water will not get between them and get them clean. Ditto on piggy backing all of the containers one on top of the other. I repeat: The water will not get between them and get them clean.

Coffee mugs: Used to be the top. Now, because the top is perpetually jammed to overflowing with 48 individual pieces of Tupperware (see previous curse re: litterless lunches), the bottom. Added bonus: because they dangle precariously from the lower spikes instead of sitting snugly between them on the upper ones, the water doesn’t pool on the bottoms of the mugs and need to be sopped up with a tea towel every time you unload the dishwasher. (Stay tuned for a future blog on “How to Unload the Dishwasher”. Oh wait: just UNLOAD it.)

Cutlery: No spoons should be spooning. No fork tines should be intertwined. No peanut butter knives should be pressed up blade-to-blade with jam knives. I’ve heard both arguments: all down (so you can grab the clean handles when you unload–ooh, there’s that UNLOADING idea again) vs. all up (so the water sprays them better and they get cleaner). But really, alternating is the key: some up, some down.

Other: DO NOT EVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES put ANYTHING that has come into contact with raw egg into the dishwasher (yes, Luc, I’m talking to YOU). Not the bowl you nuked it in. Not the frying pan you fried it in. Not the whisk that whisked it, the fork that poked it or the spatula that flipped it. All that will happen is that the egg will cook into a rock-hard substance that can only be removed with a chisel. No, even if you put it back into the dishwasher a second (or a third) time (trust me, or even a fourth) it will not come clean.

p.s. The dishwasher is done. It needs to be unloaded.

See what Luc has to say!