Friday, April 30, 2010

It Started Here

My father was a salesman for a prefabricated house manufacturing company for a few years called National Homes. This house was one of their products. I was called here by the owners in the early 80's to do some touch ups on some of the window sills that had moisture damage. I met the Walls family for the first time. Irene's mom and dad had just moved here from Alberta and were building a new home. They contracted me to paint the newly constructed house, which I did. Then Irene's sister moved here, also from Alberta, and I painted her house. Then the Walls built a new home which will come up in a future post. I was hired to paint it also. When Irene's dad died, her mom, Mary, moved into a condo, which I also painted. Then her sister moved into the mom and dad's house and I re-decorated the whole interior. Her mom has since passed away and I have re-painted Jack and Irene's fabulous home on Panorama Drive. We have become friends over the years. Back to this house, when I finished the indoor projects they had for me, I painted the Exterior. I got my young brother-in-law to help with the high parts as I was never confident on a ladder or scaffold when it was the least bit precarious. There was a greenhouse attached to the back of the house and the trim was about ten feet above it. We put a plank across to two ladders and then Will placed a 5 gallon bucket on the plank and stood on it so he could reach the high bits. I could not watch as I had visions of him crashing through the glass below as his footing gave way. Well, he survived and all turned out OK in the end. In return for years of employment, Jack has been busylizzy's dentist forever. I have worked for many dentists over the years and I 'owe' them all, but we cannot be changing dentists like we change our underwear. I believe we have chosen to be loyal to the two best dentists in town, and we each have our own so we can spread the gratitude around a little bit.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Trouble in Greece

Olund Road property.

Last Thursday was "Black Thursday" for Greece. News reports told the world that Greece's budget problems were bigger than people had thought. Traders dumped Greek bonds.Greece's debt is now 'junk'...the rating agencies say that if the country is forced to reschedule creditors could get back only 30% of their money. Naturally, lenders are nervous. And investors fear that Greece's problems are not limited to the Hellenes. Sovereign debt problems are as 'contagious' as HIV. All it takes is a little hanky panky of the wrong sort...and you've got it!

Greece's budget deficit is 8.7% of GDP.
Portugal's deficit is the same.
Spain's is higher - at 10.4%.
Where's the US deficit? Last time we looked it was projected to be as high as 12% of GDP.

By many measures, the US is actually in WORSE shape than Greece. And the rating agencies have already warned about a possible downgrade of US debt too.And by all measures, the US has the biggest pile of debt in the world... Just wait until the sparks hit it. You'll see the world's biggest blow-up!

These dire words brought to you by "The Daily Reckoning" I read today the number of US citizens who have renounced their citizenship and are taking up permanent residence in other countries has more than doubled in 2009 over 2008. Are the rats abandoning the sinking ship? Just asking.


These people were my good customers. After working in their last five homes, the deal is off. I will tell the story and then you be the judge.
I always got on well with these folks, although I was never sure that I was good enough for them. She was on the top ten picky list for sure. I always thought that one day she would push the wrong button on me and it would be over between them and me. It happened in this house. She called me in to do touch ups in her stairwell. Just a bit here and there, and it would be fine. I warned her that the paint had to be from the same can as what the original job was from, or the touch ups would show. She assured me the half empty five gallon pail that she brought up from the basement was the right paint and just go ahead and do it. It was an hour of work, hardly worth driving out for but she had agreed to my fee. As the paint dried, it became obvious that it was a slightly different colour. Needless to say, she was displeased. Her perfect walls were ruined and now I had to get some new, fresh paint and redo the whole entry which had a curved staircase and was not easy to get at. I drove back to town, purchased the paint, brought some scaffolding, and fixed the problem properly. It looked like new, but now my bill was $300.00 instead of $50.00.
She flipped out and would only pay me the $50.00. I did not argue with her, but did try to be reasonable and persuasive. Just then her husband came in the door. His wife was in hysterics and I could see by his reaction that his thoughts were "Oh no, not again." Much to my relief, he grasped the situation immediately and took my side, as he was a man of logic and reason. He finally got firm with his wife and told her to "just pay the man!"
Amidst dirty looks and much muttering, she wrote the cheque and tossed it my way. I thanked her and left.
I have not seen either of them for a few years now, but neither have I had a call asking for my services. It is just as well.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


It is the night before the Super Bowl game. The Bengals are playing the Packers and suddenly there is a law passed that the Packer's coach must turn over his play book to the enemy, the Bengals. I do not have to draw a picture for you to see what a disaster this would create.

We have a similar situation unfolding in Ottawa at this minute only it involves something much more serious than football. War. There is a ruling now in the House that the government has to turn over all secret documents to the sitting opposition because they have a right to know. They must have freedom of information. How this came about is the result of political game playing around the allegations that Canadian Forces in Afghanistan turned over prisoners to the Afghani Army and these prisoners were tortured. Torture in warfare, in a Muslim nation? Who'da thunk it? If all the secret documents surrounding Canada's security are released, there goes our National Security and there goes our game plan in Afghanistan and there go some more lives of our boys manning the stations over there.

So now the political parties in Ottawa have two weeks to come up with a solution, whereby National Security can be maintained, while at the same time, all the information a person wants will be provided. No doubt the solution will be that all MP's who read these documents will be sworn to secrecy. If that is indeed what will happen, what was the point of it all. This sensitive material that the Liberals want so they can embarrass the Conservatives, will not be allowed to go public because of the secrecy that was sworn. It is like the preacher who played hooky on Sunday morning and went to play golf instead of preach. He got a hole-in-one, but then had a real dilemma. Who was he going to tell?

Bit by Bit

This is the home of one of my very regular customers. Each contract is another bit of the house that needs an upgrade. I have refurbished several areas of this home a few times already over the years. They are in the telecommunications business but have very ordinary phones in their home. One thing that is not very ordinary is their garden. It is totally hidden from view from all directions, but when you enter from the house or through the garage, you enter an enchanted world of ponds, fountains, sculptures, and exotic plants including huge banana trees that they somehow manage to keep alive during our cold winters. There is also a wonderful atrium off the kitchen full of tropical plants and always a prize specimen of a Bird of Paradise in full bloom.

A flood due to a leaky roof was the source of one my contracts here and I had to strip some very beautiful and expensive fabric wall coverings that I had recently hung. Another unique thing about this couple is that they own a vacation home, in St. Martin, The Bahamas. I have hinted and hinted ..... but to no avail. I have also done a tremendous amount of work for their son, who was still living at home and going to school when I first met this family but now has a home and family of his own. That makes me feel my age.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Source

The last several clients and their homes came from the mother load, the owner of this house. For my protection, I will call her Marlene, not her real name. She is a full time nurse and a part time drapery specialist and interior decorator. She no longer lives here, but she is the one who brought this house into the modern era, although you would never know by the outward appearance.

When I first met her, she still had a husband and three teen aged sons. She began her makeover in her master suite. In the following years, she renovated and renewed the old house until it sparkled and shone and looked like a million dollars. There are so many stories I could tell about her and her house, but I will restrain myself. While I was working there after the renovations were well under way, she found her husbands credit card statement and was puzzled over the trip to Paris and the fur coats. She had not been to Paris, neither did she own a fur coat. She dug further and to make a long story short, she got a divorce. Her husband was in the leaky condo fix up business so needless to say he was wealthy. She got the house and continued to spend money on it. At one point she was without a kitchen for six months because each time her new cabinets were installed, they were either the wrong colour or the wrong style. (Different from what she had ordered) Her boys had BBQ'ed hot dogs beside the pool for six months.

She was very particular about how things were done and when she found that I could meet her standards, she started referring me to her decorating clients. We have had a very good working relationship for many years now. I meet her every so often at the hospital when I am there visiting a new baby in the family or dealing with an aging father. She always has time to chat and invariably the chatter goes to the health care system. She has been in it for all her working life and has some interesting observations and ideas on how to make it better. But, as all people who do the day to day stuff and know how to improve things, she is not listened to. She is putting in time now and no longer cares and just wants out in order to get her pension and get on with her design business.

She has built two houses since then and I have worked extensively in each one. She is one of the many sources of work I have had over the years.

Monday, April 26, 2010


On my first post in this current topic, I told you of the Dutch couple. The owner of this house was a coworker with the Dutchman, but neither of them referred the other to me. They came to me from different directions. I have redecorated this entire house, in stages, over a period of several years. Behind the house is a beautiful swimming pool and exquisite gardens. Jack likes to manicure his house and his property. He and his wife Erna, are very friendly people and I have always enjoyed working for them. They are retired and enjoy travelling, but Jack is also a full time volunteer at a local thrift store that is renowned for doing good works all around the world. These fine old homes are a pleasure to work in. The effort to up-grade and beautify is satisfying work indeed, and when the owners are down to earth and friendly, it is a bonus. I found this client through their next door neighbour, tomorrow's post.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


This is a very fine old home. When I worked in this home, it was on the recommendation of an interior designer who lived just up the street a few houses. I will be posting her house too. There was a school teacher living here at the time, and may still be for all I know. He had recently been widowed and was only in his 40's. He was having all the trim and doors replaced, and was going fancy. We spent a lot of time in there and it was meticulous work. We rarely saw him, but had a key and we came and went as needed. I never saw him again, and we never went back. That happens sometimes, but most of the time we get a referral or we go back at a later date to do more work. This is a wonderful neighbourhood with acre size lots and no through streets, very quiet and very classy. Probably very high taxes too.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

HST Referendum

I took the time today to sign the anti-HST referendum. I am against the HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) because I remember well what happened in 1991 when the GST (Goods and Services Tax) was implemented. As a business person who provided a service that was suddenly taxed, I was not very popular when I handed the customer the invoice at the end of the job. Many refused to pay it, and yet, I had to submit that tax, even if out of my own pocket. Then people got wise and offered to pay cash so I would not have to declare the income and therefore not tax it nor pay income tax on it. They told me it was a win/win situation. They assumed I was dishonest, which I was not. Soon, I had to build the GST into my service charge just in case they refused to pay, or they insisted on paying in cash. To this day, 19 years later, I still fight that sort of thing.
Now the tax that I have to collect (HST) will increase the tax line on my invoices by 120%! Is this going to be any easier? I know it will only make the underground economy flourish and encourage dishonesty. Besides that issue, which is huge, I am against any new taxes that are disguised as being good for us. Certainly having one tax instead of two will simplify matters for most businesses that were collecting both, but the cost of the GST only taxed part of the economy now suddenly goes up in price, everything from a haircut to a restaurant meal. There will be much resistance to the tax, especially in the beginning, and those of us who have to now charge the new tax will have a drop in business.
There was a steady flow of people lining up to sign the petition this morning. If they sign 10% of the voters in every political riding in the province, the Referendum and Recall legislation says that it must be considered by the sitting government. However, the bill also states that the sitting government is not under any obligation to enact the wishes of the petitioners. It is toothless, however, this will be a test for the Liberal Government as they have snubbed their noses at the public too often since they took office. I read yesterday that Randy White, the most popular Conservative politician ever, from our area, is spearheading a resurgence in the Provincial Conservative Party. Look out Gordon Campbell. A perfect storm is brewing.
One final thought. Most of the people lined up to sign the petition were grey haired. What does this tell us. 1. Bill Vanderzalm still has a large and loyal following (he is the former Provincial Premier who started this protest) 2. We should look to the wisdom of older more experienced citizens and if they see something sinister in the HST, perhaps there is something to pay attention to here. 3. Those grey hairs are living on fixed retirement incomes, mostly, and they know their consumer choices will decrease when the tax is enacted. They can no longer go out and earn extra money to make up for this added cost of living. It is a penalty on them, the folks who built this country. Shame on the tax collectors!

Bob and Mary (Back to the House Project)

While painting, in Williams Lake, for the first time in my life, I met two brothers, twins, who were the framers of the two buildings we were working in. A few years later, they introduced me to their sister, Mary, who was a single mom and needed some painting done. She lived in a very simple home. Then she met and married Bob. He and his brother owned a truck trailer manufacturing business and he moved her into this wonderful home on acreage and a green belt. They have been clients of mine ever since. I did extensive work in this house many years ago and then again when they renovated their master bedroom. Recently, they did an extensive makeover throughout the house and Bob asked me if I wanted to do the work. Naturally I did and put it on the calendar. A few weeks later, the economic recession hit. Bob was still going to do the renovation, but he asked that I share the contract with his brother-in-law who suddenly became unemployed and did have some experience painting. I told Bob that he did not have to feel obligated to me and I suggested he let his brother-in-law do the whole job. He had kids and a mortgage and needed the money more than I did. Bob was ever so grateful. Then last fall, Bob called me to do the outside doors and the shutters. In doing so, I got to see the inside. It was stunning. He had done some architectural changes and had truly transformed and up-dated the house. But, the paint job was atrocious. I said nothing. I am sure they know.
The setting of this house is ideal. The long driveway is off of a very quiet cul-de-sac and behind is a green ravine and forest. Only one neighbour is visible through a grove of Maple trees. In the front of the house, the sunny side, is a beautiful swimming pool. The back has a huge deck for entertaining, and a large grassy area for the kids. What a great house, and what great people.
I also painted for Mary's brothers, her mom and dad's house when it was newly constructed, and Bob's brother's house. All in the family, you know.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Random Okangan Spring Beauty

A rare calm day on Osoyoos Lake.
Storm clouds in the north. It was likely raining in Vernon.
It looked very menacing as it approached but we never once got rained on. The temperature was 23C, very nice indeed.

The Plum trees were in full bloom.

Peach blossom time.

Cherry blossoms. It should be a bumper crop. The birds will be happy about that.

The Lilacs were getting ready to break out. They were only a day or two behind the west coast Lilacs.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Oroville '10: The Project

As promised, here are the photos of the projects we undertook last weekend in Oroville. The blogger program is not letting me post photos in the order I want, today, so here is the mixed up version of what happened there. The above photo is the almost finished project of building new steps to the cabin. The old ones had been there for twenty years and were in bad need of replacing. It was more a safety issue than anything else.
The workers needed fuel and this was lunch on the first day, thanks to busylizzy, who actually was our chief cook and bottle washer for the whole weekend. She had the most important job of all but also cleaned the entire interior of the house as well as doing yard cleanup with her sister.

One of my projects was to install and paint new baseboards in the bathrooms.

Here are the two sisters picking leaves out of the groundcover. If this is not done, the mice will nest in there.

Herta was chief yard cleanup foreman. She gets a lot of practise on her own property and knew just what to do. I did a lot of raking of leaves and hauling leaves to the burn pile and realised how big a job this is after a fall and winter of leaves blowing in the wind and piling everywhere like snow drifts.

Mom just turned 80 but was working alongside us like one of the youngsters. Here she is scrubbing the tanic acid stains off of the sidewalk. The leaves sitting there all winter create black ugly stains.

There were four truckloads of tools, supplies, new beds, and personal belongings. Dad fired up his Kubota tractor and started mowing grass and tilling the garden. He is happiest on one of his driving machines.

Beach cleanup is always a big job. The winter storms bring a variety of flotsam and jetsam that needs to be raked together and burned.

This is what is left of our burn pile. We had the largest pile of leaves you have ever seen and had the great fortune of two days with no wind.

Here is Will doing some repairs on the fiberglass deck. After he put the resin patches on, I had the fun task of grinding down the the lumps with my belt sander.

Back to the main project, the stairs. Here Reiner and Ken are trying to figure out the angles and lengths. They did a great job even though they had completely forgotten their high school geometry. I give them credit for not once coming to blows.

Helping out the Washington lumber industry.

This was not an easy job, but like all projects in Oroville, we all use our talents and our pooled knowledge and resources, and manage somehow to have fun doing it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Oroville '10 : The Trip

Last weekend was our annual Oroville work weekend. This year we decided that a few of us would go early to open the place as in the past it was always done by G & L and as a result few know what all is involved. G & L are aging and when they no longer travel, we will have to be able to do what they do. So, a month earlier than usual, we packed up the tools and some new beds and started out on a most beautiful day.

There was still snow in Manning Park, about as much as there usually is in May. This means that the snow pack this year is low and things will be dry. Even at the Lodge, where the altitude is high and it still looked very much like winter, the weather was balmy and the sun quite warm. The clear blue sky was fabulous!

As usual, we saw many Deer in the Princeton area.

We were in no hurry, so a little detour off the beaten track revealed this old cabin on a rocky ledge off in the distance. Telephoto lenses do not respect "NO TRESPASSING" signs.

The hills in the south Okanagan are bone dry all year, except for a few weeks in spring. Then there all manner of blossoms and colour.

This valley just west of Osoyoos is one of my favourite places in all of BC.

Oroville has its own Golf Course in the middle of the rocky desert. The contrasts are more stunning in the hot and dry summer months.

Sagebrush, pine, and rocks. But the air is fresh and invigorating and the fragrance of Saskatoon Berry blossoms is intoxicating.

The Samilkameen River east of Oroville. This is very interesting country with a rich history of agriculture, primitive transportation, irrigation, and mining. Here, in one photo, is a narrow dirt road, the river, and an old train road bed as it comes out of a tunnel under the mountain.

The little white fluff balls on the hill are blooming Saskatoon Berry bushes. The berries are ripe in June.

This is the road from the Nighthawk border station to Oroville.

This is a junction just south of Nighthawk border station, going left takes one to the backside of Oroville and taking the right fork will take one to Chesaw Wa. The road eventually joins up with Highway 97 at Tenasket Wa. and is a most interesting drive. It is a motorbike rider's dream ride.

Fresh spring blossoms among the cactus. This country is true desert and is part of the south Okanagan.

A half mile south of the Nighthawk USA/Canada border station. This station is open from 8 - 5 daily and one gets very personalised attention here. We took a chance and won. Even though we were totally loaded down with new beds and tools, all the guards wanted to see was what was under the hood. He only found an engine and promptly informed me. I expressed relief that I still had one and they sent us on our way.

These cattle get very curious when a motorist stops. I suppose it does not happen often. Tomorrow I will post the Oroville projects we got done this year.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Chinese Tudor

I have done much work on this street over the years and always admired this house as I drove by. Originally, it was beige with Tudor (very dark) Brown trim boards. I wondered for many years if I would ever have a chance to see the inside. It was vacant for a time, and the landscaping was neglected. Then it was sold to a Chinese fellow who owned a bowling alley. He painted the entire house pink, both the stucco and the trim, fortunately he did not paint the beautiful brick work. He never gave much consideration to the gardens either and they continued to deteriorate. Then I got the call. He needed some inside work done and would I come and take a look. I walked in the front door and was disappointed beyond belief. It was so poorly finished inside that I was sure a child had done it. It was falling apart and was pure ugliness. I did get the contract, to refinish the dilapidated oak kitchen cabinets, and the longer we worked there, the sooner I wanted to get out. From inside the house we could see the neglected and weed covered swimming pool. The garden was so overgrown with blackberry bushes that only a vague shape of its former glory was visible. The owner wanted more advice and more prices on various decorating options including wallpaper. It became clear that he had neither good taste, nor the budget to implement it. I walked away from it, disillusioned and sad. My dream house was a wreck.
Now, just a year later, someone saw the potential and has fixed it up, at least on the outside. I would be afraid to walk in the front door lest the ugly, wobbly stair rail is still there, not to mention the dog smells and the Chinese wallpaper.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Picky, Picky, Picky!

Quite frankly, I am surprised that there are blossoms lying randomly about on this lady's garden. It is out of character for her to have even one blade of grass out of place. This is a gorgeous house, inside and out, but it is a god. She is a cashier at a local grocery supermarket and her husband is a firefighter. Nothing is too good or too perfect for them. Knowing this, I took on the job with an attitude of utmost care and persnicketiness. (Her next door neighbour is a friend of mine, but that is not where she got my name. Friends do not do that to each other.) After using the best material and doing the best I knew how, I got a call back. Apparently, when the light was just right, and you stood in a certain position, and there was a full moon, and Jupiter was aligned with Mars, there was streaking showing up in the paint. I re-painted the wall in question and then walked away from the house, not wanting any more payment. I knew this was one I was not going to win. Very deep colours will streak because of the heavy pigment content and if the brushing and rolling are not all in the same direction, under certain circumstances there will be texture shading, but it goes away when the paint cures in about 5 weeks. I hope she found this out when she moved all her furniture away from the wall, the light was just right, she stood in the certain position, Jupiter ........ etc.