Friday, November 27, 2015

A Dramatic Difference

Last spring we painted this house for the wonderful couple who own and live in it. At the time, they casually asked if we painted cabinets and how much would it cost to do this set in the kitchen and family room. I did not think it would go beyond a simple inquiry, but here we were a few weeks ago doing the job.

The house was around 30 years old and the old bleached oak cabinets were worn down to raw wood in places. In the above two photos you can see the original finish in places and in other places, the white primer. There was a lot of prep to be done as the wood has to be impeccably clean before today's acrylic paints stick to it.

What made this job unique was that the request was for black cabinets, only the second set of black ones we have ever done.

Here, the body of the cabinets are complete and the doors have been re-installed and primed white, a nice checker-board effect.

And finally, the finished look, with a three coat system in satin black enamel. The change in the room was dramatic. He loved it, but she was not sure and said she had to get used to it.

I am sure that when their friends, who strongly suggested that they do this, see the finished product and rave about it, she will feel much better.

It was a challenge, but also a lot of fun. There is less room for error when using black than when using white. There is no forgiveness for any mistakes or nicks or crooked lines. The homeowners were fabulous people and we became good friends. I hope we do not lose the friendship when they call me back for touch-ups every few months. Once the paint is hard and cured it should not be a problem. In the meantime, I suggested that they do not even look at the cabinets for the next five weeks. I will probably get to see it after the new brushed metal knobs are installed.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Are You As Confused As I Am?

All of us have been inundated, in the last few weeks, with information regarding Islam, immigration, and terrorism. Anyone engaged in social media is well aware of the blizzard of posts, opinions, videos, and sound bytes surrounding these topics.
As we sort through the information and opinions, we are looking to clarify our own perspective, our own ideas, and somewhere in the mix, the truth. The truth, for me, has been elusive, to say the least. There are too many opinions, too many facts, too many charts, too many testimonials, too many 'cobbled together' videos, and too many 'experts', all of which are contradictory to some degree.
Being the kind of person who likes cut and dried answers and cut and dried solutions, I find it all troubling and confusing. I have been interested in reading about (I almost wrote studying) the Islam issues for many years, ever since I began to delve into the Jew/Palestinian conflict. I read a number of books written by former Muslims who came out of, and rejected that tradition and religion, because they became disillusioned. One of the authors was the foremost Islamic studies professor at the University of Cairo. What he did not know about Islam was not worth mentioning. I tend to give former or current Muslims more credibility as they have lived the faith and were indoctrinated in it since birth. They should know what they are talking about. Another reason these reformed Muslims have credibility is because their lives have been threatened, even by their own families, for being at all critical of Islam. They have nothing to gain by exposing the shortcomings of Islam, other than to inform the world of the threat.
With the internet today, extensive research can be done with the click of a mouse, and bit of time to read. But I keep getting mixed messages in the research, and therein lies my confusion.
1. The meaning of Islam. Islam means submission ... to Allah and his written word, and his prophet Mohammed. Immediately I am confused because the claim is that God is God, and we all worship the same God. However, the Islam God (Allah) has no partner, no equal, no son, and no associate. Mmm. The Christian God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The reason that is a problem is because although Muslims also believe in Jesus, they do not believe he is the Son of God and do not believe that he died and rose again as the saviour of mankind. And that is what makes us their enemies. We are blasphemers.
2. A Muslim, in order to be a true believer, must live by the Koran and the writing of Mohammed. I have read parts of the Koran, enough to see huge contradictions. There is love and peace and neighbourliness, but in the next verses there will be an injunction to cut off the hands and head of the unbelievers. Mohammed himself was no saint, but was a murderer and a pedophile, not exactly a prophet to hold up as a role model, and yet there are Muslims who are model citizens and do good works in their neighbourhoods and communities. Where does that inspiration come from? How do they see the unbelievers around them? Are they only tolerant until the day of Jihad. One only wonders this because it in their holy book. One of the guidelines when reading the Koran is that when one scripture contradicts another, the one written at a later date (the newer one) is the one to adhere to. As Mohammed progressed in his pursuits, he became more violent and so the more violent scriptures are the true and right ones. How many Muslims know this? How many believe this. Is this why so many remain silent in the face of terrorism?  

3. The Islamic doctrine of deception, or Taqiya, troubles me greatly because this would seem to give a Muslim permission to lie in order to  preserve their life or their faith. In terms of immigration, this is extremely concerning as the lack of data bases and other information leaves, often, only the word of the applicant when filling out the immigration papers. Vetting becomes very unreliable, especially when hurried under duress of immigration quotas and deadlines.
4. PEW research finds that an overwhelming majority of Muslims around the world want Sharia Law (Islamic Law as defined in the Koran) to be the law of the land where they live. Would this not fall under the definition of radical Islam? And yet we are told that only a tiny fraction of Muslims are radicalized.
5. If the majority of Muslims around the world are for peace and tranquility, why are they not speaking out against their terrorist brothers? Are they afraid? Do they see the radicals as the foot soldiers of Allah and are secretly rooting for them? There seems to be evidence for this when a moment of silence at a soccer match, meant to honour the dead of the Paris massacres is booed by the Muslim fans.
6. It is troubling that the west is supposed to rescue the distressed Syrian migrants yet other Muslim nations do nothing to help their Muslim brothers. Why is this? And why does the US under the leadership of Obama refuse to take Christian Syrian migrants, a people group who has the most to lose by staying in harms way. You would think that these are the very people who have the best chance of assimilating in the west.
7. Why does the world not stand with Israel in its fight against terrorism? They have many years of experience. It is the same bunch who are terrorizing Paris and threaten to terrorize the entire world of Christendom, that Israel is up against, yet most of the world demonizes Israel.   
8. Is Islam a religion, a geopolitical movement, or both. Again it is confusing, and depends on who you listen to and who you believe. Mohammed declared that Islam would conquer the world by the sword and the cradle. Muslims are doing both, some through terrorism and most by their prolific  birth rate. If the prophet Mohammed's teachings are paramount in your submission to Allah, would you not, as a Muslim, be sympathetic to this agenda?  
The confusion comes from the contradictions, and often a bit of fear and paranoia arise from misinformation. As a Christian, I have great assurance and comfort in knowing what I am supposed to do, and knowing that God is in control, and that no matter what happens, it is part of the master plan, of which I know very little. So while I trust God and cast out fear, I know also that my mandate as a Christian, is to love, help and protect the helpless. In so doing, I become a tiny piece of the solution. I do not lose sight of the fact that there is good and evil in the world, and I will be an advocate for government and law enforcement to root out that evil, wherever it is. But if Muslims comes to my neighbourhood, I will be a good neighbour to them, as I am to my South Asian neighbours. And herein lies the ultimate solution. We are all created in the image of God, he loves everyone of us, and wants us to love each other.  

Saturday, September 19, 2015


There is always something new and interesting in the world of wall coverings. This was a product from China, ordered online, and it was unique in terms of hanging characteristics. It was a very thin and flexible metallic. The thin papers have a tendency to stretch a great deal and great care has to be taken to start straight and stay straight.

Andrew was going behind me to check for small bubbles and pattern match, which was almost indiscernible on the seam, and yet when standing back, we could see the pattern shifts and changes quite readily.

A close-up shows the tiny textured tile effect.

Had the wall been a few feet longer, I would have lost the plumb line and wrinkles and creases would have been inevitable. Being highly reflective in nature, those creases and wrinkles would have been a disaster, especially because this customer had eagle eyes and was quite particular.

A couple of random shots of me 'doing my thing'. I always enjoy the challenge, and, of course, the final outcome.  

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

House With a View

We are the only paperhangers working out of the Chilliwack Paint and Decorating store, but this Chilliwack residence came from a contact in Abbotsford. The father/son team who built this house had us do some work in their own home a few years ago, so we have a history.

The assignment was to hang a silver textured paper on an 11' high fireplace feature wall. Starting at the center, this is the first piece up.

But first, we had to step out onto the patio to enjoy the view of the Fraser Valley.

Two hours later, we were done, with fireplace front re-installed.

Seen up close and on an angle, the texture of this paper is more evident.

As seen from the front entry, the room now looks more complete, and we can cross another job off our list.  
PS. This house is for sale if any of you are interested.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Featured in White Rock

I do not normally commute as far as White Rock, but the designer was an acquaintance from years ago, and I have done other work for her in the last year or two, so I consented. Actually, it is only a 50 minute commute, so it is not a hardship. The house was grand, in a distinctive neighbourhood. The beautiful homes were all on 1/4 acre lots and the streets were broad and lined with mature trees. This house was being gutted and renewed, from top to bottom.

We did two feature walls, this one in the daughter's bedroom, and the headboard wall in the master suite. This was a colourful paper in a freshly painted pink room, oozing with little girl charm and playfulness.

Both papers were non-pasted, the kind that we had to apply paste to the back of the paper. With no plumbing in the house, and us needing a lot of water, we resorted to the hose in the back yard for rinsing.

This old style European look pattern had an interesting texture that looked like fabric embossing. It was cantankerous to work with and as long as one stayed at least 4 or 5 feet away, the seams were a bit obvious.

The Oriental customer did a very close inspection, asked a lot of questions, and finally gave approval and payment. I thought she was not happy with the job because of some of her comments, but when she handed over the money, she asked for my business card because she had a good friend who was looking for someone to hang paper in her newly renovated home. I suppose that is an indication that she actually was happy with the job.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

The people who built, owned, and lived in our house, for the first ten years of its life, made an agreement with the neighbours to build a fence. It was right on the property line. Then the neighbor planted a cedar hedge on his side of the fence. A few years after we moved in, the fence was rotted and came down. After the cedar hedge filled in, it made a higher and nicer fence. We planted a boxwood hedge to fill in the open gaps at the bottom of the cedar hedge and it was like that until a few weeks go.
We have new neighbours and they have their own ideas. One day he started hacking down the cedar hedge. After he had done substantial damage, he stopped when he realised the hedge might not be his. He discovered it was and soon the cedars were down and gone. That left a little boxwood hedge for privacy.
About a month later, this fence went up. It is right on the property line and in the process of lining it up, he dug up and moved our boxwoods six inches further onto our property to make room for his fence. He told me I could do what I wanted with my side of the fence.
So, I did. I stained it with some pricey Benjamin Moore stain on Saturday and it looks great. The new richness of the wood is preserved as opposed to letting it weather before it is preserved, which is something he will probably do because he is a young dad who is busy.

The fence is too low for my liking, but it is a solid barrier. Our garden is now surrounded by fence and I suppose the critters will no longer use it as a thoroughfare.

The photos are all the same fence, but the stain shows more red in the shade, and yellow/gold in the sunshine. It feels great to get that done before the wet winter takes over. It then would have waited until spring and the fence would have lost its newness by then.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

My Bump Got Bumped

      In March of this year, I noticed a bulge on my lower abdomen and suspected I had a hernia. It did not surprise me because I had been coughing for three months since I picked up that terrible virus that was going around last Christmas. (Indeed, my doctor told me this was not uncommon.)
     I made an appointment to see my GP and it was about three weeks until he would see me. He confirmed that I indeed had "a good one" and made an appointment for me to see a surgeon.
      Three months later, I finally got to have an interview with the surgeon and because I convinced him I was symptomatic, he put me on a rush list, scheduling me for surgery in Sept. instead of December, which is what I was told it would probably be. Symptomatic meant that I had discomfort walking long distances and my digestion was not right.
      Today was the big day. I had a surgery time, I was on my pre-op fast, and I was ready to get this thing done. At 10:00 am the phone rings and the hospital tells me that there had been an emergency surgery required and all of the good doctor's operating room time had been used up on this emergency plus one other hernia operation.
They would call later in the day if there was a chance I could still get in. So, my fast continued and I drank no liquids, until around 3:30 pm when they called and said I would be re-scheduled for a later date.
      A few calls later and now I am on for Sept 30th. I am disappointed but not upset, and this really surprised the surgeon's secretary who was prepared for a blast, something she almost always gets when this happens.
       Life happens and if I was the one needing emergency surgery, I would have appreciated someone giving up their spot for me. I know one has no choice in the matter, but maybe that is why I am OK with it. It is really out of my control, unless I go to a private clinic. But with only 3 more weeks to go, I think I will wait it out again.   

Chines Paper, Dutch Tiles

After 5 weeks, the online order from China finally arrived and I was able to schedule this job. It was a new house, only lived in for two weeks, the address so new it was not on Google maps.
It went up quickly enough, but the seams were lacking accuracy and I could only do my best. From 10' or more away, it was great, but up close, it was not quite perfect. However, the customer was a perfectionist. She told me she expected that such expensive paper should be better quality. Then she told me how much she paid and I almost laughed. I rarely hear of such cheap paper these days, but I do know that you get what you pay for. I gave her a brief education of types and qualities of paper and assured her that for that price, it was above average.

The end result was a very pretty head board wall for their master suite. Then she asked if I had experience with tile. She showed me their souvenirs from their cruises, laid out a grid pattern, and then just sort of assumed I was going to do it. So, I did it. It actually turned out quite well but I don't think there is a future in doing this type of work, so it was simply a freebie.

Centering and leveling all the tile was a challenge because gravity was working against me until the adhesive would get tacky. Holland America Lines would be proud to see their tiles arrayed in such a nice home and in such a unique way.

Monday, September 7, 2015

A Repeat Pattern

A desperate builder and  panicky interior designer resulted in a 'quickie' last week. Less than 24 hours after a phone text, I was on the job installing this Home Depot special. When I arrived, the designer was sweeping the floor and clearing an area for me to work in. I have worked with this pattern many times before so it went quite well. It was accurate and quick work. I got it installed just before the granite vanity top arrived. Both the builder and the designer are quite pleased with the prompt service and have promised me more work in the future.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

38 Years Later

Shirley called and asked if I could strip some old paper and hang some new paper for her in her main bathroom. I made an agreement on the phone and asked where she lived. When she told me, I had a moment of clarity and realised that I might know this house. I asked how old her house was. 38 years. I asked if there was a problem with power when it was constructed. Yes there was. I had remembered that the paper actually froze onto the wall in the total absence of heat during the new construction as there was a BC Hydro strike and it was in the dead of winter. Then I asked if they had a heat pump. I had remembered, that at that time, it was new technology, and I was impressed when I heard about it. Yes, they had a heat pump.
When I arrived on the job, I found that the paper I had hung 38 years ago was no longer there. They had re-decorated a number of times since. But here I was, in the bathroom, stripping paper that someone else had hung and it was one of the worst jobs I have ever run into.
I stripped the old in a few hours and came back the next morning to hang the new.

It was a dramatic change, very stylish, with a modern retro look. I know, that is a contradiction in terms but it is what is 'in' these days. We were one piece short because of the large pattern repeat and horrendous waste. She ran to the paint store, where they had more in stock, while I put some things back together.

I highly doubt I will be going back 38 years from now to strip this one.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Heads Up!

A while back, we hung this mural on one wall in the dining room of an upscale home in a wonderful neighbourhood. Last week the lady of the house asked me to come back and put up more "Oriental heads" as she called them. There was one stipulation. That area to the left of the patio window had to have three heads, complete, from top to bottom. I informed her that that may or may not be possible. The pattern had to continue around the inside corner and it would either work or it wouldn't. After much explaining, she was not 'getting it', until I started to measure where the heads would come if kept up the sequence of the pattern. She suddenly had a light bulb moment and realised that it was not as simple as she thought it might be.
Both of us must have got out of bed on the right side that morning (not the same bed) because the pattern was only 4 inches off from being in perfect alignment for her wishes. The 4 inches I fudged here and there and this was the final result. She was not home to see the end result, but I know I will hear from her. It is perfect.

Monday, August 31, 2015

More Than I Bargained For

I took on a job when my partner was not available, thinking I could well handle it myself. The work seemed straightforward enough and I gave my price. After accepting the price, the customer then sent me the colour selections. It was only painting and I thought I would whip through it in no time at all. However, the colours were inherently difficult to work with. There were four of them, mixed and matched throughout the 4 bedrooms. The navy blue feature wall colour was almost black and left zero room for error on all edges. This takes extreme care and more than few tricks of the trade and some very expensive 'paint blocking tape'.

The result was very dramatic and 'cut-ins' were flawless.

But, the other three colours were extremely transparent. Light yellows, light pinks, and light mauves are the worst and it is these three that I struggled with. Since switching to Benjamin Moore Aura paints a few years back, I have only one time had a pink that required multiple coats. 99% of the time, trimming once and rolling twice is the order of the day. Here, I was trimming three times and rolling as many as four times. Needless to say, more time and more paint equals a higher price.  I have tried, over the years, to never go over a quote.

I put in some very long days, and was able to because the whole family was out of town on a vacation. It was during the hottest days which did not help. When all was said and done, I stuck to the original price and swallowed the extra costs.
I guess that I am nearing the end of my career and I would like to go out on a good note.

Friday, August 28, 2015


The couple who own this townhouse are very careful with their money and as a result, have difficulty making up their mind. Their home is elegant and minimalist, so this pattern was suitable for them, dressing up a few walls without making too bold of a statement. It started with this small wall in the front entry. They loved it so much they went out and got some more and I continued on to the powder room just to the left of the first photo.

They had never had wallpaper before and were very pleased by the decorative effect that it can have. "We will call you back because we think one wall in the Master Bedroom would look good with wallpaper too."
Two weeks later I get a call and they tell me they are ready to take the plunge. Much to my surprise, I see that the same paper has been purchased. Actually, it goes really well in all three areas and I guess you could say that it carries a theme throughout the house. They were impressed how I was able to line up the geometric design perfectly to the ceiling, the walls, and the baseboards. I took the credit, but actually, it was one of those rare homes where the framing was plumb and square from top to bottom. I just had to start right and the rest fell into place.
This is a very inexpensive product from Home Depot but is tops in my books as far as appearance and workability are concerned.
The bonus for me on this job was the fact that the lady of the house teaches photography in a High School so we had a lot to talk about. She also showed me her interesting collection of antique cameras as well as his collection of rare memorabilia concerning the  Saskatchewan Roughrider football club.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Vacation Stroll

We like to go for a walk, early morning or early evening, once a day, when we are spending time at our vacation spot on Osoyoos Lake. Our favourite route is north to the spit of land we can see from our balcony. It is a quiet country lane with vacation homes, beaches, docks, lovely trees and friendly people.
Above, busylizzy is standing so that our cabin is directly behind her head. Our walk extends further north, almost to the border and then back home along the orchard roads that parallel the highway. It is about 4 kilometers, much more when it is hot.

This is one of our favourite spots on the walk. The cabin is immaculate, though it is easy to see it has been there for many, many years. Everything is freshly painted, the yard and flower beds are manicured, and the nice little touches are the tiny lights in the trees at dusk, along with a candle holder chandelier hanging in the tree above the picnic table. The view, behind the camera, is full on lake, beach, and desert mountains. We cannot help but stop, and soak it in, every time we walk past.