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April 2005

April 24, 2005

Snow What

Not to be obsessive about this, but freak April snowstorms are losing their appeal.


Undeterred_daffodilThe daffodils bear up bravely, but you can tell they're ticked.

And who ordered the Bud Wite?Bud_wite

April 19, 2005

A tremulous fervour for used building supplies

If you're planning a few spring DIY projects, here's a tour of the inventory at one Habitat for Humanity ReStore, where you can find an amazing array of upgrades, fixtures and spare parts.  What's not to love?

A_truck_full_of_windows Tons of windows, many made by top manufacturers like Pella.   Some have been carefully removed from existing buildings, others are brand new.  Whether you're looking for casement windows, double-hung windows, all-wood or aluminum, there's something that'll catch your eye.  Most are double-glazed, well-insulated and ready to go for about half what you'd pay in a hardware store or home centre.

Continue reading "A tremulous fervour for used building supplies" »

April 16, 2005

Prometheus the Bat

I heard a weird noise in the bedroom wall at 10:30 p.m.  It sounded like rodents were splitting a case of beer and making randy advances.   We banged on the wall.  We made threats.  I sang.  Nothing helped.   We moved down the hall and slept in the guestroom where it was quiet and serene.

The next morning we went outside and put a ladder up to the second floor window.  From the ground we could see duct-tape flapping on our bedroom window.  (The window had been taped shut since fall because the hardware is busted, because the window is cheesy, because the Eighties happened and people did egregious remodels). 

Up the ladder we went. 

And there under the window, stuck to the duct tape by his belly fur and one wing, was a little brown bat.  This explained the scuffling sounds we'd heard the night before as he bravely fought to free himself. 

I maturely burst into tears.  Like Prometheus, the bat had borne his troubles bravely, but was now parched and exhausted.  His little mouth was open and he was clicking at us as if we knew where to get a cheap breakfast of mosquitoes-over-easy (bats eat about 500 mosquitoes a night).

I ran for scissors andDaniel cut off the loose tape bearing Bat au Jus (Prometheus had had a bit of diarrhea in reaction to the stress).   I offered frantic suggestions ("I think he's pooing again!") while I continued to weep a wussy frenzy. 

We brought the chunk of tape down the ladder with the bat still firmly adhered, and then took him to our garbage-hutch cum firewood box, hoping he'd grab onto the kindling and pull himself off the sticky stuff.  No hope.  He chattered and bore his teeth and struggled, still mired.   

Daniel then trimmed away ("Careful!  That could be private!") a small clump of the bat's belly fur to free the wee bugger (and I mean that as a compliment).  The papery skin of one wing was still stuck but Daniel managed to pry it gently off the dastardly duct tape. 

Prometheus_freedPrometheus didn't stay long in the wood box, but flew off into the bright light of morning to nosh on bugs and get a drink from the brownish water that had melted on top of the pool cover. 

Bats are charming and misunderstood.  They're not blind, they don't suck necks or get caught in hair, and they have great dental hygeine.   Prometheus needs to be welcomed to the neighborhood and I'm going to build him a house.  Stay tuned to this bat channel. 

April 13, 2005

Frame and Fortune

Windows_in_south_wall_exterior_viewProgress (sort of) on the writing studio.  Pray that I will write better than I frame.

I asked myself how I was enjoying framing.   The answer was impolite.  Here are some key points you should know before starting a framing project:

      • Framing requires math.
      • If your math is more 'intuitive' than strictly accurate, let someone else do the measuring.
      • When you've just cut four boards in a row and they're all too short, consider yourself lucky to get sent to the hardware store to buy more lumber.
      • After a day of framing, liquor is not a luxury, it's essential.

April 10, 2005

Where to get cheap, great windows

Built_with_pride_using_habitat_for_human Where can you get 3 large kick-butt double-hung windows for under $600?  At a Habitat for Humanity ReStore, where they sell great used building supplies at a fraction of their worth.   

You can find a ReStore near you by looking in the Yellow Pages under 'Building Materials - Used'.  If you're in the Toronto area, check out both ReStores and load up on paint, fixtures, tiles, tubs, toilets, appliances and entire kitchen cabinet systems.   If the ReStore doesn't have what you're looking for, you can put your name on a list and they'll call you when they get an item that matches your description.

And if you happen to be renovating and pulling out old windows, doors, panelling, sinks, bathtubs, cabinets or doors, call your local ReStore and ask them to pick up your recyclable stuff.   They'll take it away for you, sell it in the ReStore, and use the proceeds to help eliminate poverty housing.   How cool is that?

ReStore Locations - (if you need to see maps)


29 Bermondsey Road, Toronto, On M4B 1Z7
416-755-7353 Ext. 33

Hours of operation:
10 - 6 Mon.- Sat., Thurs. 'til 9, Closed Sunday

Via TTC:
Woodbine Subway Station
Take the 91 or 91F bus only
Ask the driver to signal Bermondsey and Sunrise
We are right across the street from the stop.


1120 Caledonia Road, Toronto, On M6A 2W5

Hours of operation:
10 - 6 Mon.- Sat., Thurs. 'til 9, Closed Sunday

Via TTC:
Lawrence West Subway Station
Take the 52 West, 58 West or 59 West buses
Ask the driver to signal Caledonia Road
Walk north two minutes to the Plaza on the west side

April 05, 2005

Planet of the Drapes - How to make easy curtains

Curtains_put_you_in_a_better_mood_than_y Railing at winter is fun for the first 8 months, and then it gets tiresome.  But I've heard that the best way to end anything painful is to build your emotional maturity to the point where you feel neutral. So today I ignored the great outdoors.  It must be working, because people tell me that the snow is melting. 

But if I'm going to be mature for an entire day, I need something to do with my hands.  So I made curtains, which is the ultimate mature act.  Why?  You're investing in your home, plus you get to jam on your sewing machine pedal until the feed-dogs are pulling so fast you feel like you're water-skiing behind twin Evinrudes. 

As it turns out, curtains are easier than I thought.  Here are some tips for making your own mature statement.  (If you need to know how to install curtain hardware, see my how-to article,and if you want to make the copper trellis that's hung on the wall, download the instructions here

Continue reading "Planet of the Drapes - How to make easy curtains" »

April 04, 2005

Why Canadians have so much character


This is what the front yard looks like this morning.  The time of year when the birds are supposed to be feeling frisky and even dating.  Instead they're huddled under bushes looking irritated.  And hungry.  They went through 5 kilos of sunflower seeds this weekend as the snow fell.  And fell.  (Only the robins were left out, because robins don't eat seeds.  Although one of them looked crabby enough to change his evolutionary path.)

Snow can only go on for so long, we tell ourselves optimistically, and keep shovelling.  Some would call this denial.  But Canadians call it character.Giant_lumpy_garage_berm

The path to the garage

April 01, 2005

The best dang framing nailer

Not_gun_shyMany DIY enthusiasts describe the mild arousal that accompanies a new tool purchase.  In fact some of us are suffused in a delicate blush just pulling into the parking lot of a home center or hardware store.

But nothing compares to the throbbing rush of getting your own framing nailer. 

How intense is it?  I consulted Mag Ruffman's Guide to Great Hardware Moments in Film (as yet tragically unpublished), and learned that the physiological equivalent of getting your own framing nailer is like that moment in Braveheart when Mel Gibson holds aloft his sword and yells something in Gaelic that sounds like "ARRRRR" but is probably much more specific. 

In honour of the adrenaline surge my DeWALT nailer provokes, I gave it the perky nickname of, "Wallace" (after William 'Braveheart' Wallace).  In Wallace's first venture (putting together an 8-foot interior wall), he performed valiantly, sinking 3-1/4" spiral shank nails into wet spruce lumber with the ease of toothpicks penetrating havarti. 

Continue reading "The best dang framing nailer" »


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Mag's Books

  • : We're All In This Together

    We're All In This Together
    Based on four years of interviews with Steve Smith, Mag's unconventional biography reveals the personal stories, sorrows and joys that continue to inspire the man behind the Red Green legacy.

  • : How Hard Can It Be?

    How Hard Can It Be?
    Mag's quirky and entertaining book of home improvement projects for beginners.

Nota Bene

  • It’s never too late to be who you might have been. - George Eliot (1819-1880)
  • Simplicity of character is the natural result of profound thought. - My fortune cookie