Monday, March 21, 2011

Farmhouse Hearts and Darts, Part 11

What old house would be complete without some water damage? Fortunately this wall in the upstairs main room is drywall, and can be easily replaced. The modern vinyl floor tiles and baseboard are also slated for replacement, possibly quite soon if the bathroom (which is on the other side of the wall on the right in this picture) gets done this summer.

Although I can't summon more than a passing respect for drywall, I do love my new backyard. This is at the back of the house, facing west, on a cold and slightly dreary day last week when we were up for a March Break visit. I love the crazy tilt of the platform for hanging out laundry (just like my Grandma had, although hers stood up straight), the rough boards on the side of the shed, and of course the apple tree!

The "Uncalendar"

After writing about planners recently, I settled on using the templates from, which I have been quite happy with. I particularly like the user-submitted templates and the widget kit that lets me build my own forms.

While looking online for a three-ring binder that holds 5.5" by 8.5" paper, I stumbled across the Uncalendar website. I have to admit I almost wish I'd found it sooner! Not only do they have the binder I want for under $7, they have a series of undated planner pages that look quite intriguing. According to their website, they've been offering these planners since the 70s, and it's exactly the kind of thing I can imagine my engineer father using back in those days if he hadn't already been using the Day-Timer provided by his office.

The forms and the website are definitely quirky, but I can see it being a powerful system for people who are committed to achieving their goals, and that people who like it would be extremely loyal to it. If you click on the picture to the right, you'll see the vague headings that let you decide for yourself how to use it, and the entire left page that has boxes, lines, and even a chunk of graph paper for data collection.

It's exactly the kind of thing I would buy for my son as a graduation gift when he leaves high school - after all, his schools have been training him to use an agenda for years now, so it would be a waste to let him lose the habit!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Farmhouse Hearts and Darts, Part 10

I have been cagily avoiding any outside pictures of the farmhouse, and although I'm not ready for a big "reveal" yet, I think I could start giving you a flavour of it. After all, it's almost spring!

Here's the front door. As befits a country house, you can see that it isn't used - in fact, inside it is nailed and caulked shut. There are no steps, and the bushes on either side are overgrown and getting in the way anyway. This picture also showcases the siding that I don't think I've mentioned. At the bottom is, I believe, Insulbrick. If you haven't had the pleasure of encountering this building material before, it's a type of asphalt shingle made to look like brick (most commonly) or angel stone (in this case). Since angel stone is already fake stone, another layer of fakery on top of it has never quite made sense to me. Above we have faded white aluminum or vinyl siding - we have both on the house, and I can't recall offhand which one this part is. The typical aluminum screen door finishes it off.

Some day I hope we will have steps up to a small porch - just 5 by 5 feet or so - with a roof overhead to keep off the rain as you come in. The roof will be the floor of the balcony above, if all goes well.

Now for the "good"... around the door you can just see the faintest suggestion of something reddish that has not been covered by the siding. This is a picture from inside the back woodshed, showing the original exterior of the house. The house is made of poured concrete, and the final parged layer has been carefully scored while wet, then painted white to look like brick.

When this house was built, a brick house would have been quite a status symbol. You can see it any time you drive from Ontario into the US - as soon as you're across the border, there are fewer old brick and stone houses, and more old wood frame houses. In the US it was much more common to build a big house out of wood, where in Ontario, if you had the money for a big house, you had it built of brick, even if it meant a smaller house.

I love this concrete made to look like brick! Call me crazy, but our plan is to strip away all the mismatched siding and restore the exterior, painted white lines and all. It's probably a good thing I have 50 years to finish this in...

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Day Planners

I've long had an obsession with day planners, starting in my high school years when I would painstakingly hand-draw monthly calendars on graph paper each month. In my early professional life I swore by Day-Timer (C), and used their planners and inserts. Later I relied on virtual methods - our office had Outlook and I synchronized it with a used Casio Cassiopeia (a PDA so old it ran on Windows Compact Edition). These days our household uses a Google calendar that we can all access wherever we are.

I've been a bit nostalgic for my old paper-based planners, though, and recently while reading Julie Morgenstern's book "Time Management from the Inside Out" I was surprised to realize that I'm one of those visual people she recommends should stick with physical planners. I've been using one of my old-fashioned, hand-drawn calendars this week and I'm amazed at how much less stress I feel! (I've gotten a lot done, too.)

At Zellers today I found a planner I thought would work - it's the right size and has two pages per week, plus monthly calendars. I was hugely annoyed when I got home to realize that it runs from June 2009 to August 2010; it's half a year out of date! At Staples there was nothing that appealed to me, probably because I'm shopping at exactly the wrong time of year.

So, here's what I found on the web today, in increasing order of excitement, with pros and cons:
  1. The original Day-Timer site. If I find my old cover, I can use new refills. Although they have some decent new themes, I can't find any two-page-per-week that don't have less time for Saturday and Sunday. Their appointments never go past 6pm, either.
  2. Day-Runner has funkier themes and more fun books and inserts, but they still stick to a half-block for weekend days.
  3. MomAgenda has the appropriate emphasis on all parts of life (not just professional), have blocks of space for kids as well as me, and have some fun stuff in the sale bin right now. The shipping costs are higher than I'm willing to pay, though.
  4. The Mead website has a weekly planner that I like on sale, but they add $10 for international shipments. Bad form!
  5. Somehow I ended up at the website 43Folders, which I'm sure has crossed my path before, but I'm not sure in what context. I've gotta like a website that tells me to stop reading it and get to work on something productive! The 43 folders turns out to refer to an email organization system from 2006, which is probably still worth looking at today, although I'm unlikely to change my never-delete strategy for email.
  6. I'm most excited about the website, which I can't believe I've never found before! The author seems to be a designer and productivity superuser who has desigend lots of do-it-yourself pages that you can print, cut, and punch to fit in whatever planner cover you already own. This might just be the logical next step from my hand-drawn pages folded in half, because the "classic" pages are the same size.