Ron Abreu 1939-2013

IMG_0209I lost my father-in-law Ron this weekend. He’d been fighting cancer for a year or so but when it finally decided to take him, it seemed to whisk him away as quickly as a gust of wind takes a leaf. I first met him early in my relationship with his daughter Sharon, and was immediately charmed by his warm Trini accent and generous nature. Ron was an exercise in contrasts. He had the appearance of a little old man, a look he seemed to have had, to some degree, his whole life. And yet physically, he had a quiet strength, endurance and stoicism that would shame many physically larger men, myself included. He loved people and loved his family more than anyone I know making it hard to find a photo of him by himself.


Always a good sport, he was even willing to risk life and limb tearing around with me on the back of my motorcycle.


One of my favorite memories of him is from some years ago when it was time for the fence at the house where Sharon and I lived to be replaced. It was spring and Ron and Olivia were up for one of their frequent visits so Ron was going to help me put in the new posts and build the fence. I rented a post hole digger thinking it wouldn’t be too bad of a job and off to work we went. Ron would have been in his mid to late 60s at the time and I assumed he would be simply providing a pair of extra hands when I needed them.

As anyone who does this type of work knows, these jobs often take a turn for the worse and become much more difficult than originally forecast. It had been a wet spring and the back yard was clay. We fought this beast of a two man post auger, wrestling it as it tried to spin us around in circles, caught in the sticky clay, catching rocks, mud piling up around us. The clay would stick to the soles of our boots, building up in layers until we were walking around like the Frankenstein monster on heavy 6 inch platforms, giving up on scraping them because they would simply build up again a few minutes later. We kept at it and finished the job many hours later before going into the house to get cleaned up. I was wiped out, popping some pills for my aching muscles when Sharon asked Ron if he wanted an Advil. “What for?”, he replied, seeming genuinely puzzled that there would be anything out of the ordinary that might need relief. To this day I’m still embarrassed that a little old guy like Ron worked me into the ground.

Ron always had a great sense of humor and loved to tell a good story. He had this whole dirty old man thing going on that I don’t think many of us could pull off without coming across as perverts. With Ron though, it was just a charming part of his personality. Whenever Olivia was around he was quick to cop a feel, never caring who saw, much to the embarrassment of his daughters when their high school friends were visiting. My inbox was always full of racy jokes and saucy pictures that he loved to forward to all his friends and I was always careful to look over my shoulder before opening an email from him at work. He had a little code word, “Summertime”, that he used to let me know that he had spotted a scantily clad young lady that he wanted to point out. He talked of ‘turtle skirts’ which, as he would laughingly explain, “are so short that if they bend over you’ll see their snapper”.

The ladies always loved him. He was a great dancer and any time there was a wedding or concert, he seemed to have no shortage of women waiting for him to sweep them around the floor. His niece Ashleigh‘s wedding was full of her tall, statuesque model friends and he had a blast dancing around with them, cheek to chest.


The best, however, was watching him and Olivia dance. They moved with the grace and style that only two people who have been dancing together their whole lives possess. Everyone would watch them when they were gliding around the floor and for all his joking, you knew he only ever had eyes for her. Even this year, when sickness had taken away so much of his strength, he still managed to take to the floor with Olivia at his niece Christina’s wedding.

There are so many things I admired about Ron. His dedication to his business, never letting a customer down even if it meant answering the phone and doing tech support when he was on holiday or golfing. His dogged determination to solve problems when he was working on a cash register. As a programmer myself, that kind of tenacity in fixing things is the main quality I strive for in my professional life and he was the type that never gave up no matter what. I hear that even when he was in the hospital, they wheeled him down to the lobby so that they could put a cash register on his lap for him to fix. That’s just the kind of guy he was, doing support for his clients, even when he was so sick himself.

I wish I had known him longer. Like everyone he met, I know that my life is better for having known him as long as I did. Wherever he is, I hope there’s dancing and golfing and sailing and liming and love. Requiescat in pace Ron.


Bathroom renovation

Our en-suite was only a two piece with a toilet and sink so we decided to redo it and add a stand up shower. Don’t have a before picture but it really wasn’t much to look at. In this shot, I’ve taken the walls and subfloor off and redone the plumbing and electrical. We needed a new exhaust fan, plug and light fixtures and I added a pot light over the shower as well as an extra rough-in for a lighted mirror. The toilet flange needed to be shifted to make room for the shower and unfortunately was right beside a joist which was awkward but nothing a saw and some steel mending plates couldn’t solve.

I used PEX for the supply lines and after having used it, I’ll never use copper again. So easy to work with. The air vent in this picture will be shifted to the left so as not to be in traffic.


Flooring back in and drywall up. I made a custom nook for shampoo and stuff in the wall.


Drywall finished and painted. Shower membrane is on the wall and the floor tiles are in place. We went with 2 foot square tiles which leaves very few grout lines.


Starting to come together now. Cabinets, mirror and light fixtures up. Tiles and shower base installed.


Really close now. Grouting and caulking all done, toilet installed, countertop in place. Still need to install the sink and faucet as well as the shower hardware.


And voila. All done. Shower and sink hardware all in place. Towel rack and toilet paper holder installed. Not too shabby.

bathroom IMG_5370 IMG_5365

Queen Mary Renovation

Late 2012 our main floor tenants gave notice so we decided to take the month of December to do a renovation. The place was pretty dated and definitely needed a facelift if we were going to try to charge more rent. We don’t have ‘before’ pics of all of it but hopefully you’ll get the idea.The kitchen had old cream cabinets and peel-and-stick tiles.IMG_4800 IMG_4801The dining room and bedroom off the kitchen were tired with worn out floors, drywall damage and bad paint. There were noise issues with the shared wall in the dining room (you could hear the neighbors clearly). Plus the tenants cat had been pissing in the corner (see the removed drywall) which ruined the flooring and wall there. The single thermostat in the house was in the bedroom which caused problems because that room would tend to be warmer causing the rest of the house to be too cold.IMG_4804 IMG_4802The bathroom was also quite tired. We had replaced the shower/tub earlier in the year but the rest of it needed updating too.IMG_4806The rest of the house needed paint and the basement needed new carpet. We don’t have before pictures but it was pretty gross. Washing the walls was disgusting and when we pulled up the old carpet, there was a massive quantity of dirt underneath it.
For the kitchen we tiled the floor and refaced the cabinets. By buying new doors and gluing veneer on the outside, we were able to make it look like new without actually replacing the cabinets. A new light fixture, new laminate counter tops, sink and faucet along with new stainless appliances and range hood completed the look.IMG_4817 IMG_4816The dining room and bedroom got new floors, paint and trim. The thermostat was moved to the kitchen and the dining room wall was removed, more soundproofing insulation was added and heavier grade drywall put back up. The bedroom got a new light fixture to replace the old ceiling fan.IMG_4818 IMG_4824The bathroom got a new vanity with a granite top, new lighting and ceiling fan, a new medicine cabinet, new toilet, towel bars and toilet paper holders as well as fresh paint.IMG_4813The basement got new carpet, light fixture and fresh paint throughout.IMG_4814 IMG_4829And finally, the living room was also painted and given a new light fixture. It and the bathroom were the only floors in the house that were not refinished. Its hardwood had been refinished a few years back and was still good and the bathroom was tile which was also in good shape.IMG_4828 It was a pretty tough month for us. We were both working full time and probably put another 40 hours a week during December working on the house. In the end we were able to increase the rent by 25% which means the renovation will pay for itself in 2-3 years. I expect that we’ve also increased the overall value of the house substantially as well.

Kitchen Renovation

So early this year we decided to redo our kitchen. The current kitchen was liveable but not really that great and we had wanted to fix it up for a while.

You can see that it’s pretty big but doesn’t have a big working area because of the eating area at the end by the fridge. We didn’t use it for eating and had put a few storage items there along with microwave, coffee maker, etc.

It seemed that the best plan would be to take out the wall to the dining room to make it more open and also to remove the partial walls/builtin pantry at the other entrance by the stove. So with that plan in mind, we started smashing up the place. We took down most of the cabinets and started smashing the drywall. The wall on the right between the kitchen and living room is both load bearing and mechanical (heating/plumbing/electrical) so we couldn’t take it out.

We left the stove and sink in place and kept the fridge hooked up as well. We had people coming to watch the Superbowl so we wanted at least some form of working area.

Most of the drywall is taken out. Electrical wires that were in the dividing wall are now hanging from the ceiling.

This is the kitchen we used to serve dinner and snacks to our friends on Superbowl Sunday. You can see the beginnings of Sharon’s makeshift kitchen in the dining room. We’re already starting to do a lot of crock pot cooking.

Superbowl over now so no more beating around the bush. The rest of the floor, walls and cabinets are gone although the stove is still usable. Most of the re-wiring is done at this point and so is the plumbing. I had to run a bigger 6 gauge cable for the new stove since it required 50 amp service and the old cable was only rated to 40. 6 gauge cable is seriously thick and stiff. Anyone who said you can’t push on a rope had never worked with this stuff before. I drilled holes through the basement joists and pushed it all the way through to the breaker box. In this picture at the top right you can also see our new ventilation duct. Our stove is huge and required 1200 CFM of ventilation so we had to put in 10″ ductwork. The old duct was just flexible tubing running out into the garage but there was no way to do that in our space so I ran it straight up into the attic through the bathroom closet. The added advantage is that the blower can go in the attic for decreased noise.

Here’s Sharon’s temporary kitchen. It’s a real credit to her organization and planning skills that we actually ate out less during the reno than we normally do. She would cook up a bunch of crock pot recipes on the weekend that we could eat all week and also plan simple meals that could be made on the barbecue. Dishes got washed in the laundry tub in the basement. Through out this renovation, we probably missed the dishwasher most of all.

Work progressed. Wiring and plumbing done so now I can close up the drywall and build a box for the range hood.

Then it’s time to get all the surfaces prepped. Might as well put up the new light fixture as well. We’re still using our old stove. It got moved around a lot but always kept finding its way back.

I don’t have any photos of the tiling going in but it was relatively straight forward. We used the Shluter-Ditra underlayment which seemed to work really well. At this point, things start to go really fast. The cabinet people installed the cabinets in 2 days and the stove and hood fan were delivered at the same time. In this picture we’ve started tiling the backsplash a bit and are still waiting on some cabinet doors. The countertop is in and my undercabinet lights are up. I put them on a motion sensor with a dimmer so when you walk into the kitchen, the lights come up and a few minutes after you leave the fade away. It’s great for midnight snacks.

Now we’re finally almost finished. We still haven’t grouted the tiles on the sink side of the kitchen and there are a couple pieces of floor trim that need to be done but we’ve been cooking and entertaining here for several months and still love it every day.

The sink is huge. You could practically wash a whole cow in it.


Now you see why we needed a ridiculous hood fan. To go with our ridiculous stove. The delivery guys couldn’t believe that they were taking a stove that size to a little townhouse. Ultimately we wanted two ovens though and there was no easy way to fit them into the space without taking up too much room. All things considered, it didn’t cost that much more than wall ovens and a gas range anyway.

Lots of big drawers for pots and pans.

Plenty of prep space on the counters.

The little handles beside the stove and sink are little pull-out vertical pantries. We use them for spices, oils, cleaning supplies, etc. Super practical.

Sharon and I would like to send some special thanks to Nathalie at MR Kitchens who helped us design the layout. We had a pretty good idea of what we wanted but she was the one who knew all the details and products that could make the space fit together. She took really good care of us. The second person we’d like to acknowledge is Jeremy from Universal Appliances. He helped us pick out appliances out and got us the best deals. When things went horribly wrong with the first stove being dead on arrival, he took extra special care, dealt with GE and the repair people and generally made the whole experience as stress free as possible.

Finnigan the cat 1996-2010

14 years ago Sharon picked up a tiny, scruffy little farm cat on the same day as she picked up the most scared, shy puppy in a litter of barn mutts.  I imagine that when she named them Casey and Finnigan she was expecting something like Mr. Dressup even though it actually turned out more like the Odd Couple.  I met Finny when he was already 9 years old so much of what I know of him is second hand but I’ll tell some of it anyway since it’s a bit the story of who he was.

Finny was a big cat.  Usually twenty two pounds or so.  Sharon didn’t really believe the vet when she was told that this tiny kitten in her hand would grow up to be so enormous but the vet was right.  True, he was overweight but even if he hadn’t been, he would still have been a big cat: standing on his hind legs he could easily reach the door knob.  He was probably taken from his mother too early because early on, he seemed to think Casey was his mother, nursing on her until her nipples were raw.  They were friends then, chasing each other around the house.  Casey, with her puppy teeth, accidentally caught Finnigan by the tail a couple times, resulting in trips to the vet for stitches and bandages but otherwise, they were happy together.

I don’t really know when it happened but at some point, Casey’s insecurity and jealousy made her so protective that she wouldn’t really allow him to be too affectionate without being chased away.  Perhaps he would have been a different cat if it weren’t for Casey but we’ll never know.  When I met him, he was a friendly, good natured fellow who liked to be around people but was content to just sit nearby.  I always tried to get him to sit on my lap and cuddle like other cats do but he really just didn’t like that very much.

For a big, strong, fully clawed animal, Finny was probably the most gentle cat I’ve ever known.  He didn’t like being picked up very much but other than squirming a bit, he never scratched or bit or got angry.  He would lie down for long tummy rubs and even though he didn’t care for being brushed very much, would tolerate it with nothing more than a bit of whining.  Even at the vet, he never put up any fight no matter what needed to be done to him.  When our young Labrador Retriever Bica joined us after Casey left, he not only tolerated her but even loved her, often holding her head and licking her as if to say, “You’re so dirty, I don’t even know where to start cleaning you.”  He had a remarkable tolerance for and even grew to like Gus, Bica’s big goofy Lab friend from down the street, who loves cats and would often lick him from head to toe until he was soaked with dog slobber.  Bica and Finnigan were so cute together but they always were aware of the paparazzi so whenever the camera came out, they seemed to know to stop all the embarrassing cuddling.  Here’s one of the few images I was stealthy enough to capture.

Finnigan loved food, as you can see by his impressive girth, often begging for treats and sitting by the cookie jar like a dog, looking for a handout.  During the last month, however, he didn’t seem to be eating quite so much.  “Probably just his teeth bothering him,” we thought since he had broken one of his fangs a while back.  We gave him a bit of wet food to entice him and after a bit, his appetite seemed to come back.  But still, he wasn’t really begging for food much anymore and it didn’t seem like I needed to fill his dish quite as often.

About a week ago, he pretty much stopped eating.  Every morning and evening, I’d check his bowl and it would still be full.  Starting to worry we’d give him wet food which he seemed to like but would only eat a little bit before stopping.  Starting to worry, I weighed him and found that he was ‘only’ 18 pounds.  Hard to tell with a big fluffy cat but you could feel his bones under his fur and to put it in perspective, it would be like me suddenly losing 30-40 pounds off of my 210 pound frame.  We took him to the vet to see if there was anything wrong with him and after a full battery of tests, we found…nothing.  Our cat is dying but there’s nothing wrong with him that shows up in blood or urine tests.  His heart and lungs sounded fine and other than a tiny bit of fever that was gone the next day, he seemed as healthy as can be.  Perhaps it was cancer, perhaps his heart was failing, without running xrays and ultrasounds and scans, there was no way to tell.  At 14 years of age with a failing body, the vet warned us that just trying to sedate him to do the tests would likely kill him since his breathing was already becoming so labored.  We bought him every kind of treat and luxury cat food we could find and put them out like a buffet for him but he wouldn’t even sniff them.  Other than urinating once, he hadn’t gone to the bathroom in over a week.

Thursday and Friday we got him some hydration injections from the vet and we had him on antibiotics just in case but by Saturday night we knew.  He had been hiding under the bed in the spare room all evening, something he never did, and when I went to check on him, he wasn’t moving.  Thinking, “oh no, the poor little guy is dead,” I reached under to pull him out and heard him make a little squeak.  As I pulled him out, he struggled and cried a bit and when I put him on the bed, he just lay there and panted.  Up until then, he had still looked normal but now, his eyes were sunken and dull. He was suffering and we knew we could either let him slowly die overnight by himself or take him to the vet and make sure he didn’t have to starve or suffocate or die of thirst or whatever it was that nature had in store for him.

Thank heaven for the 24 hour Ottawa Animal Hospital.  They let us do the right thing by him and were so kind when we carried him in, giving us a private room to be with him while we waited for a vet.  I set him down on the floor and he tried to explore a bit but he couldn’t even walk properly anymore so we just put him on the couch and petted and talked to him while he purred away.  Still purring, even though he was so sick.  They gave us a blanket and we held him on our laps, the only time in his life he ever sat on our laps without struggling to get away, and we talked to him and stroked him while the vet gave him a sedative to make him sleep.  He slept almost instantly and when the vet gave him the second injection to stop his heart, he was gone in just a few seconds.  When the vet took him away, wrapped in his blanket, he didn’t even look dead and I thought for a second, “wait….why are we letting them take Finny away?”  We stumbled out of the vet, eyes blinded with tears and made our way back home, wishing we could have done more, more tests, more treatments, save him somehow.  It was just selfishness though.  We knew he would have hated being poked and prodded and living his last days in a cage at the vet.

I cried last night and I’m crying now but this morning when I woke up I knew we did the right thing.  He got to go to sleep peacefully with his family rather than slowly dying in pain and hunger.  After so many times being woken up at six in the morning because he wanted to be fed, I know that this cat who loved to eat wouldn’t want to live in a world without food.

Rest in peace Finnigan and give Casey our love.

Finnigan Abreu-Warkentin – 1996-2010

Apartment for rent

One bedroom, second floor apartment in Overbrook near St. Laurent mall. A free parking space, easy access to bus route (15-20 minutes to downtown) and plenty of shopping nearby.

It’s the upstairs portion of a split duplex and has a kitchen, bathroom, living room and bedroom. Newly refinished bath and kitchen floor.  Two private entrances, plenty of storage space, hardwood and tile floors, a balcony for barbecuing and access to an outdoor shed (shared with downstairs tenant.) Fenced backyard ideal for pets.

Gas heat paid by landlord so you just have to pay for electricity and other services like phone and cable. Kitchen comes with fridge and stove.

Approximately 500 square feet:
Kitchen 7′ x 13′
Bathroom 5′ x 8′
Bedroom – 8′ x 12′
Living room – 9′ x 14′

$700 per month, available July 1st 2009.
contact Kris: kewarken at hotmail dot com, (613)866-7762, (613)221-9448.


Living Room

Living Room

Sister from the same mister and swimming.

I’m going to try this gallery thing again. This time I actually annotated the pictures so hopefully it’s somewhat better. I swear WordPress has the worst UI ever. It’s just painful to add a bunch of pictures. The gallery UI isn’t much better. Once you start you can click on the lower pictures to go to the next ones but I couldn’t get it to show bigger pics so you have to click to zoom in. Also, the title of the picture sort of gets blended in at the top so it’s not really obvious. Bleah.

On Friday we went to our friends who just got a puppy who has the same father as Bica. Sadie’s mother was a yellow and her father was a chocolate. The strange genetic experiment that is the Labrador Retriever causes this combination to result in a litter of yellow, chocolate and black labs believe it or not so neither of Sadie’s parents shared her color. I wonder if that results in some interesting conversations in the dog world? “I saw you behind the shed with that black lab from across the street you slut!”

Saturday morning was swimming time and I think the pictures speak for themselves.



What’s happening?

Been a while since an update so I’ll put a few things into one post.  We went to Rob and Katie’s wedding last night but a couple weeks before that I went to his bachelor party out at a cottage on a lake.  Here he is in the fishing boat with his brother.

We got into a fair bit of mischief that evening but I actually kept enough presence of mind to set up a tripod and take some shots of the moon over the lake.

Needless to say, I can’t really party with a bunch of Newfs without paying the price and the price was a pretty horrid motorcycle ride home and most of the next day in bed.  Good times.

Sharon has about a million pictures and videos on her little camera but she’s going to have to learn to put them up on her Facebook because I just can’t process that many images.  I’ve got enough of my own to worry about.  On Saturday we took Bica down to the river.  She still doesn’t quite get the point of swimming even though she’s capable of doing it.

We met a 7 month Doberman that she had quite a wild time with. Amazing how rough dogs play and rarely hurt each other.

Some swans were hanging around because we were throwing rocks for the dogs to chase into the water.  They don’t like dogs and hiss like enormous cats when the dogs get too close.  I expect these swans would mess the dogs up pretty bad since they’re exceptionally vicious and bad tempered and bigger than the doberman to boot.

We got dressed up for the wedding.  Sharon looked pretty awesome in her blue dress.

We danced until pretty late and then went to a play date later in the afternoon with a lady Sharon used to work with and her dogs.  The little yellow is the same age as Bica so they were perfect for each other.

She had a wading pool.  Rub a dub dub, three dogs in a tub.

Whew…finally got the tub to myself.

I’ve got the ball!!! Come get me!

If you two can’t play nicely, I’m taking the ball.

Are you me da?

Puppies are exhausting.

Ah…there’s me da.

That’s all for now.




Been a bit slow on the updates lately.  We went up to the in-laws cottage on the Canada Day weekend so Bica got her first real nature adventures.  Here are a bunch of assorted pictures that you can click on to see larger or read the captions.  The one that is somewhat newsworthy is the picture of the eggs.  We weren’t surprised but at least now we know.

I don’t think I particularly like this gallery option so I probably won’t use it again.  Anyway, here’s a video of her trying to make friends with Finnegan.  She’s usually more polite than this but sometimes she gets a little frisky.  Finnegan knows how to deal with that.

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