Monday, November 26, 2012

The Front Yard Pool

When we designed the pool, my intention was a rectangular pool that would reflect the tower of the house.

The palms were chosen to reflect in the pool on the south side.
The house 1 year ago at purchase. Welcome to our jungle.

When we bought the Florida House, the original owners told the neighbors that Canuks had bought the house. Apparently there was a consensus that we were Crazy Canuks after it was revealed that we intended to put a pool in the front yard. They couldn't fathom it. Most had never ventured into the inner front yard. It was a dark, spooky jungle. I am sure they worried about their property values. My own father in law thought I was nuts. But I had a vision the minute I saw this house online, and I contacted the City to see if I could get approval for a front yard pool. The Yard is actually more of a courtyard. We have a 25' front yard on the sidewalk side, and a second 40' yard with a fence dividing it. 

My plan was to make the inner yard more of a courtyard, typical of many Spanish Colonial Revival houses. We changed the wooden stockade fence to wrought iron, and designed a simple, linear rectangular pool that lined up nicely with the "Tower" portion of the house in order to reflect it. On the other side we planted a row of Foxtail palms to reflect in the other end of the pool. The center hot tub lined with Mexican tile recreates the effect of a circular fountain, also typical of a Spanish Colonial courtyard. We manged to use some of the old brick in a pathway from the gate to the sidewalk, but used new pavers in a hexagon pattern on the pool deck that mimic the old Hex Block pavers found all over the historic parts of St. Petersburg, and also in another area of our yard. We curved this away from the front gate so we could block a direct view into the courtyard from the street and we planted many of the gorgeous palms originally removed from the jungle pre-pool construction, and also a Hibiscus hedge to grow up against the fence for privacy and color.

We have had many neighbors drop by to tell us they love it. And they admit they don't think I am crazy any more.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pistachio Green and Pink Houses

Look at that Bird of Paradise on the right of the door

Iron work over window and barrel tiled roof. Barrel tiles were once hand made and shaped over the thigh of the craftsman.

Some interesting windows and tiles.

Since this is sea water, all the boats have a lift to protect from barnacles and the tide.

The pretty bridge leading to Snell Isle

One of the lovely mansions that line the shore of Snell Isle.

We interrupt our morning walk with a dolphin sighting right near the Snell Isle bridge

Pistachio green house.

Look at that stucco...all created with stucco leaves. They were building a wall around the garden and a craftsman was recreating this stucco. He was Spanish and spoke very little English but he was happy I was taking photos of his work.

Such an interesting roof line.

Notice the double doors leading to the balcony with iron railing.

Laurel wreath in niche and decorative finials.

Complete with vintage t-bird

I do love a pink house.

Cute as can be

You can tell by my photos that I have a bit of an infatuation with Spanish style houses. And here in St. Petersburg, there is no shortage of amazing examples of Spanish Colonial Revival homes. I love the quirky roof lines, iron gates and ironwork on the windows, the old brick walkways and delicious stucco, some of which is troweled on like icing on a fancy cake. And of course the colours are most striking. Pistachio green, lemon yellow, purple and pink are all prominent. The barrel tiled roofs help to keep them insulated and cool and the foot thick walls make them a good choice in hurricane prone Florida. My walk yesterday took me past so many fine examples. Had I snapped them all, I would have been gone a very long time. A pair of frisky dolphins passed me making their way north through Coffee Pot Bayou. It's easy to keep occupied here with the beautiful waterfront, show of homes, birds, dolphins and sunny skies. 

Our American neighbors are gearing up for Thanksgiving tomorrow. Walmart employees are talking about striking in protest of the 8 pm Thanksgiving day opening. Seems Walmart can't wait for Black Friday morning. I feel bad for the employees. How can you enjoy the holiday knowing you have to rush through dinner and get to work. Shame on you Walmart.

Monday, November 19, 2012


Saturday Morning Market St. Petersburg

Coffee and dancing at the Saturday Morning market

Silver tray clock

Singing to the dolphins

Looks like a movie..

African music one minute then closed due to swarming bees.

It seems that when you live in the Sunshine State, you never run out of things to do. We had company for a few days and now they want to buy a house here in St. Pete. Entertaining is super easy when the skies are clear and blue. We popped in to the Saturday morning market, had coffee on the beach in Pass a Grille listening to live music and watching the dolphins swim past. An open air craft market on Central Avenue was a perfect way to show them the artsy side of the city. And when there's nothing going on you can walk and bike ride and sit outside. I'm working up the nerve to dance in market on Saturday morning.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


After grumbling for weeks about the Pool Builders and their series of errors, we arrived to a pool that took my breath away. Beautifully done tile and stone work, and my design followed to a T. The wrong coping no longer seems an issue, and we have final approval from the inspector for all the grading, safety protection etc. It seems like they knew what they were doing after all. My pool cam stalking has left me a feeling a little apologetic. In all likelihood, they would have caught their mistakes as they went along and the outcome would have been the same when we arrived. But like a dog with a bone. I just couldn't let it go. Now my tail is between my legs a little bit. Especially when the pool guy asked if it looked better in real life than on the video.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012 continues.....

Properly fitted safety net.
For those of you that have followed the pool build saga, thank you for your lovely supportive and empathetic comments regarding the many issues we have had. We are near the end of the journey. We arrive tomorrow in Florida, excited to actually see and swim in the pool. 

We decided on a pool safety net to protect any non swimmers that might decide to hop in. It can withstand 450 lbs and is worth the peace of mind. The Pool Guy suggested we add a leaf net since we have several large trees. We were told it it attached to the safety net and is removed in one piece.

So we were a little surprised when the Pool People told it the safety net was coming last Friday and  the leaf net today. Instead of calling to find out why, I decided to defer to the pros. They must know what they are doing right. 

So today, Mr. Leaf Net arrived and installed the leaf net.
Right over the patio and over the front walkway, blocking the path from the gate. Looks awful and like a tripping hazard to me.

I actually cannot even bring myself to call them to explain and complain.
I am so so mad I could spit like a camel.
For the sake of my blood pressure, I have deferred all pool communications to the Raz Man

Improperly fitted leaf net. It is supposed to be an exact match to the safety net for a tidy appearance. It is kinda blocking the pathway and the patio.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Birthday Girl

Today is the birthday of a very special someone to me. My daughter in law Tracy, and the soon to be mother of my grandchild, is celebrating her 28th birthday today.

When my son met Tracy and brought her home for the first time, we not only fed her pork, which she doesn't eat (but politely endured) we knew right away that she was perfect for him. Bright and energetic, intelligent and athletic, we knew they were a good match. When he graduated and moved to Montreal to be near her, we were sad to have the distance between us, but encouraging and happy he was following his heart. We were thrilled when they married and indeed our 2 families merged without a hitch. The 4 girls treat each other like sisters and the in laws have embraced our son completely, and opened their hearts to us also. 

Despite coming from a very strong, closely knit family, I offer her all the love and support I have, and I know it comes from a place that in my heart that holds her very dear and considers her one of my own. Happy Birthday to our sweet dear Tracy. 

The cake is in the mail. (well UPS)

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Worst Client Ever

My pool

My choice of pool color

You know that ringtone on the I-Phone that sounds like an alarm for a nuclear disaster....alternating between the sound of a submarine sinking warning and car alarms?  Well I'm pretty sure that the Pool Company has that set for my phone calls. I think they hate me, dread me, and are actually afraid of me. If I was my own client, I would have a  nasty name made up for me, like Crazed Cow or Menopausal Canadian....

I think I have complained at least twice a week for the entire pool build. I've gotten hostile, defensive, apologetic and on the rare occasion appeased. It started with the entire plan getting nixed by the Inspector, a series of rather futile and pathetic re-designs sent my way hoping for a quick and uninformed approval by the client. I think this is where it all went wrong. After all, we knew through the Pool Cam that the Inspector wanted major changes, so when they offered minor fixes, we then knew they weren't upfront and we totally lost confidence in them. From the drainage not being installed right, the brick path missing the gate by a foot, the wrong coping selection recorded (that's my story and I am sticking to it) to broken sidewalks etc, I've squeaked about everything along the way. And they CC everyone in the office when I email so they all know how dreadful I am.

All I've wanted along the way was communication. Someone to send my an invoice for $$$ that doesn't say 2nd installment, but outlines what's been done. How about a line saying, "Tiling all done, looks fabulous, moving onto pool deck now". Instead of "Invoice attached, please remit". Or "the second inspection is done and all is perfect now"

And for heavens sake, could they have sent one lousy photo this entire duration.!

So when the water went in, I noticed it looked green. Not the blue I had selected. I waited 3 days and then I called them and sent a photo (friend took it) and said...."Hey my water's green, is that the right finish?", to which they just said, 

"it's the one you picked"
"it looks blue to me"
"it's the trees making it green"
"it's definitely a Quartz finish"
"maybe it was cloudy that day"


My pool day 4---day complaining started.
Tough guy that I am, I told them to send me a photo of the finish I got from the sample board. Still not believing it was the right color, I asked the foreman to take the sample board to the pool and confirm the right one had been installed. He did, and they all confirmed it was precisely my choice.They were very quick to email to tell me it was the right colour and I was wrong. The next day in another email I mentioned how disappointed I was that the pool looked green. To which she replied....

"It will turn bluer in about a week, it's just the chemicals and water settling. After a week it will be blue."

Do you think that someone, in the 5 conversations I had in a rant about that, could have mentioned not to worry it will go blue.....NO...they must enjoy my passive-aggressive phone calls. And now it looks like this. I just shut up when my Lawn Service guy text me to tell me they were pulling up the front end of the patio again (3rd time laying this part) to re-grade the property. 

And then, I have a new client...sweet couple, love my ideas, no complaining and I wonder if down the road they could turn into ME.

My brother from NJ and his girlfriend from NY are in town for the weekend which makes me so excited. Frenchie managed to vomit up the 2 socks he ingested on Tuesday, possibly avoiding an the weekend is starting well and I putting on my OTHER FACE now.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Long Distance Relationship


Owning a home-away-from-home is a bit like a long distance relationship. You think about it all the time, wonder what's going on around and about, and you dream about seeing it again soon. It also comes with headaches and worries. My main fears are a leak (already happened), and a break and enter. Which is why we have a monitored alarm, high fence and locked gates, and security cameras. The Raz Man owns a computer business and sells a lot of hardware to people like Border Patrol and the Surveillance Industry. So it is only fitting that he likes to install such things in the Florida House. The camera's take a photo and sends us an email if something/someone enters our yard or the doors are opened. We can also log in remotely and move the cameras around both inside the house and out. This is 100% legal by the way on your own property. I've mentioned before that other than the requisite lawn guy and pool builders, the only other intruder is a large white cat who comes to dine on lizards in our yard.

Last night around 10:30 pm while us and most Americans were glued to the TV for election results we got that dreaded phone call. Our neighbor had received a call from another neighbor to say that a U-Haul was backed up to the alley behind our house and people were removing the contents of "the Canadians House". They had called the police and they were on the way. To say I was freaked out was an understatement. There had been no call from the alarm company to say there was an entry. We did  the only thing that anyone could do from 1000's of miles away. Confident that the police would arrive in a minute or two, we ran to the computer to log in to the cameras. There was no email about a "door open" event, and so we nervously turned on the interior camera. I was terrified of seeing all our stuff gone, a vacant and battered house, but most of all, I was terrified of seeing someone in the house. We scanned the main level cautiously and nothing seemed to be out of place or missing. The door was intact as was the alarm.  Hearts still pounding, we looked at the back yard camera which indeed showed a car behind our locked gate and a U haul in the lane way, although it clearly looked to be next door to us. We could see people with flashlights (assuming the police) and a while later the car and truck left. 

Although at the moment I was mortified and panicked, I am so grateful to both neighbors, who cared enough to call each other and the police. It most likely was a neighbor doing a late evening move, but it could have been a large scale break in. It took a while for my adrenaline to settle after that and be able to fall asleep. 

If you see something in your neighborhood that doesn't look right, call the police. It may be nothing, but better safe than sorry.