Author Archives: wandalow

Now that the snow has finally melted away, we see what our front steps are looking like. Yikes! They’re crumbling away – even more than last year. The salt and shovelling really do a number on the cement over the winter. We’ve managed to do patchwork over the last few years, but this year may call for more drastic measures.

concrete home improvements on the front steps

In our case, it’s just the step up into the house that needs to be replaced (and obviously the stucco just above it). It doesn’t look like too big of a job, but it does involve some physical labour. Breaking up the old concrete step, building the form for the new step, and mixing and pouring the concrete. There is some metal labour as well, with the mathematical calculations. Here is what we plan to do.

  1. The dimension of the step needs to be calculated first. The dimensions consist of a riser (the vertical face) and the tread (the horizontal face). Since we are replacing an existing step, we can simply measure it before breaking it up. If we were replacing a series of steps from the ground up, we would need to include a foundation as well. Thankfully that is not part of this year’s job.
  2. The next part of the job is to build the form for the concrete. We have some scrap lumber to use for this. We need to cut the side forms according to our riser and tread calculations. We also need to make sure that our form is adhered to the side of the house. We don’t want any movement when we pour the concrete, so we will also brace the form with some wooden stakes along the outside. Finally, we make doubly sure that everything is plumb and level.
  3. Since we are only building one step, we won’t need to rent a portable cement mixer. Our wheelbarrow should do the job well enough. I think that we will also go for the ready-mixed cement that only requires adding water.
  4. Pouring the concrete is the fun part. We pour it slowly and evenly into the form to minimize bubbles. Then, we use a spade to remove any trapped air bubbles.
  5. We have a steel trowel that we will use to get the excess concrete off the tread. That way our step will have a smooth, even surface.
  6. Finally, we want to make sure that our step will be strong and last. We need to keep the concrete damp for up to a week while it cures, as well as spray the step with a curing compound. We are not planning to stain the step, so after the week of curing, our step is done. Tah dah!

Our front step is not a huge concrete home improvement job. If we had to redo the entire front entrance (steps and platform), we probably wouldn’t have the time or tools to tackle it ourselves. Fortunately, there are specialists out there who make the work look easy and can get it done in a day.

Spring Break 2016
Relax during your spring break

Spring Break is just around the corner. It’s been a busy winter, and I am really looking forward to a little vacation – nothing too exotic this year, but a “pick-me-up” nonetheless.

There’s nothing new in the idea of taking a vacation to relax and de-stress, but vacations offer so much more than just relaxation.

A vacation promotes Creativity:

Every time I go on a vacation, I come home with a list of wonderful things I want to do make. I feel creatively rejuvenated. The things I see around me when I am away from home inspire all kinds of new ideas.

A vacation can stave off Burnout:

For some of us, when we work hard every day, it becomes our routine. And, sometimes this comes at the expense of our health. We become more and more tired, then exhausted, and no longer as productive. We need to make sure to take regular time away from work.

A vacation can keep you Healthy:

We need to take regular time off to recharge our batteries. Going away somewhere gets us out of our regular environment and routine, thereby changing our pace of life. I, for one, need a nice sleep on the beach.

A vacation promotes overall Wellbeing:

My vacations don’t just include lazing around. I like to explore where I am, so I end up doing quite a bit of walking. I also tend to eat better. I return home feeling refreshed.

A vacation can Strengthen Bonds:

Whether it’s a family vacation, or a vacation for just the two of us, or a vacation with friends, we’re spending time relaxing and having new experiences together.

A vacation can help with your Job Performance:

Vacations lead to an increased quality of life, and that can lead to increased quality of work on the job.

A vacation can have a lasting effect in Relieving Stress:

Did you know that a good vacation could lead to the experience of fewer stressful days for several weeks later? Vacations are a gift to yourself that keep on giving.

Give yourself a gift!





There are many abilities that you child needs in order to succeed in school. Good vision is definitely one of them. Much of a child’s learning is occurs through his or her eyes. Reading, writing, chalkboard / whiteboard / smart board work, and using computers are among a student’s daily visual tasks. Children are constantly using their eyes in the classroom and at play. When their vision is not functioning properly, education and participation in sports can suffer.

As children progress through school, the demand on their visual abilities increases. The amount of time spent reading and studying increases, but the size of print in schoolbooks decreases. This places a significant demand on the child's eyes. Unfortunately, the visual abilities of some students aren't performing up to the task.

When certain visual skills have not developed, or are poorly developed, learning is difficult and stressful, and children will typically:

  • Avoid reading and other near visual work as much as possible.
  • Attempt to do the work anyway, but with a lowered level of comprehension or efficiency.
  • Experience discomfort, fatigue and a short attention span.

It is important to have your child’s vision checked regularly during their school years, as vision may change frequently at this time.

Eyeglasses or contact lenses will correct many vision problems. If your child, however, continues to exhibit learning problems, a program of vision therapy may also be needed to help develop or enhance vision skills.

* Adapted from the American Optometric Association


It is mid January. The days are still short and cold. The ground is still frozen and covered in a blanket of snow, and there is still lots of winter ahead. With the warmth of the Christmas holidays now well behind us, some of you may already be starting to look forward to spring.

Enter the Amaryllis. Why the Amaryllis you ask?

It is Amaryllis blooming time and this plant, with its big showy flowers, is just the thing to help get you through to spring. The Amaryllis grows slowly – providing that excitement of anticipation. Then, it doesn’t disappoint when it blooms. Its brilliant tropical flowers brighten any home during the cold winter months.

The Amaryllis is fairly easy to grow and it will flower in the first year. Many Amaryllis plants are also sold preplanted in a gift pot, or sold as a bulb with a prepared pot. It really doesn’t get much easier than that.hing to help get you through to spring. The Amaryllis grows slowly – providing that excitement of anticipation. Then, it doesn’t disappoint when it blooms. Its brilliant tropical flowers brighten any home during the cold winter months.


We’re off to get our Amaryllis today.



Weight loss or getting into better shape may be at the top of your annual list of New Year’s resolutions, but why wait until the New Year to start. By putting your work-out plan into effect before the holidays, you can help reduce your stress and increase your energy, thereby enjoying the busy holiday season even more.

Here are a few reasons to get started early.

1.    Reduce your holiday season stress. Exercise is a great way to work off your stresses and regain a calm and relaxed state of mind.  Exercise can help to lower your heart rate, help you to sleep, and increase your overall energy.

2.     Keep seasonal illness at bay. Eating right and exercising will help boost your immune system, so that you can more easily fight off any cold or flu bugs that are common during this time of year.  Don’t allow yourself to become rundown. If you think you can’t afford the time needed to get fit, then think about the time you’ll lose if you get sick.  So … eat lots of fruits and veggies and get your heart healthy with a regular exercise program.

3.     Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. Beginning an exercise routine now will get you started towards your goal before the holiday eating sets you back. Putting it off until later only builds pressure and makes it even harder to start after the holidays.  It’s a lot easier to stay on track once you start seeing results, rather than starting off in a worse place than you were before (perhaps five pounds heavier).

4.     Take some time for yourself. The holiday season can be pretty hectic for most of us.  With fitting entertaining and shopping into our already busy day-to-day lives, we add stress and often end up neglecting ourselves.  Instead of putting yourself last, make an effort to do something that is good for you every day – whether it is going to the gym or taking a walk around your neighborhood to look at the decorations. It’s a Wonderful Life when you’re getting fit and feeling good.

5.     Strive to improve yourself. There are many reasons to commit yourself in a fitness plan, but the best one is because you will be improving yourself.  Starting a fitness routine today is the best way to be the best you.

For the longest time, the words “martial arts”, “karate” and “black belt” conjured up images of Bruce Lee single handedly fighting off the bad guys, or Ninjas leaping out of the dark. Of course, Hollywood still promotes this image, but in reality, martial arts classes offer a much more family-oriented atmosphere.

These days, we see parents and their children participating together in martial arts – learning side-by-side in an environment that is empowering, motivating and positive. Classes tend to be structured to develop not only the fighting techniques, but also a fitness program that the whole family can enjoy. In addition, a holistic approach helps to build strong character, discipline, leadership skills and … good manners.

Family oriented dojos (martial arts schools) do not just teach self-defense, but are interested in the complete personal development of each student. Focus, patience, perseverance and physical condition are developed through the practice of various katas (movement exercises), Kumites (sparring routines) and kihon (basic techniques).

In a society where we often juggle complicated schedules, martial arts classes offer the opportunity to combine our family and fitness time in an activity where family values, respect and responsibility are promoted.

Karate and Martial Art in Montreal


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The holiday season is right around the corner! Are you planning some festive gatherings? Consider what you can do to make your home ready for entertaining your holiday guests.

You may not have time to undertake a larger remodelling project, but here are some suggestions for what you can do to spruce up your home in relatively little time.

Remodelling Ideas

  • Painting as a simple remodelling ideaPainting and wallpapering
  • Replacing plumbing fixtures, towel bars, bath accessories, etc.
  • Adding new or relocating current light fixtures to help brighten rooms
  • Replacing cabinet hardware
  • Replacing furniture, window treatments, decorations, etc.
  • New floor treatments – carpets, finishing, tiling
  • Replace trim, crown moulding and mantle
  • Fireplace renovation
  • Add or replace a kitchen backsplash
  • Rearrangement of living room
  • New bath towels, new bedding, organizational shelving, carpet cleaning, a new front door mat, etc.
  • Change your art or add new art.

Keep in mind how your home performs when filled with lots of guests and activities. Some things to think about:

  • Is there good flow from room to room?
  • How many people can comfortably be in the kitchen – dining room – living room at one time?
  • Is the kitchen layout efficient for preparing more food than usual?
  • The front entrance to your home is the first impression the guests will get of your house.
  • Don’t forget about the powder room and guest bedroom.
  • Is there enough space for the extra winter coats and boots?
  • De-clutter

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