Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Calgary Home and Garden Show

I was quite happy to get a Groupon for the Calgary Home and Garden Show this year.  Not having been to the show for many years, I was very interested to see what was on offer these days.  There also was the draw of Bryan Baeumler, host of HGTV‘s Disaster DIY and House of Bryan.

Of course, there are the usual hucksters selling their wares, all of which are “amazing!” It is possible that the one product that might actually fit that descriptor is the Vita-Mix.  This is the blender to end all blenders.  But I’m not here to sell that, and I won’t try.

My biggest disappointment with the show as a whole is that there was only one single vendor – the City of Calgary – having anything to do with rain barrels.  I was hoping to see at least three or four vendors with rain barrels, or something related to rain barrels.  I was very disappointed.  Anyway, I should mention on here that the City, in conjunction with Green Calgary, is having their annual rain barrel and composter sale on Saturday May 14 from 9-11 AM.  That is only two hours!  Locations are at the Crowfoot LRT parking lot, Ikea, and the Anderson LRT parking lot.  Rain barrels are available starting at $60/ea (regular $80/ea); composters are $35/ea.  Check out Green Calgary to find out how to reserve and pre-pay for yours.

The hilights of the show (for me) were two talks: one by Bryan Baeumler and one by Joanne Dafoe.

Joanne Dafoe is a “horticulturist and landscape designer with Spruce It Up Garden Centre.  After 10 years of developing dream landscapes in Calgary, she is venturing out and joining the vegetable gardening craze.”  She presented a very good talk on square foot gardening.  She is self-admittedly a novice when it comes to vegetable gardening, but with the book by Mel Bartholemew is confident that she can be successful.  Her enthusiasm is contagious.  This is something I am going to try this season also.  It is just so simple, and economical.

Bryan Baeumler’s talk was on the Dos and Don’ts of Home Renovation.  He is a very charismatic, engaging speaker who knows how to work an audience.  He spoke about getting permits for renovations – why in the world would you want to do that?  Well, for starters it is a way to reduce future liability.  It, combined with the inspection reports, also provides physical documentation that can be used at the time of sale to help justify a greater cost.  He also spoke about what can be done in a DIY fashion, and what the Professionals should be brought in to do.  This includes things such as gas fitting (duh!) and structural work.  Basically, don’t try to install your own gas line, or modify it in any way.  Also, don’t try to take down a wall unless you are 100% certain that it is not a load-bearing wall.  And even then, it is often best to get the professionals in.

In the question portion of the talk, someone asked if Bryan builds “sustainable” homes.  Bryan’s response was “can you tell me what is sustainable?”  And he has a very good point.  Some of the new plastic homes are far less sustainable than those built using lumber from managed forests, which, with due care and attention, will be around for a long time to come.  We then came to learn that the questioner was really wondering about “green” homes.  Bryan’s response was cautious, and rightly so.  There are so many products on the market, and 95% of them have some claim or another that they are “green” or “greener than X, Y, or Z.”  It can be very difficult, even for an experienced developer who makes a point of keeping up on such trends, to cut through all the crap to find products that are actually good.

I was very impressed with Bryan and what he had to say.  I liked him before this, based solely on his work and personality on Disaster DIY, and like him more now based on how he interacts with and engages an audience.


We’re not dummies!

A table full of dummies!

A table full of dummies at a local bookstore.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I am really getting tired of seeing the “… for Dummies” books wherever I go.  I really don’t think that people deserve to be labelled as “dummies”.  We are not naïve simpletons who cannot understand complex ideas.  This goes equally for computers, mathematics, physics, chemistry, languages, and whatever other subject area the Dummies books delve into.

I think what this trend indicates, at least for me, is that I will have to stop going to book stores such as Indigo/Chapters to satisfy my requirements for the printed word.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, since independent booksellers generally have far fewer, if any, of these Dummies books on their shelves.  Unfortunately, the independent booksellers are having a very difficult time competing with their corporate counterparts.

Two of my favourite independent bookshops in Calgary are Owl’s Nest Books and DeMille Technical Books.  I just wish Owl’s Nest was more centrally located – I live in the northwest near Crowfoot Station, so it’s a bit of a treck whether I drive or take transit.

If you have a favourite independent bookseller in Calgary or elsewhere, please tell me (and other readers) about it.  I love visiting new bookstores wherever I go, so if your favourite store is not in Calgary, I will visit when I get to your city.