November 30, 2015

Let There be Lights Everywhere

The Imperial Suites are going to be brightly lit -not just from the sunlight streaming through the windows but from many ceiling lights.

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Where I first began designing the suites, I knew I wanted the lighting to reflect the opulence that I have seen in European castles and high-end boutique hotels. I am returning the building’s exterior and parts of the interior to what it looked like in 1908.

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I have mentioned before that we are copying the original door and window trim, high baseboards and wood floors. The lights will reflect the ambiance of high-end rooms of the same era.  To me that meant crystal chandeliers and lots of them.

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I wanted vintage crystal chandeliers – not modern ones.  To this end, I first looked at antique stores and only found two.  Generally they were not large enough.  I wanted BIG chandeliers.

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Then I checked out Kijiji.  I bought two in October 2014 locally but they were definitely not plentiful in this area.  I widened my search to southern Ontario and things changed.

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I had lots to choose from and I learned about the quality and age of lights.  I looked forward to waking up in the middle of the night so that I could check the latest chandelier postings on Kijiji.  I missed purchasing a few lights because I bid too late at 7:00 a.m.

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I had planned to purchase 48 chandeliers: one for each living room, dining room, kitchen and bedroom in each suite.  I bought a few more than I needed though: 68.  I plan to use the extras in the rest of the building.

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Each weekend, my husband, Greg, and I would drive to a small town in Ontario to pick up a chandelier or two.  We visited towns we had never been to before.

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Greg would drive and I would work on my computer or talk to my chauffeur.  We would usually have lunch or breakfast after we picked up the light.  These little road trips were very enjoyable and we spent a lot of happy times together driving around in snow storms, rain and in some sunny moments as well.

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I am really fortunate to have a husband who enjoys all the things I get him involved in. When we would return home, Greg and I would hang the new chandeliers from the rafters in the basement and admire them.

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It looks like a lighting store in the basement.

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My two friends, sisters Jan and Kathy Helm, helped me search for chandeliers on Kijiji and they even picked up several for me.  Jan taught me a lot about bargaining for things on Kijiji.

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Brian Nason, a very fine man whom I know through a good friend, even drove to Scarborough to pick up a chandelier for me.

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We met some really nice people while out on our missions. Vicky from Scarborough stands out the foremost.  She is a lovely lady who emigrated  from Yugoslavia in 1966.  She brought with her an exquisite love of chandeliers and ornate furniture.

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For many years she had purchased high-end vintage chandeliers because of the beauty that they added to rooms in her house. But the decor in her house has changed and thus,  her daughter, Ann, was selling the chandeliers for her Mom on Kijiji.

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I purchased SO many from her, one at a time.  Her chandeliers were all very ornate and sparkling. My nephew, Jeffie MacIntyre, stopped in Scarborough many times to pick up a light from Vicky and then he  would drive back to New Hamburg with the crystals tinkling in the back seat.  I promised Vicky that I would bring her to The Imperial when it is finished so she can visit her chandeliers.




On another trip to Vaughn in March, we arrived early on a Sunday morning in between blizzards.  The family was waiting for the uncle to take the two chandeliers down, and they invited us to have breakfast until he arrived. It was such a lovely traditional Turkish breakfast.  We had 5 or 6 courses of different fruits, nuts, eggs, bread, and spreads.  Their kindness was so unexpected at 8:00 on a Sunday morning.

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Many of the other people whom we met were in their 50s.  Their parents had moved  to a seniors’ residence and the couples were selling the contents of the houses.  Antiques and vintage crystal chandeliers were not what the couples wanted to keep.  It made me sad to purchase someone else’s beautiful light but I knew that the chandelier would have a good home.

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When the sellers learned what I was using the chandeliers for, they were happy that they were part of the refurbishing of The Imperial.

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Deciding what rooms to hang each chandelier in was a challenge.  My good friend, Gail Hiscott, came over one morning and we ran around from chandelier to chandelier to determine which lights would go best together.  It took several hours and one cup of cold tea to accomplish this. We were semi-brain dead when we finished.

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I have had an incredible amount of help from another friend, Aaron Hernandez, who just finished cleaning all the crystals and light bases.

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This was a two-month job. I have had to buy extra crystals and parts that were missing from some of the chandeliers.  This week I began purchasing LED lights  for all the chandeliers:  I have to buy over 800 bulbs!!  I chose to replace all the bulbs and use LEDs so that the cost of having the lights on would be minimal to the tenants.

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One morning, my friends, Kathie and John Jordan called from Aberfoyle Antique Market.  They found six identical chandeliers that came from a theatre in Buffalo.  They were from 1900 – four were in pretty good shape and two had to be entirely rebuilt!  Greg and I drove to Aberfoyle the following weekend and bought them. They are so perfect for the lobby of The Imperial Suites as I intend to replicate the 1908 hotel lobby.

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John Jordan has repaired many of the lights.  Some of them were VERY old and required new wiring.  He has also been making new parts for them.

The Stone Masons

My three masons have finished bricking the front of the addition.  This was a very challenging section of the building because of all the arches they had to brick around. . . and then we added a canopy that  rests above the door to the suites.

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One really good thing that helped their work was that the weather remained warm throughout this month.  They did not have to tarp the area in. Whew!

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Peter Prynak has been here since April; Logan Livingstone has been on site since October; and Steve Murray came on the scene in July.  They are doing a phenomenal job. They are getting ready to lay the stone on the rear of the building.

Logan, Steve and Peter:

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These guys are pretty amazing.  What quality workmanship they have produced.

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Nith Valley Construction

Nith Valley’s newest hire is Shannon.  Yes there is a woman working on site! Shannon’s background is professional painting and fussing over details. Welcome to The Imperial, Shannon.

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Madill Drywall

We lost a guy but we gained a new guy this week.  Thank you, Matt Sequin, for helping us at The Imperial.

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A floor has been poured in the old basement.  There will be no more rank damp smells coming from the basement again, ever.

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West Staircase

The staircase has been foamed and is ready to be drywalled.

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Conestoga Mechanical

Blake has a new little helper – Joel Nonkes.  Welcome Joel.

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Barbecue Lunches

We had our last barbecue two weeks ago. The weather held out for our barbecues for 6 months.  I was going to stop barbecuing a few weeks ago but decided to do it one more time.  That was the day that half way through the cooking, the propane ran out.  Lynn drove to NVC office and picked up another full tank and we were cooking again within 10 minutes.

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The barbecue owes me nothing.  I bought it on Kijiji for $29 in May.  Only 2 of the 3 burners worked – but that was enough to cook for the summer.  It was a great purchase.

Last Wednesday, I made the guys their first winter meal:  Black Bean Lasagna with a creamy Avocado Dip.  It must have been a great meal because some of the guys came back for thirds.  They asked me to share the recipe on the blog.

Conversation at lunch ranged from the electricians listening to CBC Radio 1 to how much Rick likes listening to Justin Bieber and Ella Nafziger.  Lynn was even singing at lunch. It was a lively crowd around the table, but we miss Bob Jr.

Black Bean Lasagna [by Tricia Yearwood in Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen]

black bean lasagna

# of servings:  12


1 16 oz can of diced tomatoes

1 12-oz can of tomato paste

2 t. salt

3 cloves of minced garlic

1 T. oregano leaves

1 t. red pepper flakes

1 small chopped onion

1 cup of water [add more if too thick]

6-8 tortillas

1 16 oz. container of Ricotta Cheese

2 15 oz. cans of drained & rinsed Black Beans

16 0z. shredded Cheddar

16 0z. shredded Mozzarella

3 T. cilantro


Bring the first 7 ingredients to a  boil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Then reduce heat and cook for 30 minutes.

Stir in water until you get a smooth but not runny consistency. Cook for 15 more minutes.

Spray a 9X13 baking dish, then spread 1 cup of the sauce on the bottom; then a layer of tortillas; beans; ricotta; cheddar and mozzarella.  Add another layer if there is room. If you put too much in, it will run over the top.

Bake at 350 uncovered for 40 minutes or until very hot in the middle.

Allow dish to stand for 15 minutes before serving.

Sprinkle with cilantro before serving.

Creamy Avocado Yogurt Dip [by Two Peas & Their Pod]

avocado dip

Serves 4

This is a great dip to accompany the Black Bean Lasagna.


1/2 C. plain Greek Yogurt

2 ripe avocados, pitted

1 minced clove of garlic

3 T. chopped fresh cilantro

1 T. finely chopped seeded jalapeño pepper

2 T. fresh lime juice

1/4 t. ground cumin

salt & pepper to taste


Place the yogurt, avocados, garlic, cilantro, jalapeño, lime juice and cumin in a blender or food processor.

Mix until smooth and season with salt & pepper to taste.