Friday, 24 April 2015

What I Love About Our New House

Well, it's about time for some positivity around here! My recent posts have been full of Big Feelings, but have been rather on the depressing side. So let's walk through the new house—with words, because I don't have very many pictures. (All photos taken by me at the home inspection, and purposely chosen to show a minimum amount of the current owner's things, out of respect.)

To start with, I love the neighbourhood.  It has a mix of traditional house styles, like colonial, craftsman, farmhouse, etc. Ours is more on the farmhouse side of things, or would be if it had a bigger front porch and a steeper, more gabled roof. Our street is lined with trees on the boulevard, and in 15 years the street will look just like the beautiful riverside neighbourhood that I've always loved. 

The front porch is a little bigger than the one on our duplex, but not quite big enough for a swing. But that's OK because I have the perfect bench for it. And visitors will be welcomed by a cheery red door, which opens into a real entry instead of straight into the living room. I was quite impressed with how pretty the tiles in the entry are (and by our realtor's gorgeous shoes!).

As you walk into the house, the living room is to your left, with its big southeast-facing bay window that I adore. The room also has an awkward corner fireplace, which is not ideal. I've never liked corner fireplaces, or gas fireplaces (although I do concede that they're more convenient than the wood-burning ones that I love). It's going to take some creativity before I'm happy with it. I've never liked corner fireplaces. But, as The Nester says, it's a "lovely limitation," and I'll be gleaning ideas from the way she worked with her own corner fireplace.

Except for the entry and bathrooms, the entire main floor, stairs, and upper floor have gleaming hardwood in that variegated blonde colour that makes me think "Swedish farmhouse" for some reason.  Maybe because it's exactly the colour and sheen as the pine Ikea table we had for the first eight or so years of our marriage.

Between the living room and kitchen lies a broom closet (Yay! Our duplex doesn't have one!) and a powder room. But the curious thing about the powder room is that it is also the laundry room. This room is going to benefit from my time spent browsing Pinterest. I'm really excited to work on it. It has a lot of potential, and will look amazing when I'm done with it.

The back left corner of the house holds the kitchen. I get a white kitchen, finally! I don't care that the cupboards are that plastic-covered MDF instead of real wood and the counters are basic dark grey laminate. It will look pretty for now, and there's plenty of time to upgrade if we choose later. One thing I will definitely change ASAP is the backsplash. It is currently shiny white 4-inch square ceramic tiles in impeccable condition. But to me they look like they belong in a bathroom. I think that's because they're so much shinier than the cupboards. (You can keep up with my ideas for the new house on Pinterest)

The back door and closet are in the kitchen. I'm really going to miss my mudroom, tiny as it is. But we can make it work, as long as we work hard on developing tidy habits once we move in.

A lovely, large dining room is in the other corner of the house, with a huge window looking out on the deck. I've never had a dining room before. I've never actually lived in a detached house before. This room is just the right size for our big farmhouse table, and wide enough to have a lot of versatility too.

Upstairs, the main bedroom is at the front of the house, with another big bay window. The room is huge, and what it lacks in versatility, it makes up for in floor space. The closet is weird. It takes up one entire long wall, is not walk-in, and is accessed via three evenly-spaced bi-fold doors. This will eventually be remedied. I don't yet know how, and it may take me a few years of thinking before I come up with something.

The ensuite bathroom isn't as big as we would have liked, but it is definitely bigger and more functional than the teeny tiny one we've had for the last six years. It has potential. And a window.
The other upstairs bathroom looks exactly like every other basic bathroom you'd expect to find in a house like this.

The kids' rooms are a nice size and look out to the backyard. It will be fun getting them set up.
We were lucky to find a finished basement in our price range. And it's nicely done, with a large and versatile rec room, and a large bedroom/office/whatever. The small bathroom actually includes a jetted tub, which is funny (but nice!). The house has an excessive number of bathtubs. Our main problem with the lovely basement is the 2 smallish storage rooms. We will have to carefully curate what we keep in there. But that is actually a good thing, and will keep us from being burdened by unnecessary junk.

To finish off this wordy tour, one of the best perks of this house is what it doesn't have: loud traffic! It's a really quiet street. I've driven by several times (like a stalker), and it's always peaceful.

Now I feel better. One of the things that makes the issues I mentioned in my last post harder is that we have to wait so long to move into the new one.  If I could immediately start working on the new house, I wouldn't have the time to dwell on the disappointment of my ideals.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Mourning a Dream

Don't get me wrong.  I love our new house.  I can't wait to get my hands on it and farmhouseify it and make it ours. July 3rd can't come fast enough!

But I'm also in mourning.  This new house, close to schools and family, and in a lovely neighbourhood, is where our kids will grow up.  And I have to say goodbye to my lifelong dream of raising my kids in the country.  That door is closed.  I'm not sure if I want to push it out of my mind and stop thinking about it or allow myself to grieve.

I spent half my childhood on my best friend's acreage in the country, complete with woods, a pond, and a big garden.  We wore elaborate prairie-girl costumes when we walked miles down the dirt road unashamedly, because there was no one to see.  We picked armfuls of lilacs, and cuddled kittens and sang loudly as we jumped on the trampoline. I learned what cornflower blue really is from the flowers in her mother's garden. I explored the woods on my own, and even lived on a horse farm for two months when I was thirteen.  Even back at home at the very edge of the small city I grew up in, I had country experiences, catching salamanders and frogs in the creek and weaving mats with the cattail reeds.  I always wanted that kind of life for my kids.

I've known for several years that it was unlikely that my husband would ever want to move to the country.  Between the commute to his job downtown and the high price of land around here, there was very little chance that it would happen.  And I thought I had accepted it.  But with a simple signature on a piece of paper that says we're buying this beautiful house in the suburbs—the one our kids will remember when they think of home—has brought back all this longing that I now know will never happen.  It's official now.  I think I really do need to allow myself to feel these emotions and truly mourn this loss, as silly as it may seem to other, more logical people.

   I will never be able to help my kids build a fort in the woods (and then check them for ticks?).

   I will never be able to raise a horse or have chickens or a big vegetable garden (I'm undecided whether I actually want to do all that or just like the idea).

   I will never be able to send my kids outside to play out of sight without that tiny worry in the back of my mind about traffic or kidnappings (but then, I'll also never have to worry about wolves or cougars or a cranky bull moose).

   I will never have a clothesline.

   I will never learn to shoot a bow (at least not without either spending a fortune on club fees or driving an hour to my brother-in-law's acreage).

   I will never be able to watch the sunrise on the horizon from my kitchen window (or any window) before the kids wake up and the day's rush begins.

   I will never be able to build an addition on the house (it has no mudroom.  Just a back door straight into the kitchen, with a closet to the side), or a bigger porch, or a detached studio/office.

   I will never be able to walk out of my house, look up, and see ALL the stars.  I've almost forgotten what that even looks like.

   I will never have an orchard (although I'm pretty excited about the one apple tree in the new backyard).

   I will never have enough flowers in the garden that it doesn't look denuded when I cut a lot to bring in the house. And wildflowers are completely out of the question.

   My kids will never be able to explore the woods and fields at will, or climb trees or have a treehouse, or learn about wildlife because it visits our yard.

Have you ever had to mourn for something that was only a dream?

Sunset at my in-laws' cabin...the place that soothes my longing for natural beauty, even though it's crowded among all the other lakeside cabins.

We Found a House!

Thursday, 9 April 2015

House Hunting Stress

We sold our duplex last week.  It took two days...less than a week after we first contacted a real estate agent.  The inspection is scheduled for Friday, then on Monday conditions will be removed and it will be official.

So we've been house hunting. Exciting! Fun! Stressful!

Oh my word, this is so stressful!  This new house will be the one our kids remember.  The one they call "home."  It will likely be our forever home--for the next ten years anyway.  Unlike last time, when I only had to wonder if I'd like the house for a few years, and had very little experience in houses to influence me (I've never yet lived in a real, detached house.)

The trouble is that, at our budget every house we like has major issues that are out of our control.  My absolute favourite was a side-by-side split level in a little ravine neighbourhood (see pic) that was in absolute perfect condition and the use of space was exactly what I was looking for.  That one had two serious problems.  First, was the loud traffic noise from two major highways.  Second, there was no school in that neighbourhood, and the closest school with open boundaries is already full for next year.

And then there's the newer one in a great neighbourhood, with beautiful upgraded finishes, and a main floor laundry that I loved.  But it was listed in the very top range of our budget, and has no neighbourhood school.

Then there's the one we saw yesterday, in a great area for schools. We discovered the problems before we even walked into the house.  It's the second house in from a busy corner with no parking allowed at the front of the house.  Any guests would have to park at the back on the miniscule driveway or one very-muddy spot beside the garage and come in the back door (I have always hated that!  Where I grew up it was very common for people to either only have a side door, or have a front door and never ever use it.  The only other parking option would be to park down a small side road a block away, which I suspect is often full, making the walk to our front door even longer.  I've always wanted a hospitable home.  This home isn't very hospitable.  The traffic noise, even from the busy intersection, wasn't that bad.  Perhaps I could have wrapped my mind around the parking situation and lived with it.  But the trouble is that I don't like the kitchen well enough to make that compromise.  It's a bit small, and a bit cramped.

Then there was the one in my favourite neighbourhood, with excellent access to all three schools.  I even liked the layout, although the pictures were really bland and the house had no personality.  But that one had high voltage power lines running practically overhead.  I probably would have overlooked that issue, but Kevin wasn't happy with that.

Oh, and the one in an older neighbourhood, well maintained but obviously being sold by the original owners (who like mint green).  It was full of potential, but there were too many things that required too much work in that one (regrading the yard, tearing down the sunroom, possible crack in the foundation).

Are we being too picky?  I don't think so.  I'm not looking for perfection, by any means.  My favourite house, the split level, had really dated country blue counters, and linoleum in the kitchen, neither of which I particularly liked.  The house doesn't have to be pretty.  I just really need a good location, and a layout I can work with.  Kevin needs a house that doesn't need a lot of major work before it can feel like home.

We are going to see another tonight that I already think is too far south, and we will have to literally drive past the road to my kids' current school in order to get to the designated school for that area—trying to keep an open mind, can't you tell?

I'm fighting despair here!  I've already given up my dream type of home (acreage) because I'm married to an accountant who already thinks his commute is too long.  I really don't want to live in a home that's going to drive me crazy once the novelty wears off.  46 days and counting until we have to move out.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Farmhouse Style Jars and Shelf - Chalk Paint™ by Annie Sloan Review #1

I get a lot of marketing emails, most of which I don't have time to read thoroughly.  But when I got one about the outdoor possibilities of Chalk Paint™ decorative paint by Annie Sloan I had to respond.  I've read a lot about the paint, and seen some gorgeous pieces painted with it, but to be honest, the price for a quart of paint was holding me back.  I'll keep a tally of how many projects I can eke out of a quart. This year marks the 25th Anniversary for Chalk Paint™ decorative paint by Annie Sloan. 
They sent me two quarts of paint in colours I selected (Duck Egg and Old White), along with a sample pot of my third choice (Arles).  Also included were two small pots of Soft Wax (Clear and Dark), a gorgeous brush (which I apparently forgot to take a picture of), and the book, Quick and Easy Paint Transformations, by Annie Sloan (CICO Books).
What impressed me about the book is that there are so many effects to be achieved just from the way the paint is brushed on.  The thickness of the paint can be manipulated for different uses, and even the wax can be played with.  I can tell that Annie Sloan has fun working with this paint.  The book details numerous different techniques for using this paint and wax.  I can't wait to try more.
For my first project, I wanted to try something small and simple.  I had this little wooden rack/shelf/thingamajig that I found at the MCC thrift store and bought simply because it looked farmhousey. I think it was around one dollar because it was Wednesday and I drew a 75% off card at the till.  I have no idea what this thing's original purpose was.  After I bought it, I simply sanded and distressed it and called it a day.  It held my china platter in the kitchen for awhile.

I have used many different kinds of paint in my almost-seven years as a blogger and DIYer:  Regular latex wall paintacrylic craft paintoil painthomemade milk painthomemade "chalk" paint, etc.  And I've used a couple of different kinds of furniture waxes: Antiquax, and homemade from olive oil and beeswax.  I've never used a soft wax before.  So I was excited to try something different. 

I painted two thin coats of Old White, followed by a coat of Annie's clear wax.  The original paint job was really poorly done, so I didn't want to accentuate any of the drippy texture by using dark wax.  And as a bonus, I found a new use for it! After I removed one of those square dowel pieces that did nothing but get in the way near the bottom.  I loved how smooth the paint is going on.  And how quickly it dries.  It is quite absorbent, and I'm looking forward to finding out how it fares outside (without needing wax, they tell me).  Once dry, the Chalk Paint paint sucked up the wax as I applied it.  My favourite features of the paint are that it can be used without preparation (no sanding!), and ease of clean up (it took seconds to clean my brushes).

Working with the Soft Wax is every bit as dreamy as I thought it would be.  You can apply it with a paintbrush!  No elbow grease required!  It was really easy to apply the dark wax and wipe it off (along with the clear wax first coat) to get the smooth finish and look I was going for.  I'm NEVER going back to hard wax!

Part two of the project:  I bought these jars at Target.  They each had an embossed frame on the side that I wanted to paint with chalkboard paint. (Note: Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan is not the same as chalkboard paint.  Chalk Paint got its name from the matte velvety finish, and it can be applied to virtually any surface without priming or sanding)

I attempted painting with chalkboard paint (cheap, from the Target dollar bin) right on the glass, but that quickly scraped off.  So then I tried opening an old can of Kilz primer, and all I got for my efforts was a bruised and cut knuckle and a dried up mess at the bottom of the can.  So I thought, Chalk Paint has a reputation that it can be used for anything, I'm going to try it as a primer.  I opened up the little sample pot of Arles, and painted two coats inside the embossed area of each jar.  For full coverage I should have done three coats.  Once that was dry, I proceeded with two coats of the chalkboard paint.  So far so good, I was able to gently rub chalk all over each tiny label without damage, and now they all seem to be holding up pretty well with the writing.  If it doesn't last, I'll just scrape it off again.

Since I was already in painting mode, and was dying to try out the Duck Egg Blue, I decided to paint the galvanized metal lids.  Two coats of Chalk paint, one coat of clear wax, and then dark wax to age the finish.  I'm quite happy with how they turned out!  And I love the Duck Egg colour.  It's the perfect grey-aqua, and will be tried next on my extra-distressed kitchen chairs.

Now, any ideas about what I should use these little jars for?  They're currently in the aqua kitchen because I have no appropriate wall to hang the shelf-thing on at this house.  I need a white kitchen, I think.

Stay tuned for more Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan projects!  Like my chairs, and my front porch bench, and . . .

Chalk Paint™ is available exclusively from over 35 hand-picked Annie Sloan Stockists located throughout Canada - and on-line. Find a full list of Canadian stockists at the following link:

Disclaimer: While I received free product in exchange for an honest review, all opinions expressed are solely my own.