Wednesday, 18 November 2015

My Real Job

My daughter (age eight) told me yesterday that I should get a real job.  And it broke my heart.  I know she only says that because she thinks daycare would be fun.  But it hurts to think that maybe she doesn't value the same things I value.  It is important to me that I be able to pick up the kids from school, help them with their homework and piano practice, and be there to teach them to be good and kind and helpful and loving.

This job I do all day, every day, and even every night as I'm tucking my son back into bed because the wind is too loud or he's feeling sick or he's too bored to sleep, is real.  It takes all of my energy and all of my thoughts and all of my heart.

I've never been a great housekeeper, even though that is part of my  very real job.  But I do keep trying.  I get enough mental criticism from my own mind that I don't need it from others.  What I need is encouragement.  And to have them believe in me.  And to find worth in the goals I am striving for.

Dearest daughter, you will have your whole life to hang out with your friends.  But your childhood here, with mom and dad and little brother, is so fleeting.  And guarding it is my job.  You're nearly half grown up already.  I want to be here for the rest of it.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Proof that I'm no poet

I was really bored on the flight from Calgary to Victoria. With the turbulence, reading made me sick, and I felt like I had been knitting all day. My seatmate's long legs kept me from digging around in my bag for my headphones. I used to write poetry when I was a teenager. None of it was any good. Nor is this one. I always feel cheesy or fake when I try to be poetic. Additionally, I have no clue about poetry's conventions and rules. Enjoy!

The sunset taunts as it lays
on a horizon of blue-grey cloud
spread in drifts far below me.

Ever before me in my westward journey,
never changing, never setting.

It rests and waits for me,
its smooth orange glow
holding a promise of the rest
that I know I will find eventually.

Until then, I fly,
sitting too long and thinking too much.

My fingers fly too, with needles and yarn,
as my mind, awkward and rusty,
composes poetic nonsense
from a muse long banished. 

Calgary at dusk. 

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.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Leather Bracelets

I did not make these bracelets.  My husband did.  He commandeered my leather scraps and asked me for whatever other tool or supply he needed throughout the afternoon.  The snaps were either my grandma's or his grandma's.  I love his designs.  He's currently making one for me.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Thoughts on Clothes Shopping and Target Canada's Closing

Target recently announced that they are closing their Canadian stores. My first reaction when I heard was, "Noooooooooo!!!!!!!!"  I love Target. It's like the posh Walmart. They earned my undying loyalty with my $60 wool 7x10 rug. Plus, a big percentage of my clothing is from Target. Where am I supposed to buy my underwear now?

But maybe I should take this as a sign to buy less, but better quality. Maybe instead of buying whatever looks cute, I should instead shop with a plan. Actually try things on in the store. Make sure they fit.

I've been scared to commit to quality clothing, because I don't like the shape of my body. Or the way clothes fit me. Instead of having child-bearing  hips, I have flat boyish hips and a child-bearing tummy. I don't believe clothing is made to fit me, as I am, right now. This insecurity makes me hide in whatever cute, oversized sweater Target happens to have on sale that week that looks good with leggings or old navy skinny jeans.

But the trouble with making a resolution to buy better quality clothing is this: I have no idea where to shop. I don't know what is available between Target prices and Anthropologie prices. And is the expensive stuff even worth the money or is the price inflated just because of the brand?

I've purchased supposed brand name clothing before. The Kismet sweater has a faulty zipper. The amazingly-soft Roxy hoodie pilled horribly after one wash. The Bench jacket has no lining and some other questionable design issues. And what is with all the "hand wash" and "dry clean only", eh Marshalls?

My other issue, beyond price, is style. It seems that all the stores selling styles I would like to wear make their clothes for flat-chested teenagers. Where is a busty girl supposed to get a flattering, non-matronly dress that doesn't have a waistline six inches too high (which leads to congratulations on my non-existent pregnancy)? Or a shirt that "the girls"won't fall out of every time I bend over and I can actually wear to church without yanking the neckline up every five minutes?

So what do I do?  If you're 30-something and into fashion on a buget, where do you shop?  

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Author Chelsey Krause's Debut, and a Giveaway

Author Chelsey Krause
I am lucky to have some awesome friends.  I never thought I would have so many great friends.  I thought I was just not good at making friends.  I'd like to talk about one friend in particular today.  She's a fairly new friend, but almost from the first time we met we knew we were kindred spirits.

Chelsey is fun and flamboyant, and quiet and sweet all at the same time.  She's a nurse by profession, and is raising two tiny and adorable little ones. We're very different in many ways, but it's funny how much we have in common too, right down to our homeschooled backgrounds.

And Chelsey is a writer.  Her first book, Can't Always Get What You Want, comes out on January 13th, and I am so excited for her!  I read her book as a beta reader, and I can't wait to get a copy of the real thing.  The e-real thing anyway.  Her publisher, Loveswept, is a digital imprint of Random House.  My goal is to help Chelsey's book rocket to the top of the charts so fast that they have no choice but to print it on paper.  And I will be first in line to buy it then too.

You may think that I am so enthusiastic about Can't Always Get What You Want simply because Chelsey is my friend.  You would be wrong.  Yes, it is fun to have a friend get published, but the main reason I rave about this book (and my book club will be reading it in February) is because of the writing.  I've read a little Chick Lit (aka romantic comedy) before.  I've read romance before, even the stereotypical bodice-ripper variety.  I've even read Sophie Kinsella, one of Chelsey's favourites in her genre.  No offence to Ms. Kinsella, but I honestly think Chelsey's book is better.

The writing sparkles brighter than a vampire in sunlight.  Chelsey's hilarious wit is enhanced by the emotional depth that I honestly wasn't expecting in a Chick Lit book.  Lots of tears were shed over this book, both in laughter and empathy.

Here's the blurb from Random House:
Sophie Richards has been looking forward to a much-needed girls’ night out: a Rolling Stones tribute-band concert, a few drinks, a distraction from her grueling nursing shifts in acute care. But when her best friend bails, Sophie gets stuck with a blind date. Although Brett Nicholson may be the hottest carpenter alive, and Sophie may technically be single, she isn’t exactly on the market . . .
And that's all I'm giving you.  Head over to read the rest, or better yet, just buy a copy, plunge right in and find out that way (It will cost you less than a latte).  I loved not knowing why Sophie wasn't on the market until the story doled it out bit by bit.  It was torture, but the kind that makes you stay up all night to finish reading the book.

One of my favourite scenes in the book is the very first one. It's shocking (for a prudish old woman like me) and hilarious, and showcases perfectly Chelsey's knack for putting her characters in horrifyingly awkward situations.Oh, and the hero's twist!  Loved it.  I promise you will have fun reading this book.

And, dear readers, that is why I'm giving some copies away!  I really want to share this book with you, so in addition to the three copies Chelsey's editor has offered for my readers, I will to give away three more (that's six winners, folks!) From now 'til January 13, please spread the word, tweet, share, whatever.  This book deserves to be read.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you need more incentive to either enter the giveaway or preorder the book, check out a few posts from the official blog tour:

Read an exerpt at The Bookish and the Romantic

Read an interview with Chelsey at Manga Manic Cafe

Follow Chelsey's Facebook page for more stops on the book tour throughout this month.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

"Crafty" vs. "Creative"

craft, creative, diy, maker

I grew up with a creative mama.  Dressmaker, cake decorator, baker, sign painter, artist, designer...these were only some of the hats she wore.  When, as homeschooled kids, we had an art project, we didn't pull out the construction paper, plastic scissors, and markers.  No, we had cardstock, sharp craft knives, and watercolour pencils.  We even each had our own self-healing cutting mat and cork-backed metal ruler (both of which I still have and use).  So I was exposed early to quality hand-crafts.

So it's no wonder that I have a slight unintentional contempt for projects I consider "crafty", like egg carton caterpillars, or anything with googly eyes or brightly-coloured acrylic yarn soaked in Elmer's glue. (My kids, on the other hand, love this stuff.)

This is why I have loved the trend these days toward designer-quality creative projects rather than crafty make-work projects.  I would rather spend my creative energies making something useful and beautiful rather than creating more clutter.  I've always disliked an overabundance of knick-nacks, so my shelves are filled with books and baskets and dishes and natural elements instead of figurines (except for one shelf of Willow Tree figures that we received as gifts and sort of fit my aesthetic).  And after a few false starts in buying large artwork that I tire of within a few years, my walls decor is slowly moving toward a style I prefer: salvaged elements, vintage mirrors and frames, beautiful clocks, and meaningful creative projects, such as my display of Grandma's spoons.

But back to the craftiness, I want to only make things that I would be comfortable giving as a gift.  If it isn't classy enough to consider giving to a friend (or for an even better test: one of my mothers-in-law), why make it?  Now, that's not to say I always hit the mark.  Many, many of my projects just don't turn out how I envisioned them.  But that's ok.

I'm working on possibly a new focus for my creative endeavours.  It's still in the contemplation stage. Wish me luck as I try to figure it all out!  Although most of the figuring has to happen after I finish my two current editing first, play later!