Monthly Archives: March 2011

Today!

I rolled out of bed this morning with excitement, a bounce that hasn’t been in my step for a long time. But there was something else too, something that surprised me a little, something I couldn’t quite put my finger on until I got on the bus to get to work and had a chance to just sit and think for a while.

Oh yes. That’s what it is.

Trepidation.

Perhaps the source of the niggle of negativity was the dream I had last night in which we walked into our house for the first time as homeowners and found the previous owners still there, painting the walls bright red and scrubbing the bathroom to spotless. Sure, they were friendly and Greek — probably my subconscious latching on to the demographic of the neighbourhood — but I certainly didn’t want them there and I definitely didn’t want my walls red, no matter if it’s my favourite colour or not.

I don’t think the trepidation came from the dream though.

I think it came from the same sense of place inside me that caused me to break down on my drive to the old farm house two weeks before my family moved when I was 18. It’s the same thing that caused me to snap a picture of my student house as we packed it up and moved me out, a house I was so glad to leave.

According to OMG: A Youth Ministry Handbook, (edited by Kenda Creasy Dean) rural teenagers have a stronger connection to geography, to place, than their urban counterparts. I’m not a teenager anymore — I’m a few years gone from being a teenager, actually — but I have a feeling that sense of place has travelled with me into adulthood. That twinge I am feeling today has been a twinge for the place we will be leaving behind, the cute little apartment on the 30th floor of a condo building in the Big City, our first home together. It was small, but we made it cozy and filled it with family. And, I’ll admit, there was something comforting about living so close to other families, like we were nestled on all sides, held safe by other people living their day-to-day lives, just like we were. The building was like a cocoon.

The things I will miss? The concierge: the petite Asian girl who loved to see Mocha and cheerfully chirped, “Have a good walk!” every time she saw us leaving the building with our bouncing cockapoo on a leash. The elevator, where Mocha made her best friends. All of Mocha’s best friends — Harlow, Goldie, Jake, Bailey, Moinecka, Luna. I’ll miss the dishwasher (until we get our own) and the washer and dryer (until we get our own). I’ll even miss our mailbox, the only broken one among a wall of mailboxes.

I know a lot of this is because I’m a little nervous about what exactly we’ve gotten ourselves into. I don’t have the Husband’s confidence nor his experience. I could see nothing but excitement in his expression this morning. Hopefully tonight, as we pop the cork on our $13 bottle of sparkling wine (we very briefly considered the $65 bottle of real live Champagne…), the excitement will overshadow the trepidation. I’m counting on it.

— The Wife

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So Close To Home

Today is the day! At 5:00 tonight, we drop by our lawyer’s office and pick up our keys. Our keys. To our house.

I know this blog ended up a little neglected the last time M and I did something really big. I’m going to try my very, very best to not let that happen again. Over the next month, I want to cover some reno friendly food and I may have some restaurant reviews to share as we explore our new neighbourhood. I also have some crocheting projects I want to get to and share with you, perhaps for in the evenings when I’m trying to relax after working hard from supper to bedtime. And my camera will never be far away. So, I hereby challenge myself to keep you guys interested. Say, at least 2 posts a week? Our lives are going to largely revolve around drywall dust and bathroom fixtures, things that will fit more into our shared blog, but I know there will always be something I can post on.

And, if you’re not already planning on following our renovation adventure, you should be! Don’t forget to regularly check out This Dusty House to keep up with our progress. And, if you want to drop by and see the project yourself, just let us know! We like visitors.

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Tomorrow!

Last night, we went to the bank and asked for a certified cheque for an obscene amount of money.  Clutching it tightly, nervously, in my hand the whole way, we drove to our lawyer’s office and handed it over to a petite, friendly Asian man who congratulated us half a dozen times and seemed just as excited as we are.

I left exhausted. Who would have thought a few signatures can drain you so much?

Tomorrow, we pick up the keys. We’ll drive right to the house, let Mocha free in the backyard and pop a cork on a bottle of champagne. In just over 24 hours, we will officially be homeowners.

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The Tastes of Home

No, I’m not talking about the magazine, though it’s certainly full of what I’m talking about. My mom received one of those every month for years, so I’m sure a few of those recipes made it into her regular repertoire.

Every time we go to my parents’ place, I gorge myself on my mother’s cooking. Perfectly grilled steak, lasagne, muffins for breakfast, brownies and delicious, delicious wine. I have realized my parents’ home, and as such, my childhood, has a taste. You know how songs can bring you back? This weekend, it was food. Specifically, these:

My mom didn’t make these often and perhaps that’s why they hold the power they do. They remind me of a time when I was, oh, seven or so, a time when I was tall enough to just stand over them. We would slather them with a maple syrup icing, made from our own maple syrup. Still warm, the icing dripped into the crevices of the bun and onto our hands as we pulled them apart and ate them piece by sugary, cinnamonny piece. I’m not sure what the best part was: the icing or the bun itself.

No recipe for these. I didn’t make them. But if I’ve got you feeling like you want to pull out your flour and yeast and sugar, you can hunt down a recipe here. I’m sure you’ll find something delicious.

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The Kitchen

We missed the Ikea kitchen sale. We were a little disappointed, especially when we realized we had also missed the Home Hardware kitchen sale. What is it about the beginning of March that screams Kitchen?

Either way, next to the bathroom, our kitchen is the room we spend the most time thinking about. It’s certainly the room I spend the most time thinking about since I love to cook and can’t wait to finally have my dream kitchen. But, we have an Issue. A big Issue.

See, we love dark kitchen cabinets. Like these:

(Picture from here.)

I found a dark kitchen warm, inviting, like a great big comforting hug. (Ok, that metaphor might be stretching it a bit… but you get the idea.)

But, we also love dark floors. Like these:

(Picture found here)

We can’t have both. We know we can’t have both. To much dark in one kitchen will make for a really dark kitchen. But can I be satisfied picking just one of these two elements?

Because we have to make a decision pretty soon, we are leaning toward the dark floors. We want the kitchen to flow with the rest of the house, for the floor to be seamless from the living room to the open concept kitchen. And we know we want dark floors in the living room.

I guess all we can do is hope that what we pick will be something we can love to live with over the next few years until we do it again. And maybe next time, we can choose the opposite.

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Oreo brownies and the Deception of Sunshine

Sunshine can be deceptive. Sunshine can glisten and warm everything up with light without actually adding any heat to the air. Sunshine can’t stop wind from blowing.

Sunshine can make you optimistically pull on your bright pink running shirt and slip into your baby blue, slightly chewed running shoes. It can give you a little bit of a boost as you run with the wind, pushing yourself a little farther than you should, enjoying the feeling of the strength in your legs and the sun in your eyes.

But, like I said, the sun can’t stop the wind. It can’t prevent the wind from blowing so hard as you turn back for home that you’re not sure if you’re even moving much anymore. It can’t warm up a face so frozen and wind-burnt that you can’t feel it and every face twinge feels odd.

Just don’t forget about the cyclist who, as she passed you in her layers of scarves and appropriate cycling clothes, grinned and said, “Good for you!” And don’t forget about the brownie waiting for you when you get back, chocolatey and delicious. These other bits of sunshine can’t stop the wind either, but they can keep you going, over the hill and back up the long, steep driveway of your parents’ house.

And don’t worry. That feeling like you’re going to pass out? It will pass.

(I ran 5.3 km on Sunday with the help of one green-clad cyclist and these tasty brownies, made by my mom who used the recipe from How Sweet It is.)

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The Limits of Sanity

Our list of things to do is pretty long and our timeline is pretty tight. When we tell people about it, we don’t generally get positive reactions to the viability of our dreams. A few of our friends and coworkers are just waiting for us to fail so they can laugh at me when I come to work with drywall dust in my hair.

You’re going to be living in a construction zone for three years, they say. Maybe longer.

Our response? Let us prove you wrong.

At least, I hope that’s what we’ll do. I would love to blow them away with how quickly we perform some solid, quality work. I want to shock them when I bring in pictures of the completed and cleaned up demo, the new walls going up, the tiles and hardwood in place, the bathroom fixtures in, the kitchen ready to go and the basement apartment shiny and beautiful, all before April 31st. But, despite our bravado and confidence, we both know that’s unlikely to happen. I know I’ll be moving in to a half finished house.

But what, exactly can I live with? And what can’t I live without?

I can live with a dusty house. If we have to, we’ll make sure the dust doesn’t travel too much into the basement and set up a temporary home down there. I can live with that. I can probably live without a kitchen as long as we have a table for chopping veggies and a barbeque for cooking meat. At least for a while. I can live without a living room, without a coffee table, without a TV.

But I can’t live without a computer. Or the Internet. Or my blog. I can’t live without a shower and a toilet and at least one sink. I can’t live without at least a subfloor. I can’t live without some kind of counter or table level surface. I can’t live without a working fridge.

And I can’t live in a construction zone without getting out of it sometimes. This is where the Husband and I probably differ. He would be perfectly content to never escape except for work, to come home every day and eat dry cereal for dinner and immediately get to work. Me, on the other hand? I don’t eat cereal for dinner. And the dust will start to drive me crazy. I’m going to need my times away, coffee with friends, long walks with Mocha, dawdling on the way home from the subway.

Yes, I can live in a construction zone. But I can’t live in one forever.

— The Wife

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Yarn, Yarn, and More Yarn

L is an avid knitter and crocheter. My mother used to knit us sweaters and afghans and taught both of her daughters to wield knitting needles and crochet hooks as well. I’ve crochetted afghans and scarves and, though I haven’t done much in the past couple years, I was kind of excited when L suggested we check out a couple of the knitting stores downtown as a part of our day romping around TO. So, after finally paying for our tasty brunch, we set off toward the Knit Cafe.

We got a little way-laid on the way.

Romni Wools on Queen Street is packed floor to ceiling with yarn. It’s like a second-hand book store, one of those that goes on and on and on with multiple levels and multiple rooms, cramming more and more and more into each nook and cranny. Every colour, every texture.

But, the store was dark and cramped. When L asked for help, the staff seemed to have no idea what they were talking about, or at least didn’t listen properly in order to get what she was asking. They were friendly, but useless. Perfect, L said, for someone who knew exactly what they needed.

So, we continued on.

The Knit Cafe is a completely different kind of yarn store. It’s not packed floor to ceiling. In fact, a knitter looking for a store with lots of selection would probably be a little bit disappointed. There’s one wall of yarn, one wall of needles and other tools, a small wall of books and patterns.

The yarns they sell are quite beautiful. Many are handspun, handcrafted yarns in bright, vibrant colours.

We spent some time here, and L carefully picked out two colours for a cupcake scarf. While she hemmed and hawed over her colours, my brother and I order cappucinos and lattes and settled in at the tables in the centre of the room. Yes, you all read that right — cappucinos and lattes. At a yarn store.

And then, things got really interesting. Apparently, skeins of yarn need to be wound. This is where you all realize how little expertise I actually have in yarn crafts. Sure, I’ve made an afghan or two, but I’ve never actually bought yarn from anywhere other than Walmart and Len’s Mill Store. In other words, I’ve never actually bought a skein. Only balls.

L buys skeins. She knows how to wind a skein. I was fascinated how the twisted rope of yarn ended up in the perfect tightly wound ball, so easy to manage, easier, I would wager, than the loose balls you can buy in bags from any department store.

She picked some beautiful colours.

It was a fun afternoon tromping around Toronto, visiting yarn stores. I might go back to the Knit Cafe someday, bring a friend along, buy a skein, learn to wind it, and settle down with a new project. I think it’s about time I had a new project.

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Coming Attractions

What exactly have we gotten ourselves into here?

Our new house is a 550 square foot bungalow on a 25 square foot by 150 square foot lot. There are two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a mudroom out back. The basement is finished with a roughed-in kitchen, a bathroom and two bedrooms. As soon as we get into the house, I promise you’ll see plenty of pictures.

And this is exactly what needs to be done. A list:

  1. Finish the roughed-in kitchen in the basement. This will involve a few trips to Ikea and Home Hardware. I’ll scrub first, then paint, then install the kitchen. And yes, when I say ‘I’, I mean ‘I’. The Husband’s focus will be upstairs on all the work that needs to be done up there.
  2. Take down the bathroom walls, rip out the fixtures, demo the kitchen and rip up all the tile. That will be quite a job. Once the floor joints are revealed, we may need to do some work to reinforce and fix any that are in rough shape. At this point, we might also insulate with sound proofing.
  3. Do some plumping and perhaps some electrical to move the bathroom from the middle of the house to the edge of the house. This step will depend a lot on what’s behind the walls. If we can’t do it, we can’t do it.
  4. Rebuild the bathroom completely so that it’s awesome.
  5. Rip up all the hardwood flooring and put down new flooring. Preferrably a beautiful dark hardwood with a strong grain.
  6. Install the kitchen include the gas stove and granite countertops.
  7. Fall down in exhaustion.

Remember our last post? We have 1 month to do all this in.

And what if we fail?

As long as we don’t fail on point #1, we won’t end up homeless come May 1st. We’ll be ok, though we might be covered in a thin film of drywall dust forever.

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The Property

Just a small post about the perporty. The size of the lot is 25′ X 150′. The property is on a small quick street with only residential buildings on it, nice for walking the dog. The lot backs onto a large residential apartment building. Not sure how I feel about this but this but it’s one of the reasons we could afford the house and so for the time being I’m ok with it. Comparing our house the rest of the street we are one of the lower priced homes. This will be good for resale because what we put into the house with hard work will come out as money in the end. Our neighbours on one side have the same house but mirrored. There is a small shared lane way to the left and there is a lane to the right but there is no access our land. The front yard is stone and concrete; not what we plan to have when we are done with the place, but fixing it is definitely low priority

– the Husband

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