Monthly Archives: March 2013

Three Things for Thursday: My Skin, A Pretty Attic, and An Amazing Reno

One: My Skin 


 My skin sucks. This is largely because I’m not so good at taking care of it. I hate getting my face wet unless I’m getting the rest of me wet too, which means I hate washing my face unless I’m taking a shower. Usually, it’s not too bad. I don’t get any crazy teenaged break-outs anymore. But my skin isn’t super delightfully smooth to the touch, and my pores? Well. My pores. Let’s not talk about them too much, shall we?

When I started the Insanity workouts a couple weeks ago (I will talk more about this, in depth, soon! I promise!), my skin went nuts. So angry. The space between my eyebrows flaired up red and my cheeks became even more speckled. I responded by ditching all my make-up altogether in an effort to keep my skin clear and clean as much as possible. Of course, this meant I was walking around with no cover up on those little, angry red pimples at all.

Do you know how freeing that feels?

I slept in a full 15 minutes longer.

I could rub my eyes as much as I wanted. (I rub my eyes a lot.)

I could scratch an itch on my chin without filling my fingernail with powder.

My skin cleared up, slowly, but surely. It’s back to its normal, imperfect but bearable self and I’ve started throwing on a little mascara, a little blush again, before I run out the door. I haven’t, yet, been able to return to my full routine of foundation, powder, bronzer, blush, eyeliner, and mascara.

Perhaps one day, I’ll remember why I established that routine in the first place.

(I feel like I just wrote an article for Seventeen magazine. Though, I suppose if I had written an article for Seventeen magazine, there would be a whole list of products that everyone should be using and the moral of the story would be wash your face and moisturize, both things I’m not very good at doing.)

(I take that back. I moisturize daily. Mostly because I can’t stand dry skin.)

Two: An Attic in Blue

Of course I have attics on the brain. I’m sure you would expect no less of me, considering everything I’ve been talking about this week. This one is gorgeous. And blue, which seems to be the colour scheme I’m leaning towards. This also makes me wonder how expensive it would be to add in two pretty round windows, one at each end.

Three: An Amazing Reno

Image via Realty Queen TO

This renovation was recently featured on Houzz. It’s gorgeous, one of those examples of a typical Toronto home that’s been perfectly, delightfully renovated. This one has been done by a blogger I’ve been following for almost as long as I’ve been blogging, Aleksandra Oleksak. I love it, particularly the brick walls. We would love to have so much beautifully warm brick in our house.  (Check out more of the reno here!)
Obviously, brick makes no sense in our little wooden house, so even a faux brick wall is out. But one day, one day we’ll live in a brick house and it will have a brick interior wall. 
And a fireplace.


Filed under Things for Thursday

Season of the Rainbirds by Nadeem Aslam

My voracious reading has slowed. In some ways, I blame the distraction of the Tim Hortons gift card I got for my birthday. It’s harder to read on the subway when you’re juggling a hot coffee that’s burning your hand even though you got a double cup, a big yellow shoulder bag containing your lunch and all the little bits of things you need to get through your commute and your day, and a book. 
In some ways, I also blame this book. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, shall we?
Season of the Rainbirds

by Nadeem Aslam

Set in a primarily Islamic remote village in Pakistan, this novel begins with the murder of a prominent man in the community and centres around letters, lost in a train crash 19 years ago, found again. As the people of the village wait for the letters to be delivered, rumours run rampant.

I thought I would love this book. After all, I have come to absolutely adore books that centre on a culture I’m completely unfamiliar with. I love digging into the daily lives of other people, being given an ‘in’ into a world that is otherwise inaccessible to me. It was very well written, but it lost me in two places:

One: Who was the main character?I suppose you could make the claim that Maulana Hafeez, one of two religious leaders in town, is the main character. But the novel also jumped to the perspective of the barber, the lawyer, the deputy commissioner, the teacher… I’m sure I’m missing a few. On one hand, this provided a well-rounded view of the town. On the other hand, it was confusing, but even worse, held the reader at a distance, unable to get to know and really sympathize with any one character.

Two: Where were the women?

Rarely did Aslam write from the perspective of the town’s women. Sure, they’re there. Mourning. Cooking. Cleaning up water lizards from every nook and cranny of the village’s homes. One is even breaking the rules, a Christian woman, living out of wedlock with a Muslim man. But their voices are missing from the pages of this book. 
I understand that this may be indicative of the culture, and it may, actually, say something about me that I require the perspective of a woman in order to enjoy a novel. I also understand that neither of these issues make this a bad book. These issues do, however, make this a book that will never make my top 10 list. 
What are you reading these days?
(Disclosure: Random House of Canada provided me with a copy of this novel for review purposes. Thanks Random House! Obviously, these are still my own opinions.)

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An Attic Moodboard

For now, we’ve given up on the idea of finding ourselves a new, larger home in the Toronto real estate market and moving in order to improve our space issues. We’ve also given up on the idea of a huge renovation that would have given us three new bedrooms and a bathroom. In other words, we haven’t yet addressed the fact that we have no space to grow in this tiny, one bedroom bungalow.

Some day, we’re going to want to grow our family. We have to figure something out.

Many months ago, before the idea of a full-size top-up ever came about, we were considering a smaller scale renovation, a high-end attic conversion including a master bathroom and walk-in closet. Our attic is decent for it, with a high enough ceiling and dormers already in place.

Since we originally considered this option, we’ve moved through a whole bunch of other ideas and plans. When everything relating to our ‘raise-the-roof’ project fell through, the husband brought the attic up again with a kind of sad little laugh. After all, if we had tackled the project when we had originally come up with the idea over a year ago, we would be happily settled into our master suite by now.

I try not to think about that too much.

Right now, we’re in the drawings phase. The husband has been slogging through the details getting it ready for permit. It’s a simpler design than it’s original conception. Just a bedroom, a set of stairs rising up into an empty space with storage and closets along the low walls. No bathroom. No walk-in closet.

It will, I hope, be gorgeous none-the-less. I envision bright white walls and lots of soft fabrics and rugs making it a warm, inviting space to spend time in. Soft blues and yellows. Strong, natural woods.

Bedroom moodboard

In an effort to get excited about something that still seems to be so far off, something that still seems to be in the conception stage, not yet part of reality, I made a moodboard!

  1. Bedside tables from West Elm.
  2. A rug from Rugs USA.
  3. Drapes from West Elm
  4. A bed with a beautiful dark wood grain from EQ3.
  5. Pillows from Tonic Living.
  6. Table lamps from West Elm.
This plan gives us one more room and a few more years in this house. Whenever I describe our decision, I describe it like this: we’ve decided to decide in a couple years. We putting off the big changes, but we know, that one day, they’ll have to come. Some day, not too far in the future, we’ll be looking around this little house as the walls close in for a second time. 
We’ll figure out what we’re going to do when that time comes.


Filed under attic, renovations

Giving Up On Toronto Real Estate

We love real estate. When we bought our house two years ago, we never really stopped examining the market. Over the past few months, we’ve been considering our financial situation, our housing situation, and the real estate market. Now, since we’ve poured a decent amount of elbow grease into our house and since we’ve been aggressively paying down our mortgage and saving our pennies, we think we’re ready for our next real estate adventure.

We put a bid in on a cheap fixer-upper close to our neighbourhood. We lost the bidding war by $100,000.

Then, we put a bid in on our dream house in our dream location. We lost that bidding war by $100,000 too.

It’s been frustrating, but we aren’t ready to give up. Instead, we’re getting creative. We’re considering leaving the Toronto real estate market behind and investing our hard-earned cash into income property in a much smaller city. So, Saturday found us shaking hands with a new real estate agent and following his Cadillac around town to four different multi-family homes. It was an experience, full of walking in on surprised tenants, turning a blind eye to messy apartments and the smell of cigarette smoke, and exploring the bowels of rarely organized retail buildings.

We haven’t made a decision yet. It feels almost odd, not making a decision right away. In Toronto, real estate moves fast. Sometimes, it feels like you have to make a decision before you finish touring the place. Out there though? All of these buildings have languished on the market for months with no buyers in sight. So, we’re taking our time. We have financials to consider. Other options to compare. Things to talk about.

I know this change in plans may have some of you confused. After all, one of our motivations for getting serious about house hunting was the fact that our house is tiny and starting to drive us crazy. Buying an apartment building in a city we don’t live in is not going to fix that problem.

Renovating our attic and ripping out a main floor wall certainly will though.


Filed under real estate

Photo Friday Puppy Style

Are you here from The Mash, curious about our experience in a bidding war for a crummy house – though full of potential – that perfectly demonstrates the craziness of the Toronto housing market? Then you want this post! Though, you may also be interested in any one of the posts I’ve written about our experiences with real estate.

Or, you could stick around and check out some pictures of my dogs. Or maybe some book reviews. Maybe a recipe or two. Or a post or two about what I wish my living room looked like. 

I haven’t done a Kingsley update in a long time, I know.

He’s gotten pretty big. About the size of a large border collie, I would say. The size of a wheaten terrier. (He might have a little wheaten in him!) He takes up half the couch, a quarter of the bed, an eighth of the living room floor. He’s got sit-and-stay down pat as long as there’s a treat in the deal for him. The dog park is his favourite place in the world. He still jumps on people when he gets excited, but I think he’s learning that it’s a bad thing to do. He hates his halter collar, but he’s learning to tolerate it for the sake of the walks. He wishes Mocha would play more and sleep less. He loves the taste of our brand new couch. During the day, while home alone, he pulls all the pillows and blankets off the couch and makes a nest in the middle of the floor.
He still loves to snuggle. My boy, the snuggler.

And then, there’s Mocha. She sleeps between us on the bed, as snuggled in as she can be, sometimes right on top of my shoulder. She’s learn to roll over, play dead, shake a paw, and high five. She likes the dog park too, but not as much as Kingsley. She would prefer to stay home and snuggle or go for a nice long walk with plenty of sniffs. Her favourite toy is a yellow squeaker ball that she hasn’t managed to destroy yet. Sometimes it rolls under the dresser or the kitchen cabinets and she whines until we take notice and get it for her. She loves the taste of our brand new couch too, especially once Kingsley starts in on it. She sleeps a lot.

She loves to snuggle too. My girl, the snuggler.

Happy Friday! We’re going house hunting this weekend. A different sort of house hunting, but house hunting none-the-less. Details to come, Monday! (Hopefully. Hopefully Monday.)


Filed under dogs, Kingsley, Mocha

Blogiversary 2

Dear Blog,

This time last year, you and I were still in love. What happened? It feels like you and I somehow slid into a trial separation and I don’t know how we’re supposed to make up.

One thing I do know though: you’re worth it. This space is worth it. You are worth struggling with a camera I hardly know how to use. You’re worth the sense of guilt that settles in when another Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday disappears with no post. You’re worth the time dedicated to writing, researching, photographing, thinking, and creating.

I will not give up on you, no matter how uninspired I feel, no matter how disconnected I feel. You are a part of who I am. I am not ready, yet, to let you go.




Filed under blogiversary

Gardening and The First Day of Spring

This time last year, my tomatoes and peppers were a month into their growing cycle. They were starting to fall over because they were getting so tall in their little peat pots.

This year? Well. Not so much. I haven’t even managed to take an inventory of what I have versus what I need to buy. With the official arrival of spring today, though, I’m feeling a little bit like I completely lost my chance to plan and ponder. If I want to get plants from seed in the ground this year, it’s time for a little action.

This year, I want more spinach, more jalapenos, less chili peppers, less tomatoes, more root vegetables, more squash, more herbs, and less cilantro.

In other words, no cilantro.

This is what last year’s garden plan looked like.

This year… do you think it’s safe to fly by the seat of my pants?

Have you planted your indoor seeds? Got your garden plan ready? Am I as far behind as I think I am?


Filed under gardening

Five Ways: Bedside

Our bedside tables are good enough. They are Ikea, which means cheap pine and a faux dark finish that’s starting to wear away along the edges but they’re good enough. They hold our alarm clock and our lamps. Usually, mine is stacked with books and covered with receipts and change from the depths of the Husbands pockets. See that notebook there? The kitty likes to chew on it in the middle of the night and run high-level experiments with gravity and my glasses.
Even though what we have is technically good enough, and even though I’m not maniacally planning a make-over for our bedroom any time soon, I still think about how I could change this up every so often.
For example, if we had the space, I would love to replace both of them with full-on dressers, with useful drawers to store all manner of things like miscellaneous junk and fresh sheets. Just imagine the mess I could spread out on my bedside table if I had that much surface area!
Or, suitcases. I always think this is a delightfully whimsical option and, when I walked past a pile of old suitcases that one of our neighbours was throwing out last week, I thought about bringing a couple home with me. They look like fun! But really? They don’t seem like particularly practical storage. How are you supposed to get in them easily without dismantling your pile and dislodging whatever you’ve placed on top to compliment its whim?
I always admire people who can use an actual little table for their bedside table. No little cupboards to sweep everything into when things get too chaotic. No hideaways for the little things you don’t necessarily want to show off to the world. So clean, so neat, so pretty, all the time. I love them, but nope – not for me.
Bookcases would be perfect, I think, though. We’re struggling with storage space for all my books to begin with. This would just solve everything. 

What do you have beside your bed?


Filed under bedside tables

Chocolate Chip Whole Grain Banana Bread

Since last week Wednesday, the Husband I have been doing the Insanity program together. It’s high intensity interval training, which essentially means a lot of jumping around our living room and swearing at the television. Because we’re trying to be healthy, but also enjoy as much of life – and food! – as possible, I made chocolate chip banana bread Sunday afternoon, but substituted out all the white flour for whole grains.

That totally neutralizes the sugar and the chocolate chips, right?

Except that, whenever I make banana bread, I always end up putting so many chocolate chips in it, that a) it’s hard to tell when it’s done because every toothpick inserted comes out coated in melted chocolate and b) the chips, being all melted and soft, make the bread fall apart in the messiest way possible when I attempt to still cut it while it’s still warm.

It sounds just terrible, doesn’t it? No wonder the loaf is nearly gone a mere half hour after I pull it out of the oven.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

This recipe is probably from somewhere, originally. This is a recipe I wrote down years ago in my recipe book and have made many times since, every single time adding far too many chocolate chips. This time, I played with the recipe a bit and it turned out just fine.

Preheat your oven to 350. Grease a bread pan and set aside.

Mix together these ingredients in a bowl:

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oats of your preference (I used Quaker Large Flake Oats, which apparently, we have here in Canada, but do not exist in other countries.)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

In another bowl, cream together until as smooth as possible:

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar


2 eggs
2 or 3 large mashed bananas (I did 2, but the Husband didn’t think the result had quite enough banana flavour)

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into it. Mix until just combined.


As many chocolate chips as desired


As many nuts such as walnuts, almonds, pecans, etc. as desired


Both, as desired

Pour the batter into the greased bread pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle a few oat flakes on the top if desired for a little visual pizzaz. Then, pop the pan into the oven for a full hour.

Test for doneness with a toothpick, the tip of a knife, a fork, whatever. The bread is finished when the toothpick comes away clean. Turn out onto a wire rack and, if you can resist, allow to cool for a good half hour.

I can never resist.


Filed under food

This Dusty Bookshelf: The Red Scarf

The Red Scarf
By Kate Furnivall

When I picked this novel up, I didn’t realize that it was technically classified as a romance. In reality, the plot doesn’t give away it’s true nature at all. But, as I flipped through the last pages and felt the nausea finally subside, I was reminded why, exactly, I try to avoid romances.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Red Scarf has a delightful premise: two women meet and fall into friendship in a Russian labour camp, suffering side-by-side in true solidarity under some of the harshest conditions ever imposed by human beings on human beings. Anna and Sofia share stories back and forth to help them survive, but slowly, the hard work, the harsh winter, and the lack of food is wearing them down. Sofia realizes Anna won’t survive another winter. She escapes and begins on a wild adventure to find Anna’s one true love Vasily – and his mother’s jewelry – in order to persuade him to help her save Anna from another winter in such harsh conditions.

And then she finds Vasily and falls in love with him herself.

The books started off wonderfully. I loved the depiction of the friendship between the two women, the sacrifice and love they shared. I loved Anna and Sofia’s stories, their journey through childhood as Russia fell apart around them and the cruel reality they were living through. I even loved the story of Sofia’s escape and the story of the village of Tivil. I thought things would get really interesting as she met and fell in love with Anna’s Vasily.

But, it started to drag, too many words crammed into not enough story, inflating the page count but not pushing the reader though them. I had no complaint with the writing itself and, in fact, the words were strung together quite well, I thought – not masterfully, but well. There was just too much of it.

And then, everything fell apart because everything ended up too neat. I know that sounds contradictory, but in literature, it’s absolutely not. There could have been so much complication and human confusion as the characters faced hard, unfair situations. Literature is not made beautiful by bad things happening and then, suddenly, conveniently unhappening. Literature is made beautiful by bad things happening and characters reacting in ways that are so perfect, or imperfect, or cruel, or sacrificial, or true.

This book will add nothing to your life. There are so many other books to read. Don’t bother with this one.

(I’m cringing as I write that last sentence. This is the first book review I’ve written for a book I really didn’t like! Turns out, I have a hard time writing a book bashing review. I love books, and I always want to support the people who write them, but I also want to always be unshakably honest. Dear Kate Furnivall, please don’t hate me – but I think you can do better.)

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