Sunday, January 18, 2009

au revoir

An official sign-off, though my spotty posts of the last year were probably enough of a giveaway that my blogging time has come to an end. It's been swell, but time to move on to other things. Like fixing my house. And getting some exercise.

Be well friends,


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Where I'm At

Ah Christmas. Equal parts sublime and ridiculous. December ping-pongs back and forth between delight and drudgery. On one hand, I love the adrenaline rush. I love finding gifts. And wrapping them. I enjoy a good boozy Christmas party. A ready stash of cookies in the pantry. Good times. But then something happens, it always does, and I'm right down in Whoville. This morning my inner Grinch was released when Stella had a four-alarm meltdown as we were trying to get out the door. Half an hour late as usual - damn that Bo On The Go - Stella refused to put her boots on because she didn't have a Santa hat to wear to "Wacky Christmas Accessories Day" at school. Let the record show that I made her a wacky Christmas accessory: an oversize Mr. T-style pendant complete with bell, silver garland and plastic mistletoe. It was gaudy, hideous, noisy perfection. But apparently not good enough. She needed a Santa hat. A one-sided deal was struck: get to school now and I will go find a Santa hat and bring it to school. The deal meant that I stuffed my bare feet into winter boots and left the house with no make-up and no breakfast. Fast-forward to Loblaws and lo, there is a bin of ugly fake fur stockings and santa hats. That they're marked down to .99 is entirely missing the point: I'd have paid $10 for a santa hat if it meant making my daughter happy. Relief gave way to panic when I discovered the bin was full of stockings but only one hat. One hat with a smear of something unpleasant and brown and crusty on the white fur. As if Santa were practicing Proctology in the off season. I bought it. I tried to clean the fur with snow collected from the roof of the car. It occurred to me later that I could have used the school's washroom, but such was my mindset by this time. I delivered the hat not with love in my heart but something more closely resembling victory. I'd like to say that Stella's face lit up at the sight of me waving a Santa hat in the doorway of the classroom, but the truth is she didn't give a fig. I need to give my mom a hug.

Monday, November 24, 2008

To Do #1

Beautiful fireplace photos from here.

Project Fireplace

Task: Get the currently non-working wood-burning fireplace to work.
Reward: Chestnuts roasting by an open fire. Ceremonial burning of ugly-but-necessary slippers.

Our otherwise OK basement (high ceilings, decent floors, no musty basement-y smell) is plagued by an enormous fireplace that is out of scale, off-centre and, wait for it, semi-circular. Yes, a big brick monstrosity that looks more like a cartoon of a pizza oven than a fireplace. You can understand why I want to deal with it. And every year, right at the beginning of December, the cusp of holiday entertaining, I cast a dissatisfied eye around my worn-out house and find myself overwhelmed by the long list of things that need doing. I do believe I spend more time making lists of things to do than actually doing things on the list. This year I am taking a strategic approach: no other cosmetic issue in the house will be dealt with until that fireplace is roaring. Our slow-burn renovation is still on simmer - I intend to fix this house, I really really do - but the fireplace just won't wait a minute longer.

Today I consulted this blog about fireplaces which, aside from affirming the fact that my own blog is wildly unfocused, was a good place to get the fireplace lingo down and whittle down the list of requirements:

Here's what I know so far:

If we do a gas conversion, we want:
* An insert with an auto-starter Vs a pilot light that runs 24/7 is less wasteful - and saves $10 a month in gas.
* Ceramic glass is better than tempered glass. Something about heat transfer.
* A "squirrel cage" type fan is quieter and more efficient than the non-squirrel variety.
* Don't quote me, but a direct vent offers better indoor air quality than the other type of venting option.

Still to be determined:

*Is there such a thing as realistic-looking ceramic logs?
*Is it too much to hope for that ceramic logs might make nice little cracking sounds too?
*What becomes of the ugly brick? I think the ceiling is too low for a traditional mantel, so I need to find a simple, modern but classic cladding solution.
*What's it all going to cost?

Next stop: Marsh's Fireplace Shop to kick some tires and get some answers. And not a moment too soon - it's snowing!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"Welcome Home Baby"

So said Steve after we landed in Buffalo late Saturday night, shuttled to the economy parking lot and found our car battery had died. And just like that, the holiday was over. Although we did return a happier, more connected, tanned and just a little bit fatter family and, dead battery or no, the glow of a well-earned vacation hasn't entirely faded away. Turns out that, for us anyway, managing two kids is lot easier than managing one. I was proud and not a little relieved at what good friends Stella and Henry have become, and at how nicely they play together. Happy too that for the first time I could observe their play from beneath a beach umbrella 15 feet away. Good times.

You might think today's little snowfall is hard to take, but truthfully I'm enchanted. Who doesn't love the first snow? It makes me want to break out the Sufjan Stevens and a wooly throw. I'm hankering for a new craft project. Something easy. One night. Perhaps two. Any ideas? My mantra (partly lifted from the editor's letter of an old Domino magazine) is tradition, family & peace. My usual messy to-do list is simple this year: a horse-drawn sleigh ride with friends, perhaps here, a working fireplace, a neighbourly open house (to celebrate the working fireplace), a singularly delicious cookie that I will bake and give to everyone I know (Anna, I'm coming for your recipe!), a pretty front porch. All will be calm.

Monday, November 10, 2008


I'd need a U-Haul to bring it all back.

florida orange

Today life was, literally and figuratively, a day at the beach. A wide open, white powder, empty beach that is the dream of travel writers and misanthropes alike. What a day. Finished this book. Re-reading this one while also dreaming of this. Time to think and read and just be is my idea of luxury these days.

Happy Sunday.

Monday, November 03, 2008


We're at the beach for a couple of weeks. I find packing and vacation preparation quite stressful - especially on Halloween evening after three hours of trick-or-treating - but we're here and any tension I felt about leaving the house in chaos and leaving the store for two weeks evaporated as soon as feet hit the sand. Though he's been here three times, Henry discovered the ocean this year. And like a true son of mine, he's a fan of the big sunset. Peace.

Hoping to hit my favourite vintage store, Jane E's, and the Red Barn junk market, where you can buy mangoes, oranges and tomatoes, old books, handmade lace and a round or two of ammo.

Tomorrow, of course, is election day. We're excited to be here.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

a simple confession

After a month-long absence it feels strange just popping up as if barely any time had passed. I don't have a good excuse, other than life being busy. And the frustration of not quite having the hang of my new camera. I'm back to the trusty old slim silver automatic until I find the time to take a proper lesson at Henry's, so maybe the posting will be more consistent.

Anyway. It's Halloween. I'm bathed in the glow of grinning lanterns. There is a basket of carefully crafted bat favours ready to go to pre-school tomorrow. And a motherlode of chocolate sitting very temptingly, but fortunately not at arm's reach, by the door. We're ready.

The kids' costumes, which I would normally be frantically sewing tonight, were actually ready ahead of time, thanks to the Halloween birthday party we attended last week. My neighbour did some crazy good decorating - I love the creepy piano vignette - but my favourite has to be the wheelbarrow filled bones half buried in sand on her front lawn. So fun. I had fun making the costumes, but if I ever attempt to work with that crazy furry crap again, someone please poke me in the eye. I don't think Henry's too happy with his tiger hood either. I could have used a pattern for it, because it turned into quite a cowl. I tell myself it's warmer that way, but truly I'm not sure the poor kid can see left or right in the thing and we'll probably end up abandoning it at the end of the driveway. But Stella's vampire costume I could not love more. Maybe it's because she totally works it. Technically speaking it's the simplest of costumes, of course, but we added a couple of flourishes: an old silk tie turned into an ascot and a scrap of red fabric made the perfect cummerbund. Tomorrow is dress-up day at school and the instructions were clear that violent costumes and/or weaponry were not welcome. In my heart of hearts I know the vampire violates one, if not both, those rules, but I'll be damned if I'm making something else now. I'm ahead of schedule for the first time in my life. Happy Halloween friends.