Sunday, December 31, 2017

Goodbye 2017 Hello better life

Maybe it's unrealistic to have hopes for a new year - it's just a flip over into a new day in a long string of days, and we know from experience that those have ups and downs in them.  Except in my case there was that one perfect day back in I think 1995, but let's hold that thought for now and instead look at the tea table I set out when Lannie came over this past week. 

The kitchen table works so well as a serving station!  and my red tea towel collection paid off yet again.  as did the super easy tea biscuit recipe from Company's Coming, 'Muffins And More'.   You know, you plan for these things when you are building, but until you get to try it out you never really know for sure your ideas will work.

Getting back to my immediate point though - and I hope you cannot relate to this remark at all - even if I look at my own personal level, 2017 was SO packed with dreck (Christmas tea party aside.)  I just gotta think 2018 will be better.  Yes, our house is still under renovation and not yet unpacked, and Yes, one of the two aunts in the hospital is not recovering well, and Yes, I am officially tired of spending money which I thought could never happen, but I have a lead on a guy who might be able to help finish the healing on last year's broken fingers, we are living in the house again and have the kitchen set up and running smoothly, and with luck I might soon find the digital scale I use to weigh two sock-sized cakes of yarn before snipping the connecting piece.  (in the meantime, I still have about eight bags of ready-to-go sock kits in my coffee table drawer, whew)

Also, Pete and I finally found mirrors we like for our bathroom and the main floor powder room today.  We have been looking for some since the end of July so this is big news, and the bigger news is that they were $100... for both together!

Actually that is more than a little scary isn't it.

But never mind, they are mirrors and it is a huge relief to think we won't have to trail into the closet just to floss a tooth.  (yep, the closet got a mirror before the bathroom did.  this is how upside down 2017 has been for me.)

Want to know about that one perfect day back in 1995 or so?  It went like this.  I woke up in the morning and I wasn't tired.  I had something to put on for work that wasn't uncomfortable.  Nothing bad happened at the office once I got there - it was a quiet, easy day with hardly anybody around except a few super nice friends.  After work I took the subway and bus to a coffee shop where I was meeting Doe - incidentally, it was Doe who gave me the Muffins and More cookbook - because we were going to a book signing with an author we both really liked.  This was back when Toronto coffee shops first started including living room furniture, and Doe and I scored the sofa and armchair, which was wildly lucky.  Doe had recently married and she had her wedding pictures with her, so we had a wonderful time going through them all and remember what a fun day that was.  Then we went across the street to the bookstore and waited in line outside... in perfect weather, naturally.  And finally, we got to meet Sue Grafton and get our copies of her newest book signed.

The next day and all the ones since have had their ups and downs, but I will never forget that one, and when I read yesterday that Sue Grafton had died (again, 2017 was a stinker), I sent thanks up to her spirit for being part of it.

And thank you too, Doe!

Okay, let's get down to the business of this post.  Normally, as you may recall from previous years when I was posting every weekday, before this crazy home renovation started, I spend New Year's Eve cleaning my office so I'm ready for a productive year of creativity.

Last year I didn't do that, and a couple of days later I broke two fingers and couldn't type or knit for I think eight weeks.  So I was a bit wary about again breaking with tradition... but I have decided to go easy on myself this year and leave my watercolour stuff out on the desk so I can just pick up where I left off next time I get a chance to sit there.

(To compensate, I cleaned up and reorganized the front hall.  Pretty sure the desk would have been easier.)

The going easy on oneself concept is the topic for today. Because as a rule I'm hard on me, and I'm really trying to make a change in that department.  Do you criticize yourself a lot and feel guilty for not doing enough?  I feel like everybody must do that to some extent - most of us are looking to improve in some way, so it's not much of a stretch to think we're disappointed in ourselves when we don't quite make it.  But I suspect some people are able to have lower expectations than I am, and I am certain I would never ask of anybody else what I do of myself.

Life's too short for bad habits like that don't you think?  Especially when you are looking at what a stroke does to a person.

So that's my New Year's Resolution for 2018.  I'm not hoping to master a particular knitting technique this time, or finish a challenging or just unfinished project, or even 300% commit to doing a post here every weekday again though I superhugely want that to happen.  I'm not even going to assert myself over my dream of making the last few drapes for the house.  I am just going to do my best to stand tall when I can, and to let myself curl up on a sofa when I can't, and not feel guilty if I have to do that. And I'm mentioning it in case you need to consider doing the same.

Other nice things I wanted to share from this month and didn't include the Christmas tree from the Eaton Centre here in Toronto:

It's so very sparkly isn't it?  Here's a closeup I took because I liked the stripey reflection of the red lights on the escalator:

Also, I managed to paint this a couple of days after burning my hand.

I am here to tell you that it is well worth running cool water over a burn for nearly five hours because I haven't even blistered yet. AND I was able to hold a paintbrush.

And for a parting story, can we just celebrate for a moment the fact that I've been hanging art in more than just my office?  It's been so hard to face putting holes into the walls knowing as I do how carefully they were drywalled and painted, I was barely able to commit to paintings going into specific spots.  Plus, I really like the unbroken areas of paint colour.  But I also like the paintings and I especially like the idea of not having stacks of paintings and mirrors on the floor waiting to be on a  wall.  So last week I finally overcame the mental block and hung a bunch, including this abstract by Ady that has been waiting for years to be framed and displayed.

Makes me so happy to see this as I come down the stairs every morning and all the other times I pass it.

And that's it for me for 2017.  Happy New Year all and I hope you have a wonderful January 1 to boot! 

Monday, December 25, 2017

And then I burned my hand

Just popping in to say Merry Christmas to everyone here at Hugs!

Thank you Wrona for the beautiful card

...something I wanted to do so much, I'm typing with all of the fingertips I have that aren't burned.  But more on that later.

It's been a lovely first Christmas for us back at the new/old house, complete with snow covering every horizontal surface outside, especially on the cedar trees beyond our living room windows...

and lots of baking that happened at the very last minute... naturally!

I wouldn't have bothered at that late date only I wanted my one aunt to have a treat given that she was stuck in hospital for Christmas Day, and the family of the other to have one for the same reason (that aunt is sticking with pudding.)

Of course, three different batches of cookies (chocolate chip meringues not shown) plus brioche buns for Christmas morning plus some handsewing of ornaments to top the odd present means No Sleep For Tired Girls.

Kinda worth it though?

Then of course,  there's 'Making Supper While Exhausted..."

The potato ring keeps the sweet potatoes from burning. Wish I'd had a potato ring...

Here's what happened with all that.

This afternoon, we went to see my aunt in the hospital to bring cookies.  No time for turkey when you do that, so it was Festive Pork Tenderloin on tonight's menu.  I had the idea to save time by searing it in a deep frying pan of stainless steel that can go right into the oven.  Sear with olive oil, add apple juice and put on the lid, cook it in the oven, then return it to the stove to make a sauce with the drippings while the pork rests. Forget the pan's been in the oven at 425 degrees for 45 minutes, shift it by the handle with a bare hand, and enjoy Christmas Dinner while standing at the sink running cool water.

In other news, Pete and I got our new-to-us 1950s cast aluminum lounge set home and onto the porch:

The cushions are in the attic. There's also a pair of club chairs, the ladies' one a little shorter in the seat. So cute!


Sock photos coming to this space, eventually.

Yeah... It's my right hand this time so I guess it'll be a week or two before I can knit, or type with two hands, or paint?

Next Christmas I will have to wrap myself in cotton wool because I don't want a third festive hand injury after the last two holiday mishaps!

Pale blue bird of hope on our new artificial tree. Thank you Balsam Hill - looks almost real doesn't it?

Hope you've all had a marvelous holiday! with no burns because Ooooowie.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The raccoons next door

There are times when I can't believe my life, especially these days when it's pretty much a long string of stuff happening that I don't want, plus dishwashing.  Brief digression to today's opening photograph:

It's fingerless gloves, both of them from Viola yarns... what is it about Viola yarn, apart from Emily's enormous colour sense and hand-dying talents?  I haven't worn the brown ones with the little finger stubs until this fall, and every time I put them on I deeply regret having messed up with the design I was improvising such that the thumb holes are too big, but they sure look nice on the counter waiting to go out, don't they?  The background for them is a stack of Christmas-present chocolate bars.  They are also extremely nice, in my opinion... I wonder whether I could do with one less of them?

No, I could not.  Back to this post, Mary.

Thankfully I have a drawer full of tea to enforce brief breaks for something I do want, which is in this case FINALLY writing a new Hug.  I have had at least one Hug a day write itself in my head, and I take probably three Hug pictures a day as well, but when I try to get upstairs to my computer it's like all the Stuff Happening coagulates into some sort of tentacled delay monster clutching at my pantlegs and dragging me back down to the main floor to resolve three more crises at once.

(this literally happened on Tuesday, by the way, apart from the monster which remains, thankfully, figurative.  Ray needed me for a bunch of decisions and a trip to the garage which will be detailed shortly; I was trying to get through to the hospital where another aunt for whom I am POA had been taken by ambulance on the one day I was absolutely not able to rush to her side in part because of weather issues; and the condo concierge was calling to tell me there was a leak in our unit and a flood averted by the duct cleaners, but that I had to fill out a maintenance form online, stat. I was dialing the hospital from the landline while the concierge called on the cell phone as Ray called from the side door.  And the sink was full of dishes the whole time, too.)

(my aunt is okay.)


Probably we should break for another cheerful picture after all those parentheses.  Yes?

The significance of this picture is
a/ I am still knitting socks
b/ I like the way the stripe on this shallow bowl looks with the current sock
c/ I really, really like sitting my knitting on this wide shallow bowl and am amazed I never thought to use it before
d/ I bought this bowl two years ago at the antique market for a friend who is an alumni of the school from which it was apparently removed, and whose daughter currently attends it, and forgot I even had it until two weeks ago
e/ I am wondering whether I could just keep it? I mean, she probably wouldn't really appreciate it anyway right?  It's probably not actually vintage to her time there, and she doesn't knit.  She probably doesn't appreciate a truly great stripe either.
f/ I am wondering whether I truly am the worst gift giver ever, even though I did just give Jan the incredible cabled purple alpaca fingerless gloves I bought for her birthday, in spite of really wanting them for myself.
g/ I am thinking being a bad gift giver is part of the reason I have way too much stuff in my house.

Okay, time to finish my original thought:

I am seriously thinking I need to set up my computer on the main floor to increase my chances of being able to post or do any kind of writing, because the idea of a soundproofed tiny upper-bough nest in which to write was wonderful in theory but in practise is simply too remote to access.


none of this is what I wanted to tell you about today.

Today, it's:

The raccoon story

Raccoons are everywhere in Toronto and everywhere else in this geographical area I expect.  Do you have any where you are?  Just in case not, they are large furry grey-brown animals with a distinctive burgler eye-mask and matching dark coloured nose who are SO ADORABLE to look at, ambling along the street by lamplight.  They are accessorized by sharp claws and teeth which enable them to tear up your lawn for grubs, rip open your garbage cans for the rest of their meals, and make wild and extremely noisy love to their chosen partners in mating season.

We have had many encounters with raccoons in this house, most of them causing my heart to swell with the longing to hug and cuddle them.  Not all, but most.

For example:

The house behind us has an odd, sort of 1970s modern upper addition which only now that we have a second floor of our own I realize is attached to the exact bungalow we are in - there are only five of this layout in the whole neighbourhood which is kind of cool.  Their addition includes a third floor window with a little roof over it and one rainy day a few years ago I watched from my desk under the back window a lone racoon taking shelter in the tiny dry spot in front of that window, surveying the landscape for hours and then eventually curling up for a nap.

In spring and summer, I would wake to hear raccoons horsing around in the back yard and would sometimes open the curtain to watch them scampering across the fence tops, their distinctive curved backs and stripey tails lending a certain undulating grace to their movements.

I mean they are SO cute.  Even the night Pete had to open our side door a crack to brandish a broom at one who was about to attack our garbage can we both had to admire its polite persistence, even as we were daunted by its size.

One time when I was not enchanted was actually a bunch of times - night after night in fact when a small family of them were living in our fireplace which I had boarded over temporarily with plywood for reasons I don't fully recall but am grateful for (otherwise, they would have nested on the living room sofa.)  I have always been a bit slow on the uptake as a homeowner and it was many weeks before it occurred to me I could call a raccoon removal service to install a one-way door on the top of the chimney to get them all out before capping it.  By that time, the unpleasantness inside the fireplace was unpleasant indeed.  This is when I learned that raccoon poop has a very bad parasite living in it that is very, very bad for humans and must not be touched without extreme hand washing lest it be spread.

We cleaned thoroughly.  And the artwork I had painstakingly applied over the living room side of the plywood went into the bin.

Recently I woke to hear noises on the roof - with a steel roof, you hear a lot of noises and none so gorgeous as rain falling, but this one was not that good sort of noise.  Coming reluctantly into consciousness I thought, this is either wind blowing leaves over the shingles or it's an animal walking around.  After about forty minutes of drifting back to sleep only to be wrenched awake again I decided it had to be an animal, but was it on the main roof or the porch roof?  I dragged myself out of bed and drew our beautiful new drapes a bit to the side so I could peek through, wishing I was in the habit of bringing a pair of glasses up to my bedside table so I had a better chance of seeing whatever it was, and quickly realized I did not need them because it was - of course! - a large raccoon.

It seemed to be stuck, because it kept walking to the edge of the roof and looking down with just its back legs holding it in place, then forlornly getting up and turning back.  It walked right past me three or four times - the bottom of the window is a little more than a foot above the roof - and then suddenly it stopped and looked up and saw me.

It got up on its back legs, its front legs and claws dangling softly against its clean white belly, and stared into my eyes through the window and the screen which, I was deeply thankful to remember, is on the inside of the glass.  Then it dropped down, and a moment later it was back up again, so that the two of us were staring at each other perhaps forever.  I was mesmerized... those animals are even more gorgeous up close than they seem cute at a distance.  Finally I raised my hand to wave - what did I think this was, a cartoon? - and it dropped down and ran away down the side of the house.  Not stuck after all, I guess.

The point is: raccoons live here.  

And apparently, they also live IN OUR GARAGE.

I have been thinking a lot about our garage lately.  It dates back to 1942 like the house, and its cracked cement floor to 1945.  It looks charmingly like a boathouse.  It is painted white with a dark roof and I love to look at it and also, fear to look at it because it is currently full to the top and front to back with Stuff.

Stuff that belonged to us when we first married and couldn't bear to part with when we stopped needing it later because it reminded us of those years, stuff we found in the house or at the flea markets we used to frequent with Pete's dad, stuff that belonged to Pete's dad that couldn't come into the house after he passed away because he was a smoker and we didn't have room anyway, and other stuff that belonged to Pete's dad that should live in a garage regardless, like a second lawn mower.  Also, stuff we stored there in bins while the house was rebuilt.

And for the last four or so years there has been a hole in one of the doors where a wood panel fell out, and mice and the weather have been getting inside. 

So I was actually happy to be in there on Tuesday with Ray after the condo leak had been dealt with, and the hospital had confirmed my aunt was okay ish, cleaning it out to make room for the imminent delivery of our porch railings... which are finally ready now that it's too cold to use the saw to trim them to fit around our round porch columns.

Another digression, please?

WHY did I not agree to square columns??? It's so much easier to buy those anyway.  We had round columns originally and that's what Pete wanted again, so I didn't even consider the installation question.  But I also didn't consider using wood, because I got so tired of scraping and painting wood every few years... and composite railings take a while to produce, at least when you're getting the good stuff.

Anyhoo.  There we were in the garage deciding what could stay and what could go as we metaphorically held our noses because it really smelled like a bad toilet in there in spite of the freezing temperatures, and suddenly as we neared the back of the garage I saw a light grey ball of fur, size large, moving from A to B.  I got outta there and called for Ray to follow and then we had to rethink.  Well, I had to rethink.  He had been pretty sure there were raccoons in there and was wearing gloves and telling me not to move anything myself since I had none.

Except that I did - I was wearing the stub-fingered fingerless gloves.  And I was trying to help, as I do, moving things out as I came to them, only to have Ray tell me again not to move stuff.

To my credit, I was only using my fingertips.  Some of that stuff was super dirty with - well, I now realize with what.  And I didn't want to get any of it on my gloves, obviously, regardless of what it was.  What I didn't remember was that I would have to get the gloves off over my dirty fingertips.


Thankfully, we possess many containers of Lysol Wipes, so I was able to wipe off my exposed fingers properly, carefully peel off the gloves, wash my hands, and carry the gloves to the laundry room for a good soak and a dry on the laundry shelf rod.

Those thumbs are definitely way too big.  What was I thinking?

The raccoon crises has a resolution, and it's similar to the raccoons-in-the-fireplace one but on a bigger scale.  Raccoons mate from January to sometime in spring and their babies are born from March to June, then weaned by September, so this is not the worst time of the year to discover you must evict raccoon tenants not paying their rent.  I have bought a one-way door online and while we wait for it to arrive, Ray will repair a small hole near the garage roof (the raccoons would chew it to be much bigger if that was their only way in) as well as the garage doors so they shut properly and have only one 8"x8" hole, to accommodate said one-way door.  Then we will hang ammonia-soaked rags in the garage and play a radio on 'very loud', to make it unpleasant for them to stay on their side of the metal wire one-way door.  After Christmas, we'll remove the metal door, repair the rest of the real door, and hire a service to cart away the rest of the Ick; in spring, we'll wash it all out with bleach and start over.

Only this time, I'm hoping for less keeping of Stuff.

Whew.  That was a lot of post!  And I have so many more things to tell you, after I go wash the next round of dishes.  More on that exciting story another day.

See you again when I can and meanwhile, enjoy every minute of your precious knitting time!  I know I am, when I get it.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Blue alpaca and peach jam

Hello again and welcome the wonderful world of peach jam, on which I rely when things get overwhelming.

I mean stress is a constant, right?  Even when things are good we can stress about stuff like, WHY do I CONSTANTLY forget the handtowel is to the left of the sink, and swing my dripping hands over to the wall behind me and to my right, getting water all over the floor?  But when you have lots of stress - excess handwashing because you're trying so hard not to get sick so you'll be allowed into the hospital to visit a much-loved aunt who's had a stroke even though that will mean not finishing off the cleanup of your other property that needs to get listed for rent, and even though your throat is already killing you and you're pretty sure that ship has sailed, and you're dripping on the floor and trying to remember where the towel  is hanging with just that much added pressure because the phone is ringing for the third time in the last twenty minutes and you absolutely know you are not going to enjoy said call but must take it anyway, etc etc...

Well my friends, that is peach jam time.

The condo is almost done now, I think.  There were marks on the walls I couldn't get off with soap and water, so I despaired, and decided to repaint everything, which took about ten minutes less than forever.  I ran out of audiobooks to listen to, that's how long it took.  I mean, I still have Angela's Ashes waiting for me to press Play, and the end of the book about the Irish potato famines that propelled my ancestors to Canada, but frankly when your palms are callused from a paint roller and you have been on your feet for nine hours and your legs are starting to look disturbingly blotchy like the circulation is going, you want something a little perky.

I highly recommend Juliet Stevenson reading Elizabeth Gaskell's "North and South", for this purpose.  I tried some memoirs by comedians and actors I like but ugh.  Not escapist enough by a long shot.

News flash: when soap and water doesn't take off a mark on a wall, a bit of rubbing alcohol probably will and it won't necessarily rip off the finish either.  The new paint looks nice but I wish I had learned this little tidbit before I gave away two weeks of my life to a roller and an angle-tipped brush.

Because it's hard to type when your hands are stiff with fatigue and you only have twenty leisure minutes before you have to go out and do a whole new round of painting/cleaning/unpacking/work, I haven't even turned on my computer much the last few weeks.  This is super hugely unlike me - even the recent me when I pretty much stopped writing more than one Hug every week or two, the better to finish our home renovation (which of course, is still ongoing, but you knew that I'm sure.)

Probably I am not turning on my computer because it's not 'my' computer currently.  Brace yourself: my actual computer died!  I have never had this happen bofore - the motherboard failed and the only clue I had was this tiny depressing series of beeps that sounded whenever I tried to turn it on again.  It was like an airplane's black box emitting a coded message that amounts to, "Things have gone horribly wrong," except of course without any loss of life.  And the company that made it did not have a replacement part so I am pretty sure that's the end of my beautiful computer.

I had a backup.  I had backed up everything except:

1/ all my passwords to every website I rely on except the two I've memorized
2/ my full trip itinerary with as yet unbooked train times and top tour guides for our trip to England next spring
3/ the access codes to load files to my websites

I loaded the backup onto the hard drive of my sort-of-new computer and now I keep getting messages that I have less than 1 GB of storage left, which is just weird because my old hard drive was about a third the size of this computer's hard drive.  And it's a new-to-me Windows platform too so I have no idea how to figure out what is taking up all the space and/or what to do about it, though I'm sure I could do so if I had any time whatsoever.

Or rather, if I spent the time I am using to write this Hug on that job instead.  Which obviously, I am NOT going to do, because I miss the Hugs!!  And sometimes a Hug is another form of peach jam.

The thing about peach jam is that is a sort of Safe Place.  When everything around you is a shambles you really, really need one of those.

It's so important to be able to take a break, elevate your splotchy legs, and let your mind go to someplace unrelated to what's going on around you.  It's so important to regroup and recharge so you can go back out there and think, "I am completely helpless here or as good as, and I will definitely find a way to live with that if I just keep standing here."  It's so important to be able to brew a pot of tea or equivalent, and sit down with fresh toast and butter and peach jam or equivalent, and feel like somebody is there nurturing you even if it's just a tiny slice of you yourself, absently patting your back while the rest of you tries to figure out how to play even the smallest part in making everybody else's life less awful.

But sometimes even peach jam isn't enough, which is why I pushed aside the Christmas-present socks I cast on to serve as Emergency Knitting because I went four days without any Emergency Knitting on hand (having finished the current pair of socks) and then got notice of my aunt's stroke, which is exactly what Emergency Knitting is for, and started a pair of blue alpaca socks for myself.  Even though that was totally impractical.

Or maybe not impractical, because alpaca is very healing.  If you sit down knitting a pair of hand-dyed alpaca socks, you can handle being utterly powerless, AND you get to touch something soft and comforting at the same time.  But blue alpaca?  And socks?  That is a marriage made in heaven.  And I would totally show you the pretty stripes I'm knitting into this pair if it didn't mean I would probably not get this Hug online at all.

Other newsy updates:

I bought my first artificial Christmas tree.  Online, sight unseen.  Call me daring.

We received the last of our custom drapery and it is SO BEAUTIFUL!   I was torn between two fabrics and we totally picked the right one.  You walk into the rooms where they are hanging and immediately relax, that's how perfect this print looks.  And I would show you pictures right here but it would mean getting off the sofa to find my cell phone and email them to myself and then save to the overly full hard drive and load them into this post.  Another day soon, I promise.

I treated myself to a new winter hat from the Royal Winter Fair.  A toque, knit on a machine from undyed alpaca yarn with grey and black stripes because I love stripes.  It drains the colour from my face and completely flattens my hair but it is so, so warm and soft and I just don't care about anything but that at the moment.

Henny, my kitchen chicken, has chicks now.  They are called Chicklet, Chickee, and Royce.  The Royal Winter Fair is evidently not a place to go if you are trying not to buy stuff.

I bought undyed alpaca yarn too.  Please stop me before I go back to The Royal Winter Fair.

I have seen my first peppers on a pepper plant, also at the Fair, and they were full size peppers too.  I felt illogically excited by this and engaged the staff at the display in conversation just so I could tell them how excited I was to see peppers growing live and in person.

Probably I don't get out enough.

And now I really do have to go!  Hope all is well with you and thanks for your patience as I try to sort myself out and get a normal posting schedule going again.

(do you think I'll need to buy a new computer to do that?)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A work in progress

Remember the unhelpful friend who pointed out that five sets of dishes are probably the reason I keep thinking I don't have enough kitchen cupboards?  Well, he's been back in action.  Behold:

This is a shutter on the front of our house, newly painted in 'fresh start' primer.  (I know you love to collect images of shutters in progress - don't we all - so I thought I'd give you this huge treat today to make up for being away for several days again.)

The backstory about the shutters is that they have been on the house since it was new, and have been painted many, many times.  Usually badly, judging by the number of low-lying areas where whole huge sections have been peeled away and painted over again.  The architects we worked with at the beginning of the project pretty much hated the shutters since they are non functioning and therefore serve no purpose, but we love them because they give colour to the front of the house, which would otherwise just be a brick slab, and relate our WWII house to the much older, more dignified houses in the neighbourhood which also have non functioning shutters.  So: in spite of the objections we were always going to keep them, or maybe replace them with the same thing.  We may yet do the latter - I did find a few local companies that produce wood shutters to this design - but over the last few weeks Ray and I have been looking at them and saying Ya know.... they aren't so bad.... maybe if we just paint them....

Hence the primer, because they can't be the grey any more that they've been for the last ten or so years.  We are still using that shade on the porch floor, but it's in the form of stain now, and the 'stain' ship has SO sailed for the shutters.  I don't particularly want to buy a can of grey paint either, when I have left over black paint to use up from the side door.  And most importantly, everybody else in the area who has a black door and with columns either side, and a white window with shutters either side, paints the columns white and the shutters black.  Decision made.

And here with go with the black.

I was so excited to get this first coat of black paint on.  It felt so DARING.  Because I did not even try to use DAP on the low lying areas to build them up for something resembling a new shutter.  And I had Ray's blessing on that plan.  His point was, these shutters are never, ever going to look new again.  They are geriatric and much loved and they show it.  No matter how good a job I do with the DAP, which is probably not going to be 'Very', they will look lumpy and unkempt.  So, he said, why not embrace the distressed look?  Not to mention that black recedes and the leftover paint is not high sheen, so the low lying areas probably won't show a lot anyway.  What's to lose, we decided, if I paint them black?  If it still looks bad, I can still do the DAP, and if that looks bad, I can buy new wood shutters in the spring.

Done and done.

Enter the unhelpful friend.

"Hey," he said.  "Did you paint those shutters today?"

"I did!" I said, beaming, willfully ignoring the pained look on his face.

"Because they look like you just painted right over all those bald spots without making any effort to sand them down."

"I did!" I agreed, beaming less.

"Yeah.  It's really bad.  Especially with the sun hitting them from the west, now that it's setting."

I went out to look and Dang, he was right.  It doesn't matter that the paint is black and the sheen, low.  When the sun is blazing across at those shutters, every imperfection is visible all the way from across the street, and to every driver that goes past on the facing road... and with traffic so heavy in our neighbourhood these days, there are a LOT of end-of-day drivers creeping slowly past as a detour from the even busier street to the north.  It's a pretty pathetic end to a long renovation, having patchy terrible shutters right there on the front of the house.

So... back I go, the next good-weather day we have when the DAP will cure properly so I can paint another coat of primer and another few coats of black.  Huzzah!

(but MAN, do I ever need to scare up some more helpful friends.)

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Conference knitting fail

For weeks now, there has been no knitting happening at my house.  Or my condo or even on the bus, because the minute I get a chance to empty my brain and/or hands I am just SO tired and lazy.  This situation made it extra exciting for me to go to the writers' conference with Wrona, where I knew I would not have to take notes and could just knit quietly in the back row.


There's always a but!!

You know that thing where you are going out for the day or longer and you know you will need knitting with you, and you try to guesstimate exactly how much knitting you will need to bring?  I mean we always, ALWAYS overestimate that amount, right? 

I am pretty sure nobody ever says "Oh, I am sure I will only do one round on this mitten so there is no need even to pack markers for the thumb opening."  It's always, "I know I'll finish off this hat so I should bring the extra yarn and cast on the matching cowl.  Let's see, that's two patterns, double point needles for the hat's crown, the second cake and it would be nice to do a contrast border as an option against my face so I should put a third cake into the bag but do I want it to be the pink one or the green... best to take both."

Seriously.  It's like I'm inside your head, isn't it.

Well, I have been burned so many times with this inner dialogue, cramming an additional bag or two of sock up against all my other stuff just because it looks like I'm nearing the end of the one that's been in my purse for weeks, I was not inclined to pay attention to it.

And let's not forget that I have a crummy left hand these days, with the once-broken fingers still a little swollen and stiff and the strength gone from the whole thing.  I really, really need to get back to physio as soon as that condo is cleared out but in the meantime, I am a slow knitter even once I get to the needles. 

All of which is why I carted along ONE bag of sock, even though I was turning the heel the day before the conference.  And somehow, even though Wrona and I didn't even go to many panel discussions because we were having more fun meeting people in the hospitality lounge, and I was only knitting if I wasn't chatting, I managed to get through the gusset decreases and all the way through the foot by the time I took a single picture for you.


That is a sock with a foot up there at the top of this post.

I was also going to take a picture of the toe decreases, but I was so shocked at what was happening in my hands I just kept going... thinking that somehow, magically, I would have to knit an extra few inches for some reason I hadn't come up with yet.

But no: I finished the sock with more panels to go! 

The agony. And there was a perfectly good sock still on its leg on the coffee table at home, too. 

In good news, this means I have a  set of needles free to start the next ones.  And that is a relief because it's October and I promised Wayson more socks before winter, and I am pretty sure Jan will want a pair of purple striped ones for Christmas, too.  No pressure.  (well, it won't be either, if I can just EMPTY THE CONDO.)

Because it was a writer's conference I did not assume I would see other knitters there, and I didn't on the first day.  Actually I was self-conscious, worrying my moving fingers and bright woolly stripes were distracting to Wrona and especially to Bob, an old friend from her former writing group who had driven up to the conference as well.  

I asked him before our second panel started and he said No, and told me that his wife is also a serious knitter and pulled her needles out of her bag when he took her to a Bob Dylan concert!!!  I mean, I think I would have drawn the line there... but I can't guarantee it so I just tried to mimic the expected level of shock. 

By the second day though, I spotted two other knitters and somebody with crochet, so I wasn't entirely alone.  And a lady dashed over to me at the end of one session to ask what I was making.  Honestly, the authors given tables to meet prospective new readers should have brought knitting with them for their half-hour spots - they'd pull in so many people!

Because I don't have a second knitting picture to show you I'm going to close off today's post with a pic of the two sculptural paintings Wrona brought with her and which are now sitting on my desk. 

I had to turn on all the lights to get this, so it doesn't show the way they positively glow in the soft light from my single desk lamp, but trust me: this is a beautiful and inspiring pairing to gaze at during a pause from writing on the daybed.

Sorry I missed checking in yesterday - I was working on a new idea I had during the conference and I figured you would wouldn't mind terribly if I made book progress instead of a blog report.  You didn't, did you?

Monday, October 16, 2017

My life is a pickle jar full of thread

This is the very cool thing that Trish gave me as a housewarming present when we moved back into the house:

It is a giant pickle jar full of leftover super colourful, tatting-weight thread scraps that once belonged to a seamstress building a business and a new life in Canada after getting through WWII in Slovenia.  When it came into Trish's hands she said Aha!  This is so obviously for Mary.  I think she meant, this is the sort of crafty colourful vintage thing that is right up Mary's alley.  But I think what the universe was really saying was:

Mary's life is a giant pickle jar full of colourful, distracting, raw materials. 

 And boxes!

Yeah... because the condo is still full of boxes and shelves and random beautiful casserole dishes (and I do not even cook casseroles, because Pete is not up for those At. All.  he is so missing out, isn't he?)

That's pretty much where I've been since I said I was going to be posting every weekday again, come hell or high water.  Of course now that I think of it, that is no longer one of those casual expressions that suggest 'unlikely extremity', given the floods and fires in the southerly states of the U.S. lately.  But I hope you know what I mean.

The condo project has been under a crunch because we need to get it listed for lease before the beautiful ferns outside the bedroom windows wither and die in a late fall frost, leaving the low-ceilinged space looking like a long dark sterile cave.  And even if they were going to stay green and leafy for months yet - I am losing my mind having to stretch across two places.  Plus there was pressure because after more than ten years since the last time, my writing friend Wrona was coming to Toronto and she was going to stay with us.  Yay! and yipes.  Amazing how much joy can mingle with terror...  even the day before she got here there wasn't room to open the pullout sofa because of all the unpacking I still had to do, with all the other box storage areas full and unable to take another mouthful.  AND I was going to the same writer's conference she was, so I was going to have to put all that condo work on hold for four precious days.

So... while I was away from Hugs, I was packing and unpacking and sorting and clearing and generally trying to chase down enough thread ends so I could wrap them up and contain them in a giant jar. 

And I did it!  The basement guest room is GORgeous now.  I had to order shelves for placing decorative baskets of yarn, and they are in and assembled and up.  I had to make curtains for the basement windows, and I successfully subbed in tension rods with vintage tablecloths folded over them as an emergency solution.  (I have picture of this surprisingly effective decor move, but I can't find them right now.  Another day.)  And I got the dining room table entirely clear of the junk I was sorting, so that there was space for us to sit down together for a nice meal if there was time for one.  (there wasn't.)

Now that the house is in its ultimate, habitable form with just a few manageable boxes tucked out of the way for dealing with over time, I can go back to the condo and focus on that much more exclusively.  It's going to be as terrible there as it was before, but at least I get to leave it and end my day someplace orderly and welcoming.  It's definitely progress and gets me that much closer to my dream of having writing as my default mode, instead of managing a renovation.  I am SO desperate to get writing again, especially after the writer's conference.  It is always so energizing to do those.

Well - let's look at the front of this jar shall we?

In case you thought this was a random association I'm making between me and this thing.  The pickles were produced just a few miles from where I grew up!

It is a huge jar, about a foot tall, and super wide.  Really striking, and there are just an incredible number of colours inside so it matches everything.  Right now it's on a kitchen windowsill but once Ray builds them, it will go to live on one of my fireplace mantels, along with the two sculptural paintings Wrona brought me in a totally uneven trade for the pittance of manuscript formatting work I do for her (she is a professional artist as well as a writer and SO TALENTED.)

Okay this is a very long post after a very long silence... when I'm back tomorrow I hope to be more moderate but now you know I didn't disappear into a sickly green mist of pickle fumes.  Hope you've been well in the meantime and I'll see you again soon!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

How to tell if you have too much yarn

We joke that there is no such thing as too much yarn. I mean, how can you have too much of something as pretty as this?

Well... when the rest of the picture is a giant lump of yarns, the mostly finished knit three sizes too big with no hope of ever being salvaged...

... and there are many more errors in knit-based judgement filling bins and boxes, it's hard to think you need even more yarn, ya know?

Unpacking all the knitting bins on Friday, I found unfinished projects like this sock yarn hat (on the left) and another, smaller attempt at the soft stripey garter stitch hat (on the right):

The sock yarn hat looks promising but the needles I was using... ugh.  They are lace tips.  SO painful in this application, so I had just set aside the hat.  I will have to find different needles and get back on that horse.

Fearful of moths, I've packed most of my yarn into plastic bags.  Those bags made the sorting pile on the kitchen table even more daunting.

And I guess it's good that I somehow missed renewing my Vesper Sock Club membership for this season? 

I still have a lot of sock yarn I haven't even caked yet, plus 10 pairs ready to cast on.

The 10 sets of socks-to-be tucked themselves neatly into the drawer of our new coffee table, ready to put onto needles as soon as I have some free and need a new emergency knit.  They look so cute in there!  Every drawer should open to reveal bright colours begging to be worked with.  But sadly, on the shelf below them, I have a bag with four pairs already knit, waiting for toes to be grafted and ends to run in.  Ugh.

The soft alpacas unsuitable for socks and the wrong colour for hats have gathered together with some handspun yarns to pair with hardier yarns that can handle the abrasion from a heddle moving over them.  Luxurious scarves are not only a practical use for these soft, vulnerable yarns, but weaving is superfast, so there's hope I might actually make it through the pile some day.

The yarns that I know I will kick myself for handing off - things that will one day be a joy to rediscover when I want to make a special knit for a friend - are gathered together too, in a box of noncommittal options I can put away as my 'yarn store' next time I want to go shopping.

I found the green cowl I've been working on since we visited Newfoundland, but not very hard because I don't enjoy the knitting needles I was using and couldn't find my knitting needle stash to sub in a better option.

I also found the knitting needle stash, which bodes well for both the cowl and the matching yarn I bought so I could make a hat.

And I noticed that a two-colour stripe is maybe even more appealing to me than three or more.  It's so clean!

(I ripped out the giant  hat anyway.  That yarn - a blue-faced Leicester blend from Debbie Bliss - is stupendously soft and I don't want to waste it.)

In good news, it turns out that this edition of our house - in spite of all that top-grade spray foam insulation we put in - does get cold when the temperatures drop outside, as they finally did a couple of days ago.  We are not quite ready to turn on the in-floor heating, and when we do I may well find I'm more comfortable in bare feet, but right now I am making good use of both my heavy mohair socks and my mid-season, lightweight Vespers.  Whew!  I love knitting the mohair socks especially, but it would be awful not to be able to enjoy wearing them any more.

The unwavering bad news though is that even after I filtered out all the yarns even I can admit I am never, ever going to get around to working with, and assigned all the yarns I am certain I have a use for to their various bins...

I have too much yarn.

Maybe not too much for a person who loves textiles as much as I do, but certainly too much for the space I have.  And there is only one thing a knitter can do when s/he has that much too much yarn.  Right?


(mine are arriving on Friday.  cannot wait.)

Hope you've had a good weekend, see you tomorrow!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

My new dog is a robot vacuum

While we were gone, all our neighbours got new puppies.  So maybe I have dogs on the brain now but when I unpacked the robotic vacuum cleaner I bought after lugging our usual one up and down the stairs four too many times, I couldn't help but see the similarities.

I mean look at that.  Flat top, round body - you can totally see it, right?

Yeah, okay.  It's not so much a physical resemblance.

The first thing I did with the robot was to panic.  I couldn't figure out how to get the charging dock into a good location for both me and it, and to make an adjustment I had to pick up the robot for a minute, and it FREAKED OUT.  Its wheels were turning like mad and it was making all kinds of whirring, whimpery noises like a new puppy that is just desperate to hit the ground and start running.

I'm not used to appliances that have a mind of their own, so all this was a little alarming and I found myself talking to it to calm it down again.  I got it onto the dock and backed away slowly wondering whether
a/ I had made a terrible mistake and
b/ it was too late to take it back to the store for a refund.

After it was fully charged and ready to go, I had to carry it to the room I wanted it to deal with.  I set it down carefully to do its business, and pressed the button to indicate it could get going already, and off it obediently went, snuffling along the floor, its whiskers spinning around and around, drawing stuff into its path for a closer inspection.

How can you not immediately start calling a thing that does all that, Rex?

Since that first day, Rex has become part of the family.  And to prove it, he eats everything we put down in front of him.  I mean other dogs may be willing to lick a plate clean but they have nothing on Rex and our floors.  Some of his litter mates balk at a black floor, apparently, but Rex has no problem with our charcoal grey tiled hallways.  Sometimes I stay to watch him explore, and sometimes I go off for a while to do some other job and come back later to make sure he's still okay, only to be reassured by his single-minded hunt along a track that only he can see.

On the landings, Rex is amazing.  He gets very close to the tops of the stairs and then stops himself, correcting his path and carrying on like the ground always just drops away into nothingness and is nothing to worry about.

Upstairs though, Rex gets a little silly and sometimes hides under the bed when he finishes what he was doing.  The game is, I have to find him, then go under and lift him out because I still can't figure out how to get his remote control working.  He loves this but doesn't do it every time - I guess he doesn't want it to get Old before he does.

He can't do the actual stairs but those are still plain wood, and a Swiffer duster makes short work of them, so it's not really a hardship.  And he is so tiny!  Carrying him from floor to floor is nothing, and I can just let him roam free or close him into a room while I go off to do other things.

Probably Rex was not the best investment I ever made.  He was VERY expensive and he is not perfect.  For example:

He takes a long time to get through a room and his priorities are to cover all of it, not just the various parts that I can see have the most problems.  If I carry him over to a particularly bad mess and press a particular button on his back he is all over it, but generally he is more about process than product.  Rex is not the dog you want cleaning your floors when you find out guests are dropping by in ten minutes.  Basically, you have to be a proactive cleaner to be Rex's human, so I am having a big learning curve on that point.

He is bagless, which means that periodically I have to pull out part of his undercarriage and dump what's in it.  Probably I am doing this wrong but his leavings don't just fall into the garbage - I have to pull stuff out and that is both gross and messy.  (this is actually a good place to pretend I'm not using a dog analogy for this entire post... sorry about that.  ahem.)

He will only get into nooks and crannies that are larger than his body.  We've had to buy a little more new furniture for the house, and my choices are dictated by what will make Rex happy first, and what will look nice in the house second.

He doesn't do upholstery or the car.

On the other hand... we can always fill in the gaps with our  original vacuum. We would have wanted open-bottom furniture anyway, because of the infloor heat.

And you know what, the other options for lightweight vacuums - you know, the ones you can take up the stairs without having a heart attack from the strain? - they weren't so great for me either.  They may be as perfect for stairs as they are for upholstery but from the research I was doing before I bought him, it looks like the most working time you can get out of a cordless stick vacuum is 20 minutes - and even then, not on high power.  Sometimes it's as little as five minutes.  What can you clean in five minutes?  Then you have to find a place to charge it, which takes hours.  I don't know about you but even in this small house, it takes a lot longer than 20 minutes to vacuum everything, and if you only vacuum one room you will be tracking stuff into it from the others all day long.

So: we sort of live with a dog now.  He may never wake me up and save my life in a fire, but he'll keep me from drowning in dust, and that's pretty good in my book.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Everybody needs a kitchen chicken

Our new kitchen came with open shelves, which their designer, Andy, insisted were for decorative display and not for my baking gear (what a spoilsport.)  Here is how I 'decorated' one of them. 

Ah, Henny.  I spotted her at the Royal Winter Fair almost a year ago now, and I knew right away that
a/ she was coming home with me and
b/ she was going to live on a shelf in the kitchen to ensure I would be happy there.

How can you not be happy looking at a soft fuzzy chicken?  Plus: she coordinates perfectly with the rest of the decor.  She's like staging, but for people who are oblivious to decorative vases and hunt instead for cuddly stuffed animals, as opposed to the slightly scary taxidermy kind I mean.

Okay so, fast forward from date of Henny purchase.  Last month I was in HomeSense (discount department store for housewares, for those of you who don't have one) and I spotted a CERAMIC KITCHEN CHICKEN.

That's when I knew I was ahead of the curve and downright clever to pick up Henny when I did for this very important kitchen job.

The ceramic kitchen chicken was red with white polka dots.  Now, I love a good polka dot - they're up there with stripes, for me - and I would have bought that chicken without a second thought if I didn't already have Henny.  But as it was, I did take time for the second thought.  And that thought was,

What else does it do?

I picked it up and looked at it.   It was heavy, for a start.  There was no opening in the bottom except a little gap to let the clay cure properly.  There was no lid on the top to let you put cookies inside it.  It was mostly just heavy and decorative. 

And honestly, that's probably enough for a kitchen chicken.  If that kitchen is getting used at all, the chicken on the shelf is going to get at least a little greasy and the dust will stick to her and it will be all manner of ick, so it practically has to be a simple glazed clay piece that can be easily rinsed off.

But... my kitchen chicken does more.  She looks slightly downward at me with her head tilted inquisitively to one side, from her perch directly above the counter where I am dumping my stuff after coming in or putting it together to go out, as if to ask with concern how I'm doing.  She is just the right colours for the room, calming me down by not being too attention-getting.  And she is soft, so it's great that she's right there where I need her, if it's a bad day and I need a quick hug or something nice to touch.

(seriously, this is a not-uncommon knitter's thing, right? where you get so accustomed to textiles in your hand that it's a comfort to reach out and touch something soft?)

Try getting all that from a painted ceramic chicken.

Okay, I will admit this: a ceramic chicken can be right inside the kitchen with no fear of grease spatters.  Henny pretty much has to be stationed on Andy's shelf, which faces into the living room, far from the stove.

Since the red chicken with white polka dots, I've seen more ceramic chickens in shops here and there, and I expect I'll start seeing them inside people's houses soon too.

But Henny was a kitchen chicken first.  Ha!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The super exciting laundry room reveal

I know for a fact that all of you guys wanting to see a picture of something finished in our new house are hoping the laundry room comes first.  So this is for you!

Of COURSE I am kidding... who wants to see a laundry room?  Or even be in one?  Unless you've been using a rock and a stream to do your laundry and are totally enthralled with the joy of a modern machine.

Or, unless you knit and have a gorgeous new piece to wash and block.


Meh, probably none of us want to see this, but I'm pretty proud of how my ideas (and more significantly Ray's hard work) came out.  Plus it really is nearly done, unlike the rest of the house.

Let's start with the side that has plumbing:

As you can see, I was able to repurpose the old custom shelf from our previous, undersized kitchen which is now an oversized entry.  This was not easy - it was flush to the wall on the left side in the old kitchen and I had to figure out a place where it could have the same placement in the 'new' house, while still being flush to the ceiling, which ruled out my office. The ceilings are just too high, I'd be able to reach exactly nothing on it.  Finally I decided to risk getting the measurements right in the laundry room to install a single upper cabinet for the shelf to butt up next to, and still have space for a folding treadmill on the other side of said cabinet.

(We still don't have the treadmill.  For one thing, we are still exhausted enough just walking up and down stairs after two+ years in a condo.  For another, custom drapery is super expensive especially if you are choosing reproduction English prints on heavy linen fabrics.)

You are probably also noticing all the bright yellow detergent bottles.  They are not there for staging and this is just a few of the bottles in my possession.  Hey, don't judge me!  I can get this stuff only from Walmart now that my local shops have given it up for hipper Arm and Hammer offerings, and I live in fear of the day it is discontinued entirely because it's the only detergent other than Soak that I'm not allergic to.

And since you are 90% likely to be a knitter if you're reading this at all, I suspect you are also noticing I found a place to hang freshly washed handknit socks!!!

That's the exciting bit.  I sourced the rails from IKEA - they're meant to be installed in a kitchen with their backs to the wall and their rods laden with hooks for hanging ladles and spatulas, but I wanted them installed face-down for my socks, and the odd linen hand towel.  Dryers are not kind to linen.  Once I explained what I was after Ray figured out how to install two together with the seam barely showing, for maximum drying space, and the result is pretty fabulous, I think.  Not least since we didn't have the relevant conversation until AFTER he installed the shelf.  It would have been a much, much easier job if I'd realized how close he was to installation while he was still giving it a fresh coat of paint.

Want to step a little further back?

From here you can see that I managed to squeeze in a clear horizontal surface for dropping off a laundry basket, a nice sink (if you don't count the paint stuff I can't scrape off the stainless steel bowl now - all tips welcome), a trendy faucet, some lower behind-door storage, and two shiny new top loader machines.  More on those another day but for now: SO MUCH LOVE. 

What do you think of the paint colour on the walls?  Now that I'm using the sink a lot I can see I need some sort of backsplash, but in the meantime I have to tell you - the walls are my second favourite part of this room.  It's Farrow and Ball's 'Elephant's Breath', which looks grey most of the time but warm lavender for the rest of it.  It brings out a warm grey in the otherwise stoney beige tile floor, and feels downright calming under the LED spotlights Ray installed.

These walls were always Elephant's Breath but this room shares a double door entry with another room that was originally painted Clunch - the green-based beige we painted most of the rest of the house.  And when I saw the two side by side - you can't help it, they are so linked - I just felt angry.  I don't mean about the paint job or whatever, but just as a visceral reaction to the colour, which was odd because I absolutely love it everywhere else!  The light is just different in this part of the house I guess.  Trish came over and confirmed that the Clunch had to go so we asked nicely and now the whole area is painted purpley grey.  Ahhhhhhhh.

And finally: a closeup of the vintage 1940s kitchen knobs I found at the St. Lawrence antique market a while back, in use again after being reclaimed from somebody else's house.

I installed these myself - it was super easy to to thanks to their original doors having been the same depth as the new IKEA ones.

Okay, let's look at the other side of the room, which now that I think of it, also has plumbing.

This is the magical  HVAC system that keeps our house comfortable, plus the water supply.  I thought I would never want to look at this, and planned to hang a drape in front of it originally, but now - I kind of feel like it's art.  There are so many cables and copper pipes and shutoff valves, all fit so tightly and neatly together to ensure I got my wish for the other side of the room to stay clear for the dryer to vent directly outside with no bends in the exhaust pipe.  I know it was a lot of work and took tons of planning by our awesome HVAC team.  That's a water tank on the left with ventilation/heat recovery unit on top, and an on-demand water heater on the wall, and all the other bits and bobs are for the in-floor heat throughout the house.  There's also a drain for the in-floor heat system's drip drip drip of condensation; a fetching blue bucket; and sump pump underneath the table.

The table is not only perfect to keep me from tripping over those floor bits, while improving the functionality of the room - it's just plain important to us.  It was built by injured WWI veterans and owned by Pete's grandparents, who used it as an extra work surface in the summer kitchen on their farm.  Gramma knew Pete liked it and marked one drawer 'FOR PETER' in blue ink, which I think is extra special because he is one of I think 1,532 grandchildren?  Okay, maybe only about a dozen.  Or somewhere in between but it is definitely a lot of kids.

The biggest reason Pete liked it is because the family used to write notes for each other in pencil on the enamel top, then wash them off later with a wet cloth, like it was a blackboard.  I only recently got him to accept that there isn't enough enamel left on top now to make the cleanup part possible, let alone 'easy'.  It was a sad day but the table is still gorgeous and useful and we both love having it.  

I especially love having it in the laundry room because I get to go on using it every day.  When we first got it we were in a big apartment and it was our hall table, where all the mail and library books accumulated.  When we moved to the house it was our kitchen table until we put in a new kitchen.  After that there wasn't space for it there, so it became a desk in a bedroom.  At the condo, it was a kitchen table again.  But it's just a little too low to sit under comfortably so I am really happy we were able to make sure there was space for it in here.  I've already used it a lot for painting small wall shelves and later on it will be fantastic for setting out blocking mats and drying handknit scarves and shawls.

There's just the one small problem...

It really needs a different kind of drawer pull.  The antique market ones work well but they look a lot like eyes, and they keep creeping us out.

(You're welcome, and good luck keeping them out of your nightmares tonight!!)

Monday, September 25, 2017

The awful truth about the new house

I won't open with the awful part because Bleh.  This is the good part: our new house is basically the old house, but improved - instead of sleeping in them like we used to, we now cook, eat, and watch TV in the old bedrooms, and we sleep in a tree fort that's been built on top.  Guess which thing is my favourite?

Well, why choose.  But it is pretty amazing to lie on the daybed in my office and look out at the upper canopy of these trees.

Seriously, that is the view.  In winter, that tree will be green with some snow on top of each bough.  I love this SO MUCH.  And the view isn't so bad from the sofa in our bedroom either.

When I finally got the bumpout into our master bedroom design I was imagining a very generous addition to the footprint of our house even though I only got it for this one small space instead of all the way across the front of the building.  It turns out it's just a little less than three feet out, which is not quite enough depth for a sofa to tuck right inside, and I have ended up with 19 precious inches to share between drapery clearance and walking space between the sofa and the bed.

And this, my friends, is why we have opted for new drapes that barely clear the top of the sofa, so the sofa can push right up to the wall. Also shorter drapes are just so much less expensive.  Bonus!

On the upside, the bed makes a fantastic elevated ottoman for sore feet at the end of a long day hauling boxes up and down stairs.  Sooooo many boxes.

It's three years now since we started seriously planning this project and finding our temporary home downtown.  The house is still not completely finished - at the moment, the work has moved to the back yard (fences and a deck) while we wait for our special-order porch columns and newel posts to arrive (minimum four weeks from order date, AIIIEEEEE.) 

Three years is more than enough time to dream up a lot of mental pictures of how it would be when we finally moved home.  And amazingly, not one of them involved unpacking!

I mean how could I leave that out?  OBviously things weren't just going to magically fly north on their own and settle onto shelves like Disney princesses or enchanted teapots.  But now that I'm watching all that stuff lie around listlessly waiting for me to put them on shelves myself, I am beginning to wonder - seriously, I have been asking other people this question because the answer I get from me is not at all satisfactory - whether my life will ever again be anything but packing unpacking vacuuming.

As I recall, there was some notion of packing so perfectly at the condo end that I would just pick up a box, unload its contents into its precisely planned final home, and send the box off for recycling.  And also, of taking as long as I might need to do said perfect packing.

Unfortunately the condo end costs rather a lot more every month than the typical storage locker, and will continue costing us until we have it emptied/cleaned/listed/rented... so the packing has been rather rushed and still isn't done.  As a result, a lot of what is coming to the house is odd and alone and has no obvious place to go, even if it has a clear(ish) claim to remaining in our possession.

Which brings us to the awful truth.

The other day, I was surveying the kitchen and I turned to a friend.

Honestly, I said.  Look at this kitchen.  It's massive and has tons of cabinets and yet it's nowhere near big enough for me to put everything away.

FRIEND: Maybe you have too much stuff.

ME:  What?  Of course I don't have too much stuff.

FRIEND:  Oh come on.  You have seven sets of dishes.

ME: Erm

FRIEND: [crickets]

ME: Well yes, but the good dishes aren't even in the kitchen, and the two everyday sets are very neatly organized, and the Christmas set is obviously very important and the Easter set is only four place settings.  And the last two are old and going into the attic for nostalgic purposes so they don't even count.

What I didn't mention was that the two everyday sets each have twelve place settings.  But you know what, I have gone through all twelve bowls from the off-white set SO many times, plus at least four from the black plaid set, all in the same dishwasher load?  And then have to dip into the four FiestaWare plates Jan gave me which I don't count as a set because it's four bowls and four sandwich plates.  And never mind that dishes break and I needed to buy enough so that in five years when I am just beginning to be able to face going dish shopping again, I will still have at least eight place settings and can put it off a good while longer.

Still, my unhelpful friend has a point.  Probably I don't need seven sets of dishes, especially if I'm going to store my sweaters and scarves in the kitchen and also, keep a kitchen chicken.

(not the live kind of kitchen chicken, or even the once-alive kind.  but more on that later.)

I probably don't need as many suitcases as I've accumulated, considering how much I hate flying, or all the books I've been keeping, or all the fabric that I now don't need for windows or slipcovers because I factored new furniture and custom made drapes into the renovation budget, even though all that fabric is so incredibly pretty. 

I don't need them, but I also don't want to have to choose what goes.  And now that the house is mostly done and this is the most space I will ever have to live in for the rest of my life, I will have to anyway.


Well at least I should be able to manage to hang onto all the yarn!


Still: we are home, and there are a lot of good looking trees outside.  So that's something, right?

And I'm not waiting around any more to get back to writing a new Hug every weekday either.  This is it, me coming back!  just don't hold your breath for knitting pictures just yet, because I haven't picked up needles in about five weeks except to move them into or out of yet another box. 

Hope you've done better on that front than I have - and have you?