Monday, October 31, 2011

This is what's on my mind

We might not have been doing much, house-wise, home-wise lately, but that doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about things!

Kitchen rugs

Right now, we have an old bathmat on the floor by the sink. Someone gave it to us for a wedding gift a year and a half ago. It's seen better days. It's a little greyed from frequent washings, from frequent wet feet stepping onto it from the shower. And now, it's a little spotted, from frequent food spills, frequent dropped chopped vegetables, frequent splashed dish water. It's not pleasant.

The other day, I told the Husband to just throw it out. I thought he'd grab the opportunity happily, but he hesitated. Is it possible that he enjoys the feeling of a rug under the feet while doing dishes as much as I do?

Anyway, I've been thinking a little bit about our options. These days, I'm fixating on braided rugs.

They remind me of my grandmother in this whimsical, nostalgic way. A good way. The above photo came from this post. There's a tutorial there that, someday, I hope to find the time, the cheap bed sheets, and the talent to follow.

Bedside tables

We have bedside tables from Ikea. We still like them. They're wonderful. However, they're our catch-alls, the concentration of our clutter. At the moment, one bedside table has about 5 candlesticks on it, two picture frames and one little tray -- for the Husband's watch. Mine has the alarm clock, the lamp, a candle, and a huge mirror. They're a mess.

I would rather they look something like this:

Simple. Pretty. Uncluttered. Just the right touch. The whole room, found here, is delightful.

(Also, my bed-making skills are not nearly that precise. I like to blame the type of pillows we have for the floppy, lacking structure lumps that I end up with, even after spending half an hour trying to make the bed. Whatever. It's comfortable.)


I want one. Perhaps Mocha wants one too, like the pup in the above photo.

Two actually. One for each chair in our entry way. Unfortunately, sheepskin is expensive and I think my parents got rid of theirs long ago. (Did you?) However, I think they'd be perfect, adding another, extra dimension of softness to our home.

What are you thinking about these days? Did anyone else notice that two out of three of the things I've been thinking about lately have had to do with things that would cover our beautiful dark floors? 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Curtains to Comfort

I've had a busy week. Work has been in high gear and I haven't been able to give myself time to relax in the evening. I love the extra things I do -- meet with the youth group, lead worship, participate in the life of our church behind the scenes -- but the required time commitment means that, every so often, I have a week like the one I just had. It's Friday, and I feel like I've spent maybe 2 hours at home the whole week, outside of sleep.

Fortunately, the Husband and I stuck a date night in there. I think the amount we talked, and the enthusiasm with which we talked spoke volumes for how busy I've been.

Last night, when I got home from my meeting and worship practice at 9:30, the Husband wasn't there. On the nights I'm out-and-about, he takes advantage of my absence to spend some time with friends doing things I have no interest in. Translation. He plays video games and talks about buildings and all other matters related to civil engineering. So, when I got home, he wasn't there, but he had been.

Our new lamp was on. The house looked cozy. There was something different.

Can you see it?

Yes, there's a plant. And a lamp. And a pile of books from the library. But all of those things had been there when I left. Yes, the chairs are covered differently than when you last saw them, but that's a result of the happenings recounted in this post.

There's something else, something that makes an even bigger impact.

Curtains! On a proper curtain rod! 

At least, no more twine on this window. Which is good, because the nails I used to hang the twine on this particular window weren't strong enough and the whole set of curtains came a-tumbling almost a month ago and I never bothered to put them back up. Besides, these curtains look so much better than the red ones I had up before.

The space feels extra cozy now, especially with the new lamp with its soft light. 

Mocha agrees.

Thankfully, our weekend is looking pretty relaxed in comparison. We're planning on heading to the Home Show on Saturday. We're pretty excited for that, will maybe even buy something! Who knows. If any of you fellow Ontarians/Torontonians are planning on popping over there to check it out, feel free to drop me a line -- we'd love to meet a reader or two or a fellow blogger in person!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Three Things for Thursday

I don't really have much to blog about these days. I like alliteration. So, why not?

Three Things for Thursday


Mocha has fleas. Pekoe has fleas.

It's our big crisis of the week. How many of you with pets have ever experienced this particular crisis? Come on. There's no shame in admitting it. It happens far too easily with a single visit to a dog park (Sunday), or an encounter by our indoor-outdoor kitty with an infested animal. And, ka-bam. Bugs on your pets. At least their not bed bugs, which would infest the whole house and be a pain to get rid of. At least we caught it really quickly and can work fast to control it. And, at least we have enough animalia in the house to keep them satisfied and not chewing on us. And, at least we don't have carpet. The pets have been treated. Every blanket in the house has been washed. All fixed.


We still don't have door hardware on our kitchen doors. Don't ask me how long it's been. Please don't look back through this blog to find all the posts about our kitchen to figure out how long it's been. It's been too long.

Part of the reason it's been so long, I think, is because I have no idea what I want to even start looking. Today, I took a peek at Anthropologie's selection, not that they're an option considering the price of shipping on top of the price of the hardware itself. But aren't these cute?

I've been craving colour in the kitchen, but haven't been able to figure out how to work it in, outside of the splashes of spaghetti sauce that occasionally seem to end up on our white doors. Why not in the hardware? True, you don't see it often, but hardware can be easily changes. If I like it now, why not?

Maybe this is something I could DIY...


I want to make one of these:

Because it's about time I replaced the one I made three years ago that Mocha ripped holes into during her puppy stage. And I've never seen a crocheted afghan look so good on a bed. Besides, the Husband and I have different body temperatures. To get to sleep, I need the duvet and an afghan. He needs neither and often complains of being 'stiffling'.

Yup. I should make an afghan.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Library, of sorts

There are so many things to write about. Because of my deliquescent last week, I've fallen well behind on sharing a number of changes that have been going on in This (Dusty) House. And they're fun changes too!

To refresh, we moved upstairs, out of our temporary quarters in the basement apartment, about 3 months ago, once the kitchen, bathroom, and main room renovation was finally (mostly) finished. We were still waiting on a granite counter top, but we were pretty excited about finally feeling like we were properly living in this house we'd bought. We were thrilled when we settled into our living room that first night and looked around. We were finally feeling like we had pulled this off.

Except that it never fully felt right. The way our home is laid out turned out to be awkward when it came to arranging furniture. There was one wall appropriate for a TV. If we tried the couch against the window, the door couldn't open. We settled into one furniture arrangement, an arrangement that was technically fine, but always felt awkward.

The TV against the wall, our Lack TV stand banished to the spare room, since there was not enough space for it, the couch in the middle of the room, defining the living room space from the kitchen space, the Poang chairs against the window.

Based on what little I know about interior design, there's nothing wrong with this arrangement. Some of our furniture wasn't right: the TV stand looked awkward and small, and I don't like the Poang chairs in front of the window. I think they're too tall, especially since they always got pulled out of the corners when we watched TV. 

And then, we put a huge coffee table in the middle of the whole thing and it was even worse. 

We bought a dining room table. Originally, we had intended to put it in Room Number 4. Except that when we bought the table, Room Number 4 still looked like this:

None the less, we carried it in, put it together, set it up, looked around. I looked at the Husband,

Are we really going to have Thanksgiving dinner with your parents in here? Among the laundry? And the mess of things that don't have a place yet?

Suddenly, that Saturday afternoon disappeared in a complete overhaul of our space. At the end of the day, our kitchen table sat where it belonged: near the kitchen. This caused a bit of a conundrum too: neither of us like the idea of stepping into a house and finding yourself in the dining room. Our house doesn't have a foyer, or a proper entry way: the room you step into gives the first impression of our house. And we didn't want that to be our dining room.

So, what did we do? We created a space that has quickly become my favourite part of our home.

A library, a conversation corner, right inside the door. The Poang chairs still need to be replaced -- they lean a little drunkenly no matter what I do -- and we need a lamp on the side table. But I love it. I love that my books have come out of exile in Room Number 4. I love that I can be working in the kitchen and the Husband can sit here and actually see me -- instead of sitting on the couch, with his back to me. I love how we watch less TV because we're sitting here, while the TV has taken up residence in a completely different room.

I love how, the minute someone steps into our home, a welcoming, comfortable space opens up to them.

Because that's what I want our home to be, in every possible way.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Before and After, Puppy Style

Mocha is a cockapoo. She doesn't shed. After having lived with long-haired shedding dogs for approximately 18 years of my life, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to go back to shedding dogs. It is amazing to be able to enjoy all the love and snuggles from our little puppy without having to live with all the drifts of oily hair in the corners of our house. Don't get me wrong: I love my parents' Bernese mountain dog. I also love that she's my parents' dog, not mine.

Of course, since Mocha doesn't shed, we have to get her chopped every so often. When we first got her, we tried to do this ourselves. We're not particularly vain people, especially when it comes to our dog, so the fact that she was the funniest looking dog in the dog park with her rough, scissor-hacked fur really didn't bother us. And it certainly didn't bother her. And then, we knicked her once. Not bad. It didn't even draw blood. But she didn't like it, and, from then on, refused to let us come near with a pair of scissors.

We relented and called a groomer. It cost us 3 hours, $70, and our pooch's happiness for a day. She came home looking like an alien. Remember?

She certainly didn't look like our dog anymore.

A couple months ago, on a visit to a dog park, one of the other dog owners slipped us her card as she was gathering up her dogs to head home. A student groomer, she was looking for practice models, so her rate was incredibly cheap. It might not be straight when she was done, she said, but it would probably look mostly okay.

Um, yeah! $25 versus $70? For people who were content with hacked off, uneven fur all over? When Mocha started looking a little scruffy, and then a little scruffier, we gave her a call. 

This Saturday morning, we walked down to the park, stopped at a house right beside it, drooled over the location, rang the doorbell and shooed Mocha inside with two other dog-friends to play with. We wandered nervously around the neighbourhood, got breakfast, dropped in at Home Hardware for some garden twine, poked awkwardly through an antique store, stopped for another cup of coffee, and finally got the text message. Mocha was ready. 

And we were thrilled. She was so excited to see us, of course. And her fur was all short, soft and furry. But the thing that made me the happiest? She still looked like Mocha!

The groomer left her mustache long and with a little fringe around her eyes. Our puppy did not come back to us looking like an alien, but a better version of herself. Now, she's ready for winter. By the time snow falls, she should have another couple inches on her coat and she'll be nice and warm. 

(I may have also made her a scarf. We'll see if I ever get it properly finished.)

But the most important thing about this whole experience? When we got Mocha back, she was so happy to see us and full of energy. Energy. The first time she went to a groomer, she came back exhausted and slept for hours. This time, she spent the morning being groomed and the afternoon outside, digging in the garden with me. Her reactions to the two experiences were polar opposites.

Can you guess where we'll take her next time? 

Since our groomer generally does her sessions outside, I'm not sure if she's taking any more appointments for the season, but if you're in the area of Winthrow Park and looking for a cheap groomer, check out her Facebook page for more info.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Let's be neighbours

Our neighbourhood is in this interesting place of transition. It's an area that was settled by Greek immigrants who wanted to be as close to Greektown as possible. Now, those Greek immigrants are getting old, selling the homes they've lived in for 50 years and a younger, less Greek population is moving in. Ours is one of the few neighbourhoods in Toronto still open to young, first-time homeowners with normal jobs and only a little cash to throw around.

No wonder it so often appears on Property Virgins.

Directly across the street from us is an old Greek couple. We rarely see them, but we've now had a couple interactions. About 3 months after we moved in, once we had finally moved upstairs and hung some curtains in the window, the woman hobbled her way across the street and laboured up our front porch. I saw her coming and got up to meet her. Her knee was bandaged up and her hair was crazy around her head. She said hello with a bright smile. Her accent is thick, but we stumbled through a conversation in which she asked who we are and what we did, and welcomed us to the neighbourhood. She hobbled back across the street.

Last night, at around 6:00, I heard a knock on the door. She stood outside.

"Is your husband here?"

No, not yet. He's on his way home now.

"Can he come look at my TV?"

Your TV?

"I get 2 channels. It's not working."

I'm not sure if he can help...

"But you said he's an engineer!"

Yes. He's a civil engineer. He knows about buildings.


But I can ask him and see if he can help, but I can't guarantee anything.

She left, crossing the street with a little more pep than the first time we had met. When the Husband arrived, we both agreed -- we needed to be neighbourly, even if we were unable to help. This woman had reached out to us. How could we say no?

We walked across the street and were met with a wide open hug and jubilation. In the living room, her husband reclined amid a pile of blankets, moving little, but awake and aware.

96, she told us. He's 96 and has about 2 more months to live. She chatted away as we examined the mess of wires behind her TV. We had nearly given up before we found the issue: the cable box had been turned off and then the batteries removed from the remote. We added some, fixed the problem and got her cable running again. In the meantime, I think we received about 4 hugs, and the whole time we were there, she was all smiles and thank yous. At some point, I may have agreed to have coffee with her, though I couldn't say for sure. Picking out her words was difficult at best -- the language barrier is strong.

When we left, she had her TV working, but I think we gained so much more. We gained a friend of a different generation, a woman with plenty of wisdom and a lot of love to give. We gained another neighbourhood connection, another member of the community that will make our home so much more than a home for us. We were given a glimpse into their lives, lives of people who are the opposite side of life than we are -- that is, by far, one of the most humbling, the most beautiful experiences.

I am grateful for our neighbourhood, thankful that she would trust her neighbours enough to ask for help when she needs it. I love this place in which we live.

Tell me about your neighbourhoods. I want to hear your stories!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

White on turquoise

Every time I promise myself that I will blog regularly -- once a day, 5 days a week! -- I seem to manage to pull it off for two or three weeks and then... fail. Go AWOL. MIA. Drop off the face of the earth.

This is a true, heartfelt apology. I don't mean to let my readers down. I know you keep coming back, hoping for something new. I hope you don't end up too disappointed. I trust you acknowledge that I sometimes get busy -- after all, I work full-time, spend some evenings with members of our church community, and need enough down time to keep a person going.

In all likelihood, the person that I've most disappointed with my lack of photos and writing is, well... me. In the end, there is no one else for whom I write this blog.

Does anyone else find it harder to blog when you're waking up before the sun and chasing daylight home at night?

It didn't help that I spent Tuesday evening miserable, fighting an increasing sickness. The Husband picked me up from work that day. I was feeling twinges, but nothing major, so when he suggested heading to Home Outfitters to finally spend the last of our gift cards from our wedding, I gladly agreed. I was fine while we walked through the store, but as soon as decision making time came, I couldn't handle it. We made some snap decisions, changed our mind on one snap decision when the rug we wanted to buy came down off the rack discoloured -- we didn't want to take the chance that it was just dust -- and spent 15 minutes making another snap decision.

If you know the Husband and I, you'll know we don't do snap decisions. We mull. We contemplate. We weigh all the options. We are active decision makers. But Tuesday night, I was not up to it. While the Husband mulled, contemplated, and weighed all the options, I leaned against a display and waited for it to be over. I think it was the quickest decision he's ever made.

We dropped $150 in gift cards and more than half of it was a snap decision. But you know what? When in a pinch, we're not so bad at those snap decisions! By the time I could coherently judge our decision -- Wednesday evening -- I was still content with our choice.

What do you think?

We wanted the ones with a straight ripple instead of this wavy one, but they were a full $50 more. We couldn't justify it. Besides that, I kind of like the wave. It adds a little fun to a basic set of dishes. 

The Husband thinks the teacups will be useless -- too small for him. I, on the other hand, love them. See, I'm one of those people who is very unlikely to finish her coffee. Tea, more likely, perhaps, but even that has a good chance of only half disappearing. These teacups, on the other hand, are the perfect size.

The box came with service for 6 with a few add-ons like these salt and pepper shakers, a serving bowl, and a serving platter. (Oh. And napkin rings, which never came out of their little box. I've tucked them away in a high cupboard. When am I ever going to use napkin rings?) We would have liked 8, though I'm not sure when we're likely to need to many all at once. We're holding on to our old, mismatched student dishes, just in case. The brilliant thing about white dishes is that they'll match with dishes of nearly every other colour.

They're wonderful. Though, when I think about it, I am slightly disappointed that rug didn't work out...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

House Content

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have been a little annoyed by the copious number of picture accompanying tweets I threw out there on Saturday. I was just really excited, ok? If you were excited for us and have been waiting for a conclusion to the adventure, the wait is finally over.

This weekend, my head was stuck on tables and we had a wide open Saturday. I suggested; the Husband agreed. At 8:30 on Saturday morning, we hopped in the car, drove 40 minutes north, popped into a Timmy's for breakfast and then walked across the parking lot to here:

(Yes. I got my finger in the way. In my defense... I have no defense.)

An hour or so later (ok, maybe two... we enjoy browsing!) we swung around to the parcel pick-up area, handed over our receipt and waited somewhat patiently. We unscrewed some legs and, with the help of one of the Sears guys, walked it out to the car. At this point, said Sears guy asked, nervously, so... where is this going?

Here, of course!

Our little car is mighty and can take a kitchen table and two chairs any day.

Yes. Just in time for Thanksgiving dinner the next day, we bought a table!

As I'm sure you'll recall, just a couple days before we bought this table, we were drooling over a beautiful, rustic, thick table made of reclaimed pine posts. This. Well. This is not rustic. It's not thick. In fact, it has a little more of a wobble to it than I appreciate (though I hoping that will mostly disappear once the Husband gets around to tightening the legs more than I can).

This table has an attribute that we appreciate even more than all that other stuff. 

It was cheap. And it was available.

I know. I know. Just last week I was considering that maybe it was worth it to spend the money to have a piece we really liked, a solid piece of furniture that will last forever. I still believe that. I just have a really hard time putting those beliefs into action, especially when a visit to a Sears Outlet store allows us to consider a table and two (beautiful) chairs for a grand total of $200. 

$204 to be exact. 

And it's a good table. It appears to be solid wood. I saw it and immediately envisioned it with a dark, stained top and a light bottom, to match the chairs. At approximately $100 for the table, I could justify changing it, painting over the light pine and covering the whole thing with a table cloth if it turns out horribly. 

I think, too, when we set off for the Sears Outlet, I may have been determined to come home with something. Thanksgiving was coming and we were having the Husband's parents over for lunch on Sunday. I couldn't imagine eating a big meal from our laps. It just didn't seem right.

The bit sturdy table? I think that's for the next house. As it is, I am happy with this table. It's small and it doesn't extend, but have you noticed a lot of room for extending in our house? We only have two chairs for it at the moment -- we supplement with patio chairs -- but I've got my eye out at thrift stores for chairs that will complement. 

I don't think I have ever been so house content. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Guest Post! Micha from A Little Old House

[Today, I am absolutely thrilled to be doing something on this blog that I've never done before: I've invited one of my fellow bloggers to share one of her (many) renovating adventures! I am always excited to follow along on someone else's renovation adventure and when I discovered that Micha was pulling off something that we wanted to do -- but in the end, didn't -- I had to ask her to share!]

Hello This Dusty House readers! I’m Micha, and I blog over at A Little Old House about the daily chaos of turning a 1915s house into a home for my husband and I and our Little Man. While my blog was originally intended to keep family and friends in the loop about our house-buying adventure and the renovation, it has grown quite a bit  and I have a great time (virtually) meeting people who are in the same kind of boat. Nette from This Dusty House is one of my favorite online people and checking in on her and her projects is on my daily to-do list! So I’m freaking excited she asked me to swing by and guest post here at This Dusty House.

Realtors will always tell you that “kitchen and bathrooms sell houses”. I guess it must have been something else entirely that sold us on our houses because Nette and I both started our DIY life with both a mega kitchen and a bathroom remodel (among many other things).

When Nette started planning her bathroom remodel, she initially had her heart set on refurbishing a vintage dresser to a vanity (read about it here). Guess who was bouncing up and down over here, squealing “Me too! Me too!”? Yep, that’d have been yours truly. I’m a proud member of “Antiques Anonymous” and living in an almost 100 year old house in a a nationally registered Historic District is truly enabling. From the start we knew that the new master bathroom in our little old house would need some lovely vintage touches: a clawfoot tub, some darling mosaic tile and a special vanity to match.

Here are some fabulous, vintage inspired bathrooms to give you an idea!
[source: via pinterest/bathroom inspiration]

[via pinterest / bathroom inspiration]

Just like Nette, the idea of a vintage dresser turned vanity sent my heart all a-flutter. And just like Nette, I learned that the hardest part of making this project come true was finding the right kind of dresser for this kind of project. You see, there are a number of things you need to take into account when searching for the right kind of dresser
  • the maximum height depending on the style of sink you want to install (about 30 inches for a vessel sink and up to 36 inches for an under-mount or regular sink)
  • the minimum depth of your dresser to provide enough room to install sink -and- faucet
  • room for plumbing (drain and supply lines to the faucet) especially in regard to drawer use. Will there be any functioning drawers left for storage after you’ve run all of your plumbing line?
In my experience, your best bet (for installing a vessel sink) are … ta-daaa: vintage writing desks. These are also called knee-hole desks because they feature this cut-out aka ‘hole’ for you to put your knees. The height is right (usually around 29-30 inches), there’s enough depth for a sink and generally there are still drawers left on either side of the knee hole when you’re running the plumbing parts through the drawer in the center.

We were lucky, and after searching on and off for several months, we scored our vintage knee-hole desk for less than $50 at one of our local thrift stores not too long ago. I showed it off for the first time here. Look at those cute feet! Ohh, and those ring pulls! Just lovely! The carved detail on the center drawer and the curved front sent us over the edge and once more we loaded the roof rack of my trusted old Jeep with a great find.

Yours truly took care of refinishing and especially sealing the wooden top with Varathane to keep it safe from future spills and drops ,and then the husband went to work installing it in its rightful place: the master bath.

Here's now my dilemma. The husband installed it and I wasn't around to give a proper first hand report of the process. And while the husband is a writer by professional trade, he's also busy and keeps weird office hours which hardly coincide with my waking hours on week days. Not wanting to wait another week before sharing this adventure with you, here's what I know from love notes and quick questions.

Installing the necessary hardware for the plumbing ie cold and hot water line shut-offs wasn't hard at all, thanks to the updated plumbing here at the little old house. Husband was very grateful that there were no issues with mismatched plumbing pieces and ill-fitting substitutes. That made things a lot easier.
The process itself, installing a bowl sink and faucet on a desk, was just as straightforward and simple as it sounds (it's finding the right desk/dresser/buffet that's the hard part):
  1. drill holes for lines (faucet and drain)
  2. install drain and supply lines
  3. fasten sink and faucet
  4. check for leaks
Not all that hard and a lot less intimidating that we at first thought. That is, until husband started drilling the holes.
[Drill, baby, drill!]

Husband had asked me to position the vessel sink on the vanity/desk the way I liked it to mark the position for the following drilling for the drain. Then we had to repeat the same for the faucet's supply lines and fastening mechanism (a small metal plate and screws). Easy-peasy - I first eyeballed the position of the sink to where it felt right and then measured to make sure it was really centered.

Then husband started drilling.
And he drilled.
And drilled.
And kept on drilling.
He was drilling as if our desk's top were 10 inches thick instead of 3/4.

Ahh, the craftsmanship of bygone times!
The magnificent strength of aged mature wood!

The hardened wood of our vintage desk gave our drill and my husband quite a work-out. You might or might not have heard a few choice words. And smelled smoke.

[Peekaboo, I see you! It’s the new faucet (the way the drain sees it)]

But in the end the wood gave, the drill bit broke through and we had a hole just about big enough for the drain to sit nice and tight.
[All plumbed]

Here you can see how the drain runs through the desk top and the center drawer. We cut a rectangular slot into the top drawer so that we can still open the drawer and peek at the plumbing, just in case it springs a leak sometime down the line. After the sink was in place, husband put the faucet together, ran the plumbing lines through the opening he drilled into the desk and connected them.

[After: All done!]

[Close up and personal with our new vintage-style vanity and vessel sink]

Voila! A vintage desk turned vanity! We love how it turned out and how it adds a homey, yet classy touch to our vintage style master bathroom without overwhelming the space like one of those chunky massive modern vanities. I’m proud of husband how he handled this plumbing challenge and I’m ecstatic that we’re another step closer to an actual master bathroom.

[Gorgeous, isn't it? Make sure you pop on over to A Little Old House to visit Micha, her family, and of course her house! Thanks for guest posting with us today, Micha! I can't wait to see how the rest of that bathroom turns out!

Do you have a renovation project that you'd like to share? Drop us a quick email at thisdustyhouse at gmail dot com to let us know about it and discuss guest posting!]

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Weekend Of Dreaming

The paint is barely dry. There are patches that aren't filled. We still need to return the outlet and light switch covers to their appropriate spots.

But, we've already started planning the next round of renos. Are we crazy? Perhaps. This weekend, this planning involved hopping up into the attic and taking a peak around.

The attic is a large space, a large messy space, with a set of three beautiful dormer windows.

There's a little roof rot that eventually, we'll need to fix. But we have bigger plans for this space than that. Much, much bigger plans.

What do you think?

(Drawing not to scale, or perfect.)

Our walk-about upstairs, followed by two hours of perusing the building code and creating drawings and calculations by the Husband while I cooked proved that something like this will, actually, be possible. The ceiling height in the centre of the attic is perfect and, while the height disappears quite quickly, there is, yet, the right amount for a closet, and an ensuite bathroom. We've tossed around a few ideas about popping up the roof at the back and creating a second dormer to mirror the one at the front.

The potential of this space is exciting.

So, what's it going to take?

  • Stairs. Obviously.
  • Reinforcing the floor joists to support a floor.
  • Reinforcing and adding roof beams in order to remove columns and supports.
  • Proper insulation in the roof.
  • New windows.
  • Drywall.
  • Flooring.
And that's just to get the structural taken care of, just to turn the space into a room. It doesn't even touch the plumbing. It's a lot of work, but this time, I think we'll be ready for it. We have a whole winter to plan, and save, to order materials, to apply for building permits, to be ready for a frenzy of work.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Curried Carrot Soup

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am a little blown away by my level of contentedness today. I have so much to be thankful for, so much gratitude, so much love. I am among the few who live in a beautiful country full of first-world luxuries. My family is happy and healthy. I have 600 square feet of comfortable living space. I have so few worries, so few stresses, so few anxieties.

This is why we celebrate Thanksgiving, isn't it? Because don't we so often forget to be thankful? So often forget that not everyone is as fortunate to enjoy the luxuries we do? So often forget that it could all be gone with a single stroke of a Heavenly pen? So often forget that what we have on this Earth does not actually belong to us?

We planted carrot seeds. They grew. (Oddly shaped, yes; but still, they grew.)

I cleaned them.

Chopped them with some onion.

Simmered them for an hour, then blended them and served them for a Thanksgiving dinner with parent-friends. Oh, it was delicious.

So, today, I am thankful for this little patch of 25 by 150 feet land on which sits a little house, a little garage and a little garden.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Curried Carrot Soup

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 2 pounds carrots, chopped
  • 4 cups vegetable broth

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Stir in the curry powder. Add the chopped carrots and stir until coated. Add the vegetable broth. Simmer until the carrots are nice and tender.

With an immersion blender, puree the soup. Sprinkle with raisins or add a dollop of sour cream to serve.


Friday, October 7, 2011

Sorry, you'll have to eat from your lap

On Sunday, my grandparents came to see the house and enjoy a meal with us. It was a wonderful chance to catch up with some people who are important in our lives but whom we don't get to see very often and I truly appreciated their decision to face the traffic and unfamiliar driving situation to come see where we live.

Lunch was simple: tortilla wraps and chocolate chip cookies for dessert. All eaten from our laps.

Last night, we had dinner and wine with our basement friends. We plan to have dinner every Thursday, alternating cooking weeks. I made salmon, orange glazed carrots (from the garden!), and potatoes. Again, all eaten from our laps.

This weekend is Thanksgiving. (Remember, American friends: we're Canadian. We've been celebrating Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October since 1957.) We're having the in-laws come visit for lunch on Sunday. On Monday, I'm planning a delicious meal for just the Husband and I, complete with duck instead of turkey. I've never made duck. I might be slightly excited.

The problem?

I'm getting sick of this eating from our laps thing. Thinking about big Thanksgiving meals seems weird when there is no table involved.

Recently, we popped into a small local furniture store on a jaunt about town and drooled over the beautiful, expensive, solid, non-wobbly tables. This one in particular caught our fancy:

Very simple, but with a strong wood grain and a dark stain. Also, $1200, for the table alone.

Is there any way we could justify spending that much? We tried: it would be our one and only table purchase for the next 20 years. With its sturdy frame and thick, solid pine planks, it could take a good beating before it even starts to show it's age. And, perhaps getting something we really truly like would be worth $1200? I'm not sure the attempts at justification are working.

Perhaps tomorrow we'll do some proper shopping and see what we can find. No doubt, however, we'll be eating our big meals from our laps yet again.

What are your big Thanksgiving/Columbus Day plans? (Another bit of trivia: Canadian Thanksgiving and Columbus Day in the States have coincided since 1971. Thank you Wikipedia!) Enjoy your holidays, friends! Even though we'll be eating around a coffee table, I plan to enjoy ours.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Using the Walls (when there's not enough floor)

Remember our bathroom? It feels like it's been a long time finished, especially since it was the first thing to be finished in this house.

I love our bathroom. Really, I do. I don't love how long my hair has gotten and how difficult it is to clean it up and I don't love how many personal hygiene products we use every day and, therefore, don't ever put away. I don't love that this bathroom is organizationally challenged.

We are, however, on our way to fixing the problem.

The Husband and I are not unfamiliar with organizationally challenged, small spaces. In fact, since we got married, we have never lived in anything more than 600 square feet. This is why we just happen to have a number of shelves lying around -- when your floor space is limited, use your walls.

As the bathroom started to drive me insane with its cluttered vanity -- inside and out -- and its lack of pretty decor once the flowers died and the Husband's shaving cream and my contact lens stuff moved up to live permanently around the sink, I started half-heartedly bugging the Husband about putting a few of those shelves up.

Then, one night, he did the dishes. (Actually, he does dishes often enough...) It inspired me into a role reversal. I grabbed a drill, some drywall anchors, some screws, and one of the sets of Ikea shelves we've got kicking around, demanded some minimal help with holding things, and half an hour later, stepped back to admire my work.

They're perfect in the space, high enough above the toilet that it doesn't feel crowded and, if I find we need even more, there's still space enough to add a third. Soon, they'll be decked out with cosmetics- and cleaning-supply-hiding baskets so, hopefully, the vanity will be given a little break.

Perhaps one of these days I'll get to finishing the patch around that light switch and actually putting the cover on it...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Living Room Musings

Our living room has only changed a little since I last showed it to you, the day after we had moved out of our basement apartment and and into our above-ground half of the house. 

Since this picture, we've hung some mismatched curtains, squeezed in a too-large coffee table and wrapped the Poang chairs in afghans for a pop of colour. 

And for other reasons.

Mocha loves to romp in our back yard. For the first 4 months of homeownership, our back yard was a mud pit. Parts of it still are a mud pit, specifically where we and our basement friends plan to put in a garden next year. Because Mocha has no qualms about getting her feet dirty and then hopping up on her favourite white Poang chairs, these chairs took quite a beating. 

And then she hit puberty. Fellow female-dog owners who were a little slow in getting their dog spayed will know what I mean. 


I tried washing the covers. I think I threw them in the washing machine not just once but three times. I even bleached them. They're just too big to get properly cleaned. The ground in dirt is too far ground in and the other stains? I'm dreaming. We could replace the slip covers -- after all, they're not that expensive. For a temporary solution, I wrapped the cushions up in little used afghans, mismatched, holey and colourful.

But frankly?

I'm over the Poang chairs.

They were perfect for our rented condo and the price at the time was great -- we managed to pick them up in one of the 50% off sales, making them around $50 each. They're pretty comfy and often my go-to chair, even over the couch. But I've never loved them. I'm not a huge fan of the finish of the base and the more we use them, the more the cushions have started to become misshapen, lolling to the side, looking just a little drunk. Besides that, in this space, they seem a little off. Too tall perhaps? Too domineering, taking up too much wall space? I'm ready for a change.

And that's where this guy is going to come in:

I can already picture it replacing the the Poang chair on the right of the room in a colourful upholstery fabric with the perfect pillow and a new crocheted afghan over its arm. With the smaller foot print, this little tub chair will make opening the front door a little less awkward and allow us some extra space to put some hooks on the wall behind it for our coats, umbrellas, keys, and bags. It will allow space to breath.

(When I was hemming and hawing over it in the store, a woman who was looking at a huge, beautiful, ornate chesterfield beside me said, "Oh, it's such a cute chair, isn't it? It would be perfect for a bedroom." I smiled, replied, "It would, but I have such a small space, it's going to go in my living room!" This particular Value Village was in Richmond Hill, a suburb of Toronto with houses that could fit our whole house into two rooms.

Sometimes I wonder if we should have looked harder for something we could afford in Richmond Hill...)

Am I getting ahead of myself here? I haven't even had a chance to finish taking off all the green fabric yet!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

This is what I call an adventure

Have you ever taken any furniture apart? I'm sure some of you are pros at it, and probably even put it back together. Probably, if I hadn't 'met' a few of you through blogs and message boards, I would never have thought it actually possible to rip all the fabric off the outside of a piece of furniture and then recreate it more beautifully than it was before. I mean, theoretically, I've always known it possible. But that's something that's left to the pros, right?


On Saturday, I went thrifting. I wasn't looking for any living room furniture. Rather, I was looking for kitchen furniture. You know... a dining room set, stools for the counter bar, baskets to store things in, those kind of things. Instead, I found this:

It was the perfect size and I loved the shape. I know it will be perfect if I can only find the right fabric in which to upholster it. And, of course, actually do a decent job of upholstering it...

This was a risky purchase. I took some really rough measurements with a shopping bag, trundled it up to the cash (got a lecture for bringing it to the cash and not finding the guy in the furniture department who did not exist to help me) and lugged it out to my car with the help of my thrifting partner. Attempting to wrangle it into the trunk is pointless. The back doors refuse to open the last three necessary inches. With bated breath, we open the passenger side door and slide the car seat all the way back. And, with hardly any effort, my tiny little chair slid right in.

I spent the rest of Saturday afternoon ripping out nails, layer by layer of material. First went the skirt, a change that improved the chair ten fold immediately. Definitely not planning on putting that back on.

Then, the back, staple after staple.

I probably could have gotten away with leaving the cardboard backing and the batting on, but it was stapled on over the front piece. Unfortunately, it was not about to come off neatly -- there's no reusing it for anything but a template.

The front bit required some more removal of things that weren't fabric.

And finally, at the end of the day, I was left with just a little more to go: the green fabric on the back and the seat cushion. Hopefully, by this weekend, I can go shopping for the perfect fabric and all the other things I probably need: a staple gun, batting, cardboard backing, foam for the cushions, piping.

Feel free to point and laugh at the way I make my chin huge when I'm pulling on staples.

Have you ever reupholstered anything? Do you have any favourite tutorials or reupholstery blogs that might help me out?