Thursday, November 29, 2012

Snowflakes and Silver Bells

It started to snow this afternoon - very light, sparkling, swirling snowflakes. I can see them collecting on the roof of my neighbour's house and as it's nearing the end of November I suddenly realized that Christmas is less than a month away. TJ is leaving for Ireland on the 15th of December, abandoning me for three weeks while he partakes in the Belfast Christmas market, family sessions at the Vintage and New Years Day at the Woodville. We want to have somewhat of a Christmas season together before he goes so I've started sorting through boxes, looking for decorations. Doing so, what I've come to realize is that what worked in our apartment is definitely not going to work in this house. What a great reason to go shopping for Christmas decorations, am I right?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Green thumbs...and pinkies and palms

We decided to take a little break from indoor renovations last weekend and focus a little bit on the outside portion of our house before it became too cold to even think about going outside. We haven't really shown a lot of our yard, and to be honest, there really isn't much to see other than a lot of overgrown gardens. Just like the inside, the outside has a lot of work to be done. And, just like the inside, we started out not knowing a whole lot about outdoorsy type work, but hauling into it anyway!

Mum and dad had actually come over the weekend before to help us out by tilling up a patch of yard that we're hoping to use as a veggie garden next year. Hopefully the area they tilled up is within our yard's boundries - we measured in a very technical manner that included standing at the end of the driveway and marching around in big steps and counting out loud in very big voices. Once we were happy with our garden area they had to do a lot of raking and digging through a mess of bleeding heart and rhubarb roots. After an entire afternoon filled with visits from neighbourhood dogs, we finally had a garden patch.

This past weekend, TJ and I braved the weather, which had turned really really cold all of a sudden. Sadly, we had no choice as the Waste Watch fall clean up pick up date was the following Monday and our yard definitely needed a clean up. The lady who lived here before was an avid gardener, and actually had some really beautiful gardens full of a huge variety of flowers. One of my favourites was even in there - Lily of the Valley. Sadly, it hasn't been taken care of in the last few years, and everything has just gone haywire. Plants everywhere. And rocks. Lots of rocks. Also leaves. And about 5 million chestnuts, thanks to the giant chestnut tree that stands in prime position to drop every single chestnut into our pathetic garden.

TJ stepped up and took care of one job that I really hate - piling wood.

I was kind enough to help him load it into the truck. After that, he was on his own. And I was on my own to tackle the backyard.

The largest picture is the view off of our deck. The brownish mess that takes up the bottom of the picture is a giant flower bed. It actually doesn't look so bad at this point now that the plants have all died off for the winter. In the summer you couldn't tell what was in there at all, it had just all grown together. After some excavation, we found out that it had actually been built in tiers. Kind of neat. In the other pictures you can see our little garden shed, as well the the view from the back of the yard beside the pine trees.

In this set of pictures, you can see our tilled up veggie garden. Then, clockwise from the top middle we have yet another weird garden under the pine trees, a poppy garden under the windows of our reading porch, the view looking from our backyard up to the street, the side garden under our living room window, and then another garden beside the shed belonging to our neighbours. A little hard to tell what's what if you haven't been to visit us yet.

And a close up of the tiered garden that I was "fixing" this particular weekend. What you can't tell from this picture is that buried under the leaves and chestnuts is an entire garden full of rocks and a large underground city of iris roots that have somehow all grown together to create this root system maze that will eventually have to be completely dug out of the ground in the spring. Not that it matters, because we'll have to dig out all of those giant pieces of wood that are creating the tiers of the garden anyway. Other garden plans include a bulldozer and a bunch of grass seed.

Actually no, maybe that's being a little hasty. I think I'll keep the lily of the valley and the lemongrass plant.

Anyway, it took all day and then another day, but we finally have the garden completely raked and most of the irises are at least sheared down to just the roots. Despite this, it actually looks worse than before. It could be the abandoned wheelbarrow that's been pushed over onto its side in a fit of coldness and frustration, but then again, it could just be the garden. Right now I'm hoping that the snow comes soon and covers it all up so I don't have to think about it until the spring.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


We've spent the last few weeks settling into the house, unpacking boxes, STILL PAINTING, and trying to establish some kind of routine. It's really strange having two floors to ourselves and so many rooms. Sometimes I lose TJ and have to call out "Marco!" and wait for him to answer "Polo!" from whatever area of the house he's in. We're still trying to find places to put things away and realizing it's hard to find spaces to fit in furniture because the majority of our walls have either a window, door or cast iron radiator on them (and sometimes several windows, doors or cast iron rads....) so there's only a small selection of areas to put furniture. The hardest one to place is my giant haberdashery cabinet and I'm beginning to worry that I might have to get rid of it.

Our reading room and sun porch aren't done yet and are currently being used as storage for furniture, tools and various building supplies, so I haven't been able to set up our actual reading spaces, so I'm beginning to find other favourite little spots for reading, which is great. I love finding those cozy spaces that are perfect for snuggling in a warm blanket with a book and cup of coffee, where the light comes in from the window and hits in just the right spot.

To make things even cozier, we had our flue examined and cleaned, and were given the ok to use our fireplace insert. TJ was very excited about this. I, of course, panicked.

Do you see that sheer look of man-setting-fire-to-things-induced-excitement in the first photo? Luckily, wood that has been stored in the basement for 30 years, as well as 28 year old newspapers (March 12, 1984) make for very dry burning materials, which will go up in flame quickly, and then be done. Our first fire was short and sweet. After restocking, the next fire lasted a little longer, and heated up the first floor of the house enough to make the smoke detector go off. And no, it was not because we forgot to open the flue. This thing gives off heat!! TJ made lots of plans for how we can cook things when the power goes off, as well as how we can seal off the living room and make a cave that will keep us alive until the power comes back on. I'm not sure what storm he's preparing for, but he's very certain it's coming this winter. Fair warning to everyone reading this, start preparing now.

We also celebrated our 8th anniversary over the Remembrance Day weekend. Our gift to ourselves was a chef's table and two stools, which TJ stained and finished just in time for a nice dinner.

(No, we didn't indulge in a full bottle of straight vodka, we just ran out of wine bottles during our last home brewing session)

It's starting to feel more like home now, though it still looks like a bomb site. I can't wait for the day when I wake up on a Sunday morning and can just come downstairs for a cup of coffee and sit in the reading room without having to think of the 5 million projects that still need to be done. Speaking of which, the sun is out and the frost is starting to melt from the trees, so it's time to get back in my jungle garden. More on that later!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Alive and moved in!

Finally, internet!!!! We're back in the land of the living after many phone calls to Bell Aliant and many days of waiting for a technician who never showed up when they were supposed to....we're connected...and this means blog updating! 

This is going to be a huge update. Fair warning.

When we last left off, my dad was beginning to cut in the living room. I've tried cutting in before. It's not pretty. It requires a steady hand, a sharp eye and lots of patience, none of which are particular strengths of mine. Therefore, it's been up to pretty much anyone else to do the cutting in. Maybe they'll also eventually fix all the little spots around the house where I practiced. Anyway, before we bought this house, I didn't realize how much work actually has to go into painting. First, all of the rooms had to be seam filled so they wouldn't look like they had great big craters carved into the walls. Even with the seam filling, some of the rooms are still a bit dubious. Then everything had to be covered in a coat of primer - latex for the walls, oil for the trim. The ceilings had to be rolled 3 times. Then the rooms need to be cut in with colour. They each get 2-3 coats of colour, and the trim needs 2-3 coats of actual paint as well. Then there's those practice spots that I mentioned before which will eventually need touching up. Anyway, this is what it looks like after the first coat of colour. You can really see all the spots where the seam filler had been because the paint really soaks into those areas. I promise that it looks fine when it dries. The colour we chose for the living room is called Wythe Blue, and I think it might be my favourite colour in the entire house.

After the living room, we started in on the hallway. This was the one colour I wasn't 100% certain about. When it went on the first wall, I almost made my dad put the cover back on the paint can. I thought that it looked way too brown and it didn't go with the colour in the kitchen at all. We decided to paint a few more spots and then wait overnight and come back in the day to see if it looked any better. Luckily, it did. It still looks somewhat brownish in these photos, most likely because I took them at night and ignored my camera settings. The colour is called Revere Pewter. It runs up the stairs and throughout the upstairs hallway as well.

We then moved on to the bedrooms. The smallest one turned a pretty shade of blue, but I can't remember the name and the paint chip is currently in the back of my dad's truck. It looked pretty dark at first but seemed to lighten up once all the walls were finished. The second room was painted with Winter Grey….which actually looks more like lilac purple. I like the purple, but was really hoping for more of a grey tone. Maybe this room will get a paintover someday down the road. Like after all those stops at Winter Projectsville and Summer 2013 Land, plus all the pitstops through OhGreat,WhyDidWeBuyAnOldHouse County.

Shane's weekend project was finishing up the tiling in our shower and laying the tile for the floor. There was a sign saying not to walk on the floor, but of course I didn't see it (I told you, sharp eyes = not my strength) and I walked on the floor. So now there's one part that's particularly tiled down. We also put a little bit of colour on the wall so the plumber could come and install the sink and toilet. 

You may have noticed the lovely mural, which has been a joint effort between myself, TJ, Shane, and some of his men. First, it was a unicorn. Then it turned into a mermaid unicorn. Then it turned into a disgruntled French mermaid unicorn with a shark fin. If you look closely, you can see that now there is a little man dressed in a fox suit riding the disgruntled French unicorn mermaid with the shark fin that bears an uncanny resemblance to Jeff Paynter. I'm going to be sad when our mural has to go and gets replaced with a boring old door.

TJ decided to hang the doors back on the closet in the master bedroom. Everything was fine until it was not. Apparently door hanging is a two person kind of job. Luckily Shane, who had moved to painting the hallway, heard TJ's cries for help. 

 He immediately sprang into action, arriving in the master bedroom in record speed to fix the hinges and save TJ from a lifetime (or 5ish years, whenever we sell the house) of crookedly hung closet doors. Crisis averted.

Finally, all the rooms were painted with at least 2 coats of colour and 1 coat of trim. That meant they were almost move in ready.


At this point, we decided to take up the paper in the first room to be 100% complete. We then held a ribbon (tape) cutting ceremony.

All of this took place over the week leading up to and including the October 26/28th weekend. Like I said in my previous post, big push to get into the house by the end of October. Finally, it was time to move in.

It turns out that we have a lot of stuff. 

It also turns out that moving is really awful, and our worst nightmare is having to do it again some day. We took a quick "first night in our new home" picture on the couch, and then settled in for the night. Not pictured: us playing "What's That Noise?" and me requesting that we sleep with the closet light on.

We made it through the first night relatively unscathed. Then began the long days of unpacking our belongings and trying to figure out where everything should go. This is not an easy task when most of your furniture is in the sunporch and is too heavy to be carried up the stairs by anyone in their right mind. I decided to wait for reinforcements to arrive on the weekend. I also had to wait for appliances to turn up - this was a long three days. We ate a lot of crackers and Halloween candy. Life is not fun without a refrigerator full of nice things. 

Let it be known far and wide that I'm in love with our appliances. Particularly the dishwasher. Having lived without a dishwasher for two years, I can confidently say that our new one is now replacing TJ as the love of my life. I think he understands, especially as he is also particularly fond of the dishwasher. The washer and dryer run a close second, as the ones we were using last made my pants all fuzzy and soapsudsy. For the first time in my life, I'm looking forward to doing laundry. Our stove is also very lovely - it has two super burners which can be used as small burners or giant burners. There's also a warming element so the potatoes don't get cold when you forget that they finish cooking earlier than turnips and carrots, even though your mother always reminds you of this whenever you have dinner at her house. And it's CLEANS ITSELF. This is very important because, as any female writer should be, I am wary of sticking my head in an oven. 

 And then there's the fridge. It's giant. I looked in it tonight once all of our groceries were put away and was shocked to find nothing on the shelves. All of our food fits into the door compartments. I was very surprised. Either we eat less than I thought we did or we just eat a lot of condiments and nothing else (other than cold potatoes and undercooked turnips and carrots). Anyway, our kitchen and laundry room are looking MUCH nicer today. Especially the kitchen, because our chef's table also arrived. It needs to be finished (staining and painting will take place in the near future, hopefully) and we also need to find some stools that are tall enough. Now all the kitchen needs is a few touch ups of green paint, another coat of trim paint, some more baseboard, and the window trim needs to be primed and painted. Then it will be all ready!

The living room is also looking much nicer these days. It was the first room to have the paper taken off the floor. It was also the first room to have giant scratches put into the floor. If you come to visit, please pretend that you don't notice the giant scratches. You should have no trouble as long as you avoid looking under the couch. There's still a lot to be done - the mantle needs another coat of paint, and then we need to find curtains and another chair, and probably rearrange it several thousand times. We also need to extend the hearth around the fireplace insert and have the flue cleaned. Luckily for us, there's an experienced fireman who lives across the road in case anything goes wrong. I feel that this was a good move on our part.

This house has come such a long way from when we first came to take a look. There's still a lot of work to be done, but it feels amazing to finally be living here. We've had our first cups of coffee, first showers, and now, our first blog update. I can't wait until we finally get it to the stage where we can invite people in. Now that the main projects are complete, our posts will start to show all of the little things that need to be done to really make this place into a home. We're starting to get really picky with all of the small details! It doesn't help that now I am trained to look for tiny imperfections. I caught myself at school the other day thinking "Hmmm, if I had a caulking gun and some paint I could probably make this classroom look a whole lot better." I expect that I'll soon have my own home improvement show. Should be any day now.