O Christmas Tree

Christmas has come and gone and we’re about to start a brand new year. Now that I finally have a backyard again, I thought my little Christmas tree should get to start a brand new year, too.

IMG_0209Indoors, this nice bushy tree showed off all the lovely ornaments I’ve made, collected and been given over the years. I love how a beautifully adorned tree warms the home and the heart for a couple of weeks before Christmas. But soon after, I start getting itchy for normalcy in the living room. I rarely make until New Year’s Day.

This year, the tree was down on the 29th. In a fit of cleaning up, I hauled the tree outside and tied it to a stump. Here it will have a second life for the winter as a bird feeder…not to mention entertainment for the kitties.

IMG_0179Next I set to work making a feast for our feathered friends. I found instructions to make birdseed ornaments from a sort of paste made of flour, water, corn syrup and gelatin mixed with birdseed. I strayed from the instructions in terms of how I molded the mixture into ornaments.


A mini-bundt cake pan served as a mold to make six birdseed wreaths. The skin of halved clementines is perfect for little birdseed cups. Using pretty red string, I made hangers for the wreaths and cups plus some apple slices and then set them all in front of the fire to dry.

The decorations turned out beautifully and are hanging on the tree.

Now we wait to see if the menu is pleasing to the birds. I expect the boys will alert me when our guests arrive for dinner.



Painting the kitchen – part deux

Two weeks later and I’m still painting the kitchen. Not because anything has gone wrong. Just because it takes time to do the job right. And I’m very pleased with the results thus far. It’s truly a transformation in progress!

Kitchen before and after in progress

IMG_0255I’m using Benjamin Moore products on the cabinets. They have a paint called Advance which is a “waterborne interior alkyd.” It gives the hardness of oil-based paint but the low odour/VOC and easy cleanup of water-based. In fact, I’ve noticed that brushes come clean faster with this paint.

Their Stix primer went on first – plain white for “Chantilly Lace” on the upper cabinets and tile backsplash, and tinted grey for “Downpour Blue” on the lower cabinets. I was satisfied with two coats of blue but added one more coat of white to the exterior of the uppers as there was just a faint tinge of yellow showing in a couple of spots.

IMG_0290I’ve just started on the doors and they will take FOREVER. I only have room to paint half of them at time, I can only paint one side at a time, and the Advance paint needs 16 hours to dry. OK so that means they will take 12 days (six days per batch), not FOREVER. Still…

Since it only takes about an hour to paint one side of half the the cabinet doors, I’m also working on kitchen trim, basement door, and back door while I have the primer and paint open. Soon I’ll get gleaming white paint on those tired tan walls, too. I look forward to putting a couple of shelves where a cabinet used to be, with a wire Ikea rack that I had in the kitchen of my first house underneath it. This will be one of the ways that I feature my pretty cobalt blue glassware. (That mess in the background is my entire kitchen waiting to be unpacked.)IMG_0289

A few pro painting tips I’ve picked up over the years:

Pro tip #1 – Caulk all the gaps between trim and wall and between bits of trim. Messy but worthwhile work. Also countersink any protruding nail heads and fill in the holes.

Pro tip #2 – Paint your trim first and don’t worry about getting a little paint on the wall. It’s easier to cut wall paint into the trim versus the other way around.

IMG_0251Pro tip #2 – When painting baseboards, keep on hand a wet rag, a putty knife, and a taping knife (it’s a drywall tool). You can use the large blade of the taping knife to avoid touching the floor when cutting in, just wipe it after ever use and rinse the rag frequently. If you make a boo boo, wrap the rag around the putty knife for a precision cleanup. Or if you’re pretty good at cutting in, just use the putty knife/rag trick.

Pro tip #4 – Invest in good quality paint that will cover well and stand the test of time. The paint for the cabinets was my third largest investment in this kitchen makeover. My online research suggests that the Benjamin Moore products I chose will do the trick. I can report that the coverage is good. Only time will tell how well it stands up to my cooking adventures.

pulloutsThe second largest investment was the wire rack pullouts for the lower cabinets. They are replacing shallow shelves that were difficult to reach. They are $100+ a pop for the sizes I got, and I got four of them, plus some racks to line up cookie sheets etc. Do the math. But I have used these before and if you can’t have a bank of nice deep kitchen drawers, these are the next best thing and, by comparison, much cheaper. I also picked up an Ikea pullout thingie for the corner cabinet…it’s still in the box, cross fingers that it will work in this space.

IMG_0287The largest investment, which I’ve not yet made, will be a new fridge. All the appliances will be replaced over time, along with the countertop and sink. But the fridge is a priority. What where these people thinking? I can’t imagine wanting a side-by-side fridge that dispenses water and ice badly enough to buy one that’s too big for the spot where it’s supposed to go. I’ve had the water line removed and capped in the basement. If there is no fridge sale soon, I might just break down and pay full price for a right-size one because this is driving me bananas.

knobThe finishing touch to this kitchen will pulls and  knobs. I am nervous about drilling new holes (measure 17 times, drill once!) so I’m minimizing how much of that I need to do. I filled one of the two holes in each door and will put a brushed nickel knob in the other. Some of the drawer pulls fit the existing holes. Under the sink and stove, there were drawer pulls on sets of “fake drawers” (decorative panels). Cross fingers my plan will work to install one long pull spanning each set so there will be places to hang tea towels.

Stay tuned for part trois – the final reveal!


Five years later…

May 15 is always a strange day. Sometimes it’s heavy, sometimes it’s not so bad, but it’s always strange to count another year that my brother has been gone.

On this day in 2013, it was exceptionally heavy. My marriage and dream of motherhood had just ended. I was a teary, bleary-eyed mess on the couch in the locker room at the YMCA, pouring the heaviness of my battered heart into a blog post. Avoiding returning to the turmoil of the place where I lived.

Throughout my brief marriage, I never felt that the place where I lived was truly home. I always felt like an outsider. During the condo years, it was better but still not “me” and I could never bring myself to call it home.

And here I am. Five years later. Sitting in my comfy red chair in my den. Looking at my tool box and painting supplies sitting neatly on the floor. Thinking about all the little things I’m doing to put my stamp on this house.

This house that will truly be my home.

I think my brother would be proud of that.



Painting the kitchen

IMG_0217Since my last post, there’s been no time for contemplating life, the universe and everything. I’ve been too busy buzzing around my new house, fixing this and that and getting ready to paint the kitchen.

And I mean all of it. Every square inch that’s paintable is getting a fresh coat, including that busy backsplash.

I did the same thing in my first house so I felt well prepared for the job. Remove doors and hardware, clean everything with TSP, give it all a light sanding, then prime and paint. Easy peasy.

IMG_0212But then everything got harder.

First, I couldn’t find a Robertson screwdriver to fit the screws. The only solution was to hammer the closest matching screwdriver into every single screw to get them to turn. There are just two hinges left on a weird spice cabinet that I’ve yet to wrestle off.

During this struggle, the second of three lightbulbs burned out, making it even harder to see what I was doing. I went to replace the old incandescent bulbs and discovered that one of them was broken. So off with the power and out with the pliers and in with new LED bulbs.


With the brighter light, it became apparent that the ceiling needed a fresh coat. So I did a super fast job, not worrying about tidily cutting in because the walls will be getting a coat of white soon enough.

Then I moved on to cleaning. The ickiest part of this project, by far. I’ve never seen such a filthy kitchen. I mean, it showed well enough when I viewed the house but even then, I could see there was built up dust and grease on the cabinets.

IMG_0218So I wasn’t entirely shocked (although totally grossed out) by the extent of the grime. Decades of it. I used nearly an entire 1.8 litre carton of TSP and did a whole lot of scrubbing to get it all clean. Well, mostly clean. Heaven knows what spilled in one of the lower cupboards but some of it is so securely adhered in grooves in the wood that it will just have to stay there.

At least I got a funny story out of it. When I got to the cupboard above the fridge, lo and behold were a dozen bottles of booze. Quite a variety. I started to box them up so the seller could have them back and I discovered some more interesting indulgences of the mind-altering nature. And, IMG_0200randomly, three measuring tapes, which are the only things in this treasure trove I’d have been likely to use.

So I’m developing an image of the older lady who lived here, drinking her cocktails and puffing on her “herbs,” not giving a hoot about the housecleaning. Maybe she’s on to something.

But I’d prefer to paint.

Stay tuned for the second half of the kitchen painting adventure.



2 living roomI’m sitting in my red chair having my coffee, taking in the view of evergreens and budding maples, listening to the early morning conversations of the birds and the squirrels.

The view is partially obscured by a mountain of furniture, because this is my last quiet morning here in my condo. Tomorrow, the movers will be here to whisk away four and a half years of life from this space.

It’s for a fantastic reason – I’ve found my forever home. A lovely, 70-year-old house in a great neighbourhood, closer to the peninsula. It’s the closest I can come to being back where I belong in my old house in the west end, the house I never should have left.

This move makes me feel like my life is back on track. Not going to the same destination as I’d once imagined, but no longer lost and pushing through the muddy bog to get back home. I could never bring myself to call the condo home, it was just the place where I lived. My new house will truly be home and I can’t wait to start nesting in it.

Still, as much as I’ve looked forward to this moment, there is more of a twinge than I’d expected at the thought of leaving the condo. I felt it first when I put the condo on the market. I was struck by how much growth happened here. Holy moly, I’ve grown!

Moe and Joe watching the nature channel.

There is also the feeling that I’m leaving Moe and Joe behind. This was the last home for each of them before they had to go to the big sun spot in the sky. Being in a new space that they’ve never touched with their paws and purrs emphasizes the end of that feline era.

But there will be more cats. And more growth. And lots of painting. And Christmas trees. And baking and gardening. And quiet moments with coffee taking in the view of a lovely green garden and listening to the early morning conversations of the birds and the squirrels.


Windows down

Had moment of pure bliss a couple of days ago. I’d spent a few hours hiking a trail that’s nearly 100% steep, rocky up and down. It was a hot, humid day and I was soaked with sweat by the end. But I didn’t want that “sitting in a refrigerator” feeling you get with air conditioning.

So as I headed home, I took the slower secondary highway so that I could leave the windows open. Flipped on the radio and started singing along with Corey Hart (Never Surrender) at the top of my lungs. Then John Cougar Mellencamp (Small Town). Then Phil Collins (You Can’t Hurry Love).

It was re-living a little bit of 80s heaven.

Since the invention of air conditioning, this classic experience seems a bit of a rarity. We insulate ourselves from the outdoors when we blast the AC. Yes, you can hear the tunes better. But it’s just not the same.

Bombing down the highway, wind ruffling hair, sun beaming down, tunes cranked, the saltiness of the ocean air. And singing. And smiling.

I need to do more of this. Having lived most of my adult life without a car, I tend to use mine mostly for practical things like groceries. I forget that I can use it to escape. And now that I’ve finished my masters degree (yay!), I have no excuse.

More road trips. More open windows. More fun!



It’s a dark, rainy Sunday, although it could be any day of the week, I’m on vacation and barely aware of what day it is. Moe and I are having a cozy couch day watching Harry Potter movies. I swear he was actually watching for a while, but then the call of the cat nap was stronger than the call to defeat Voldemort. A kitty’s got priorities.

photo 1-1Anyway, a rainy couch day calls for delicious baked goods so I tried out a recipe for dark chocolate ginger pear scones.

I didn’t have any ginger to grate so I added extra candied ginger. I found they needed the full 20 minutes in my oven.

The result – simply delicious, warm and comforting with a cup of coffee, kitty, and The Half Blood Prince.

photo 3-1