Snow falling on Elmvale

It’s snowing outside and some flakes might just stick. It looks like a giant used an enormous sifter to sprinkle icing sugar all over Elmvale.

I’m sitting on the couch with Odie. JF is re-stringing his guitar. I’ve lit a few candles, cranked up Lady in Satin, and put on some slippers. We’re admiring the fluffy white puffs as they plummet from the night sky.

Odie's head and my slippers

Odie’s head and my slippers

For the first time in months, we’re enjoying a weekend with no plans in it. So far we’ve made a surprisingly cathartic trip to the Midland dump, watched the first three (decidedly unredeemable) episodes of Star Wars, and puttered around the house.

On quiet days like these, I’m so very grateful for everything I have: a caring partner, a giant smelly dog, a loving family, a rickety (but safe and warm) home, amazing friends, a good job, Tobias, and easy access to delicious doughnuts.

Not to mention the hundreds of knick knacks that bring me comfort and joy. I’ve just put up a few well-worn Christmas treasures. And I ’m so excited to hang our Christmas lights tomorrow!

I hope you’re just as nestled and cozy (and lucky) as I am, wherever you’re reading this.

xo

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Brittle joy

I’m feeling philosophical this rainy evening. My giant, smelly dog is snuggled next to me on the couch. I’m drinking black tea with milk (a habit I picked up from dad) and pondering a pretty big concept: happiness.

I think I have a wellbeing spectrum. I can be mopey one week, incandescently happy the next. Some things (JF, Odie, family, friends) boost me up the scale, others (bills, illness, work stress) shove me down.

I’m fortunate to have spent more time in joy than in sadness. I think it’s because my mom trained me to find pleasure in little things like watching old movies, picking blackberries, and reading good books.

I work at seeing and recognizing those happiness-boosters every day, because they tip the balance in joy’s favour. And sometimes it is work – important work that prevents the bad stuff from swallowing me up. Joy can be brittle.

Today, I don’t have to work at anything. I’m feeling glad and grateful for so many reasons. Here are my top 10:

  • New stained glass window: For two years, we’ve lived with a broken windowpane over our front door. Now, thanks to local artist Renee Havers, our hallway is lit by a beautiful, coloured work of art.
  • Visits with good friends: I have a lot of kind, funny and smart people in my life. Lately, I’ve spent time with many of them over food or tea.
Mireille and I watched the Jays' game and coloured. It was pretty great.

Mireille and I (intently) watched the Jays’ game and coloured. It was pretty great.

  • Fall walks with Odie: I adore fall. And the colours this autumn have been spectacular, so I’ve been sporting my blundstones and sweaters on local trails, with my giant pup.
This is the route we take most mornings. It's been really beautiful lately

This is the route we take most mornings. It’s been really beautiful lately

  • Magic Mike and Mary: Turns out we needed a handywoman, not a handyman! Mary has already connected the two back decks. And Mike, a family friend, came by to install a back porch light. Thank you both.
Tada! Bigger and better back deck! (ignore the leaves, we need to rake)

Tada! Bigger and better back deck! (ignore the leaves, we need to rake)

  • My wedding dress is in: I’m trying so hard to be practical about this whole wedding business, but I was pretty excited to pick up my dress – a generous gift from my mom.
  • Lists of love: Some of my most prized possessions are handwritten lists of reasons I’m loved. I keep them in my wallet for those days when I’m feeling glum. Two friends recently created new lists that were truly soul-nurturing.
Toot toot!

Toot toot! Thanks Lainers.

  • New bras: Wearing these, I feel like a new woman. If you haven’t gone for a fitting, I highly recommend Secrets from Your Sister. They cost a pretty penny, but bras that fit are like shoes that fit – they just makes sense. 
  • Time with avo: My grandma makes me laugh and offers me valuable pieces of wisdom. I’ve really enjoyed seeing lots of her lately. She also made me these awesome, elven slippers. Thanks, avo!
Slippers knit by my grandma = awesome

Slippers knit by my grandma = awesome

  • Thanksgiving: A holiday for food and family – two of my favourite things. This past long weekend, I saw many beloved cousins and my old roomie Steph. I also checked out the Elmvale Fall Fair and ate until I had to undo my pants.
  • A clean home: We spent a full day giving the house a good clean, and it felt great. For those hard-to-reach nooks, we found a local cleaning lady who charges $25 an hour (cue Enya).

But as lucky as I’ve been lately, I’ll never take joy for granted. Because sometimes life can be tough as pushups after months of slothfulness, or as harsh as hail in May.

 

Updates from my little life

It looks like my blog has settled into a new pace – monthly posts. I hope you all don’t mind!

Here’s some recent news from my little life.

We’re eating well, mostly

JF and I decided to eat better and cut out wheat, dairy and sugar for three weeks. The goal? Reset our habits. So long tostitos dinners, hello buddha bowls! Minus a few slip ups (ahem, sweet potato fries) we’re doing quite well. My energy levels are up and I’m feeling less bloated. My doughnut cravings subside a bit every day.

Kale salad - yum!

Kale salad – yum!

We signed up for an organic produce delivery service

In Toronto, I always wanted sign up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program but couldn’t seem to find the right one. I thought Elmvale was a CSA-free zone until my friend Doug sent me this link. Organics Live is reasonably priced, all organic and mostly local. And they deliver to my house every Thursday. It’s only been two weeks but I’m in love.

We’re advocating for a dog park in Elmvale

We want a dog park in Elmvale for the Odester. He loves playing with friends at parks in Wasaga and Midland. Imagine how often we could take him if it was down the street? If you agree, email our awesome councillor Katy Austin to let her know. She’s at katy.austin@springwater.ca.

Wedding planning is progressing

We decided to have our shindig at JF’s parents’ house (merci, Elise et Roger!) for so many reasons. It’s beautiful, it’s free, and it’s close to home. I’ve also picked out my dress, selected flowers, sent out a bunch of save the dates (thanks Eunah!) and made a few decorations with family members. So far, it’s all still fun. Ask me how I feel in a few months.

This is a bad photo of Owen and I, but it kind of shows our photo booth wall

This is a bad photo of Owen and I, but it kind of shows our photo booth fabric wall

We’re looking for a handyman

After months of grappling with house renovations (mostly JF re-sealed windows while I puttered in the garden) we’ve realized we need some help. So if you know someone who does drywalling, painting and minor electrical, please send them our way!

First target - the dropped ceiling in the mudroom

First target – the dropped ceiling in the mudroom

A local artist is making a stained-glass window for our hallway

The pane of glass above our door has been cracked since we bought the house. We’ve just comissioned a serious upgrade. Local artist Renée Havers is making a piece that should look a little like the inspiration image below. In the meantime, we’re making do with plywood. Sad face.

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There are probably other things to share, but my brain’s settling into post-dinner Star Trek zombieness. Suffice to say, we are well.

Garden progress

My mother’s garden is beautiful – a layered work of art. My mémère’s garden had a spectacular assortment of roses and lilacs, perfectly pruned. My avo’s garden is full of robust vegetables, and blooms that smell like her islands. They all putter in big hats.

Yet, their skill continues to elude me – like their cooking genes. I’ve got a black thumb and it sucks. BUT, like Charlie Brown with his football, I keep trying anyway. And lately, I’ve actually made some progress.

  1. I put a lot of tasty plants in pots. They help me with mojitos, pizza and salad.
Herby pots

Herby pots. Mmmmmm.

2. With help from Helena, Fina, Andy and Owen, I added a new garden bed. Don’t ask me to identify plants.

Plants donated by my mother and my aunt, plus the lilac bush JF bought me to honour mémère

Plants donated by my family, plus the lilac bush JF bought me to honour mémère

3. I expanded my herb garden. Problem is, I already had all the “normal” herbs. So if you ever need sweet woodruff or russian sage give me a call.

Herb garden

Plus some ferns and a bush from Heather and Jerry that I can’t seem to identify. Anyone know what it is?

4. We have beautiful old trees and little sunlight. That means a lot of hostas.

I've added some trumpet vines and bee balm to this garden bed

I’ve added some trumpet vines and bee balm to the hostas

5. I added forsythia and creeping jenny to this garden bed. David is looking solemn and beautiful as ever.

David, peeking through the lilies and hostas.

David, peeking through the lilies and hostas

6. I created a shade garden last year. No flower will ever bloom in this dark corner, but it’s starting to look green and happy.

Hostas, hostas all around

Hostas, hostas all around

7. This is my hopeless cause. The hostas, ferns and hydrangeas are filling in nicely. So is this creeping evil plant that is temporarily pretty but then just swallows up everything else.

So, so, so full of weeds, punctuated by hostas

So, so, so full of weeds, punctuated by hostas

There are tons of other problem spots (a weedy stone path, those damn dandelions, illogical decks) but I feel like I’ve made some progress. I’m celebrating the small wins.

It’s not my mom’s garden, but it’s something.

The view from here

I’ve struggled to write lately, because there’s at once so much and so little to say. Life – full of to dos, visits and meetings – is blasting by at warp nine. Yet, it all feels rather pleasantly humdrum.

But instead of letting you believe I’ve been eaten by Odie, my blog left to wither tragically, I thought I may as well share some updates from Elmvale.

1. The Lefaive girls are back in business

Gen has returned from the distant land of Guelph to eat mom’s food and work at ye olde Disco Harbour. It’s been great to see her more regularly.

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2. Odie is a sweet terror

He playfully flattens all children. JF says his wagging tail feels like a bludger to the crotch. He also accidentally crushes your toes when accosting you for affection. On the upside, he now knows how to sit AND walk on a leash (little victories!).

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3. Wedding plans are progressing

We have a location, a tent, a caterer, flowers, a dress and an officiant. Plus a lovely friend has offered to make 100 invitations by hand. Please make note of their loveliness when you get yours.

4. We’re regularly visiting the sands of our youth

We splurged and bought a Tiny Township beach pass for Tobias. I’m pissed at the cottagers who erect barriers (physical and metaphysical) to keep locals out – my family has been using these beaches a century longer than yours! – but glad this option for pseudo access still exists. Here’s to the smell of coppertone.

3183_10151304130796177_1713857898_n5. I joined another board

Yes I know, I was just whining about how busy I am. But I couldn’t say no. It’s with La Clé – an organization that’s vital to the health and well-being of the local francophone community. I’m delighted to represent both my hometown and my age bracket.

6. My garden has expanded

Helena and Owen devoted a whole day to helping me create a new garden bed in the yard. It’s looking a little sparse, but (finally!) intentional.

7. My choir did another concert

Minus a few terrifying bars, it was quite good. We were mostly on key and everything. And I always feel good after singing with friends.

8. The 2015 Humber High reunion took place

The gals from PR school do an annual general meeting. It always includes food and shenanigans. This time, we had a big breakfast then went to Body Blitz, sat around in warm water all day, and talked. It rocked.

No one likes a bathing suit photo poster, so here's last year's AGM

No one likes a bathing suit photo poster, so here’s last year’s AGM

9. I painted a wolf

Or rather, a wolf cutout, at Quest Art. Several acrylic-splattered howlers, including mine, will be available at le Festival du Loup through a silent auction benefiting both the gallery and local francophone musicians. Win win!

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10. We bought a Roomba

This shouldn’t be news, but this little round robot is so beautiful to me. He whirls around, bumping into furniture, happily beeping and sucking up dirt. We’ve named him Rambo and I dedicate this song to him.

I think that’s kind of it, folks! I figure since I’m getting as granular as dirt on my floor, it’s probably time to stop. The road goes ever ever on (how many nerd references can I fit into one blog post?).

‘Tis autumn

Fall is my favourite season by about sixty miles. I can see why summer-lovers adore our sunnier months, but to me they just can’t compete with rainbow-coloured forests, Blundstone-friendly temperatures, and hot apple cider.

This is my favourite sweater in the universe. It makes me look like a big burnt marshmallow, but it's delightfully warm and cozy.

This is my favourite sweater in the universe. It makes me look like a big burnt marshmallow, but it’s delightfully warm and cozy.

That weird and instantly recognizable autumn smell — like burning cedar or decaying leaves — was in the air this morning. This afternoon, I walked through a store filled with bright, plastic-wrapped binders and colourful crayons. I just pulled my favourite sweaters out of storage. Those things shouldn’t make me happy, but they just do.

I’ve been thinking about why and I suspect it’s because when I was little, September was the only month I got new shoes. Maman, Alicia and I would go to Naturestep at the Midland Mall and try every pair that might fit our feet. It was wonderful. Should I mentally accord so much importance to something so material? Probably not. But I honoured that tradition today anway and picked up some woolly flats.

New woolly grey shoes.

New woolly grey shoes.

As I sit at the edge of this season of renewal (on my couch, of course), I’m pondering where JF and I have been and where we’re going. Two things make this fall different from falls past.

One: we’re good and settled. I’ll take part in October’s Elmvale Fall Fair all weekend long, like a true local. I’m looking forward to buying mums from Ritchies. I even painted my front door a pretty blue that should go beautifully with pumpkins from Rounds Ranch.

Pretty blue door, complete with owly door knocker.

Pretty blue door, complete with owly door knocker.

Two: I’m gleefully employed in education. Last Tuesday, Georgian’s halls were filled with lost 18-year-olds in their best togs. There’s a happy sort of buzz on campus that reminds me of that time Anne said to Marilla “isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”

Autumn means small, every day excitements — my favourite kind. I’ve no doubt I’ll be cursing this season when I’m dragging a rake over my dying lawn. But for now, I’ll just flip through the scarf-filled catalogs they keep stuffing in my mailbox and enjoy it.

 

The Paint Fairy returns

I hate to say it, but I think I might be a (rather unhappy but) slightly better person when JF is away. I watch less television, sleep more, eat better, and get more done.

While he was in the Yukon, I:

  • put up some floating shelves
  • hired a new handy man
  • cleaned the house top to bottom
  • practiced my piano scales
  • exercised
  • re-organized my filing system
  • volunteered a lot
  • re-mulched the front garden

He’s only been back for four hours and I can already feel my brain descending into happy slothfulness.

In any case, my greatest accomplishment – while JF was slurping on Bonanza Browns by the Klondike – was painting the attic.

JF's man attic - desperately needs a coat of paint

JF’s man attic, pre-paint. And covered in spackle because it was once a studio.

Months ago, my aunt JoAnne (a.k.a. the Paint Fairy) offered to come by and help me finish the sucker. The rest of our home was painted last fall, but somehow the pocked-marked upstairs nook was intimidating. So many unusual angles and corners.

The Paint Fairy’s kind proposal — and my aunt Denise’s paint donation — finally gave me the kicks in the arse I needed.

The job took two coats and a whole day to complete. I couldn’t have asked for better company. We painted, paused for toasted tomato sandwiches, painted more, puttered in my garden, painted again, and then celebrated our success with wine and roasted potatoes.

Here’s the room in stages:

Merci, mes tantes pour vos beaux cadeaux. Our house feels more finished for them.