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.

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The Paint Fairy

Anyone who has ever read A Little Princess remembers the happy moment when the kind neighbour starts turning Sara Crewe’s cold attic into a cozy haven. She gets back after a day’s hard labour to find warm slippers, a comfy chair, and a hot dinner.

Well, JF and I have our own special benefactor: my amazing (generous, funny, smart) aunt JoAnne, a.k.a. the Paint Fairy.

The Paint Fairy comes into our house while we’re at work and makes magical things happen. First, she made our ugly purple stairs a more dignified black.

Left: purple city. Right: dignified black

Left: purple city. Right: dignified black

Then, she swapped our grimy yellow doors for neutral white ones.

Left: Yellow doors, white walls. Right: white doors, white walls.

Left: Yellow doors, white walls. Right: white doors, white walls.

She never drips, does as many coats as it takes, cleans everything up, and leaves nice notes on the kitchen table.

She also (I suspect) does far more than she lets on. Something tells me all the trim in the hallway is looking fresher than before, and I’m pretty sure those exposed pipes were a dirty brown.

The Paint Fairy’s gifts – time and energy – are infinitely better than money under my pillow or presents under my tree, because they make my too looooong to do list that much shorter. And they instantly put me in a good mood when I get home.

Because she won’t let me thank her with money or presents (she’s granted me dinner at our place… pretty sure she’s never sampled my cooking) I want to thank her here.

Merci, ma tante, pour ton merveilleux cadeau. Je t’aime.

If there were more paint fairies out there, the world would be a happier place.

Home Sick

This morning, I woke up with a runny nose and a big lump in my throat. After about ten minutes of trying to remember what day it was, I realized I couldn’t face a full day of using my brain. So I called in sick. And then I did what I’m sure every 29-year-old woman does on a sick day; I called my mom.

At this moment, my mother is making what she calls and “immune-boosting” soup with kale and about a dozen onions. I am sitting in front of her fireplace, curled up on her comfiest chair. I look like shit and there’s a big pile of used Kleenex next to me, but it sure beats sitting at home.

A view of the fireplace

Sitting comfortably at my mom’s

Why would I rather be here? Well aside from the obvious nice company, toasty fire and great food, being at my mom’s means not doing housework.

Sitting on my own couch, I can’t help constantly contemplating what task most needs doing in our clunker of a home. There’s the everyday stuff like laundry, raking leaves and cooking. But it’s the once-in-awhile jobs that get me – stuff like sharpening my garden shears and repainting trim. Together, they make my to do list gargantuan.

I have a theory that the constant housework (and stressing about housework yet to be done) has made me ill. I’m literally home sick.

I really don’t know how grownups do the whole homeownership thing and still find time to exercise, go on dates, or call friends. Either they are better, faster and stronger human beings, or I am way more anal than I thought I was. It might be the latter, since JF has actually said the words “you have to lower your standards.”

Perhaps this illness is my body’s way of saying: “slow down – I am going to implode!” or maybe “you should eat better and exercise more!” or even “your house will never look like Elle Décor anyway!” Or maybe it’s just that the flu is going around. Time will tell. In the meantime, I’m going to eat some of my mom’s soup.

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My mom’s immune-boosting soup

Citry girl in New York

These days I kind of feel like my Portuguese mom would have felt a year after moving to Manitouwadge from the Azores: super confused about my identity.

I’m not a posh Torontoist, but I’m not a bumpkin from Perkinsfield anymore either. I scoff at people in crocs, but snort at those who order espresso. It’s an interesting space to inhabit.

I’m a country-turned-city-turned-country girl, or (another hybrid word!) a citry girl. And this citry girl just got back from an extended weekend in New York.

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Mireille and Cynthis in Times Square

I’m not going to lie, the trip kind of made me miss Toronto. Not because New York’s not awesome, but because big cities can be.

We shopped for sunglasses at 2 a.m. in Times Square, ate amazing Indian food on Diwali, and bought handmade jewellery from an artisan’s market in Greenwich Village. Somehow Elmvale’s gift shop, Chinese food and farmer’s market can’t quite compare.

Ghost busters stand in a group

Halloween in NYC means meeting Ghost Busters!

Exploring some parts of New York felt to me like bumping into childhood friends – your guts say you know them but you don’t actually. Wall Street is like Bay street, but with better bagels. Fifth Avenue is like Yorkville times 20. Central Park is like High Park, but bigger and, well, central.

Rockefeller Tower

Rockefeller

It was pretty wonderful to be in the thick of it all, but at the end, it was equally wonderful to park my car next to my big red house, step out, and smell the fresh country air.

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Skyline with lady liberty

A big, warm thank you to Mireille and Cynthia, my travel buddies, for sharing the big apple with me. A little city adventure was just what I needed to appreciate where I’ve been and where I’m going.

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Me at the Staten Island Ferry

Heather and Jerry

The other day, JF and I were puttering when he said “I hope when we get older we can afford to leave a bunch of nice stuff for the people who buy our house.”

I knew exactly what he was talking about. He was installing the last doorknob and lock left to us by Heather and Jerry, the kindest couple you could ever buy a home from.

Cast your mind way back to a time before slush and sleet (that’s another story, winter has already hit Elmvale): late summer. At about 9 p.m. on a Friday night, after many hours spent moving my sister Alicia’s stuff, we finally pulled a giant truck filled with our junk into our new, Elmvale driveway.

We were exhausted, but when JF put the key in the back door lock we practically fell into the mudroom, we were so excited. Well, at least I almost fell in. I guess the rest of them were pretty graceful about the whole thing.

Anyway, a great many gifts were waiting for us a little further inside, in the kitchen: spare keys, a fresh loaf of bread from the Elmvale bakery, some new smoke detectors, fly swatters, and several brand new locks. I figure that last one was H&J’s way of saying “this is your home now.” Either that or “There is a lot of crime in Elmvale, we changed our locks a lot.” So far all signs point to option A.

Heather had hired a cleaner to scrub the house from top to bottom.  It was beautiful. The kitchen cupboards were immaculate, which meant my organized (read: anal retentive) soul got the satisfaction of putting things away as quickly as they could be unpacked.

But the best thing they left was a great big note, with phone numbers for local services, information on where to find things in the house, their email address with an invitation to “contact us any time with questions!” and and a suggestion to keep David.

I kept a piece of the note and pinned it to my kitchen bulletin board

I kept a piece of the note and pinned it to my kitchen bulletin board

David lives in the garden, along with other treasures from Heather: birdhouses, dragonflies and angels. He is not a gnome. Some people say he’s creepy, but I love him.

Admittedly this photo is slightly creepy. David is far lovelier in the daytime.

Admittedly this photo is slightly creepy. David is far lovelier in the daytime.

And that’s not all they did. They finished the back deck, gave us a free fridge, left us a few pieces of furniture, and kindly donated basic gardening implements. I’ve been using the shears daily.

Much as I see work to do in this home, it really is in stellar condition. A brand new roof and furnace, fantastic appliances, updated (mostly) electrical and good plumbing. And as cheesy as it sounds, a wonderful feeling about it. This is a friendly house because good, happy people lived here.

So to Heather and Jerry, thank you. Hopefully we can pass along the good karma.

Moving Sh*t

Waiting for possession of a house feels kind of like the toe-curling excitement you get when you’re five years old, bundled up on the couch, and waiting for Santa to come down the chimney on Christmas Eve.

I’ve literally got a calendar with big black exes on the days that have gone by and a big red circle around August 16. I’ve already sketched out where my furniture will go, what paint colour I’m putting on my walls, and what I want to renovate first. Just thinking about that stuff makes me crazy-giggles happy.

The entrance hall of our new house. I'm thinking different tiles and a fresh coat of paint.

The entrance hall of our house. I’m thinking hardwood and a fresh coat of paint.

But what I didn’t quite grasp until about two weeks ago is that buying a house and relocating to a new town involves a lot of unpleasant work too. Thrilling tasks such as: decoding inspection reports, talking to lawyers, finding a new doctor, figuring out how to pile all our money together and give it to someone else, getting internet installed, paying hydro and gas installation costs, booking a moving van, changing our phone numbers, and determining what our day to day finances will look like with a massive mortgage weighing us down.

Then there is the actual act of moving. Getting all of our stuff from one residence to another. Call me weird, but I usually enjoy this process. I get a kick out of cleaning, sorting, labelling, and re-organizing my things. And when everything is in its new and proper place, the “I did that” feeling you get is such a high.

That said, this move is a little different than my past moves for a few reasons:

  • I’m not living in Toronto right now, so JF is packing up our apartment. Picture disorganized piles of loose, unrelated things being shipped out.
  • I now have a billion pound, upright piano. Normally awesome but at this moment, ugh.
  • After 10 years of renting, I am apparently millimetres away from becoming a hoarder. Though JF had rather frequently told me I have too many teacups and vases, I certainly never agreed with him until it came time to pack and move them.
Our Toronto apartment a few months ago. Looks innocuous, but I can assure you there were several truckloads of useless trinkets hidden in it.

Our Toronto apartment a few months ago. Looks innocuous, but there were several truckloads of useless trinkets hidden in it.

One thing is certain, I am doing a massive, Clean-Sweep-esque (Peter, I wish I could hire you!) sort as we unpack and settle in. And then, we will be hosting a great big, Elmvale garage sale. Maybe I’ll make lemonade and bake (read: burn) cookies to entice our new neighbours over.

In the meantime, I’m daydreaming about cream coloured walls, chrome hardware, and brightly painted dressers while trying to forget the to do list on my bedside table that seems to be perpetually growing.