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.

House update

I’m taking a quick break from Georgian’s Got Talent Benefit Concert shenanigans (show is tomorrow and Friday and tickets can be purchased here!) to update you all on the state of my house.

After stripping acres of wallpaper last summer and painting walls last fall, we took an extended home maintenance break.

Snowy road

This was my drive to work late last week

Probably too long a break, actually. I blame the horrid winter we’re (still!) enduring.

We hired a nice handyman named Scott to clean out our eaves troughs just after Halloween. They froze before he could get to them, so he said he’d come by at the first thaw. Well, the thaw never came.

I just did the math and that’s almost five months – or about 40% of the whole damn year – under ice.

We didn’t spend those five months hammering away as planned, but we did pick up fun new skills like pipe thawing, flood fighting, car boosting, and ice chipping – all vital when powering through cold, cold February in a Victorian home.

In any case, we’re getting back into the swing of things — our energy levels rising as the days grow longer. JF is nailing in our new powder room ceiling as I type.

First priority when things thaw? Stripping the addition’s siding so we can insulate the mudroom. There goes the hardwood floor budget, but at least we’ll avoid more long winter nights holding hairdryers to our pipes.

Here are some photos of our space as it looked last weekend. There are about a zillion things that don’t look right or need to be fixed, but it’s feeling like home.

Heather and Jerry left us this lovely sign for our front porch

Heather and Jerry left us this lovely sign for our front porch

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Decking the halls

Confession: I am a serious Christmas-lover. When I was little, there was nothing I liked more than decking our halls with plastic greenery and felt snowflakes – sometimes as early as November 1.

Now, as a mature adult, I show a bit more restraint – I usually wait until December 1 to admit to Christmasholism. But with this weekend’s dreamy snow, I’ve cracked early.

A hallway with three red stockings hung on a bannister.

I couldn’t help myself. I had to hang our stockings – the third one is for our fake dog, Nessie.

My name is Mikaela, and I have an embarrassingly large Christmas CD collection and far too many butter-stained, dog-eared spiced cookie recipes.

When JF and I first did a tour of our Elmvale house, I could picture it draped in cedar garland and imagined a fir wreath with a big, red bow on the door. It was July.

So you can imagine how pretty, fluffy snow puts a jingle in my step.

Red victorian house covered in snow

I took this photo of our house at 9 a.m. this morning.

This week, a nice handyman will install Christmas lights all along our roofline. Next weekend I’m going to the Elmvale craft sale, decorating our house from top to bottom, and putting Nat King Cole’s Christmas Song back on my ipod. I might even watch Home Alone.

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.

The chronicles of hardware

Did you know that if you want to return something you bought at Rona in Midland at Rona in Barrie, you can only do so for store credit? Neither did I, until recently.

I also learned that Home Depot doesn’t even need a receipt to do a full return, provided they recognize and can sell the product; that Canadian Tire has great deals; and that Home Hardware in Elmvale has the friendliest service in Simcoe County.

I used to be afraid of hardware stores, but now I think you could strap a blindfold to my face and I could still find the paint section. I’m drawn by the smell of fresh, plastic-wrapped brushes and frog tape.

It’s amazing how much crap you need to renovate a room — and how easy it is to buy the wrong thing. Did you know that vent covers come in different widths and lengths? Because I sure didn’t.

Owning a fixer upper has really expanded my handiness horizons. I can now use a drill, mud walls, and paint like a pro. At least I think I can. There may be the odd drip or extra hole here and there. Either way, you can call me a renaissance girl.

We’re hoping to finish the walls this weekend. I promise to post pictures soon. After that? Refinishing the floors. Eek.

We bought a house on Queen West

Holy f&*@, we did it! I never thought we would get there, but we just bought a house on Queen St. West.

Oooooooo, aaaaaaaah

Oooooooo, aaaaaaaah

With hipster mainstays such as New Golden City Chinese Restaurant, Steelers Restaurant & Pub, The Elmvale Bakery, and the Springwater Library, we think it’s the best Queen St. West around. It even has a weekly farmer’s market.

Queen Street West, Elmvale

Queen Street West, Elmvale

For those of you who have been waiting for the gory details, here is the most important stuff from the listing:

  • 1900 sq ft
  • 3 bedrooms + a finished attic/loft
  • 2.5 bathrooms
  • Massive yard
  • Big, eat-in kitchen
  • New roof, furnace and electrical

Here’s the stuff that wasn’t on the listing but should have been:

  • Acres of wallpaper
  • Windows that don’t open
  • Creaky floors
  • Exposed pipes in two of the bathrooms
  • A leaky basement
  • A yard that must recently have served as an angry rhino’s enclosure

Hits and misses aside, we are very excited. A tiny bit terrified, but mostly excited. Let’s say 95% excited. Because at its core, this is a beautiful home that has a good, happy feeling about it. And it’s really nice to know that before us, a family grew up in it.

The closing date is August 16 — four days before my birthday. Thank you, Jean-François, for the best birthday present in the history of the universe.

Happy

Happy