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.



My new friend Nytol

We recently gave our notice to our landlord. We must and will be out of our Toronto apartment for September 1, 2013. Which means we must and will either buy a house or rent a place in Simcoe County sometime this summer. Blimey. This is really happening.

Or is it?

A few months ago, thinking about houses at bedtime (silk curtains, granite countertops and hardwood floors… mmmmmm) would send me first into a pleasant haze, then straight to sleep. Now, thinking about houses at bedtime induces me to take Nytol — an effective drug recently added to my pharmaceutical lexicon.

We just can’t seem to agree on what house to buy. What I love, he doesn’t. What he loves is ugly. And after ten years of renting, we just don’t want to rent anymore.

Which is why I’m moving (temporarily, I hope) into my teenhood bedroom at my mom’s Midland house in a week. From that tiny “terracotta”-painted (i.e. poo brown) shrine to my youth, I can help with my sister Alicia’s engagement party, volunteer, job hunt, go to the beach, hang out with my avó, and drive around like a crazy person in search of “for rent” and “for sale by owner” signs. My amazing mother will feed me and do my laundry.

This is my mom's house. Beautiful, but can it hold three grown women?

This is my mom’s house. Beautiful, but can it hold three grown women?

Mom, I love you. Thank you for being a regular reader of this blog. But I’m a bit scared of living with you and Geneviève. Three women, one bathroom. Plus it’s been ten years since I lived with a parent.

I started packing today and it’s harder than I thought. Just how many bags does one need for an indefinite stay in a small, storagely-challenged room?

I say indefinite stay, but there is a ray of hope in the vast gloom of this house hunt. JF and I recently set a drop dead date. On July 22, we will either make an offer on this house in Coldwater (which we both love — we would just prefer Elmvale) or choose a house to rent.

House in Coldwater that we both love. If only it was in Elmvale.

House in Coldwater that we both love. If only it was in Elmvale.

We’ve committed. Crossed our hearts. Pinky swore. But whether we will actually be able to make a decision on July 22 remains to be seen.

What I know for sure is that for the next few months, I will have a foot in both worlds. JF will be working away in Toronto while I try to start building our new life in Simcoe County.

Silver Linings

Still no house. And we’ve now officially eliminated Midland from our list of possible towns to buy in.

In other real estate news, there are no houses in Elmvale — the one location we agree on — that we both love. Ugh.

But even as JF and I continue to plod through real estate hell (at least we’re in it together!) there remains much to be grateful for. Unemployment has its perks:

  • Sitting comfortably on a TTC train, travelling opposite the rush hour crush
  • Reading a whole book in one day
  • Playing the piano loudly in the afternoon without worrying about neighbours
  • Staying in on rainy days to watch movies
  • Going out on sunny days to explore
  • Listening to CBC radio in the middle of the afternoon
  • Doing groceries at off peak hours
  • Wearing jeans or sweatpants every single day
  • Forgetting what day of the week it is

And that’s just the list I compiled these last two weeks. I feel like I’ve more everyday pleasures to discover.


I also have a list of things I would like to do this summer, assuming I don’t find work:

This is me at the 9th concession beach two years ago. I hope to do a lot of this next month.

This is me at the 9th concession beach two years ago. I hope to do a lot of this next month.

Much as I want an income, miss my old colleagues and crave routine, this whole no job thing isn’t so bad. You should try it sometime.

House Hunting — Not for the Faint of Heart

Holy. Choosing a house is hard.

Our quest for the perfect home has now spanned four weeks, bazillions of google street view searches, and at least 25 in-person showings across about a dozen towns. Tobias has been earning his keep.

With guidance from our trusty real estate agent, we have bravely picked through yards strewn with debris, held our breath through homes that reek of cat pee, ducked into dark crawlspaces, and faced angry barking dogs.

Lately I’ve been spending more time with my new friend than with any of my human friends. Or JF, for that matter.

Remember our tale of two houses? Well, multiply that by three. We have:

–       The pretty house in Elmvale that’s too expensive (my Elmvale house from post 2)

–       The four floor, six bedroom mansion in Midland that’s too big

–       The lovely home in Coldwater that’s too far

–       The run-down house in Elmvale that has potential (JF’s Elmvale house from post 2)

–       The farmhouse in Hillsdale that doesn’t have a working kitchen or insulation

–       The expensive Midland house with good resale value, but only two bedrooms

This house has six bedrooms, four floors, and a butler's staircase. Crazytown.

This house has six bedrooms, four floors, and a butler’s staircase. Crazytown.

None of these houses are perfect. Not a single one.  And we have come within inches of making offers on them all.

This whole thing is rather complicated because much as JF and I have a similar vision for our future lifestyle, we can’t seem to agree on two important things: location and house style. I favour Midland and red brick victorians. He wants Horseshoe Valley Road and a “well maintained old person’s house” (his words). We may as well want different continents.

Woe is me.

What I’m trying to focus on tonight is this: whatever house we choose, we will make it a great home. We will love it, live in it, beautify it, host dinner parties in it, and be happy. Because that’s just our M.O.

But golly, do I ever wish we would get to the finish line, already.

A Tale of Two Houses

When JF and I first set out to meet Kevin, our real estate agent, it was the best of times. In fact, I was convinced we were going to find our house that morning. Having watched plenty of HGTV, I knew I could turn any fixer-upper into a masterpiece. All I needed was imagination, a bit of money, and two weeks.

The three of us sat down at the Elmvale Tim Hortons (which is apparently where shit gets done in Springwater Township) to talk about what we wanted in a home. I oozed enthusiasm and expectations. Kevin played it pretty cool.

As we pulled up to the first one, I was literally bouncing in my seat. It was beautiful. A quiet country road, acres and acres of field, a rustic barn, and a pretty, two-storey, red brick victorian. It even had a lilac tree.

As soon we opened the door, I was overwhelmed by an interesting, earthy, wet wool smell. The living room featured a pea green carpet I originally thought was polka dotted — turns out it was mould. The kitchen was okay, if you don’t care for running water. One bedroom had a ceiling fan with coca-cola bottles for blades. Another had a hole in the floor, convenient for reaching into the kitchen. Several walls were buckling from a leak in the roof. Best of all, this place was at the top of our price range. I left feeling dispirited.

It’s now several weeks later and we’ve seen houses all over Simcoe County. My skin is thicker. I feel older and wiser. And JF and I have come to a few basic conclusions:

  • To protect our relationship and sanity, we don’t want a giant project.
  • We can’t afford a real country house (with good land) that doesn’t need to be gutted. So we’re going to shelf that dream for later and start with a house in town.
  • We want something we can add a little value to.
  • We don’t want to be house poor.
  • We still want three bedrooms and some good yard space.

That leads me to our current dilemma. Our tale of two houses. At this juncture, JF likes one Elmvale house. I like another Elmvale house. Here is my unbiased assessment of both.

JF's house

JF’s house. Still pretty cute.

Good things about his house:

  • Great yard
  • Three bathrooms, four bedrooms
  • Big kitchen
  • Garage

Bad things about his house:

  • Weird, ugly floors
  • Dirty and covered in pet hair
  • Smelly basement
  • Located on a busy street
  • Dark
  • Crappy layout
My house. Even cuter.

My house. Even cuter.

Good things about my house:

  • All new electrical and plumbing
  • Historic home, gorgeous top to bottom
  • Move in ready
  • Nice, private yard
  • Great location on a quiet street

Bad things about my house:

  • No garage (buildable)
  • Leaky basement (but at least it’s not pretending to have a finished basement like JF’s house)
  • Currently only has two bedrooms (I have a plan to add a third)
  • No air conditioning (easy fix)

We are going to try to resolve this showcase showdown tomorrow. We’re looking at a few more houses in Coldwater and Hillsdale. Maybe we’ll find one we both love. Or maybe we won’t and we’ll fight to see whose Elmvale house prevails.  I like a good row now and again.