Odds & sods

I have decided to become a hugger. After we’re through this pandemic, of course.

A friend and I were talking the other night about how much we’re missing hugs. We’ve never been huggy friends, but we’re going to change that.

Being in a situation where it’s not safe to hug. Being in a situation where you don’t have a partner whom you can hug and who will hug you back. I’ve come to realize how important physical connections are.

I am making renewed efforts to connect with friends and family. As the year and the pandemic progresses, these connections are helping me cope. Even if I can’t hug people yet.

What we need on any given day changes. I hope that you are finding what you need and finding your own ways to cope.

(I’ve also decided Ellie is going to be required to hold my hand forever.)

Here are some other things helping me cope this month.

“Our culture is very solution-oriented, which is a good way of thinking for many things… But it’s a very destructive way of thinking when you’re faced with a problem that has no solution.” Coping strategies for difficult times.

Practical, real-life examples of how to talk to your kids

I don’t love making pastry. I find it fussy and worrisome. But I made Joanna’s quiche, and it wasn’t as much work as I feared. Also, it was good.

Even monsters need haircuts

Demo tools and tips (it’s not about smashing everything)

A guy who grew up down the road from Matt also died of melanoma (a different form) very young. His Mom recently reached out to me and shared this beautiful memorial. I hate that memorials like this exist. But I am grateful for all of the care and the love that leads to these tributes.

My writing elsewhere:

What are some of your coping strategies? Are you a hugger? Or planning to become one? Anyone else have feelings about quiche?

Basement games area details

I am back today with another look at the basement games area. Today I’m diving into some of the details of this space, because as I said in the before and after post everything has a story with me.

The dining set is obviously the centrepiece of this spot. This set is something I treasure, but it came our way somewhat accidentally.

I first fell in love with the chairs. You may recall that I have a thing for chairs. These chairs were scattered around Matt’s grandpa’s house, and I would see them in the bedrooms or tucked in corners when we went to visit him (this was way back when we were still in school and dating).

Vintage dining set

When Matt’s grandpa died and we were cleaning out the house, I learned they were part of a set. The set was one of the items that ended up in a family lottery, as multiple people wanted it. Matt’s Dad was not in contention, but then Matt said, “Oh Julia likes those chairs.” Matt’s Dad put his name in the hat, and his name was pulled.

As we were loading the table and chairs to bring them home, I learned there was also a hutch. Okay. We got a whole dining set. (Also, we were still dating and each still living at home with our parents. The set stayed in Matt’s Dad’s shed for awhile.)

When we bought our first house, the table, chairs and hutch came with us. The joints were loose on the chairs, the seat covers were torn, the finish on the table wasn’t great, and it was on the small side for entertaining. But I still loved those circle motifs.

When we moved to the farm, we had the table and chairs refinished (the hutch was fortunately in good shape), and I recovered all of the seats. Eventually, as I found other furniture for the dining room, the set made its way down the stairs. It’s the perfect size for this space, and the warm wood tones are a nice natural touch in the basement.

Games area in the basement

Plus, having a table for games, work, crafts, puzzles, food adds a lot of function to our basement.

The china cabinet houses board games, puzzles, decks of cards and other fun stuff. The drawers give me a spot to tuck away papers or work materials.

China cabinet for boardgame storage
Boardgame storage in a vintage china cabinet

Matt always maintained that the basement was his space, so it was always my intention to style the top of the cabinet for him. I chose a lava lamp that I bought him when we were dating, a few toy cars that he treasured, and his prized trophy from the 1989 bicycle safety rodeo. A fake plant (I can’t keep real ones alive) gives a bit of greenery.

Games area

The tic-tac-toe game is an example of how I like to think outside of paintings and pictures for art. I bought the game at an antique fair ages ago, and always planned to use it here. It fits in with my fun and games theme in the basement.

Also fun and games are the playing card posters. This is another thing that I had always envisioned for the basement, but I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for. Finally, I decided that it was okay to invest in what I wanted, and I had a local graphic designer make the posters for me.

I kept asking Matt what his favourite card was, and he never answered me, so I picked my favourite: the queen of clubs.

Games area in the basement

The chandelier also used to be in the dining room. I did not like it at all there. But down here I think it’s okay.

I zoomed out for a few photos to show you how the games area fits in with the rest of the main room in the basement. I love how we’ve been able to make different zones, all within this one room.

Games area from the reading nook
Games area from the couch

If you want a recap of the rest of the basement, here are the other spaces:

With the art on the walls, the cabinet styled and the furniture all in place, this games area is done. And even better, it’s used and enjoyed all the time.

Are you a board game and puzzle family? How do you store games and puzzles at your house? What’s your favourite card in the deck? Do you use dining furniture for things other than dining?

Thankful

It is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. Thanksgiving is Matt’s favourite holiday. He loved the food and being together with family–and had very definite opinions on the importance of both.

It’s hard to mark Thanksgiving without him.

Yet, I am thankful.

I am thankful for our life. The choices we made, the things we have done, the opportunities we created.

I won’t say tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. I honestly can’t yet. It hurts a lot to lose this love.

There is this one terrible hole in my life. And yes, it’s a huge and terrible hole.

But there’s one. Only one.

In so many other ways, I am incredibly fortunate. I know that. I never take it for granted. I appreciate it so very much.

The kindness of the people around us, the peace of this farm, the joy of our girl, good food, a safe home, financial stability, the option to continue to make choices, the chance to feel like myself and do things that matter to me. I am thankful for this and so much more.

We have a good life.

I am thankful for everything that Matt did–and does–to make that possible.

Basement games area before & after

I went waaaay back in the archives to start writing this post, and wow, that all feels like a lifetime ago. In some ways, I guess it is.

There is one space left in the basement that I still have not shared in its final finished version. Mostly because it was not finally finished. Oh those last little details can drag on.

In the 14th post that I published on this blog (#14! Just a month after we moved in! This post is #1,043!), I shared my plans for the basement renovation. I included this picture and wrote: “Sarah Richardson is known for putting a full size table in her family rooms as a spot for games, work, crafts or dining. I think that’s a great idea and we’ve got the space for one, so that’s on the list too.”

And here’s how our version turned out.

Games area in the basement

But before we jump into the details of the finished space, here’s how this spot looked when we first bought the house (after we’d cleared out a lot of the previous owners’ stuff).

The basement before

We knew we didn’t want the cabinets and work stations (I have no idea what they were used for). And with them gone, this became a big open area, right at the base of the stairs.

If you’ve been around here for awhile, you may recall that we not only removed the cabinets. We also removed the carpet and all of the drywall.

The exterior drywall came down so that we could reframe, rewire and reinsulate.

Spray foam insulation

The ceiling drywall came down so that we could find all of the hidden junction boxes and fix the electrical.

Burnt junction box

Sorry for the bad early days photo. This junction box was actually burned inside, hence the black.

Then we drywalled, painted, trimmed and carpeted. We eventually moved in some furniture and added a light fixture. Then, over the last year, I finally tackled the bare walls.

Hanging the playing card posters was Matt’s last DIY in this house. We did it almost exactly a year ago. And a couple of weeks ago, I hung the tic-tac-toe game and styled the top of the cabinet.

Games area in the basement

With that the games (crafting, work, etc.) area is officially done.

I’ll be sharing more details on this space next week. You know everything has a story with me.

Do you have an extra table space somewhere in your house? What’s your longest running DIY? Where do you usually stall in room makeovers? If you don’t stall, what’s your secret, please?

Odds & sods

I feel like this month was a time of ups and downs. Our first cold days and nights–so cold that I turned on the heat and plugged in the electric blanket. Then we spent the past week in shorts and sandals outside all day. Grief and joy. Fatigue and energy. Celebrations and disappointments.

Fall is here, with all its contradictions and challenges and beauty.

Ellie and I have been soaking in all the outside time we can, doing some pre-winter projects, working in the garden, eating our meals on the patio and visiting the farm across the road to watch the combine harvest the beans. We had our own little harvest when we picked some apples from the big tree in the meadow this weekend.

Toddler putting apples in a toy wheelbarrow

I feel like this month’s round-up is a mix of ups and downs as well. Perhaps it reflects my state of mind right now. I hope that you are well.

“… if the person I love has to endure this, then the least I can do is stand there, the least I can do is witness, the least I can do is tell them over and over again, aloud, I love you. We love you. We ain’t going nowhere.”

Lots of thoughts in this amazing and powerful article. But of course the quote above stood out for me the most.

I’m not the kind of Mom that plans activities for my toddler… yet. But @busytoddler may inspire me.

I spent 10 days in the amazing, wonderous place that is Mauritius 20 years ago. To have an oil spill on this island is devastating.

A really cool community project and what we’re going to do with our apples

I can’t stop talking about–or cooking from–this cookbook

Some more beautiful, hopeful quotes, both heard in The Anthropocene Reviewed:

“You were a presence full of light upon this Earth / And I am a witness to your life and to its worth.”

“And there was the world, lit by something that cannot shine light but still finds a way to share light.”

Yes, there is grief. Always grief. But I hope that you see there is love and joy and hope and peace too. That is my true state of mind. I wish the same for you.

My writing elsewhere:

A new door for an old barn

The driveshed (aka our small barn) got a spruce up last week. A new garage door.

The existing garage door had always been a bit of a beast. Heavy. Didn’t slide very well. It pretty much always took my full body weight to close it, and even then I couldn’t always get it latched. (I feel like the driveshed looks particularly sad in this picture.)

Broken garage door on the small barn

Perhaps because I used so much force as I pulled it down, the bottom of the door started to fall apart this year. As in the whole lower panel started to come off. Then the roller went crooked and I could barely move the door.

Being me, I thought, “I can fix this.”

I bashed at the roller until I finally broke it off the door.

Garage door with a broken roller

As I looked at the splitting, rotted, old wood, I said, “I’m going to spend days Mickey Mousing around with this and still have an old door.”

Ellie said, “Mickey Mouse? Where mouse?”

It took me a couple of weeks more to accept that I needed to order a new door, but I got there eventually.

Pushing the lawn mower and wheelbarrow around all of the detritus in the driveshed, through all of Ellie’s toys, past the garbage and recycling bins and bumping out the person-size door was not fun.

But no more. The new door was installed last week.

Installing a new garage door on the small barn

Installing a new garage door on the small barn

It slides up and down and latches, exactly as a garage door is supposed to. Even on an old barn that’s saggy and terribly out of square. (But a bit less sad looking now, I think.)

New garage door on the small barn

Glam bench makeover from a 70s TV stand

I have a core group of 5 really, really close friends. Many of us met in grade 1 or 2. The history and the shared experiences are immense.

As the years have progressed, we have each taken different paths in life. Sometimes we don’t see each other very often or keep in touch the way that we feel we should.

When Matt died, all of my friends rallied around us, exactly the way that I knew that they would. They have been there for us in so many ways.

One friend started coming every Thursday night for dinner. The commute from her work was usually more than an hour, and she would often roll up the driveway just as I was putting dinner on the table (hungry toddlers are not to be messed with).

After a couple of weeks, she said to me, “You can stop inviting me. I’ll be here.” We would eat, and I would put Ellie to bed, and then we’d sit and talk. Sometimes another friend would join us.

When quarantine began, our Thursday dinners stopped. And oh I miss them. It felt like a huge hole in my week. Daily texts were not enough.

Desperate to connect, we came up with the idea to watch Celebrity IOU on HGTV together. Or as much as you can be together when you fear for your life during a global pandemic.

I would sit alone in the basement, the baby monitor by my side. My friend would sit in her condo with her cats. And we’d text commentary back and forth. It was fun. A connection. Casual. Someone who shared my delight in home stuff. Someone who shared my opinions and sense of humour… most of the time.

One episode was a more glam makeover. My friend texted, “Oh, I want that” at the same time as I wrote, “That would be perfect for you.”

So when I came up with the idea to redo this old TV stand, she was the first person I thought of. Something glam. Special. Fun. Feminine.

Vintage 70s TV stand

She–like me, like the rest of this special group of friends–is turning 40 this year. So the day before her birthday, I gifted her with this bench. She was really happy. It felt like her. It fit in with what she’s doing at her home–and has inspired her to do a few more updates to her bedroom.

Brass and white bench

Brass and white bench

Brass and white bench

Our furniture and our homes are so, so much more than just things and spaces. They represent the people who live in them and use them. For me, this bench represents 40 years of my friends and I figuring out who we are and how to embrace it. Nearly 35 years of caring for each other and helping each other.

It represents how we all–all six of us–work to give each other the love, peace and joy that we wish for each other.

So long, sunroom

On the very first day we owned the farm, we had no heat and no hot water. It was the beginning of March. In Canada. Not warm.

When it came time for lunch, we retreated to the one and only room that felt somewhat comfortable: the sunroom. Thanks to glass roof and walls, it was warm. Though that was about all it had going for it.

Inside the sunroom

The panes of glass in the roof looked shattered (it was just a film). The carpeted floor was filthy.

Shattered windows in the sunroom

Moss growing inside the sunroom

Over the past 8 years, the sunroom has deteriorated even further. The only times I used it were in cool weather when I needed a workshop. I didn’t care about making the room messy, and it kept the mess or fumes out of the house.

We never had plans to fix the sunroom. All along we’ve wanted to get rid of it. And last weekend, we finally did.

Demoing the sunroom

I had been prepping for a couple of weeks. A friend and her two kids had helped me empty the room, remove one of the patio doors, cut down the overgrown brush around the outside and take off the exterior siding. I had taken out the baseboard heaters and the interior paneling.

Demoing the sunroom

As each piece came out, I got to see just how disgusting the sunroom was. There were rot and ants and disintegrated insulation and mossy carpet. It. Was. Gross.

And now it is gone.

A bunch of cousins showed up last weekend, and we carefully took out all the glass. After a few cuts with the sawzall, the rafters and frames were gone too.

Demoing the sunroom

Demoing the sunroom

The glass is in the barn in case I want to build a greenhouse someday. The metal is in the trailer to go to the charity bin at a local special needs riding school. I burnt the wood over the weekend–one of our biggest fires ever. The wee bit of garbage all fit in the trunk of my car and went to the dump last week.

Demoing the sunroom

Demoing the sunroom

The roof needs some patching (I’ve bent some flashing to cover any openings for now) and I’d like to remove the concrete slab, but those are (hopefully) next year’s projects. For now, I’m thrilled to have the main eyesore gone.

Demoing the sunroom

Demoing the sunroom

In this year with so much change and uncertainty, it feels really, really good to complete one house project. Especially one that’s been on the list for so long. Matt and I have a vision for this house, and I’m working toward that, ever so slowly.

Odds & sods

As August comes to an end, I’m noticing how the sun is setting earlier and the nights are getting cooler. I’m doing my best to hang onto summer for as long as possible, although I did chicken out of a final swim in Matt’s parents’ pool on the weekend.

We’re working in the garden, playing on the playground, having bonfires by the pond and–as always–puttering away on a bunch of projects. One that you’ll see soon has something to do with the giant burn pile behind the tree.

Moonrise over the fields

To tide you over til then, here are some interesting and inspiring things that I came across this month:

How will our homes and design change in the age of COVID-19?

Mesmerizing… and an incredibly impressive feat of woodworking

Many years ago, I was hooked on an adventure race called Eco-Challenge. Amazon has done a reboot and I’m hoping I get to watch it. I remember the previous Fiji race as being brutal.

How they filmed the ‘World’s Toughest Race’

Share the land

Dude Perfect is not my usual style of entertainment. But the documentary about their journey was very compelling and shows that success comes from a lot of hard work.

It’s the time of year to prune raspberries

It’s the time of year for all the zucchini. Last week we made six loaves of chocolate zucchini bread–Ellie’s favourite (she didn’t eat them all, don’t worry). I also tried a new non-chocolate version from my go-to for all things cooking, Smitten Kitchen–and Matt’s Mom proclaimed it her favourite.

We had some suspicious noises in the walls for a few nights, so I reset all of our mousetraps. This is still the best mousetraps we’ve ever used.

Our library has reopened, so I’ve been ordering lots of new books for Ellie. This bear and this one are favourites.

My writing elsewhere:

Anyone else desperately hanging onto summer? Any favourite zucchini recipes to share? Or children’s books (with or without bears)? Have you watched any interesting shows or documentaries this month?

Goodbye grapes

Google reminded me the other day that this photo was taken a year ago.

Ellie picking grapes

First I went, “Aw. The cuteness!” And then I went, “Grapes? Really?”

I’ve been kind of casually watching our grapes, but not paying really close attention. I mostly felt that it would be awhile until they ripened.

But thanks to Google and another reminder from Instgram, I decided I should maybe go take a closer look.

When I did, I realized that even if I haven’t been paying attention, the birds have. Many of our grapes have been gobbled.

The blue Sovereign Coronations are gone. I found one and ate it myself. (Don’t tell Ellie.)

Grapes eaten by birds

The Somersets are still in the process of turning red, but it looks like as soon as one does, that grape is gobbled. I’m going to keep a closer eye, but I’m not sure how many I’ll be able to grab.

Ripening grapes

Ripening grapes

Japanese beetles are still doing a number on the leaves, though they’re wilier and fly away before I can flick them into my bucket of death.

I know netting grapes may  be an option, but that’s not something I’m prepared to do this year.

This year’s garden philosophy is see how it goes. In this instance, they’re almost gone.

But, the beauty of gardening is it comes back again next year and we get to try again.

How is your garden growing? Are you feeding any wildlife? Has harvest snuck up on any one else?