Feeling grey. Or is that blue?

Last week we had several straight days of rain. Even a little snow (sorry, my fault…I washed and put away the hats, mittens and scarves for the season but Mother Nature got the last word in).

I feel it both mentally and physically when the days are grey like that. I’m more tired and draggy. Headachey. I don’t feel like going out. I don’t feel like doing much of anything. I just want to curl up inside and wait for some beautiful blue skies.

So…grey bad, blue good. Right?

Not always.

Since The Great Ensuite Reno of 2015, I’ve been systematically repainting every wall in the house in shades of grey. (For the record, the book lied. There are way more than 50.)

First I took the same pale shade that’s on our ensuite walls (Benjamin Moore’s Barren Plain) and covered the sickly yellow of the upstairs hall, staircase, downstairs hall and living room. I had always been unhappy with the yellow but because we had paid a professional to paint it a decade earlier I had learned to live with it.

The difference was remarkable. It made the hallways simultaneously brighter and calmer. Plus, it made a perfect backdrop in the living room to the pair of vintage blue tub chairs I had inherited from my dad and his wife.

So…grey good, blue good. Right?

Yeah, no.

The dining room, which was another colour our “professional” had chosen for us, was next on my list (somewhere between olive and mud is the best I can describe it). I wanted a deeper, more dramatic grey than the living room and spent the better part of a week moving paint chips around the room at different times of day to determine which would be best. Finally I settled on Pigeon Grey (also by Benjamin Moore).

Have you seen a pigeon lately? I guess I’d never noticed how blue they were. While I love my vintage blue chairs and blue decorative accents in the living room, I never intended on having an entirely blue adjacent dining room. And unfortunately, with the light from the one small dining room window reflecting off the snow outside, the Pigeon Grey on the walls ended up much cooler and, well, bluer, than I’d intended.

So…grey good, blue bad.


Thankfully once the furniture was back in, the new curtains were up and the snow outside melted (thank you, Mother Nature), the blueness of the dining room warmed up a little. Satisfied, I dove into my next painting project: the entryway.

The entryway was painted a deep rosy-taupe that we had chosen the year we moved into the house (1999) to go with the circa 1986 pink 12″x12″ floor tiles (I would call them “vintage” too, but let’s face it: they’re just ugly). It owed us nothing after 18 years and was way overdue for a refresh.

There was no money in the budget for flooring, so the best I could do was find something to downplay the pink (including a large door mat). I wanted to stick with the grey theme, and since I had lots of Pigeon Grey leftover I slapped some of it on the walls.

If you think grey looks blue in a north-facing wintery dining room, imagine how it looks next to pink floor tiles. It was like a pigeon had exploded on the walls.

So I tried a little leftover Barren Plain. Which was so plain it looked white, which made the tiles even pinker.

Several hundred paint chips later I painted the entryway CIL’s Granite Grey. It’s the perfect dark, dramatic grey I originally had in mind for the dining room (don’t worry, Luc, I won’t be repainting it anytime soon). And, paired with a large charcoal door mat and black accents, elevates the entryway from functional to, dare I say it, sophisticated (pink floor tiles notwithstanding).

All of this to say that yesterday was our first bright, sunny day of spring, complete with crisp blue skies and warm yellow sunshine. And while I dislike both yellow and blue on my walls (especially in the soupy combination we had going with olive, mud and rosy-taupe), I don’t mind any of them in any combination outside, the way Mother Nature intended.

And today, we’re back to rain and grey.

But I’m writing away in my calm and soothing grey-toned house and loving it.

So…grey? It’s all good. And there’s no more feeling blue. You might even say I’m tickled pink.







Happy National Coffee Day!

My Facebook newsfeed greeted me this morning with a suggested post from Starbucks wishing me a Happy National Coffee Day.

The first thing that crossed my mind (after “Mmmm! Coffee!) was, “As a coffee aficionado addict, how did I miss the memo?” Then I realized that suggested posts in my Facebook newsfeed kind of are the modern memo. Which got me to thinking that I haven’t really heard the expression “I didn’t get the memo” much in recent years. Which made me wonder if anyone under 30 even knows what a memo is. Which made me realize that more and more I hear my kids saying things like, “Did you see the post/watch the video/read the tweet” which, for all intents and purposes gets the message across, except that they mean it quite literally, whereas “Didn’t you get the memo?” is the perfect way to figuratively point out someone’s cluelessness in a way that I don’t think could ever adequately be replaced by “Didn’t you see the post/watch the video/read the tweet.” By which point all I could think was, “Man, I need a coffee!”

In any case, had I been on the ball, I would have saved my post about turning my living room into a Starbucks for today. But I didn’t, so feel free to check it out if you missed it.

You can also read about my love affair with coffee here.

Happy National Coffee Day!



My next crazy reno idea

If you know me, you know that if I’m not drinking wine, I’m drinking coffee.

And I’ve been at Starbucks a lot more than usual lately drinking an obscene amount of coffee to earn game plays in the Starbucks for Life contest.

While I didn’t win (damn you one missing game piece!) I also didn’t sleep much over the past three weeks (see obscene amounts of coffee mentioned above), giving me ample time and caffeinated energy to consider my next home renovation project.

So here’s the plan: I’m turning my living room into a Starbucks.

Hear me out…

I’ve struggled with our living room since we moved into our house. Originally, we furnished it and treated it as the traditional, formal living room it was meant to be. Translation: we never used it.

Later, when the kids came on the scene, we swapped out the coffee table for a Thomas the Train table, traded in the bookshelves for IKEA toy storage and used it as a playroom. That worked great for a few years, but as the kids got older and I started working from home, we transferred the playroom to the basement and set up an office space in the living room for me.

Because it was still technically the “living room,” however, we kept the sofa, chairs, end tables, coffee table, etc., in there along with my new desk and bookshelves. And oh, yes, the piano. There also happens to be a 5-foot baby grand piano sitting in the front window and taking up a good third of the space.

Instead of “living room” we could call it “the over-stuffed and under-used room.” Aside from my daughter using it to practice piano (when she can reach it) and me using it for work (which, more often than not, I take to the dining room table for a little breathing space), we rarely go in there.

So for the past couple of years, I’ve been toying with different ideas of what this room could and should be, moving furniture in and out and around, and rearranging artwork. But sitting in Starbucks today (go figure!) I had a revelation. Obviously, a traditional set-up in the living room just isn’t for us. We have a perfectly comfy family room complete with sofa, chairs, coffee table, end tables, TV and fireplace that we spend most of our time in. So why not take some inspiration from one of my other favourite places to be, and apply it to my living room?

Here’s what I’d like to do:

  • Trade in my office-y computer desk for a counter height, long, slim table and bar stools (like they have in the Starbucks window). This could serve not only as a great place to perch and work for me, or for the kids to do their homework, but also as extra seating when we have family or friends for dinner instead of the dreaded kids’ table.
  • Put cubby-like square shelves on the wall over my desk for my reference materials (like Starbucks has behind the counter to display bags of coffee).
  • Set up a “conversation pit” (the primo seats at Starbucks that people (and by “people” I mean “me”) are willing to hover over and let their lattes go cold for): a pair or two of comfy stuffed chairs facing each other over one or two small tables. That way, if the adults want to enjoy a coffee (or glass of wine) we might find ourselves gravitating there instead of the family room where the TV, the Wii and the kids are sure to be.
  • Work in lots of texture à la Starbucks décor: stone or brickwork (maybe an accent wall behind the piano), wood in varying grains, and modern rustic metal and wood furniture. Maybe even a funky horizontal tile “backsplash” between the counter and the cubbies…
  • Add in multiple sources of lighting for atmosphere (a combination of pot lights, pendant lights, track lights, and spotlights over artwork–and maybe a small crystal pendant over the piano–to replace our one sad, overworked halogen floor lamp).

Of course, once I get going on one reno idea, it inevitably leads to another. There’s no way I could redecorate the living room and not also redecorate the adjacent dining room…

  • A set of three low-hanging industrial pendants instead of our old-school chandelier would turn our dining room table into the large work table some Starbucks offer.
  • My china cabinet (currently housing crafts the kids don’t do and dishes I don’t use) could be replaced by wall-to-wall cubby bookshelves (matching those over the counter-style desk in the living room), giving it the “library” feel I’ve always envied.
  • And, finally, I’ve always wanted a coffee bar in the kitchen (a full-on set-up for my coffee pot, espresso machine, kettle, mugs, cups, and all hot beverage-related supplies). But maybe this could be incorporated into the dining room as well (there’s a side board in there that I only use to store placemats and napkins; surely that could be repurposed!)

So maybe it’s not exactly a Starbucks, but Starbucks is certainly the inspiration behind my vision: a relaxed, comfortable, piano lounge-y, coffee shopish kinda room that I’d actually enjoy working and hanging out in.

Do you have a unused or misused room in your house? What would your dream room be?

The Front Door Dilemma

When we bought our home in 1999, it was already a decade out of date, boasting 80s décor throughout. Every room was a different shade of pink, from palest blush through bubble gum. Plush dusty rose carpet covered all of the floors and the pink flowered wallpaper in the entry and under the chair rail in the hall was a perfect match to the pink flowered drapery in the family room. But worst of all were the garage and front door: both a shocking shade of fuchsia.

Over the next few years the wallpaper came down, the carpet was replaced with hardwood and we gradually de-pinked every room in the house with gallons and gallons of paint. But the one thing we had vowed to take care of the minute we moved in–covering up the ghastly colour on our home’s exterior–just didn’t happen. It became a running joke, as well as our address: “Don’t worry about remembering our house number,” we’d tell visitors. “Just look for the fuchsia. You can’t miss it.”

When we finally decided to put some time and money into our home’s curb appeal a decade later, we were thrilled with the results. The gorgeous grey interlock driveway, pathway and front porch tied in beautifully with our light grey siding. And the coordinating deep charcoal paint we finally chose for the garage door and front door finished off the classy and classic look we’d always wanted.

Not everyone was as thrilled as we were, though. My directionally challenged friend had to program our actual address into her GPS now that she didn’t have her colour-coded landmark. And my dad, on more than one occasion when he has visited from out of town, has driven right on past.

But we seem to be at a colour crossroads yet again.

Two years ago the motor on the garage door died. We’ve gotten by until now by opening and closing it manually, but last week one of the panels came off the rails and there’s no forcing the twisted metal beast back into place. So a brand new garage door in a timeless glossy black is soon to be installed.

The question now is what to do with the front door?

The grey has got to go, not only because it just won’t match the new garage door, but also because the nasty fuchsia is showing around the new handle and deadbolt we recently installed.

We could go with a glossy black to match the garage. That would be the safe, conservative way to go.

But something in me is calling for colour. Contrast. Personality. Like a candy apple red. Or a jade garden teal. Something that says, “This is us. Welcome.”

Here’s my dilemma: I’m sure the previous owners, when they selected their fuchsia failure, were going for the same thing. And I don’t want my front door to become just another drive-by joke.

So do we play it safe? Or bring it on?

(And just out of curiosity, what colour is your front door?)




Lured Back to the Dark Tower

Do you reread books?

I think I reread more as a child…My beloved Bobbsey Twins books that lined my bookshelves. The Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace, which I checked out of our tiny local library every chance I could get. Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang, which I could probably recite for you word-for-word, here and now. The poetry of Shel Silverstein and Dennis Lee. My all-time favourite, Mandy (by Julie Andrews Edwards). And absolutely anything with Anne (yes, of Green Gables).

But as an adult, I often feel that with so many new books and authors to discover (and very limited time in which to discover them), I don’t want to “waste” my time rereading something I’ve read before.

There are exceptions of course…

  • I first read Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent following a miscarriage and was comforted by its particularly female essense. Years later, as a mother, I was pulled back to it by the maternal comfort it offered. I’m sure it’s a story I’ll want to reread again in the future, as I see it as always having something thoughtful or wise to say about women and the bonds they share throughout life.
  • Every once in a while I feel like I was born in the wrong century. No one but Jane can fill that void, and my mangled, dog-eared copies of Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma are a testament to how many times over the years they’ve help me escape the modern world.
  • While hubby would most vehemently disagree, I think Life of Pi was a brilliant novel and it holds my record as being the only book I’ve ever finished and immediately reread from start to finish.
  • When I mistakenly bought MaddAddam, thinking it was the second book of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian trilogy, I set it aside without reading it and forgot about it. When I finally got around to purchasing the actual second book, The Year of the Flood, too many years had passed since I had read the first book, Oryx and Crake, for me to fully remember the storyline, so I started the series over again. THEN, when I realized that the plots of the first two books take place in parallel, I read The Year of the Flood with Oryx and Crake open beside it for reference.By the time I finally got to MaddAddam, I had read Oryx and Crake three times and The Year of the Flood twice. And I’d read all three again in a heartbeat.

But a trilogy is nothing compared to what I’m rereading right now: Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series.

I started the series around the time the second book came out; it was 1987 and I was a tender 17. (The original The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger had been released in 1982 and although I was already a dedicated fan of King’s early novels in my teens, somehow I had never gotten around to this one.)

I then continued reading the series as the books were released: in 1991, 1997, 2003 and finally the last two in 2004 (from my teens through my 20s and into my 30s), but thanks to King’s arguments and afterwords, I always felt I was coming back to a familiar story and was never compelled to reread any of the installments.

That is until I came to the last line of that last, seventh book. At which point I had tears in my eyes and goosebumps all over my body and vowed that some day, with this new, earth-shattering knowledge in mind, I would reread them all.

Of course in September 2004 when I read that last line I was also dealing with my one-year-old son and soon to be pregnant with my daughter. The ensuing decade didn’t leave much time for reading anything, let alone REreading thousands of pages I’d already read.

But now (finally!) the books are becoming a movie! What better reason to revisit Roland and his ka-tet and relive their quest for the Dark Tower?

The minute I found out, I pulled out my dust-covered tomes and started rereading. At this point, I’m halfway through the fourth book, and since starting the series over, I have discovered there is an additional Dark Tower book, The Dark Tower IV S: The Wind Through the Keyhole. (Considering this one was released in April 2012, the same month that my then six-year-old daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, I’m not surprised it slipped my notice). Although officially the eighth book of the series, plot-wise it takes place between books IV and V (as a story within a story within a story), so that’s where I plan to read it (Note to hubby: my birthday is in less than a month and it’s on my wish list!)

What books have you reread and why? Which ones have you always wanted to reread but haven’t (and why not?)?

And now I’m off to reread a few thousand more pages…




Ruminations on Costco

Do you Costco? I do.

It started when the kids were babies, a once-every-two-or-three-months tagalong with my mother-in-law to stock up on dirt cheap diapers and baby wipes.

And now? I’m a full-fledged Executive Member in my own right, making weekly (ok, sometimes bi-weekly) trips to the irresistible behemoth warehouse.

My mind tends to wander as I maneuver the towering aisles. An observation here, a question there. Here’s what was going through my head this morning.

  • Why do they put the power bars and the candy in the same row?
  • While they’re a steal at $54.99 for a 9 kg sack of grass seed and $33.99 for a 6 L jug of Weed-B-Gone, I really can’t use them when there’s still  two feet of snow on my lawn.
  • That $99 crystal vanity light fixture could very well lead to a $5,000 powder room reno.
  • I know what kind of underwear your husband wears.
  • I know what undies you wear.
  • I wear them too.
  • Mental note: Don’t send hubby to pick up milk here anytime soon. He’ll come back with the kitchen sink. No, I don’t mean “everything but.” I literally mean he will come home with the Hand Crafted Rounded Design Stainless Steel Double Kitchen Sink. Best if he not see that.
  • Get off your cellphone and get out of my way.
  • Please.
  • Why can I sometimes find Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips and sometimes not? Shouldn’t that be a staple? I mean, there’s always jumbo jars of pickled asparagus on the shelves. Why not my chips?
  • Does anyone even eat pickled asparagus?
  • WARNING: Don’t ever go down that mystery row on the right-hand side. You never know what you’ll find down there that you didn’t know you needed but now must absolutely have.
  • If you do find yourself inescapably drawn down it, be prepared to come home with a $169.99 Neon-Look LED “Open/Business Hours” sign.
  • I am not open.
  • I have no business hours.
  • Mental note: Keep the receipt for the sign. Take advantage of Costco’s exceptional return policy. Don’t mention it to hubby. Best if he not see that.


The Bobbsey Twins vs. The Ranger’s Apprentice: My How Times Have (Not) Changed!

A couple of months ago at a school book sale, I picked up a copy of “The Bobbsey Twins on Blueberry Island” for a whopping 50 cents. The familiar purple spine with the drawing of 6-year-old Bobbsey twins, Freddie and Flossie, along with their trusty companion, the shaggy white pup Snap, brought back a wave of nostalgia so strong that I would have been willing to pay at least double that!

When I was a kid, I adored the Bobbsey Twins. I wanted to be the spunky Nan Bobbsey, one half of the 12-year-old twins Nan and Bert, older brother and sister to Freddie and Flossie. (I was perfect for the part, I reasoned, with my dark hair and dark eyes.)

Every chance I got, I picked up another Bobbsey Twins adventure, sometimes, if I was lucky, at the bookstore (keep in mind this was decades before the Chapters mega stores and Amazon.ca), more often than not at garage sales in the neighbourhood. I was determind to own every book in Laura Lee Hope’s series, and while I did end up with an entire shelf dedicated to the twins, I don’t think I ever owned more than half of the original 72 books that were penned.

Sadly, at some point along the way, I got rid of all of them (probably at a garage sale of my own). So  it was fun to purchase and reread one for old time’s sake.

Fun, and surprising in some ways too. Published in 1959, “The Bobbsey Twins on Blueberry Island” was dated even when I was first read it in the 1970s. And while I distincly remember the Bobbsey’s “help” (Dinah, “the plump colored woman who helped Mrs. Bobbsey with the housework,” and Sam, “a colored man who drove a truck for Mr. Bobbsey’s lumberyard”), I never questioned this as a child. Nor did I question the fact that every single time they were mentioned, so was the colour of their skin, as if it were somehow of great importance to continually differentiate them from the other (all white) characters, while as an adult, I couldn’t help but notice.

I also saw the Bobbsey parents in a completely different light, now that I’m a parent myself. Mrs. Bobbsey is an uninvolved, laissez-faire mother, who is forever chuckling in the background as her four children run off on yet another adventure with criminals, bears and whatnot. And Mr. Bobbsey has only a slightly more involved role, offering the odd bit of fatherly advice and watching from the sidelines as his son Bert beats up the school bully (“Mr. Bobbsey glanced after them, chuckling. ‘I think Danny has had a mighty uncomfortable evening,’ he remarked”). (Yes, both Bobbsey parents are chucklers.) By today’s standards, the neglectful Mrs. Bobbsey would have her children taken away from her, and Mr. Bobbsey would be charged with aiding and abetting his son in committing assault.

But I can still see why these books appealed to me as a child: The camaraderie among siblings and friends. The freedom of being left to their own devices with no adult supervision. The adventures. The mysteries. The Scooby-Doo moment of “We would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids” at the end of every tale. Reading was an escape, and the Bobbsey Twins’ stories were some of the best.

Not unlike what my 12-year-old son is reading these days.

Everything he picks up is a new adventure, and more often than not part of a series. He’s travelled through time in the eight-book “Infinity Ring” series. Saved the world in the six “I Am Number Four” stories. Journeyed on an epic quest through 12 “Amos Daragon” books. Devoured pretty much every book in every series written by Rick Riordan.

Now he’s embarking on another adventure with John Flanagan’s “Ranger’s Apprentice” books, and I’m along for the ride.

In January, a friend linked to this 2016 reading challenge on her Facebook page. I printed off copies for each member of the family and all four got on board. One of the items in the challenge is “a book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, child, or BFF” and The Boy chose Book 1, “The Ruins of Gorlan” for me. I grudgingly agreed, since adventure stories haven’t really been my thing since I was his age.

Well, I hate to admit it, but I’m hooked on the series with its exciting plot, well-drawn characters and really good writing. And although “The Ranger’s Apprentice” series and other children’s adventure books these days address much more mature topics (with more harshness, violence and grit than the innocent books I enjoyed “in the good old days”), they all boast the same themes (the camaraderie, the freedom of being left to their own devices–happily all of the main characters in this one are orphans–the adventures and the mysteries) that drew me in as a child and are drawing me in again as an adult. And, man is Flanagan ever good at cliffhangers! I’m already on Book 4, one ahead of my son, and can’t put it down!

Reading has always been an escape for me. Now, as an adult, I’m enjoying a whole new reading adventure I never would have embarked on if it weren’t for my son. And who knows? Maybe one day he’ll give the Bobbsey Twins a read just for fun. I’d be curious to see what his 12-year-old self gets out of it.