Our house, June 2017

Renovators don’t have time to be bloggers…

…but enough people have told me that I should blog our experience that I think perhaps I should try anyway.

And, honestly, the catharsis of writing has been pulling me back toward these virtual pages for some time now. I’ve missed the chance to wax philosophical about life.

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Evolution of a street view

My now-husband (Yep, that happened. Perhaps I’ll write about that next.) Johnathan and I purchased an early 20th-century cottage-style home in December 2014 and started renovating it January 2015. We moved in two months later, and the adventure continues!

In case you were wondering whether you should ever take on a reno project, here are the qualities that qualify you:

  • ambition
  • handy skills (hammer skills, screwdriver skills, holding-things-over-your-head-for-extended-periods-of-time skills, vacuuming skills, living in filthy dust pile skills)
  • ability to project stress into some other outlet (running, gardening, blogging, coffee-drinking)
  • substantial core strength, or the time to let back injuries heal
  • ability to give up any semblance of a social life indefinitely… unless your friends and family count helping you demolish or build things as quality time
  • ability to forsake any life issue or topic of conversation that does not directly involve a) renovations; b) paying for renovations; c) surviving renovations
  • notable capacity to withstand stress, time constraints, and unforeseeable complications

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Kitchen panoramas. Summer 2015, February 2016 (our whole main floor was in the kitchen while we refinished the hardwood floors), Spring 2016

It’s sort of hard to describe how I feel about renovations… On the one hand I kind of feel like we are 

Undertaking a fairly major reno project qualifies you to inform other suckers about certain realities:

  • Never assume drywall mudders/tapers will be available when the sun is shining (aka summer): EVERYONE else wants their skills and you’ll be last on the list
  • Like the idea of having a claw foot or other standalone tub? Great! Stick with that. DON’T under any circumstances try to make that tub into a shower! Unless you love spending way too much money and encountering unnecessary frustrations, in which case go right ahead.
  • There will always be someone in your life (or on Facebook) who has a better way to do something or wants to know why you aren’t using their favourite tools or thinks you installed that tile wrong. Ignore them. Unless they’re the contractor you hired, in which case they still may not be right!
  • You do need an entirely separate wardrobe for reno clothes. You’ll probably find that some of the clothes you’d been keeping but didn’t wear very often get turned into reno clothes and stored on the top shelf of a dark closet. Don’t worry, the rips in that hideous tee-shirt won’t matter. Unless your in-laws happen to come over to surprise you. Or the electrician decides to just walk in the back door.
  • There WILL be times when you think (or scream): “I hate this house!”
  • New appliances and fixtures are not immune to getting covered with drywall dust.
  • Stores you once felt distinctly “meh” about will become very familiar to you (::ahem:: Home Depot), and you probably won’t hate it.
  • You will have to live with seeing your own mistakes every day. Maybe they wouldn’t bother everyone so much, but for two perfectionists, we sort of live in fear of what we’re going to screw up next.
  • Chances are nothing will turn out quite like you had imagined. Sometimes it’s for the best, sometimes not so much.
  • You will become an over-user of phrases such as, “It’ll do,” “Good enough,” “Oh well” and “Next time.”

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Old main floor bathroom on left, new on right. We liked the colour, but everything else had to go!
In case you have been completely discouraged by this fairly scathing review of renovating your house yourself, don’t be. Contrary to what I may have led you to believe, Johnathan and I are actually quite proud of the transformation we’ve been able to affect on our little house, and every. single. visitor over the past couple of years can attest to us eagerly dragging them around for a tour of what’s changed since their last visit.

It’s a crap-ton of work, and in some stages, the cleanup itself is fairly overwhelming, but in the end, it’s worth it.

No, really.


(Most of this post was originally written in November 2016)

(Also, please forgive the iPhone pictures – it’s the best I’ve got right now!)

Change and stuff 

My last post was September 2014. 20-bloody-14! Like, where do I even begin to catch you up with life since then?! 

How about I give it to you in the simplest of terms? 

  1. Johnathan and I bought a house. 
  2. We started renovating that house. 
  3. We moved in. 
  4. We continued renovating. 
  5. We got engaged. 
  6. We continued renovating. 
  7. We got married. 
  8. We continued renovating. 
  9. We got pregnant. 
  10. We continued renovating. 
  11. I got laid off. 
  12. We continued renovating. 
  13. We had a baby. 
  14. We continued renovating. 

And now you’re caught up. 

Don’t be fooled — there was a whole lot of living and even dying in between, but we can’t get bogged down in that now. 

Side note: my last draft post was titled “Renovators don’t have time to be bloggers.”  Seriously though. At least, when you’re working full-time, that is. 

I think that post may just see the light of day yet… it makes some good points about the realities of renovating. 

The realities of blogging while being a mommy include dictating this post on my iPhone as my 2 1/2 month old flails around while suctioned onto one of the most tender parts of my body. Also known as fighting sleep while nursing. That and getting interrupted multiple times to deal with another person’s poop. 

In the interest of moving on from allowing draft posts to stack up for years (literally years! WTF?!) and actually being the blogger that this website claims that I am, my last order of business for this post will be adding a photo from our wedding for your viewing pleasure. 

Photo credit: Holly Dalton Photography

I am [modern] woman; Watch me cook

Sarah in Almonte Riverside Boutique Inn garden - by Amy Eaton

Housewife has become a dirty word for my generation. It hearkens back to another time, when gender equality was virtually nonexistent.

But now, even in this fairly gender-equal era, I want to stay at home. I want to work from home, cook, clean, garden, decorate. I want to be a “housewife”.

Sure, I was raised conservatively, and yes, my mother was a homemaker (less offensive but still sounds outdated) for most of my life. Yes, I always wondered if she would have preferred to have a career besides being a mother to six, if given the choice. She didn’t.

The best parts of my week generally always have to do with cooking something well, trying a new recipe, planting and harvesting vegetables, feeling a sense of accomplishment after cleaning the house or doing laundry.

The hardest parts of my week are trying to cram everything into evenings and weekends: extracurricular work, special cleaning projects, ongoing laundry and dishes, meal planning and prep, exercise, dog-walking, quality time with my man, not to speak of time with friends and family, and, of course, keeping up with pop culture as everyone is expected to do.

For some (many?) women, being a career professional is no doubt a life stage they are happy with and settled into. Proud of, even.

But I’m in the camp that would like the chance to check emails on the porch with coffee; to have the time to grow a big vegetable garden, and to preserve the extras; to clean the house and do the grocery shopping and walk the dog and make dinner before my man gets home, so we can enjoy our evening together; to just pop into the kitchen to make a fresh lunch; to start dinner more than 20 minutes before I want to eat it.

Is this my middle-class privileged pipe dream? Maybe so, but I haven’t given up on it yet.


Photo by Amy Eaton of Winsome and Whimsy Photography. Taken at Almonte Riverside Boutique Inn, Almonte, Ontario.

keep calm and graduate

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can

keep calm and graduate

Seven more months…

(PS When you type “I think I can” three times in a row at 2:00 am, it looks quite silly).



Thirty-One Times Grateful

My birthday was last week, and, as ever, I greeted the day with excitement and joy, and not a little gratitude. I am sometimes sarcastic and sometimes philosophical, but this occasion called for a simple stock-taking of all the reasons having another birthday is a great thing. 1. I live in a free country (no, […]

My Herb Garden

Worthy Distractions

Things have been quiet on the personal blog front for a while. My apologies. First, there were final papers. Four due in five days. Let’s just say I lived on coffee, three hours of sleep per night and was very grateful to get two extensions. Then, there was exams. Oh, and losing my wallet. I […]

Parliament Hill

Bittersweet Transition: Why I WON’T Miss Huron County

(not to be confused with yesterday’s post: “Why I Will Miss Huron County“)

Parliament Hill
Me hanging with some of Canada's most famous ladies on Parliament Hill in Ottawa

Last night I wrote about the reasons I will miss Huron County, my home since I was five. But this transition to the city truly is a bittersweet one. Yes, there are many things I will miss about Huron County, and the family and friends I leave behind are at the top of that list.

Still, there are some very enticing things about the city that contribute the “sweet” part. For one, you can go to the grocery store or the bank or Wal-Mart and expect to see no one you know. Yes, there really is something beautiful in total anonymity sometimes!

Then there is the much wider variety of stores and goods. I will be able to shop at a farmer’s market all year round! Or have my pick of several health food stores and specialty markets. So many furniture stores and antique shops and clothing stores and thrift stores!

I have access to a trail that goes clear across the city, and I can use it to run or walk or bike on. I no longer have to worry about getting run over by cars on the country road (not that that was ever a major problem). I can actually use my bike to get places and leave the car at home for an entire day!

Finally, I might actually use the membership I’ve been paying for at the gym at school, because I can go at times when I’m not already carting a bag with books and meals for an entire day.

In the winter and late at night, I will have more activity options than bowling, house parties, and Tim Horton’s. Imagine that, rural-ites! Tons of bars and restaurants and shows and galleries, more than I will likely ever get to see or experience.

Street meat!
The BF and I enjoying street meat in Ottawa a couple summers ago. Yes, I gained weight that trip.

I will always have a wide variety of movies to see without having to drive over an hour to get to the city. I never felt like I suffered for being from a town that screened only one or two movies, but it is still pretty cool that a wider variety will be more convenient for me.

Then there are the regular hours of stores and libraries. This is one of the most frustrating things about small town life for me. There are places that aren’t open the same hours from day to day or week to week, or have different winter hours, and it’s annoying. Yes, I get it. I know that business dies at certain times of the day or season, but still. There are few things more irritating than when you make a special trip for something only to find that the place is only open 10-3 today and it’s 4:15.

While it’s true that none of these things are as powerful as that smell I talked about at the end of yesterday’s post, they are all reasons to be excited about moving to the city.

Like I said, bittersweet.


search tools

Adventures in Apartment-Hunting

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The implements of our search.

Johnathan and I have been actively looking for a place to live in London for two weeks now. Honestly, house/apartment-hunting could be a part-time job!

Each day, we spend a couple of hours, together and apart, searching Kijiji for new or updated ads offering places for rent. We have made many phone calls and sent many emails and spent a lot of time driving around looking for “For Rent” signs.

Being the people of discriminating taste that we are, we have a pretty well-defined idea of what we’re looking for:

  • Preferably an apartment in a house or duplex, not an “apartment building”, pretty definitely not a high-rise. They’re not “homey” enough.
  • Parking for at least two cars, if not three. We each have old cars that we’d like to have on the road in the summer. One set of vintage wheels apiece, plus one car for longer distances equals three cars. We know that’s a lot for renters to ask, but there it is.
  • A dishwasher. I have lived without one for most of my life, and as much as I hate doing dishes, I can live with it more easily than John can. To save our sanity, a dishwasher is pretty high up on our list.
  • It has to be located so that John can easily get out of the city to work (his work is about 20 minutes past the outskirts of the far southeast corner of the city). That means we’re not looking at anything that’s not in the southeast, regardless of whether it would be awesome. Driving more than 30 minutes to work and to school is about as much as we’re willing to do. Ideally, I would be able to catch a bus to school, which adds another location dimension to our search.
  • We have a limit to how much we are willing to pay, even if a place is freaking amazing. We both have school debt, after all, and we don’t want to be renters forever. AKA we want to save money. But we want to live in a nice place. These desires don’t always mesh.
  • At least two bedrooms. Some people can live in studio lofts or one-bedroom places and not lose their sanity or their patience with each other, but we are not those people. Plus, I want an office that I can hide all of my schoolwork and creative junk in.
  • Character preferred. This goes back to our issue with the apartment buildings: they tend to be pretty “cookie-cutter”, without imagination or individuality. This is not a requirement, but it is a preference for sure. You know you would love to live in a place that didn’t look like every other place you’ve ever lived!
  • Laundry. For more than four years now, I have had to take my laundry to a different town to wash! For whatever dumb reason, my apartment doesn’t have laundry facilities, and the crossroads I live in is so tiny it doesn’t even have a gas station or convenience store, let alone a laundrymat (WordPress is telling me that spelling is wrong, but “laundromat” doesn’t seem quite right, either). I would love to be able to wash my clothes from the inside of my own house! But again, it’s not a deal breaker for me.
  • Access to outside space. (This list is getting long, right?) We would really love to be able to sit outside on summer evenings, to barbecue, perhaps to plant a thing or two. Things that are not always possible in apartment buildings.
  • Landlords that aren’t idiots. Very simple.

If you got through that list, you’re a true fan. Either that or very curious.

It is one thing to have a well-formed idea of what you’re looking for, and another thing entirely to actually find it.

So far, we have been through six places, and tonight we add another. Three of them were absolute crap: stale smoke filling the hallways, stained carpets, holes in the walls, sketchy neighbourhoods, the reek of cat pee, shoddy renovations, or a lack of renovations… You get the picture. Blech. These ones were places that we looked at on Kijiji and looked nice enough to view in person. Be warned: don’t believe everything you see on Kijiji! Sometimes pictures lie.

We can identify...


Three have been nice. One was really cool, but much smaller than we thought. So small that a queen-size bed would not make it up the stairs to the bedroom. So small that the lovely spiral staircase was barely wide enough for our hips. Eek.

Another was a house in the perfect area, with the perfect amount of space and storage, a yard, parking, a dishwasher, renovated kitchen and bathroom, nice landlord… perfect! After making a decidedly intense effort to see the place and fill out the application in record time, and make sure the landlord knew of our interest, he gave it to someone else. Major letdown (and all you HIMYM fans saluted the worthy officer Letdown).

The other night, we saw a place that came close: lots of storage, 2 bedrooms, renovated bathroom and bedrooms, gas fireplace, new floors, parking for 2 cars, friendly landlords… but not a renovated kitchen. No dishwasher. No good outdoor space.

And still, we continue the search. We’re practically Kijiji experts now. We know how to refine our searches. We know what Kijiji needs to do to improve its service (the ability to search by location!!). We can skim the list of ads and know which ones to click on and which ones to avoid (anything with “students!” in it).

I can’t wait until we are done the hunt: it’s exhausting, and gets fairly discouraging at times!

I have to believe that the perfect place is out there, and we only have to find it. I hope that happens soon.

Death of an Idealist

University changes people.

Or, at $7,000 per year for tuition, it had freaking well better!

I remember when I was a naive teenager in youth group, talking about former members of the group that had gone to university, and thinking that that was where they lost their faith.

At the time, I was active in my church. All of my friends were from church. All of my family, immediate and extended, went to church. It was a pervasive aspect of my life, and I didn’t foresee anything different for myself.

In my past life (before university, before my mom died), I had another blog that I called MuSiNgS, where I talked about faith-based topics. One such post in 2007 discussed an idea I took from a book called Velvet Elvis, written by Rob Bell, a controversial figure in the North American church. At the beginning of his book (okay, I’ve only read the beginning), he introduces two conceptions of faith: springs and bricks.

This is from my MuSiNgS post in 2007:

Rob starts the first chapter, titled Movement One: Jump, by comparing faith to the image of a trampoline, then goes on to parallel the necessary springs with the statements people make about their beliefs. Springs are the doctrines that, when working together with other springs, hold up the mat we jump on, or the structure of our faith. In order to make that trampoline work, the springs should stretch and flex, expand and retract according to how the trampoline is being used. Likewise should our doctrines, the truths that give depth and content to our faith.

By comparison, Rob points out that there are those whose faith more closely resembles a wall of bricks that are laid on top of each other. If one gets knocked loose, several more tumble. Brickians aren’t comfortable with questions being asked of their faith, because they haven’t been introduced to the trampoline. They aren’t familiar with the flexing of the springs. Rob cites the case of one Brickian who was adamant that, “if you deny that God created the world in six literal twenty-four-hour days, then you are denying that Jesus ever died on the cross.” Pull out one brick, the whole wall collapses.

When I was in youth group looking upwards at the people who had gone off to university, I was a Brickian. I couldn’t be flexible. Brickians are afraid of change, of new ideas, of anything that will challenge their worldview. I was afraid that my wall would fall down. I didn’t see that there was a trampoline on the other side of it. I probably would have been afraid of the trampoline if I had seen it.

Since those days, my bricks have slowly been falling down, one after the other, and sometimes two or three at a time. I have crossed lines I never would have dreamed possible for me. I have been introduced to the trampoline, and while I know that I am not pushing that trampoline to its limits, it is sometimes hard for me to remember those left behind behind their own brick walls, that may never discover the springs of a flexible faith. trampoline

Brickians are idealists. They have to be.


This year in university, I feel like I’m finally getting down to what really matters, things that are world-defining, like democracy and racism. I’m learning that there is very little place for idealism in the real world. Things are very rarely black and white, if ever. There are very few things that you can really know for sure.

Yes, I believe faith can help you be sure about some things. But it can help you hide from others. It can encourage ignorance and complacency. It doesn’t have to. But it can. For me, it did.

What I am learning about the world, my world, is knocking down the rest of those bricks. It’s opening up my mind. It’s causing me to re-assess those issues that I had been too scared to consider before, those things that I had deemed too controversial or too sacred to open up.

It’s a good thing. I may be losing my idealism, which I had thought a good thing, but I am not losing my optimism. Yet, anyway.

I am losing a tendency to hide behind crumbling pillars erected by fearful people, and gaining an ability to see critically. I’m not there yet… but I have another year and a half of university, and then hopefully many more years of life to continue to learn.

To continue to let idealism die, in exchange for wisdom.