Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tighter, Closer, Sweeter

It's nice, isn't it, to buy American money lately? Friday, I bought 200 US dollars for $207 Canadian. Miracle! I tucked the oddly shaped green bills into my wallet and double-checked my passport in my laptop bag. Slinging my lovely, soft-brown leather weekend bag over my shoulder, I started up my podcast, slipped on my sunglasses and boarded the bus.

Off to a meeting point with out-of-town colleagues and friends, heading down the highway for a conference in the US! A weekend of computer dork un-conferencing, hotel room to myself, drink ticket in my registration package, an id tag with a QR code and my (work) Twitter handle. Sunshine and passports and networking. Blessed focus on my intellectual life. The freedom of throwing myself into it, totally! The freedom of that one little bag, the foreign currency, walking through someone else's historic district on my own time, my own dime.


But this?

I missed it like I never thought I could. Gone for, what? About 52 hours? I felt an ache for my Munchkin like I never felt when she was smaller. I guess that's what's so surprising. "Mom!" she yelled over the phone, "When can I come to Michigan?"

To break my heart, I tell you.

I used to make fun of these people, these mothers or lovers off on fantastic adventures, moaning and crying and pining for the absent objects of their affection. I mocked them: how on Earth can you be missing your Real Life when you have this sanctioned brief escape? My god, it's two days, sheesh louise you see your kid / your partner / your dog every day your entire life, enjoy the novelty of the now.


Adulthood, I think, is the capacity to experience conflicting realities, simultaneously. Or maybe it's just a condition of motherhood: one of the hallmarks of my pregnancy was this odd thing where if I laughed--really laughed, a good lose-my-breath belly laugh--inevitably it ended in heartrending sobs. But oh, what a ride!

I feel like I live like that quite a lot now. Begin as you mean to go on, Mimi!

Monday, March 08, 2010

So, now I reno'd the dining room

I've been obsessed with painting and decorating again. I tackled the dining room over Reading Week, with help from Pynchon and my dad and a soundtrack of cowbells from the Olympic skiing events I played in the background for company.

From this:

We went to this:

You seemed to like my breakdown of the kitchen reno, where I told you what I did and what it cost and scoffed at the shelter and lifestyle magazines' idea of 'low cost' versus my somewhat more parsimonious one. So I'll do that again!

First, though, some more photos of the finished space. I'm just moving from one corner of room, sequentially around to the other three, okay? Think of it as a cheapo 360 degree tour ;-) These were all taken during the daytime:

What I did (and Pynchon did, and my dad did), and what it cost (cash money, and time):

1. We changed the lighting fixtures. The one fixture in the room was that dated 70s thing. It was too small, used weird bulbs, and was in the dead middle of the room. We bought two brushed-nickel and frosted glass fixtures at Crappy Tire for $40 (sconce--but that came with us from our other house, so I'm not counting it!) and $70 (chandelier). Electricians created a spot for the sconce over the sideboard, and moved the chandelier so that it was centred with the dining table, not with the room. Both fixtures are controlled by dimmers. The electrical work probably cost close to $200, because getting the fixtures where I wanted turned out to be a bit of a fiasco. Totally worth it though. Total for lighting: $270.

2. We painted*. This took a HUGE amount of time. Probably 30-40 hours. The trim, as ever, was a total pain in the ass: sand, wash, prime, three coats of white paint. The other thing with painting dark wood trim white, is that once you do, you see that the wood (over 93 years) has shrunk away from the floor, the walls, and all the joints are gappy. This is when you get your dad to come visit, and fill all the blessed gaps with silicone caulking that then needs painting. Results totally worth it, though. The white is Polar Bear by Behr, in a semi-gloss.The brown on the wall is Oat Straw, the same colour we used in the living room, in a flat enamel finish that is already proving itself nicely washable. Hooray! Two cans of paint, and a portion of the giant bucket of primer: $60 (got the paint 25% off this summer ...)

3. We added storage. The antique sideboard came with us from Edmonton to the apartment, then the first house, and now here. We keep our table linens in it, and the fancy cutlery. The smaller wood cabinet is used for hiding sunglasses and CDs and my chequebook and Pynchon's doodads and a bunch of Munchkin's toys. It's a Billy bookshelf from Ikea ($79), with doors (2 x $40, plus brushed nickel Attest knobs, $8). So we forked out $167 for storage: but no more clutter? Priceless.

4. We decorated. The room is dark. It faces northeast and is pretty grim most of the time -- that's not good because this is the central room, the hub, of our main floor. So the idea was to maximise the light by adding fixtures, painting out the dark trim, and using art to brighten up the room with colour and bounce the light around. The three prints above the sideboard came with us from the other house; it's framed calendar art. The big silver frame was $19 at Ikea, and is framing a sparkly and fun .... piece of wrapping paper ($4). The two abstract paintings bring me joy unaccountable, but the big one was $70 at Ikea and the smaller one (above the stereo) was $60 at Bouclair. Those brown-toned flower paintings flanking the window are going to go somewhere else soon: in their place, two 2' by 3' silver frames, with more wrapping paper in them, in a sort of green wallpaper patter (all in, $70). Speaking of the window, I removed the ancient drapes and hung simple, wide, 'faux bois' white blinds: $70. The piece de resistance up is the big silver mirror, $60 at Bouclair. Munchkin came to help me pick it out. She's a great helper:

Oh right! I bought a plant ($20) and a white ceramic pot ($30) for the corner, too. Decorating total: $400.

So that's the dining room! Since we've modernised the paint colours and hung modern / contemporary art and fixtures, our existing dark wood sideboard and dining set don't seem so overwhelming dark. And the room is so much brighter that the electrician and the cleaning lady both spontaneously remarked on it when they walked it.

Total total? Labout total? 9 days of one-and-off work by me, Pynchon, and dad. Money cost: $900, that we paid out in stages over about 2 years (electrical in 2008, paint and storage in 2009, decorating items 2010).

Now I need a drink of wine. You?

* painted: First, Pynchon had to repair the window wall--it's an exterior wall, obviously, and since we had a MILLION HOLES drilled in our exterior walls to have them insulted. So he sanded and patched, and sanded again. Dirty work.