Fresh Air

Photo courtesy of

Every Wednesday my mother-in-law picks up Ben from school and brings him home for me.  It’s early dismissal at the school and it clashes with naptime for John and my niece, so the Wednesday pickup is my mother-in-law’s weekly gift of sanity to me.

As I was standing on our front doorstep yesterday talking to her after Ben had run upstairs to watch George Shrinks with Cate, a little breath of wind came down the lane between the townhouses opposite and blew into our house.  It had rained earlier in the day and the air was cool and fresh.  It was cloudy overhead, but the kind of cloudy where you know that somewhere back there is sunshine, but it hasn’t yet broken through.

I sucked in that breath of wind and all of a sudden my sensory memory jolted awake.   I was standing on the banks of Cultus Lake, I was waiting for the elementary school bus on a cool spring morning, walking to university on a crisp fall day.

I was able to take in two deep breaths of this memory-inducing wind, right in the middle of the conversation with my mother-in-law.  I didn’t say anything about it to her, just kept it all to myself.  And just like that, the wind was gone.  The whole thing had taken about two seconds.  But there it was, the wind connecting my present and my past, then vanishing off around the corner to shore up the wings of one of the pigeons that nest in the eaves of the townhouses.


Most beautiful thing: Christmas cactus

I tend to kill houseplants, so the blossoming Christmas cactus on our kitchen windowsill is particularly beautiful. Even more incredible is that we received this cactus as a housewarming gift over three years ago, and it is still alive! Will miracles never cease?





As the year wanes…

As the year wanes I sit by the window on a crisp December afternoon. After days of family and feasting and enjoying the company of others, I am soaking up this solitude. I can hear the dishwasher, John’s noisemaker, and the ticking of the clock. I have wrapped a blanket around my middle to keep me warm.

When I look out the window I can see white clouds against a cold blue sky, the neighbors’ backyards, and the red tipped branches of the trees, their leaves gone for almost a month now. If I look down I can see the fence that we finally got around to staining late this summer. An assortment of toys are scattered throughout the yard, leftover from an energetic summer. Our grass is slowly being taken over by the moss that climbs the hill from the common. We will have to deal with that in a few months.

Outside is bright and alive. Inside is quiet and messy, the detritus of Christmas morning still homeless and strewn throughout the house. What an awful lot of work life can be! But how rich and rewarding, especially when one has the time to appreciate what has been given.


Pink nail polish.

For months, I have been trying to find time to paint my nails. It just was not happening. Then, finally, last Tuesday after the kids were in bed I threw caution to the wind, let the dirty dishes sit in the sink, and just did it. My toes are now a lovely shade of “Princesses Rule” pink.

It was a Christmas present from my Mom. This is the second time the bottle has been opened. It is now June.

A few days later I looked at my fingernails and decided that they were missing out on the fun and probably wanted to be “Princesses Rule” pink as well.  So, on went the nail polish and I remembered just how hard it is to get ready in the morning with semi-dry nails.  Nevertheless, whenever I looked down at my digits, I felt very fancy and grown up.

And that is the problem. When my nails are painted I just CAN’T STOP LOOKING AT THEM.  It’s like I suddenly turn into a magpie and I am distracted by the shiny things on the end of my fingers.  Then I turn into a teenage boy who just bought his first car and I start worrying about whether I am going to scratch the finish.  Then my nails get so long that I accidentally start scratching the kids.

But the real kicker is that Cate is now old enough to want to have nail polish on like Mom.  I am not a big fan of nail polish on little girls (aside from clear) and I find chipped nails particularly unattractive.  Do I really want to worry about the upkeep of both her nails and mine?  Not so much.  Do I want to have to rationalize denying coloured nail polish to an almost four year old when I am wearing said nail polish on my own fingers and toes? Absolutely not.

So, a few nights ago, my fingernails went back to plain old clear.  They also got a trim.  They are no longer fancy, but they are much more content, and considerably less vain.  I am killing two birds with one stone: preventing Cate from having coloured polish on her fingernails and learning a bit of humility in the process.

However, my toenails remain “Princesses Rule” pink.  I suppose this is where vanity wins out, but having painted toenails really does make me feel like I am doing a better job of taking care of myself.  Sometimes you just need a little extra something.  And I figure that if I am somehow manoeuvred into painting Cate’s toenails anything other than clear, at least they have a good chance of being covered up by socks and shoes.

Rating the pros

I’d like to preface this by saying I am evaluating items according to whether or not they would survive in a house with children.  I find that a lot of decor/design suggestions really don’t take kids into consideration, and when you are looking to purchase long-term items for your home, these are things that you should think about. My apologies as well for the less-than-clear photos.  I’m still working on getting the most out of the ol’iPhone. (Any suggestions on that front are more than welcome!)

The March 2012 issue of Style at Home features a Q&A section with Steven and Chris, stars of the lifestyle show of the same name.  In this issue they recommend a series of items designed to make life in small spaces easier.  Let’s take them one at a time.

1. Lidded-Barrel Basket

Pass, I’d buy it.  Storage+style+durability= good solutions.  I like that this has an organic feel to it.  This would be a great place for kids toys.

2. Donnabella Four-Door Chest

Fail. This thing is covered with mirrors.  Even people without children are going to have difficulty keeping this puppy looking pristine, and you will be able to see every smudge, especially if you have it placed in direct sunlight.  So unless you have no pets and no children AND you are either fastidiously neat or have a cleaning lady come in every other day, this thing will be a huge pain to keep clean.

3. Sea Garden Laptop Skin

Pass.  Laptop cover that doubles as artwork?  I can dig that…

4. Two-Arm Wall Sconce

Fail.  Only because what seven year old boy isn’t going to try to take these babies down?  For that matter, this thing is toast if you have cats.  Mind you, the concept of using vertical space in a small house is wonderful, its just that this option is not practical for a family with young kids.

5. Entryway screen

Fail. Does a townhouse count as a small space?  Because there is no way on God’s green earth that this would fit in our entryway.  And thinking back on 10+ moves in 8 years of marriage, I can’t think of a single one of our houses where this would have worked. And as cool as screens are (and I happen to think they are very cool and I would have died to have one like this as a teenager), this is not going to stay in place for very long.

6. End table/Computer table

Pass with flying colours.  Double duty furniture is genius and I SO wish I had two grand to drop on this right now.

So there’s my take on how the experts’ picks would fare in real life.  What pieces would you have in your home, and why?

What is beautiful doesn’t always work

The idea for this blog has been germinating for a while, but this article (“Modern Inconveniences” by Adele Weder) is a great example of why beautiful design doesn’t always succeed in real life.  Weder is an architectural journalist who lives and rents in Vancouver, BC.  This story chronicles her family’s transition from a comfortable, cluttery mid-century home to a sleek, modern abode.  One of my favorite parts:

“I’m pretty sure that if our house had been a story assignment rather than a year-long rental, I would have raved about how the mid-kitchen change in grade triggered that dynamically expansive spatial narrative. As it was, this unexpected step in the floor triggered a series of spectacular wipeouts. My mate and I started calling it the death step. Our daughters started calling our place the hurty house.”

Read the whole article.  It’s worth it.