Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I'm Zen!

About the best thing that's happened this year so far is that my brilliant husband figured out how to turn off the comment section on So now I can keep abreast of what's going on in my country (What? There's an election?!) without having to see other people's crazy opinions on the stories. It's almost like reading the newspaper! Checking the daily headlines used to be so stressful. All those twits spewing their right, left, or squarely-in-the-middle political opinions in the dumbest, angriest way possible drove me nuts. Sometimes someone would say something so stupidly provocative that I would then join them in spewing my own insane rhetoric. But those days are over. Now I can use all that extra time to check out the latest news on Charlie Sheen. The world is returned to order!

It's spring break here and the temperatures are finally hitting just above the freezing point. My driveway is a slushy mess and my dogs are leaving their muddy paw prints all over the house. Now that I can safely drive again on a regular basis, I've decided it's time to get Firstborn out of the house and into something that doesn't involve a Wii controller.

Firstborn has shown some interest in martial arts, and he could use a little help with his coordination, so a couple of weeks ago, I looked up what's available in our area. When I saw what was involved, and that the class was open to all ages, I made a sudden crazy decision. Firstborn and I were going to take Taekwon-Do TOGETHER!

Firstborn was very enthusiastic about this idea (he's still at the age where I'm not completely embarrassing, apparently) so I contacted the school and was told to go to the class this past Monday to see if we liked it. When I got there, it became immediately apparent that things were not going to go the way I'd hoped. In this particular class, the only person in the room over the age of 12 was the instructor! I had to break it to Firstborn that there was no way I could take this class with him. Sparring with the elementary school set could only be a lose-lose situation for me. In addition to being the only creepy grownup in the class, I'd either have to get beaten up by a pre-teen, or be the one doing the beating-up. AWKWARD! Thankfully, my kid's adaptable. He's already made a friend in class without me there to weird everybody out.

And every cloud has a silver lining. As disappointed as I am not to be taking martial arts, there are other options. The class is held at the base gym, so I'll have an hour and a half to kill twice a week in a place where the only thing to do is get my pudgy butt on the treadmill or into the pool. Well, I guess I could go across the street for ice cream, but even I know an opportunity when I see it, so I'll limit the ice cream runs to no more than once every fortnight.

So, in short, my blood pressure is down from not having to read the crazy opinions of my fellow Canadians, AND I have a good excuse to get myself moving twice a week.

Take that, heart disease!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Warning: Nothing But Thrift Pictures!

I apologize for what you're about to see. If my double life as a rabid thrifter doesn't leave you on the edge of your seat, wondering daily what exciting new finds I've come across in the back corner of some grimy second-hand store, you have my blessing to stop reading right now and move onto worthier pursuits. And I promise my next post will make no mention of thrifting.

The Captain is home, and we haven't killed each other yet!

For those of you not familiar with my take on the military reunion, this is excellent news. The movies will have you believe that reuniting with your personal GI Joe after a long separation is all kisses and romance and bliss. That's just a big fat lie. He spent the last ten weeks living a structured, regimented army existence with no family distractions. We spent the last ten weeks developing less-than-structured routines that don't involve having a man about the house. Then suddenly, we were all thrown together again to reorganize ourselves and fit each other in. Humans are, at their core, creatures of habit, and we don't want to reorganize anything. We like things just the way they are, thanks very much. This creates low-level melodrama of the quit-getting-under-my-feet-and-annoying-me variety. So we bicker and rip our hair out until we get used to it again.

That, my friends, is military life in a nutshell.

On the plus side, the Captain knows me well enough to realize that a trip around Value Village before heading home from the airport would ease the transition a little. Combined with the Value Village run I did in Booming Metropolis last month, my closet is starting to bulge. Here's the damage:

Light, floaty top originally from Cleo for $7. Added my own belt for that all-important not-pregnant look. This is the only shot I managed to get of me wearing any of it. But you're an imaginative bunch. You'll get the idea.

Skirts! How I've missed you! The one on the left is Gap, the next one was some brand I'd never heard of, and it was originally a dress that didn't suit me, so I cut it up and made it work. The two on the right are from Cleo. All were around $7.

I'm told a chambray shirt is the thing to have this spring. We'll see how that works out for me. The tunic on the right is actually a bright, gorgeous pink with sequins and beads all around the neck. I tried umpteen times to get a good picture. This was the best I got. $7 each.

Pants that fit! The cargo capris in the middle unsnap to become full-length pants. So handy! The grey pants on the right go gorgeously with my new shoes, below. $8 apiece.

These were actually not thrifty at all. Reasonable, yes. But not thrifty. I ordered these online as a reward for finishing my dining room walls. They go with all my new-to-me clothes.

As you may be able to tell, I'm at a point where all I want to do is float around in loose floral-print tops, skirts and sandals. Buying all this stuff is my way of trying to usher in spring. Tell me, I won't have to wait too much longer...

For those of you who kindly read all the way to the bottom of this post, despite not being the least bit interested in my ongoing treasure hunt, here's a picture of my cat going bananas after I opened a window for the first time since October:

"Let me out! Let me out!"

I defy you to walk into a room full of people and find one who is not either enthralled with thrifting, or enthralled with cats.

Just humour me, people. It's been a loooooong winter.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Luck Of The Irish

As far as I know, I do not even have 1% Irish in me. The last time I looked into it, I found that I was 99.9% English with, I think, a tiny smidge of Scottish if you go back far enough. This, however, does not stop me from going hog wild on St Patrick's Day. I already have the beef marinating for my Steak and Guinness Pie tomorrow.

This year, it seems I've cashed in all those lucky four-leafed clovers I found out back as a kid. In just over a year, I have won no less than FOUR blog giveaways! Blogging is turning out to be better than the lottery!

Two of those giveaways I won this month within a week of each other. A big thanks to Nezzy for the fantastic $40 gift code at CSN Stores, which I gave to my overworked mom who has been playing nursemaid to my dad after his knee replacement surgery. At the risk of making a sweeping generalization, anyone with a man around the house knows what it's like to look after them when they're under the weather. Am I right?! My mom deserved a treat, and that $40 gift code came at just the right time!

And yesterday, I received this in the mail from Janine:

Obviously, it was painful to have to rip open something so pretty, but I forced myself to do it, and found this stamp set inside:

Janine knows me well. If there's one thing I can use this year, it's an incentive to get my Christmas cards made! I won this for successfully guessing where Janine spent a week in the sun. Frankly, I can't tell Jamaica from Mexico from Italy (I really do need to get out more...), but somehow I guessed correctly and won! I'd have preferred it if Janine had just taken me to Jamaica with her, but I have to admit, now that things are getting slushy and more bearable here, this fantastic stamp set was a much more practical choice!

I think from here on out, I'm going to give the giveaways a miss only because I don't think it's fair that I keep winning, and I want to give someone else a chance. Did you ever see those two guys on that lottery commercial who had each won a million bucks and were competing to see who could be the first to win a second time? I wanted to give them both a slap and tell them to be thankful they'd won at all and to let someone else share the wealth! And that's how I feel every time I'm tempted to enter a giveaway now. So I'm passing on the luck of the Irish to all my blog buddies. Go out there and win something, people! I'm not going to stand in your way!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Before and After #2

Today I have a Before and After of a completely different nature.

About a month ago, I took a treacherous drive down the highway in a snow storm to pick up my mail and stop in my teeny town's little thrift store. Unfortunately, I had my kids there to distract me from rummaging, so the whole thing was a bit of a non-event. Except for one thing. Sticking out of a rack, in the middle of the aisle was a wool coat in the colour all my daytime TV shows/magazines/style blogs have been raving about: camel. Well, more of a light beige really. But close enough.

The sign on the wall said that all coats were $5, but when I got to the counter, the lady (who knows me well by now) told me that winter coats were on for half price. I paid $2.50. SCORE!

I could see when I bought the coat that it was going to need a little work. And in my haste at getting the ball rolling, I forgot to take a proper before picture, so I'm going to have to describe things to you as best I can. This coat had clearly belonged to someone's grandma, circa 1976. It was about three sizes too big, came halfway down my calves, had massive bell-shaped sleeves and a ridiculously ugly triangular buckle-detail at each cuff. The "skirt" of the coat billowed out like a ball gown. A smaller-framed girl could probably have pulled the look off (minus those god-awful plastic buckles) and looked cute and retro. It just made me look like a big angry bear searching for food. Oh, and the rust-coloured lining was so threadbare and full of holes, that was absolutely shot as well.

So I got the thing home, removed the offending sleeve-buckles and promptly threw it in the washing machine, and then the dryer (NEVER a recommended treatment for a wool coat) because I figured I could give it a good cleaning and shrink it down a bit at the same time. Mission accomplished--it shrunk considerably. This is what it looked like after cleaning:

Not TOO bad, right? Admittedly, my facial expression and fuzzy slippers do nothing to improve the look. But take note: the sleeves shrunk so badly, I had to pull them hard to get them to reach my wrists. The whole thing was still a bit too swingy and loose for my top-heavy frame, and those cheap plastic buttons had to go.

Over the following weekend, I cut and shaped and re-lined and abused my sewing machine until the coat looked pretty much as good as it was going to get. I shortened it to hit above the knee and used the excess fabric to lengthen the sleeves. I ordered some fancy new buttons online (adding $10.50 to the cost--yikes! I need to stock up on some nice emergency buttons for next time.) and here is the end result:

A bit of creative seaming on the sides and back took things in enough to not swallow me up.

I used some fabric my mom gave me to re-line the whole thing, pockets and all. Very Burberry, no?! Thanks, Mum!

Coat done up, with new buttons (they are actually all the same colour--I had a heck of a time getting a good after shot with the lighting in my dining room). I only added 4 because I never intend to do the thing right up to my neck. I wish I could do something about those extra buttonholes though. I may re-think the button situation later, but that's an easy enough fix.

This coat isn't quite as flattering as the new, fitted Anne Klein one I bought last winter for $120, and the wool is a little itchy at the neck, but at a total cost of $13, I really can't complain. It's warm!

Look forward to yet another post on my recent thrift finds next week (try not to faint from excitement). The Captain has also promised me a spree at the big Value Village in the city after I pick him up from the airport on Saturday. I fear I am becoming a serious thrifter. But I figure hoarding issues always make for great blog fodder, so really this is a win-win situation.

Happy Sunday! Spring IS just around the corner...right?!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Before and After #1

I've been neglecting my all-encompassing blog duties in order to work on a long-overdue home improvement job. Over the last few weeks I've been putting my kids to bed and then spending an hour or two every evening working on my dining room. The most important lesson I've learned in all this is that in my next life, I need to come back as a rich person. That way, I can sip margaritas on a beach in the Caribbean while someone else does all the hard work back at the mansion.

After stripping off about 4 layers of painted-over wallpaper, some of it with raised black velvet swirly patterns on it, this is what we had to work with:

And the after pics:

It became apparent pretty quickly that I am no drywaller. My seam work was atrocious, so I believed the folks at Home Depot when they claimed I could hide all manner of ugly with some popcorn texture paint and a special roller. I have never made such a mess in all my life. But believe it or not, this disaster actually looks better than my "smooth" ceiling. That said, I'd never, ever do it again, and I would not recommend it to a friend.

Because of the big, bright south-facing window, we picked a dark red for the walls. I thought it'd be a good idea to try it out on the primer first, just to make sure I liked it. And also to drop the Captain a subtle hint.

The walls were in bad shape, and my attempts at smoothing them out were not wholly successful, but the dark colour hides a lot. At night, when there's no glare, the finish almost looks professional! Almost.

Obviously, the work is not finished. When the Captain comes home (NEXT WEEK!!!), we're going to get some nice big white moldings up to make the wall colour pop, and we'll be putting laminate down for that classy hardwood-but-not-really look.

Speaking of which, it's time to start patching the dents in the sub-floor. Groan. There'd better be a pair of shoes in this for me.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

In Like a Lion!

Happy Anniversary, Mum and Dad!

Photo courtesy of my Uncle Dave.

It's March 3rd and I'm already behind!

First, a quick resolution check-in. For the first half of February, my New Year's Resolution to keep it simple went right off the rails. Unless you think sitting around whining about how much I need a tropical vacation counts as keeping it simple. Because that's all I did. That, and eat junk.

Mid-month I gave myself a mental slap in the face and decided to get my you-know-what together. That doesn't mean I've stopped telling anyone who will listen that I need a week in the southern U.S. to get me through the rest of this rotten winter. Frankly, I think the dogs are sick of hearing it. But I did save more money this month by not shopping at any mega-super-colossal-centres, and I got back to my plan to do just a little work every night on the dining room. As of last night, the ceiling is finished (though I'm thinking of adding a coat of textured paint to hide my terrible plastering job) and the walls are primed. Pretty soon, I may have before-and-after pictures to share. Stay tuned!

Rosemary's Baby's therapy wasn't going so well today. He was just having an off day, stimming more than usual and really unfocused. When this happens, I have a method. First, I worry incessantly about what could've happened to cause it. Is the paint smell in the dining room stronger for him than it is for the rest of us? Can he feel some sort of air pressure change that we don't know about yet? Did he eat a pretzel when I wasn't looking?

Then, when I've spent a respectable amount of time fretting over something I clearly can't control, I decide it's time to make the best of the situation and help the kid out. So at this point, his tutor and I let him have a little sensory integration fun. Since this dining room job started, there's been a big bucket of drywall compound sitting in the middle of the room and I've been chasing him away from it constantly. Today we let him have a little tub of it to play with on a piece of cardboard at the table. Here are the completely predictable results:

Playing with drywall mud is serious business.

It was at about this time that the hand-flapping started...

...resulting in this. But all over the house.

I'll spend this evening scraping up dry chunks of plaster off of every surface in the house. I think we can all agree, I have no one but myself to blame.