A Year in Review

No need to add to the chorus of “thank-your-lord-of-choice 2020 is over” exhalations of exasperation; this post is going to be about the good things that came into my life last year, the positive behaviours I somehow picked up, and the happy memories I made in the process.

Not to lay too much responsibility at the doorstep of our actual doorstep, but like most good things in our lives, they begin and end with our house.  We actually moved in just before Christmas 2019, so 2020 was all about finding our footing as new homeowners.  Mostly, we were unbelievably grateful – every single day, audibly, no doubt involving a number of colourful epithets – that we were not trying to pandemic-in-place in our old condominium.  Had this camel’s back not been broken by the proverbial straw some months earlier, I have no doubt that COVIDing-in-a-condo would have been the thing to finally do it.

Instead, we settled in, grateful – there’s that word again – for our little fortress against the unknown.  We couldn’t control what was happening outside our door, but we could tend our little kingdom, and its surrounding community, as best we could, and just try to stay safe.  At its very core, I think that’s all that’s been asked of us all along – just take care of yourself and your neighbours.  I’m not sure how that message got quite so twisted up.

Mask Up!

Okay, brief political interlude aside (NOT a positive thing in my life in 2020; against my better judgement, and very much to my mental detriment, I became a hardcore doomscroller) our house is rad, we love living here, and we had a great year as first time homeowners.

My lovely, gigantic kitchen gave me plenty of space to spread my culinary wings, whether it was countless Hello Fresh meals – an absolute treat and sanity-saver during the very earliest days of the pandemic – or from-the-garden rhubarb jam, or pumpkin spice cinnamon buns, or many, many, many dozens of scones – a friend’s daughter paid me the greatest culinary compliment I’ve ever received when she commented that they were topped with icing worthy of Santa’s cookies – or even both Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, a first for me.

Sweet Treats

And in the early summer we purchased a gas barbecue, one of those “When I have my own house one day!” items I’ve been dreaming about over the last 17 years of apartment life.  Oh, the delicious, smoky fun we had this summer!  Mostly a lot of vegetarian, carby things (penne in a smoked vodka tomato cream sauce, white pizza, and alfredo-thyme farfalle studded with smoky, blackened corn) because Mr. Finger Candy is a vegetarian and I love carbs, but it saw its fair share of bacon-wrapped tenderloins and smoked chicken as well.  The very best food discovery I made this year is that dry mesquite wood chips loaded into a tinder box and set beneath your grill will impart a smoky flavour to your food that is virtually indistinguishable from bacon.  Spread the word, vegetarians!

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (and Your BBQ’d Pizza)

Because our house has rather a lot of yard (and one super adorable shed) this is the year I discovered I *might* be a green-thumb in the making.  My grandfather, one of those “Let me graft this pineapple onto a cherry tree and see what happens” types, would be so proud!  It’s serious enough that for Christmas this year, my parents gifted me with seed-starters and hydroponic lights to hang above my workbench.  No joke, I am but 7,567 loose nails and a mock road signing proclaiming “Brain surgery while you wait” away from turning into my Poppy, and I’m completely delighted. 🙂  I took such great pleasure from gardening and yard work last year – nothing felt so good as taking a hot, sudsy shower after a long day of pruning, mulching, replanting, de-crittering and/or rock wall-building.

Shed Life

Not to say everything in the great outdoors has been going totally swimmingly.  In the spring I planted and replanted (and then replanted and planted again) a promising collection of berries, tomatoes and peppers, before just giving up and giving them over to the many, many rodents, birds and outright pests that populate our back yard.  The squirrels made off with my heirloom tulip bulbs, even after I “dressed” the front beds with about five pounds of powdered cayenne pepper.  My peonies kicked the bucket.  I forgot to tie up our cedars for the winter, necessitating a 4 am, first-snowfall-of-the-season jaunt to the backyard in my jammies and boots to strap them down.  And in the early fall, one of the squirrels I liked to alternately coddle with vast quantities of nuts AND bitch about mercilessly, expired on my front lawn.  I buried him in the garden whilst softly singing Jeff Buckley’s version of Hallelujah.  When the garbage collectors came by, I was slumped over my shovel sobbing like some sort of heroine out of a gothic novel.

In Bloom

Carrying out funereal rites for the rodents aside, both Mr. Finger Candy and I have derived great joy from the vast assortment of critters that swing by our backyard to partake of the endless nut buffet.  We don’t have cable TV any more, we just have a back window!  Friendly black squirrels, sassy grey squirrels, twitchy red squirrels, fearless chipmunks (Mr. Finger Candy claims they are my disciples and I am their queen), bossy blue jays, shouty crows, gentle doves, rambunctious raccoons (had to evict three of them from our shed in the summer), pudgy skunks, relentless woodpeckers, regal cardinals, flocking finches, and one adorable extortionist cat we nicknamed Mewington.

Little Rodentia

Speaking of cats – and the very best thing to happen to us in 2020 – having a home allowed us to once again open our doors (and hearts) to a couple of deserving feline friends.  Just before Christmas, when our souls were feeling a bit battered from the weight of everything, the opportunity to foster a bonded pair of rescue kitties floated across my Facebook news feed.  As I stared at the photos of their sweet, clearly frightened faces, I knew if I so much as showed the post to my husband, they’d be with us within the week.  So I sent him the link, and they were. 🙂  Fluffy, the big, floofy boy, and Beans, the tiny tabby girl, have been with us for about a month now, and we love them so much, some sort of medieval weaponry will most assuredly be needed in order to get us to part with them.  Seriously, I’ll cut you off at the knees and then feed the bits to the cats if you try to take them from us.  What can I say, my love is violent. 😉

Les Chats

The holidays were weird as heck this past year, with both Halloween and Christmas happening in the shadow of ever-tightening provincial lockdowns.  But in an odd sort of way, they were more enjoyable than in recent years past – probably something to do with that unknowable human quality of simply trying.  Trick-or-treating was heavily discouraged at Halloween, but we geared up just in case, laying out a socially distanced spread of bagged candy for the 20 or so kids who did stop by.

This is Halloween

At both Halloween and Christmas, we went heavy on the holiday decorations, turning our house first into a fog-shrouded, jaunty haunt, and then into a peppermint striped winter wonderland.  And guess who finally got her pink Christmas tree?!

Making Christmas

Making Pinkmas

And for both the spooking season and the holly jolly holidays, Mr. Finger Candy really got in touch with his inner Clark Griswold, adorning the exterior of our home with many hundreds of programmable twinkle lights.

Let There Be Light

When purchasing Christmas gifts this year – and indeed, this was the overriding ethos for nearly all of my purchases in 2020 – I really tried to keep it local.  And in doing so, I discovered (or re-discovered) some really terrific vendors and creators, like Heart & Home Soaps, which is owned by a woman I’ve known since elementary school, Doughbaby Doughnuts, which is *right* around the corner, and The Girl With the Most Cake, who supplied my wedding shower cake many marital moons ago.  And at the very height of the pandemic (the one way back in the spring, since we’re now up to multiple waves) my husband arranged to have some favourite photos of our late kitties Porky and Weegie transferred onto canvas by printers VistaPrint.  We also ordered in a lot of takeout from local restaurants, including Meatings BBQ, the Lone Star Cafe, Biagio’s and Karara Indian.  Having made only one Amazon purchase last year (unicorn pen calligraphy sets don’t grow on local trees!) we felt pretty great about how we chose to exercise our purchasing power in 2020.

Shop Local

Other things that felt pretty great in a year of decided un-greatness?  The three-hour, wee small hours of the morning message chat I had with my high school best friend.  We’re all old and shit, with kids and cats and ugh, responsibilities, but it felt like we were 18 again, falling asleep on the phone with each other as we planned our going-out outfits for that coming weekend. 🙂  I loved the socially distanced backyard visits I had with my other high school best friend in the summer and fall – nothing felt so much like the very essence of 2020 as sitting in the late summer twilight with Uber’d Starbucks lattes, catching up on our lives.  Zoom chats with even more high school friends were fun excuses to catch up, drink virtually and wear ALL of the makeup that I had not worn the rest of the year.  We also spent a bit of time getting to know our neighbours, including a lovely summer evening enjoying socially distanced drinks with the folks next door.  And while I didn’t do very much nail art this year – funny, for what is ostensibly a nail art blog – I did get my creative craft on in other ways, jumping back into the world of calligraphy and lettering, assembling a couple of miniature shadowbox lanterns for my parents, and making a felt wreath inspired by The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Getting Crafty With It

Without a doubt, there is much of last year (and some of this new year) I could have done without.  If ever there were a moment to Rip Van Winkle an entire year, no?  But it clearly wasn’t all a total loss, something I periodically need to remind myself of – there is enjoyment to be found in the awful, so long as you’re willing to acknowledge that it can exist.

Halloween Hangover

But in a good way, not in a “I ate too many mini Snickers and now I have to go off and hibernate for the next three weeks” kind of way. Although I did eat A LOT of mini chocolate bars this weekend, and given the time change, a nap sounds pretty good right about now…

In all weird actuality, we wound up having a very nice Halloween, COVID mandates notwithstanding.  Trick-or-treating wasn’t banned in my city outright, just discouraged – that should really be the City of Ottawa’s motto: “It’s Not Banned, Simply Discouraged!” – and so we stayed close to home, stocking up on what seemed like a reasonable amount of candy should any trick-or-treaters actually grace our Jack-o-Lantern-adorned doorstep.

And they did!  We had 22 kids and one highly amused delivery driver pop by, much to our delight.  We had a nice little socially distanced setup going, with pre-wrapped bags of candy laid out on the front steps, Haunted Mansion music blasting through the open windows, and a gentle, low-lying fog drifting through the garden, courtesy of Mr. Finger Candy’s intense new love of the fog machine (the phrase, “This might be the best thing we’ve ever bought!” was uttered more than once.)

We even threw together a couple of last minute costumes, transforming ourselves into a maid and butler of the Haunted Mansion.

And I went real big with my eye makeup look, simply because when else in 2020 have I had a time or place to wear six different shades of blue, green and purple eyeshadow?

In the days leading up to Halloween (okay, so for the entire month of October) we also put out a lot of Halloween decorations, really got in touch with our inner Clark Griswolds!

So it’s little wonder our house saw a bit of action, given that we were seemingly the only gig in (this) town.  I overheard a few kids that had already passed by grumble, “Oh man, I wish we could go to that house again” and I nearly chased them down the street with armfuls of Sour Patch Kids before I remembered that now – and always! – luring children to your house with candy is generally frowned upon.  There’s entire fairy tales written about it! 😉

Near-forays into Hansel and Gretel-dom aside, however, we had a really excellent Halloween.  And did you know it was our wedding anniversary?  Of course you did, I never shut up about it!  It was our 16th, and our first as homeowners.  It definitely wasn’t the usual kind of anniversary celebration we like to enjoy – that would involve a week-and-a-half-long trip to Disney – but given the circumstances of 2020, we’ll gladly take it.  Nothing wrong with throwing together a couple of very last minute costumes and spending the night crouched over a fog machine drinking Swedish Fish-o-ritas (actually, they were orange creamsicle margaritas – Screamsicles – with a chocolate salt rim from the Lone Star in Ottawa, and not only were they very festive, but they were also incredibly delicious.  Hmm, they might have been the reason we got that food delivery – tacos! – once the trick-or-treaters cleared out.)

All in all, I’m super pleased with how our first homebound Halloween went, and I’m hearing similar things from friends and family.  I think the general circumstances of this year – shitty ones, not to put too fine a point on it – have forced a lot of us to think outside the box on events like holidays, and in a lot of unique respects, we seem to be all the better for it.  Friends with kids have reported that they took part in local scavenger hunts, neighbourhood candy drives, costumed movie nights and other cautious, but no less creative, approaches to the Halloween season, and everyone seems to have had an unusually great time.  Going forward, I really hope the city takes note of the ways people are trying to responsibly and safely move forward with “living with” COVID, and maybe cuts us all a little slack.  Most of us are really trying.  Without a doubt, though, THIS is the Halloween these kids will always remember.  I know I certainly will.  Hope you had a good one, too, friends.

Hoppy Easter (and a Hoppy Birthday to Me)

Easter 4

So here it is, proof positive that whether it’s on my nails in polish or on a piece of paper with gel pens, all of my attempts at drawing an animal result in some gigantic butt’d aberration that looks like it’s suffering from a wicked case of conjunctivitis.  At least this chunky fellow is wearing a mask and maintaining social distance from those carrots.

I made that little card yesterday for my parents, who are used to my laughably childish creations, and we ran it by their place, along with a COVID care package containing ah-mazing Indian takeout (hit up karara.ca if you’re in Ottawa, peeps), chocolate chip cookies, raspberry cream cheese pie, toilet paper and a whole mess of silly comedies and rom-coms.  Don’t ever say I’m not a great daughter when I’m bringing my parents both Indian takeaway AND the TP necessary to deal with the aftermath.

Care Package

Though, even at a distance, I think my parents could have done without their son-in-law showing up dressed like a pirate bike messenger.

Easter 5

We did the lightning fast trading-of-the-care packages via the garage, while my mom danced a trio of stuffed bunnies in the window and my father – so randomly, like a Kids in the Hall sketch – ran out of the house with his BELT looped around his neck, shouting that he was so bored he was taking HIMSELF for a walk.  I think they might be going a little stir crazy.  They just looked so excited to lay eyes on us for the first time in over a month.

Which is a feeling I’m coming to be quite familiar with.  I miss my parents more than is probably healthy for a 43-year-old; the urge to run at them with a tackle-hug, the kind I haven’t given since I was probably a little kid, was practically overwhelming.  I had to dither by the car for a couple of minutes to keep from bursting into tears, and then I bawled the entire way home.

Doesn’t help matters that tomorrow is my birthday (I’m turning 43 bullshit years old, if you’d like to send me a cake made of toilet paper and hand sanitizer.  I’m the one behind the Haunted Mansion doorbell.)  I’m an only child (duh) and kind of a spoiled one at that (double duh) and the big joke among my family come April is “How much are we going to get hosed for Sandra’s birthday dinner this year?”  Like hosing isn’t a foregone conclusion when I insist on going to a restaurant that only lists its market prices (and now I’m crying again thinking about the Kir Royale and seafood risotto I will not be enjoying at Giovanni’s on Preston tomorrow.)  It’s only-child-indulgence on a massive birthday scale, and I think my parents enjoy lavishing it on me just as much as I enjoy receiving it.  But this year is going to be kind of different.

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Yeah, okay, so like my inability to draw creatures, probably all the proof you needed that my parents and I are close is this envelope addressed to “our princess.”  You can also see where I got my artistic ability (joke; that wonderful little doodle my mom did there is a reference to every stick figure drawing I ever made of “us is the family” – dog, Boo Boo; dad, glasses and two hairs; mom, miniskirt and curly hair; me, bangs and a tutu; cat, Puddin’.)

Anyhow, we made out about as well my parents did with this reciprocal gift of roasted garlic tomato sauce, apple cobbler with caramel sauce and these adorable little chocolate bunnies, which I immediately decided to take outside for an Easter photo shoot, because I’m clearly bored as crap.

Bunnies 3

A 2020 EASTER BUNNY STORY, IN THREE PARTS

After spending some time in quarantine on my parents’ kitchen counter, a plastic bag acting as their PPE, the bunnies were feeling severely cooped up, and so they decided to venture out into the world.  It felt very big and very quiet.

Bunnies 2

They made it as far as the front flower bed before they got freaked out by the silent emptiness and decided, like everyone else, to go back inside and get drunk.

Bunnies 1

It did not end well.  The bunnies now have to go take a nap.  The end.

Bunnies 4

Good to know I haven’t lost my (stupid) sense of humour!  Speaking of, you’ve got to have one to go out in public looking like this!  Easter weekend fashion in the age of Corona, folks.

Easter 2

So there’s all the mostly welcome weirdness we’ve been up to this weekend.  I hope you’re having weird and wonderful ones yourself, friends – may they be just the hoppiest. 😉

I Love My House

Our House

Late last year Mr. Finger Candy and I sold our two-bedroom condo apartment and made the rather spectacular leap to single family home ownership.  To say it’s been an adjustment would be an oversimplification, but not a wild one – we’re not in completely over our heads here (unless we’re talking about the snow from our driveway, now piled high on our front lawn, which, after four or five storms, now stretches way, way above our heads.)

Without a doubt, things have changed, but in very few ways have they changed for the negative.  Mostly, I think we’re just plum delighted with our new-to-us house, and thankful beyond all measure that we’re out of our condo.  We…did not enjoy living there for what I was about to say was just the last couple of months, but really, encompassed the entirety of 2019.  We really, really did ourselves in with the unfortunate quadruple whammy of deceased pet, chaotic reno, employment strife and arsehole neighbours.  It was hard to view the place, beautiful though it was, as anything but a burden after that.

So we moved on to greener pastures (or at least they’ll be green once the snow melts.)  To be sure, we have taken on a mountain of responsibility that we did not have before, but weirdly, I think we both kind of love it.  You just can’t tell me that this man, outfitted in his best Captain Canada attire, out sweeping the back patio in the middle of a snowstorm, is not getting off on this!

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Things I frequently and delightedly note that I love about our new home?  The quiet.  Our street is – knock on wood – SO QUIET.  Or maybe it’s not and I’ve just been brainwashed into thinking that anything less than 2,000 other people thumping up and down the street every day is peaceful.

Our neighbours seem to be kind, considerate and helpful souls.  Snow has been plowed, holiday cookies have been exchanged and plans have been made for better weather get-togethers.  I hardly know what to do with this bounty of good neighbourliness.

The red heat lamp in our ensuite bathroom rocks my world.  I never bathe that I don’t have “ROXXXXXXXXXXXX-anne!” running through my head, or think that I’m somehow showering in the midst of an Alien movie.  Sometimes it’s both, which makes for a very unique bathing experience. 🙂

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We have a finished basement!  And true, it might be colder than Cocytus, the frozen lake of Hell, but that’s just because we don’t spend a lot of time down there right now, and so the heat’s rarely cranked.  But I suspect that once the warmer weather hits AND we’ve renovated the place into the ultimate Haunted Mansion-themed home theater, it’ll become THE cool place to be, in temperature and vibe.

Speaking of the Haunted Mansion, Mr. Finger Candy gave me this dope Honeywell doorbell for Christmas, and he programmed it to play the first 12 counts of the soundtrack to the Haunted Mansion.  “Heheheheheh, you’re going to freak out so many Jehovah’s Witnesses!” a friend gleefully chortled.  Delivery people certainly think it’s amusing.  Weird thing to say you love a doorbell, but here we are. 🙂

We have storage, so much storage!  Four bedrooms’ worth of closets, two ground floor cupboards, two gigantic basement cupboards and an entire furnace room filled with floor-to-ceiling shelving.  The real kicker for us has been learning to spread out, as we’re both still in that “Maximize every bit of space you’ve got” zone we were living in back at the condo.

Every time I do the laundry, by myself, in my basement at whenever-the-heck-o’clock I please, I do a little jig of happiness.  It is so, SO wonderful not being beholden to prescribed hours of use, or having to navigate the complicated and needlessly aggressive social strata of the Friday Night Laundry Crew.

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The wildlife that dances about our private backyard is plentiful, varied and very, very charming.  I say that now in the winter when the bunnies, squirrels, chipmunks, blue jays and other assorted woodland creatures are snatching (provided) peanuts off our back patio, but I’ll probably be singing a different tune when they’re chewing up my garden.  But I do kind of love “our” rodents.  Maybe not as much as Mr. Finger Candy, who lays out back deck buffets of tiny peanut butter sandwiches, but I’m really rather fond of the little buggers.

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A three-minute drive out of our neighbourhood in any direction brings us to a wealth of shops, restaurants and other retail establishments.  Bit of a double-edged sword, that one.  On the one hand, we’ve made excellent use of the local offerings – Indian buffet, Chocolats Favoris, Little Caesar’s, and one particularly inspired evening, Talladega Takeout (KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and Powerade.)

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On the other hand, we’ve made excellent use of the local offerings.  Maybe too excellent use.  Our wallets and waistlines are demanding that we back off a smidge on this bounty of take-out and dine-in options and get back to our Hello Fresh-ing.

We’ve named our trees and wildlife!  The chestnut tree at the front of the house is Chester, the oak in the back is Annie (Oakley) and the tiny squirrel with the kinky tail and the light brown tummy is Brown Betty.

I don’t even mind (too much) the cosmetic renos we’re carrying out – painting, molding and more mill work than you can shake a miter saw at – because at least we have real options for temporarily escaping the mess.  Truly, this experience is night-and-day compared to the renos we had done to our condominium last year.

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It may be a lot to lay at the doorstep of a new house, but this place has saved us.  Back at the condo we were floundering, if not outright drowning, always desperately trying to make 800 square feet of concrete into a home, and invariably coming up short.  There were simply too many rules, too many people and too many competing interests – a truly needless aggravation on top of (at the time) a pretty stressful life.  As I testily wrote to our property manager last year, it wasn’t a home, it was merely a situation we were trying to survive.  Badly.

Then somehow, against all odds, we found this place, our real home, and it saved us.  We now have purpose, drive and positive responsibility.  We have choice.  And yes, we also now have larger bills, more square footage than we know what to do with, and a great big bloody pile of driveway snow that might just attain sentience and go off galumphing down the street, but these are acceptable trade-offs (maybe not the sentient snowman thing.)  It’s worth it to know that these are things under our purview, and that if there is an issue with our home, either positive or negative, how we approach it will be our decision, and our decision alone.

I don’t sleep well, or at least I don’t sleep consistently.  Back at the condo, the early morning hours were mostly a time to stress and worry and fret.  And forget all that “rising gently from the depths of somnolence” business – hardly a morning went by that I wasn’t catapulted into consciousness.

These days I’m still rising early, but for a different reason.  True, part of that reason is getting old/back is shit, but mostly it’s because I want to enjoy my new home in those impossibly still morning hours when it’s just me and the backyard bunnies and our plans for the future.  Feels pretty nice, and like there’s maybe no place like it.

Ch-Ch-Changes

So.  2019 really sucked, didn’t it?  If you were one of the fortunate few to breeze through 2019 with a minimum of fuss, I tip my toque to you.  Please teach me your wisdom, adorable Baby Yoda!

Baby Yoda

Because seemingly everyone I know had a 2019 fraught, if not with outright peril, then with unhappiness, and endless little obstacles to that elusive happiness – present company very much included.  Small things that, much like the snow that is currently sifting down outside, repeatedly coalesced into a giant ball of grief that threatened to roll me up and sweep me straight on off the mountain of life.  Wow, did I ever struggle this year.

To get into a forensic analysis of the bad would take all day, so I won’t.  I find dwelling excessively on the past to be counterproductive, and besides, it’s New Year’s Day, and I’ve got crap to do!  But I also always attempt to learn from my stupid mistakes, and it’s safe to say there really wasn’t an area of our lives this year that wasn’t touched by stupidity.

Our cat, Weegie, died at the end of 2018.  Hating ourselves for what we could not control, we carried our overwhelming heartbreak into 2019 and beyond.  We missed – MISS – that cat terribly.

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Toward the end of the winter we hired a contractor to carry out what we knew were going to be disruptive renovations to our two-bedroom, one-bathroom condo apartment.  The work was supposed to take two weeks.  Instead it took two-plus months, a ludicrously stressful time during which we essentially camped in our apartment.  There was no flooring, no kitchen and no bathroom.  Also occasionally no hope.  I’ve no idea how we struggled through that ordeal.

Diningroom Collage

In the spring we experienced some professional hardships, which, in addition to the kick to the ol’ self esteem, seriously impacted our finances.  We cancelled a planned trip to Disney World, slashed our family operating budget, and cut way back on anything not deemed a necessity.  We went nowhere, bought nothing, did nothing.

Then in the early fall, just as we were beginning to get back on our feet, issues that had been percolating at the condo – board mismanagement, doubled condo fees, ongoing, make-work construction projects, disgusting neighbours banging in the women’s change room sauna – came to a head when our pleasantly odd (but quiet) across-the-hall neighbour moved out and a couple with a very young child moved in.  And they were NOT quiet.  Not ever.

Before we embarked on the renovations, Mr. Finger Candy and I discussed our hopes for what would come after.  Specifically, we were hoping that we’d start to feel a little more positively about our apartment, and once again regard it as a home instead of, as I wrote in a letter to our property management firm, a place we were merely trying to survive.

Spoiler alert!  Our hopes did not come to pass.  The situation at the condo was suddenly unbearable, and when the board began executing some wildly unpopular bylaws over the rights and democratic objections of the owners, it could not be more clear that it was time to move on.

That weekend I attended my first series of open houses with my mom.  That was a sobering look at the sorry state of Ottawa’s current real estate market, a wildly overpriced free-for-all of (mostly) junky mid-century bungalows in need of an electrician, a plumber, and maybe even an exorcist.

But it was during one of those open houses that I actually met the woman who would go on, just a week later, to become our agent.  She listed our condo on October 31st – yup, Halloween, and our wedding anniversary – for what I thought was perhaps a smidge too high.  I was cautiously optimistic that we’d get such an amount, but also girding myself for weeks, if not a month, of active showings and other acts of real estate unpleasantness.

Turns out I needn’t have worried.  We had a request for a showing about four hours after the listing went live.  The following morning the showing took place, and about three hours after that we received an offer for our asking price, which we accepted, the end.  And that’s how our condo sold in under 24 hours!  That one still boggles.

Then came the hard part, the packing up of nearly 15 years of life, and then, of course, deciding where to move it all to.  Oh yeah, and we also had a deadline, the buyer’s possession date of December 2nd, so no pressure there!

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After attending quite a few showings, we were growing a bit dispirited.  There seemed to be only 12 houses for sale in our price range and desired neighbourhoods, and all of them needed major work and/or a spiritual cleansing.  Especially the one with the power lines draped over the pool.

Then this house came up for sale.  It was cute, had a fantastic updated kitchen with a cozy adjacent family room, tons of built-in storage, a private backyard, four bedrooms, a finished basement, and just that vibe about it that we had found home.  It was also in a great neighbourhood close to tons of amenities, and a quick drive to Mr. Finger Candy’s office.

Our Home 1

So of course we ignored it and went back to looking at the same 12 junky bungalows and splits we had been looking at before.  That’s S-M-R-T Smart right there, kids!

You’ll be glad to know that we came to our senses some days later upon realizing that the cute house with the great kitchen in the good neighbourhood that was close to Mr. Finger Candy’s job was precisely the house that we wanted, and needed.  We had just come through a year of unending hell, on the condo front and in just about all other respects as well, and we deserved to reclaim our happiness in a place that we could call home.  Now we just needed to win the damn bid!

Following a flurry of what felt like very high stakes real estatery (our agent, a truly lovely, British accent’d beast, had an actual strategy in place for presenting our offer, which was one of 13!) the homeowners accepted our offer!  We were now the owners of the home!  It was thrilling and wonderful and oh holy crap, that’s a really big house.  The enormity of it all was, well, enormous.

The end of November and pretty well the entirety of December were a non-stop goat rodeo of meetings with lawyers, agents, movers and anyone else who could assist in transplanting us from one place to another.  And packing.  So. Much. Packing.  It all would have been MUCH easier had we been able to book an elevator at the condo for our actual move-out date, as opposed to three days earlier, necessitating a complicated and expensive double-move that had us shuffling all of our possessions into my parents’ garage for a week, but when was anything at the condo ever easy?  It’s precisely why we moved.  I almost would have been disappointed had the condo not fucked us over, just one last time. 🙂

The week we spent in limbo at my parents’ house – Mr. Finger Candy called it the beginning of our “urban nomadic lifestyle” – was rather fun, though.  Camped out on our mattress on my parents’ livingroom floor, it gave us a lot of weird, but welcome, family time.  We helped my parents put up their Charlie Brown Christmas tree, we watched a lot of episodes of Austin City Limits with my dad and Hallmark Christmas specials with both, and we helped them cut the ribbon on their new lighted Christmas village featuring the Griswold family homestead and Cousin Eddie’s RV.  Like their daughter, my parents clearly have non-traditional taste in holiday decorations.

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We took possession of our new home December 4th and immediately set about to tending to the priorities – white Christmas tree, and a bit of exterior holiday illumination, front and back.

Decorating Collage

To say we’re pleased with our new home would be a wild understatement.  We are positively delighted with the place, and it took next to no time for it to feel like ours.  Behold the cozy and comforting power of holiday decorations!

More Decorations Collage

Most importantly, though, moving here had what I was hoping would be the desired effect – a reset on our lives, and a reset on a truly terrible year.  We’re different people today than we were even a month ago – better people, people of action, even – and I credit the awesome – and kind of awesomely fun – responsibility of homeownership for that.  For pity’s sake, Mr. Finger Candy’s already turned into one of those freaks about his snowy driveway, I’m swapping cookies with the neighbours and we’re both buying so many peanuts for the backyard squirrels, they’re all going to keel over from excessive oil intake.  We sort our garbage.  We do our laundry during non-peak hours.  We shovel the driveway after the plow comes by!  Well, I don’t shovel the driveway – that’s my husband’s weird new quirk. 😉

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Heading into the new year, I feel so very fortunate to be here, in this beautiful home at this time.  A wise friend commented some months back that perhaps this whole move situation would jump start my new destiny, and she was right.  To drag ourselves out of our mutually reinforced funks and confront who we really wanted to be, instead of who we were just pretending to be, we needed to take the leap out of our comfort zones, while simultaneously finding a comforting home base to call our own.  Tall order, but I think we’ve managed pretty well.

To 2020.  May we all continue to chase, and capture, that elusive mistress Happiness.  We deserve it.

Shh, Listen!…Do You Smell That?

VCS 1

Hello, friends!  First, a quick “Where the Eff You Been?” update.  So, we sold our condo apartment, we purchased a single family home, and now we’re neck-deep in a Really Big Move!  You know, little life things that can totally be summarized in a single sentence. 😉  I promise I’ll have so much more to say when we take possession of our new home next month – might even get back to that nail art thing if I can stop breaking my nails – but for right now, I’m laser focused on putting our condo lives to bed.  Onward, upward and outward, as it were.

But yeah, my life involves a lot of packing these days.  SO. MUCH. PACKING.  Why and how do we have so much media?  I’ve packed up about two dozen boxes, all of them filled to the shoulder-separating brim with books, cookbooks, RPG manuals and game guides, to say nothing of the DVDs, the CDs, the video games and the special editions (that embossed velveteen box containing artwork by My Chemical Romance and The Black Parade album ain’t gonna pack itself.)

So it totally makes sense that, having already packed up my wax stores, I’d add to my moving burden by placing my first ever order with Vintage Chic Scents, a pop culture-minded vendor I’ve wanted to shop with forever, but for that pesky little thing that they really only just recently started offering shipping to Canada – a welcome policy change I took happy advantage of with this order of delicious-smelling goodies I purchased just a bit before Halloween (hence all the Halloweenie-type scents, although you’d be forgiven for thinking that that’s just business as usual around here; I can get a bit weird about October 31st.) 😉  Let’s take a look at what I nabbed, shall we?

First up, the money shot!  What adorable little shapes!  The ice scream scoops are of course my favourites, but those chunky unicorns might be running a close second.

VCS 2

The themed collection on offer for Halloween was R.L. Stein’s Goosebumps.  I was never a fan of the series (never been a Stein stan – Pike for Life, yo – and it also came along just as I was transitioning from YA novels to more adult books) but I like the scents from which they’re inspired very much.  Also, three cheers for the horror comic font on the labels – it’s the perfect cute and creepy touch.

VCS 3

Starting at the top, we have a little baggie of The Horror at Camp Jellyjam, a light, mild combination of Strawberry Jam, Campfire Marshmallow and Birthday Cake.  I was expecting a big bang from this blend, because all three of those scent notes tend to be STRONG, but the only horror here is how wussy this scent is.  Shame, as I was expecting it to be major – hence the larger (if not large) bag.

Heading clockwise, we next have a plump little ghostie in Night of the Living Dummy, a Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew scent.  I purchased this for Mr. Finger Candy on a whim, as he loves coffee in all its many and varied iterations, and it’s GOOD.  Night of the Living Dummy smells exactly like a steaming Pumpkin Spice Latte – bracing espresso, touch of cream, nose-tingling pumpkin pie spices.  Delightful!  I wish I had more of this and less of The Horror at Camp Jellyjam.

Continuing on, we have a sparkly leaf in Calling All Creeps, another coffee blend described as “Sweet Vanilla Maple Custard with a cup of Hot Coffee.”  Solid.  Not quite the slam dunk of Night of the Living Dummy, but super as a more traditional, drip coffee-type of scent.

Down at the bottom we have an ice cream scoop in my preferred pick of the Goosebumps collection, Say Cheese and Die!, a “Hamburger cookies” scent – Peppermint Patty, Vanilla Wafer, Shredded Coconut and Red Frosting.  This is a crowd-pleasing peppermint that smells like the very best bits of After Eights and the candy coating on mint Tic Tacs.  I wish I had a very large sack of the stuff. 🙂

Finally, we’ve got a strong contender for Best of the Entire Order, another shimmer-dusted leaf in A Night at Tower Terror, a scrumptious fall-to-winter blend of Apple Clove Butter and Campfire Marshmallow that I really hope my friend Julie picked up, because it is SO her jam.  Mmm, this is delicious – juicy and lightly spiced, like pot of cider simmering away on the stove.  I think this is the first scent I’m going to melt in our new home.

VCS 5

Next up, we have…the rest!  This is a mix of old scents, new scents, Halloween scents and just-whatever-the-heck scents.  A nice mixed bag.

VCS 4

Starting at the far left, we have the sample that was included in my order, a glittery scent shot in Regan’s Exorcism, a sweet Cranberry Apple Cider blend.  Not bad, beats pea soup. 😉

To the right of Regan we have an ice cream scoop in Sweet Caramel Jackie O, a classic VCS blend described as “Rich vanilla bean cake topped with sweet caramel and whipped marshmallows.”  Ooh, this is decadent!  Rich, buttery and caramel-y, but somehow not cloying.  Scrumptious!

Next up we have another scoop in Purple Haze, a blast of berry bakery containing Jelly Glazed Donuts, Gooey Marshmallows and Zucchini Bread.  Lots of folks shy away from zucchini bread scents because they can err unpleasantly bready (or corn chippy, to many noses) but this one is sweet quick bread goodness, zero snack foods.  Yuh-um!

To the right of one music-inspired scent we have another, this time Strawberry Fields Forever, a sweet berry confection of Strawberries and Cream Zucchini Bread.  Smells like a strawberry turnover drizzled with vanilla glaze, and I mean that in the best way possible.  As in the way that wants a strawberry turnover RIGHT NOW!

Down from the strawberry pink unicorn, we have another member of the VCS scoops troop, this time Drew’s Favourite Scary Movie, an awesome Scream-and-Firestarter-inspired scent featuring Candy Corn, Cotton Candy, Sugar Cookies, Buttercream Frosting and Firestarter Embers.  Smells like a delicious bag of mixed Halloween candies left beside the campfire.  Can’t wait to melt it while working on some nails to go along with Stephen King’s Firestarter, which I read back in the summer.

Beside Drew we have another chunky ghostie, this time in Wendy Torrance, a Shining-inspired Apple Butter Zucchini Bread scent.  I like this apple butter scent ever so slightly less than A Night at Tower Terror, which smells like hot apple juice spiked with delight. 😉  Wendy Torrance is a more traditional baked apple goods scent – nice, but nothing too groundbreaking.

Finally, we have the colourful outlier of this order, a cake-hued unicorn in Pugsley, which is Fruit Loops (not Froot Loops?) Birthday Cake topped with Gooey Marshmallows.  This was another pick for Mr. Finger Candy, who flips his lid over crunchy cereal scents.  I’m fine with them, although Pugsley is a better-than-usual specimen – no lemon cleaner here, just yummy, Saturday morning breakfast goodness.

VCS 6

So there we have it, what’s going to be scenting my new home in the (hopefully better, less FRAUGHT) new year.  Until then, I promise to keep in touch, friends, and not flake off on you too hard.  Thanks for sticking around; you’s good people. 🙂