Hoppy Easter (and a Hoppy Birthday to Me)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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. 😉

Monday, Monday?

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Hey friends, show of hands if you, too, feel like time has lost all meaning (“Time’s gone all David Lynch!” as Buffy might say.)  I actually woke up on Friday morning and had NO clue what day, week or month it was, let alone the hour.  Turns out it was 7:34 am.

Like a lot of people, I’m bored and unmotivated and more than a little frightened.  But I’m also going to shut the hell up about all of those things, because somewhere – somewhere close by; friend of mine is an epidemiologist – someone has it much, MUCH worse than a nagging case of boredom (very much enjoying all the memes taking celebrities apart for griping about ANYTHING.  Please tell me again how difficult this is on you from the comfort of your multi-million dollar ranch.  Y’all got as much to complain about as I do.)

Anyhow, once I sorted out what day it was, I decided to do my nails.  Absent the four or five manis I’ve done since we moved, I really haven’t been keeping up with my nail art, and I’ve missed it.  It’s comforting in a “Wow, has nail polish always smelled this bad?!” kind of way, and if ever there was a time for a bit of creative reassurance, this would be it.

So I sat down at my coffee table in the livingroom, cranked up the twenty one pilots, just like in the old condo days, and did these pretty floral nails.  And I felt much better afterwards.

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So, small lesson here?  In the midst of all this chaos, fear and uncertainty, try not to fall too far down the rabbit hole (and definitely not to the point where you no longer know what day it is.)  Keep up with the things that bring you joy and relaxation, no matter how insignificant they may seem in the grander scheme of our new, CORONA ONLY world.  Because we’re still living, odd though the circumstances might be, and every now and then we need a reminder of WHY.

Stay safe and sane, friends.

Stay Home and Cook

Second Hello Fresh Collage

Looking for a business model that will really prove its worth in these uncertain, touch-free times?  Maintain your social distance and give a meal kit delivery service like Hello Fresh a try.  My husband and I have been ordering from Hello Fresh for some months now – three two-person veggie meals per week for $52 to $74 Canadian – and I’ve long thought that it’s a nice (but perhaps not terribly cost effective) service for the at-home cook looking to shake up their usual kitchen customs.

Now I think it’s just this side of a necessity.  These meals, while not keeping us in total body and soul, are the loveliest little treats, and a backup for the dishes we’re making here at home out of toilet paper, hand sanitizer and Lysol wipes, because everybody MUST be cooking with those items if they’re so persistently out of stock.  You just would NOT believe how well my three-tiered (and three-ply!) Isopropyl Cashmere Cake is coming along.

I think you’d go flat broke trying to feed your family if you relied solely on meal kits, but as a supplementary food service, or a replacement for the meals you’re not currently enjoying out at a restaurant, it’s a blessing.  There’s only so many boxes of KD you can stomach before your stomach says, “Yo!  Can we get a different flavour profile down here?”  To that end, Hello Fresh chooses its recipes – particularly the vegetarian ones – from a wide range of popular world cuisines, from Indian to Italian, Mexican to Middle Eastern, African to French.  Best of all, your meals – individually bagged and then boxed – are delivered right to your doorstep, with no signature requirement.  Smart.  Responsible.  Yummy.

Have I mentioned the yummy?  Because these vegetarian meals are SO yummy!  As well as creative, fun to prepare (get the kids involved!) and of really excellent quality.  I have no complaints.  I just hope Hello Fresh (and other meal kit services of its ilk) will be able to maintain their deliveries in the face of what is sure to be a massive new uptick in business.  Like all things these days, fingers crossed.

Curious as to the kinds of dishes you might enjoy on Hello Fresh’s veggie plan?  Take a peek at these tasty morsels we enjoyed some weeks back and set your taste buds revving:

Garlicky Mixed Mushroom Farrow Bowl with Goat’s Cheese and Candied Walnuts

Farrow Salad 1

Farrow is a kind of whole grain that looks and tastes like a cross between rice and barley.  In this scrumptious dish, it was mixed with a sweet balsamic dressing and then topped with sauteed mushrooms and garlic, leafy greens, creamy goat cheese, candied walnuts and chives.  This was a super filling – and wicked delicious – dish that reminded me in all the very best ways of this beet, goat cheese and candied pecan salad I used to love from the Manx Pub in Ottawa, Ontario (heh, Mr. Finger Candy and I enjoyed part of our multi-part first date there.) 🙂

Italian Mozzarella Panini with Herby Tomato Soup

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Soup and a sandwich!  This was a tasty little lunch Mr. Finger Candy and I enjoyed one recent afternoon.  Actually, as I called him to the table, I thought, “You have turned into your grandmother,” a woman who was constantly calling my grandfather – who was probably off somewhere pruning a tree – in “for supper.”  My grandfather would have been horrified to have found such a meal waiting for him at the table – pesto-flavoured tomato soup that looks like a science experiment and a mozzarella sandwich with aruga-who-now? – but we thought it was pretty nummy.  A nice, light option for a midday repast.

Matar Paneer Curry with Green Peas and Yellow Potato

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Paneer is a firm, mild cheese popular in Indian cuisine.  Owing to its high melting point, it can withstand quite a bit of cooking, and so it often shows up, cubed, in stew-type preparations like this one featuring tomatoes, peas and yellow potatoes.  The recipe actually directs you to add the roasted potatoes to the other vegetables, paneer and sauce, but I like how crispy they remain when you simply sprinkle them on top, like roasted potato croutons.

Beyond Meat Roasted Veggie Linguine with Garlic Tomato Sauce

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As a lifelong pasta aficionado, I am always shockingly amazed at how delicious Hello Fresh’s pasta recipes are.  I truly thought I had eaten all the good pasta in the world.  This deceptively simple dish – just your basic tomato, onion, garlic and roasted veggie arrangement, enhanced with a bit of oh-so-trendy plant protein – was so friggin’ yummy!  Then again, I actually really like the taste of Beyond Meat.  Yes, it totally looks like cat food, but it’s versatile, it cooks well, and it adds a welcome shot of richness to your more basic vegetarian dishes.

Beyond Meat and Black Bean Tacos with Tomato Pepper Salsa and Crema

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Beyond Meat strikes again in this dee-licious, but kind of unwieldy, taco dish featuring a fresh, zippy salsa and ear-splittingly tart lime crema.  Loved the flavours at work in this recipe, but the proportions here were way off – there was MOUNDS of filling to just three soft tortillas per person.  Things got very sloppy, very quickly!

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Creamy Garlic Sauce and Herby Goat Cheese

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Another phenomenal pasta dish, this time sweet butternut squash ravioli enrobed – ENROBED, I say! – in a light, buttery sauce, with more roasted squash, chivey goat cheese and lightly toasted pepitas, which are a type of pumpkin seed.  Good golly, this recipe was GREAT.  I could have eaten triple the amount of this one, but that’s just me and pasta.  This dish, too, reminded me of a seasonal pasta I used to like to order from Panera.

If you’ve been on the fence about whether to give a meal kit delivery service like Hello Fresh a try, I’d say now is the moment.  There’s a lot of uncertainty in the world right now.  How you get some of your food and fun should not be two of those uncertainties.  So while you’re social distancing, maybe give Hello Fresh a try and see if they have any options that might work for your family.

Stay safe and healthy out there while you’re staying in, friends.

The Week That Everything Changed

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Waking up this cold, but finally, blessedly, starting-to-warm March Monday morning to a world that’s very different from the one I woke up to last week.  Early last week, the Coronavirus was still joke fodder.  Bustling about my new kitchen, putting the finishing touches on a special dinner for my folks last Tuesday, I joked with them about our drink options, noting – with a spectacular eye roll – that Corona beer was assuredly not on the menu.

Then in the span of a few hours Wednesday evening, somewhere in between You-Know-Orange’s disastrous address, Tom Hank’s sobering announcement and seemingly all professional sports getting cancelled en masse, the entire world changed, and there were no more jokes to be made.

Thursday morning my husband and I went out for groceries just in the normal course of our lives.  After 15 years of living within the very limited storage confines of a two-bedroom condo, we’ve had a difficult time adjusting to the space of a four-bedroom home, and so we rarely – still! – have anything on hand that we won’t be immediately consuming.  Old habits are hard to break.  So we needed groceries, and toilet paper!  Down to our last roll, we were.

Despite the early hour, the store was busy, and steeped in a palpably electric kind of mania, like gathering storm clouds.  At one point another shopper and I – both gloved, both trying to keep our distance – reached for the same pack of cheese, and she leaped back, hands clasped to her chest, in legitimate terror.

I had heard distressing stories about toilet paper shortages, sanitary paper hoarders and unscrupulous disinfectant fencers, but I was convinced all of that was happening “somewhere else.”  Certainly not in polite, well-reasoned Canada.  And I had already made all of the dismissive, “Do they know it’s a respiratory virus and not a pooping virus?” jokes.  So I was completely unprepared to turn down the personal care aisle at my local grocery store – never, ever the place you’ll net a reasonable price on such items – to find it completely ravaged.

As I stood in the denuded aisle with a few other disappointed shoppers, Mr. Finger Candy emerged from the front of the store with one precious 12-pack of 9 mil-ply Cashmere.  He tossed it to me with a saucy smile that I assume was worn by the very first caveman to lug home a particularly badass kill, at which point I frantically buried it in our cart like Lorraine Bracco disappearing half a kilo of coke down the toilet in Goodfellas.  Mission thus accomplished, we paid for our purchases – a bit more than we’d normally buy, but nothing outrageous – and headed home.

Thursday afternoon the border restrictions, travel bans, cancellations and closures began in earnest.  The stock market self-immolated.  The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic.  Chaos and confusion asserted themselves as the overriding themes of the day.

The American Disney parks closed, an act that legitimately frightened me to my core.  I long assumed that the ghost of Walt himself would have to come down with the Coronavirus before they shuttered those parks.

I clearly wasn’t the only one spooked.  The news – local, national, international – was suddenly filled with stories of empty shelves at grocery stores and long line-ups.  And the dim lizard part of my brain, the one Stephen King often refers to as “the panic rat,” began to worry.  We had enough food and supplies to see us through the week, but nothing beyond that.  And despite assurances from retailers that there was going to be lots of stock going forward, new social distancing measures were changing how we shopped, and there was no guarantee we’d be able to do our groceries in the same manner, and with the same choice, the following week.

And so it was with that thought in mind that we ventured out to Walmart Friday morning for a (reasonable) cart full of soup and cereal, pasta and rice, canned veggies, ramen and an absolute crap ton of coffee.  We were already doing well on cleaning supplies and hand soap (thank you, Bath and Body Works) but there was no additional toilet paper to be had.  Hot buy of the apocalypse.

Pantry 1

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And with that, we came home, where we’ve been in semi-self-isolation ever since.  Which doesn’t actually feel that different from regular life.  We’re just washing our hands a lot more and trying to steer clear of vulnerable populations.  You do what you can, and you try to stay calm.

I’ve no idea when the world will be “okay” again, if it ever was in the first place.  I’ve no idea what will be waiting for us on the other side of this experience.  But I do know it’s okay to be a little scared and a whole lot confused.  To mourn what we’ve lost, and learn to live without.  To adapt, and change, and hopefully come out of the other side of this new nightmare better people – or at least better prepared people – one day at a time, one shopping trip at a time.

Stay healthy and helpful, friends.

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.

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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.

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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. 🙂

Hallowversary 15: This Time It’s Boring

Two years ago, for our 13th Halloween wedding anniversary, we went to Disney World on a super spontaneous, ultra last minute trip and rode the Haunted Mansion 13 times in one day.  Last year, for our 14th, we dressed up like Tyler Joseph, the lead singer of twenty one pilots, and bombed around the Magic Kingdom during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party.

This year we listed our condo for sale.  And it rained.  A lot.

Okay, wait, back to the condo part.  “But hey, wait,” you may be saying to yourself.  “Didn’t you just renovate your condo?  And wasn’t it kind of hell?”  And the answer would be yes to all of those queries – we did just finish it, and it was its own very special kind of hell, but it was time to move on.  Onwards and upwards and outwards!  In fact, here’s the tour video our agency shot; hope you like the place. 🙂

Anyhow, in light of that bit of major adulting (lord, how I HATE that term) we’re having a pretty low key anniversary – regrettably no Disneying this year. 😦  Instead we went to the lumber yard for some last minute “I’m selling my house” items and ate sausages and veggie dogs, standing up in the end-of-October drizzle, in the parking lot.  It actually wasn’t terrible – this guy certainly looks pleased with himself!

But because I can’t ever let the opportunity pass to look backwards in fondness at my life, I created this little video for our YouTube channel, Park or Perish!, about the year we rode the Mansion 13 times in one day.  Two years on, it remains pretty well the coolest thing we’ve ever done, and I wish with all my blackened heart and soul we were there today.  This fun little video will have to suffice for now.  Happy Halloween, friends, and happy 15th to us.

Llama Love

Llama Love 1

When I was a kid, I lived in a small, rural town.  Actually, “town” is too grand a word for North Gower, Ontario in the 1980s.  Today, with its subdivisions and farmers markets and actual, sit-down restaurants, North Gower is a bona fide village, but in the ’80s when I was a kid, it was a main street with a few shops and a pizza joint, perched on the steps of which you could always find these two old dudes who were collectively known as The Delmers.  I loved growing up there, but bustling metropolis, it was – and still is – not.

Anyhow, the next small, rural town over – a slightly bigger place that had a longer main street, more shops and fewer Delmers – there was a family with a gigantic pet llama that actually lived right on Main Street, and they’d let him out in the front yard to just wander about and scare the crap out of anyone passing on the sidewalk, because suddenly, you know, LLAMA!!!  Small town country life – it’s weird, don’t know what to tell you. 😉

These are fuzzy pink sprinkled llama nails.  Why sprinkles?  Why not sprinkles?!  Isn’t everything better with sprinkles?  A sentiment that’s also a bit weird, and hey look, I still don’t know what to tell you!  Sometimes you’re just in the mood to sport a candy pink llama mani, I guess.

Llama Love 2

Llama Love 3

Of Spikes and Socks

Sunday Spikes 1

So here’s a great example of a manicure that wound up in a very different place than it began.  Initially, I was going to cover that candy sweet pink gradient with a dainty rose print, something very English garden.  Then I got out my black and white polishes and my dotting tool, and next thing you know, I’ve got the colour and design of a pair of knee high socks I owned in high school (in grade 13 when I was living somewhere near the fashion junction of Clueless and your local patchouli-scented skate shop.  Wow, I loved those socks.  Funny thing to say about polka dotted hosiery that was actually fairly unflattering, but I did.) 😉  Then I added some silver spike charms up by my cuticles for maximum snagability (no way I’d wear these charms around my precious socks, bitchin’ – oh hey, El! – though they are.)

Sunday Spikes 2