The Capsule Wardrobe Experiment

In Fall 2014, I was facing a unique challenge: my winter clothes were uncoordinated so dressing myself in the mornings was taking a long time, I was really busy with planning our wedding, I was doing personal training, and my workload had increased in the office. Looking forward to Fall-Winter 2014-15, I knew I was going to be hard up for time and money. A complicating factor was my lack of time for shopping, and my disillusionment with the fashion industry. (I’m pretty pissed about high prices for bad quality, lazy design, and really unattractive fashions.) I didn’t have time to go through my closet in a deep way and try to address ANY of these problems using the stuff I had.

I gave it about five minutes thought one day while at work, and came to a decision. I needed to buy a Fall-Winter wardrobe that was small, extremely easy to manage, made it really easy to get dressed in the mornings, and was really easy to maintain. I decided I would put together a wardrobe in neutrals (black, navy, white and grey) so that everything I wore could be tossed in the washing machine and run through in two loads (dark and light). The wardrobe needed to cover five+ days of work, and potential travel.

There were some other restrictions: nothing with buttons down the front, no dresses or skirts (I don’t wear them in the winter), and ideally everything would come in for less than $200.

I marched my butt over to Old Navy one night after work when there was a sale on, and bought everything I wanted in one place. I picked up a white and black pashmina while I was at it, in case the office was extra cold. BOOM: behold the Old Navy 2014 “I Ain’t Got Time For Fashion” capsule wardrobe.


Pull over sweaters, Rock Star mid-rise skinny jeans in black, navy and grey….. a perfect Fall-Winter capsule wardrobe. Bask in its glory!! For cold weather work life I needed 5 sweaters for 5 office days. I added in pashminas in case it was extra cold. I only needed three pairs of pants because I can rewear them during the week. Everything is in the same colour palette so it was possible to wear any top with any bottom, creating the illusion of variety. (Pro-tip, don’t assign an outfit to a work day, lest one of your coworkers swan past you saying “X is in her Adore sweater, it must be Tuesday”.)

Having done a capsule wardrobe which I faithfully wore for about 5 months straight, how would I rate the success of this? 8/10. My clothes were a no-brainer for a long time, and that’s exactly what I needed. This wardrobe was also good for the environment because I did a lot less laundry, and I still have all of the sweaters and pashminas (two years later, I’ve worn out the pants). Where this wardrobe loses out on 2 points is the all important “but did you look good”? NAY I DID NOT.

I’m a no-makeup person. I’ve got pale skin, long dark hair that’s always in a ponytail…. in my opinion, I looked really washed out because it was FREAKIN’ WINTER and I was too busy to put on makeup. It’s my opinion, going forward, that my winter wardrobes should not be based on neutrals, because I’m probably always going to be a bare-faced, no makeup person.  Also, big picture – it’s already winter WHY WOULD I DRESS LIKE WINTER ITSELF. People! We don’t need to blend into a winter landscape, this is freaking Canada. It’s unsafe to blend into Winter, you get stuck in a snowbank and no one will spot you for months. How many people have died because they accidentally blended in too much with a Canadian winter? Probably none but whatever. If your skin is going to fade to a neutral of its own, don’t wear neutrals. Wear colour, cheer your office workers up.

If I were repeating the experience again today (in the exact same way), here’s what I would choose.


YES! Reds and pinks are my favourite, I love them. They’re also cozy and warm looking, and they do well when they’re washed together. (Obviously the grey pants and navy jeans would be washed separately.) The red and pink wardrobe follows approximately the same idea as the 2014 capsule wardrobe, but with a better shawl, sweaters in better colours, Tshirts for hot fall days, and then a button down shirt because hope springs eternal for women. (“I’m sure this shirt will always stay pressed and won’t gape open over my boobs.”)

This year, I don’t need to make a capsule wardrobe. I won’t be buying the sample reds and pinks capsule above.  Since I have enough clothes for winter and I’ve got time to think ahead, I need to check for deficits in my wardrobe. I can think of two immediately: my winter coat and winter footwear. Having enough clothes means I can think about tackling these two issues.

First, my winter coat. I have a blind spot about my winter coat: I know it’s too big for me, it’s stained, the zipper has been broken for a long time, it makes me sweat on the bus, and because it’s too big I tend to feel horribly squashed when I’m on public transit. I need a new coat, but I love the one I have. Maybe I’ll come around if I think about it like this: it’s not that I’m buying something new that I don’t need, it’s that I need a more useful winter coat. I need a daily use winter coat that’s sensible for a commute. Maybe I need to finally fulfill a dream of mine to get a colourful, gorgeous coat that will look amazing in the winter and will make me happy for forever. J. Crew 2016 is where I went to find that coat, and they did NOT disappoint.


OH J.CREW you gorgeous beast with your overpriced wares. I love all of these coats and I definitely want the green one. I never wear orange (it’s not my colour) but that long orange coat is divine and I want it. I love the length and those buttons, and the collar. These jackets are so expensive that on a scale from one to “even”, I can’t. J.Crew offers a lot of sales and discounts if you sign up for emails from them, but even so. Can I justify buying one of these beauties if I don’t have to buy any other clothes this winter? Sure….. except I do have some needs. I need winter shoes.

I have flawless winter boots that are in great condition, but I have completely run out of shoes and boots I can wear with socks when it’s cold. I gotta deal with it.


It’s boot and ballet flat season and I got some work to do. (I’m being literal: I find shoe shopping hard work.) I am very picky with footwear, and it’s very hard to find sanely priced shoes that are an ideal fit. My footwear situation is bad enough that if even half of the shoes above fit me, I’ll be obliged to buy them.

Pray for me, on my ever so anti-Carrie Bradshaw quest to face shoe stores without screaming at sales staff. (……..also, please pray for the sales staff, they’re the real heroes here.)


And we’re back.

I don’t feel obligated to point out that there’s been at most two posts in two years on this blog, and I certainly won’t apologize for it. Some bloggers do, when they’ve left their blogs for awhile, but life comes before blogging. Today I return to the craft, unapologetic.

Since buying the house two years ago, 90% of my focus in life was on work and executing our wedding. (Sidebar: Executing is such a harsh word – don’t you picture a bride in the white dress dragging a man in a tux out of a house and into the gutter of the street at dawn, and giving him a double tap? The revolution has begun! At least for him, anyway.) BUT NO, the wedding was planned and carried out, and we have emerged on the other side exactly as we were before but now with a legally enhanced commitment to one another. Also, I now own a mega-awesome princess dress that glitters so much and looks like a gauzy cloud. In sum, we checked all the important boxes. Then, two months later, everything caught up with me and I took two months off work for stress leave. I spent the first month learning to sleep again, and it was not easy. Stress leave isn’t easy – the prescription is to take a vacation and slow your roll, but I of course filled my stress leave with doctor visits and trying to sort out my life and my head. I made vacationing work, because that’s what I do. I got better, though, and I may have actually done much of the work that was needed to keep me from needing stress leave again in the future, so go me. Gold star on the fridge.

The house, though. The blog is called THE THIRTY YEAR HOUSE, what did you do to the house?

As I recall it, we moved in. I painted the master bedroom. I had a couch reupholstered. I painted part of the family room. Mark primed part of the family room and stopped short of the kitchen. Then, a long pause. Life happened.

We haven’t even unpacked, actually.

During the long slog through work and leading up to the wedding, I did manage a small job. I painted my home office twice. That involves priming the walls, priming the ceiling, then painting the ceiling (Benjamin Moore Cloud White) then taking on the walls. I had left over purple paint that no one was interested in taking for their homes, so I painted my home office with it. It was gorgeous! But… I ran out of paint. I was left with a mostly painted room that had a four inch tall band of unpainted surface around the top of the room. Then I couldn’t get a colour match!!! Jesus Christ that was depressing. That was January 2015, when that culminated in a sad disaster. I primed again, and painted the room pale pink with one black-blue feature wall. The pink is EXQUISITE. The key to a good pink? Find a pale pink with an orange undertone. The colour will embrace you quietly, and the reflected light in the room will flatter everyone’s skin tone. Everyone looks healthier in a pink room.

At some point in 2014-15, I painted another spare room. This room, next to our room, was multiple shades of blue-grey, dark blue and radiant orchid purple. With one small window that looks into the branches of a giant, mature crabapple tree, the room had no light and looked like a cage. I was compelled by forces outside myself to fix it. It was like being possessed. I ended up painting the room a beautiful shade of mint green called “Yoga Stretch”, again with a Cloud White ceiling. Interestingly, the full size can of paint just barely covered the whole room and the inside of its closet. I was scraping the bottom of the can for every last drop. This room is particularly interesting because I bought a lot of fabric to make things for the room! And what’s more, they’re all from the same fabric line. I bought a yard or two of almost every fabric in April Rhodes’ Arizona collection, and will be making a small quilt, maybe a lampshade cover, maybe a floor pouf, maybe a bed skirt for the bed. You can see the fabrics here:

Definitely google the product line and the things people have made with the fabrics, there are some gorgeous results.

That was all that happened, though. The house developed a clutter problem, and then it just became impossible to manage. It felt like nothing had a home for awhile, and I realize now that that feeling was the truth. All my money was tied up in moving between houses, cost of living and the wedding. I wasn’t able to buy any furniture, so things were just at loose ends……. no bookcases, no armoires, no dressers, nothing. We are actually kinda in trouble, a bit. We own one million small things, and no big things. A common mistake.

I began a deep clean and purge. It had to happen, so I could get down to brass tacks regarding what want to keep, and how that needs to be stored. We own books: what books do we want to keep? How many inches of book space do we actually need? How many paperbacks do we have, so how many very shallow bookcases do we need to store those paperbacks? It’s a work in progress, right now.

The books! That’s my lead in to here and now.

I changed jobs. My old job was the centre of my existence, and that just creeped up on me. I though I was on top of that, but about 20 months ago the wheels came off for me and the job got the better of me. I made it to June, I applied for some new jobs, then the sick leave, then I got a new job in November, and December was my transition to the new job.

Almost immediately, my “job” deflated to half the workload. I got room in my life for ME again, for my own life. I found my sense of calm once again, a deep calm. My new job is much safer for my sanity, and I feel that physically. I know it, I am living it. I am living that calm.

What does deep calm look like for me? I got through the first month of job transition, got through the holidays, and spend NYE painting the living room and dining room!! #worthit I got a structural engineer in to examine our floors for their security before we install bookcases. My goal was to tally up those inches of books and then get them unpacked.

Except the floors aren’t structurally sound. UHM. I kinda knew. I didn’t want to tell Mark, but I knew. I knew there was a problem. I’m happy to know that there’s a problem and that it has to get solved, and I’m happy to wait on the bookcases in order to get the structure addressed. That will be the next blog post, I promise. That’s an important story to tell.

BUT! The point is that major progress has happened. I paid off two consumer credit cards, got my life back under control, and reconnected with the house that is the subject of this blog. I got back to playing with the toys I have, instead of thinking I need to buy a new toy to be happy. Or, as it was during my stress leave, thinking I’ll never be happy and that we’re all going to die because the planet is slowly dying an environmental death, buuuuuuuut I got help with that and we’re moving on. Point is, I’m happier now and so is the house. Pictures will happen eventually. Probably sooner, rather than later.

Til the next post….

Fall and Winter in the House (2014)

Since my last timely post (published in July), I went decidedly radio silent on the house. It’s not that things weren’t happening, it’s that so many things were happening that blogging about them felt ridiculous. Now that Winter is coming to a close and we’ve lived a full year (and one month!) in the house, I’ve learned a lot more about the home and how we live in it.

A Brief Recap Of This Year

When we bought the Apple House, we didn’t know much about it. We viewed it (before we bought it) the dark for the most part. It was November, the sun was going down crazy early, and we were house hunting in the evenings and on weekends. We only saw the home fully illuminated when we had it inspected in the middle of the day, in full daylight. Once we moved in, though, we began to realize what we’d bought. The house just goes on and on. One day in the late Fall, I remarked to Mark that I hadn’t actually been in the basement (except to visit the laundry room) in months. In fact, I wasn’t even using the basement at all. It gave me a bit of a frisson to think about – there’s so much living we can do in a basement, so much potential. Sometimes, that’s how I feel about the whole house. There’s just so much space, so many stories to tell.

Over the past year, we haven’t quite figured out where everything we own is going to go, or what every room we have should feel like. I took the summer off from blogging and we took a hiatus on all forms of home improvement. We didn’t unpack. We fleshed out the essential parts of our home – the kitchen, the master bedroom, the technology and TV items. I paid attention to the primary “zones” where we live. Conclusions: two bathrooms, a large master bedroom with walk-in closet, one living room, a kitchen and a laundry room are all you need to live. You could convert this recipe into a condominium, actually. Although we live in a giant house, we actually live in a much smaller footprint inside that bigger cube. We’ve been limited to eating, sleeping, and watching TV. The spare bedrooms with their closets filled to the brim with boxed up books – ignored. We haven’t built a single bookcase.

Importantly, we spent the summer outside. Mark decamped into the garage, and spent the summer drinking beer, blaring music and working with his friends on tuning cars. I decamped into the front and backyard. In the front yard, we cut back the overgrown cedar hedge, dug out leggy and overgrown shrubbery, and tried to revive the flower beds with fresh plants. I kept all the flowers beds in the same places and shapes, but I never figured out what I needed to do to truly revitalize the yard and garden. I didn’t try too hard, though – still burned out. At least the beds were colourful and clean, if not sophisticated or particularly aesthetically pleasing. I nearly wore a hole in the front lawn where I stood, staring at the beds and trying to figure out what I wanted to see, what change the house was crying out for. Maybe this year it’ll come to me.

For me, this summer was all about staring at the house, trying to figure out how to bring some harmony and beauty to its facade. When we bought it, the house was a bad example of 1980s suburban architecture and it needed a big, bold, (potentially costly) kick in the teeth to make it desirable again. The first major change was choosing the roof colour (easy enough, not a lot of options). We chose an asphalt shingle in a golden brown palette that referenced cedar shingles, which has partnered beautifully with the red brick and creamy-yellow vinyl siding.

Then, the windows… they urgently needed to be replaced, and without a doubt a mistake in their design would be irreparable. That being said, making a bold choice in their appearance might revitalize the house and totally clear out that bad 1980s style. I called up Lambden Windows and doubled down on my instinct to make a big, expensive, risky change. I ordered up vinyl windows with interior mullions (grills) that ran across the top of the window only, a sort of Arts and Crafts look. The exterior of the vinyl windows can be provided in a wide range of colours at no extra cost, and after a great deal of consideration and discussion with Mark, we opted for a shade of brown that we felt was attractive in both the sun and shade.

It paid off times a million – the house is transformed. The house is much less dominated by its large 1980s style roof (the light hearted golden brown of the new roof is visually lighter and more friendly) and the beautiful windows with perfectly proportioned mullions have created a more traditional feel to the house. The windows are more friendly too, with their nice mullions. More approachable. I painted the front door and screen door an ivory colour, bringing a bright spot to an incredibly dark corner.

The garage door was changed from pale khaki to the same medium brown as the neighbour’s house, making the big picture look of our house and their house a little more harmonious. (FYI, their house and landscaping are prettier than ours, so we’re definitely going to borrow some of their charm until we have ourselves figured out.) Just a note – I used Behr Marquee exterior paint and I was amazed. I applied it to metal and wood without sanding or priming, and it stuck like glue. It has a nice satiny finish, and it dries VERY fast. I 100% endorse using this paint, let me tell you. Huge fan.

The shutters on the house are still dark brown, and we didn’t take on brown gutters. More work for the Behr Marquee paint in the spring, I think. We’ve been considering buying additional gutters for the house, though – maybe we’ll just replace them all.

Moving my attention to the backyard, I spent most of the spring and summer trying to figure out the story of the backyard. I couldn’t identify most of the plants. We cut down a cedar (which we later regretted doing – it was strategically placed to block a line of sight into a neighbour’s house) and we cut back some massive shrubs. Some grapevine had grown up over a trellis and was ripping up the roof of the shed and tying together the branches of the eponymous apple tree. That was delicate work, pulling the grapevine out of the apple tree. It was so important to cut off as much as possible, and tug as little as possible. I didn’t want to break apple tree branches and was 99% successful in that. I got the grapevine out before the apple tree even had leaf buds or flower blossoms, which was a big win.

Then, one day in May, the backyard blossomed. The giant crabapple bloomed, the other giant tree that I thought was a crab apple also bloomed, and the apple tree exploded with flowers. What a show. The wild violet weed that’s devastating lawns in Ottawa also blossomed, and the backyard was a fairy land. That “other” giant tree? Not a crab apple. Turns out, it’s a giant sour cherry tree. I don’t know how to cook with sour cherries, so I’ll look up recipes and hope for the best this year. The magnolia bloomed – dark purple flowers with pale pink insides. Incredible, just incredible.

The massive, well established clematis never blossomed, however, and I think that’s because it didn’t get enough sun. It just grew and grew in the shade, maybe reaching out for some sun to produce flowers in? But I lost momentum. The weeds got ahead of me by a lot. I found more and more flower beds lost inside overgrown lawn and weeds, and it was just too much. I found a peony planted almost underneath a deck. I found iris behind a mock orange.

A friend of mine started a private facebook group for people who, for emotional reasons, struggle to face their messes. I was added, and was powerfully inspired by the work of friends and family to confront their secret hoarding ways. I photographed and shared my problems. This is my truth: the herb garden full of NOT HERBS, the weeds, the dead lawn, the empty plastic flower post, the falling apart trellis…. and I feel like I can’t do it, I can’t fix it. The weeds are too much, I can’t handle the heat, I’m so burned out ANYWAY, and my allergies are rough. I need to buy mulch and compost to fill up the beds oh no I can’t do it.

But I did it. I faced it down, and took pictures of the results.

Our side yard had filled up with a huge amount of yard waste – the broken down trellis, cut up trees and cedars, lawn waste, and eventually a work table from the basement ended up out there. I hauled it all to the curb in the late fall, early winter. The City took it all away, and I felt like a fool for letting it pile up. This was the summer when we found out that the City green waste collectors are able to take away EVERYTHING you leave at the curb. EVERYTHING. It was astonishing.

We went crazy at Halloween. I bought a 9 foot tall inflatable Grim Reaper. I carved four pumpkins. I handed out four boxes of chocolate bars, and blared a Songza Halloween playlist out the front window. We walked over a few streets to see a house that had a false facade up, converting the whole place to Castle Anthrax. There was a Monty Python party in the garage. It was amazing. I swore again, for the millionth time, that I was going to someday make a great Halloween costume.

Remembrance Day, we went downtown for the Ceremonies. Last year was the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, and recently a deranged man had killed a guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We really wanted to be there, and so we were. It’s important to go, even though why it’s important is a bit difficult to define. Maybe just because World War I and II, the Korean War, the second Boer War and the War in Afghanistan need to be witnessed, need to be commemorated, maybe I just feel that even if you aren’t a member of the military, that it’s essential to show up and silently be present, to demonstrate remembering and respect. It feels good to go, to stand in a silent crowd that big. The singing of the national anthem is beautiful. Canada didn’t conduct the sort of commemorations that Europe did, which is somewhat unfortunate. The commemoration activities on the anniversary of the start of the First World War in Europe were incredible.

And then Christmas! We fit every last family member into our house, and it was glorious. We emptied our fridge, cleaned it, and then restocked it to the point that I thought the doors wouldn’t stay on. It was wonderful, and exhausting. I bought another queen sized bed and we used an inflatable bed for our niece, and then there you were. So many family members in one household! What a crazy good time. We did all this, and I haven’t even mentioned the wedding. Along the way, yes, we have planned a wedding. (So much for taking it easy.)

The Saga of the Porn Couch: Now With A Happy Ending

Back when we moved in, something moved in with us. Not just the dog, not just the boxes; a precious heirloom arrived from another house. The porn couch came to live with us.

The porn couch is a foundling. Probably built in the 1950s, it lived with Someone Somewhere until it was sent off to be auctioned. Our family friend, Ted, attended that auction and bought the couch for maybe $10. He called Mark, who drove over in his Parisienne, and those two hooligans plus two other friends drove home slowly, each with one arm out a window, holding the couch onto the top of the car. Safely procured, the very heavy couch lived with the guys for years.

The couch came (*ahem*) to be called the porn couch because apparently ANYTHING could be spilled on it and wiped off. Or at least, this is what Mark says. His story never changes, no matter how much I prod him to tell me “the truth”. Mark has said, enigmatically, that the couch was “the star of many parties” and I’m not stupid, the liquid repelling qualities of upholstery were NEVER the star moments of any Bombshelter party. Mark will not break his silence, though, and those who may have starred on the couch are also silent, presumed satisfied.


(All the people photographed on this couch know why it’s called the porn couch, and none of them will tell me why. One of these people is now a professional writer, specializing in erotica. We are very proud of this person, but I believe this person also knows why the couch is called the porn couch and that person is comfortable with the vocabulary required to tell me the truth. This person should be ashamed of him or herself for not using their words.)

(Also shown in these pictures is a massive wall of beer, all the cases filled with emptied bottles of beer that served as a testament to the excellence of the parties held by these fine folks.)

The couch survived many roommates, parties, and the founding of a fraternity that grew into the healthy, thriving TKE (Tau Kappa Epsilon) that is present today at Carleton University. This couch has also been a comfy home and gym for the pet of choice of university students – cats. So many cats. However, even typing “cat” makes me reach for an anti-histamine. I am sooo allergic, which will figure into the story later.

Ted is the rightful owner of the couch, so after surviving many roommates with cats, Ted moved on with his life and ended up with the porn couch, his own home, and in love with a lady who was in love with the idea of remodelling the basement. One thing SHE didn’t love? The idea of the porn couch that was lurking in the basement, now 60+ years old with broken legs, wrecked fabric, and at the end of its life. She’s within her rights to turf the couch: it’s called the PORN couch for Christ’s sakes. She didn’t like the idea of how unsanitary it must be inside. She had pneumonia, bronchitis and Avian flu all within 18 months, she deserved a hygenic basement… the porn couch had to go.

Ted wasn’t going to let the heirloom couch go to the curb. He intended to give it to the current TKE men if he couldn’t keep it in the family. He offered it to Mark and I right before we moved into the Apple House, and Mark instantly agreed that we would take it. Then he checked with me (a dramatic reversal of how things should work). I said yes immediately because THIS IS AN AMAZING COUCH. Those lines! The size! It was free! The weight = hardwood frame! The value!!!

006_couch the end

Oh wait… from the pictures, you can’t tell that it’s stunning? Ahhhh well… look closer!

The couch has a hardwood frame (today, couches weigh nothing because they’re made with softwood or composite frames that are muuuch easier to break than hardwood, and when an old couch weighs a ton you KNOW it has an indestructible hardwood frame) and has amazing long lines to its design. It’s 9 feet long! The original fabric was emerald green with golden laurel wreaths. But even worse, the couch cushions and frame had been exposed to many cats over many years, and my allergy to cats is so powerful that I would never have been able to live with the couch.

36 hours after the couch arrived in our house, the couch left with our upholsterer. He had his instructions: the couch is family, so strip it to the frame and repair it. I’ll send you the fabric later. It MAY be full of cat hair, no one knows.

We didn’t tell him the name of the couch. The arrangement was to have the couch redone by April or May, when I had the money saved up to pay for the work. The couch couldn’t stay in the house because the knowledge of how many cats probably pissed on that couch (not to mention napped and shed on the couch) made my skin crawl.

My next move (a few weeks later) was to post pictures of the couch online and announce (like a buzzfeed title) You Won’t Believe The Glamorous Transformation Of The Porn Couch! and was super chuffed because I had chosen a truly, truly glam fabric. It was a woven geometric in black and white. It was soooo amazing. It was so very hardcore amazing. And people were like “these are the before shots, where’s the AFTER shot?” and I was like “to get to the AFTER shot I’ll need $1,700 for the upholsterer and $600 for the fabric so I take your point but I need to save up some money okay?”

And I learned a valuable lesson about the internet, and blogging.

So I saved up some money and ordered the fabric, and yeah you know that the fabric was discontinued. People will NOT believe the glamorous transformation of the porn couch because it’s not going to be a glamorous. Fuck my life. I had an entire rock and roll black and white living room planned around the fabric and my angry screams of frustration shattered windows when I realized what was happening. I even had Mark’s buy in. He LIKED the bold black and white geometric fabric. We were like OMG we are going to be cool people with a rock ‘n’ roll couch and we’ll hang black and white photography on the walls, cars and stuff, and we’ll have amazing lamps, and it’s gonna be so cool.

Fuck it. I started over completely. I also turned to a new vendor for fabrics, because the first vendor didn’t have any other fabrics that looked young and cool.

I checked out Tonic Living (online), and loved what they sold. I followed Tonic Living on instagram where, two weeks later, they promoted a spring time sale. BOOM. I ordered without even getting a sample first, like a REBEL. I chose Ellis fabric in cream and grey. This particular fabric has a lot going for it: warm neutral colours, that mid-century modern vibe, environmentally friendly production process, washable, intended for upholstery, washable, low price, washable, did I mention our dog gets our furniture dirty and also a great price! I got all the fabric I needed for the couch at 1/3rd of the price of what I would have paid for the black and white glam fabric.

I looked up how a very similar fabric looked when Sarah Richardson used it on Sarah 101 (she’s the best, A+, hero worship ENGAGE). The patterns were so similar that it made my decision much easier. Here’s the link:


As you can tell (if you checked the links) the pattern on her two side chairs is incredibly similar to what I picked up from Tonic Living.

And here’s how it turned out!




The couch has six legs now, instead of four. It has been rebuilt with all new cushions, all new fabric, and all new zippers. When the men tore the soft materials off the couch, it rained beer bottle caps on their feet. *wipes away a tear of pride from Mark’s face* Yeah, there were 50 to 60 beer caps IN THE COUCH somehow. Why it didn’t ring like a tambourine when it was transported, I’ll never know. But that’s the magic of parties and the beauty of family heirlooms. Every bottle cap a jewel on the drunk history of long term friendships.

I have a different post to write, about choosing to put a patterned fabric on a couch when no one encourages amateurs to do such a thing, but I’ll end on this happy note: thank you Ted and Mark for being great guys who, along with a bunch of other really stellar people, built an incredible tribe of friends who now, decades after graduating university, are still goofing off on the internet and are still hanging out in backyards and parks together. It was an honour to do what I do, to save your iconic porn couch so that another three or four decades of our tribe of people will have a place to sit and get drunk, stuffing beer caps under or behind the cushions.

Blog posts that could be tweets:

Damn kitchen, you are so fucking ugly and useless.

May, 2014: a summation of events thus far

I’m not an apologetic blogger. I blog when I blog, when there’s something to say. It’s been awhile since I last blogged (months) and it’s best for everyone that I only blog when I feel like it, because then I might have something of interest to contribute. That brings us to now, when I have something of interest to report.

We’ve dedicated Spring 2014 to the exterior of the house, which I haven’t been able to capture well in photographs. The first thing to happen was a new roof. We had seen during our home inspection that the underside of the roof was black in two spots, and we suspected that leaks had happened, were happening, or were immanently about to happen. Further, shingles had come off the roof and were actually in the eavestroughs and all over the backyard. I picked up a shingle in the backyard last November and it crumbled in my hand. (We still bought the house, as you know, because Mark is crazy. To be honest, I tried to walk away.) This spring, I trolled through the backyard with a grocery bag picking up garbage and shingles, and to a one they all crumbled in my hand. It was unbelievable.

We chose to work with a roofer that our real estate agent recommended to us very strongly. I gave the man a call and was instantly impressed, and after an estimate and quite a lot of communicating back and forth, we opted to work with him without even seeking other estimates or questioning other roofers. Sometimes you just know for a fact that you’ve found the best. The end result is an A++ roof that looks, frankly, amazing. Also, post spring time rain storms, I can verify that it is in fact waterproof, and that’s 90% of a roof’s job.

Our house is red brick and cream siding (I’ve lamented that fact before) and honestly, the red brick often reflects a lot of light and tends towards orange. The former roof was a medium-to-dark brown, and it looked really bad. The dark brown was just a very bad choice, both aesthetically and environmentally. A dark roof absorbs heat and heats up the inside of your house. It’s just smarter to go for a roof that’s lighter in colour: go easy on the environment, decrease the heat you create in the summer, decrease the heat stress on your roof so it lives longer.

In terms of the aesthetics… I can’t quite say why the former roof didn’t work. I can often explain quite coherently why something works or fails aesthetically, but this time I’m at a loss. The colour was maybe too monolithic, and maybe it was too depressingly dark, and maybe it just made the top of the house look grumpy, I don’t know. I lack an explanation for why it was so bad, only that it was. When I walk the dog I eye the houses on our street that also have dark roofs and yanno…. the dark roofs don’t look good on the other houses on our street either. The street next to us has smaller houses that are tucked in closer together and THEIR dark roofs look really good, and the houses have charm. It’s inexplicable. Maybe the rule is The Bigger The House, The Brighter The Roof.

Our roofer brought us sample boards of roof shingle. We took them outside in the late afternoon light (the golden hour) and eyed our choices. The only one worth considering was “resawn shake”, a multi-coloured shingle that sampled all the shades of cedar without actually trying to look like a cedar roof.

End result: the wood under the old roof hadn’t rotted, and a new roof went on immediately. The roof looks amazing. The house looks amazing. It doesn’t mimic a cedar shake roof: rather, when I look at it I see a pixellated pale brown roof in cedar colours, and it is perfect. Overall, we made a guess at what would look good (I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t know how to choose and I really took a leap of faith) and it paid off in spades. The front of the house gets a lot of afternoon sun, and that warm golden light makes our roof glow in the brightest, most golden of ways.

Speaking of gold, surely the roof cost us a million dollars! It did not. Everyone who looked at our house guessed that replacing the roof would cost $10,000 but it only cost us $6,700. That’s tax in, with an upgraded shingle, and new roof vents. That’s why you need to know that my roofer is called Joe Lowrey, and his business is called Lowrey’s, and you’ll want to go to to find Joe, and his phone number, and if you need a roof or someone you love needs a roof, you call Joe.

The guy is great, his roofers are pros, and he replaced our roof in a day and a half. We found two nails TOTAL in our driveway/yard after his team ripped off the old roof and put on the new one. We got instant, perfect results. Most importantly, though, is that Joe is a very nice man and I trust him completely. He cared about us, he cared about our horrible roof situation, and he made us his top priority this spring. Our roof went on the MOMENT the temperature would allow a new roof to be installed, and I am so grateful.

Moving along to other things: I’ve spent the spring raking out the yard of (I would guess three) years of debris and waste. I pulled five large size compost bags of leaves from the backyard, ten from the front yard (full size maple tree, natch!), endless crabapples, piles of grapevine and thorny rose canes were cut and hauled, and then oversized and badly placed cedar trees were cut down in the front yard and left at the curb.

God bless the City of Ottawa and their green bin/yard waste program that took away EVERYTHING we left at the curb, even the sticks that weren’t tied up as per the City’s guidelines. GOD BLESS YOU, CITY.

But why aren’t there photographs? Oh yeah, well… yeah. See… yeah.

The giant messy mess was scraped up and carted away, but what it left underneath was a… giant messy mess. The grass in the front yard and backyard is patchy at best, and there are large swaths of the yard that are bare dirt. The before/after pictures I took resulted in “that’s still a “before” picture right? result. Without the monetary resources to cart in INFINITY dirt and buy INFINITY mature plants, there hasn’t been much to show. It’s very sad, especially since my lower back has fucking had it up to here with this shit. (Direct quote from my lower back, no edits, no punches pulled.)

I’m hoping that later this summer all the pansies, hydrangeas, hostas and dirt shovelling will result in maybe just one photograph that is worth taking. Maybe just one. That moment, though, hasn’t happened yet. I continue to wait and hope.

Coming Soon!

I’m happy to say that I’ll be writing two guest reviews for in the coming weeks, which is a tremendously fun opportunity for me. Thirty Year House isn’t just a blog about the house we’ll own for the next thirty years, this is a blog about having lives again, to be frank. We gave all our time, heart, sweat and attention to our townhouse because it was a stepping stone to this house, and we’re damn tired. We’re looking forward to reconnecting with friends and having a chance to play with other kids. Of course, since we’re adults, “playing with our friends” can mean guest posts in blogs!

So coming up soon, I’ll be writing about scotch from Highland Park distillery, which is the most northern distillery in Scotland. This will be unbelievably interesting because I’m not a big drinker anymore, the only time I’ve had scotch it was at the end of a marathon evening of drinking whereupon it FINISHED ME, and I have zero experience or knowledge of how to appreciate food and drink. Ernest Goes To Scotland, basically. Peat?! Hoy-uck! In mah drinkin’ glass?? Golly!

I’ll also be writing a piece on Ungava gin. Ungava gin is currently considered by some to be the best gin in the world, and it happens to be made in Nunavik, on the Ungava Peninsula. For those who are wondering what Nunavik is (a territory you’ve never heard of?), Nunavik is a comprehensive land claim agreement and region. You’re in for a treat, because my day job is related to comprehensive land claims and I’ll be pairing talk of the drink with talk of the region.

In honour of the scotch and feeling like an imposter when it comes to writing about the appreciation of spirits, here’s some Dallas Green, “Death of Me“.

Tell Me You’re Going To Blog This

…is what my coworker said to me as she cried with laughter when I told her about cleaning our jetted bath tub.

When we got the house, we photographed the jetted bath tub because it was so disgusting. The previous owners had used (and left behind) a rubber mat in the tub. It was stained orange-brown with long hairs wrapped up in its suction cupped bottom. The jets were stained, grimy, and clearly had hair caught up in them too. It needed an exorcism, is what I’m saying. Second best: kill it with fire from space.

Now, I’ve often described hot tubs as “a crockpot of people sweat and genital secretions with a testicle bouquet garni“. I mean, a jetted tub has water lines, and the water lines are full of the water from the last bather, right? Ugh. My house has a stanky “hot tub”, now more like a “cold tub”, which I would probably prefer to call “an infection tub”.

Cleaners were hired to clean out the house, and while they made the bottom of the tub shine, they wouldn’t do anything about the jets. It was left to us. Inexplicably, they scrubbed the rubber mat clean and folded it up. ….I have NO idea.

Our home inspector had suggested that we use one cup of bleach, a full tub of water, and then run the jets for a good long while to clear the system out. Therefore, the night we moved in Mark and I went to WalMart to buy bleach and a new blanket for the dog. We were dead tired, and we stood in front of the racks of bleach in quiet contemplation. Mark reached down and picked out the cheapest, smallest bottle of bleach I’ve ever seen. It said, simply, Extra Strong Bleach. No brand name.

“Mark, don’t you want to get Clorox or Javex or something? A brand name?”

Mark rocked gently on his feet, like a zombie waiting for a thought or impulse to occur.

“There’s a lot of Clorox and stuff, like, I think there’s a reason why. I think that stuff is… better.”

Mark just stood there, turning grey from exhaustion. I caved immediately. He was DONE. I couldn’t explain why people bought Clorox and Javex instead of Extra Strong Bleach, I knew there was a reason, I figured it had to do with scent, none of the Clorox bottles mentioned scent, and my man was dying in front of me. It seemed important to get him home ASAP and just go to bed. The monetary difference wasn’t a huge deal, and there was no evidence that the brand names were better than Extra Strong Mystery Acid.

Huge. Mistake.

1) Never cut your boyfriend/fiancé any slack. Never.

2) Trust your gut.

We went home, the dog loved his new blanket, and the next afternoon it was time to take on the tub. I’d be lying if I said I was dismayed. I love really dirty things – I love to clean them. I love to clean complicated VERY dirty things, like children’s toys and hamster mazes and yes, jetted tubs. The weirder the object, the more satisfying the work. During the move we’d found a really old toothbrush and I was elated. I would use it to clean out the jets! YES. So excited! I was already feeling the glowing satisfaction of a pristine white tub with that bleach fresh smell and polished up jets. I could visualize it. I love the smell of Javex. I was SO ready to do this ugly job.

The toothbrush worked wonders. I was so satisfied. Everything was working out.

I plugged up the tub and turned the water on, heat on max. As the steam began to rise, I opened up the bottle of Extra Strong Bleach. I recalled that the home inspector had said to use one cup of the stuff but naawwww. I wanted my tub to be sterilized. I broke the safety seal very carefully and poured until my feelings said I’d reached the right point.

The stench of cat pee blossomed like a nuclear mushroom cloud.

BLEACH IS MADE FROM AMMONIA. Jesus god I think I knew that but like I didn’t understand. Javex and Clorox are probably leading bleach brands because their products are made from ammonia (probably, maybe there are different origins for bleach) but don’t stink of cat piss!

Even worse, I am so allergic to cats that the smell of ammonia was making my skin crawl. CATS ARE NEAR: I CAN SMELL THEM said Paranoid and Allergic!Janine. WE SHOULD BREAK OUT IN HIVES, MAYBE.

The hot water was shunted to cold to reduce the spreading stench, and I closed the bathroom door. I didn’t have any rubber gloves, there wasn’t enough water in the tub to dilute the bleach to the point that it wouldn’t melt the flesh off my hands (because I’d dosed the tub until my feelings said stop!) so I was committed. I worked on priming the bedroom ceiling as I listened to the tub fill, considering the eternal conundrum: can a tub be sterile if it smells like cat piss? It had never occurred to me that the answer to that might be an emphatic yes. Considering there was a third of a bottle of bleach in there…

Eventually, the tub filled to the point that the uppermost jet was covered with three or four centimeters of water. I cannot emphasize enough at this juncture that I didn’t know what was going to happen next. I have no experience with jetted tubs.

The power switch is outside the bathroom. You flip the power to the tub on, I suppose you’re supposed to get in, then you push a water proofed button on the tub to start the jet function. I flipped on the power, I turned on the tub, and an incredibly loud rumble signalled that Things Were Happening. The water in the tub was suddenly moving and then BAM. Like a vision of the water fountains in Versailles being started for the day, the two jets on the back of the tub began to stream water. For one hot second they were contained under the water line, but they rose above the waterline as the motor under the tub revved up to full strength.

At first I thought it was going to be okay but no.

I recall seeing them rise about an inch above the water line, but nothing after that because that’s when I began to react to the instinctual knowledge (by this point I was all about instincts) that I was in shit. I don’t know what I did, it happened so fast, but the ultimate outcome is that those two jets blasted me in the face with heavily bleached water. I was turning away when it happened (instincts!) so my right eye took the brunt of it, but I want to be clear that my entire face was thoroughly soaked. My nostrils were full of cat pissy water, my right EAR was full of it, and worst of all my eyes were saturated.

Oh shit.

Oh shit oh shit.

MY EYES. I kinda need those?

Oh shit.

But it wasn’t done, the jets weren’t at full strength when they got me. No, at full strength those bastards were hosing down the bathroom vanity and mirror. I was ineffectually batting at the water, trying to deflect it back into the tub with my hands but it was a fools errand. The floor began to run with water when I recalled that I could kill the power to the jets from outside the room.

I did so.

The water foundation died instantly, and the water falling to the floor made a self-amused slap when it hit the puddles on the tile.

My whole world was the stench of cat piss. My eyes were doing alright, so I dried off my face, but as Mark came to ask why I had been screaming, it started. My right eye began to burn.

Oh shit. Oh shit oh shit oh shit.

I ran to the other upstairs bathroom, turned on the shower, aimed the shower head at the wall and for the first time in my life EVER, I held my eyes open under running water. Even with the water running over my face, filling my right ear, everything EVERYTHING ALL THE THINGS smelled like cat pee. Everything. My eyeballs were like *scccreeeaammmmmmm* of horror because they knew. They knew. They weren’t damaged by the bleach, my eye sight is fine, but they knew. They were scared. They knew they also smelled of cat piss. They weren’t happy about it.

Mark taught me that a jetted tub needs to be filled up to at least an inch to two inches above the highest jet. Where were you when I needed you BEFORE, O Fount Of Jetted Tub Wisdom That Is Called Fiancé? An inch of water is enough to deflect the strength of the jets. We ran the tub for an hour, and when it was done the jets were glossy white and yeah, cat pissy.

I drained the tub and refilled it with hot water, and an all purpose LAVENDER scented household cleaner to get the cat pissy water out of the lines. I cleaned up the standing water on the floor (cat pissy towels!) but to my surprise, the bathroom mirror dried itself and is SPARKLING.

So…. cat pissy silver lining?

Moving Day

Mark left to get the moving truck about 5 minutes ago, and I let Zaphod out of the master bedroom where he’s been snoozing.

“Where’s the Man!!!?!”

“He’s gone to get the moving truck.”

“What’s that?!?”


“What’s ‘moving truck’ mean?”

“Oh! Oh dear. Zaphod, when a man and a woman love a house very much, sometimes they…”


“No, baby.”