I feel a change in the air on how I approach transportation with the girls around the neighbourhood.

BICYCLE.

Maja’s been riding a two-wheeler for some time and Maddy learned (finally!) last fall.

I realized this spring that with two out of three kids able to transport themselves places… I could get Pips on the bike seat and we could get places much much much quicker. Much.

What did it for me was when Maddy & Maja rode their bikes from our house all the way to the Penn Museum and home again. A total of nearly 3 miles.

I trailed behind them pushing Pips in the stroller… and it took us almost 30 min. to get there. On bike it would have taken us 10 min. (optimistically).

This weekend I finally re-mounted the bike seat onto my bike and took Pips for a test run up and down the alley — much to the amusement of my neighbours, I’m sure. Then we went around the block… and she LOVED it.

Big surprise.

We then did a real outing this past Saturday with Pips in the bike seat and Maddy on her bike all the way to campus to drop Maddy off at a friend’s house for a sleepover.

To take our transition to biking one step further, on Sunday morning Maja and I rode our bikes to drop Pippa off at a playdate and Maja rode on the street. She insisted. I figured it was ok given that it was 10am on a Sunday morning…

I have to admit, though, my bike hasn’t seen any love in the past few years and while the brakes work… they make me nervous. Even more nervous when I have an extra 30lb human riding along on the back of the bike.

My bike is going in to the shop today to get a tune up.

And then, watch out West Philly — we’re going to hit the streets!

 

Maja’s room  was in pretty good shape when we moved. There were  no major cracks in the walls and no huge amounts of plaster falling or wallpaper peeling. Since her room is the smallest of the three bedrooms on the third floor and given the general ‘good’ state of the room … it was the fastest to get to a finished state. Yay! for low hanging fruit!

We started with a room of the palest rose colour…

maja's room

And ended with a room of the palest lilac colour.

maja's room

And then the fun part: a wall stencil. Looks like wallpaper… but isn’t! This is the Sweet Dreams stencil from Cutting Edge stencils. I have to say, I was really nervous about doing the stencil. I admit to maybe doing a few deep breaths, cosmic stretches, and pleaseletthisbeeasy mutterings before I started. Truth time: while stenciling was a big deal in the ’80s — you remember all those hanging grape vine things people put in their kitchens, right?!? Thankfully my parents never succumbed to that awful trend. Of course, that means I’d never stenciled before (boo hoo!).

Turns out, I didn’t miss out on an essential life skill and the stenciling was really easy and fun. And ta-dah!

maja's room

(please forgive the bad photo stitching…)

So not a 1980s stencil! What I like best about this room is that it’s just the right amount of “girly.” It’s not a grown-up’s room, it’s not a baby’s room… it’s a kids room without being saccharine.

Detail of the stencil:

maja's room

And… you would think that would be that. But no. The room was done in September. And then un-done when the electrician came through in February:
disarray from electrician

And then we cleaned and put the room back together… until a few weeks later when it was un-done again by the insulation that we had blown into the ceiling and walls.

But now, FINALLY!, it is cleaned up and vacuumed and dusted and mopped and put back together for what feels like the umpteenth time… and I’m so very happy with how it all turned out. Maja is very pleased with it in general, her only request is now for a beanbag chair so she can have a reading corner.

Maja in her insulated, rewired, painted and put-together bedroom

 

The third floor of our new home needed a lot of cosmetic love.

The plaster was falling down.

The wallpaper — WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WALLPAPERS????? — was falling down. Let me just say, whoever lived in this house before us had a thing for oriental themed wall paper.

We started with re-finishing the floors. I will say this, the project was not a highly intellectual project. But it was back-breaking hard labour. Just hauling the floor sander up to the third floor alone was a task in and of itself. I am never.ever. refinishing floors again.

This was the floor in Maja’s room before:

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And after:

3rd floor

I think they turned out really well!!!!

Next up: fixing the walls and getting them ready for paint.

 

 

One of the appealing features of the new house is that it has a deck. What this means is that we can eat outside and not get eaten alive by mosquitoes (because we’re not at ground level)! Also, I can just walk out of my kitchen door with food. Also, I can sit out there in the evenings and watch the stars.

The deck that was on the house when we bought the place was old and decrepit. I joked to Richard that the only thing holding up the deck was the old wisteria…

old deck

…turns out I was right. The insurance company gave us 30 days to remove the deck. So, we tore that old thing down and built a new and improved deck! The biggest change was that we moved the stair to the alley side instead of next to the house — much more convenient!

 

new deck

in progress — this was last July.

We also used Trex for the walking surface — no splinters on bare feet! Now, take note, please: that iron gate that you see there? That will be replaced with a door and that interior space will be reclaimed as part of the newly designed kitchen.

Here are some finished shots:

new deck

all those weed shrubs are gone now too…

new deck

And of course: Pippa had to take all her meals out there last summer.

pippa takes her meal on the new deck

 

Yes, we still live in Philadelphia! Yes, we still live in the same neighbourhood… although we did change zip codes.

The “new” house is very different than the previous two houses we’ve owned. The other two were Victorian and this one is, well I’ll just quote from here:

“recall[s] the taste of the Arts and Crafts movement, but modified by the stylized elegance of the 1920s. The houses tend to look toward the Philadelphia taste of Old English or American Colonial and are strikingly different from the dark brown Pompeinian brick, late Victorian houses that make clear the community boundaries north of Pine, south of Larchwood, east of 46th and west of 5Oth Street.”

What I love the most about this house are the windows. This house gets SUNLIGHT. It’s glorious. The front of the house, with the sunroom, faces south. I get morning sun in my east windows and evening sun in the bay… and then the evening sun reflects off the windows of the house next door and I get more sun. Sun Sun SUN! I love it.

new house (not our car)

the view from across the street

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the front door and side of the house

side yard

side yard — a weed jungle when we moved in.

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back of the house. A GARAGE!!!!!!

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old deck. Check out the geisha fresco!

So, needless to say there’s a lot of work to be done. The deck has already been rebuilt and I’ve weeded and weeded and weeded the yards (front and side and back). This spring I’ll find out what kind of flowers are in the garden — neighbours tell me that the lady who lived here had some unique irises and lilies! The stucco exterior parts and the trim of the house all needs to be painted. We’ll be busy!

 

So, we moved … last summer. Ay yay yay. This blogging hiatus has me all backed up!

I want to share so much but won’t try and overwhelm. So, here’s the plan:

1. show you the new house from the outside and the gardens that need tending

2. show you the new deck we built

3. show you the inside before we moved in

4. show you the third floor bedroom renovations

5. show you the second floor front room renovations

6. show you the in-progress kitchen reno (although, by the time I get to this bullet point we may be done the reno!)

So, that’s the plan. Let’s see how I do…

 

I started knitting again recently. This whole business of buying yarn… and then USING it is a stressful business. It’s not like I don’t have 6 gazillion other things that I should be doing (like laundry) or could be doing (like painting trim)…

Over the holidays I started working on Maddy’s baby blanket (ahem, Maddy is now 5 1/2 years old…). I also made two luscious cowls for my nieces — they turned out so lovely that I had a hard time sending them away.

So, after weeks of hemming and hawing and desiring a cowl of my own… and trying to squash the guilt of trying to find time to go to the yarn store, I suddenly found myself with 2 hours of time on a Friday afternoon with only one child in my possession and a car at my disposal.

I drove like a maniac to the yarn store. I found a FREE parking spot only one block away. The gods were clearly on my side.

I bought yarn to make myself a cowl and a sweater. I know, I’m ambitious.

And I cast on Friday night.

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And knit whenever I had a few moments (waiting during ballet class, swimming class, while breakfast was in the oven, and during Downton Abbey…)

So, I’m about 1/3 of the way done my cowl and I can’t wait to get back to it.

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At dinner last night the subject of haggis came up in reference to Robbie Burns night. As the conversation flowed the question was posed: has anyone come close to haggis.

and BAM:

It’s 1994 or 1995 or 1996. The details are fuzzy. I was at a wedding in Sudbury, Ont. — as the date of one of the groomsmen.

It was winter, I think. I don’t remember the ceremony (I admit, I may not have even attended it), only parts of the reception. It was held in a community hall — dim lighting. I just remember a lot of grey colours.

The groom had Scottish heritage, played a bagpipe. My date was a snare drummer in the pipe band they all played in.

There were shots of Glenfiddich and there was haggis.

I partook of neither.

The groom and the bride had been in a long-term relationship and for whatever reason decided to get married.

After the wedding my date and I headed back to Toronto and I continued on back to London, Ont. to school.

A month later the bride had run off.

The groom committed suicide.

True story.

It haunts me to this day.

 

Via FaceBook, a friend of mine was talking about lowcost (i.e. free) exercise options.

The topic of the stairs in the stadium on campus came up. And naturally what followed was the idea that going up and down the stairs in some kind of organized, regular fashion would be beneficial for one’s health.

I do believe that this is true.

BUT what has me baffled is that she has convinced me to do this.

ME! The girl of the bike and the pool but not the girl of sneakers.

I had to buy new sneakers.

I did the stairs on my own this week.

Up. And Down. 20 times each way.

The stairs at Franklin field.

I did not hear the roar of the phantom crowd in the stadium. Just the roar of the blood in my ears and my pounding heart.

The view from the top is worth it. Even after the 20th time.

View from Franklin Field

 

There are days when I miss my blog. I miss being able to spill everything out.

The reason I haven’t been writing is that no one really wants to hear me complain — because truth be told I do have a pretty fantastic life.

But the clouds are there and the annoyances and greyness and frustration and tears.

So, I don’t write.

And then I feel guilty and think that I could just blog about the nice things! HAPPY! SUNSHINE! ROSES!

And that would all be a lie.

I made a cake yesterday — Plum upsidedown cake. It’s yummy. Well, I think it’s yummy — no one else in my house will eat it. Even though the kids love plums and cake. But, apparently not at the same time.

Plum upside down cake

 
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