Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year's Eve!

Hopefully everyone is getting ready to head out to your own celebrations, like me, or perhaps planning for a quiet night at home.

Before I head down the road for a night of indulging in great food with great friends, I promised I'd share my 'collection'.

With 2 more coats of paint (yes, that's 3 total + 1 coat of primer!), and the closet done, it was time to take down my "Got Milk" collection. For years of my adolescent life, I scoured magazines, going so far as to steal ads from friends' magazines when they weren't looking to add to my collection. As it grew, and space on my ceiling thinned, my interest in finding more faded, but I continued to proudly display the collection on the roof of my bedroom. 40 ads in all adorn the ceiling, featuring everyone from 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys to Kate Moss, Johnathon Taylor Thomas (remember him??!) to The Simpsons, and two Britney Spears ads from 2 very different periods of her life.

I haven't decided what to do next with the collection. I suggested a mural in the barn office, but my dad wasn't so fussy on that idea.

I didn't have any luck finding wallpaper yesterday for my shelves, so the hunt continues next week when I go back to the city. Keep posted for the big reveal when I get the room all done!

Stay safe this evening! Happy New Years!

Much Ado About Window Treatments

I promised to reveal my collection, and I will shortly. This has been bugging me all day though, so I decided to share while my search continues for ideas.

I'm stumped on the window treatments for my old bedroom. I've been searching for ideas, but so far it's been challenging :

  1. The room is small. Just over 80 square feet to be exact. The windows are already the focal point, located directly opposite the door. Anything too extravagant will overpower the entire room.
  2. The windows are tall, nearly reaching the ceiling and just over a foot off the floor.
  3. My mother would like the solution to act as insulation against the cold in winter. They are in the 'snow belt' after all.
Here are a few ideas I'm pondering....

Roman blinds, or similar.
The window sill is huge, so these could be mounted close to the window without too much trouble. (I also really like this "living window" idea from The Nest).

Sheer Curtains.

The right curtains will pull a colour scheme together perfectly in a room. I like these sheer panels because they provide both an air of subtlety and colour to the room. Can sheer curtains help the heating bill is the next question. My instinct is no, but I may have to ask an expert on this one.

Blinds + Curtains.

Jon & Sherry over at Young House Love (my all-time fav blog) love pairing blinds with curtains. I love you can use this look to create a 'perfect window', but I wonder if it would be as effective in my small room. Would too many treatments create a 'heavy' feeling?

Nothing at all.

It works here in this farmhouse at Country Living. It's worked in this room for 26 years. Perhaps it's also an option. As a guest room, however, the yard below is a busy spot during any season and even I would like more privacy than this provides.

Whatever solution I find, I plan to duplicate in my brother's old room. It's also a small room (only 10 1/2 ' x 8') with ambitions of being a guest room when it grows up. But, one project at a time, as my mom would say.

Progress so far:
- 2 coats of paint
- Tentative wallpaper picked out
- Bed linens purchased
- Ceiling collection down (mom wants me to paint the ceiling... ick that sounds, in no way, fun)

Days to go:
Officially - 2
Realistically - 1...  New Years Day will not be a productive day, I suspect!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Then There was WHITE!

One coat down. One to go... hopefully. I finished priming and the first coat of paint on my old bedroom today. I learned a few things in the process:
  • Be prepared! I forgot the Brownie motto on this project. I had already started priming when I realized I didn't have the roller I needed and there was gooey stuff on the wall that still had to come off.
  • Put primer in the panalling cracks with a small brush. A roller won't cover these, and it will save a lot of work later.
  • Always keep a wet rag close by. No matter how hard I try, I still end up with paint somewhere I don't want it!
I have to admit, I'm not 'wowed' yet at the change. I haven't painted the closet doors though, and I left the backs of the shelves because I plan to cover them with wallpaper. I think this will really pull it together...

I also noticed the paint is yellowing a little. At first, I thought this was the panalling coming through the primer, but now I'm not so sure. Is it possible the paint is pulling the stain off the panalling?

Tomorrow, I'm off to get the wallpaper and will finish the painting. I will also have to take down a beloved collection of posters I've had for almost 15 years! Can you guess what they are?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Sharing Some Olympic Spirit

On a break from paint prepping, I thought I'd share some Olympic spirit. That's me with my pair of the coveted red mitts below! (Thank you to bf's company Christmas party!)

Here are my pics from last weekend's torch relay through Niagara. The torch came through my old stomping ground today, and I had full intentions of attending this evening's ceremony, but the snow squall warning and wind gusts up to 60 km/h have scared me away. I ventured outside earlier to pick up my bedroom paint, and it was downright nasty. The roads were deserted, not even a plow in sight.

Instead, I'm cuddling up tonight in my parents' cozy living room with "The Nanny Diaries" - have I mentioned I'm going to be an aunt. My youngest brother is expecting a little one in March!

My Farmhouse Bedroom - The Before

Here we go. Here are photos of my old bedroom, in my parents' farmhouse. This is before I began cleaning on Saturday.

First to note: PANALLING! It's in every room in our home! I struggle to believe this will ever come back in! By Thursday, no one will ever notice it was ever there. The potential of the closet doors and shelves has me extra giddy. Stripes perhaps on the doors or funky wallpaper on the back of the shelves! I haven't quite decided, but I know the inspiration will come once I start painting!

This is the east wall of the room. It's currently a soft yellow colour, which is going to stay. What you don't see is stencilled vines along the ceiling. When I sat my mother down yesterday to help her 'envision' my plan, she specifically asked I don't touch the stencilling. She likes it. Deal. (I'm still kind of proud of my 18-year-old self's work anyway!)

Finally, we have the shot looking into the room from the door. It's a little dark, but you see it's not a very big room. You also see the mess of boxes on the floor. This is not the product of my cleaning, rather the result of moving back between 'houses' after my third year of University. Yes, these boxes never left. Let's just say the dust is very thick! One other important thing to notice in this photo is the open cupboard door. Both my room and my brother's have these storage areas in the wall, beneathe three shelves. This will be the perfect spot to store the stuff I want to keep (lifeguarding manuals, old 4-H books, projects I can't part with for example), but also keep it out of sight.

So, after a family Christmas yesterday, I'm so well-fed, I will not need to surface for several days. Bring on Day 2.

Goal: Finish cleaning and sorting. Buy the paint.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A little Christmas project

For the last few months, every time I went to visit my parents' farm, I couldn't help but think about the lack of 'guest' accommodation in their farmhouse. Sure, I always sleep in my old room, but I've had friends stay over and they are usually forced to tip-toe through the storage room that is my brother's old bedroom to find a bed.

Shopping for new bedding for my mom's Christmas present, I decided about a week ago to redecorate these rooms over the Christmas break. After all, I have been promising my mom for years now, I would go through the boxes of 'important' books and papers on my bedroom floor and take it back to the city with me.

I even took some before pictures yesterday when I was getting started (I'll post shortly). All of the rooms in my parents' farmhouse have some amount of paneling on the walls. When I was little and hated it, I was told it couldn't be painted. When I was in Grade 12, I decided I needed a change and painted one wall of paneling anyway. The world didn't end, and my mom was actually impressed with how it turned out. Armed with a dog-eared and bookmarked, borrowed copy of Better Homes & Gardens New Decorating Book, I am expecting a couple coats of white paint and some 'de cluttering' to create an entirely new living space. Not to mention, a guest room my mom would be proud to show off.

My mom thinks I'm crazy, so not only do I have to finish to show you the final result, but I have to prove it to her also!

Let the room makeover begin!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Have a Savvy Merry Christmas!

Holiday 2009 Fergie and Penny

From my family to yours... whoever and wherever you are out there, I want to wish you a very merry, savvy Christmas!

Over the years, my family has started to spread out and Christmas Day had became rushed and hectic. In an effort to remove some stress from the day, we opted to celebrate a little early around the farm. Following a yummy lasagne dinner (I love my mom's lasagne) and our local church service, we opened gifts and enjoyed a few drinks in each other's company.

Trying to hide from his own messPenny has a new hiding spot

Fergie & Penny didn't miss out on the action either. Doesn't Fergie realize that we can still see him, just because he can't see us? This ripped apart bag of paper, which was in the bag before we went to bed, was his little gift to me. On the right, can you spot the feline? This spot beneath the tree has become her favourite spot to take in the action.

This Christmas again blessed me with gifts that will head right to good use in the Savvy home, but the chance to relax at my parents' farm with my family is always the most welcome present for me during the holidays. This year, there was an extra bonus! The expectation of a new baby in the family means I'm going to be an aunt!

I would be remiss if I didn't share my gift from my parents, who I think went a little over the top, but I'm going to let you guess what they bought me anyway...
  • It's in 2 boxes, one is a huge, rectangle.
  • It's for every room of the house.
  • It sucks a lot.

Okay, the last one was the gimme - they gave me a central vacuum! The bonus? My family will have to come visit me to install it in my home! I think this will call for an extra-special trip to Buffalo for chicken wings!

Hope Santa has been extra nice to all of you this year as well! Take care today, whether you're relaxing with family, like me, or you're heading out on the road. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ready for Christmas... Just Need Some Snow

Christmas pine wreathMy house is decorated, baking is done (although, I could always do more), and my shopping is almost done. I even made a Christmas wreath for my door this year. Inspired by Home Hardware's Home at Home magazine, a little hot glue, dollar store decor, overcooked shortbread and old, wooden spoons were all I needed to complete this masterpiece! The wreath iself was made by tying pine boughs, trimmed from trees at my parents' farm a few weeks earlier, together in a wreath shape.
We did the same with the boughs on my front window. Tied them together with some jute twine, then anchored them to the windowsill with some small nails.
Now, we just need some snow in Niagara.

My home decorated for ChristmasWhile other parts of the country have been dumped on with snow and frigid temperatures, we continue to get damp, cold temperatures and rain. Most could wait for the snow, but I have always loved winter. Especially since a 'green' Christmas by Canadian standards, in fact means brown, so a little snow is usually a welcome sight. An avid fan of winter sports - tobogganing, snowmobiling and snowboarding - I am looking forward to spending some of my holiday enjoying all three.

In the meantime, I have been listening to holiday classics and baking cookies to keep me in the spirit. Looking for something to do in Niagara? Check out the lights at Niagara Falls, but dress warm! Snow or not, the freezing mist means a cold and slippery visit!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Final full day in Germany is a day to remember

Cologne CathedralI'm back in my mouse-hole of a hotel room, reflecting on the day and googling a good German restaurant (aka has good beer) for dinner.

There are 2 important things to note here:

One) I made it home safely from today's adventure, which included renting a car in Germany and driving on the Autobahn. Thank goodness I know how to drive standard!! While it may only be a suggestion, there is a posted speed limit of 130km on the Autobahn. Driving in the city was MUCH more intimidating. Apparently, you just know the streets and where to go. They don't believe in signs, and even if they do, I can't understand them.

Two) I am ready to go home and want to enjoy one more German beer before I go, maybe even a bratwurst if I'm so brave.
Before I get to today's tale, here Inside Cologne Cathedralare some pictures from the Cathedral from yesterday. While I'm at it, let's have a little history lesson. This Roman Catholic Cathedral, or Dom in German, dedicated to the Virgin Mary and St. Peter is the largest in Northern Germany, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and probably also one of the busiest. I knew it was going to be relatively easy to find when I arrived in Cologne, but what I wasn't expecting was to walk out of the train station and stand directly beside it. It's stunning and it's massive size took my breath away. Started in the 1200's, the DOM was not completed until 1880. It survived the war, relatively unscathed as much of Cologne was flattened. According to stories I read, the Allies may even have used it as a navigational landmark as the city sits next to the Rhine river on the far west side of Germany.

It could be assumed, my great uncle Norman, my Grandma's My uncle's grave at Rheinberg War Cemetarybrother, may also have navigated over Germany via this Cathedral. Unfortunately, like thousands of other airmen, his plane did not come back and today, he rests in Rheinberg War Cemetary.
I have noticed that most German's do not openly provide details about the war. On our Cathedral tour in Speyer, I asked how the Cathedral faired and during the Heidelberg tour, the guide shared Germany's history, concluding with "we all know what happened from there" when she reached the appointment of Hitler to Chancellor. I don't know what that means, and maybe it means nothing. After all, we do all know the country's history since the 1930's.

Rheinberg War Cemetary inscriptionVisiting the cemetary was a little surreal. It was a miserable day, pouring rain on the drive from Cologne to Rheinberg, but the rain cleared as I found the cemetary. I have to admit, I did have some trouble, and I drove around for at least 15-20 minutes trying to find it. I later noticed a sign in town I had missed, but it still would not have led me there any faster. For anyone that chooses to visit Rheinberg War Cemetary, turn left when you come off the Autobahn, this will take you towards Kamp Linfort and right past the cemetary.

The majority of the men were airman. WWII graves at Rheinberg War CemetaryNorman's plane went down on September 23, 1943, and walking through the stones, it appears that many others went down that day as well. It was heartbreaking to see how young they were, mostly in their early 20's. Including Norman, who was only 22. There were also several unidentified men in the cemetary, marked only by a stone reading "An airman or the 1939-1945 war" or "A soldier".

All waves of emotion came over me within the cemetary. The clouds did break for a while, and the sun even came out as I walked between the rows. A crow watched overhead, and I couldn't help but recite the verses of Flanders Fields in my head and aloud. With the sound of WWII Memorial at Rheinberg War Cemetarythe odd airplane overhead, I found myself thinking about what it would be like to wonder if that plane would be the one that dropped a bomb on your town, family's or neighbour's home. All week, I have imagined the countryside as it must have looked then. The rolling fields and scattered forests between towns, battered and scarred with years of war. Brick fencerows in shambles with cords of barb wire tangled along the top. I have looked at old brick buildings and wondered how many houses were destroyed and the bricks salvaged to rebuild after the bombs stopped.

Of course, many of these images are due to Hollywood's imagination, rather than my own, however I think it's important to try to understand, although I never will be able to fully comprehend.

So, I am now ready to go home. My legs are sore from walking everywhere (who knew it was such hard work) and I am tired of breathing in cigarette smoke. A lot of people smoke here, including inside from time to time. I'm not sure how I'll fit everything in one suitcase, so that may be a task for this evening. Otherwise, I'm going to enjoy some beer, and maybe one more gluhwein (pronounced glue-vine).

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My crazy adventure begins....

I wrote this on the train earlier this morning:

Today, I am doing something incredibly crazy. I am taking a train across a country that speaks a language I don't know to seek out my great uncle's grave in a WWII Cemetary. Not only do I really have no idea where I'm going, I have a sneaking suspician that many Germans will not either.

However, I do have a game plan, which is more than I could say for 2 days ago, or yesterday even. I was going a little mad, thinking I was going to step off the train onto a platform in the middle of a field, no people, taxis, or hotels in sight. Since my ticket was not refundable or changeable, I have decided to jump the train early in Cologne (Koln) and explore the city. From there I will travel to Rheinberg.

Have I mentioned how many beautiful castle are along this the Rhein River? It's incredible the scenery you get to see by taking this route on the train!

So for today, I am looking forward to a relaxing day on the train and sight-seeing, which will hopefully include the cathedral. I have heard from numerous people it is amazing. With the wine-ache I have currently though, I am also looking forward to going to bed. Last night, we had dinner at Zumstein, a winery that was initially constructed 600 years ago! Dirk, the owner is a charmer and an entertainer, and he uses humour and the odd sexual comment to keep his customers coming back. A real host as well, we were not sent home emptyhanded, and I am delighted to add some Zumstein wine to my collection once again.

When we left, it was not only the wine that has us full. The incredible dinner commenced with Cream of Mushroom and Cranberry soup. Odd combination, yet it was so delicious, I could have ate another 3 bowls and called that dinner alone. The main course included a ham steak, which I was very happy to see was actually a pork chop, not a thick slice of ham as I was imagining. The pototoes honestly looked like tater-tots, but they were so yummy, I could hold it against them! I have been looking forward to dessert all week - apple strudel, picked off the menu for our group by yours truly. It did not dissappoint, and even one of the managers who has been weaned from desserts for 6 years gave in to a few bites.

Drunken with great conversation and good wine, we headed for the hotel and a few beers later, I was ready for bed. Though just a little anxious about the trip ahead, I think my anxiety is being surpressed by the hangover. Sleep would be welcome, but my train route is taking me along the Rhine River, and it is absolutely breathtaking. Vineyards line the valley walls, interspaced with small towns with wonderful, old stone churches that sit up on the hills.

Now that I've arrived in Cologne, I stopped at the Tourism Info Centre and learned, yes, the cemetary is not a popular attraction in the region. It doesn't even appear to be in the region! I checked into my hotel, and I was pleased to find it quite nice and affordable- thank you Expedia users who post reviews! I'm going to lay down for a bit of a nap, then I'll see where the afternoon takes me. It is raining again.. probably a good day to go to the Picasso Museum.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Castles and Noodles

Well, another day in Germany is rolling quickly to an end. Truthfully, it is over. I have been doing 'work' in my room for over an hour, since I returned from a pub. Darn this time change - it's only 7 pm at home- 6 am will come mighty early 5 hours from now!
Have I mentioned I LOVE breakfast here? Despite waking up feeling slightly ill- I blame the 'pork knuckle' I had at dinner last night (back to that in a second) - I was happy to enjoy another breakfast of meat & cheese on a bun! Pork knuckles.. 'what are they?' you may wonder. Look at your knuckle, now think of a pig's knee and you have the idea, sort of. The outside, which was essentially skin, was tough and crispy, while the inside was fall-apart-pork. All in all, it was pretty good... until I woke up this morning with a sore tummy. Lunch today was pork again, so I opted for a second helping of the smoked salmon and salad app. We also had 'spatzel', which are a type of egg noodle.
Besides eating, today's agenda also included the city of Heidelberg. The city, the basis of the Romaticism period, was one of the only cities not destroyed in WWII by the Allies. As a result, the old city stands as it did hundreds of years ago after it was rebuilt, following the 30 year's war.
Not only a beautiful city, but it had several more Christmas markets, complete with a giant pyramid, or 'twirly-ma-bob' as I have taken to calling the traditional, German wood decorations. I have yet to decide if they are tacky or intriguing, but I do know they would be a pain to dust.
After another dinner of egg noodles, stuffed chicken and wonderful cream of potato & salmon soup, we were seranaded by a violin with keys that sounded like a bagpipe. According to the tale, it's an instrument from the 1100's, and in English, it's called a wirley-girley. Doesn't sound like a real name to me either, but it was entertaining to say the least!
I can not get over how tap water is not consumed here. In restaurants, and even in people's homes, they drink bottled water. Is the water really not that good? I was expecting the sparkling water, but not so much bottled. Perhaps not surprisingly, a bottle of water is twice as expensive as a chocolate bar and in some cases, more money than beer. Guess we know what that means.. chocolate and beer for all!
This last picture is at Heidelberg Castle. Funny enough, I think I took all the same pictures as the last time I visited, but with different strangers in them. The day was significantly more dull also - a very damp 7 or 8 degrees, with heavy fog for most of the day and rain in the evening. No snow here!

Germany knows Christmas spirit!

Guten tag!

From the moment I stepped off the plane, I had an incredible craving for a baguette with
meat and cheese. To me, there is nothing in Canada that can compare to European breads and meats. I made a beeline to the meat, cheese and prociutto when I learned the hotel was still
serving breakfast.

Despite this, I have to admit that German food is not my favourite. Walking through the
Christmas market, which are popular all over the country at this time of year, we were
amazed by the 2-foot long wieners, or bratwurst, people were chowing down on. Though they
smelled delish, there is something about eating a double-decker hot dog that got me. We did partake in the popular gundwein (that is absolutely not spelled correctly) tradition, sipping steamy and potent wine from a mug, shaped like a boot no less.

The Christmas market was huge and packed with people. Stall after stall, filled with folks selling jewellery, ornaments, nutcrackers, candles and various decor. And the scarves!
Everywhere.. for 5-10 euro! Certainly a deal, compared to the $10-15 price for a scarf in Canada. I couldn't go without purchasing at least one, and we'll see how much self-restraint
I have for the remainder of the week! Especially, considering the love affair I've developed with riding boots.

1 in 3 women are wearing riding boots, and every pair is beautiful. Strange as it may seem,
my colleague and I spent a good part of the day admiring boots. Seemed like a great bonding opportunity, yet the more expensive leather boots I admired, the more I was convinced I should get a pair. For now, however, I have to settle for my shawdy, dress shoes that double as loafers! That is not to say I won't keep looking while I'm here, though!
Tomorrw, we will head to the wonderfully, romantic city of Heidelberg, and by Wednesday I will be off on my own adventure, tracking across Germany to settle some history from my family's past. Check back again this week for an update!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Julie & Julia... Isn't this what every foodie wants to do?

I have an incredible urge to take a week off, drop everything in my life and subject myself
to a marathon of cooking. After eagerly anticipating watching "Julie & Julia" on my last
flight, I can not help but think it was more than a coincidence the "En Route" magazine in
the seat pocket in front of me was 'The Food Issue'!

Until now, the closest I've come to my own "Julie & Julia" experience was prepping for my
last Pampered Chef Open House. I frantically made recipe after recipe- whipping, chopping,
baking and simmering, sampling, tossing, adjusting and redoing. Making my way through the
new cookbook, though significantly smaller than "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", I
mentally noted the keepers, what to tweak for next time, and what to forget. Having never
before forced myself to make a selection of recipes in this manner, it was truly a unique
experience. There was this drive that I MUST finish, or I MUST get it right that caused me
to try, try and try again until I was proud of my dish.

Have you ever had the desire to cook your way through a cookbook? Does flipping through a
new Rachel Ray magazine trigger a desire to rush out and buy every ingredient you need to
lock yourself in your kithen for the rest of the day?

For me, reality sets in shortly after. Can I afford all those ingredients? When do I really
have time to make all this? Who will eat all this food? Perhaps, it is time my friends and I
started to throw dinner parties, rather than heading out for Tuesday Tapas!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"Real"ator Encouragement for a New Home Owner

I don't know about you, but I rarely* look at mail from realtors. Whether its targeted - "I have buyers for your home" - or just the glossy, guy-on-the-bus stop post card, it hits the blue box. On a related note, one of my managers suggests you should never buy a house whose face you could sit on. Seems like solid advice to me!

* Rarely. Up until a few months ago, I NEVER looked at this mail. Karl is not the realtor I used when I bought my house, but at this point, he's definitely the realtor I would go to when I want to sell. An acquaintance I met through a friend, he's also young and lives in our neighborhood. He's been a great resource if I have questions - he suggested making my basement reno a priority and a roofing company when my roof took on sieve-like qualities.

These, very important, points aside, I simply enjoy his marketing tactics. No glossy post cards or park benches, just the odd letter. Honest and sharing some personal and market updates. As a bonus - a pizza courtesy of Karl and one of his friend's local pizza joints!

I believe word of mouth and personal referrals are important in real estate. This is where you get your business, but there aren't enough good realtors out there so the good ones get even better lipservice and stand a part even more.

Ask me to name a realtor when I moved here, I would have shrugged and said "I don't know, I used so-and-so". Not because I felt you should, but I didn't know anyone to recommend. I believe there are not enough good realtors out there... why else don't we all automatically know someone when asked for a recommendation? Ask me for a good restaurant, and I'll tell you 5.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

So Much For Raking Leaves!

Another fantastic weekend with great weather, and I am finally starting to feel like my house is ready for winter. That is, except, for one extremely visible chore I haven't yet completed. My lawn is several layers deep in leaves from the two large soft maples in my yard, and I haven't raked them yet. While time hasn't been overly available, I discovered a larger problem...

There are no leaf bags in the region!

2 weeks ago, I went looking for bags... grocery stores, hardware stores and Shoppers Drug Mart. Everyone is sold out! The cashier at Canadian Tire told me today they are not only sold out, but they are backordered several weeks! Weeks.... by the time leaf bags arrive, there will be snow on the ground!

Looks like this Savvy Homegirl won't be raking her leaves this fall!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

That Fall To-Do List.. Not Making Much Progress

I started with very good intentions! You'll remember way back in September, I made my "to do" list for the fall, and I was keen to get everything done the next available weekend. Not surprisingly, I haven't had an available weekend since then!

Yet I have still managed to stroke a few off the original list:

· Make a fall wreathe

· Change the weather stripping on the side door - I can SEE the light from outside, that can't be good for the heating bill!

· Clean the eaves - still some shingles to be removed

· Bring in my geranium and pull up my dahlias

· Pull up the rest of my carrots

· Paint my porch lights (the hose chipped some paint off them)

· Touch up paint and seal around windows where its needed

· Put away the patio furniture

  • Lacquer crab apples - is this even possible???!
And a few I've added since:
  • Rake leaves (I've collected 4 bags so far, there's probably 14 left...)
  • Heating ducts completed for bathroom
  • Final roof caps

The crab apples... I have collected a few to lacquer, but I didn't get them off the tree in time to try making crab apple jelly. I have heard you have to get the apples before they are too ripe and/or fall off the tree, because that's when the worms get them. Had I done that, it also would've saved my back. I picked up 2 bins full of apples on the weekend, and that was only from one side of the tree! Besides looking pretty for 2 weeks of the spring, I can not see any other value in ever planting a crab apple tree in your yard. Of course, my crab apple tree is owned by the City, so I can not cut it down or do anything with it, except clean up the mess it makes, of course. I'm terrified someone is going to slip on a rotten, mushy apple on the sidewalk and break their neck!

The goal for this weekend? Stroke the remaining items off the list. It's a big goal... but not unthinkable. Like every farmer in Ontario, I'm wishing for good weather this weekend!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

How to Make A Zombie Costume

Another Halloween, come and gone!! After attending costume parties all weekend, I had to share some pictures and my masterpiece! I love Halloween after all, so I could not share my costume with all of you!

It wasn't until last Monday that I found a costume I felt truly "inspired"about! Taking a cue from one of my
Brownie's homemade zombie costume, I set out last week to complete my own representation of the living dead.

When it was all ripped and torn, "wounded" and "bleeding", I was quite happy with the results. At Friday's Halloween
party, I was one of few with a homemade costume, and I enjoyed compliments from strangers. All that was missing was an offer for an 80's zombie flick!

Surprisingly, the nasty wounds and gashes on my hand, arm and shin were easy to create. After doing some research online (there are some great sources if you google "zombie makeup"), I decided to make my wounds with my own household products, rather than purchasing the latex and fake blood from the party store.

I can honestly say, this is one of the most successful "do it yourself" experiences I've had! Here is what I had in my 'zombie toolkit':
  • white glue (like the kind you had in kindergarten)
  • tissue or toilet paper
  • foam brushes and sponges
  • corn syrup
  • red food colouring - you can also add some green and yellow to darken the 'blood'
  • red & black tempera paint
  • white face paint - bought at a party store
  • black eyeshadow - for dark hollows around your eyes
  • hairspray & comb - tease and spray your hair 'messy'
I used the tips from this website about zombies. Basically, all you need to do it use thin coats of glue, allowing it to dry between coats, to make the base of your wound. Then, start adding strips of tissue (rip the 2-ply into single sheets first) to 'build' the wound. Add a couple of strips, allowing to dry between applications also, and let it dry hard once its as thick as you desire. Once its dry, apply paint and fake blood with the sponges and brushes to achieve the texture and 'gore' you desire.

* Just make sure wherever you are making your wound is hair-free, because it will be when you rip the wound off and it will HURT!!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Cookies Without White Sugar

I had such a desire to make chocolate chip cookies the other night after dinner. I pored over my cookbooks for THE ultimate chocolate chip recipe, grabbed my mixing bowl, melted my butter and WHAM! I had no white sugar! Every recipe called for white sugar!

Easily defeated, yet still completely unsatisfied, I settled onto the couch to watch Grey's Anatomy and drink my wine. When I awoke yesterday morning, the desire to make cookies was still there. Wide awake at 5:30am (an absolute first for me this fall!), I flipped through my book again and found it. A recipe without white sugar:

Oatmeal Coconut Cookies courtesy of Agnes Bregman from Bruce County!

1 small C butter (not sure how you can have a small cup.. but whatever)
1 1/2 C brown sugar (I only used 1 1/4 and you could likely get away with just one)
1 egg
1 C all-purpose flour
1 1/4 C oatmeal
3/4 C coconut
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

I added 2/3 C butterscotch chips.

Bake on greased cookie sheet or parchment paper for 7-8 minutes at 350 degrees F.

These were amazing! I took them to work and everyone raved about them. They spread out a lot when they bake, so they are these delectable, thin cookies. Be sure not to over bake and they will maintain some softness too!!


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Happy Birthday To Me!

Early morning fall sky over my  backyard
1 year old!! It's hard to believe Savvy Homegirl is one year old today! That also means my home is another year older as well.. yikes!

I am a little disappointed I have not completed as many of the 'fix-it' tasks I wanted to in the past year, but I'm looking forward to a more successful year in 2010. With eight weddings this year, I'm going to give myself a pass - well deserved, in my opinion. With a new job (I got a promotion!), my Pampered Chef 'fun money', and hopefully, a little more time, that office and basement should be easier to tackle!

I am also looking forward to a stronger net worth in the coming year. With my budget tactics somewhat working (some months are definitely better than other), I am confident I can put a bit of money aside, now that my pay cheque is bigger.

Finally, this little blogging adventure has definitely been an interesting learning experience! It's amazing how many times I have the urge to blog about what's on my mind, but I don't have a computer handy to get it all out. My life is hectic at best right now- work, travel (also work), Brownies, Pampered Chef, and of course, the weddings! Luckily, the weddings are nearly done, so Savvy Homegirl should be back more often this fall and winter.

Thank you to everyone that's been reading over the past year! Cheers to one more!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Random Ramblings...

Some 1 AM random thoughts bouncing around in my head right now...

  • My cat loves grapes, peaches, tomatoes, berries and pretty much any other soft-skinned vegetable or fruit. My floors are covered with the purple skins of concord grapes. Yah, that stains.
  • One of my favourite times of year is when the air smells like snow.
  • I'm shopping for the best deal on pumpkins. In the past few days, I've driven by eight places with pumpkins for sale at the road and have yet to buy one.
  • I should probably do something with the mountain of cardboard boxes in my garage.. the downside of a home business, unless I move in the near future.
  • On the other hand, UPS dropped off 2 shipments this week. It was like Christmas. Boxes and papers flying everywhere and oodles of new products (even if they weren't for me)!
  • Hate is a strong word. This week, I HATE driving.
  • Why do my cats insist on acting like rabid animals on steroids when I get home at 11 pm?
  • i also hate doing wash. Those 2 full baskets should grow legs and walk themselves into the washing machine.
  • If you plan an office costume party, you should wear a costume. It's a rule. I don't know how people missed that memo.
  • What do you know? My blog is almost a year old! This calls for a celebration... I'll get back to you on that.
  • Reverting back to my college day sleeping patterns does nothing for my working day job.

I think that about sums it up for now! Have a good weekend!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving / Fall!

OH My Gosh! It's already Thanksgiving- well, it was! I can't believe it's over and October is nearly half over! Where did summer go? Wait, when did it start?!

I planned to post all weekend, but between turkey and weddings (yes, I had a wedding on Thanksgiving), and catch-up coffee with friends, the celebration of harvest was done before I knew it! It did occur to me over the course of the weekend that Thanksgiving is one of my favourite holidays. With nowhere to go except my own family's dinner, it is normally quite relaxing. Even with a wedding this weekend, the drive north of Toronto, through the Oakridge Morraine was beautiful with the hills and trees awash in autumn colour. We were even blessed with some sun and blue skies for both our trip out and home the following day.

There is also never a shortage of things to do around my parents' farm on Thanksgiving. I thought perhaps we might be able to take a nice walk through the bush on our property, pull out a hay wagon for a hay ride maybe even. Ha! I was dreaming! With the weather barely cooperating, I arrived home to a yard full of tractors, trucks, fertilizer wagons and the harvester, just waiting for a sunny day. By Monday, when the sun emerged, they were ready to go! Regardless, it's still refreshing to spend a weekend away from the hustle and I enjoy the still, crisp air on a frosty morning on the farm. It was certainly a nice holiday after a few very busy weeks!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Is Wind Energy Really "Green"???

Wind turbines and electricity transmission towersThis post is not particularly 'house-related' but since I pay my electrical bill, and I have no real choice where the electricity comes from, I think it is justified to reside at Savvy Homegirl.

I am all for ‘green’ energy. I think any way we can reduce our draw on natural resources must be for the better. Driving along the Lake Huron shoreline in Bruce County this summer however, I couldn't help but ponder the logic behind wind energy. A recent conversation with colleagues renewed this curiosity in the monstrous, unassuming turbines. I am undecided whether our society, and environment, is going to end up better or worse off once the ‘buzz’ dies down.

It seems like everyone is all for wind energy... until the turbines are in their backyard. Whether the issue is effect on health, visual esthetics or potential stray voltage, I have heard an assortment of concerns. Yet, the turbines continue to go up. There are so many turbines along Saugeen Shores, you can not even stand in one location and count them. I can only imagine what the view of beautiful Bruce County looks like from off the shore; vast, green and golden wheat fields over rolling hills, spotted with black and red grazing cattle, and these massive, white towers.

I have heard stories and rumors for months about residents near the towers experiencing declining real estate values, unacceptable stray voltage and severe headaches. I've even heard the provincial government is paying for hotel rooms to keep a group of families quiet about severe side effects they've experienced to their health. What worries me most? Many landowners signed 10 year agreements with the energy companies. What happens after 10 years? I have heard stories time and time again from Dutch immigrants of desolate, abandoned towers falling into disrepair, scattered throughout Holland’s countryside like a giant child’s jacks thrown down and forgotten. I imagine rusty towers, blades broken and lodged in the hillsides, resembling World War Two era structures battered and abandoned years after the last bombs landed.

It’s made me so curious, I googled turbine images to see if this is truly the case. Surely, if I’m so curious to take photos of turbines and towers, there must be others as fascinated by the idiocracy of leaving such mass garbage behind. For what? The sake of profit? How can they be a sustainable energy source if they are redundant after only 10 years? Well, turns out, this is about all I could find for pictures... and I think this is actually from an abandoned wind farm in Hawaii from 30-40 years ago.

Nevertheless, I am still not a firm believer. After-all, how do you discern the fact from fiction? Is it all a cover-up? A lucrative scheme for energy companies to profit off the 'green revolution'?

I could pay more for 'green energy credits', but at the end of the day, my electricity still comes from the grid, so how do I know if its green or not? However, I can choose to reduce how much I use. Maybe if all of us were more energy conscious and used less, the need for green energy wouldn’t be so significant.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I Won a VIP Trip to Alexander Keith's Birthday Bash!

OMG! I've never won anything of this magnitude in my life! Well, some might consider the office Leaf tickets last Christmas comparable, but in my opinion they certainly do not compare!

Here is what I won:
Isn't that incredible! You know those coasters you get with your beer at the bar, it pays to enter the contest on them! Sometimes you win!! WOOOO HOOOO!!!

So, the MAJOR downer of all of this.... I can't go :***( While I hate to put work above such opportunities, I have TWO commitments that week! Since I can't even be at both work events, I certainly am not going to be able to get permission to go on this trip!

So, after debating all the different people I wanted to be my best friend, I decided to give the trip to my brothers

The way I see it, I get to travel all the time and have already seen much of Canada. With their commitments on the farm, they don't get away as often, and a beer-drinking, wild party in the Maritimes is right up their alley. I do owe one for helping with my roof after-all and well, I'm going to need someone to help me drywall this winter!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Very Productive Last Weekend of Summer

After two days lying around the house, making a serious dent in The Time Traveler's Wife (I'm reading the book AFTER seeing the movie. Recommendation - both are good, book is long!) and completing another season of SATC, I was ready to take on the world again today.

Take it on was exactly what I did too, completing an exhausting list of petty tasks that had been nagging away at my self-conscious to be completed for weeks now. Among them, were some additional "to do's" that were the result of my roof replacement. This included scouring the ground for loose nails that did not make it into the dumpster (and are surely waiting to lodge themselves in my tires). My brother gave me a great suggestion to get the last of the nails.

Attach magnets to a leaf rake and run it along the ground. You need super strong magnets, and while I'm sure you can get something suitable at Home Depot (they were out when I looked), I got Veterinarian Magnets from TSC store. They're compact, but strong enough to stay attached to the rake while I combed the ground for nails. Worked like a charm!

I still have not finished the capping at the top of the roof, and while I know it's something I could likely tackle on my own, I am planning to bride one of my brothers to visit and help me.

I also washed my siding today... blah, I know, what a menial job! Truthfully, I only washed the front of my house and the side I enter thru. A pressure washer likely would've done a better job, and saved me some scrubbing on the really grimy spots, but all I was armed with was my garden hose. It does look one hundred times better - just in time for fall!

Here is my remaining "to do" list for fall:
  • Make a fall wreathe
  • Change the weather stripping on the side door - I can SEE the light from outside, that can't be good for the heating bill!
  • Clean the eaves - still some shingles to be removed
  • Bring in my geranium and pull up my dahlias
  • Pull up the rest of my carrots
  • Paint my porch lights (the hose chipped some paint off them)
  • Touch up paint and seal around windows where its needed
  • Put away the patio furniture
  • Laquer crab apples - is this even possible???!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Take 2 Advil, One Season of Sex and the City and Call Me in the Morning!

It is nearly two weeks since my last post. Shameful in the world of blogging where consistency and frequency are king. It's not for want of ideas, more-so want of time to compose them.
Although, for the past five days, I have had such a horrible head cold, the ideas also found themselves thoroughly congested. Finally, with the onset of an immense migraine this morning, I called it a day and spent the rest of a beautiful Friday, in bed, getting some much needed sleep.

By dinner time, I found myself resorting to what any single-something woman would on a Friday night-in-on-the-mend, Season Three of Sex and the City. I'm not sure if I've ever blogged about SATC, but my relationship with the show is still pretty fresh. Not one to blog about relationships or my personal life, I have likely avoided it thus far. After finishing another DVD set, I couldn't resist. As I read a message about a recent acquaintance's preference for scotch, I also couldn't help by here Carrie Bradshaw's voice - "how very 'Big' of you". I immediately pulled out my Macbook, and here I am.

I never watched SATC when it was on TV. As the world, including my friends, became obsessively addicted, I abstained from understanding the attraction. In fact, it wasn't until a co-worker burnt an extra copy of the movie accidentally and left it for me, I decided to get to know the Manola-loving, Manhattan foursome a little better.

Am I hooked? Absolutely! I've surrendered to allow myself to relate to each character in one way or another, and I will never be ashamed of fabulous shoes. Am I crazy for finding life a little more glamorous when secretly narrated by CB? Perhaps it's just the Extra Strength Cold & Flu Medication, but I'll let you decide!

Monday, September 7, 2009

A New Roof, Long Day & $2500 Saved

Stripping old shingles off the roofWe did it! Faced with water coming through the ceiling (you will recall my earlier posts here and here), I had no choice but to replace my roof, and the quicker I could get it looked after the better!

After asking around at work and talking to neighbours, I called a few more wholesale roofing and siding suppliers in the city, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn they were significantly cheaper than Home Depot. Depending on your driveway and where your hydro lines run, most will also deliver the shingles to your roof. This is a HUGE help if you plan to do a roof on your own.
The south side after removing the shingles
With the offer from my family to help, which included the assistance of a contractor (my uncle), it was a no-brainer to do it ourselves. Even after my neighbour commented it was worth the extra $1000 to pay someone else. In this case, it was over $2000 difference, and since I was maxing myself out on the supplies, it wasn't even an option.

An air nailer makes the job MUCH easier and we put tar paper down first near the eaves

I also borrowed a tractor to lift the shingles to the roof
I also took the advice from a coworker and rented a dumpster. This was a wise investment, because it saved us time and a significant amount of labour loading truckloads of shingles and taking them to the dump. The rental company delivered and will pick up the full dumpster and get rid of the waste. Easy-peasy! And, with my luck, we likely would've ended up with a nail in a tire also, so it was an excellent idea to keep all the old shingles in one place and off my lawn / driveway.

It was a long, LONG day, and it was definitely a little hard on the body standing on a roof all day. Luckily, it was not too hot, and the rain managed to hold out until we were finished. I even helped! I was up there, shovel in hand, popping out nails, ripping the old shingles off, and carrying piles across the roof to the dumpster. Amazing how your fear of falling subsides when three others are walking up and down a roof like it's no problem!

Here is the final budget for the new roof:
Shingles (30 Year from a wholesaler) - $1082 Plus $40 delivery
Dumpster - $241 (includes delivery, pickup, disposal fees and taxes) - Mine was 6 cu yards, this held about 50 bundles of shingles and we needed 48 for my roof. Perfect!
10' aluminum drip edge, 1 bundle of EaveGuard (both for added durability under ice and snow) and 1 bundle of tar paper - $101
Nails for nail gun - $200
Gift for my uncle for helping - $45

Love for my brother and dad - priceless!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

One Night in mon Paris..

Quebec City - A city for lovers
Something most will not know about me, or will have forgotten, is that I lived in Old Quebec City for almost 6 months shortly after graduation. It is an absolutely beautiful city, and when I arrived back there yesterday for a work event, I decided my trip would not be complete without a drive around my old stomping ground.

What I always felt was the most romantic city in our country has not changed. Even in weather that resembled November 29 more than August, couples hurried along the cobblestones, umbrellas in hand, admiring the 400 year old beauty by night.

Sadly, what was also equally as true, is Quebec City is still a very lonely city when you're by yourself. I drove up and down the one-way streets in La Vielle Quebec, reliving my summer spent wandering the city on beautiful, warm weekend mornings.

The feeling that crept into my stomach was one I knew very well while I lived here. All this beauty and culture, and all I wanted to do was share it with someone. It just seemed like such a pity to enjoy all on one's own. When I look back on living in the city, it's the one reason my whole experience was not as memorable as I would have liked. Perhaps, I had the wrong attitude about the city altogether, but it is definitely the culture that draws people to this city. Its the breathtaking moments of the sun reflecting off the old wall or the calm of the St. Lawrence at dawn. Photos could never do the city justice.

The old city is fueled primarily by tourism and arts, and from a city-living standpoint, I never saw the convenient amenities that attract urban-dwellers to other large Canadian cities. There is a bus system, but I never had the opportunity to take advantage of it to get to the shopping centers in the suburbs, parking is sparse, and the market stores, where I pick up fresh bread and fruit in Toronto, also just don't exist.

All is not lost though, because even a lone traveller needs to eat. The city has some phenomenal restaurants and lovely patios. Take a suggestion from Meetings Canada, and check out some of their recommendations. My personal favorite? Le Cochon Dingue.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Roof Situation To Date

Old, worn out shingles on my roofA week ago, I shared my ceiling damage due to my leaking roof. Over the past few days, my roof has taken over my life trying to locate and halt the leak and determine a solution.

Thursday's massive storms that brought tornados to Southern Ontario also hit my region with a torrential downpour and severe thunderstorm. This confirmed the leak was not a one-time fluke, but a major problem to be dealt with as soon as possible. With the storm raging outside, I thought I could do nothing but place a bucket and towel beneath the ceiling and watch it slowly deteriorate. Then, I realized finding the leak would be much easier when it was actually leaking, so I grabbed my step-ladder and ventured up into my attic.

I'm not claustrophobic, but to say I'm comfortable in a tiny attic would be a stretch. Luckily, I didn't have to look long and with my flashlight and head up in the attic, the leaks quickly became visible. Yes, that is right - LEAKS, as in plural, with an "s", multiple.

Clearly, my south roof is done. The water is going right through the shingles, through the plywood and into my house.

So, now I have two options.

I can hire a roofing company to replace it. I called one Friday, and when he came to look at it, he fixed the really bad holes (bonus!) free of charge. He (and I) thought this would buy some time until I could fix it. Turns out it's even worse and with yesterday morning's rain, it leaked yet again. He left me a quote for $4200 (after tax) for the whole roof. I'm going to get another on Monday to compare against.

My other (possible) option is to coax my dad and brothers to help me replace the roof. Okay, I'll be honest, they will probably do most of the work. I promised to help as much as I could, even if it just means feeding them, buying beer and loading up the old shingles for the dump.

Wet Dry Roof Repair product I used to temporarily fix my leaking roof

I gathered some material quotes today while at Home Depot buying stuff to temporarily patch the leaks. So far, my costs are around $2000 for shingles, new plywood, tar paper and eave protector. Home Depot has this handy worksheet to help calculate costs also. It is suggesting a cost of $2800-3400. The only significant cost I haven't considered is disposal of the old shingles. Whether I rent a dumpster, or use the back of a truck and take them myself, there is still going to be a disposal fee.

So the budget for this.. is not really existent! How frustrating it is since I was finally starting to feel like I had some control! I will be spending the next couple of days figuring out the dollars and cents, then will need everything lined up to start at the end of the week! Look for an update next week, hopefully with a new roof!