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!