The Elusive Throw Pillow Equation

Did I mention I’m addicted to decorating magazines?

I only subscribe to two, but every time I take the kids to Chapters, stock up at Costco, pop into the pharmacy or check out at the grocery store I inevitably find myself picking up, flipping through and buying another.

And the one piece of advice that they all repeatedly offer as the simplest way to update a room (besides a fresh coat of paint, which, seriously, decorating magazine people, is NOT AT ALL SIMPLE) is to change out your throw pillows.

I love their photos of accent chairs with a one-pillow pop of colour. But I especially adore the pictures of couches you just want to sink into, artfully piled with an assortment of throw pillows in various colours, patterns, shapes and styles that somehow works. This is the look I’d love to replicate on my own sofa.

Two problems:

  1. Luc has issued an official Throw Pillow Limit of two, deeming any more than that to be excessive, unnecessary and irritating.
  2. I totally suck at it.

You’d think that with my extensive informal design training (which has cost me as much in glossy mags as my university education) I could accessorize a simple chocolate brown microfiber couch, but I just can’t pull it off.

I started with the two throw pillows that came with it. Yes, I know. If they came with the couch they probably go with the couch. But the brown shot through with a subtle line of blue was just too, well, subtle.

So I tried the cream and brown floral cushions I’d saved from our last sofa. But they just looked dated.

A quick trip to Home Sense and I was back with a beautiful new pair of cream, blue, grey and mocha ikat cushions. We kept them on the couch for awhile, but I knew from the beginning that the scale was all wrong. And I quickly realized that no matter how popular that pattern currently was, I’m just not a boho-chic kinda girl.

The graphic lattice ones were too stark.

The watercolours too washed out.

The stripes too stripey.

Yes, this has been going on for a while.

I’m pretty close with the latest set: a soft cream, blue, grey and green abstract floral that perfectly matches the two framed prints behind the couch. But they’re stuffed with feathers and no matter how many times I fluff, reposition and karate chop the tops of them, they squash down into little lifeless floral clumps the minute you sit anywhere near them.

And what of my cast-offs, you ask? Well, they’ve all made their way into the basement playroom, where they usually languish all over the floor. But at least they get regular use for sleepovers and forts.

Except for a few weeks ago. After reaching my “It’s the basement and I don’t really care how messy it gets because nobody ever goes down there anyway” threshold, I yelled at the kids that if they didn’t do some serious tidying soon, I’d pick up every last toy myself and throw them in the garbage.

An hour later they called me downstairs. The basement floor was spotless. And our old sofa was artfully piled with all of my throw pillow rejects. What should have been a jumbled mess with their varying colours, patterns, shapes and styles, somehow worked.

It was a masterpiece, worthy of a two-page spread.

Tomorrow I’m heading back to Home Sense, Throw Pillow Limit be damned.

This time, I’m taking the kids with me.

And I’ll probably pick up a magazine on the way home…

Read what Luc has to say about throw pillows.

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How To Plan a Bathroom Renovation

The toilet in our master ensuite is broken.

First it stopped up. So Luc unstopped it. Then it stopped up again and no amount of plunging, snaking or cursing could make it flow.

This meant one of two things had to happen:

  1. We needed to replace the toilet OR
  2. We needed to completely gut and renovate our bathroom.

Guess which one we chose.

After 15 years in the same house, we’ve tackled our fair share of upgrades. We’ve replaced everything that needed replacing (windows, doors, furnace, A/C, hot water tank, roof), painted every room in the house (some more than once), switched out carpet for hardwood, refinished the finished basement and fully landscaped the front and back yards.

But somehow, except for some minor decorative updates, we’ve managed to put off overhauling the bathrooms. Yes, they’re all original to our circa 1986 Minto home, but up until the toilet fiasco, they functioned just fine, and the ivory toilets, tubs and sinks weren’t nearly as aesthetically offensive as, say, the pink ones of some of our neighbours.

But it’s been a few months of waffling. And a few months of sharing the kids’ bathroom (just for the record, ew). And we’ve finally decided it just doesn’t make sense to put a nice, new toilet into a sad, old bathroom. So a reno it is.

Of course, it’s not as simple as that. First we need a plan. And my idea of planning is WAAAY different from Luc’s.

Here are my steps to planning a bathroom renovation:

  1. Spend fourteen and a half years poring over decorating magazines and dreaming about your perfect ensuite.
  2. Tear inspiration pages from said magazines and keep them in a file so that when the time comes to renovate, any vision you have is hopelessly outdated.
  3. Spend fourteen and a half straight hours poring over Pinterest desperately looking for inspiration.
  4. Ask your husband which of the 87 pinned photos of remarkably similar bathrooms he likes the best.
  5. Walk away in a huff when said husband says he really doesn’t care as long as the toilet flushes.
  6. Hire a designer to bounce ideas off of.
  7. Create a detailed budget outlining every item from drywall to tiles to toothbrush holders.
  8. Blow said budget on the custom glass shower enclosure you can’t live without.
  9. Put off the reno until after Christmas.
  10. Briefly rethink the custom glass shower enclosure once the Christmas credit card bill arrives.
  11. Decide that not only can you not live without the custom glass shower enclosure but that you will also require a custom vanity to really make the room work, Christmas credit card bill be damned.

And here we are. We know exactly what we (and when I say “we” I mean “I”) want. Plus, we know exactly what we (and when I say “we” I mean “Luc”) are willing to pay to get it.

Demo should start in the next couple of weeks. And if all goes according to plan we’re going to end up with the bathroom of our dreams.

And oh yeah…a toilet that flushes!

Check out Luc’s thoughts on planning a bathroom reno.

Just Get On the Damn Treadmill Already

Did I mention I hate exercising?

I know if I exercise, I’ll feel better. Be healthier. Maybe lose a little weight. Fend off a disease or two.

But I hate it. Even just the idea of it.

I hate team sports. I hate individual sports. I’m naturally lazy, unnaturally inflexible, and sweat (my own or anyone else’s) disgusts me.

Over the years, I’ve dabbled in classes. Aerobics. Tai chi. Kickboxing. At least those had a social element to them that I enjoyed. But I never stuck with any of them.

I’ve also tried joining a gym. More than once. Again, fun for a bit, but not anything I wanted to pursue beyond a few weeks. I got more out of the signing bonus the last time I joined (a massage and a free gym bag) than I did out of the facility itself.

But I’m 44. I’ve got aches and pains and am carrying a little too much weight around my middle. I’ve got horrible genes on both sides of the family. Last year I underwent a slew of cardiovascular tests for unexplained chest pains. And I’m quickly approaching the age my mom was when she was diagnosed with the cancer that killed her.

Really, do I need any more reasons to get off my lazy butt?

About the only exercise I actually get any sort of enjoyment out of is walking.

I like that I can walk alone or with a friend. That I can enjoy some silence or have a chat. I like the steady rhythm and the need for no more equipment than a pair of shoes. I like that for a non-outdoorsy person, it actually gets me outdoors.

I know that Luc doesn’t consider walking to be “real” exercise. He’d like us to run together. And while I appreciate that he wants to do something active with me, he sees walking as too tame and a waste of time for him, and I see running as involving way too much bouncing, panting and sweating for me.

And so I’ll walk.

This isn’t a New Year’s resolution. Nor is it some life-defining moment. It’s not a complete change of lifestyle; it’s just the simple acknowledgement of something else that needs to get done on a regular basis, like washing the dishes or scrubbing the toilets.

I’ll head outside. I’ll go for a walk. And if it’s too hot, too cold, too early, too late, too wet, too icy, too windy, too dark or a million other reasons not to go outside, I’ll just get on the damn treadmill. I may never love it, just like I’ll never love folding laundry or changing the furnace filter. But I’ll do it.

Check out Luc’s thoughts on exercise.

My New Year’s Non-Resolution

Happy Almost New Year everyone!

This year, instead of making New Year’s resolutions, I’m going to try a different challenge every month. Two reasons:

  1. I’m pretty much certain that after 44 years of experience, I lack the resolve to do anything for an entire year, let alone the rest of my life (hello exercise and eating well), and
  2. I like a good challenge. Especially if it involves charts. Or checklists. Or points. Ooh! Points!

So for January, I’m going to do an “Eat through the freezer and pantry” challenge. I made a sad attempt at this last summer. I think it lasted until we ran out of milk. And much of the food that was in my freezer and pantry back then is still there now, buried in ice or pushed back into the darkness by weekly grocery runs for food I either already have (but can’t find) or don’t need (because I already have it but can’t find it) or end up throwing out (because by the time I find what I already have, it’s expired or freezer-burnt beyond recognition).

I got the idea from several sites, including Good Cheap Eats and Keeper of the Home. And I like that it has several benefits, including:

  • Using up food that would otherwise go to waste.
  • Saving money.
  • Forcing me to become more conscious of what I buy and how I (do or don’t) use it.

I’m also hoping that making a concerted effort to eat through the freezer and pantry in January will lead to clean, neatly organized shelves and a clean, defrosted freezer. Something we haven’t seen since we bought the house. In 1999.

As for the coming months, I haven’t decided which challenges will happen when. But I can guarantee there will be decluttering. There will be me time. And yes, there will be exercise and eating well.

If you have any suggestions for a month-long challenge, let me know. And I’ll keep you posted on my progress along the way.

Here’s to 2015!

And here are Luc’s thoughts on New Year’s resolutions.

If I Had a Million Dollars…

Actually, for the sake of argument, let’s say $30 million.

Luc and I love the lottery. Any lottery. We’re part of a group of friends on our street that buys weekly Lotto Max tickets. We pick up Cash for Life scratch tickets at the grocery store on a regular basis. We’ve purchased a Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Dream of a Lifetime ticket every year since we started dating.

Do we ever win? Sometimes. A free ticket here, $10 there. Once we even won a $250 Farm Boy gift card in the CHEO lottery (not the $1.7-million grand prize, including a fully furnished dream home, extra spending money, a car, groceries and house cleaning services for a year, mind you, but exciting nonetheless).

But do we fantasize about winning? ALL THE TIME.

Especially when we’re stuck in the car together for the 8-hour drive to visit my dad and his wife. Cuz once the kids are settled in with their headphones, video games and DVDs, there’s not much else to do than have a deep and serious discussion about the important things in life. Like what we’d do if we won the lottery.

Thirty million dollars seemed like a good amount to work with and so we started dreaming…

Luc and I were in agreement on several issues, immediately quitting our jobs being one of them. But what about the details? Here, in no particular order, is what I would do with $30 million.

  • Take a good chunk of it, say $10 million, and give it to the aforementioned CHEO. No, not to buy up every Dream Home lottery ticket thus guaranteeing a win (hmmm…) but to say thanks. Because if it weren’t for CHEO, my children would not be alive today. Yes, I’m prone to exaggeration, but not in this case. Between The Boy’s severe asthma (which has had him to the point of barely breathing on more than one occasion) and The Girl’s being admitted in a state of diabetic ketoacidosis when she was 6, I would be minus two kids if not for this amazing hospital. You can’t put a price on your children’s lives. But yep. At least $10 million to CHEO.
  • Try to be responsible and invest another $10 million for the future. I’d hate to be one of those people who show up on “The Lottery Ruined My Life.” It’s millions of dollars people! There’s no way you should end up broke and living on the street!
  • Treat my nearest and dearest friends and family. Car payments? Covered. Mortgages? Paid. Student loans? Gone. Oh, and by the way, we’re all going to Mexico. On us. Yes, I know Revenue Canada may have something to say about that, but that’s what a good financial advisor is for.
  • Max out the kids’ RESPs. Of course, they don’t need to know this. And they’ll still be required to work summer jobs to help pay for their education because they need to understand the value of money and the satisfaction that comes from working hard and saving for a long-term investment in their own future. But in the end? Surprise! Their education is fully paid for and they’ve got money in the bank!
  • All those places I want to travel to? I’m there.
  • Redecorate the entire house from top to bottom. No more living with paint colours I don’t totally love. Or furniture that doesn’t quite match. Or a kitchen that could get by with a facelift but really requires an overhaul. I’d tackle this sucker one room at a time, until the place looked like something straight out of Style At Home magazine.
  • Get a pedicure. I’m seriously overdue for a pedicure.

Check out what Luc would do with $30 million.

 

It’s My Gift Card and I’ll Spend If I Want To

The Boy is at a tricky age for gifts.

At 11 years old, all he wants to do is read, play video games, ride his bike, play Lego or watch TV (not necessarily in that order).

So in September, when friends and family were asking me for birthday gift ideas for him, I was at a loss. If I couldn’t come up with something fun and original to give him myself, what could I tell them?

Enter the gift card.

This year, he received several: Walmart, Chapters, EB Games…enough to go on a bit of a shopping spree. And that’s exactly what he wanted to do, the minute the party guests were out the door.

Time for a little background…Luc and I, overall, have similar values when it comes to money. We don’t live extravagantly and we try to live within our means. We never carry a balance on our credit cards. We hate debt and can’t wait until we’re mortgage-free. And while we may approach the purchase of big-ticket items differently, we usually both end up comfortable and satisfied with our spending and saving habits.

So why, then, did The Boy’s birthday gift cards become such an issue?

If I understand correctly (and Luc WILL correct me if I’m wrong!) Luc saw the gifts cards as:

  1. an opportunity to teach The Boy about managing his money
  2. a lesson in appreciating when you already have enough of a thing and
  3. an exercise in delayed gratification

While I saw the gift cards as:

  1. a chance to go SHOPPING!!!

OK, so when I see it written down, I concede that Luc does have a point (or three). Yes, The Boy needs to learn that just because you have money in your pocket (or on your plastic) doesn’t mean you have to go out and spend it all. And yes, The Boy has so many books, video games and Legos that honestly, he doesn’t need any more. And YES, if he held onto his gift cards, he could buy something he really wants later, as opposed to something he kinda wants right now just for the sake of spending.

But I also stand by my argument that had he not received gift cards for the things he wants most, he would have received the items themselves (because really, what else are you going to buy for an 11-year-old boy?). He’d be reading the books, building the Lego sets and playing the video games the minute he tore the wrapping paper off. So if the gift cards were given in the spirit of The Boy getting himself something he wants for his birthday, then he should be allowed to go out and get himself something he wants, parental misgivings be damned.

In the end, we reached a compromise. The Boy immediately spent his Chapters gift card on a new book (because, as book lovers ourselves, how could we deny him that?). And he was also allowed to spend his Walmart gift card in full with the caveat that it NOT be spent on a video game (he bought a Pokemon DVD and a Minecraft stuffy…still not what I would have chosen for him, but they are his gifts, after all). As for the EB Games cards (three of them) we instructed him to hang onto those until November, when the new Pokemon video game he really, totally, absolutely has to have is being released (instead of wasting them on a lessor game now and not having the money to afford the other later).

All in all, I think we worked this one out well.

But just for the record: If I get any gift cards for Christmas…I’m going SHOPPING!!!

Check out Luc’s thoughts on birthday gift cards.

Top 5 Things I Need More (and Less) of in My Life

Luc and I have been on a bit of a blogging hiatus since May. There’s no one tangible reason we can nail down…just life and other things getting in the way.

But we’ve renewed our commitment to Me Woman You Man/Me Man You Woman and are kick-starting things with two super-easy top fives that may give us a little insight into why we were gone and why we’re back. Enjoy!

Top 5 Things I Need More of in My Life:

  1. Sleep
  2. Silence
  3. Family vacations to plan and look forward to
  4. Writing
  5. Day dreaming

Top 5 Things I Need Less of in My Life:

  1. Health issues, doctor’s appointments and medical tests
  2. Paperwork
  3. Clutter
  4. To-do lists
  5. Worry

Check out what Luc needs more and less of in his life.