This is Sunday.

I can't tell you how sweet life is in my new home.  I thought myself a hardcore urbanite: I loved the grit and colour of Gastown, the mix of upscale, industrial, hipster and downtrodden that made up my neighbourhood of the last five and a half years.  And then I found my little oasis in the middle of not-so-glamorous Marpole, and suddenly none of the cool coffee shops, bakeries, clothing stores or bars that surrounded me mattered anymore.

So it's true - most of the restaurants and cafes that surround my new home are...not great, or else not designed to be that welcome to Canadians of the whitey-whitebread persuasion such as myself, with all-Mandarin or all-Cantonese menus and staff that don't really speak English (that being said, I have ventured into a few anyway and found a number of gems).  But I have a wonderful dining room that has light that streams in from the east, and with another window that opens up onto views of trees and mountains to the north, so it's not a hardship to eat at home.

Yes, it's a fact that the only speciality food store near my new home is Safeway.  But I have a kitchen that I delight to spend time in, and since I moved in January I have spent many happy hours cooking away on my new stovetop.  True, I haven't visited a "hot" restaurant in...well, months really, but I have re-discovered my cookbook collection and found some new recipe blogs that I adore.  There's no good coffee, true - you can't count the Starbucks at 64th and Granville - but I have a perfectly good machine to brew my own, not to mention a well-loved Bialetti stovetop espresso maker that Edy and I purchased in Rome years ago.  

I worried when I moved out of Gastown that the new neighbourhood and the lifestyle (or lack thereof) that it presented would not be "cool" or "exciting" enough for me.  Instead, I've found that I nest more - I've looked inward rather than outward to develop a home life.  I'm happy to spend a quiet Sunday at home, as I'm not exhausted from waiting for the bar underneath me to close at 4 a.m. in order to get some sleep.   I don't mind waking up to hear lawnmowers and birds singing (OK, I like the birds more than the lawnmowers, it's true).  I love being able to hear the rain on my roof.

Cornmeal-Raspberry Pancakes, homebrewed coffee, the Georgia Straight on the table and Michael Enright on the radio.  The new Sunday.

So, yes.  It's been a good move for me.  A very good one. When I started looking, desperately, in November, I was trying to escape a situation that I think my body and my heart knew were no longer healthy for me - that I needed peace, and refuge, no matter what my trend-loving, hipster-admiring brain told me about living in Gastown.  I felt like I was in flight from terrible anxiety and unrest. So I'm content that today my day will consist of throwing some meals together for the week to come, brushing Curriecat's coat out on one of our two balconies, sitting in my living room and staring at the rooftops, cherry blossoms and mountains that make up my view, perhaps going for a walk in Fraser River Park, and then heading to Granville Island for a rehearsal.

Maybe I'm mellowing, I don't know. Would it be nice to have someone here to mellow with?  Sure.  But if this is what 34-almost-35 looks like, I think I'm OK with that.

Home Is Where the Heart Is.

When I moved to my new place in Marpole, my bedroom was an extremely important consideration.  Gastown had always been loud and bright. Over 5 years there, I learned to ignore the lights in the courtyard outside, and the lights of SFU Woodwards across that courtyard, which remained on all night.   But I never got over the noise, from the Charles Bar, crazy people or drunk people shouting outside, and the hum of air vents on the many buildings close by.  I have never been a great sleeper, but over the past few years it's become even more difficult for me to have a good sleep.  In the past years, 2 -3 sleepless nights a week has become the norm rather than the exception.  It wasn't unusual for me to be up and awake until 4 in the morning on a regular basis.   By the time I moved, I was desperate for quiet, and for somewhere I thought I might be able to sleep.  I chose the north facing suite, which faces into an alley and residential backyards, rather than the south, to avoid even the little bit of street noise you could hear in the south suite from West 70th Avenue.  

In my past few apartments, my "colour" theme has been turquoise and yellow: bright versions in the living areas, more muted shades in my bedroom.  But for whatever reason, when I moved to my Marpole place, I suddenly decided I wanted my room to be red.  My spare room in Gastown had been red, full of bright artwork and a graphic poppy-printed bedspread (when one of my movers saw my bed he said "Wow! It's Remembrance Day up in here!" - maybe not the most sexy thought), and that's what I decided I wanted in my bedroom. I've since picked up another red-themed bedspread (isn't it always nice to have two - one for when the other's in the laundry?), but continued on this "red" path.  

When I was young, my parents let me choose the decor for my room in our house on Winchester Road, where I grew up.  I asked for red and white hearts, and they wallpapered half my walls in crisp white wallpaper with hearts.  My bed had a red and white striped quilt (which my brother and sister-in-law have on their bed now).  When my grandmother, my Dad's mom, passed away, I inherited her four poster bed, which my Dad painted white, with tiny red wooden hearts affixed to the headboard.  My dressers were painted white with red drawers.  Every Valentines' Day, another item with red and white hearts made its way into my room.  And I loved it.  It stayed that way until I was at least 16 and too cool for hearts.

As I began picking up bits and bobs for my new bedroom here in Marpole, I found myself drawn to stuff with red hearts again.  It occurred to me that I really liked the idea of a throwback to my childhood sanctuary.  Not to be a kid again, or to have a wish to go back, but to move forward with some connection to the "me" that was a kid in that bedroom.  To connect to the home I grew up in, which I sorely miss - this somehow made me feel closer to my family, who aren't around on a daily basis.   My dressers were already a throwback - they were also my Dad's mom's, and sat in my own parents' bedroom on Winchester.  My dad repainted them for me when I came home from London with no money and no furniture.  

Then I started to find things I already had, that I wanted out  and visible, because they made me feel even more connected to family, and to that essential sense of myself and where I came from.  I put vintage pillowcases on the bed, which my Mom noted had lived in Marpole before, in the home she grew up in a few blocks away on 62nd.  They had belonged to my grandmother, who lived her whole life in this neighbourhood, but who I never met.  I put out some vintage glass dishes, which I remembered sitting on my grandfather's bathroom counter when I was a kid, one filled with soap and one with cotton balls, but which my mom told me her mom used to store her hairpins in.  

It's all Valentinesy up in here.  Curriecat doesn't care as long as her pink blankie is on the bed.

The heart that started it all.  This was an Opening Night gift from my director, Rick Tae, when I performed in "A…My Name is Alice."  It hangs on my bedroom door.

The "doggie dishes."  The only thing I asked for from my Grandpa's house when he passed away, I remembered fishing out cotton balls and little hotel soaps from these as a kid.  My grandma Annette used them for her hairpins.  That's her on the left.

My dad thinks all the hearts are "too foufou".  That may be so.  I am unapologetically foufou.

That's it, that's all.

When I showed my parents my room on FaceTime, my dad grumbled that it was too girly, that no boy would like red hearts.  "It's too FOUFOU," he said jokingly-but-not.  ("


FOUFOU" I shot back.  Great comeback, Dan.)   But the reality is, no boy lives here.  It's me, it's my room, and the connection to home and to family, and the feeling of belonging that it gives me, are worth the risk of a boy not liking it.  Of course it's not to everybody's taste.  It might not always be to mine.  But things can always change, and for right now I need my room to be a place I feel cozy, safe, and connected.   Home is where the heart is.  Literally.

Lifehack: Replace Your Countertops for Around $20.

I moved into the Woodwards Building when I moved back to Canada in late 2009.  The building was brand new, and I'm the only person who has ever lived in my suite.  I have to say - the construction is not holding up well.  Sliding pocket doors fall off their tracks regularly, the floors look horrible, several shelves in the fridge are broken, the baseboards need painting (my Pops is coming to my rescue on the painting front this month - hooray for bored retired fathers!), and the countertops - well.

The countertops are defective.  As a renter I haven't been privy to all the communications with regards to the countertops, but the story goes something like this:  the engineered marble countertops are defective in terms of the material itself - the marble wasn't "engineered" or sealed correctly.  So my high-gloss countertops quickly (like, within a month or two) turned to shit.  Even water stained them.  

My charming kitchen counter.

The strata filed a claim with New Home Warranty, who argued that it was not a defect in workmanship, but the material itself.  The developers argued otherwise.  So, the strata has been embroiled in countertop litigation for years, and my countertops have become more and more ugly.  At one point, the developers hired a company to come in to do "remediation," which meant sanding off the finish, and trying to get rid of the worst water stains.  Some of the stains were too ingrained in the marble to be removed, and the sanding off of the topcoat did nothing to protect against future stains.

The ugliness of the bathroom counter. 

I like to keep a tidy house.  I like nice things.  And my countertops are so bad that I found myself, in the dead of night a few nights ago, researching how much it would cost for me to replace the countertops myself.  Which is insane, because I rent.  And is further insane given how little investment the landlord has made into the upkeep of the suite to date.  I have found myself putting more and more "clutter" on the kitchen counters to cover up stains.  It was getting ridiculous.

So I needed a solution to the countertop problem that cleaned them up, didn't cost a lot, and wasn't irreversible since I am just a tenant.  What I came up with was: Macktack.  Sometimes called contact paper, I'm talking about heavy duty self-adhesive shelf liner.   I took to the internet, found that other people had done this to great success, and so off I went, countertop measurements in hand, to Home Depot.

I bought two rolls of "granite" look contact paper, at a cost of $8.97 each.  That was enough to cover my two large kitchen counters, and my bathroom vanity, which was also badly water stained.

Here's how I did it:

1.   I washed down my counters with soap, and dried them with a towel.

2.   Starting on the far end of my countertop, I started cutting out sheets of paper, leaving several inches of overlap.

3.  I peeled the backing off the backing paper a few inches at a time, and smoothed the paper down using a credit card (I switched at some point to a Starbucks card, I found the edges easier to use) as a kind of a squeegee.   Peeling off the paper only a few inches at a time allowed me to ensure the paper was going down smoothly, without air bubbles. 

4.  When it was time to lay another piece, I overlapped it with the previous sheet by about half an inch. When I hit sink or stove or other such obstacle, I used an Exacto knife to shape the paper. 

5.  When the entire thing was complete, I popped any remaining air bubbles using a pin.  

6.  I bought clear silicone caulk ($2.99) and caulked around the sinks in the kitchen and the bathroom (badly, but it's clear, so you can't tell just how badly), and around a few corners.  

Laying the paper.

Curriecat is dubious.  And cute.

Doesn't the bathroom look sooo much better?

Believe it or not, that's the "less cluttered" version of my kitchen.

I'm really happy with how these turned out.  They're not perfect, and I don't know how long they'll last - I may have to re-paper them at some point, and that's OK.  Because they're a heck of a lot cleaner looking than they were before, and I can put some of the "cover up the stains" clutter back in the cupboard.   I would use a speckled pattern like I did, because the pieces blend together well (harder to see the seams), and the business masks any imperfections.  Sure, it's not super-stylish, but it's a good, temporary solution to an everyday problem.