Remember Zelda? Also known as that dresser I bought off kijiji for $50? The one I was going to refinish?

She’s dooooooooo-one!



Actually, she’s been done for a month and a half, after a five-day marathon of refinishing that was pretty much as intense as I imagined it would be. And at least as equally rewarding. She’s been ensconced in the newly painted bedroom for at least six weeks now, and I keep meaning to post about her, but somehow the effort of blogging about refinishing the dresser has seemed like so much more work than actually refinishing the dresser.

I think it’s because I had envisioned writing a “how to” post, wherein I would detail all the steps and tools and products that I used. But I don’t want to write a how-to post. There are plenty of lovely how-to posts out there already, including this one, which I used as a guideline. What I really want is to tell you how immensely satisfying and addictive it is to pour a thick layer of paint remover over a surface and then watch the layers of yellowed varnish bubble and curl and dissolve; that I could scrape that gunk off smooth wooden surfaces for days, getting down to base layers. And that I did scrape gunk off smooth wooden surfaces for days, listening to podcast after podcast, stripping off and replacing latex gloves, going over the entire surface — top, bottom, sides, legs, all nine drawers — twice with the remover and then again with steel wool and then again (and again) with the hand sander. And then the three layers of stain, the two of varnish, sandwiching in the coats between first thing in the morning and lasting at night, colonizing the deck and the dining room, fans acting as ventilation.

She’s not perfect, but of course she is.

This weekend, I am once more without kids, and, for a change, without a major project. Of course, I have half a dozen smaller projects on the go — I’m nearly finished a massive reorganization of the garden beds, foraging back-lane raspberries, revising that budget, All The Filing, editing a newsletter, figuring out the ending to that story, etc. There’s dirt under my fingernails. I made chicken stock last week, and then soup. I ate all the chard from the last-minute vegetable garden I planted in a fit of get these seeds in the ground and see what happens, and then I replanted the chard.

But after the initial flurry of activity involved in reclaiming this space, I think I'm starting to actually live in it, inhabiting it more than simply shaping it. I’m trying to remember how to slow down, forcing myself to sit quietly with a book or a newspaper or — more radical still — just my breath. Maybe that’s natural, the beginnings of the shift from summer to fall (yes, yes, I know it’s too early, but before you protest, I can already feel the chill in the evening air). But it’s something else, too, and it’s good.

Friday faves, brought to you by Frankenshirts, Jack-o'-lanterns & Zen advice from unlikely sources

Isaac’s jack-o’-lantern, carved entirely without any parental support. My one contribution was to suggest — when he was scrounging around for how to give the thing some “hair” — the industrial-sized bucket of roofing nails in the basement.

Still knitting: this is the second thing I've made from the guilt wool. Found the buttons in a funky store in Minneapolis on my recent road trip there. Packaging up to send out into the world, because I'm still having a love affair with snail mail.

My new “Pink Freud/Honda” Franken-tunic, cobbled together by AnnRocks Apparel from various recycled T-shirts. Seems appropriate for Halloween.


Yoga. I used to do yoga all the time but in recent years I haven’t practiced all that regularly. But this week was “Power Week” at the Body Mind Centre, and I bought a pass and did a bunch of classes, and my brain was all like, “Dude, why don't you do this more? Do you hate yourself?” So I’m going to try to do that more.

Right before I got pregnant with Rowan (a.k.a., in a different lifetime), I actually did a yoga teacher training program and taught for a while. The owner of the studio where I studied and taught was decidedly one of the most non-yogic people I have ever met: moody, capricious, self-involved, disorganized, late for everything, wildly sexy and entirely aware of it as she cultivated her own little cult of personality. A few months into the program, which had no curriculum other than what she felt like doing that day, the various students in our class finally decided to have it out with her, to voice our complaints about her style, her lack of organization, her unreliability, her playing of favourites, what have you. And I remember her sitting at the front of the room, on her mat, listening to all of us bitch with this dark, Cruella Deville, look on her face. And when we were finally done, she said, “I want you to take every single thing you hate about my classes and the way I teach AND DON’T DO THEM IN YOUR OWN CLASSES.” End of discussion.

It’s still some of the best advice I’ve ever received.

Friday favourites, brought to you by Benedict Cumberbatch and more

Here are some things that have made me happy lately:

The Sunday New York Times in general, but this copy of the New York Times in particular, because my friend Nikki brought it in specially for me from Ottawa after my somewhat desperate call for newspaper culture. Thank you!


This quote from Flaubert, which I got out of a previous edition of the Sunday New York Times (you’re sensing a pattern here, aren’t you?), from an interview with the actress Julianne Moore: “Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois so that you may be violent and original in your work.” Apparently, this is how Moore structures her own life. I’m thinking there’s some merit there.

Knitting! I am re-ravelling, slowly and gleefully, my unravelled guilt-blanket. So far, I’ve made this:

And I’m onto a second one, and a third one (because multiple projects on multiple needles, yo — I’m going to learn how to do cables this time round). On the Monday of the Thanksgiving long weekend, I spent a blissful couple of hours on the kitchen floor, sorting and untangling and colour-coding yarns, which are now propped up on one of my office bookshelves for inspiration. 

Come on over and make something. Yes, that is a double-dog dare.

Come on over and make something. Yes, that is a double-dog dare.

Inspiration is contagious: Rachel is now knitting a scarf, and Isaac is getting in on the action with some gods-eyes (is there another name for that craft with the popsicle sticks? If so, let me know).

This post by my friend Elizabeth Jayne Liu, which combines stunning writing with stunning beauty:

I’m not a fan of hard work, but very occasionally, I can force myself to do it. So at the end of June, when I made the commitment to get real and work through the ugly shit I’ve kept cordoned off in dark corners, I thought that a monthlong break would be enough time to address my demons, and I would come back, like, perfect. Allotting 36 days to clear away debris like addiction and anger and depression seemed pretty generous, and I actually made a list of things I might try in case I finished a few days early. I watched a tutorial on how to make an owl zipper pull using the Cra-Z-Loom, and of course that bitch was #1 on my list.

I’m not sure how 36 days turned into 102, but I just want to take this opportunity to mention that if any of the coping mechanisms you use to stay functional involve pushing down grief and pain and rage about your past or your present, and you unlatch the gate that’s been corralling those feelings and they all escape in a mad rush and you have to chase each one down to see if it really belongs to you or it can be returned to the wild, um, you’re not going to have time to make that owl zipper pull. Yeah, I know, it was a surprise to me too.

Letters — as in, letters handwritten (or typewritten, but only on vintage typewriters with no connection to the Internet) on paper and sent via the post. When Ello came out, something visceral twisted in me. I don’t need more online social networks and status updates — I need deeper, one-on-one, social connections; long, meandering, run-on paragraphs. Ink on paper. The New York Times. I’ve sent a few missives into the world in the last few weeks, and several have found their way (or are on their way) to me. Alexandra sent a bunch of clothes, including this greased-lightning belt, for Isaac.

He wouldn't stay still for a picture, but he loves this thing. We had to take it to the cobbler to get it resized. He's worn it almost daily.

He wouldn't stay still for a picture, but he loves this thing. We had to take it to the cobbler to get it resized. He's worn it almost daily.

Brent sent a bunch of pig-themed notecards. I’ve sent chocolate, and books, and notes and letters out into the world — and I’m sure some knitted projects are going to find their way into envelopes and to the mail in the not-to-distant future (see how I tie that up so nicely there, bringing it back to the knitting?). Write to me. I'll write back.

Benedict Cumberbatch — yes, yes, I know I’m very late to this party, but on Wednesday evening I saw his 2011 performance as the monster in Frankenstein, piped in via satellite from London’s National Theatre. And man, he was brilliant. He and Jonny Lee Miller traded the roles of Frankenstein and the monster each evening — and now I can’t decide if I want to see Miller’s version of the monster or whether I just want to hold on to Cumberbatch’s brilliance. For reasons beyond my control, I can't embed the link to the preview, but it should be playing at various theaters in North America next week. You should go see it, and we can compare notes.

Have a good weekend, full of things that inspire.