Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Moving day: so much stuff

My nephew Etienne and his wife Aya thought moving to their new house in North Vancouver wouldn't be that big a deal. Everyone still looks pretty optimistic at this point, as John captures our arrival at the front door at noon Monday to pick up the keys from the realtor.

Etienne makes one of his first trips up the stairs with boxes. Many such trips were to follow. Photo by John.
The U-Haul was equipped with a ramp, which made things easier. Here, Aya pitches in. Photo by John.

First lunch at the new house -- a picnic-style feast to keep everyone moving. 

A tour of the house reveals a clawfoot tub in the upstairs bathroom and some really beautiful stained-glass windows.

This is the kitchen of the downstairs apartment, which is so well lit it doesn't feel like downstairs.
The living room before anything has been moved in. Etienne, Aya and John are inspecting something.

By nightfall, with the truck unloaded, the living room has taken on another look entirely. Here, Etienne searches for a lost jug of milk while I look on. Photo by John.

When John and I last moved, it was from separate bachelor apartments in Vancouver’s West End to our house in Dunbar. I was in my mid-20s, John had just turned 30, and we didn’t have much by way of belongings. But when the move was over, it was grueling enough that I clearly remember John saying: “I will never move again.” Four decades later, we haven’t.

So a little red flag went up when my nephew Etienne and his wife Aya, who have been living in a 650-square-foot apartment in Yaletown with their three-year-old daughter Emi, said they were planning to move to their new North Vancouver house on their own. They didn’t have much – they couldn’t have much in an apartment that small – they said. They had rented a U-haul; they’d have only a few boxes; it would just take a few hours.

I told Aya the “never move again” story when things first began to fray at the start of moving day Monday (John and I volunteered our services). None of the trio had slept well the night before and Emi was starting to get sick. The only available parking space outside the lockers where the family had stored their carefully-packed boxes over the preceding weeks had a big “no parking” sign on it. Every box had to go through multiple locked doors, one nastily alarmed. There was a noon appointment with the realtor at the new house that had to be gotten to before the loading was well under way. Then, because people have to actually live in one place before transferring themselves to another, there was the last-minute gathering-up of everything left in the apartment, the emptying and cleaning of the fridge, the forgotten plant in the corner, the baby stroller, and the call from the day care that Emi was sick and needed to be collected.

In the end, three vehicles were involved – the U-Haul, John’s pickup truck, and a car Etienne and Aya had rented to help them through the move. It was dark by the time the last storage container came down the ramp from the truck, through the back yard, and up the back steps to the house. The living room, kitchen and hallway were almost impassible with boxes, suitcases, furniture and storage containers. Four people had worked almost non-stop for half a day to get to this stage. “Who,” said Etienne, “would ever have thought that a little apartment could hold so much stuff?” 

The front gate of the new house is charmingly surrounded by greenery.

It's a different world from the Yaletown area, where Etienne and Aya have been living. Here, Emi, Aya, me and Etienne have a chat in the parkade loading zone area, where the U-Haul is being filled. Photo by John.

Emi gets one of her last rides down the condo hallway, on a flatbed dolly pulled by her mom. Photo by John.

Any moving day involves some waiting. Out in front of the new house, John waits for Etienne and Aya to arrive in the U-Haul for the first trip of the day.

Etienne snapped this photo of John with his camera and his dolly, sending it to us with the comment: "The only man on earth who won't give up his camera even when helping to move!"

John (with camera) coming up the back pathway of the new house. The garden has been beautifully planted with perennials that won't require too much work, Aya was pleased to learn.

Etienne and Aya in their new back garden. . .

. . . and by their new back deck.  

Sunday, January 14, 2018

How a bling bunny is born

My knitting friend Linda has created many bunnies over the years, but never a bright pink one with shiny necklaces. Her usual minimalist style doesn’t incline her that way, but when  she knew she was spending Christmas with my three-year-old grandniece Emi, who loves glitter and shine, she accommodated. Here’s a step-by-step look at the making of what Linda calls her “blinged-out bunny.”

The  inspiration, the instructions and the raw materials.

In this illustration of the completed pattern, the bunny -- snuggled with a teddy bear -- is wearing a big turtleneck sweater, giving it a sporty air. 

Another example of the completed pattern shows a bunny in subtly beautiful wool, also with a big sweater. Not a hint of pink or sparkle in sight!

But bunnies can be whatever you like, so here are the body parts of Linda's version, ready for assembly. Ears, head and tail in top row; front legs, main body, back legs in bottom row. 

Amazing how those odd-looking parts turn into a recognizable creature when they're all sewn together! Instead of marking the eyes with wool, as the instructions suggest, Linda found two buttons with blue centres that give the bunny an extra dash of  glamour.

Rear bunny view -- I love its saucy little tail!

And now for the bling! Linda found these bracelets on sale downtown, and had a hard time stopping at four.

The bunny with its finery; the bracelets make perfect little necklaces. 
Linda with her creation, just before turning  it over to someone who loves the colour pink and lots of sparkle and shine. Photo by John. All others by Linda.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Fridges: above-stairs and below

What could be wrong with a gorgeous new fridge like this?
Nothing that a reconditioned second fridge can't fix. John on Saturday, after wrestling our latest addition into the basement.

Everybody likes my new fridge except me. Ever since I got it about a year ago, design-minded visitors have applauded its sleek and gleaming design, its chic French doors and bottom freezer, and how neatly it fits into an awkward corner by the passageway into the dining room.

The old fridge it replaced never drew wows. Big, white and bulky, it pushed rudely into the passageway, blocking it completely when the fridge door was open. I never thought much about it until it died and we began searching for a replacement, preferably one that fit the space better.

Things had changed in the fridge world, I learned. A fridge might look perfectly adequate on the outside, but inside, the addition of extra insulation had chopped precious inches from every side and every shelf. “It’s a play fridge,” I said, when I got my first glance at one that would fit into our space. It was a fridge for nibblers, for eaters-out, for non-cooks; I couldn’t imagine it handling a week’s worth of real groceries.

I tried to be reasonable. After all, there’s only two of us and a cat (who, however, requires a whole shelf of his own). I shopped more often, bought less, and kept fridge space in mind when tempted to double or triple recipes. When Christmas dinner loomed and there was no cold space for vegetables, I stored them in a camping cooler. But I never – as John will attest -- stopped complaining.

On Saturday we went to McIver’s, a longtime Vancouver company that sells new and reconditioned appliances. We left with a second fridge wrestled into the back of the pickup truck. Half the price of a new fridge and with a few dents in its plain white hide, it will be a “below-stairs” fridge, keeping company with the washer and dryer. From now on, I will bask in the reflected glory of my stylish “above-stairs” fridge. And next Christmas, I won’t have to use the cooler.

We had help at the store in getting this fridge into the truck, but I was a bit worried about what would happen when we got home. John, who has manoeuvred go-karts and motorcycles all his life, had a dolly and a plan.

We scooted it off the end of the truck, and  lowered it -- slowly -- to the ground and onto the dolly. Then it was through the back gate, down this path, and into the basement.

This was the tricky part. The boxwood hedge on one side and rocks on the other didn't leave much space for a fridge.

Two boards served as a ramp to get the fridge down a couple of stairs and into the basement.

Whew! Home at last. The fridge in its new spot, with the dolly that got it there in the foreground.

I look forward to a fridge with a top freezer again. 

The bottom freezer in my upstairs fridge is always a jumble. How do you keep anything organized when you're tossing things in on top of each other?
The interior of the new fridge. Very basic. And usable.

The final touch: John makes sure everything is level. The fridge has to sit for a day before being turned on.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Linda's book list

In the serious business of reading for pleasure, my friend Linda and I have always been enthusiastic collaborators. For years, we shared books – second-hand, library, fresh-bought – back and forth, like precious treats.

That changed in 2014 when my reading time was snaffled by the university program I’m taking, but Linda was undeterred. Always the better noser-out of books, she kept right on checking the Vancouver Public Library for new releases from favourite authors. Every week, she reads the New York Times Sunday Book Review; the book sections in the Toronto Star, National Post and Globe & Mail, and she’s religious about the CBC’s Eleanor Wachtel’s Writers & Company and Shelagh Rogers’ The Next Chapter.

Linda has probably read hundreds of books since I stopped keeping her company, but at this time of year, I get a heartening reminder that all is not lost. Partly because she can’t endure not remembering the names of books she has read, she has begun keeping an annual list. On it goes every book she enjoyed that year.

 They’re not all 10s, she warns, but she doesn’t include any she skimmed or didn’t finish. While she moved toward more non-fiction this year, her fiction choices tend to be character-based, using traditional forms of story-telling, even though most are quite recent.

 “I would recommend all of these books and I wouldn’t recommend any of them,” she says, nodding to the reality of differing tastes. As for me, I hoard Linda’s lists. After I finish my program, I look forward to diving into them like a long-lost treasure trove.

Here is Linda’s 2017 list:


Roger Angell
This Old Man – A Life in Pieces
Muriel Spark
A Far Cry from Kensington
Anne Lamott
Anne Lamott
Help Thanks Wow
Marcia Willett
The Song Bird
Oliver Sacks
Oliver Sacks
On the Move
Rebecca Solnit
Helen Humphreys
The River
Joy Kogawa
Gently to Nagasaki
Robbie Robertson
Cathleen Schine
They May Not Mean to But They Do
Cathleen Schine
The Three Weismann of Westport
Claire Fuller
Swimming Lessons
Jennifer Weiner
Hungry Heart
Anne Enright
Yesterday’s Weather
Shirley Hazzard
The Transit of Venus
Will Schwalbe
Books for Living
Kyo Maclear
Birds, Art, Life
Faye Weldon
Before the War
Anne Lamott
Halleluiah, Anyway
Francis Weller
The Wild Edge of Sorrow
Atul Gawande
Being Mortal
Ali Smith
Autumn, The Public Library, The Accidental
Elizabeth Strout
Anything is Possible
Barbara Gowdy
Little Sister
Geneen Roth
Lost & Found
Lisa Jewell
The Girls in the Garden
Michael Harris
Solitude – A Singular Life in a Crowded World
Bill  Hayes
Insomniac City
Sharon Bhutala
Where I Live Now
Elly Griffiths
The Crossing Places
Peter Robinson
Children of the Revolution
Julian Barnes
Judith Jones
The Tenth Muse – My Life in Food
John Banville
Time Pieces – A Dublin Memoir
Susan Hill
The Beacon; The Service of Clouds
Jens Christian Grondahl
Often I am Happy
Julie Pointer Adams
Wabi-Sabi Welcome
Louise Penny
Glass Houses
Gail Bowen
The Winner’s Circle
Roz Nay
Our Little Secret
Polly Devlin
New York  Behind Closed Doors
John Le Carré
A Legacy of Spies

Margaret Drabble
The Dark Flood Rises
Jan Wong
Apron Strings
Erin Carlson
I’ll  Have What She’s Having – How Nora Ephron’s Three Iconic Films Saved the Romantic Comedy
Anita Brookner
Look at Me
P.D. James
Sleep No More
Ann Cleeves
The Seagull
Jamie Attenberg
All Grown Up
John Banville
Mrs. Osmond
Rachel Rose
Sustenance:  Writers from BC & Beyond on the Subject of Food