Monday, 23 April 2012

ready, set, sold!

Long time, no write. This past month has been an adventure in real estate - one I've never had before.

We had a wonderful agent who included a home stager to give us advice on how to make the most of our house and stage it well. Basically, she advised clearing out about 1/2 of our stuff, painting, new counter tops in the kitchen, and buying some stuff to spruce up the bedrooms and bathrooms. I was skeptical as I went through the house with her. It just seemed like an excuse to spend a lot of money - fluffy white bath towels here, bed in a bag there, white waffle-weave shower curtain here, seagrass baskets there, edit and organize everywhere, lots of floor space everywhere. But we took her seriously and did many of the things she suggested. And I'm a believer. The house sold for above asking price in lickety-split time. We're relieved, and it's nice now to live in our new and improved house for a few more months.

I've learned a lot, so I'll pass some of those learnings on in case you ever find yourself in the house selling world.

1. A fast trip from store to store can quickly add at least $100 to your shopping bill in the form of a nasty speeding ticket.

2. Shabby chic, in a home decor sense, only goes so far. There is a fine line between shabby chic and just plain old shabby junky. We have a bit of both, and had to decide what stayed and what left for staging our house.

3. When you are packing up a house in Ontario, Canada, you will make frequent trips to the liquor store. For quality, free boxes. Move directly to the pile of boxes. Do not linger.

4. Clearing out half of your house to get it ready to show gave me a physical aversion to buying more stuff. I did a lot of shopping in the past month - probably more shopping than I've ever done in any other month in my life - and I developed this distinct physical reaction in my gut when I'd think about bringing home anything that wasn't going to help us in the staging and selling of our home. My stomach felt a bit woozy. I hope I can keep that feeling alive in our new home so that I don't welcome the clutter in there. Wishful thinking? Hope not.

5. There are different wardrobes expected for different stores. The difference between the consumers' wardrobes at Home Sense and Home Depot are worlds apart. Usually I would visit both stores on the same outing - a bath towel here, a blind there. I was casual enough to look like I could be a DIY-er at Home Depot, except I wore flip-flops instead of work boots, so the sales people usually knew I needed help. At Home Sense, my funky jacket could pass, but the flip flops should have been traded for some cute little high heels that I don't own. Plus I should have worn make up and cared about my hair. Then I would have looked like I love to shop to decorate my home.

6. Find friends or family who will let you store stuff in their basements or garages. It takes a village to stage a house. We have spread our stuff out to 5 wonderful friends and family for the next few months, and we're grateful.

7. Don't clean a toilet with a screwdriver. It doesn't work.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

top 5 Easter rituals

There are many rituals we've adopted over the years to celebrate Easter. Here are the top 5:

* Easter egg dying (no-brainer). When we were in France 2 years ago, I couldn't find white eggs, but I really loved the tones of the dyed brown eggs. 

* Easter baskets. I'm a bit nervous this year because my 5 year old has decided to pray to the Easter bunny to ask for something in particular for Easter. She devised this plan to see whether there really is an Easter bunny, or whether it's the parents. I have no idea what she has prayed for, so this Easter might be her revelation day. We'll see. If she prayed for a Kinder surprise chocolate egg, I've got that covered. 

* making egg cheese. This is from my Swiss Mennonite tradition. Some people call it "Easter cheese." It's mostly just a carrier for fresh maple syrup - it's a little bland all by itself. But I love it. My grandma used to make it, and she taught me how. Now I'm the family egg cheese maker. Watching the curds magically separate from the whey is mesmerizing. I look forward to making it every year.

* celebrating a seder meal. We've been having this meal on the Thursday before Good Friday as a way of remembering what Jesus was experiencing with his disciples. For us, it gives more meaning to the Easter story of death and resurrection. Our daughters look forward to it, and ask each year who we're celebrating with this year. Each year it's been different and special - a celebration of our hope and freedom, and a reminder that not all in our world are free. I love how the kids ask questions to frame the storytelling around the table, and the symbolism in the foods. 

* baking paska bread. This comes from my husband's Russian Mennonite background. The recipe makes a huge batch of bread, and it's fun to make little loaves and share them around with teachers, family, friends. It's a long process with three risings of the dough. I always end up singing "We Rise Again" by the Rankin Family while I'm making paska. And the three risings remind me of 3 sad days. And the yeast makes me think that many miracles are possible, even a resurrection. The smell of the bread dough rising and that yeast doing its silent work makes me put aside my skeptical reasoning brain for yet another Easter, ready to embrace what I cannot imagine. Ready to trust in a magic that I cannot see. Hopeful that a resurrection is possible once again.

the little loaves rising
mixing the dough
icing and sprinkles
What are your rituals at this time of year?