Friday, June 29, 2012

Fridays with Bri: School's out forever!

I raise my cup to new adventures!
So today was my last day of college. I wrote my last exam and said goodbye to some friends, but it almost feels imaginary. I am not sure how to react to the fact that I will not have homework assignments and I will be taking the next steps in building a career.

I am very happy to be done but they never tell you what's next. What happens during that time in limbo? The time where the school is done but there is no job?

I figure that it is time now to decide to enjoy life, try new things and really get to that place I know I want to be and have some fun with it!

Thank you to everyone for the support and the encouragment. It has meant a lot. Especally you, Jordan: putting up with me studying every night has been so wonderful. Thank you.

PS if anyone needs a bookkeeper, I am now fully available, and fantastic. :D

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Farewell to MJ


This morning my best friend MJ moved away.

I have no words to describe the wretched sorrow pressing down on my chest. No words to explain how happy I am for her, and how scared and sad and lonely.

MJ and I have a long, complex history. Our relationship has changed in many ways. But I can say with some certainty that in the past 8 years, we have rarely spent more than two days apart. 

MJ is one of the few people on earth who likes all of me. She has seen me joyous, jealous, murderous, and petty. She has seen me being heroic, brave, cowardly, and crazy. 

And what's maybe more amazing is that I, too, like all of her. She is delicate perfection. She is a hot mess, and a perfect 10 all that the same time. I like her always; and that can be rare for me, as I have the patience of a lobotomized beagle when it comes to the human race.

Ottawa feels more empty today, less like home. Toronto better appreciate the gift it's getting, and treat her with gentleness, neighborly love, and generosity. A very special piece of my heart is too far away for a late-night hug, or a five-minute coffee. Too far away for me to beat up anyone who messes with her. Too far away, plain and simple.

I am sending MJ all my best and brightest wishes. I hope she finds new success and new friends and new happiness; I hope she keeps going with the momentum of this courageous move. And I won't lie: I kinda hope her happy journey will bring her back this way again. 

I love you, MJ.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Homeownership Continues: our little house with pictures!

Our kitchen!


Well, we appear to still be signing things for the new house all the time, and we are waiting on some lawyer documents that I do not understand--thank god for Brian--but I think we can now safely say that we've bought a house. The inspection went pretty well, no doubt because we spent a little extra to get a well-reputed company to do it; they did find some minor things, like a missing hand rail to the basement, and a blocked laundry vent that needs vacuuming. 


They also found a leak in the bathtub drain that is apparently easy to fix. For those of you who recall our old apartment (the one we fled because the bathroom floor had melted under the tiles into a muddy cesspool of black mould), you can imagine the chill that went down my spine upon hearing this news. But we negotiated for repair fees, and all the men (Dad, Inspector, Brian) are in agreement that it's a quick fix, and no mould has begun. Hmm. I'll believe it when I see it fixed, properly, and after I buy my own mould detector. 

Mom inadvertently freaked me out his week by asking me if I was really confident in the inspector; in fact, her exact words were, 'Did he seem professional to you? Did you trust his skills?' Which are good questions to ask, of course, except that she had recommended the inspector, so I have no idea why she would ask me such a thing.


This entire experience has been a lesson in leaning on others. As I'd only joined in with Brian's house hunting a couple weeks ago, I didn't have the time to learn a whole lot about the house buying realm. Consequently, I am grateful that Brian has learned so much, and that my mother is a trained former mortgage broker. Still, it's a bit weird to turn on my internal elevator music and leave my financial wellbeing in the hands of others, no matter how close they are to me. There's strangers involved, too, of course: a mortgage broker, a realtor, a bank giving us this giant loan, an inspector, and a coven of strangers in the form of a condo association. 

I’m actually getting excited now about the whole house thing. I’m excited to be able to leave my windows open without being repeatedly wakened by the sound of 18-wheelers going down the highway. I am so eager to set up my new (smaller but nicer) art/writing/office room, and to have Brian set up in an office of his own so that his myriad school and business papers don’t keep getting left around the house; I’m starting to feel like I live with a humanoid magpie who’s trying to build a nest out of all these papers by plastering every surface of the house with them.

But if someone else wants to PACK for me, be my guest.

Okay, without further ado, here are a few photos to start!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday's with Bri - How to not end up on the couch, especially if your wife is a blogger.

Here is a post for all the people whose partners have blogs:

How to not end up on the couch

Jordan and I were just at the most recent SoCapOtt tweet-up where we got to meet some amazing people and have some extremely interesting conversations; and I must say my favourite part of tweet-ups are actually meeting the people you tweet with on a regular basis. That old saying, “putting a face to a name” or in this case, “putting a face to a twitter handle” rings very true. And during these awesome conversations I began talking to the men who were in attendance who jokingly said, “Ohh, you are gonna end up on the couch!” after a couple of my jokes. So on that theme, here are my Brian Bart Kent-Baas (BBKB) tips for not ending up on the couch if your partner is a blogger. (Yes my middle name is Bart.)

#1 Be supportive. (B)

Blogging is a big commitment and it takes a lot to be able to pour your heart and soul into what you write. So be their number one fan, read everything they write; even if it’s printed for you in paper hard copy form. Go to the events where their blog is being celebrated and celebrate the small successes with them even if you don’t understand; ie. finally breaking 1000 hits on their blog is a very cool moment.

#2 Be Understanding. (B)

With blogging comes social media; with social media comes time commitments. Let them have the time to build their brand and really succeed in what they are writing, and genuinely take an interest in it. You don’t have to understand all the technical jargon but at least show that you care.

#3 Keep letting them know you love them. (K)

It is the most horrible experience when a blogger gets their first negative comment on something they write. If it’s a internet troll or just an angry person, getting negativity around your writing is very, very, very hard to take. So let them know no matter what that you love them and that just because there are angry people in the world it is no reason to stop writing. And be ready to show them all the good comments they have received.

#4 Bring them Treats (B)

what is #FF - picture source
Yes, this is a great tip even if your partner isn’t a blogger: random treats and presents are always a good step. You should never need a reason to give your special someone a present, so go out and get them one; they deserve it. And if your partner is on twitter, get them a card with the present and make it say, “#FF (their name) because of how wonderful they are every day”. 

If you don’t know what #FF means it means Follow Fridays and you are telling everyone that you think that everyone should follow your special someone; it's a big deal for the twitter nuts... and it shows that you're paying attention.

With those four tips finished, I realized that there are no “support groups” for the partners of bloggers, and there is no meet-ups for the invisible husbands or wives of all these amazing bloggers. For all those who are reading this on a piece of paper because you don’t know how to read blogs, I want to let all of youknow  that the great thing about us tweeters, bloggers, and social media junkies is that we are able to make conversations out of nothing, and we have those conversations with people we have never met before. So come on out, it's a great way to show that you are using the BBKB steps. Attend social media events, like tweet ups, with your partner; we bloggers never get to meet you and you never know, you may be slowly turned into one yourself.


Picture source

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dad blogs for cats: Part II


Many weeks ago, I showed my dad a meme called "Dog diary vs. Cat diary". He loved it, and wrote a continuation of the cat diary which you can still read here. Today he presents a third chapter. (I can't turn him down; he loves writing them so much, and according to our analytics, you guys love reading them. Also, as we're just in the arduous process of going to a dozen different meetings while we sign off on our house, this gives you all something to tide you over.) Enjoy!

Day 1131

Today was a bad day. The idiot puppy saw that the human guards were preparing to leave the prison. Of course, he starts flailing about in a pitiful attempt to enamour himself of the screws (that's prison talk). But something is up: the humans appear contrite and a little nervous as they pick up my stupid cellmate. There is a flurry of fur, spit, and howls of delight as he is carried away and I am left to stare out through the invisible force field that holds me captive inside. What has happened? Did the dog's brown-nosing finally pay off?

The hours pass and sure enough the paddy wagon rolls back up the drive way. But this time, all is quiet as the dog is brought in. On his neck is the thing that all prisoners dread. I’ve have only heard of such a thing: it’s the CONE OF SHAME!! DA DA DAAA! It's a white plastic tube that covers the idiot's head and stops the mutt from doing his favourite trick: licking his privates. 

I hate the dog but he is a fellow con. What foul crime had he committed to be forced to endure such humiliation? Then I remember the poop on the pillow. When it happened I thought it was a touch of brilliance. Perhaps the dog is an idiot savant, I thought. I’ve often considered duplicating the feat more than once. But then I notice he is still very quiet and I realized with horror that the 'trick bag' he so loves to lick...was empty! Foul human creatures!! The poop stank, but what price is too high to pay for art?

I have decided not to copy the pillow protest.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Nesting for Real: We bought a house?

I have been procrastinating on writing a blog post all weekend because the one thing I want to blog about, I didn’t want to blog about just yet; but since it’s all I can think about, I’m giving in.

We’ve bought a house.

Well, at least I think we have. We were pre-approved for a mortgage a few weeks ago, but we’re waiting ‘til we hear back on some sort of…post-approval? I have no idea. If you want the fancy terminology, go see Brian. We’re also waiting on the inspection to be done on Tuesday, which is the thing I’m most worried about. After watching my brother struggle for a year with a cracked foundation, I’m being extra cautious about getting my hopes up about this house.

All that being said, I guess we’ve sort of bought a house.

Here are all the things that amaze me about buying a house this week:

1. Despite being utterly and completely nauseated with anxiety, I haven’t actually thrown up yet.

2.a) We found the house after only about three weeks of hunting.
   b) Everyone keeps saying, “Ohhhh; that was faaaaast.” Like that’s something I want to hear, with that worried wobble in your voice? Shuddup, jerk. When your budget is this tiny and your search radius is tight, you figure it out quicker. That’s all.

3. It was actually way less stressful choosing to be with Brian for the rest of my life, than it’s been choosing a home for a minimum five years.

4. The house is in Barrhaven—a suburb of Ottawa often referred to as Farrhaven. Who calls it that? I call it that, that’s who.

5. We will have a basement. Why is this amazing? Because my goal is to never go into it. I’m no longer used to basements and they freak me out. Thanks, Blair Witch Project.

6. We didn’t end up with a garage, which is funny because that was the desire that started us even looking.

7. We have a yard where my dream of a border collie could actually work out.

8. It is now officially too expensive and ‘legal-y’ to ever get divorced.

9. Thanks to the best parents in the world, we will have a dishwasher as a housewarming gift, and that means our marriage has a chance.

10. After only 7 months here, I have to pack again.

It’s been a stressful week. The day that our offer went in, Brian was trying so hard to hold it together and look like he had everything under control, he locked himself out of the car wearing nothing but his gym clothes. Out on Pinecrest Road, with no one to help him. With his wallet locked inside the car, as well. It was funny and horrible all at the same time.

I want to post some photos of the place, and tell you so much more, but I’m a crazy old Irish girl and afraid of jinxing the deal. You’ll have to wait. But for all those young folks out there who’ve been eagerly watching our (albeit short) house hunt, I can tell you since we’ve now taken the plunge: be ready for the most confusing, high-anxiety, complicated experience you’ve yet faced as a couple. Getting married was a walk in the park compared to this insanity. Buckle your seatbelts, fellow house-hunters: it’s a bumpy ride. In a wheelbarrow. Pushed by an epileptic donkey. Downhill. Blindfolded.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Night At the Museum: 1812 at the Canadian War Museum


Portraits line the corridor adjacent to the 1812 exhibit.
night, Brian and I were invited to the grand opening of the newest
exhibit at the Canadian War Museum: '1812: One War, Four Perspectives'.
Raised as I was, surrounded by historians and a father who worked
closely with history, I was excited to see this exhibit come to life,
and it did not disappoint.

The exhibit, set up in a cloverleaf sort of shape, explores the war from four perspectives: 
-Canadians, including Canadian First Peoples
-The British
-Native Americans

Bri and I, looking dapper!
perspective had its own room, and a slew of great artifacts, with everything coming together in the middle like a hub. We were
blown away by how many things had survived the 200 years to be here with
us today. The excellent condition and restoration of the pieces made
the displays that much more engaging; it felt like the people and their
treasures were here only yesterday. My mother, also in attendance,
developed a grim fascination with some of the more basic weaponry
artifacts--clubs with blades attached to them, and other concussive
devices--while Brian ogled each and every musket in the place. I enjoyed
the displays relating more to everyday life: a portable writing desk
used by a British soldier on his journeys, or the interactive dress-up area,
where I got to put on an era-appropriate dress, and Brian proudly strode
around in a soldier's jacket.

exhibit is well-explained; virtually every display has a written
explanation to accompany it. I discovered a new depth of information
about 1812 that I hadn't realized existed before. Like many Canadians, I
have always been just a general 1812 fan because this was the war where
we repelled the Americans from our land; but it was interesting to see
the war from the perspective of the British, the Aboriginals, and even
the Americans. We were a bit disappointed that there wasn't more
emphasis put on the razing of the White House by the Canadians--indeed,
the exhibit leaves us completely out of the story and refers only to the
British invaders--but I guess that all's political in love and war.

A piece of the charred White House--
which used to be pink, believe it or not.
such incredible artifacts, you may want to pick up a copy of the
companion coffee table book, with gorgeous full-colour photos of the
artifacts taken by the War Museum's resident photographer, Bill

enjoyed '1812: One War, Four Perspectives'. It's a mature and
well-curated exhibit with plenty to look at, and most of it
well-preserved. We'd recommend it for anyone who's got a kid who isn't
really getting into history class; it's the kind of exhibit that is
engaging like a good story, and may help to paint a more vivid picture.
Well frankly, I recommend this exhibit for all the adults out there,
too: you know it's been way too long since you learned anything new
about history that wasn't told to you in a movie. Rarer still is an
opportunity to learn something new about how kick-ass our Canadian and
Aboriginal ancestors were. 

Here, some more pictures for your eye candy desires:


A grave marker.

Laura Secord: purveyor of fine chocolates, and military intel.
(The chocolates aren't true, actually.)

Mom and Dad. (You can get people to do almost anything,
if you say it's for your blog.)


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Short story: Alison has a dream

I woke up this morning to a curious email from friend and fellow blogger, Alison:

I had a dream about you this morning.  You and Brian and I were sitting at a picnic table in an evacuation camp. I was eating buttered toast cut into the shape of sea creatures (mostly squid) and zoning out while staring at a big mountain, and you two were having a whispered fight about the fact that Brian was surgically altering you in your sleep and not telling you about it.
Just thought you should know.  Check yourself for scars.
 Is it worrisome that this dream sounds about as I'd expect things to go between Brian and I in a post-Apocalyptic situation? Actually, that's how I picture Alison, too: still behaving all Martha Stewart with her toast even though the world's come to an end.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Return of the Bats: Bat-tle Royale continues


source: Cdn Museum of Nature
 We really had hoped that the bats were gone after that miserable night of chasing them around the house and attempting to bat (ha) them out the window. For those of you with bat encounters of your own, however, you probably know what happened next.

Around dusk the following night, we returned home after visiting my parents, and heard the ominous fip-fip-fip of a pair of leathery batwings. Sure enough, one of the flying rats was still inside our house, flying around the living room. Brian seemed hellbent on dealing with this problem once and for all. He pulled he screen out of the window and gave it to me to use as a barricade so the bat couldn't escape the living room. I then watched him crouch on the floor with a squash racquet in his hand, which he began waving at the bat every time its panicked flight took it further away from the wide-open window. For what felt like a lifetime, Brian huddled by the sofa and waved his racquet menacingly at the bat, until disappeared. A twenty minute search of every nook and cranny--examined by pulling apart my entire living room--resulted in Brian finding the creature inside the handmade birdhouse his uncle had made as a wedding gift. If that image isn't sufficiently Bugs Bunny enough for you, imagine what it looked like when the bat flew out of its hiding place and took Brian on a merry chase around the room where, by leaping after the bat, Brian succeeded in breaking a leg off the sofa and knocking a painting off the wall.

Eventually the bat landed, exhausted, on my shelf of knicknacks. Brian ran upstairs to get a shoebox, and I watched the beast crawl on its weird wing-arms over top of my Red Rose tea figurines and my rock collection. The window screen slid in my sweaty hands, and when I went to adjust it, I knocked something off the wall by my hand. Hopped up on adrenaline, I managed to catch the thing: turns out, it was the big black crucifix my friend had brought me back from Ireland. I stood there with my mesh shield and my giant crucifix clutched in my hand like this five-inch-long bat was a vampire I was warding off.

Brian eventually managed to scrape the bat off the shelf and into a shoebox, which he then shook out into the night air. I told him I would have thrown the whole damn shoebox right out the window, but a half-hour later, when Bat Two made a reappearance, I was glad he still had it. In the dining room this time, Brian crouched on the floor near the window, waiting for his chance to pounce. The bat sensed his presence near the window, though, so it kept bombing the window screen I was holding, latching onto it, and trying to find a way through, ostensibly to eat out my eyeballs. My hooting Beaker-from-the-Muppets scream punctuated the night as the creature battered itself against my barricade. 

Artists' conception. Sorta. The teeth
aren't big enough.
Brian eventually caught the monster and threw it out the window to join its ugly friend. The bat specialists who arrived the next day (as well as the public health nurse we talked to about rabies) both called Brian a modern-day hero. I do, too, though I have a small bone to pick with him. You see, when Brian caught Bat One in the shoebox, the flying monkey was really peeved off. It started making angry bat-swearing sounds, which sound a bit like tiny rusty gears being turned. After the furor died down with Bat Two, I turned to Brian and asked him if he recognized the angry bat sound we'd heard, and he said no...until I reminded him that four days earlier, we had heard the sound in our bedroom, and Brian had said it was a cricket. You see, this means that the bats were in our room for four whole days. 

I'm glad they're gone, and that the pros came to seal up the holes in the roof. But I've memorrized that creaking angry bat sound, and if I ever hear it again, I'm throwing a towel over my hair and heading straight to Mom and Dad's. Cricket, my arse.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Mini post: lessons in house hunting

Notes from our first real day of house hunting:

Like this bathroom? Yeah, me too. It's $50,000 over our budget.
Seeing a flea jumping around on the carpet is like finding a hair in your salad: you can try to remove it and just carry on, but you will never really be able to stomach it.

The queensway (Ottawa's major highway) is very loud and apparently is following us from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. 
Apparently at our budget level, we'll be looking at either a charming 2-bedroom murder scene, or a 3-bedroom garden home with bonus former grow-op in the basement.

Apparently looking at houses has changed me. In one neighbourhood I said I didn't like the look of the neighbours. This was after seeing a topless guy, covered in tattoos, wearing cargo shorts and army boots walking a tough-looking dog. I had to remind myself that excepting the topless part, I usually keep my shirt on, I look quite a bit like him most days--tattoos included.

Trying to stick in your budget is pretty much impossible. Again, it's like wedding dresses: there's always something so much more beautiful, if you're only willing to pay 10% more than you could ever possibly afford.

If you want to sell your house, paint it in bright colours. I can't tell if your house is ever going to be sunshiney when you paint it burgundy and forest green.

When you think you've established what you both, as a couple, are looking for, the other one will say something absolutely the opposite right in front of the realtor. And that's what you'll argue about all the way to the next house.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The NEST: Nesting for REAL.


One minute, I had agreed to finally look at some of the houses for sale that Brian has been scoping out online for months. Next minute, I found myself standing in the middle of an open house with my mother teaching me how to evaluate the hardwood floors. 

It's logical, I suppose, that we have started looking for a home. Though honestly, when we started the NEST last year, I thought we would mostly be talking about frugal ways to dress up our rented apartment. Perhaps it was the twin batfiasco that finally got me looking at the housing listings. Maybe it was the roaring highway noise that makes it impossible to sleep as I am constantly wakened by speeders zipping by just 20 yards to the south of us. Maybe it was the two times the furnace went out in February and my landlord was MIA, or maybe it was the three times I blew I fuse and had to wait hours for the kids downstairs to come home and flip the switch in the basement. 

Whatever the final straw was, I find myself yearning for a nest...a real nest, one where I can flip my own breaker, call my own bat catcher, or burn a pile of magazines to keep warm if need be.


Housing in Ottawa is stupidly expensive. This is causing us some extra challenges as we can only afford the very, very cheapest homes in town. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that my dad heard our plan and budget, and very seriously told Brian that it was time he taught me karate. I worked in social services for ten years, so I'm familiar with these neighborhoods we're visiting. In fact, I may know some of our future neighbors by name. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though: perhaps years ago I provided them with granola bars and sleeping bags, and perhaps that good will means we'll have some street cred in the 'hood.

Goodbye to the bells that I hear every morning
...when the highway quiets down.


We’ll be saying goodbye to my precious Westboro-Hintonburg area, that’s for sure. When I scan the sales listings in this area, nothing pops up even at $50,000 more than we’re able to afford. Well, not true: if we were willing to move into an apartment-style condo, we could stay; but I am tired of hearing parties through my floor and fights through my ceiling. Yes, the garden homes we’re looking at still come with neighbours, but I’m hopeful we’ll find an end unit attached to a quiet old widower whose hobbies include crossword puzzles and checkers.

Tonight we meet with a real estate agent. We’re excited for the help, as scanning the listings is maddening and you always find yourself looking at something beautiful but way outside your price range. (God, it’s wedding gown shopping all over again.) We have a list of wants/wishes, and a list of musts/needs. We are sticking to a very rigid budget so that once Brian finishes school and gets out there into the employed world, we’ll be able to build up a savings and maybe even travel.

And of course, there’s the karate lessons, starting this week.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Friday's With Bri - 9 Months Wow...

Gatineau Park
The nine month anniversary is almost surreal. It is a phase where you still have all the vivid memories from the wedding day, but there is a lot of future planning happening: what is the plan for living arrangements or what trips do you want to take… all these planning tasks we have been doing. But what Jordan wrote in her last post about her view of our 9 month anniversary rang so true. Taking the time to stop and enjoy what has been happening in the moment is so important.


We took a trip up to the Gatineau hills on our anniversary and we just sat at one of the lookouts and just enjoyed the moment. Watching the clouds roll in, the wind was picking up and we enjoyed the new smells of summer.  I just loved looking over and seeing Jordan there with me. We also planted our first vegetable garden; I was so impressed to see Jordan in there with the gloves she bought and fearlessly digging in the dirt to plant the seedlings we started. It is particularly impressive due to Jordan’s paralyzing fear of bugs. I took some time to just watch, it was so awesome. Taking time to do small things, like just stopping and watching, has been awesome. I highly recommend it to everyone: take some time and just watch what’s going on around you. 

This is our first summer as a married couple, and these past months every day has been a first. Taking time to enjoy these new firsts is something I want to share and I am so glad we have all of you out there listening, too.

Project: Priceless--the NEST would love to hear your stories of "firsts", or just some recommendations of firsts you think we should experience.