Sunday, August 26, 2012

From Trails to Treadmills: transitioning to winter athletics

The Soloway JCC outdoor pool, open til the weather changes!


Summer is quickly transitioning into fall—for those of us in the drought-stricken areas, a break from the heat actually sounds good about now—and Brian and I have been talking about what sports we’re going to get back into once the sun starts setting earlier and sweaters become mandatory. As two active sorts of people, we started talking about the unsteady transition that can happen when someone stops summer sports and picks up cold-weather ones. Luckily, our friends at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre had some handy advice, and we’re sharing it with you all. Soloway's Fall/Winter activity guide is available now, and you can access it on their website. There are lots of new programs for all ages and interests, like fun after-school programs for kids, fitness classes, and adult programs.

Ryan Armitage is the Fitness Centre Manager at the SJCC. We’vetalked before about the awesome fitness facilities at the centre, and another great thing about the place is the knowledgeable fitness staff. We interviewed Ryan and got some tips for those of you who will be transitioning into winter sports as the season changes…

NEST: As people get off of vacation and get back into indoor fitness, what are some of the pitfalls or mistakes that they make? (Ie wrong equipment, overdoing it, etc)?  

RYAN: Overdoing  it seems to be the main culprit for those coming back from exercising outdoors to indoors. When our bodies recondition to different aspects of fitness, it is sometimes difficult to readjust back to our old routines. The good thing is that our muscles remember the things we were doing before so there’s no need to panic; you will get back to where you were in no time. It is important to ease into your old routine while returning. I recommend asking a fitness professional to check over your form and make sure that any bad habits are rectified so you can continue with an effective yet safe routine.

NEST: What kinds of things can winter athletes be doing now to prepare for the snowy season?

RYAN: Depending on which winter activity you are preparing for, there is always a wide range of exercises that can be done to maximize your preparation for the winter season. A nice mix of functional exercises targeted specifically to the muscle groups you will be using for the activity is the best way to both improve your conditioning and keep your workouts challenging and interesting.

NEST: As we head into the autumn, our food availability (and traditions, like Thanksgiving) start to change. Any tips on autumn nutrition?

RYAN: It is important that we are still getting a wide variety of nutrients to help the body with reparation and preparation. As the seasons change, certain foods are scarce so it is important to find healthy alternatives to these foods. If you need assistance in determining which foods might be a healthy equivalent to those you were always consuming, I would speak to either a fitness professional or nutritionist to make sure you are taking in the healthiest and most effective foods to fuel your body. As we near the holiday season, portion size is the main culprit to our holiday eating woes. It is very easy to go for seconds and thirds and over-consume the calorie intake that is necessary. It is also important to watch out for liquid calories, alcohol being the main culprit. High calorie liquids don't fill you up as much, and the lack of feeling full can quickly escalate our caloric intake.

NEST: How do people successfully manage a fitness regime once the fall starts and schedules seems so much tighter?

RYAN: There is a large misconception that the longer you exercise, the more benefit you are getting. A lot of research is showing that a more intense, shorter duration workout can burn as much or more calories as a longer medium intensity workout. It is important to put aside some time in your day to dedicate to yourself for not only health of the body but mind as well and get as much "bang for your buck" as possible if you are strapped for time.

NEST: If people are interested in starting a new fitness plan or a new sport, who can they talk to at the centre and how do they connect with them?

Soloway has an indoor saltwater pool. It's awesome.
RYAN: You can either contact me (Ryan Armitage) in the fitness center or our Health and Wellness Director Carla Gencher. We would be happy to set you up with an orientation to learn the new equipment and set you up on a routine. We also have personal trainers that can assist you with any sport specific routines.

A big thanks to Ryan and the Soloway Jewish Community Centre for this great advice. Brian is talking about getting back into cross-country skiing this season, while I plan on getting back into weights and other activities done in the warmth of the gym. Either way, it’ll be a transition from rollerskating and yoga in the park, and with this great advice, it’ll hopefully be a smooth one.

If you're thinking of joining the SJCC, they now have online registration. Members should have their membership card, as well as their credit card handy to go online and register starting from Monday August 13th. Non-Members could start registering starting on August 20th, 2012. All programs at the Soloway JCC are open to everyone. And a bonus: Joining the Soloway JCC during the month of September can save you money on an annual membership and personal training--so don't put off your goals 'til New Years resolution time; take the next step now for better wellness.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Happy Anniversary!

Adam Pap Photography

One year ago today, Brian and I got married.

365 days later, everyone's still alive and breathing, and likes each other, even.

There may be some of you who don't know about Project: Priceless, the free wedding experiment: in short, we planned our wedding over ten months, and we did it as free-of-charge as possible; seriously, check out the Project: Priceless blog if you haven't before. What started out as a request to family for old decorations turned into an outpouring of support from strangers and businesses alike. We had the time of our lives meeting new people and promoting a lot of independent business, and best of all, we used social media to do it. On our big day, we were surrounded by friends, family, and tons of the people who helped out with the wedding...and yes, a handful of bloggers, too. We had a hashtag -- #ppwedding -- for people to live tweet the whole day.

Adam Pap Photography
That one beautiful day, Brian and I felt so overwhelmed with love and kindness. We had each other, and just as amazing, we had a community brought together through a crazy little wedding blog. And you know, we still feel that love and connection with so many of the people from our project. (If you want the rundown on the wedding project, watch this video.)

I am, naturally, thinking many big thoughts today. Mostly, I'm thinking about how lucky I am, for many reasons and because of many people, but certainly because a special person named Brian agreed to love me forever.

Here's a little montage from our wedding videographers, Bytown Productions. Celebrate with us today: lavish a loved one with a much sweetness as you can.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Building the Nest: Repairs and twitchy eyes

You may be wondering why we haven’t updated the blog in a week. (If you didn’t notice, then you’re not here enough.) It’s rare for us to get so busy that no posts go up, but hear me out: this is the order of events that happened between last week and this one:

Jordan and Brian go back to the apartment to sleep after a long day of working on the new house. Jordan steps into the bedroom and immediately throws herself onto the ground in an evasive manoeuvre as yet another bat dive-bombs her from above. After Jordan crawls backwards down the stairs, Brian startles the bat into the office and shuts the door. Bags are quickly packed and Jordan and Brian sleep at Jordan’s parents’ house.

Jordan undergoes scary medical test, complete with sedatives. Jordan doesn’t remember the rest of the day. The bat catcher comes and says the bat is gone, and tells Jordan she’s a wuss for not catching it herself. Jordan is too drugged up to slap the man.

Brian finishes the drywall and patchjob on the dining room ceiling and bathroom walls after repairing the leak, ready for tiling, at the new house. Leaking pipe is soldered and new tub has been installed.

Brian spends the day scraping spackling off the dining room ceiling to prepare for repainting. He rinses his head in the new tub while Jordan tidies downstairs. Jordan hears the whoosh of running water, then the telltale drap-drap-drapdrap-drap of a leak. Brian follows the sound down to the basement, where water is pooling on the floor. With  many curse words, Brian yanks out his drywall patch job and discovers another pipe, cracked. Jordan has a cigarette.

Brian asks Jordan in the morning, ‘What colour would you like to paint the living room?’ Jordan says, ‘No colour; why?’ Brian says, ‘Well then, there’s going to be one raw drywall wall, because I’m going to have to cut out the wall to fix the pipe today.’ Jordan says nothing, and stays as far away from the new house as possible. Brian and Jordan’s dad spend the day patching the cracked pipe. Mention of the house makes Jordan’s eye twitch.

Brian teaches himself how to tile, and tiles the bathroom. Jordan sticks to packing up the old apartment.

Jordan hears Brian testing the water, just to be sure of his pipe repair. She tries not to ask herself why this is being tested after all the tile has gone up.

Do couples buy houses to test their resolve to co-exist with each other? I haven’t yet met a person who said, “Oh, you’ve bought a house? What a wonderful experience you’re about to have! It’s like a second honeymoon!”

Brian is in his glory. I hope he writes about it this week, so I can read it and try to understand. Every now and then, he’ll wander over to me, covered from his head to his toes in plaster and grouting, and just smile at me. I give him a face I’ve seen on popular girls in high school when nerdy boys would stare at them; the look that says, “What do you want, weirdo?” But Brian just keeps on grinning until I roll my eyes and walk away.

Darcy and I are hiding out in Brian’s new office. At least there aren’t any bats here.

(Knock on wood.)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Building the Nest: Bathroom woes

I swear, there was a bathroom here when I left last night.

I remember moving boxes into this, our new house, in preparation for the final big move at the end of the month. I remember looking in this bathroom and thinking about colour choices.

And now, less than 24 hours later, I come in to find…that.

To be fair, I had gotten a quick phone call from Dad while I was at work that morning. He said that the leak—the tiny leak from the tub that was supposed to require only a tiny patchjob—had not been as simple as predicted. The hot water pipe, not the drain, was the leaky culprit. This meant, apparently, that the wall had to be torn out a little bit.

Of course, when they tore out the wall and found that a previous owner had filled the wall behind the tub with newspapers instead of insulation, that required more demolition.

I should be grateful, and I am, that Brian’s brother is a drywaller. Because I came into the house, saw, the bathroom, and then walked right back downstairs to the kitchen, where I painted a first coat on all the walls; and by the time I was done that, the boys had put up walls again, and installed the (new) tub. Why a new tub? Because the previous owner had painted the old one by hand and it felt like sandpaper. And because once you’re redoing the whole damn bathroom anyway, you might as well replace the tub while everyone is helping out. It was a project we’d planned to delay, but sometimes you don’t get that luxury.

I’m calmer about it now, though the newspaper discovery resulted in the vinyl shower stall being torn out and destroyed, so now we’re also going to be tiling. I am not exaggerating when I say that our teeny tiny repair job has quintupled in price.

I’m grateful for Brian and his brother, who both have been through house renos with their parents. And I’m grateful for my dad, who played foreman and helped Brian sodder pipes together. (Did you know people can soder their own pipes? Neither did I.) I am also grateful for my mom, who, I’m told, brought the men lobster rolls and veggies to keep them fueled.

I am grateful for credit cards, and carefully crafted spreadsheets that will help us pay back said credit cards.

I am grateful for my old pug Mr Darcy, who sat by me while I turned off my brain and painted the kitchen. I am grateful that he’s such a dork, because he amused me by getting yellow paint all over his butt, then managed to mascara all his whiskers in blue by sniffing a freshly-painted table.

We will look back on this and laugh one day. But right now, I just sigh.

Keep Calm and Paint On.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Flashback: Lost in the woods

Photo: Adam Pap


It's the anniversary  today of the day that Brian left for Calgary. Foolish boy; we'd been friends for about a year at that point, and for whatever hairbrained reason, he chose to tell me he loved me the night before he left. I don't think he expected me to say it back.

But leave he did, and I spent that first week in utter despair. I had had an entire summer with him, on the back of his bike, riding around until all hours of the night. I was addicted to motorcycles and I was missing my friend...and someone I wanted to be more. I found solace in long drives in MJ's car, chain-smoking, and angsty music. Behold, I am a teenager still. 


About a week after Brian left, I was out for one of my drives along the Ottawa River Parkway. I should probably mention that I was a very new driver at this time (I was older than most when I got my licence for the first time), so driving was still a novelty and my driving skills were still novice. As I approached the turn where I could either head home or head out to the Gatineau Hills, I made a snap decision: I would head to the Hills, where Brian had so often taken me up to Champlain Lookout. I would sit there, breathe the lush air of the forest, and pine for my love.

I stopped at the entrance to the Hills at a convenience store and bought a map of the area, just in case. Then I headed up into the hills, playing Arcade Fire and smoking away. I had never driven up here on my own, but as far as I could recall from the back of Brian's bike, there was just one long road winding up-up-up to the summit. Nothing to be afraid of.


After about twenty minutes of driving, I found myself--you guessed it--on some unfamiliar road. I pulled over when I saw a giant map, figuring I could locate myself with the handy YOU ARE HERE arrow: no luck. The map had no YOU ARE HERE arrow, and to this day I don't understand how that could be. Anyway, I pulled out my pre-purchased map and realized that I probably should have opened it first, because turns out, the Gatineau Hills are simply coloured in with green--no roads are indicated at all. I sighed and got back in my car, and headed aimlessly out. I figured I would either find my familiar piece of road, or discover that I was driving back towards home.

I was wrong.

Several kilometers of confused driving later, I finally pulled over in the parking area of an unfamiliar lookout. I picked up my phone, and dialed MJ. As she answered, and I said, "Hey, MJ; I think I'm lost," the sun sank abruptly below the tree line and I was plunged into utter forested darkness. Then my cell signal faded and dropped the call.


The next hour is a terrified blur. I remember driving from one parking area to another, aimlessly driving to picnic areas, hiking trails, and lookouts. I remember repeatedly calling MJ back and getting about 30 seconds of airtime before the signal would fade again. She was searching a giant map of the Hills on her laptop, trying to locate me, and somehow she was always one stop behind me. She implored me to stop driving, and I finally did, tucking my car into a velvety black gravel lot where I was surrounded by trees and the only sign of civilization was a hut on the edge of the clearing. 

I hunkered down low in my car, holding my phone tightly and listening to MJ's attempts to calm me down. All I could think of was that I was lost in an ginormous uncharted national park, in the pitch black, by myself. In a shaking voice I told MJ where I was, and that I had a granola bar, a half-pack of smokes, and a bottle of water to get me through the night. MJ reassured me that I wouldn't be stuck overnight, and suddenly had a great idea: call Andrea, our police officer friend. I agreed with this plan; Andrea had been my confidante through much of my grieving for Brian, and would know exactly where I'd been trying to drive to. MJ hung up on me to call Andrea, then called back to let me know that Andrea had just got off duty, knew exactly where I was, and was headed up to save me. 

It was all over but the waiting.

But waiting is the hardest part.

As I huddled low in my seat, I looked out at the deep black forest and started to freak myself out. I'd been reading a lot of vampire and werewolf books lately--no, not Twilight--and suddenly all those silly mythical monsters didn't seem so mythical. The wood hut, in particular, seemed to be a likely hiding place for a horrible monster that would surely drag me off into the woods and devour my entrails. I faced that terrible dilemma: hide my head under my hood so I couldn't see the looming woods, thereby allowing the ghouls and goblins to sneak up to my car unnoticed; or keep peering around, maintaining a manic vigil on the forest. It was a lose-lose scenario. 


As my panic was just reaching its highest point, and my bladder was screaming for me to get out of the car for a pee, there were headlights lighting up the road. I recognized the silhouette of our dear, sweet, heroic Andrea in her car. She pulled up to my driver's side window in a lazy loop, rolled down her window, and in a slow drawl said, "Feeling nostalgic, were we?" 

Andrea guided me home, and I will forever be indebted to her for the rescue. I eventually admitted to Brian what I had done out of my overwhelming grief at losing him. He wasn't nearly as impressed or sympathetic as he should have been. 

I'm so very, very happy that my sweet boy came home to me. The first thing we did upon his return was head to the Gatineau Hills...with Brian navigating, of course.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Furniture Makeovers: painting old wood with Jordan

We spent the weekend at the new nest, working on things like wiring and installing a dishwasher (okay, Brian was doing that, not me), and revamping old furniture to make new treasures for our house (that was me). As I worked on two very different dressers in the backyard, I thought about what tips I can offer up for the amateur furniture makeover artist. I’ve got a long history with refinishing furniture (in the past, I’ve done some pretty cool commissioned paintings on furniture), and I’ve found there are two ways to refurb an ailing wooden treasure: the fast way, and the right way. But don’t despair: there’s a time and place for both.


Refinishing furniture can be a complicated, smelly, toxic, messy, onerous task. Doing it the right way usually follows these steps:
1. Remove old paint
2. Sand
3. Apply primer
4. Sand
5. Apply paint, and sand again if needed
6. Clear coat

Dresser 1: BEFORE
The fast way goes like this:
1. Paint and pray

I usually follow the ‘right way’ when I’m doing a commissioned piece, but when it’s just for me, I have a third method which feels like a fair compromise:


1. Sand the piece with rough paper and a mouse sander
2. Prime
3. Paint
4. Clear coat


Here’s a few tips I’ve learned, primarily through trial and error and misery:

Dresser 1: AFTER!
a. SPRAY PAINT IS NOT ALWAYS THE ANSWER. Spray paint needs a lot of coats to be effective, and tends to chip or scratch. If you want a brushstroke-free finish, use a roller with ‘real’ paint.

b. TYPE OF PAINT COUNTS. I buy a lot of ‘mis-tints’ at the hardware store—paints that have been returned because the colour was wrong, and are then sold super-cheap—but I always check on what type of paint it is. For furniture, a semi-gloss is better than an eggshell finish, though your clear coat will help with this as well.

c. QUALITY IS KEY. Choosing a higher-quality paint may mean the difference between one coat and three. This means in the end, the higher-quality paint will actually save you money.

d. TAKE BREAKS BETWEEN STEPS. Water-based paints need three days to off-gas, and oil-based paints need a week. This means that, no matter how dry your paint seems, it’s still releasing gasses for 3-7 days. During this time, do NOT apply your clear coat; you risk accidentally pulling off the paint, and you can end up with a finish that easily chips or peels.

Dresser 2: BEFORE
e. TAKE RISKS ON THE TRASHY STUFF. The blue dresser seen here was free, found on a street corner, in terrible shape, and headed to the trash. The creamy one was purchased (for a whopping $20), is more unique, and is higher quality. So naturally, I did the risqué paintjob on the cheap/free dresser, and did the ‘safer’ colours on the more expensive piece.

f. CONSIDER LOCATION. The creamy dresser here will now be used as a buffet/sideboard in our dining room, while the blue dresser is indeed still a dresser. But many people pass up great deals on furniture when they think they don’t have a spot for it. I’ve seen adorable high chairs made into plant stands, TV stands made into benches, and dressers made into kitchen islands. Don’t get stuck thinking about furniture as a one-trick pony; it can be as versatile as you like!

Dresser 2: AFTER
g. TO PAINT OR NOT TO PAINT? My dad cries a little every time I paint a piece of furniture. The reality is, many of the pieces I salvage were going to end up in the landfill if I didn’t paint them up. Yes, that ancient dining room chair might be a pricey piece if you could ever find a buyer, but sometimes no one is looking for one raggedy old hoopback. Painting it up and revitalizing it may give it another twenty years of life in a person’s home. People who freak out every time someone paints a chair are probably the same people who say women shouldn’t have to colour their grey hair: I’m sorry, but some of us just aren’t ready to look our age.

Look at those painty, painty hands.
On the flipside, of course, some pieces should be left well enough alone: church pews, cast iron sewing tables, and things handmade by your great-grandpa may deserve to be properly refinished by a professional. Ask yourself: is the look of the wood what gives this particular piece its magic? If the answer is yes, put the paintbrush away.

That’s just a few tips to get you thinking and hopefully get you feeling a bit more courageous! Worse-case scenario, you have to prime and paint again. Relax, folks; it’s just furniture. Now see what you can create!