Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie

Firstly, the insomniac  would like to apologize for her tardiness in posting this week. She'd like to blame the delay on something exciting - you know, living the life of an incredibly busy socialite or something equally as glamorous (and if you knew the insomniac, you'd certainly see the humour in that  statement) - the boring reality being the three days spent painting in the real third-floor attic took its toll, and when Saturday evening rolled around she felt old and tired and sore, and chose to stay curled up in a semi-foetal position on the couch moaning about her aching knees rather than typing in front of the computer.

Whilst in our respective recumbent positions on our respective couches, the spouse flicked through the television channels looking for something to watch, stopping briefly at a station showing “The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie” while exclaiming, “Oh look, it's The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie!” Which, as it happens, was filmed around eleven years ago in the Gothic Mansion. To summarize, the movie is about Charlie - a young man heading down that slippery slope towards Juvenile Deliquency. After being involved in one too many fights at school, his principal offers him a choice - either accept a community service job as handyman for an old woman everyone believes to be a bit crazy, or get expelled from school. Mrs. Ritchie puts Charlie to work in her garden, teaching him many life lessons along the way.

Preparing the yard for the movie took an amazing amount of work, and might one say the garden has never looked better - even if it was mostly fake. Being September, the risk of frost was great and the real plants had to be covered every evening to avoid being frostbitten. The driveway was closed off and quirky little pathways added, along with many fantastic willow structures and odd gewgaws, befitting the garden of a certifiable old lady.

This is how one has always imagined the garden should look.

You know, if we didn't actually need to use the driveway.

A lot of flowers to cover up
every single night for a month ...

The fence bordering the property was taken down
and the set extended up onto the hill ...

During the shooting of this movie, the offspring were pulled out of school and the family took a month-long road trip to the United States. And if forcing the offspring to take a month off school wasn't incentive enough, a trip to Disneyland was added to the bribe. Because the farthest the offspring had ever travelled up until that point was their great-grandparents farm in the neighbouring province of Saskatchewan.

The only problem with being gone during filming was the insomniac  wasn't around to “negotiate” which items she'd like left behind after the movie wrapped.

The gazebo with the stained glass? That definitely should have stayed ...

The duck whirlygig? Definitely glad that went ...

A few scenes were shot inside the house, and most of the larger props were our own furniture - unlike Heartland Ghost when all our belongings were moved out. Heaven only knows how the wallpaper managed to emerge unscathed with all the extra cupboards added along the wall, but there was nary a mark on it afterwards.

Our stove at the time was moved from the kitchen into the dining room - shortly thereafter the oven door fell off, and even though the spring was replaced, it never opened properly again. A dear friend moved it to his homestead in the Sault, but he never cooks and probably hasn't even noticed.

The Dining Room, now the Kitchen ...

The old dining room set ...

Awwwww - it's so cute!

If it weren't for the dusting involved,
the insomniac  could totally live with such abundance!

Seriously, that antler chair should have stayed behind, as well ...

The master bedroom, with the comfy and worn Sewing Chair
that now lives in the attic ...

The front entryway looking much nicer than it did
during Heartland Ghost ...

Like the sign says - Pro Veritas et Pro Amor

And while the spouse quickly flicked past the show, muttering something about trying to find a hockey game, the insomniac  really does like the movie and recommends giving it a watch - especially if you like gardening. She also recommends having a box of tissues handy, but since she has been known to cry during certain long distance phone commercials, perhaps you won't find it quite as moving as she did  ...

Until next time, the insomniac  wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams. Goodnight, my pretties.

IA

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Search for the Next Gothic Mansion

In addition to the downsizing and packing, the past two months have also been spent madly searching the real estate listings for our next Gothic Mansion. Back in February, the insomniac  inadvisedly “signed up” to receive emails of new listings in towns we were interested in relocating to. Evidently, “signing up” doesn't mean one will receive computer generated emails with new listings, but rather that one will be contacted by a real live realtor who will personally send emails of such listings. And contacted one was. Almost immediately. The insomniac  gave the realtor a list of towns, said we were looking for a Character Home, and that we weren't opposed to purchasing a fixer-upper.

The realtor promptly emailed us details of properties she thought we'd like ...

It may have been built in 1904,
but what happened to the character? 

After having sent a number of emails for houses practically identical to the above, and having received in return a number of replies saying they weren't exactly what one had envisioned when specifying a Character Home, the realtor has likely placed our file in the Tire Kicker Folder, as we haven't heard from her since.

The listing for the above house has lately been updated to include the following: “The house is now being listed for the value of the lot only. The kitchen water pipes have burst which caused damage to the main floor and partial basement. You can either fix the damage or bulldoze and build new. Seller motivated, so call for details today!”

Bulldoze appears to be the wisest choice ...

Having reached the point where one was beginning to despair of ever finding anything suitable, last week the insomniac  stumbled across a very exciting property. An old church and manse located in a small town 45 minutes northwest of Calgary, it was zoned commercial/residential. Visions of renovating the church as our home and creating a retail space in the manse for Insomniac's Attic were dancing through one's head, and arrangements were made to view the property the following day. 

That night, anticipation made sleep even more elusive than usual. Ever the joker, the spouse kept nudging the insomniac  and saying things like “ Have you figured out the floor plan yet?” “Oh, without question it should be an open concept, and we can get some Gothic arches from an architectural salvage place and separate the living areas with those!” Silence for a few minutes, another nudge and, “Have you got the tapestries hung yet?” “Oh yes, the Morris Woodpecker tapestry can go just below those Gothic niches carved in the north wall!” A few minutes later, “What about the loft?” “Well, obviously that will become the sewing and crafting area, and maybe we can add a spiral staircase up to the belfry so a certain someone can sit up there when she can't sleep. Maybe the computer could go up there, too.” This went on for at least an hour, until the insomniac  finally gave up and spent the remainder of the night searching Google for ideas on renovating church interiors. 

Christ the King Church, Eric Viklund
Little Gothic Church

Needs a little work, but what incredible potential ...

When the insomniac  says the town is small, she isn't kidding. Our neighbours would have been the General Store ...

General Store in Water Valley by Tony Sterl - Hunting Season 2012
Fireworks, Cold Drinks, Ice Cream and Coffee. Perfect.

... and The Saloon. Which, at the time of this writing, is also for sale.

Saloon in Water Valley by Tony Sterl - Hunting Season 2012
Wings on Wednesday. It doesn't get much better ...

Although the church was listed as the commercial property and the manse as the residential, the realtor thought it would be acceptable to reverse their usage. On the drive home we decided to put in an offer, but before calling the realtor back, the insomniac  thought she should check with the county Planning and Development department to confirm whether renovating the church as a residence was permissable. Unfortunately, they advised it was not.

And so the search continues. Although having just finished watching The Hobbit tonight, the insomniac  has now decided how awesome it would be to live in a hobbit-hole. But that would probably be even harder to find than another Little Gothic Church. Or a Character Home ... 

Until next time, the insomniac  wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams. Goodnight, my pretties.

IA

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Professor's Monthly Homework Assignment - Spring!

For this month's assignment, The Curious Professor Z asked those participating to write about something related to Spring. Rather than a lengthy explanation of how we know Spring has finally arrived in Calgary by the fact we're now sweeping snow off the front steps rather than shoveling it off, the insomniac  decided instead to share an Easter tradition initiated by her Sainted Mother when she was exactly five years old. Don't believe for a second she actually remembered the exact age when the tradition began; the date at the bottom of the newspaper clipping was a dead giveaway ...

As is evident from this photo of the original recipe, which is shown exactly as it's stored in her Mother's recipe box, the insomniac  grew up long, long ago; well before staples or paper clips were invented.

It's true.  The insomniac's  real name is Mike ...

One has fond memories of her Mother making this recipe every Easter for many years, and when the insomniac  eventually had offspring of her own, she carried on in her Mother's footsteps. When the offspring were very young, we would often make extras and deliver them to the neighbours in a large wicker Easter basket.

Back then, the recipe for Rice Krispie squares printed on the inside of the cereal box was used, as it makes twice the number of nests. However, if you've just recently started Bat Fit, or perhaps even rejoined Weight Watchers again like Mike has, you'll probably want to stick with the original recipe, which makes a mere twelve nests. And thanks to that newfangled invention called the Micro-Wave Oven, you can now simply nuke the marshmallows and butter on high for two minutes instead of dirtying a saucepan or double boiler. The original recipe also benefits from the addition of a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the melted marshmallow and butter mixture.

The Sainted Mother never made Bunnies.  Only Nests.

It is imperative you use Rice Krispies.

And Easter Jelly Beans ... not Everyday Jelly Beans.

Although the original instructions recommend shaping the nests around the outside of a custard cup, and one has even seen them made inside muffin tins, again - it's just one more thing to wash afterwards. Simply make free-form nests with your hands, which are far easier to wash than a cup or a tin. And besides, they look more like real nests when they're not perfect. If you find the mixture sticks to your fingers during the process, dip them in cold water and shake them off before proceeding with the nest building.

Leaving big globs of white marshmallow mixture 
throughout also helps the nests look more realistic ...

The final result, with each nest containing exactly the same number of jelly beans in exactly the same colours, to avoid such scenarios as “She's got more eggs in her nest than I do!” or “He got more pink eggs in his nest than I did!” The astute reader will notice that by the time this picture was taken, two nests had already gone missing. One blames the youngest. And also the spouse. Further clarifying why all the “refrigerate until” steps have been eliminated from the original recipe; they're just not around long enough to spoil. 

The insomniac  isn't crazy about the nests and the spouse doesn't like the jelly beans.

It works out perfectly.

This month's homework assignment is due March 20-22, so please be sure to check out the other participants on those dates!

Until next time, the insomniac  wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams. And in case you're interested, one nest plus ten jelly beans equates to roughly 6000 Weight Watchers Plus Points. Totally worth it. Goodnight, my pretties.

IA

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Insomniac  and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week

Since beginning the whole process of preparing the Gothic Mansion for sale, this week - without question - has been the most difficult. This week the insomniac  tackled the real third-floor attic, where the exercise equipment and all her crafting supplies are stored. Since she has absolutely no sentimental feelings about the elliptical trainer or the stationary bike, she wasn't terribly distraught at seeing them head down the steep attic stairs and out the front door. She likes to think they've gone to a better place, i.e. the home of someone who might actually use them.

There was not the same lack of feeling, however, for the hoard of fabrics lovingly gathered over the years, the paints and brushes, leathers and furs, beads and embroidery threads, not to mention all the thrift store castoffs that had such potential for repurposing into something uniquely beautiful. Even more distressing than the elimination and packing away of these cherished items were the endless questions that kept popping unbidden into the insomniac's  head, despite her best attempts to quash them. When will she see her beloved supplies again? What if we don't find a new home before the Gothic Mansion sells and they end up in storage for years? What will she do with herself if she cannot paint or sew or bead or repurpose? And, perhaps worst of all, what on earth will she blog about if she isn't doing all those things?

A reasonably accurate likeness
of the insomniac, contentedly sewing ...

For now, everything has been packed away in large tubs and only a few small projects remain on the third floor staging table, which will also be heading down the terribly steep stairs very soon. After having made a mental list of all that needs to be completed before the Gothic Mansion goes on the market, one is very aware there will be no time for crafting. But leaving those few projects there on the table - just in case - made it a bit more bearable.

So although the insomniac  didn't collapse into a sniveling heap onto the Wilton carpets, she was saved from doing exactly that simply because there are no Wilton carpets in the attic. But her heart really wasn't into writing this week, so please enjoy this repurposed post from last summer, when the attic was still crammed full of potential craft projects, the hoard was still intact, and all was right with the world ... and marvel at the fact that 80% of that hoard has now been either re-thrifted or packed away.

Next week, the insomniac  will share an Easter recipe from her childhood years for The Professor's monthly homework assignment on Spring. And on the off-chance you've actually read the repurposed post and are curious about the current state of the attic sink - it still isn't clean. That job will be saved for the last possible second, in case there's time to squeeze in one last crafting project. No point in cleaning it twice ...

Until next time, the insomniac  wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams. Goodnight, my pretties.

IA


Post Script: It wasn't a completely terrible week though. The new towels for the Attic arrived, and they're awfully pretty. Also on the plus side, they don't weigh much and they're easy to pack. So that was nice.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Sophistiqué Noir Theme Post: Purple - Feat. the Gothic Mansion's Dining Room

VictorianKitty's theme for this month is purple which, after black, is the insomniac's  second favourite colour. Somewhat surprisingly, there's only one room in the Gothic Mansion painted that particular hue, making it the perfect choice for this post. However, the room in question was originally the youngest offspring's bedroom, and although she “technically” moved out three years ago, she recently moved back in. Again. The youngest possesses an uncanny sixth sense, and just when the insomniac  decides it's time to dig through the paint cans in the basement for the Benjamin Moore Victorian Purple to touch up the walls of her bedroom, she mysteriously appears on the doorstep, suitcase in hand. And within a matter of hours, it becomes all but impossible to open the door of that room wide enough to get inside, let alone obtain a picture of the beautiful purple walls or the carpet, which is once more submerged beneath layers of clothing, makeup and hairdressing appliances. Other than that minor annoyance though, it's always a delight to have her back home.

Therefore, in lieu of the Purple Bedroom of the Youngest Offspring, the Dining Room will be featured instead. It is painted an aubergine colour above the picture rail and is papered in Wm. Morris Vine with aubergine grapes, and has plenty of violaceous accents. This also seemed an opportune time to throw in a few “before renovation” shots, even though none of those include the colour purple; unless you count the pocket doors before stripping, which were painted something that might be loosely described as such.

Of all the rooms in the Gothic Mansion pre-restoration, the Dining Room had the least amount of damage. And the trim was painted black, which wasn't half bad. Visible through the window is a small portion of the rather impressive collection of used appliances on the veranda. Seven large dumpsters worth of appliances and other rubbish, to be precise.


Twenty-five years ago ...

Yesterday ...

Before ...

After ...

Then ...

For many years ...

Now ...

Purple ...

Purple ...

Purple ...

Purple ...

Purple ...

Purple ...

Pink.
Oops, wrong post ...

Purple ...

A heartfelt thank you to Ms. Kitty for hosting this month's theme - and for choosing purple. To further emphasize just how much the insomniac   loves the colour, she spent the day making a headboard from an old door, painted it aubergine and padded it with black velvet. It's for the youngest's bedroom - provided one can force the door open wide enough to get it in, that is. 

Until next time, the insomniac  wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams. Goodnight, my pretties.

IA