Usually we have great food in Montreal. This time, we screwed up. We did our usual St. Viateur bagel run, which was, of course, excellent. Toasted, with butter and cream cheese (no lox, please. I know. We are probably losers, but fish just doesn’t work for us as a breakfast food.) So delicious. So bad for us. But other than that, well, we didn’t score. For some inexplicable reason, we went to House of Jazz on that Saturday night and I won’t even go into all the ways that this outing alarmed and depressed me. The expensive and tasteless duck confit was the least of my problems that night. On the way home from Montreal, we bought groceries and ate poached eggs at a diner. So no. Not much to talk about there.
So I’m changing the subject! I like to buy weird things for my weird house. Just in case you’re a reader who hasn’t had the opportunity to be bored by my highly detailed renovation monologues, the short version is that we sold our tiny big city house and bought a gigantic small town house. We spent the first six months of our new life here renovating. Full-time. We hired people to do some jobs, but did much of the work ourselves, having renovated our previous house and gained some experience. It’s turned out pretty well, considering. The house itself, which is part of a set of townhouses in the central section of a good-sized town, was built in 1863 by an Irish Catholic banker named Murphy. It has a historical designation and is, as far as I’ve seen, unique in terms of small town archicture. First, Murphy built the central section, which is a (sort of) federal style with a large central hallway with rooms on either side. Then he started adding on and selling smaller units to his friends. Based on descriptions of events here, including a costume ball in the 1880s and the occupations of the inhabitants, which include “gentleman”, this was the place to live in the mid to late 19th century. We’ve heard from people around town that they were, pretty much, a junk heap during the 70s and 80s, until someone fixed them up somewhat in the 90s, but these old buildings are so strong that it’s held up remarkably well. The bones – 10 foot ceilings, huge principal rooms, a great layout, never go away.
As we tore out and deconstructed, we discovered that much of the original structure was intact underneath the terrible, filthy carpeting (don’t ask. You really don’t want to know.) There were some strange surprises, like the strange rectangular hole in the dining room wall that someone had cleverly disguised with a cheap mirror, but there were some lovely surprises too, like the original, wide-plank, pine flooring upstairs. Underneath all the cheap frippery-frappery that people use when they renovate a house without love, there was a beautiful old building. We’re not done, but we have taken a renocation for awhile. There’s still some shit we need to deal with, including a mysteriously stinky basement (one of two different, disconnected basements in this house, oddly) and a very very ugly upstairs bathroom.
One of the things we did was hire a contractor to rip out and rebuild the kitchen for us, since we aren’t up to that kind of task. He and I designed the layout and colouring of our kitchen, going for what I like to call “upper-middle-class 1970s England meets traditional Scandinavian” as opposed to the simpler mid-century orphanage style of our previous house. He did a beautiful job, and we now have blue cupboards, butcher-block counters, and a white silgranite sink. Oh, and also a very silly Caloric gas stove from about 1979, which, in fact, has turned out to be the best range I’ve ever owned, in terms of gentle steady heat.
Anyway, my main indulgence in life is buying presents for my house. Because I tend to anthropomorphize the buildings I live in, I actually do feel like I’m buying little gifts that are not for me exactly. The latest ridiculous purchase, which prompted an eye roll from both husband and daughter, is a set of antique knife rests in the shape of a basset hound. I mean, seriously. How could I resist? Basset hounds and another piece of useless antique equipment. Come on. It had to be done.
I also bought a $10 tea towel, but it’s better not to talk about that.