Sunday, February 23, 2014

Vancouver to Winnipeg

Oh Winterpeg.

After spending an hour shoveling a good foot of snow off my driveway in -30, it seemed like a good time to reflect on the past 6+ months since we uprooted our lives in Vancouver and made Winnipeg, Manitoba our home.

First things first, I want to make it clear that I knew as much about Winnipeg as I do about the planet Pluto (is Pluto still a planet?). I knew it's name (Winnipeg), what it is (a city in Manitoba), and that was about it. I probably thought about Winnipeg just as much as I think about the questionable planet of Pluto. Why would I need to? I lived in beautiful British Columbia, afterall.

Having absolutely no expectations of my own, they were set by the many people who shared their opinions with me. "Oh Jen, it's so cold your eyelashes will freeze shut together and you won't be able to open your eyes!".... "Jen, how are you going to survive? You complain when it's under +10 degrees Celsius!"..... "Oh, I'm so sorry.".... "Winnipeg? What's even there? What will you do?"... And on and on.

Thankfully, these comments helped set some ridiculously low expectations of Winnipeg, of winter, of our entire experience, which has thus far made for a rather pleasant one. You see, Winnipeg really is a great city. Is it Vancouver, (or White Rock)? No, most certainly not. But what it isn't, it also is. It's a great city full of {almost} every amenity you can think of, wrapped up nicely in a neat little package. There's no driving an hour to meet up for dinner with university friends who have since moved across the city. Almost everywhere is within 15 - 20 minutes. From the burbs to the boonies to the boozy epicentre of it all, it's all at arms reach.

I do indeed miss a lot of the natural beauty BC has to offer. The ocean, the mountains, the elevations, the cascading evergreens that climb past the clouds. British Columbia is a spectacular piece of this planet, one I've grown fond of more and more since I've left (you don't know what you've got til it's gone). On the other hand, life is busy. We (people like me) get so wrapped up in reality and daily going ons that taking in this spectacular setting provided to us by mother nature is an event, not a daily occurrence. I remember in the past couple of years taking the dogs down to Crescent Beach to run along the sandbars (well, when they were allowed to between Sept and May) and looking to my husband wondering why we didn't do it more often. Once, maybe twice a season we would do it. Why didn't we go regularly? The same reason we didn't go explore the historic building of Gastown, or the sea wall at Stanley Park, or the fresh market at Granville Island, more often that a couple of times a year. For us, living in the burbs and living life, these were events, not life. For us, moving to Winnipeg hasn't changed a whole lot of what we do day to day.

I know that there are those out there, particularly TRUE Vancouverites who don't move out of the city, who do take in all the city has to offer. To you, I bow my head, and say, stay where you are. There is plenty to enjoy in Winnipeg in the summer, but if you are a Grouse Grinder who enjoys 12 months of outdoor activity, you may not experience the same in Winnipeg.

For us, the transition has been surprisingly easy. Less the obvious reduction in social and familial activities due to being new to to the city, our lives haven't changed a whole lot. Is it cold? Sure is. Is it what I pictured -30 would feel like? Nope. I take the dogs out to go potty without a jacket on, and I live. It's cold, but if you're only outside in short bursts your body doesn't really experience the cold. Thankfully there's not much reason to be outside for longer than a minute at time, unless one is shovelling, in which multiple warm up breaks are required. The daily sunshine that pours through the windows and warms your cheek makes the months of cold worth it.

Cold aside, this city, like everything in life, is what you make of it. There are great festivals and galleries and events, and some of the best selection of food options I've seen within a city. There are lakes, tons and tons of lakes, within close proximity. We had a doggy injury which prevented us from enjoying lake weekends, but they truly are a Winnipeg thing. Lake life. Every weekend. How does it get better than that?

What's almost more exciting than the revelation that Winnipeg is, indeed, not a tiny little farm community, is that there is so much potential. A downtown where no one lives. A city of aging buildings waiting for rejuvenation. A population of people hoping for a place to be proud of. And it's happening. Slowly, but surely. And it's amazing to be here right on the cusp. Too see that potential slowly realized. And we can't wait.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Designing a Home, and White Marble Countertop Woes

When you live in a city that's in a seemingly perma-deep freeze, with no family members or big groups of lifelong friends to entertain you - crazy things happen. Crazy, like designing a house. Meh, why not? I guess you could say I've been dreaming up "the house" in my head for years now, but I officially started a secret Pinterest board end of last summer and have been pinning away ever since.

This inspiration board, however, is slowly creeping into a reality for me, and as much fun as it is, it's overwhelmingly scary. There are so very many decisions to be made, all for a house that I won't get to see nor experience until it's almost finished. What if I don't like the flow of the kitchen and the placement of vital drawers and cabinets? What if I splurge too much in one area, and scrimp too much in another?

My biggest challenge to date has been countertops. I've been dreaming of a creamy white and grey marble countertop since I was just an infant. Okay, probably not, but let's just say for a very long time. Long before they graced almost every single shelter mag. Long before they were absolutely everywhere. In my head, my dreams of a white kitchen just aren't complete without the natural beauty of marble.

The first obstacle I figured I'd face was cost.... yes, we are talking about a house in Manitoba, and for the rest of the world it may seem like a relative bargain, but, it's not. It IS a bargain if you want to compare to housing prices in Vancouver proper. It is still a bargain if you compare to the burbs. But it's not as inexpensive as you may think it should be (we were definitely shocked at the very stable and competitive new home market in Winnipeg when we moved here). For an example, check out this listing, and this one, and this one. Beautiful homes, under a mil, definitely a great opportunity, but this isn't House Hunters where you can buy a 4000 sq ft colonial mansion for $300,000 in Texas.

Okay, back to counters. I figured that marble was going to be obscenely expensive which would automatically make it easier to consider my runner up, quartz. Off I went to the kitchen store to look at samples with a quartz product in mind (Hanstone Tranquility) that tries to replicate the look of marble (but not really) to find out that said quartz product was MORE money than the marble! How on earth? And not just a little bit more, but significantly more! My heart jumped with glee! My dreams of marble were going to come true!

I headed home with visions of sugar plums dancing on my marble countertops in my head. And then it happened. The dreaded Google. I spent the better part of an entire weekend with my eyes glued to my computer screen, reading every last review I could find. The general consensus is that people love their marble and are happy they chose it (although there were quite a few who very much regretted their decision). Despite all those glowing reviews of happy marble owners, they almost all came with a warning. If you expect your countertops to look nice and new for as long as you have them, don't get marble. If you are a messy cook, don't get marble. If your kitchen sees quite a bit of wine, blueberries, coffee, citrus, tomatoes, etc on a day to day basis, don't get marble. My heart sunk to the bottom of my being. All the joy I felt from discovering that it was actually a less expensive option than some quartz, was completely squashed.

Source unknown because of bad Pinterest link.. do you know where it's from?

I don't want to have to baby my countertops. I don't want to have to wipe up every last drop of water the splashes up from the sink when rinsing dishes. I don't want ot have to put everything on my counter on to a hot plate or a towel or something to protect them. I mostly fear our espresso machine that we use every day and is prone to splashing espresso drops around.... or the red wine glass I leave on the counter every night when I'm too tired to wash it. And then there are the blueberry and greens smoothies I make everyday. But, mainly, I don't want to have to follow hubby (and future kidlets) around with a cloth wiping up their messes. I don't want to freak out at a dinner party if someone spills something and doesn't clean it up. Our kitchen is the most used place in our home. We never eat out. We cook two separate dinners every night together. I bake. My in-laws make massive batches of spaghetti sauce and can it for us when they are in town.

Another factor to consider is that this home will not be a forever home, which means we need to consider resale value. I'm guessing a four bedroom home will most likely end up in the hands of a family (or growing family) one day, which makes marble a risky option. I might be able to baby them to death for my love of marble - but will the next buyer? Will they pass on our house because it's too high maintenance? If we were putting them in a sexy penthouse in a downtown loft that would likely attract singles and professionals without kids, it wouldn't concern me much - but a family home? I just don't know.

So here I am, a big stress case trying to make smart, practical decisions while feeding my desire for interior aestecthics. So what do you think? What would you do?

And P.S - I've moved on from Tranquility as an option as it looks to grainy in person for my liking. Runner up to marble is Frosty Carrina.