Staying Chic in the Face of Adversity

I am mostly kidding with that title. Not to mention being slightly hyperbolic by my use of the words “chic” and “adversity.” Okay, maybe “adversity” is not such a huge exaggeration. But chic certainly is. I perhaps should have said “staying clean, tidy, and reasonably normal-looking in the face of adversity.” But that would have made the title way too long. And not as interesting. Ha.

Look de la semaine.

Let me explain. We are in the middle of a major bathroom renovation. On our only bathroom. So we will be without a bathroom for up to three weeks. Or so we’ve been told. No bathroom, toilet, or shower for three weeks. Hence my use of the word adversity.

I know, I know. You’re thinking, “Who exists with only one bathroom these days?” Well… that would be us. At times over the years we’ve considered adding a second bathroom. Perhaps an ensuite? But an ensuite would be right beside the “family” bathroom, which sits between the two bedrooms, and that seemed like overkill when there are just the two of us in our small bungalow. We’ve also considered adding an extension, pushing the back wall of the house out into the backyard and making a much bigger main bedroom with an ensuite. But the cost and the mess and the bother of punching through the outerwall, of our “Boyd Block” bungalow seemed not worth the effort.

Boyd Block buildings are made from a special type of concrete blocks and are quite common in our local area. The blocks were manufactured in Osgoode, only a few kilometres from us, and many, many homes built, like ours, in the early and mid-twentieth century were made of Boyd Blocks. You can read a bit about the company history here. Sometimes when we ride our bikes around Osgoode we try to count the number of Boyd Block houses. There are a lot.

Anyway we ditched the bedroom extension idea. Instead we removed the tiny front porch and built a sunroom with a cathedral ceiling, windows overlooking the river, and a deck. Now that was money well-spent.

Besides, if we’d renovated to make a bigger bedroom, we’d probably have eschewed adding an ensuite and simply made the existing bathroom bigger. In which case we’d be in the same boat we are right now. From one bathroom down to none. Well, except for the blue one in the driveway. Yep. Our contractor has rented us a port-a-potty. Now you know what I mean by “adversity.”

Off to run an errand… to the wine store for needed supplies.

Any kind of reno in any size house is disruptive. But for us, we’ve lost the use of most of our house during the day.

The sunroom is now useless since we had no other areas to store supplies and fixtures as they were delivered. And the workmen come and go through the sunroom door, meaning that funny blue padded runner they use to protect floors and carpets runs right through our living room. And the installer and the plumber and electrician trudge in and out that way. The bathroom shares a small hallway with the two bedrooms, which we can’t really use during the day now, except to dodge through the sheet of plastic over the archway and into the bedroom to get clothes or makeup or whatever.

Living room furniture that might block passage for the workers carrying old fixtures and debris out and new fixtures, boards, drywall, tiles, and cabinets in now sits in the dining room. The dining room table is covered with a sheet and holds everything we emptied from our bathroom that we might need, including towels, shampoo, and the contents of the medicine chest. All my face creams and makeup supplies are on a dresser in one bedroom. And my clothes are in the other bedroom.

Not liking these old Chelsea boots with these jeans.

All this disruption means that I usually can’t remember where anything is, and since I’m always in a hurry to gather together what I need for the day before the workmen get started in the morning, I frequently make mistakes. And instead of interrupting their work and crawling over tool kits or some piece of machinery sitting in the small hallway to reach my closet and change one pair of boots or jeans for another, I just wear whatever I’ve grabbed at seven-thirty that morning. Resulting in outfit combinations that are okay, but not what I want to be wearing.

So it seems that now is not the time to resurrect outfits I liked three years ago, like the burgundy one above. Or to try to figure out which boots or shoes go best with my new wide-leg jeans. See above. I guess I could get up and try on outfits at seven-thirty in the morning instead of enjoying my second cup of tea and my book in peace before the workmen arrive. But you and I both know the tea and book will win everytime.

I have hit on a good going-to-physio, or for my Covid booster shot, or to a friend’s house for a shower outfit. My Everlane white tee, Adidas sweatpants, Veja sneakers, and my old Vince charcoal coat sweater. I’m really liking this outfit. It may become my go-to leaving-the-house-during-renovation outfit.

In fact this outfit prompted me to do some online shopping for sweatpants and cardigans during my spare time this week. And I confess to ordering this sweater from Everlane. Blame it on the reno, folks.

Mirrored window selfie on my way to physio.

Maintaining my hair and makeup in order to look reasonably normal has also been a challenge this past week.

I wash my hair when I take a shower at the neighbour’s or at my friend Marina’s a few minutes away. But I’ve pretty much given up worrying how it looks the next day. And just like during lockdown when we all had bad hair, strategically placed sunglasses or a hat hide a multitude of fly-away flatness or oddly shaped hair bumps. We do what we have to do, people.

Makeup has also been problematic. The only well-lighted areas with access to a mirror in our house are off-limits. So the morning I had to go for my Covid vaccine my mascara was clumped, my tinted moisturiser was streaky and there was too much of it, and I stuck my tight-liner brush into my eye, making me tear up so all the liner ran off into my eye. Seriously, it was time to rethink things. After that I simply wore eyebrow groomer, a dusting of my Bobbi Brown bronzer, and put my mascara on in the car. Next week, I plan to make myself a traveller cup of tea, pop on my audio book, and sit in the car to do all my makeup. Too bad I don’t have a portable straightening iron.

Minimalist make-up and hair solutions.

So minimalism will triumph for the next few weeks. It seems minimal makeup, athleisure dressing, and good-enough hair are the way to go. I laughed when I arrived at physio the other day. I found my outfit coordinated with the pavement in the parking lot. So at least I was matching something. Ha.

Hair, makeup, and outfits aside, there’s just one more adverse element to our current bathroom renovation situation. That little blue portable bathroom in the driveway.

But you know, I shouldn’t grumble. And mostly I haven’t been. The weather has been gorgeous. Cool at night, but in that lovely refreshingly brisk fall way. With a gorgeous moon each night. A couple of evenings after my last journey of the night before bed, I sat on the steps of our deck with the neighbour’s cat purring and keeping me company and just breathed.

When nature calls this is my reward.

I must add, though, that when Thursday dawned rainy and blowy I wasn’t quite so sanguine. And I may have sighed a few times as I pulled on my sneakers and rain jacket to journey outside when nature called.

Still, just like with camping, into every bathroom renovation, when one has a port-a-potty in the driveway, a little rain must fall. Or that’s what I keep telling myself.

P.S. Sorry that you didn’t receive this post via the usual Sunday morning email. My email delivery service is malfunctioning, and they don’t know why yet. Hopefully it will be cleared up soon.

P.P.S. There are a few affiliate links in this post, my friends. If you make a purchase after clicking my link I will earn a commision which helps to pay for the blog.


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44 thoughts on “Staying Chic in the Face of Adversity”

    1. Great idea. Except on the weekend we get peace and quiet because the builder doesn’t work. I am planning a midweek shopping getaway though. 😀

  1. Oh Sue! You have ALL my sympathy! I would be very grumpy. . . and I’d be very seriously considering previous commenter Susan’s suggestion of a getaway weekend! Although I know that sometimes it’s wise to be on site with a reno like this. Good luck! (and meanwhile, know that you look much chic-er than I’d ever manage under the circumstances!

  2. I feel for you. We had 4 months of renovations earlier this year with tradesmen tramping through our bedroom daily from 7 am onwards, scaffolding covering the entire back of the house making access to the clothes line and garage long and arduous, and the loss of use of our living room for a month, when the water-damaged ceiling and associated timbers were painstakingly replaced. But we retained use of our bathrooms throughout, so we were much better off than you. I would move out for a few nights if at all possible, somewhere close by, so that you can keep an eye on things. But three weeks will pass and you will have a beautiful new bathroom to enjoy.

  3. Dear Sue,I hear you and utterly  understand! More than ten years ago, we were changing roof,windows in both of two flats and building unfinished attic flat. It lasted for months,the first  builder started at 6 AM every day…… We’ve made a great mistake not moving all to the other (dislocated) flat (and it was completelly possible),it was very difficult (despite that we’ve had always a bathroom somewhere). My father and me both finished hating the constructor (6 AM? Really? ) and in poor health both….so,I agree with Frances and Maria! Take a weekend getaway and take care,my dear friend. Although,in three weeks time, you’ll have a new and beautiful bathroom!
    I quite like your new jeans and chelsea boots,it is not bad at all, and you look good,despite all the troubles. Thank God for friends and large cars

    1. Oh gad… 6am start would most definitely be a hardship in my books! Luckily our guy has to drop his kids off at school so he’s not here until 8:30 at the earliest. That suits my schedule just fine. I may be spending more quality time in my car then usual. 😆😆

  4. Some people thrive on renovations . My sister is one , she gets quite ‘ high ‘ on the upheaval of it all , the excitement of major changes . Not me . We had a dog once who hated having her bed cleaned out . She would run round fretting over her blankets on the washing line & cry to have her little ‘nest’ back in place . That’s me . So I feel for you . We kept putting off our new bathroom until it was becoming a health hazard . Like you , we only have one . Our house is old & that’s how things were then . When I was a teenager there were six of us with one bathroom & that was luxury to us . As a small child there was NO bathroom & we sat in front of the sitting room fire in a portable tin bath – the good old days in 1950s England ! As you say , when there’s only two of you one bathroom isn’t a problem & there are too many good books to read for me to be scrubbing out a number of bathrooms . Anyway , we finally got round to it about five years ago & used a plumber recommended by a very trustworthy ( ie very particular ) friend . It so happened he was only available whilst we were away in Scotland but after reassurance from my friend we took the risk . There were a few hiccups whilst we were away but they were easily sorted by phone calls & mails . We arrived home to a lovely new bathroom with the old one sat in a skip on the drive awaiting collection . I feel for you with your outside loo as our only loo was outside when I was a child – not good in the snow ☹️ But three weeks will fly by & it will all be worthwhile . I’m looking forward to seeing the end result .

    1. Hopefully the outside bathroom will be gone by the time the snow flies. Ha. I’m with you on the cleaning thing. How do people manage when they have three bathrooms to clean? Maybe that’s just us, Wendy. Every time I am in someone’s huge, beautiful new home, I admire it, but shudder to think of keeping it clean. Small is beautiful if it gives me more time to do other stuff.

  5. Your title made me laugh! Zero adversity here at the moment, but we do have bathroom renovations scheduled for early 2023. (Kitchen too … lots of upheaval in one fell swoop.) I am nowhere near as chic as you at the best of times, so I’m not sure where that’s going to leave me when our house is under siege …

    1. I remember our kitchen reno. Stove and fridge moved to the dining room. Everything else moved somewhere we couldn’t find it! I was still working, so I got to say goodbye to the chaos every morning. A real plus.

  6. Argh. We had 9 weeks of bath renovation several years ago – possible for the 3 of us (me, husband, daughter) living here then because there is a second bath, but it was still SO HARD. For one thing the 2 dogs were anxious to participate in their own separate ways, and one of the two exits from the house was to an unfenced access to busy street area that would have been disastrous if the dogs got out that way. I don’t think I could have done it with a port-a-pot and borrowed showers, it would have been short term rental time for our family!

    So you all sound very brave. I will say that I love our new bath, appreciate it every day!


    1. Well, I’d call us brave. But Hubby would say that I’m overreacting. Ha. Except he didn’t look so pleased to be heading out in the cold rain first thing this morning.

  7. We just did our main bathroom. Full gut. My husband said 10 days…more like a month. Finishes still going in but 99% done and usable. Love it. Looking back did I really fall for the ten days ruse? Our tile guy missed some time due to vacation etc which extended it. Luckily we have a full 2nd bath on different level but it’s away from bedrooms so it was still a pain shifting stuff, routine and having rooms full of tools, buckets and materials. All were happy when mostly done, routines restored and tools gone. I don’t have an en suite either and wish I did but the hubby says the existing plumbing stack just doesn’t reach and it would take major work and expense to tie in. Boo hiss. Can’t wait to see your finished project.

  8. oh lookie – I see that I’m your 1001st instagram follower ! Thank you for your blog musings and insights, and now for your photo quips as well. Good luck with the reno. at least you will be nearby (very, ha) to keep a check on the progress. Fondly, from Phoenix.

  9. I feel your pain. I am currently trying a bathrm refresh not as extensive as yours and I must say that I do not put as much effort into my appearance as you do. Hope they make the 3 wk timeline and that the time passes quickly for you-Mary Lou

    1. I am settling into the reno routine now. And next week a friend and I will be away shopping for a couple of days. So I think the time will pass quickly.

  10. Your porta-potty reminds me of the toilet (wooden one holer) down the back of my Aunt’s London row house. The only “toilet” – no bathroom in the house for a family of four. Just as Wendy remembers the 1950s in parts of England–they only a portable tin bath that was set up on Saturday nights. How I hated to use that one holer when we visited. Had to go outside down a tall, narrow brick alley to access it (worse still, it backed up to a cemetery). Freezing cold in the winter. Toilet paper was almost as rough as the wood seat. My aunt didn’t get indoor plumbing until 1965. Hoping you at least have some softer TP in your porta-loo. Best of luck with the reno. Last year, I had workers in my house for four months–two bathrooms gutted, all interior and exterior doors replaced and all rooms on the main floor patched and painted. But at least they did the bathrooms one at a time and all the workers were terrific. A saving grace.

  11. I knew a woman who lived in a big Boyd Block house in Osgood, it had been the local doctor’s house. Coming from Toronto I had never seen this construction before but it’s pretty common in Eastern Ontario. For resale purposes alone I would have considered a second bath…friends are trying to sell a two bedroom ‘cottage’ in the heart of old Ottawa town. It has an awesome recently renovated family bath but they are not getting any interest after five weeks on the market…said they wished they had thought to add #2 loo at some point. I know, two bedrooms who needs a second bath…ME! On our hunt for a condo the deal breaker is only one bath or one bath and a powder room. Oddly, for my husband the deal breaker is no in suite laundry!! Not sure why as he doesn’t’ do the laundry:)
    Good luck with your reno I’ve been through two full house guts over the years ( one 1200 miles away from Ottawa! Long distance reno that’s what separates the strong from the crazy!) and it’s living in a war zone for sure but so worth it in the end!

    1. I’d never heard of Boyd Block until I moved in with Hubby. But it sure makes for difficult renovations. Which is why we’ve been judicious about changing outside walls.

  12. Sursum corda!
    We have endured an 18 months renovation. Never again! 8 weeks sans bathroom (a communal shower in the basement), a toilet ont the 2nd floor, no kitchen for 5 weeks, no view for 9 months. Some really fun moments : the first day with workers at the bedroom windows ( not something we were used to on the 6th floor ;-). The facade staircase without walls (windy ;-)) for 3 weeks (no lift obviously), the incessant moving of the furniture, paintings and books. Let’s say I’m not at my best in the face of adversity: I’m murderous. It was a good life lesson.

    But the joy of a new bathroom is real, you might even forget the “ordeal” of the renovation. Eventually 😉

  13. Your hair and makeup look so pretty in your first photo!
    Please share what lipstick/ gloss you are wearing; I have your coloring, and want to copy your look.

    1. Thanks. Most days I just wear a colourless lip balm from Maybelline called “Baby Lips.” It was recommended by a cosmetician friend. And the day I took that picture, I dabbed on a touch of my Bobbi Brown “pot rouge for cheeks and lips” in “pale pink.” I find it has a bit too much colour alone. So I put on the balm first.

  14. I wondered what had happened as this new post didn’t pop up in my inbox, did anyone else have the same thing ? I feel for you going through bathroom renovations without at least a second cloakroom. We had ours done a couple of years before Covid, we do at least have a second bathroom, I really don’t know how we would have managed otherwise. For me the worst part was the dust ! They put up a plastic curtain while they were breaking up the old tiles but it didn’t stop the dust going everywhere, and I would pointlessly clean up every time. Another thing , I hate, like you, is having to be up bright eyed and bushy tailed when the workmen turn up and having to forego my tea and book in bed. However, it was all worth it and I still get a buzz from my lovely new bathroom, and so will you. And then the next year we gutted the kitchen ! Also worth it !

    1. Sorry about that Maisie. The emails did not go out on Sunday. I’ve been in touch with Mail Chimp, the service I use, and they are blaming it on my blog host. So my next stop is with them. I’ll contact them tomorrow. There’s only so much tech trouble I can handle in one day. I like to space it out! Ha. Hopefully everything will be fixed by Saturday when I post again. It’s frustrating because of the number of subscribers I have I had to upgrade to a paid email service. It was free for years. But the only benefit I can see of paying for the email service is that I can ask them for help. And each time I have in the past few weeks they have been stumped. “Sorry… everything on our end seems to be working fine, must be someone else’s fault.” I may be looking for a new email service soon. Sigh.

  15. This may be the only blog post I’ve ever read I can relate to! I’m sorry about your bathroom reno. We did ours ourselves ten years ago, starting on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving with demo of the very old tile, and aiming to have it retiled the following Monday. Yup, six days later. Needless to say it didn’t happen(my husband hit an electrical thingy with the Sawzall). We had two girls at home, plus the two of us, and we have a bathroom and a half bath in the basement (known as the cats’ bathroom). I hate renovations so much, and whine the whole time. I’d love to redo the bath again to take out the tub and put in a shower instead but it’s not happening. I think the next thing will be replacing the carpet with hardwood floor in the dining/family room, but we will have to rent a Pod and move 15 pieces of furniture into it. You look better than I did when we didn’t have a shower at home!

    1. We had our wall-to-wall carpet replaced with hardwood a few winters ago. Lots of moving of furniture and then replacing it in rooms that are finished and moving out the next room. But they did it all in three days so that was great. Renovations are NOT for the faint of heart!

  16. Poor you! I have spent the better part of my marriage, 40 years, living through new builds, renovations, ice storms, frequent power outages, etc. I certainly can understand the stresses involved. We have never met, but I live just down river from you off Firefly Lane. If it’s a particularly overwhelming day and you just need a hot shower or bath, you are welcome to use our guest bath.
    By the way, I enjoy your blog! Good luck.

    1. Thanks for the kind offer, Jane. Our lovely next door neighbours have offered their shower to us anytime. Ice storms… now that does cast my mind back. We were nine days without power. I eventually went back to work and used the girls’ locker room at school for showers. Poor Hubby was here keeping the fires burning in our two wood stoves so the pipes didn’t freeze. Fun times! Ha.

  17. I understand what your going through because our home is also one bathroom and a 2 bedroom cottage. Three years ago we had a new bathroom installed. Thankfully my husband bought us camping supplies. We had a camping toilet in the bedroom for when the workman were here and boy, did that come in handy!! We also had a portable shower in the back and the water was so cold but we we’re clean in the summer weather in Arizona!!! I also cheated and had two showers at my bestfriends house!! Hot water!!! Yeah!!! I pray you survive and are happier with your bathroom!!! I think you look best with the minimum make-up!!!

  18. Your post brings back memories. In our last house we did a complete reno and the only room not touched was the upstairs toilet. My abiding memory of the event was Christmas dinner. The builder hastily installed the oven on Xmas Eve so I could cook but there was us, our three children, my parents plus a visiting aunt and cousin from Scotland all living in the same house over Christmas and New Year. I couldn’t find half the things I needed as everything was in boxes all over the place. Luckily my lovely aunt had severe jet leg so didn’t notice the chaos. My sanity was severely tried that year but it made for good stories afterwards.

  19. I’m a bit late at this party – but oh yes, does this bring back memories! We had our one bathroom completely gutted and renovated in April of this year. We had to get out completely while it was being gutted but once the loo was in we went back and had showers at my daughter’s house which fortunately was nearby. It took 3 weeks altogether before it was finished. Glad to hear you’re getting away from it all!

    1. Three weeks for us too… and I am getting “out of Dodge” this week. So looking forward to a few days in a hotel with indoor bathroom and a shower. 🙂

  20. i must admit as a serial renovator, i have been in your shoes many times. I kind of enjoy it though, in a spirit of the blitz kind of way and know my builders very well. one of them calls me his surrogate mother (real one is in ireland) when they have seen you wandering around in your dressing gown regularly the friendship develops quickly!

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