We've hired the Palestinian painter who did work for us on our last two houses to finish painting our place. I can hear him in the other room, grunting as he deftly manoeuvres the roller. The house smells like paint and sweat.

We hire him partly for the meticulous job he does and partly for the opportunity to interact with an unusually kind and decent person. He waves aside offers of being paid up front: "What if I die before the job's done?" he roars. He goes outside for cigarette breaks between rooms and strikes up conversations with the neighbours.  When he takes time off, he heads up north to hunt. He's demonstrated a moose call for me, and given us packages of moose steak and hamburger. His favourite exclamation is, "Holy God!" said appreciatively, with a quick upwards glance.

The previous owners of our house were a writer and a window designer, artistic types who translated their creativity into the paint choices on the walls: bright orange, forest green and lime green, even on some ceilings. The house was designed by the first owner, an architect, and we're after a clean modern look that will do it justice. The whole thing's going to be the creamy side of white.

"We just moved, and I just had a baby," was my all-purpose excuse that I've just recently acknowledged to be outdated. The baby is eighteen months, and we've seen every season from our new house, some twice. In that time, I painted three rooms. Do-it-yourself home improvement projects with three kids are next to impossible.

I was a student for a very long time. I'm home with the kids three days a week. And I'm Dutch. Which have all contributed to a deep-seated notion that I have more time than money. I'm finally beginning to admit that the reverse is true; more because of competition for my time than an increase in earnings. And so I'm spending the morning decorating a gingerbread house with the kids while the painter works in the next room.

I go through periods of restlessness. During one such time, a few years ago, Pete and I considered a move to Paris or San Jose. In the end we bought a new couch, and it turned out that was all the adventure we needed. I've been feeling unsettled again, and here's hoping a creamy coat of satin paint over the entire house, applied by a particularly kind human being, will do the trick.