12.1.17

Family Room Transition


It's been a while and I found myself itching to post something today.  The house is still far from finished (and I'll go into more detail on all the work being done in other posts) but our contractors are finally gone (until the next job...) and we're finally able to start enjoying our new home.

In our last house, we had the luxury of doing a lot of the work ourselves.  Corey actually spent most nights and weekends working on the house while I clocked extra hours at work.  This time around, we have a rambunctious toddler and Corey needs his evenings and weekends to devote to her.  Instead of allowing the renovations to take forever, we decided early on to hire contractors to help us with the work.  It's been great in some ways but it's very invasive living with people constantly working in your home.  It's actually been a really tough and stressful month and things have felt a bit strained but we're taking a break between big projects and it's a treat to be able to hang out and relax at home.

Those of you who follow me on Instagram, have probably already noticed the house coming together.  I don't think any of the rooms are finished yet but I'm excited to share the progress we've made on our family room.

In our old house, our family room/playroom is probably where we spent most of our time.  It's funny because I think it was the last room that we finished and it took us ages to even realize that it was going to be a family room.  For the first couple of years in the house, we had no idea how to use the space but once we figured it out, it was hard to imagine how we'd ever lived without it!

When we first saw this house, I was excited to find the potential to have another main floor family room!  We knew this time around it would be one of the first rooms we worked on.  Of course, we never choose the easy path and, if you notice in the floor plan below, our family room was actually two rooms separated by a wall and with two sinks and a bunch of built-in cabinets because the former owner was a denturist.

It was hard to get a photo because of the extra walls but check out the sinks and that awful peel and stick floor!




We had our contractors tear out the cabinetry and walls and replace the floor before painting.  While we loved our old toy storage system, we wanted a cleaner look for our new house.

Before I post the photos I want to reiterate that this is not the finished room.  We still have sooo many ideas from alphabet wall decals and art to another climbing wall and I'm really excited to continue working on this space.  At the same time, I don't want to wait for months to share so here's a look at our family room as it is today, in all its half-finished glory!

We bought a sectional, which converts to a Queen bed to allow the room to do double duty as a guest room.  We ordered it ages ago but it just arrived today and I already love it!  Corey's always wanted a sectional but we were aware of the small size of the room.  Oversized furniture that overwhelms a small space is one of my pet peeves, so we kept the dimensions apartment-size.  I know some of you are going to think we're crazy opting for such a light fabric but we're not big eaters in the family room and the fabric comes with a really good stain warranty!


We prefer to have our TV in the family room rather than the living room.  We added extra storage units above and below.  The unit below is filled with toys and puzzles and Rudy is so excited about it.  I'll show off how we organized it in another post!


A tall Ikea unit provides even more space for toy storage on the bottom, books in the middle and toddler art supplies up high and out of Rudy's easy reach!


We love Rudy's new play table and so does she.  It's a great place to colour or work on puzzles or blocks and we went ahead and got lots of chairs for future playdates.  Keeping it pushed against the window leaves plenty of floor space for dancing, twirling and general fun!


... Or building towers with daddy!


I look forward to sharing more as we continue to make progress!

1.1.17

How We Spent Our Holidays


I hope you and your family have enjoyed the holidays this year.  I feel like our family has been sick on and off for most of December, but I suppose that's to be expected with a toddler in school!

We try to avoid decorating for the holidays until after we celebrate Rudy's birthday.  We were still unpacking (still are, to be honest.) but we threw up the tree and stockings anyway.  Rudy loved taking off the ornaments and hiding them in her backpack!

Like last year, we took Rudy to visit Santa again.  She doesn't seem at all nervous around him, but we take her for a half-hour Santa experience at Sherway Gardens.  It's amazing because he reads a small-ish group of kids a story and chats with them and even plays a game.  By the time you take a photo, they've had time to get comfortable with him.  Rudy was fighting a cold and was trying hard to stay awake but she still seemed to have a good time... although that's not totally evident in the photo.


We got SO MUCH SNOW this December!  Of course, we'd get all the snow in the year that we finally have a large driveway to clear.  Corey bought a snow blower and Rudy discovered the fun of playing outside with the dogs.


Rudy's school closes for two and half weeks and we were having some messy work done in the house so we escaped to Great Wolf Lodge just before Christmas.  Rudy loves it every time, and Corey and I also have a blast just seeing everything through her eyes.  She loved howling like a wolf and looking at the waterpark from the third-floor window and just saying "Whoooah!" in an awestruck voice!


She also loved deliberately walking under the sprinklers and getting her head wet as well as standing over the fountains so the water could spray up her shorts.  It was hilarious!


We came home just in time for Christmas Eve and the first night of Chanukah.  We lit the candles and hung our stockings and watched old Christmas musicals on the projector.


Rudy got a few small gifts (a wind-up lizard, a bouncy ball... just small things.) from Santa in her stocking and one Christmas and one Chanukah gift from us.  The rest of the family spoiled her.  She tends not to like to have too many choices all at once though and after opening about three of the six gifts in her stocking, she walked away from it saying "All done, okay?"  Our sweetheart doesn't need much to be happy- I hope we'll be able to say that for a long time.


Over the rest of the break, there were family parties and dinners with friends.


We even attended a "paint nite" party, organized by friends.  It was really fun... even if we didn't end up with masterpieces!


Which brings us to the last night of Chanukah, which also happened to be New Year's Eve.


I've been reflecting on 2016 and it really has been a whirlwind.  The world lost some great people this year (as we do every year) but, for our family, there have been a lot of good memories from this past year and I prefer to focus on those.  When we think of our friends and family, we feel lucky to have shared in many happy adventures: from babies born and weddings to remarkable new careers and trips around the world!

We began 2016 with a family wedding: Corey's identical twin got married and we inherited an awesome sister-in-law.  We were all in the wedding... even Rudy!  Here's a photo of the three of us.

Shortly after, Corey went back to work from parental leave and ended up on a very specialized team within his field.  He worked on some really interesting sites- I'm really proud of him!

We added to our family again: this time with a naughty orange kitten named Cricket.  He's a little devil but oh so cute and you can read about him in this post.

I had a busy spring at work but we still managed some family outings to the zoo and science centre.

By late spring, we moved Rudy to a closer school.  She was sad to say goodbye to her teachers and it took her a few weeks to get the hang of a new school but she loves it now and is so confident there.  Each morning, she insists on carrying her own backpack and marches straight into her classroom.

By summer, we were taking Rudy camping and in late August we headed out to Banff for our best family trip ever!  We saw bears, elk and mountain goats up close and even walked on a glacier.  You can read about our trip here.

In the fall, we bought a house (which surprised even us!) and our free time was spent preparing to sell our new/old house and packing to move.

Our December has been so busy!  After moving, battling colds and stomach flu and living through renovations all month, (which is REALLY taxing on our nerves and has been a real challenge,) we weren't up for much celebrating on New Year's Eve.  Rudy went to bed at the normal time while Corey made this delicious lamb bolognese for us.  We ate and toasted and watched movies in bed.  I think I was asleep long before midnight.  It seems appropriate that the year should end with us facing lots of renovations and hard work and obstacles, but feeling happy and excited for the adventures to come.

I know that social media is tricky and sometimes it feels like everyone else is living this amazing, picture-perfect life, but 2016 brought us our share of disappointment and challenges too.  We were especially heartbroken after some attempts to add to our little family left us grieving.  Still, looking back, the good overwhelmingly outweighs the bad and we feel very fortunate to be here: healthy, together and optimistic.

Photo by Crista Lee Photography

We wish you and your families health and happiness in 2017.  We can't wait to share it with you.

Photo by Crista Lee Photography

10.12.16

If These Walls Could Talk...


... They'd tell you they couldn't breathe because of all the wallpaper plastered all over them!  That's, right- after learning that we weren't going to immediately expand the second floor, we then encountered hiccup number two!

Our plan was to get Rudy's room ready for us before our move-in date at the end of November.  We had just taken possession and Corey visited the house to start stripping wallpaper from Rudy's room.  We knew the entire house was covered in it, but we figured we'd work on one room at a time.

Well, Corey had been working on Rudy's room for an hour and barely made any progress when he called me, completely exasperated.  There were at least three layers of wallpaper everywhere (even the ceilings) and some of the layers were plastered and/or painted!  It was time to hire the pros.  Corey and I are avid DIY-ers but we know our limits.  We interviewed a few companies the next day and within days, the work had been started.



We had them remove as much wallpaper as possible, skim the rest so the walls and ceilings are smooth, remove the cabinetry and a wall in what will be our family room, do a little drywall work and paint the house.  The company we hired ended up doing a great job (we loved them) and now our walls are smooth and the house is really coming together.

We're so excited to show you the finished product but, we ended up doing much more work than we had planned to do before moving in, which means that we had to bunk with my mom for a few days.  This puts us a little behind schedule but we're still on track to be mostly settled in by the new year.

Luckily, my mom was a good host and helped a lot with Rudy, so our time with her wasn't too bad.  Now we're finally starting to move in and even decorate a little for Christmas!  Lots of pics to come!

9.12.16

Two!


Our Rudy just turned two!  It's so cliché, but I can't believe it was two years ago that we were brand new parents without any idea of what was in store.  Rudy has certainly turned our world upside down, but these have been the best years of our lives!

This is also my favourite age so far!  Rudy's such a real person that I can't get over it!  It seems like every day Corey or I have a new funny or amazing story about her to share with the other.  I saw an old friend a couple of weeks ago and she asked me about Rudy's personality.  I'm ashamed to say that she stumped me a bit because I had no idea how to describe Rudy other than to say that she's a tornado.  I've been reflecting on her question ever since and here's how I describe her:

Remember when I was pregnant and I called her Bruiser?  It was because she was so insanely strong and big and she'd stretch out and all of a sudden I would have new stretch marks and bruises on my stomach.  Well, she's still like that a bit:  She is very adventurous and she likes to explore and climb everything in sight.  If there's something small/sharp/electric or otherwise dangerous, she's already found it!  She regularly falls or bumps her head and just shakes off and keeps going.  She's tough as nails!

She's also so sweet and affectionate and she often just stares into my eyes and strokes my face.  When Corey cuddles with her and gently rubs her back, she reaches her little arm around him pats his shoulders.  She also loves to give us kisses and quick hugs before getting back to playing.

Rudy is fiercely independent and loves to do things on her own.  At school, she loves washing her own dishes and at home she sweeps the floor, waters plants and gives the dogs water.  She insists on carrying her own bag into school each day.

Her language is a little slow coming but she has more words each week and never has a problem communicating.  She loves to "read" books and sing songs but has always also had her own language.  Even if she knows how to express something in words, Rudy's far more physical and prefers to take us by the hand and lead us there.

Rudy's very mechanically minded and loves blocks and tools.  She loves to use a real screwdriver to screw nails into wood- She's just like her dad!

What else can I tell you about her?  Well, her teachers say she's really focused in school and can't wait to get started on her "work" each morning.  She can be a bit shy in large groups but at home we see an awesome sense of humour.  She is pretty confident and likes to applaud her own accomplishments with some clapping and a loud "Yay!"  What a girl!

For Rudy's birthday, we decided not to have a party.  The move has been crazy enough and we're only just starting to move into our new house.  Also, she's still not a huge fan of crowds and we thought she'd prefer if we gave her a day with both parents, which has been rare lately between the move and my work schedule.

Of course, we ended up running a gazillion errands with her (as you do when you both have a day off from work.  Our "to do" list included items like: get winter tires put on both cars, buy more baby gates, exchange the bathroom mirror etc.) but we also managed an hour at the zoo.  We also bought some Bubble Guppies balloons for Rudy and she loved running around with them saying "Weeeeee!" so we could have taken her anywhere and it still would have been the best day ever!




We're still setting up the house and are doing the bare minimum in terms of Christmas decorating this year (hence the sparse living room and tiny fake tree) but we are making an effort with Rudy's new room.  It's not quite finished but she already loves it.  She was so excited about it tonight that she hugged me and said "thank you"- I almost cried!  We'll share photos soon.


7.12.16

The Power of Staging

Photo by Thea Menagh

Since we sold our home, I've had a lot of questions from friends and agents alike about whether it was staged.  I had other agents ask if we "lived like that all the time" to which I replied "Certainly not!"  What I restrained myself from saying was  "We're ordinary people with a toddler and pets.  There are usually trails of crushed Cheerios and dog slobber throughout the house!  You're seeing the STAGED version."

You see, when most people think of staging, they think of impersonal, bland rooms... sort of like a stock photo.  In reality, good staging often adds interesting and unique accents and often even incorporates a home owner's own furniture and style into the look.  While it would be lovely if every house looked like an issue of House and Home, depending on the price point, neighbourhood, buyer profile and existing furniture, it's not always necessary for a home owner to remove all their furniture and rent modern furniture in order to sell for top dollar.  In the end, the purpose of staging isn't to sell the furniture or produce a magazine worthy spread, but to show how large and functional a home is and perhaps to suggest uses for rooms or offer a glimpse of a certain lifestyle.

Can this be attained without replacing all the furniture in a home?  Often it can, and it worked for our own home.  Look at the bedroom (top photo), for instance.  Would I have loved photographs of a bed with a gorgeous tufted headboard?  Sure, but instead I just piled on the pillows and used art to add interest and height.  I bought a white duvet cover but used our regular bedding and pillows underneath.  I did remove our night tables (and used lovely but not-so-practical end tables) but only because we had already decided not to take them to our new house.

So many of you have asked about the importance of staging and I really believe that at least some degree of decluttering and staging is really important.  It pairs well with professional photography and strong marketing, so I decided to write this post to illustrate my point.

Do you ever see those websites with bad real estate photos, which are mostly either just corners of dark empty rooms or they look like they were taken with phones?  I see so many listings each day and you wouldn't believe how many terrible photos I see (sometimes even in luxury listings)... and there's really no excuse for them!

Here's a quick look at the process of getting a space ready for MLS.  Actually, I wish I had taken a first photo of the room BEFORE a lot of furniture was moved downstairs to the storage locker.  This client didn't want her things stored off-site so we relied on her locker and stored as much there as possible.  It still left us with a lot of her own furniture (which was fine) but I decided to add some lighter pieces as well so the room would feel less heavy and dark.  Here's a photo after we'd moved out as much furniture as possible.


And here's a look after I brought in some modern and light accessories to jazz the place up.  I worked with what my client already owned but created the feeling of more space and more seating options for a prospective buyer to envision.  Doesn't the room look bigger already?


Still, there's something missing and that's where a professional photographer comes in.  Here's a look at the magic a good real estate photographer can create.  While this unit was no larger than the other 1 bedroom units in the building (many of which sat on the market for weeks while their price eroded) this unit attracted multiple offers within days, with feedback that it "felt" larger than other units.

Photo by Thea Menagh

Here's another example (below) of the master bedroom, which was lightly staged (some heavy furniture removed, throws, art and flowers added) but this photo was taken on my phone:


Not bad, but the room REALLY shines in the professional photo:

Photo by Thea Menagh
Much larger and more serene, right?  It makes me want to hire my photographer to show you our new house because my photos will just never come close!  ;)

More Baby Succulents (And A Cute Idea)


Remember when I grew succulents from cuttings?  Well, I planted those and started another batch and now I have quite a little window garden.




They look lovely in my milk glass jars.

Rudy's birthday is coming up and her school does not allow parents to send edible treats for safety reasons.  Instead, they ask that parents send either a book or a plant to celebrate a birthday.  I was actually thinking of sending one of these succulents but I looked up non-toxic plants and I may send a Christmas cactus instead.  I love the idea that it will always bloom for her birthday!


Note: We opted for the (non-toxic) Christmas cactus to send to school with Rudy.  We also bought her one for her room at the new house since she loves watering the plants at school so much.  Rudy helped us transplant both tonight and it was a lot of fun!

A Change of Plans



Ahhh, our new house plans!  We've learned over the years that sometimes plans go awry and we have already faced one reality check with our new house: Every reno can cost SOOOO MUCH when you have an old house.

Of course, we knew this when we bought the house and we always keep in mind that we shouldn't buy something based on what it could be unless we are 100% certain we can make that dream come true.  We bought our house knowing that we loved it as is, but we did have some hopes that maybe we could add some square footage by bumping out the top wall in the "master bedroom" shown in the floor plan.  The second floor is only a half storey and the bedroom shown as a "master" in the floor plan has really sloped ceilings.  We were hoping we could extend the wall and add a bathroom and some extra closet space.

We were prepared to go through the planning and permit process and to fork out a hefty sum for the work.  Unfortunately for us, we soon learned that bumping out a wall in such an old house was almost as involved as entirely rebuilding the second floor.  Faced with a price that was more than our budget, we've decided to wait a couple of years for our dream second floor.  By that time, we may be looking to rebuild the second floor and maybe give ourselves an extra bedroom to add even more value to our house.

In the meantime, Corey and I will be sleeping in the bedroom marked as the "3rd bedroom" on the floor plans, which has less floor space but higher ceilings.

Of course, we were a little bummed initially, but now we're excited to save and save for a huge second floor one day!

Now that I've shared what we're NOT doing right away, I can't wait to show you the changes we've already made to our new house.  I know this post is a bummer but I want to show you the honest side of renos because sometimes things don't work out according to plan.  We roll with the punches just like everyone else! ;)

Photos of the new house soon!

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