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!



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.


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!


First Snow

Can you believe we've had snow twice in the past couple of weeks?  Does it count as the first snow when it barely sticks to the ground?  I'm still in denial that winter's almost here.  I suppose it's the right time of year but it still feels too early!  It also reminds me of all the grown up things we need to do like change our tires and do something about the driveway at the new house so it's not slippery this winter.

This fall has flown and I'm a little sad that it's over but I keep reminding myself of all the cozy winter things that I love: Christmas (especially the lights and displays downtown); curling up with a good book or movie and a crackling fire; taking Rudy tobogganing, our (new) family tradition of a short winter getaway to Great Wolf Lodge.  Those are my winter happy thoughts!

We decided to embrace the cold weather the other day and bundle up for a nice long walk.  It's funny how kids don't seem to feel the cold because they're too busy exploring and being active.  We ended up having a lot of fun.  It's probably one of our last family walks in our current house.  Here are some photos if you'd like to see:

Farewell to Our New/Old House

Doesn't a house feel kind of sad when everything that once made it a home has been packed away?  Today we said goodbye to the house where we became a family.  It was really sad despite the fact that we're really excited for the new house.

I have so much to tell you about renovations and, well, everything!  I've probably started about a dozen posts outlining the hiccups we've experienced (there are always some) and the style and colours we've chosen and all the ideas we have!

It's been a crazy few weeks though and everything is more challenging with a toddler.  We're actually moving in stages, since our house still isn't quite ready.  We've been moving things to storage and visiting the new house to check on reno progress for weeks but the past week has been really intense!  Last Tuesday, our movers came to help us pack, but we had to leave some things out because our moving day wasn't until Saturday.  On Saturday, most of our belongings and furniture were moved to the basement at the new house.  We left Rudy's toddler bed at our old house and decided to stay as long as possible so Corey and I ended up sleeping on camping air mattresses and we made do without ANY FURNITURE for the rest of the weekend.  It was surprisingly unpleasant.  Today, we packed up what was left, left our buyers some treats and a note and moved in with my mom.  We'll stay here until our new house is ready for us.

In the note we left our buyers we told them that our house had been a happy one and had brought us a lot of luck and a lot of happy times and we wished the same for them.  If houses have karma, this one definitely has good karma.  Farewell old house!

This house has been much more than a house to us.  It has been the backdrop to the beginning of our family's story.  Here are just a few photos of some happy memories we've made here:

DIY Bath Table

Photo by Thea Menagh

I may have gone over a year without a proper tub when we first moved in (remember, we showered in the family room during our reno) but I've been making up for lost time by taking plenty of baths ever since!  There's nothing like a hot bath with a good book and a glass of wine to relax after a long day!  Our deep tub is one thing I'll really miss about our new/old house!

This post is actually from my archives but I wanted to post now since we left this table for our buyers (it fits the tub perfectly and is a great size to balance a glass of wine and a book or even a laptop) and I wanted to share it before I forget.

It was years ago when we visited the Aberfoyle Antique Market in search of a nice piece of reclaimed barn board.

After cutting it to size, sanding and securing some wood blocks to the bottom to keep it from sliding, it was nearly ready.

A little butcher block oil brought out the natural beauty of the wood.

We've enjoyed it for years but it was time to pass it on.

Speaking of baths, do you make time for them?  I started while I was pregnant with Rudy and never stopped!  I'm hoping the tub at the new house is half as comfortable as the tub we're leaving.

I have been loving this bath oil and  this bath foam.  The oil was a gift from a friend and smells so luxurious.  The foam smells so soothing and produces above average bubbles.

I read once that the trick for a super bubbly bath is to add a bit of bath gel along with a heavy stream of water from the faucet just as I'm beginning to fill the tub.  Then you make sure to move the mounds of bubbles to the back of the tub so there's room for more to form.  It actually works really well and I'm left with SO. MANY. BUBBLES!  Then I just sit back with a book and a glass of wine and pretend I'm Oprah or the queen... or someone who takes luxurious baths.

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