Friday, December 23, 2011

6 months :)

December 23rd, 2011
Today marks 6 months since Joe and I got married.

I have so often heard that the first year of marriage is the hardest. I have also heard that divorce most often happens in either year 1 or year 2 of marriage. I have to say it... married life is awesome! It's hard for me to even imagine how these statistics are possible. But I guess I'm just lucky. For me, my first 6 months have been easy. I assume that will continue on because I am still so insanely happy. And as far as I know, Joe is, too!

Since we first met, things have felt "too good to be true" with Joe. I remember at first wondering if there was a catch...he couldn't be so great. And things couldn't be so right! I STILL look at Joe with awe and wonder how I got a guy like THAT! He's kind and generous and thoughtful and hard-working and sensitive and fun and healthy and loving and so on and so on... and on top of all that...I think he's pretty cute! I've never been treated so well by someone. I feel like Joe spoils me. He has this endless and abundant energy and zest for life. He is definitely quirky... but I love him to pieces!  He inspires me to be a better person every day. He has never left me feeling disappointed. I'm still getting used to just. being. happy. No catch.

Here is a picture of the day that life with Joe became official :) I'm looking forward to the next 6 months and the rest of our lives together. Love this guy!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Thrifty Thrifty Thrifting!

It will come as no surprise to those of you who know me that I love to thrift. In fact, I'd say the majority of my furniture (and clothing! And, well, everything!) comes second hand. I just find it so exciting to find pieces second hand for a fraction of the price you would normally pay for a comparable item in a store. Not to mention the environmental benefits. Just today I bought a new teapot for $2.75, and it is awesome!

Let me give you some examples:
This is our parlour.
1. I bought the matching blue couch and chair off of Kijiji for $300.
2. The coffee table/games chest was a $75 find at a thrift/junk store downtown.
3. The vase was $2 at another thrift shop. The dried hydrangeas came from my backyard for free :) 
4. Only the pillows and the carpet were bought new. 

On the other side of the parlour is the china cabinet that my equally (if not more) thrifty sister found for me at the side of the road. When she found it, the wood was unfinished, and the shelves and doors were not attached. Knowing that I love thrifty things, she repainted it (it was unfinished wood), stained the inner shelves, and added new handles and hinges and gave it to me for Christmas. I love it! It is probably my favourite piece of furniture, and was maybe the best gift ever. Thanks, Kate! 

Other favourites:
1. My massive real-wood kitchen table: Probably big enough to seat 8 people comfortably. I got this for $250 on Kijiji and have dreams of one day sanding it down and refinishing it in a darker stain. Still looking for a set of chairs to put with it, and still using the ones a friend gave me for free. 
2. The wooden bench that is at my table - I found it on the side of the road at the end of one summer. Garbage hunting is always best at the end of August when a lot of people move apartments/cities.
3. My mattress. I know, a lot of people say "EW!" But, hear me out. It is an $1800 pillow top Queen size mattress and boxspring that I bought for $150. The woman selling it had cerebral palsy and was never able to sleep in it as it was not comfortable for her. It was still in the plastic. 
4. The round side-table in our new 3-season sunroom. I bought it for $15 at a thrift store. Similar ones sell for $75 and up new. 
5. My large bathroom mirror with a wooden frame. $10, and used paint I already had to spruce it up.

Here are some tips for thrifting.
- Go often. What you're looking for might appear a day after you've already looked!
- Have certain things in mind. Figure out what you want and look until you find it! For example, I had a small, round side table in mind for about a month before I actually found one that fit the description. Now that I have it, I'm so happy with it! 
- Don't buy things that you don't have a place in mind for. This can lead to hoarding. 
- Try out all of the thrift stores in town. Don't only go to Value Village. (Trust me, it's more expensive than most others and not necessarily as good!)
- If you're unsure, ask yourself what a fresh coat of paint might do! 

Happy Thrifting!

Monday, December 19, 2011

The 3 L's of Real Estate

As I've mentioned in earlier posts, Joe and I have been actively looking at buying a new house for about 7 months now. In this time, the 3 L's of Real Estate have been ringing in our ears. Location, Location, Location!

Lately, however, I've been questioning how important the dream location really is. I mean, when you buy a house with a dream location, you are automatically paying much more for less house. Our dream location happens to be downtown Kitchener. We want to be where all the action is! The market, the parks, the restaurants, the library, my school, the events... the list goes on! Unfortunately, whenever something in our price range comes up, it is either a) seriously lacking our "must-haves" or b) gobbled up in no time. 

As I started peeking further away from downtown, I realized that you can get SO much more for your money if you're a little more on the outskirts. I'm talking double garage, 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom, dream kitchen fully updated home vs. 4 bed, 2 bath, no garage, limited storage, old kitchen and panelling on a smallish lot. So, the question remains, is Location really the most important thing? 

I got thinking some more, and Joe and I have been talking about our "House Wish List" for quite some time. We have come up with this:

The "Must-Haves":

- Good location (Downtown...I think? Somewhere that we can be non-car-dependent)
- Lots of storage
- 4 bedrooms (or space to add a 4th)
- At least 2 bathrooms
- A large kitchen
- Good schools (For us, it is important our future kiddos go to a school where there is French Immersion)
- A garage
- A usable finished or finish-able basement
- A mud-room or at least an entryway closet (Or again... space to put one in)
- A nice backyard
- Good bones
- A fireplace 

And the "Bonus" list, or things that would be nice to have:

- Wood floors
- A sunroom
- A pool and/or hot-tub
- Private setting 
- Open concept 
- A double garage
- A garden shed

It has definitely been challenging finding these characteristics in the downtown area. Which is what brought up the debate: Is living downtown really so important?

Just the other day I was looking at a house about 7km away from downtown, in suburbia. It...was...amazing, to say the least. But the thought of needing to ride my bike through the winter or walk over an hour to work to be car-free stressed me out. And then I started thinking about needing to buy another car, and that stressed me out. Quite frankly, the thought of living further away from downtown stresses me out! 

And then I starting thinking, again, about how handy it is living where we do. We currently DO live downtown, a 10-minute walk from the downtown core, and only 20-minute walk to Uptown Waterloo. We rarely use the car. We walk to the market, to get groceries, to work, to skating rinks, to Joe's parents' house etc. It is wonderful! And being in a walkable neighbourhood also helps us to stay fit and save money. It is pretty worth it. And I do have little daydreams of pushing strollers to the market and having our future family get to be a part of the downtown life, and it makes me happy. Eventually the right house will come up, as long as we're patient. So, I guess location is still an important factor. The search continues.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Tunes :)

There is something about this time of year.

No matter how much I try to be scrooge and reject the commercialism of Christmas, I just can't get enough Christmas music! I become obsessed every year. There is a local radio station that plays Christmas music all December, and I have even been playing it in my classroom for my students! Even though I have heard all of these songs countless times, they never get old. (With the exception of "Santa Baby" and a few select others!) I find Christmas music to be the only type of music that doesn't get old.

Anyway, Joe played me his Sufjan Stevens Christmas album on the way to a family gathering today. I really enjoyed it. Joe's favourite, which I also happen to enjoy, is this one:

I'm really excited that Christmas is only a week away! I still work all of this week. I'm definitely feeling ready for a break. I love my class, the kids are great, but we all need some time away from school. I'll just have to bring some Christmas energy to my class this week to make it more bearable for all! I plan on having a Hanukkah party, and a Christmas party. Should be fun!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Argentinian Inspiration

During our trip in South America this past summer, Joe and I had the opportunity to stay at an Argentinian Estancia for a few days with our group. This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip, despite getting a sore bum from riding the horses there :)

The estancia itself was gorgeous. It was on a HUGE property (I forget exactly how big, but you could probably fit a small city in the land they owned!), and all of the buildings had some serious character. The doorways were rounded and small. There were lots of old stones in the walls and wooden beams revealed in the ceilings. The entire place was completely self-sufficient and ran on wind-power. Of course, pictures speak louder than words, so here you go!

Let's start with the games house (Yes, there was a games house). This included a Kitchen area, a large games and lounging area and a full-bathroom. I LOVED the stone walls and the ruggedness of it. I also loved the marble Belfast style sink in the kitchen.

The kitchens at the estancia were amazing (Yes, again... Kitchens, not just one. This place was massive!) They were each unique. The one below is from the owners' own home, where they invited the group for a  wine tasting. My favourite things about it: How it looks so lived in, the awesome tile on the floors, and the stainless gas oven and the range above it. I mostly love how everything is mismatched and yet somehow goes together so well.

During the Wine Tasting, we were invited into their large dining area. It had awesome doorways and the fireplace at the end of the table was my favourite part. They had a roaring wood fire in it and it felt so cosy!

I also loved the bathrooms. My favourite part about them were the pull-string toilets! They were so neat! If anyone ever finds where to buy this type in Canada, let me know.

And at last, for some art inspiration, I loved their framed fabrics. They framed it in a frame with glass on both sides. Perfect. I reeeally wanted to buy my own fabric to frame, but after getting robbed in Bolivia we were living off of FedExed money and did not have quite enough. Darn!

Of course, many of these styles are dependant on an amazing setting and amazing architecture, which they had. But, I'm sure some of it can serve as inspiration at least!

*Side-note: Please forgive the terrible quality of the photos in this post... they were taken before I had my Nikon :)

*Another side-note: This place was a LARGE exception to the typical South American architecture. It usually looked more like this:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Let the upgrades continue!

A couple of weeks ago, we had torrential downpour in Kitchener. (In December. Really? And we had it again this week! So strange) Anyway, during this downpour, puddles appeared in our basement. This brought back some awful flooding memories from last spring. So, I ventured out in the rain to find the cause of the problem... and found out that our eavestrough were pretty much falling off of the house, essentially causing a waterfall aimed right at our 150 year old stone foundation! I spent an hour in that very same torrential rain trying to use 2 by 4's to prop up the part that was sagging, unsuccessfully. Did I mention this happened while I was off on a sick day? Not the restful day I had signed up for!

So, I looked on good ol' Kijiji and found a guy who came today and replaced them. $600 later, they are as good as new! (Yeah...I preferred paying for this one... didn't feel like experimenting with eavestrough replacement in December!) We have now redone almost the ENTIRE addition of this house, (roof, new layout and 3-season room, new windows and eavestroughs), none of it bring planned or by choice. I feel this is the final step before I feel comfortable selling our house. Now all we need is a home to buy. Sigh!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tile Countertops in Kitchens

One thing I really loved about my house when I bought it was the big and updated kitchen. I originally LOVED the tile counter tops, and thought they were such a great idea! Over time, however, I realized that while they look nice, they are far from functional.

The downfalls to a tiled kitchen counter are as follows:
1. The gaps between the tiles collect any water that gets on the counter, creating little rivers that flow right onto the floor. This has caused endless puddles and wet socks. Not my favourite thing.
2. The surface is bumpy instead of smooth. This has caused more problems for Joe, who loves to bake pies. You can't roll out dough on a bumpy surface. It is also challenging to cut anything on the counter.
3. Wiping the counter requires above-average elbow grease, as all crumbs and seeds and coffee grounds etc etc. love to cling to the gaps between the tiles.  
4. Because the countertop is such a highly used space, the grout can get damaged, leaving the counter looking NOT so nice, dirty and cheap. After living here for about 16 months, they looked like this:

Fortunately, while it is not in the budget to replace the countertop right now to fix problems #1, #2 and #3 (and may never be in this home...) I did find a simple and easy-to-do solution that repairs problem #4, making my counters look brand-spanking-new! 

When cleaning under my kitchen sink the other week, I discovered a bottle of a "Grout Renew" product that the previous owners must have hidden there. All I did was apply the product between the tiles using a tooth brush. It is important to also wipe off any excess that gets onto the actual tiles...I used a rag for this. 

Let it dry for 72 hours, et VoilĂ , my counters look brand new again! My next project with this same technique will be the bathroom floors. Can't wait! Oh, and I'm sure this could be used in shower tiles, or any other tiles for that matter. 

The moral of the story is: If you are considering installing tiles as a countertop, I would highly recommend against it. But, if you are in the same predicament as I am, at least we can keep em' pretty!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

23 and 1/2 hours

This fall I've been going to the gym. I've even more recently started waking up at 5:30 to fit in a work-out before I go to work. (Otherwise, I was WAY too exhausted after work to go and it just wasn't happening!) When I was sick a couple of weeks ago, I stopped going to the gym. I was sick for about a week and a half and skipped the gym for 2 weeks. I found I got to the point where I was dreading it, and feeling how much fitness I'd lost in that short time. This morning I went back for the first time. I'm definitely feeling a little rusty, but I find my whole day feels better if I've done it! I have more energy, have a better outlook, and am able to achieve so much more in my day. Plus, I get to relax at the end of the day guilt-free :)

Here is a great video clip that a friend of mine shared on Facebook. I think everyone should follow it's advice :) It's so simple! So many people feel they are too busy to fit in any kind of fitness...but it's so important! This is worth the watch.

The Disaster

I'm realizing that I never followed up on the story about the house we put an offer on. Let me explain.

After a few bids and counter-bids, Joe and I were feeling pretty confident that the house was OURS! We went so far as to clean and organize our entire house, taking excess furniture to store at my Dad's and even selling things on Kijiji to de-clutter. We re-grouted tiles, re-painted floors and even vacuumed out the basement rafters. Our house was ready to be sold.

After our final bid, we found out that the (older) couple in the house had decided they were too attached and would not be selling. Needless to say, we were extremely disheartened. So...the search continues for our dream home!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Busy Weekend!

Well, we had a very busy weekend!

I need to go back a bit for this to make sense....
For starters, we have been looking for about 6 months for a fixer-upper of a home. Lots of you may think this is a crazy idea....why buy a fixer-upper when you can buy something updated in a similar price range? Well, the answer is this: I don't usually like the looks up updated homes...or I like parts of them, but not all of them. First off, it seems that most newly installed kitchens come in dark brown to black wood colours. Don't get me wrong, they can be beautiful! However, I am personally a white-kitchen fanatic and would have a serious moral dilemma ripping out a brand new dark-wood kitchen, or even repainting it, to have my white kitchen. Or, there are things that are too "modern", and that will need replacing in the next 5-10 years simply because they will become dated. I'm more a fan of classic style in the home... style that only needs new throw pillows and maybe a fresh coat of paint to stay trendy. The stuff that you can find in a home magazine from the early 90's and still love. (Like white kitchens, for example!)

Six months ago, we did find this home, with a gorgeous lot and a pool, and way above our price range. We put in the offer, crossed our fingers...and lost to someone with a higher bid. We were devastated. However, everyone we talked to reassured us that they, too, had been through a similar experience, only to find an even better home down the road. So, the (not-so-serious) search continued.

Anyway, on weekends Joe and I have taken up the new past-time of going to open houses around town in areas we would like to live. Last weekend, we went to an open house at a story and a half home with a large yard. Let me tell you...the inside was horrendous! Thick wool carpets, wall paper in almost every room, panelling, floral curtains...the list goes on! There is almost no space that I would be able to live with unchanged. So obviously, we fell in love! We couldn't ignore the fact that the bones of the house seem almost flawless, with a double garage, endless storage, 3 bathrooms and a finished basement, on top of having 3 fireplaces! We actually went back to the same house an hour later to walk through again.

To make it clear, we have (had) no current plans of moving/selling our place. But...we were in complete agreement that this house could be "the one". We could picture ourselves turning this house into our dream home and raising a family there. We couldn't fight the urge, and decided to pursue this house.

Currently, we have gone back and forth and are waiting on what we hope will be the final offer. We shall see...we're very excited/nervous. If we get this house, there will be MANY more stories about renos/redos/decorating. My fave!

So, back to where this post was meant to go...this weekend.
This weekend we have done a complete clean up/de-clutter/organization/fix-up of our house, in case we need to put it up for sale this week. We've packed a bunch of our extra furniture over to my dad's for storage, organized our entire (messy disastrous) basement, dusted every nook and cranny, re-grouted the kitchen tiles, and painted the floors in our parlour.

The floors of our parlour were great when we moved in, but on moving day my sister slid a couch across the floor and with it went the paint. This was just the beginning, and there wasn't a square inch of un-scratched surface by this fall. It looked like this:

So, we went out to Home Hardware and bought a can of a richer brown floor paint to cover this problem. It looked really nice when it was still shiny and wet!

We put on the fans and with the dryness from our furnace, it was dry by 24 hours later! We may regret having put the furniture down so quickly, but there was cleaning to be done! And here is the finished product. Beau (the cat) likes it, too!
I will keep you posted on the progress of our dream fixer-upper :)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sick Day Number Two: More time to dream....

I spent the night in Emerg last night. I'd feel bad for me, but I feel worse for Joe, who came along and then went to work this morning. I'm feeling much better this morning...just a scare when my cough/sore throat made it feel like I couldn't breathe properly.

Anyhoo, I decided I'm going to talk to you about some of the renovations of my past. There aren't many, as I'm a fairly new home-owner. Of course, I was lucky to have a handy Mum and sister growing up who taught me a lot about house 'stuff', but it's still a huge learning curve!

When I moved into my beautiful, brick, 2-story Century home 16 months ago, I was in love! It has a 250ft deep lot, and was all renovated on the inside. It has it's quirks, such as a bath-tub in the master bedroom and a creepy stone basement, but it just has such a great feel to it. However, at the end of last spring, disaster hit during the first big snow melt. Our side storage room (which doubled as our entrance) leaked right through due to an ice jam. Water was literally pouring through the roof, comme ca:

So started our ideas for our first, large renovation project. Originally, the side part of this addition was split into 3 small and awkward rooms. The first was supposed to be an entry, and the other two were more storage-like.
After we started tearing out, the walls were open, which gave us the idea to tear out the two middle walls and create one, large space. We also decided that we'd rather have a functional 3-season room. Unfortunately, the state of the "bones" was in serious need of help. The windows were sliding old panes of glass, and the walls and floors were completely wonky. Besides that, the insulation was either soaking wet or old and rotten.
So, we needed to replace the windows and replace all of the insulation. For this, we sought out the help of my mom's handy partner, Rick, and his equally handy son, Craig. We spent 4 full days on this part of the process (admittedly...they did most of it!)
They also helped us to drywall, and we helped where we could. For example, Joe helped to sand the mud from the drywall.

He also helped by baking pie for us all to enjoy during our break! (What a man!!)

The next part of the renos involved mudding and sanding, replacing the floors, and painting. Again, we needed help. So this time, we called on Joe's aunt and uncle, Jane and Dan, and Joe's parents, Sandy and George. (For some reason, I don't have any photos of this stage, although I know some were taken...) We helped with the beginning parts of this, but when we went on our summer holiday to South America, these 4 finished all of the painting, trim and floors! I couldn't believe it...we owe them big time!

My favourite part, of course, was deciding how to decorate. Voila!

Believe it or not, we learned a ton through the process and feel much better prepared to independently (well...mostly) do our next renovations.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

My recent addictions

Lately I've been really fixated on 2 things. Let me explain.

The first thing is fitness. Joe and I joined a gym at the end of August with all plans of going 4-5 days a week. We started off strong, but with the start of the school year, things fizzled and suddenly we were lucky to be making it twice a week! I racked my brains for a) why we weren't going (which was obvious: because of extreme fatigue after a day spent with 20 wonderful/high-energy kids might do it!) and b) A solution! At the beginning of November, we had the daylight savings time change. We decided to take this opportunity to start getting up early (yes...about 5:30 early!) to go in the morning. So far so good! I've been making it 4 times during the week, plus weekends. A great feeling. This week, I've been under the weather and I'm hoping my days off won't ruin my regime!

The second obsession lately has been MLS (real estate listings) and my House & Home Magazine. Why? Well...Joe and I have been considering wanting to move for a while now. We're happy in our current place, but with the prospect of babies in the near-but-not-too-near future, we are concerned about a couple of things about our current home. First, the stairs are extremely steep. In fact, just last week Joe tripped over Beau (cat #2) on his way down and fell down the last 8 steps or so. Imagine walking/maneuvering down our steep narrow steps with a lack of sleep and a baby in your arms! Second, our house has a serious lack-of-storage problem. When I bought the place, I overlooked this point, since I was drawn in by the high-ceilings, the large kitchen, huge yard and great neutral colours. After living here for the past 16 months or so, I am really beginning to understand the challenges around a lack of storage. First of all, there are constantly piles of shoes and coats forming around our closet-less entrance. Second, our big bedroom seems not-so-big with the addition of an oversized wardrobe (on top of the tiny closet!) to store Joe's things. There just seems to be constant clutter, and we are constantly searching for a space for things. An abundancy of storage will be a MUST in our next place. And of course...a house built in the 1800's will have it's leaks and cracks and rodents (which we leave up to the cats!) We're just ready for a fresh start.

So, we'll see where this goes. Will keep you posted!

Let the blogging begin!

I've recently been following a few people's blogs. I really enjoy reading them! This has inspired me to start writing my own...about what? We shall see! I'm sure I'll generally write about one of my favourite things: teaching-traveling-marriage-renovations-fitness-photography-nature-I could go on.

I am a teacher, a newlywed, on a sick day from work, and we'll see how this goes!