Investing in family photos

We never quite got our act together to have family photos taken last year, so I was determined to make it happen in 2015. Back in October, we met our favourite photographers, and good friends, Chelle and Adam at Gates U-Pick in Port Williams. I think it started hailing just as we arrived, ha. Even though we were freezing, and even though Hannah never stops moving, Chelle managed to capture some great shots of our afternoon. I've included some of my favourites below.

I really believe that professional family photos are worth the investment, and I'm glad we made time for them this year. As much as I enjoy looking at them now, I know we'll really appreciate these photos, and the moment in time they captured, as Hannah gets older (and hey, us too). I'm guilty of wanting to put off photos until I lose those last 10 pounds, or start getting more sleep (ha!), but I also know that over the course of my life there will be years where I'm thinner, and heavier, tired, and better-rested. We'll have good years and bad years, and I want to be able to capture and look back on at least one small snippet of them all. I blame this photography series, which I was lucky enough to see in D.C. several years ago and have never forgotten. Anyway, when I look through these photos, I mostly think we look pretty darn happy. Thanks Chelle and Adam!


4 pleasant reno surprises

A few pleasant surprises resulting from our recent reno:

1. The impact of new lighting. We went from two retro globe pendants (which I technically liked, but were awkwardly placed and provided little light) to four pot lights, with a bonus pot light leading into the kitchen from the entry. The kitchen is so much brighter - we can see the butcher block when we're cutting food now! - and yet, the pot lights add a calm and cozy ambiance to the room. It feels like a contemporary, updated space, even though our kitchen itself is nothing fancy.

2. Fresh paint, everywhere. We knew we'd have to touch up some wall paint after the ceilings were replaced, but I ended up repainting the entire main floor. Only one coat, in the same colour as before, but what a difference! Honestly, it hadn't even occurred to me to repaint, but the entire space feels so much brighter and cleaner now. If you haven't repainted in awhile, I highly recommend a fresh coat to renew your space.

3. Fresh inspiration to finish the last 10%. With every reno we've done, we always seem to lose our momentum when we get to the last 10% of the project. As exhausting as cleaning, painting, cleaning and putting our entire main floor back together was, it inspired me to tackle some nagging projects like touching up the cabinet paint, painting the patio door a glossy black, and finally adding shoe moulding to our lower cabinets. I especially love how the door turned out (I skipped the primer and applied two coats of enamel paint - so far it's holding up great).

4. Renewed appreciation for our home. After being forced out of our house for a week, I have a new appreciation for home sweet home. Maybe it's the decluttering we did to get ready, the cooler weather, or the aforementioned lighting upgrade, but our house feels cozier now, in a really good way.

Oh, and just for giggles, check out what our kitchen looked like when we bought the house:


Meanwhile at our house...

Like many people, we dealt with ice dams and water damage last winter. We were actually lucky, as far as ice dams go, that our floors and furniture weren't damaged; it wasn't until water started dripping out of the light in our living room that we even knew we had a problem. Even though we couldn't see it, the water damaged our attic insulation and drywall, which all needed to be replaced (mold is no bueno).

We replaced our roof in the spring, but the inside work only started this week. Our insurance company was easy to deal with and approved our claim quickly, but the company they sent over to provide a quote for repair didn't return our calls for weeks, and eventually told us it would be months before they could get to us to do the work. In the end, we decided to take a cheque from our insurance company and hire a contractor we trusted and had experience working with. We knew it would cost us more out of pocket, but also that we could trust him to get the work done quickly, and to do it well. After our experience with the insurance company's guy, we were worried about the work starting and then being delayed for weeks, which is a big deal when you can't use your main floor (our kitchen, living room and dining room are all open to one another).

In typical 'in for a penny, in for a pound' fashion, we decided to spend a bit more to upgrade our attic insulation to R-50 (about as efficient as you can get) and tackle some wish list electrical work.

On day 1, they pulled down all of the damaged drywall, vapour barrier and insulation, and installed the new vapour barrier and drywall. At the end of day 1, our house looked like this:

On day 2, new insulation was blown in and the drywall seams were taped and mudded. We decided to save some money by not drywalling the garage ceiling (our garage is unfinished), but our contractor installed strapping so it would be easy for us to do down the road. Our garage ceiling wasn’t insulated properly by the previous owners (the insulation was old and there were holes in the vapour barrier), so we’d always planned to redo it. It may not look like much to someone who hasn’t seen the ‘before’, but we’re thrilled to see it looking this good.

The electrician also came on day 2. The two globe lights in our kitchen were swapped out for four pot lights (in the picture below, one still needs to be installed). I liked the look of the globe lights, but one was in an awkward spot (because of our stair reno), they didn't provide enough light, and we knocked into them with enough frequency that it was a problem. The drywall in the kitchen didn't need to be replaced (thankfully), but they replaced a section where we formerly had a big ugly crack (not an ice damming problem, just an old house problem).

The electrician also moved a light switch from one side of a wall to the other. After the stair reno, the location of the light switch made no sense at all. You can just barely see it (circled) in the picture below. The new location is a huge improvement – now we have a way to turn the light on when we’re headed downstairs at night!

The mudders are coming to do the final sand tonight, and our contractor will be back tomorrow to re-install the light fixtures and finish trimming and air-sealing the attic hatch (which you can kind of see in the grainy iPhone pic above). We're hoping we can paint tomorrow and Friday, and move our stuff back in this weekend.

It’s not fun spending thousands of dollars and tearing your house apart to make it look like it did when you started, but I’m trying to focus on the small improvements (and lack of moldy insulation and drywall). It’s also the reality of owning a home (things will eventually go wrong and you'll have to pay to fix them), so I think it’s worth sharing - just in case you thought home ownership was all furniture shopping and glamourous room makeovers ;)


Visiting Wisconsin: The Building for Kids + Lambeau Field

This is the last post in my round-up of our visit to Wisconsin this summer (I know, it's taken me long enough!). The day before we left for Chicago, we visited Appleton's children's museum, The Building for Kids. True to its name, it's basically floor after floor of every awesome thing a kid could imagine. We only spent a few hours here, and Hannah was asking when we could come back before we'd even left. If they had something like this near us, we would be members for sure.

After lunch, we made a quick stop at Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers. We didn't take the tour, because Hannah is three and we're not THAT crazy, but it was still fun to see the stadium. 

1st time having pickle chips - they were delicious!

Of course we had to try some squeaky cheese before we left Wisconsin! We left the hats on the shelf, though :)


Affixing house numbers to brick - no screws required!

Upgrading our exterior lights and house numbers has been on my 'to do' list for the past four years, but there was always a more pressing project in the queue - until now! A few weeks ago, I ordered these modern house numbers and a new light from Lowe's. I feel like I should point out that this isn't a sponsored post, but also that Lowe's shipping was free and I was really impressed by how quickly my order arrived.

a huge improvement, non?

Installing the light was easy, even on my own, but the numbers were a different story! Most of the reviews I read online mentioned the crappy quality of the hardware that came with the numbers, and I wasn't thrilled about renting a hammer drill just to install a few numbers. Also, drilling into brick is just the worst, no matter what anyone tries to tell you. So, after reading a couple of tutorials online, I decided to try attaching the numbers to the brick with Gorilla Glue. It sounded so easy! What could go wrong?

Well, what the tutorials failed to mention is that Gorilla Glue is about as powerful as water before it sets, and it takes awhile to set. My numbers were sliding all over the place, even with my sad attempt at a makeshift clamp. I realized pretty quickly that Gorilla Glue wasn't going to work for me, so I gave up and tried to clean the glue off the numbers and the house as best I could.

In the midst of my frustration, I decided to head back to the store. This time, I discovered LePage STIK'N SEAL outdoor adhesive. You apply a thin layer of adhesive, let it set for 5 minutes, then stick your stuff in place and apply pressure for 10 minutes. The whole thing fully cures within 24 hours. Since the location of the numbers made proper clamping impossible, I had to hold each one in place for 10 minutes by hand. Not ideal (obviously), but it worked. You'd be surprised how quickly 10 minutes passes while scrolling through Instagram on your phone. The packaging warned that the adhesive would have to be chipped off once it cured, so I kept a wet rag handy to wipe up any drips while I was setting the numbers in place.

I used the templates that came with the numbers to align them properly, but I had to improvise because I wasn't screwing them in place. I cut the numbers out of the templates to turn each one into a stencil, then traced the numbers in chalk on the brick.

I was a little skeptical about how well the adhesive would hold up, but the numbers have been up for weeks, during heavy rain and wind, and they're still solid. Plus, I love the new look - it better reflects our style and the work we've done to transform the inside of our house.


Visiting Wisconsin: Mulberry Lane Farm & Lake Michigan

The only thing on my 'must-do' list for our visit to Wisconsin was swimming in Lake Michigan. Having always lived near the ocean, the idea of swimming in a lake so big it looks and feels like the ocean fascinated me, and Lake Michigan didn't disappoint! Not tasting salt water every time you dove into a wave was pretty weird though :)

My dad was adamant that we take Hannah to Mulberry Lane Farm. They actually let you touch and interact with most of the animals. I made significant progress towards conquering my fear of birds by holding a chicken (I admit I wasn't brave enough to pick it up myself), and Hannah enjoyed holding every animal she could get her hands on. 

Telling some very noisy geese, "One at a time!"

We brought a picnic lunch to the farm, and made the drive to Lake Michigan after we finished eating. The water was so high the "beach" was non-existent, but we made do.

pre- and post-swim in Lake Michigan

One more post on our Wisconsin trip to go!


The calm before the storm

With our fancy new rug in place, and the weather getting cooler, it felt like a good time to throw some more pillows on the couch (you know, because coziness). I found the big guy on the left at HomeSense last spring, and the lumbar pillow and faux fur pillow are more recent Winners/HomeSense finds. The latter is my first faux fur anything, and I can't believe I waited so long because it's seriously petable (as in, looking at these photos makes me want to go pet it).

I ordered the tie-dye pillow from Urban Outfitters, and as much as I like it, I was a little underwhelmed considering the price. But it grew on me, and I'm glad I kept it around. The striped pillow cover is from West Elm (purchased on sale), and it's just great.

Our living room feels more "complete" than it has in a looong time, which is pretty funny, considering that we're about to pack it all up to have our ceiling and attic insulation replaced (ice damming is the worst). On the bright side, at least I'll have these pictures to look at while our main floor is covered in drywall dust ;)
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