Making a House a Home


Well for those of you who don’t know us, Fraser (my babies’ daddy) and I live in a two story BC box style house. This house is not your typical box house. 

It has an unusual layout and was not a house we choose together but instead a house Fraser had bought in his single days. This may not have been the house we picked together but slowly we are making this house into our home. That being said it definitely has a list of things I see as a disadvantage…  Here is my list of dislikes 

  • no real front entrance (you actually enter through the carport, it’s very strange)  
  • extremely small entryway with no spot for shoes and jackets (you are immediately at the stairs)
  • Two story, it has STAIRS, I love ranchers and loathe two story houses (but I love the money a rental suite provides us with!)
  •  Fixer upper.  It an old house and therefore has so many projects (not just this old house, all old homes). 

In theory I wanted a new townhome with a little yard, low maintenance and maybe even strata provided landscaping service.   However Fraser wanted a workshop and space and freedom to hoard, he likes the yard and its maintenance, and he doesn’t want to belong to a strata. As I mentioned he bought the house in his single days when he had very different requirements from a house (but that’s good for a whole different blog post!). Basically the house has been a constant work in progress since the day he bought it and he has owned it for about 5 years, I have lived here for 4 of them!

This house did not feel like home when I moved in and to be honest we weighed all our options, do we sell or try to buy another house and use this one for a rental property, renovate or could we build. Given the times we are living in and the current housing prices we came to the conclusion that for now this is our house and we better try to make it home.  We did have great help with learning our options though… if you are thinking of purchasing a new property or if you are refinancing or mortgage is up for renewal you would be doing yourself a huge favour by calling Meghan Dodds Mortgage.  She has helped us twice and both times with great advantages to getting us what we want and helping us save money in the process. The best part is she took situations we have had very little experience in and that were a bit stressful given the amount of money we were dealing with and made them so understable and stress free!  Our original mortgage was through Fraser’s bank and we would never do that again.  SHOP AROUND for your mortgage people!!!  Sorry, I digress.

Anyways our decision to stay has first meant using the house to make us some money. The first part of this was super easy, buy low and watch the value increase! Wowza, to watch a home increase by 40% in 5 short years that was fun. The second part of this was a bit more challenging, it meant living in our basement and renting out our upstairs. In all honesty this was one of the best decisions we made. As the housing prices were increasing so were the rental prices and we were able to use this time to totally benefit and keep our mortgage relatively low. With the extra savings we had we were able to do a lot of upgrades to the yard and workshop area as well as a few updates to the basement suite. Not only that we were also able to  not have the money stresses some families face when mom is on maternity leave or when you start a family and expenses go up!

In the beginning we didn’t need more space. However as or third baby was growing in the belly we realized we were running out of room. So, with sadness our renters, who had become friends, decided to leave and buy a place of their own and we knew we needed to make some changes to our home to make it fit for our family. Not only was upstairs choppy and had a poor layout, it had dreaded carpet (for anyone who knows me this is maybe the worst feature a house could ever have!!!).  Well actually I take that back the worst was carpeted stairs… my two dislikes in a home, and our house had stairs and they were all carpeted!

We were due at the end of March and decided to start a renovation December 1st. Yes we lived in our basement suite, had two kids under 2 and I was 6 months pregnant. If you haven’t figured it out yet we are a bit crazy. Okay, okay we are actually a LOT crazy, did I mention my babies Daddy brought home a Rottweiler puppy before we had our first baby. Because really babies aren’t challenging enough for us we needed a puppy too (again another blog post). I know, I digress but I just hate to miss an opportunity to remind myself of that crazy decision!

Anyways we decide we would do a small renovation to make the upstairs more liveable, the problem with small is just that, it’s small. If you have ever met Fraser you would know small just isn’t in his vocabulary. I like to look at this trait as a real positive but sometimes it can get a bit overboard and sometimes we are bad influences for each other with the” bigger is better” mentality! If you know me you might find it funny that I am often the one trying to restrain us from going overboard (isn’t that a scary thought). Anyways we started out thinking small but first day Fraser gets upstairs to start demo and instead of removing a kitchen all of a sudden we are down to the studs and drywall has been ripped off the entire upstairs, once he started he couldn’t stop and he just figured we might as well do it all at once! LOL, yes we are officially nuts! Oh and that small just a kitchen Reno all of a sudden meant a bathroom too (such a small room, no big deal!).   I guess as you can tell we approached our Reno with as much humor as we could! Reno’s are suppose to be fun, and now I can look back and totally laugh but at the time it did seem like a lot of work and a lot of decisions (oh and let’s not forget a lot of money). I am very proud of what we have done and still need to do to our home, how happy it makes us and that we not only survived but thrived during a Reno!

So, I will definitely write more blog posts on specifics about our Reno, but for now I can sum it up with a few tips for starting:

  • LAUGH. Try to have a sense of humor and keep it all in perspective. I always said if our biggest disagreement is over what Quartz countertop to put in or which gas stove we want life isn’t too bad! (Although I did lose it when the pot filler was in the wrong spot, like come on LOL!!! #blamingitonhoromones)
  • BUDGET. Make sure you have enough money and stick to your budget. This probably was the reason we had so much fun during our Reno. We knew how much money we had and I had done extreme research on pricing before we started to make sure we could afford to do what we wanted to do. Plus we had done a small asbestos test to make sure we wouldn’t have huge costs for removal. For us there was not a whole lot of unexpected costs (but we did have a decent contingency fund just in case) and we also knew that we added some things that made sense but that we might have to wait to finish a few things (example we added gas line to our wood burning fireplace and to our outside patio but we ran out of money for a gas insert and for a new Weber BBQ so we took a nice hand me down to use this summer!).
  • VACATION. Okay this might not be realistic for everyone but we decided we would be in need of a vacation after the “stress” of a Reno plus we thought we could use a little relax time before a new baby made our life a whole lot crazier. I think as insane as this seemed at the time it ended up being a great choice for us.
  • PLAN FOR OVERAGE.   I think knowing that we didn’t have a concrete end date (originally we had thought we would have new renters downstairs again by Feb 1, we ended up with renters June 1) so planning for any financial costs as part of your reno budget that would come with running behind, for us it was lost rental income but for others it might be the cost of renting a house to live in while the reno is going on. Oh and unexpected stuff like the cost to heat a house during a reno in the coldest winter in a long time (yup it was an extra $1500). So plan for unexpected!!!

I am sure I could go on forever with tips for a Reno but these are the big ones!  I cannot wait to show you our house and all the work we have done this far.  Check back for more posts on the Reno and how it went… and please Contact Me if you have suggestions or questions, I would love to hear from you. 

Fresh Canvas, love our exposed beams and big white open space!

Go big or go home… drywall gone, ready to start fresh!



My Perfect Day

This weekend we celebrated the marriage of two of our best friends.  Fraser was in the wedding party and the event took place at very close friends of ours farm.  Everything about the wedding itself was beautiful; the decor, outfits, setting and all details were incredible but after a weekend of laughs, love, friends, family and food we feel like we know the secret to a happy and fulfilled life. It was not the details and the tangible things and stuff that made the wedding it was the quality of the people. This couple are two of the most genuine and caring people you could meet. It was so cool to see the variety and depth of friendships they both have developed and the people that are drawn to them both. 

Fraser and I were chatting today about how great the whole weekend was and just how much fun and how happy we felt after it all was said and done.  It got us thinking that if all three of our kids can find partnerships like this bride and groom did and have that many loyal and dear friends to celebrate with then we will have done our job as parents right. We all want matieralistic stuff like beautiful homes, fancy cars, nice clothes and even things like high paying jobs and success, but at the end of the day I would not measure the success of ones life by any of those things. Instead for me success is the impact you have had on those around you and the relationships you build.  The saying above couldn’t be more true for me today and hopefully always. It isn’t what I have or don’t have that matter, it’s who!  And I can honestly say I am so blessed with the people that i have in my life and in Fraser and the kids.  The bride and grooms parents seemed proud and I can see why, so this coming week I will try to keep this fresh in my mind so I can lead by example and show our kids what is really important.  I am definitely waking up today feeling very successful, knowing the value of my friendships!  Happy Labour Day, hope your are enjoying it with someone you love!

Breaking a sweat!

It’s funny how you can appear and how you actually feel.  I used to think I appeared confident and together, even more than that I felt confident and outgoing.  I worked in women’s fashion retail and loved the interaction with customers and helping them find clothes that made them feel good.  I thought I understood and empathized with all types of people and that even though at the time I wasn’t a mom I knew how it felt to be tired, have your body change and to not have enough hours in the day (I didn’t have a clue).  I loved my job and was confident with any new hobby I took up (hell I bought myself a Harley, took lessons and then rode with Fraser to Bella Coola on my first big bike trip).

Fast forward to present day, 3 kids later and 3 C-sections in the last 3 years and my confidence is a little rocked.  Parenting is tough and new. As for put together, I am lucky if I am clean… which seriously is my goal each day.  Shower, wear clean clothes and stay clean. Somehow I have become a human towel for all bodily fluids from all three kids as well any food they eat and anything else they find or use (like toothpaste, play doh, dirt, etc).  Gone are the days of beautiful fabrics and expensive clothes, hand washing or hanging to dry everything (and I literally mean everything!  Who puts Hanky Pankys in the dryer, those panties are $25 a pair and require delicate laundering ), or even blow drying my hair and wearing long necklaces and fun earrings.  I have started to do all sorts of things I swore I would never do when I had kids, and I’m fine with it. However, my standards have changed and so has my confidence.

In an effort to embrace a healthier lifestyle, get active and maybe even drop a few LBS and fit back into my beautiful clothes I have joined a gym.  Just joining and having to step into a class was challenging.  Making the choice to get up and out of the house on time is tough, then throw in the fact that it’s to go do intentional exercise (I would much rather be going to the spa or taking an extra hour of uninterrupted sleep), sweat in front of people, and do things that I feel completely out of place doing.  I can’t say I love it but I do think the workouts are amazing, I love the feeling I get after a workout and I love the attitude and energy that both myself and my partner have experienced since we have joined.  He has definitely lost weight and gained confidence, energy and positive attitude. I love what it has done for him and am so proud of his commitment.  I on the other hand have had a different reaction.

I have not yet experienced these benefits. To start I struggle with what to wear to the gym (like is my outfit too tight? will I get too hot? does my top match my runners? why are all runners so colourful now? should I buy runners for practicality or looks?  Will everything stay in place when I’m working out, or will my top flip up, shorts ride up, hair come undone, boobs flop around….) as you can see I probably over analyze a bit, but in the moment these seem like reasonable concerns. Then once I am there it is the issue of where do I stand?  And do I know anyone?  I mean I could go on forever but you definitely get the idea.

Today I had a realization and it was only because an old customer was in my class and she didn’t recognize me at first. I immediately said to her “Oh its because I don’t belong and I am out of place”.  It was a terrible and wrong thing to say but at that moment it was true  Everyone belongs at the gym, it is such an inclusive place.  Plus I am going there to get fit, so the excuse I’m not in good enough shape to go the gym really is like when I say I need to clean before the housecleaners come (defeats the purpose).  After some reflection I realized I need to change my attitude and embrace the gym the way Fraser has.  It is such a welcoming space and the only person that is holding me back is me. I am not myself when I am there and it because I am lacking confidence and so nervous.  It got me thinking about people and their reactions and attitudes depending on surroundings. I definitely consider myself genuine and the same no matter where I am. But since becoming a parent I do notice I am “off” or not myself sometimes depending on what my kids are acting like, who’s watching and how I feel that day.  Its often the same at the gym, because I am stepping outside my comfort zone I am so busy thinking things in my head that I forget to be present and be me.

I had thought if I went to a couple of classes and made it a regular routine I would become more relaxed and comfortable.  But each class is different and I don’t feel like its routine, in fact I love that it’s always dynamic.  I think if I change my attitude about it and embrace that it is a challenge and things that are hard are often the most rewarding I will start to see the benefits that Fraser is experiencing.

The funny thing is it reminds me a lot of being a parent, because in many ways being a parent is a big blow to the confidence.  In the almost 3 years I have been at this parenting gig I have been humbled by my children and learnt selflessness that I never knew possible.  I have also experienced a new level of  self doubt and concern. When I am most true to myself we are all most happy and it is usually in a familiar place (most often at home), with just the five of us (safe, no judgements) and we are just playing and having fun.  As soon as we leave and there are expectations, whether it is my own expectations or expectations from society or peers or family, I start to loose my confidence and my true self.  Reality is we have to leave our comfort bubble and challenge ourselves, so best to figure out the easiest way for you to do that and embrace it.

I am going to try to remember to stay true to me and be myself, even when I am feeling self conscious or like I don’t belong or fit in.   I won’t let my negative thoughts stop me from getting my ass to the gym, because it makes me feel good, gives me energy and shows my kids that fitness is important.  I am really going to work on trying to keep perspective and a sense of humor about things.

How do you overcome fear or self doubt?  Do you stay true to yourself and your character in moments of doubt?  Would love to hear what works for you.