Confession: this post was a lot harder to put together than I thought it would be! There are so many fun pool floaties out there, and it was hard to narrow down choices to include. I’ve rounded up 20 to help make the most of all the hot days spent poolside and at the beach to come from two of my favourite places to shop online: Amazon.ca and Indigo (tip: from May 23- 25 enjoy free shipping when you order online at Indigo). Some of these are more of a splurge than others, but the fun (and photos!) will be worth it. Scroll to the bottom for where to buy info.
Food is a universal language we all speak, something that unifies us. It’s something to be enjoyed, and also the fuel we provide our bodies. If you’d followed the blog for a while, you’ll know that our family loves food, albeit with a few bumps in the road- we’re still gluten free, but other restrictions have since been removed from Ari’s diet- and I’ve sought out options as healthy staples in our diets. We enjoy as many home- cooked and healthy, whole- food based meals as we can, but still indulge in comfort food, etc when we get a craving or are short on time (everything in moderation, no?).
Before kids and since, I love a good recipe. There’s something I find soothing and therapeutic about preparing a meal (note: when the kids are cooperating); it’s a simple pleasure I find a lot of joy in. And while I turn to online sources for much of my inspiration when trying out a new meal idea, I still love turning the pages of a cookbook. There’s something about the tactile nature of running my fingers down the pages and marking recipes to try with sticky notes that I love. So when I had the chance to review the new cookbook by Love Child Organics founder Leah Garrad- Cole, I looked forward to the opportunity.
“Welcome to It All Begins With Food, a book dedicated to clean, whole- food recipes for your entire family”.
Leah and I share the same outlook towards food, with a focus on the quality and integrity of ingredients, especially when it comes to feeding our kids. There is a lot to be said about the source of our food today (how was it grown, where did it come from, etc) and while this isn’t always black and white, Leah offers up a valuable resource in her new cookbook for everyone from new parents to passionate home cooks alike. I discovered her line of quality baby food, Love Child Organics, soon after Ari was born and have had the pleasure of being a brand ambassador with the company and watching it grow over the past few years. The introduction of It All Begins With Food was something I was looking forward to, and now am happy to be sharing my thoughts on the book here with readers. This cookbook will grow with your family, and even if your kids are past the baby and toddler years, it is full of information and recipes you will appreciate and enjoy.
This is a beautiful cookbook, filled with photos and tables of information that compliment Leah’s recipes. But it isn’t all eye candy, and second only to the recipes themselves, the information Leah has gathered in this cookbook make it a great reference to have on hand. What does it really mean to be organic? What’s a GMO? What foods should I avoid introducing to my baby? Are just a few of the questions Leah addresses in It All Begins With Food, along with a section I love, make it yourself, make it better, which features suggestions on how to make pantry staples at home to avoid unnecessary ingredients such as sugar, salt and preservatives.
“There is an overabundance of of information out there, and it can make the task of feeding your family really confusing and overwhelming. We all want our children to eat well, but it’s hard to know where to start, and with our busy lives, it’s really difficult to find the time to make it happen.”
Alongside the recipes, Leah has included information to help guide readers through food topics that we face today, including:
organic foods (one of Leah’s favourite topics)
The Dirty Dozen & The Clean Fifteen- foods grown with the most pesticide residue and least, respectively
GMOs- what are they and how to avoid them
alternative names for sugar used in ingredients lists
clean kitchen/ pantry shopping list + tools and equipment
meal planning tips + planner
getting your kids involved in cooking + food prep
information, tips, and serving suggestions for introducing first foods to baby
While this cookbook is a wealth of information for starting out your little one on solids (see For Baby, below), Leah has covered healthy suggestions for the whole family from start to finish: breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, smoothies, creating your own pantry staples (I’m looking forward to diving into this chapter more in the coming months), and recipes for entertaining. I tend to avoid recipes that contain ingredients that are hard to find or seem too complicated; most of the time I have the kids with me when shopping and cooking, so I’ve subscribed to the adage simpler is better on several levels when it comes to the food we eat.
And that also applies to the nature of the ingredients themselves: Leah uses common, clean/ healthy, simple- to- find- ingredients in her recipes, with prep and cooking time around an hour total for many of the recipes (many less than that). This is a cookbook with crowd- pleasing recipes, but doesn’t forget about the person creating the meal. You don’t have to have kids to appreciate her method, but it’s definitely a cookbook created by a parent with parents in mind: healthy food that doesn’t take hours to prep and cook. Thank you Leah!
“With an unwavering focus on replacing ingredients that have little nutritional value with ones that are nutritionally dense, It All Begins With Food ensures that every bite counts while making the end result is pleasurable and the ingredients are easy to find.”
Chapters in the book:
purees & mashes
smoothies: the vitamin vehicle
superhero breakfasts to keep them going (and going!)
family- friendly dinners
healthier snacks & treats
make it yourself make it better
For parents looking for information, tips, and recipes for feeding their baby, this book is a wealth of knowledge and I wish it had been around when Ari was a baby. As a Mom, Leah speaks from her own experiences, as well as from the wealth of information and knowledge she has amassed since starting an organic food company; I love this combination of experience and knowledge and I feel this approach will appeal to many parents beginning the food journey with their children. Here are just a few of the highlights for me that I appreciated Leah including:
Canadian & US official infant feeding recommendations
suggestions on when to start introducing solids + signs to look for that your baby may be ready
what foods to start with
food allergies + reactions (also the difference between a true allergy and an intolerance/ food sensitivity)
Whether you’re passionate about healthy cooking, want to incorporate more whole- foods recipes into your weekly meal plan, or starting out a little one on solids, It All begins With Food includes ideas for all members of the family, and will be a welcome addition to any cookbook library.
To learn more about Love Child Organics, visit them online:
Who’s ready for a party?? Cinco De Mayo is right around the corner and let’s face it, we’re all in need of something bright and cheerful after the grey months behind us. I got together with my blogger gals Janette (Ava to Zoe) and Heydy (Raising Jay and Abel) to put on a Spring Fiesta with our kids and let’s just say I’m doing a happy dance after seeing it all come together. We all pitched in to bring this party together- yay teamwork!- and you can find the links to the posts Janette and Heydy have up on their blogs, plus source info and links at the end of the post (Janette made to- die- for vegetarian tacos and Heydy whipped up some wicked sangria).
We went for a twist on the classic Cinco De Mayo theme, taking colour inspo from Mexican blankets and muting them down for a more pastel pallette. We opted for a Tex- Mex menu and a few sweet treats to keep things simple, all around a Mexican theme (how cute are those cactus cookies?!). We added some pops of colour to the table with the flowers and cactus, whipped up a cute ‘Taco ’bout a party’ sign (thank you dollar store!), and added a few fun details like the pineapple and tissue garland at the front of the table for finishing touches. A lot of the items for dressing the table were things we already had, simple DIYS, and some dollar store finds and we wanted to show that you can throw one helluva party without blowing the budget (I’ll be sharing the DIY for the tissue backdrop soon).Whether you throw a Cinco De Mayo party, or like the idea of a Mexican themed fiesta, I hope you get some ideas from these photos! Scroll to the end for links and source info. Ole!
Sometimes you want to take something you enjoy and make it a little special. A cup of tea and some baked treats are simple pleasures that many of us enjoy, but have you had the pleasure of trying a high tea? It’s like taking the tea parties from your childhood and elevating them to a grown- up version- princess dresses and crowns optional. 😉 The finger sandwiches, British- inspired sweet treats, and a perfectly brewed cup of tea are a part of the experience and it’s something that is enjoyable year- round. Whether you enjoy a day out with some girlfriends or include the kids, I thought this was a sweet idea for Mother’s Day. There are plenty of places to go, but you can also enjoy the high tea experience at home with services like those offered by SocieTea Events, where you can select a package to enjoy in your own home or garden.
Hosting a high tea at home can be as simple or as elaborate as you want to make it- start with a selection of teas and treats and go from the there!- and it’s an opportunity to dress up and have some fun (have you seen all the cute Cake inspired pieces from The Sweet Life Apparel?). The lovely ladies from Sequel Events helped me style and shoot this high tea and we definitely indulged in our girly sides- add in a yummy cake from Hello Cake Co, a few simple DIYs, and some pretty touches like the ones included here from SocieTea Events (they also provide some decor items) and Raggy Girl Vintage, and you’ve got yourself a beautiful afternoon. And if you’ve got something else in mind for Mother’s Day (have you checked out this year’s gift guide?), how cute would it be to host a high tea for a bridal or baby shower? It’s amazing what some pretty vintage- inspired touches and fresh flowers can do. See below for the final results!
We’re heading into gardening season on the West Coast and I’m already looking forward to the warm months to come spent outside digging in the dirt. For the past few years we’ve planted edible gardens and last year was the first full season of us planting our two raised box gardens full; everything from kale to peas. Will and I both enjoy gardening and the output from all our hard work, and we’ve enjoyed teaching Ari about gardening and plants the past two Summers. Gardening is definitely a labour of love, but you can enjoy it on as big or as small of a scale as you like. I joke that our back yard is my favourite room of the house in Spring and Summer and soaking up the Vitamin D in our backyard is one of my favourite ways to unwind.
With Ari turning four this year, we’re looking forward to her helping even more in the garden, even if it’s only simple tasks, it’s something she loves and a great opportunity to teach her about growing food and nature. Our goal is to grow organic food and make the most of homegrown eats through the Spring and Summer, while also teaching our kids a love and appreciation for the outdoors and letting them be a part of the process. You don’t need a lot of space to enjoy gardening- pots, containers, and vertical gardens are all great small- space options- and there are methods to make the most of even small garden plots. Even if gardening isn’t a passion- maybe it’s something you just want to dapple in- or want to teach your kids about how plants grow, I thought I’d round- up some reading material to kickstart gardening season.
I’m sharing 5 books below to help build your gardening library, including a few titles for kids, so everyone in the family can enjoy their time digging in the dirt. All titles available from Raincoast Books.
What Will Grow?
This book for kids teaches about a variety of different seeds and what they grow into- everything from peas and tomatoes to oak trees and sunflowers. It’s perfect to teach kids about how plants grow from seeds and that they can transform into many things: flowers, trees, fruits, or vegetables. A great intro to gardening for young readers that includes info about seed growth and simple tips to start your own garden, plus four pull- out pages that kids will love. The pages are full of bright illustrations with planting tips for all of the seeds featured at the back of the book, along with the stages of growth from seed to full- grown plant.
By Jennifer Ward, illustrated by Susie Ghahremani
Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt
What happens in the dirt that we don’t see? Lots of things! This kids’ book shows the hidden world of nature below the garden surface plus all the activity that happens above ground through the four seasons. Everything from worms and other bugs, to the animals and creatures that call the garden home. This a great book to teach kids about all of the critters that are a part of the garden world throughout the year and shows how it changes through the seasons- from prepping the garden for planting, to the final harvest of the year. At the end of the book is a list of suggested further reading for little gardeners along with an ‘about the animals’ section to teach kids about the creatures featured throughout the book.
By Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal
The Little Veggie Patch Co. DIY Garden Projects
This book is loaded with ideas for garden projects, ranging from simple ideas for kids to all- out garden DIYs. Whether you’re looking for garden space ideas- want to build your own vertical garden, repurpose items to help plants grow, or want to attract garden- friendly bugs to your yard?- or get your kids involved, this book has over 250 pages loaded with ideas, all accompanied by easy to follow step- by- step instructions and photos to help you complete your project. I’ve already got a few bookmarked to try with the kids and I’ve seen a few DIYs I’d like to try making for our box gardens as well. I like that this book can help you from start to finish of setting up and growing a garden, plus has simple ideas to get the kids involved.
By Mat Pember and Dillon Seitchik- Reardon
Tiny Garden, Huge Harvest
Don’t have a lot of room but still want to grow some yummy things with your green thumb? This book provides tips for small plot and container gardening with step- by- step instructions for designing, planting, and harvesting. It shows that you don’t need a lot of space, you just need to make the most of it. It includes tips for different garden options- vertical, tiered, pot/ container gardening, as well as what kind of garden you’re thinking of: do you want to be able to harvest and eat what you grow, or simply enjoy the act of gardening? It also has information about gardening techniques and what to do with the food you grow, including garden planning, four- season gardening, succession planting, and how to preserve harvested edibles. At the back of the book is a handy index with information on a variety of edible varieties including some popular herbs. Added bonus: this is a little book loaded with info- it’s about the size of a postcard, making it perfect to tuck into your bag when you head to store to buy gardening supplies and want a quick reference guide.
By Caleb Warnock
Herbs + Flowers
Maybe something on a simpler scale is what you’re looking for? This little book is a great guide for growing more than 32 kinds of herbs and edible flowers (have you seen how pretty a salad looks garnished with fresh flowers?) and has beautiful illustrations of all the plants featured. Each variety is outlined with key information including how it tastes, when to plant and pick, and serving suggestions (ie fresh dill is nice eaten raw or cooked and pairs well with cucumber, lime, lemon, and red peppers, among other tasty combinations). It also includes substitution suggestions, so you can try out different options if a certain plant doesn’t grow well for you (I’ve tried growing basil from a seed unsuccessfully, so have opted to buy a small plant in the past, but other ideas according to the book include mint, lemon balm, and oregano). Another great reference book to tuck into your bag to take to the store when you stock up, and a simple/ enjoyable read no matter what your skill/ expertise level.
By Pip McCormac, illustrated by Louise O’Reilly
All of the books listed above are available through Raincoast Books.
By now I think it’s well known I love a good DIY, and Easter is no different. I wanted to try doing naturally dyed eggs at home, plus a few other simple ideas for decorating eggs: chalk paint and glitter- covered eggs. I thought a variety would be fun plus Ari loved the chance to help decorate them. The chalk paint and glitter eggs are quick and simple to make, but I’ve provided info on how we did the natural dye eggs since there was a little more involved with them.
I’ve been eyeing up the naturally dyed Easter eggs that I’ve seen others share about and finally thought I’d try making them this year with Ari at home. I’ll admit that it takes a little while to make the natural dyes and you’ll want to put down some paper to avoid spills/ stains, but it’s fun to try and Ari had a blast. For some other fun Easter ideas scroll to the end of this post to see the Easter party I teamed up on with Creative Wife & Joyful Worker (where you’ll find her DIY for making those gold foil eggs) and Discovering Parenthood.
NATURAL DYE EGGS
Making the dye for all 4 colours of eggs starts with the same mixture of ingredients + whatever additive is needed to create the colour.
For the dye base:
4 cups water
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp salt
For pink eggs- 4 cups roughly chopped beets
For yellow eggs- 4 tbsp ground tumeric
For green eggs-6 cups spinach, chopped + 1 tbsp ground tumeric
For blue eggs- 4 cups red cabbage, chopped
Combine water, vinegar, and salt in a large pot, followed by the dye ingredient for the colour you want to make.
Bring to a boil, then simmer for half an hour uncovered.
Strain the dye liquid from the solid ingredient (for the tumeric used for the yellow and green dye you can use cheesecloth to help strain). Transfer to a large canning jar or other container to cool. Repeat until you have all of the dyes for the colours you want to make (I added some of the tumeric dye for yellow eggs to the green dye mixture because I didn’t think the green dye from the spinach would turn out. I’m glad I added it because the eggs turned out really green).
Once the liquid has cooled, submerge your eggs and leave over night in the fridge.
Tip: I’d suggest using hard boiled eggs, since they sink and will absorb the dye equally over the whole shell surface. We tried using artificial white eggs plus hard boiled brown and white eggs to see how they would turn out. The artificial eggs didn’t absorb the dye as well and came out more pastel (which is still pretty, just might not be the result you want), plus I found it was easy to wipe the dye off of them after we took them out of the jars, so the coverage wasn’t as nice/ even. I like the artificial eggs more for the other two styles of eggs I made- chalk paint and glitter- covered.
CHALK PAINT EGGS
Eggs (we used the artificial eggs left over from the natural dye batch and I liked how they worked for this)
Chalk paint in various colours
Using a sponge brush, paint one half of each egg (either top or bottom) and allow to dry in an egg carton. Flip and repeat.
Apply a second coat if needed (I found the second coat gave nice coverage)
Eggs (we added glitter to some of the chalk paint eggs, but I love the idea of doing this with plain white eggs as well)
Liquid glue or mod podge
Using a sponge brush, coat one half of the egg in glue and sprinkle glitter over top and allow to dry in an egg carton. Flip and repeat.
Tap loose glitter to remove. If you want to avoid glitter getting everywhere, add a second coat of glue or mod podge over top to seal the glitter.
Like I said, I love the chance to make a mess and get a little crafty. I guess it’s about that time to start adding some Spring and Easter decor around the house and these eggs are perfect for that (but I’d maybe just stick with the artificial eggs if they’re going to be used for more than a day or two 😉 ). They’re pretty displayed in glass jars and vases or scattered on your table for Easter dinner. See the photos below for some ideas of how to style an Easter table/ party and the links to the other Easter projects included in the Easter collab with Creative Wife and Joyful Worker and Discovering Parenthood.
For other fun Easter ideas see these posts from our Easter collab:
Growing up I didn’t give much thought to where I came from. I knew I loved being close to the beach and that it rained a lot. I was born and raised in the burbs and that was that, nothing too exciting. It wasn’t downtown and it wasn’t the middle of nowhere, it was just Surrey; in many ways I thought of where I grew up as sort of ‘blah’.
Fast forward a decade or so and my attitude has done a 180. Now living in Delta I’ve moved just outside the city I grew up in and have watched it begin to change and evolve; I have a new appreciation for the place I called home for most of my life. As an adult I recognize some of the benefits of being from Surrey: it’s central, surrounded by natural beauty (you can’t beat those views of the North Shore Mountains and Mount Baker on a clear day), and made up of a diverse population; things you take for granted or simply don’t care about as a kid. And it’s potentially only going to get better. It isn’t perfect- nowhere is- but so much is changing in a positive direction that it’s hard to ignore.
I knew plenty of people as I grew up who weren’t proud to say they were from Surrey. It just wasn’t the place you wanted to tell people about- especially as a girl (see this post)- but I’m seeing that shift. I really love where I’m from and know others who talk about the positives of growing up where we did and are now raising their own families there. The City is changing- I’d say for the better- and I hear about it regularly from my realtor brother who keeps close tabs on it’s progress. Living in the Lower Mainland, affordable housing is a challenge and it’s something he is now addressing with his clients- whether first time home buyers or seasoned incumbents looking for investment properties- and since this is something I know many struggle with, we wanted to share a few reasons why the City we grew up in has way more to offer than people may realize.
I’m excited to team up with Steven to share about some of these changes and hopefully help shine a light on why it’s a great place to call home no matter what stage of life you’re in. I asked him to show me some of the changes happening in the City and we spent an afternoon checking out the City Centre and touring a local town house development so I could get a deeper understanding. He’s sharing the 3 things he thought people should know about Surrey and why it’s a great place to call home below. It’s amazing how you think you know a place, but working on this post with him I learned and saw things about the City I grew up in that I had no idea about.
Here are the 3 things to know about the City that raised us:
Reputation. When you ask people about Surrey, the answer doesn’t tend to shine a positive light on the City. Surrey has often had a bad reputation, especially with those who didn’t grow up there; unless you’ve seen the good side of it for yourself, the City is judged before it’s given a fair chance. Many people tend to have a negative perspective on the city as a whole, failing to notice the changes that are now being made everyday to transform Surrey into a world- class city alongside the likes of Vancouver.
Surrey is currently undergoing a major transformation and with soaring house prices throughout the Lower Mainland, is attracting attention from those who would have previously looked outside of the City for living options. Improvements are diverse, ranging from affordable living options for families, to luxury condo developments- including the 52- storey Civic Plaza high rise in the City centre. The City of Surrey has taken steps to appeal to buyers- whether first time purchasers, or those already established in the property market- aiming to provide an affordable quality lifestyle. For those considering a move, Surrey is an ideal locale providing affordable options that will only increase in value as the City continues its transformation.With more than 600 hectares of land, Surrey already boasts a variety of appealing benefits for those who choose to live or set up business there, including: 101 elemantary schools,
19 secondary schools,
Easy access to SFU and other post secondary institutions including a new 30000 square foot space at KPU
University campuses including SFU and KPU
Accessibility- 35 minute commute to downtown from City centre
Continuing to invest in and build major developments (60 major projects have been completed since 2000 involving ambitious changes to the City Centre including a new library, city hall, and plans to improve the local rec center and public transit)
2. Growth. What about growth makes an area appealing? When a community undergoes major changes, there are underlying benefits that come in a variety of forms:Population growth requires the ongoing construction of new housing and civic facilitiesNew buildings bring a fresh appeal to the area for both residents and businesses
Transit and community programs expand to accommodate the growing population
The local economy expands and diversifies as new businesses are attracted to the area, providing employment and commerce opportunities
Attracts the next generation of young professionals as the local economy grows and expandsWhile major changes are happening to the City’s centre, efforts are being made throughout Surrey and it is anticipated that by 2041 it will surpass Vancouver as the most populated city in BC, welcoming an estimated 300,000 new residents every year. Surrey is a great example of civic growth, with plans to improve public transit (the City has committed 2 billion dollars over the next 10 years to this alone) and construct an electric Light Rail Transit (LRT) that will help more than 195,000 residents get to where they need to be everyday. The current gem of all the development in the City’s core is 3 Civic Plaza, a $150 million project that will result in a 52- storey multi- use building that will include a 144- room hotel, 349 apartments, and 5 floors of office space.
3. Affordability. This is one of- if not the– most talked about topics when it comes to real estate in the Lower Mainland and there is a lot of stigma surrounding it. But the truth is, Surrey offers a variety of affordable options with benefits that cost a premium in other markets, such as Vancouver. Some of the perks of living here include:It’s an excellent market to take advantage of the 5% down payment helper Accessibility to public transit (with plans to improve it over the coming years, see above)
Value for dollars spent compared to Vancouver
Numerous new community developments throughout the City + more than 1,300 businesses located around the City centre alone
Lower strata fees in newer buildings
Million dollar views under $500,000 (how beautiful are all those mountains?)
Variety- condos, town homes, and detached housing provide options for everyone from first time home buyers to established home owners and property investors, with new developments throughout the City
Whether Surrey is your home or you’re thinking about moving and considering your options, I hope this showcases the changes the City is making and demonstrates it’s appeal. There is more to Surrey than many people realize and sometimes it’s about giving a place a chance before you judge it. With all of the changes and improvements around the City Centre and throughout Surrey, it’s an optimal time to invest in this market as it begins to draw attention and appeal to a wider selection of buyers and investors. And as the saying goes, ‘The future lives here’.
A big thank you to my brother, Steven, for providing insight and information for this post. I learnt a lot about Surrey as we worked on this together and his passion for real estate and the City of Surrey shone through the whole process. If you’ve got questions about the local market or are considering buying/ selling in the area, he’s a wealth of knowledge and a proud member of the community. If you want to learn more about his real estate services, see below.
In the world of Pinterest and Instagram, who doesn’t catch themselves getting major envy at some of the beautiful, perfect, magazine- worthy homes they see? It makes for nice eye candy while you scroll through, but it can also leave you feeling a little bummed about your own home: ‘My house totally doesn’t look like that’. We don’t all have big budgets to tackle that reno or a limitless credit limit to splurge on all the things to make our homes picture- perfect. And let’s face it, some days it’s worth a celebration that the house doesn’t look like a bomb zone with kids running around as you attempt various chores/ cleaning, etc (‘let them make one mess while I clean another’ sound about right? 😉 ). And having an older home that comes with a few quirks can definitely make the process more interesting and challenging. My friend Piya who owns The Handpicked Home and I both have vintage 70’s homes that came with a lot of personality. Over the past year we’ve worked together on a few projects, but comparing notes on updating an older home has been something we’ve laughed and joked over as we discover bumps in the roads of our various projects.
I’ve loved being a part of and watching Piya and Pav transform the home they bought a year ago and we wanted to share about the process along with some tips for anyone who’s got an older home, or one that just needs a little TLC. It can be exciting to renovate/ redecorate, but it can also sometimes feel overwhelming when you’re trying to figure out what to do. So over the next couple of months we’ll be sharing different tips and ideas from Piya’s experiences that you can hopefully use in your own home that are simple, don’t break the budget, and help make your house your home in all it’s imperfect glory (and let’s face it, probably have a laugh over as well, because what home project ever goes as planned?). Piya and I chatted about a variety of things to do with moving and home renos and she’s sharing about her experience so far below along with some before and after photos to show the progress they’ve made. It’s really amazing to see the difference some paint and creativity can make to a space and Piya’s home is a great example of what you can accomplish, regardless of how quirky your home might be
What was your previous home like compared to your current one? How did you want to make this home the same/ different in terms of style and personal touches?
Our condo in Morgan Crossing was a show suite; it had never been lived in. It was a two-level, two-bedroom, two-bath home with a beautiful, large kitchen that included a gas range and quartz counters. Our house needed a lot of TLC when we purchased it, but Pav knew that I could work my magic to design a space we could both love. The condo was easy to make sparkle because it was already shiny and new! This house was going to be a little more challenging, but I love a challenge. We went from always entertaining in the open-concept kitchen and family room in the condo, to focusing on the seating area in our living room of the new (old) house as an alternative. It’s not worse, it’s just different.
I knew I had the opportunity to have even more fun with our house, like adding wall decals, which I had always wanted to do in our condo but never got a chance to. So even though we no longer had our sparkly dream kitchen, we had something else; something with a lot more character and charm and history that we could make our own. A few months after we had moved in and made some changes, the daughter of the previous owners came by to pick up some mail and when she walked in the door, she was blown away by how great it looked. What a difference a fresh coat (or three!) of paint can make!
What was the timeline from finding the house, moving in, and completing the facelifts?
My husband was on the hunt for a house, right when the market was picking up but still before the real craze of bidding wars and no time for inspections. We were in a condo in South Surrey, beautiful and new; a gorgeous space. Pav (my husband) knew, though, that this was the time to try and purchase a house with a decent size lot when we still could. As White Rock and South Surrey were at the top of our wish list, we started looking there first, but worked our way back to my old ‘hood in Cloverdale where we found her. Older, and in need of some serious love, we made our offer and it was accepted.
Because it was at the beginning of December 2015, we waited to get through the busy Christmas season at the shop, so we rented it out and stayed in our condo until January, when we put it up for sale and accepted an offer fairly quickly. We had until March to move out, which gave us a lot of time to pack and say our farewells (even though it’s always left until the last minute anyway) and we moved into our new (old) house in April. We began painting right away: every single wall and our brick fireplace, and replacing all the light fixtures. The bathrooms upstairs were not holding up, so we decided to renovate those sooner than expected in June, and that took about a month to complete.
Decorating is always an ongoing adventure, especially with a space that’s almost double the size that our condo was. But I wasn’t really finished enough to be truly happy with it until probably September. Things always take longer than expected; shop life keeps us really busy, so trying to squeeze in time for the house can be a struggle – emotionally, too, since I do take pride in making our space less house and more home. There were plenty of frustrations along the way, but it’s looking so cozy and sweet now that it was all worth it in the end!
What drew you to this house?
Most certainly the lot size. Ultimately, our plan will be to tear down the house and rebuild our dream home (yes, we will be those people on the block!), which might also be the only way we are able to afford the space we really want. I am more about quality over quantity, so the rebuild will be about the fixtures and special features over the high square footage. Who needs extra, bare rooms to keep clean? Not us!
What also drew us to this house is the unique layout. It’s a ‘70s three-level-split home but not like any others out there we’ve seen. It boasts a large foyer and dreamy living room, with a dining space along with a bar area we created. An original, three-sided brick gas fireplace keeps us cozy, and the master bedroom even has a walk-in closet! Not the largest walk-in around, but I’ll take what I can get!
What were your priorities/ on your ‘must change this’ list when it came time to renovate?
The bathrooms were high on the list; painting was probably first since it seemed easiest at the time (ha ha ha – Pav will have a laugh over thinking it would be easy) as well as changing the lights. The house also needed updated blinds – we went way too long without real window coverings, but did put curtains up in the meantime for at least a little bit of privacy. Meanwhile, I was finding some additional furniture for the space and planning our feature dining room wall.
We also decided what we wouldn’t be focusing on, which was the kitchen. We figured since we were planning on tearing down eventually anyway, and it already came with stainless steel appliances, there was no use in increasing the value of a room that wouldn’t exist in five years. Five years – that’s the plan: live in the current space for as long as we can and hopefully not longer than five years. We tend to work quicker than we think, so we will see how things eventually turn out!
What do you love/ hate about renovating an older home?
The hate is for the delays; the things that go wrong; the new things that need attention when you’re still working on the “old” things. The love is the satisfaction from seeing your work complete; the joy of accomplishing projects on your own home; the chaos of working on it with your husband – and enjoying the space together each night after a long day at work.
How is this home different from your previous place?
It’s old! It’s also twice the size. There have been a lot of additions made to the house over the last forty years and not all of them were done well. There have definitely been some challenges, but we also saw a lot of potential. It’s unique and homey, and the yard is a huge plus!
How did you make changes on a budget?
We took on a lot all at once, so we knew we had to stick to a strict budget for updating the house. Pav took on the painting (as much as he doesn’t love it) with his parents helping out, to save some money on labor. We did have a team helping us manage the bathrooms, but we were able to use the same group that is currently working on the new build of Pav’s parents’ house and piggyback off of a larger project, so that helped us save some costs as well. Some of our feature light fixtures were a splurge (like the chandelier above the dining table), but because we bought several for different rooms, we were actually able to negotiate a better price which helped us save at least $200 – that was a bonus.
The hardest part is working one month at a time and not being able to buy everything all at once – isn’t that always the case? Pav had to remind me that we needed to wait some purchases out, like bringing sweet new pieces home from the shop (always a struggle) or our dream sofa. Good things come to those who wait – and, for now, we are enjoying the space and the fact that we can take a break from maintenance work.
How do you make your house ‘yours’?
Putting a room together doesn’t come easy for everyone; there are some things to remember about the placement of chairs in a living room or how rugs can make a space warm and cohesive. But, for the most part, do what you love. Does that art make you feel good? Throw it on the wall. Not sure if the cushion matches but you love it so much? Grab it for your couch! Magazines are meant to serve as inspiration, not rule books. You don’t have to worry about making your place “magazine-perfect” so long as it’s perfect to you, and your quirkiness and love will show through to whomever steps through your home.
Can you put a dream rug over existing carpet (which, by the way, you can!)? Do it, if it feels right to you! You’ll make it perfect with your own charm and personalization. I say, don’t be afraid to make some design moves. And, honestly, a fresh coat of paint can make anything, anything, look great. Got a China cabinet or headboard that’s dated but you can’t part with? There’s nothing a little coat of FAT paint (a local chalk style paint company) can’t fix! You’ll be hooked and want to paint everything you own!
What are the quirks and fun thing about decorating an older home vs a new, all- white house? Do you love it, hate it? Or both?
We got lucky with our place; it came with all these rooms that we could do whatever we wanted with. We can turn the downstairs into the man-cave (or Pav-cave!); we can have a bar area for extra seating when we entertain for dinner; we get to have an extra-large foyer that we can make pretty for guests as they first enter our home. It’s not new, it’s not white and pristine – it’s old and a little rickety (in a good way! There can be a good way, right?) and charming as hell!
It was full of wood paneling that we painted white (for our own makeshift wainscoting) but also included cedar ceilings which add something unique. There is a tonne of space (our condo furniture basically fits into one room- our family room) that we get to work with, and also a lovely yard and deck that we can eventually redesign as well. I do miss our condo sometimes, I just loved it so much. But now we get to have an adorable new space to call home, and even though it came with some struggles, we know we made the right decision (especially Pav– I don’t think I could get him to pay another strata fee again!).
What’s next on the list?
Adding to the décor! We also still (still!) have some unpacking to do, so we will complete this hopefully early in the New Year. We are borrowing my Mum & Dad’s couches right now in our living room; we already have our dream sofa picked out so hopefully we can pick that up in January as well. I plan to move the current furniture downstairs, and grab the new sofa along with new coffee/side tables to update the living room to complete it. Working in the environment I do, it’s definitely hard to not bring one of everything home with me every day!
The value of our home is in the lot. With the eventual plan to tear down and rebuild, we focused our attention on cosmetic changes like new carpet for upstairs, paint, light fixtures, blinds, heat vent covers, and, soon, little things like new door handles upstairs for all the rooms and matching light and plug covers. The bathrooms were the biggest job, and while we tried to keep the renovation budgeted, we knew we could spend a little more on things we could keep for the rebuild, like good toilets and shower fixtures, and spent a little less on the tiles, which we can’t later salvage. The soaker tub was new but we found it on Craig’s List (hooray!) and both vanities were from IKEA – we saved on these and I love them! I would not hesitate to keep them for some spare bathrooms in our future new home. If we do decide to update our kitchen next year, we will likely limit it to painting the backsplash and counter tops, just to make them more liveable (and likeable!). I found some pretty great tutorials on Pinterest that would make for a fun project!
What tips do you have for anyone looking to redecorate/ renovate/ do a facelift?
Get a lot of quotes! Talk to as many people as you can about your project list, especially people you already know– there are always great recommendations to be made through word-of-mouth. If it weren’t for the team that was already working on Pav’s parents’ new place, we would’ve worked with the same contractor that built our shop. That was a dream-team!
Also, try out some new DIY ideas (like painting your backsplash in the kitchen!), especially if you’re in a situation like us where you will eventually tear down anyway. They will probably turn out great, and you can spread the word and help friends and family with their DIY inspiration!
Finally, take your time. I had to come to terms with the fact that not everything could be updated at once, and that’s okay – you will learn to love the space and your guests will likely not even notice all the details that you know are still missing.Enjoy the adventure, whether you are doing it with a partner or experiencing it on your own. In the end, it’ll be the satisfaction of your own hard work and dedication that’ll make you smile everyday.
Piya and I have more home- inspo coming to you in the new year! Stay tuned for more in our home sweet home series soon!
Who’s decked their halls already? I think I’m still in denial that it’s mid December already and Christmas is less than 2 weeks away (!?!?!). But that doesn’t mean you have to stop adding to the festive atmosphere. When I decorate for Christmas I always seem to keep adding. I’ll think I’m finished and then find something else that I can’t resist adding to the festive decor. I’m a big kid when it comes to this time of year and I love the smell of having a fresh tree in the house. The next best thing is having fresh greens or a wreath to bring that amazing smell into your home or to great guests when they arrive for your holiday party. They are so beautiful and surprisingly easy to make. (Tip: you can also lie a wreath flat for a pretty low- lying centrepiece for Christmas dinner). This just might be the best- smelling DIY you’ll ever make. 😉
Ivy, red berries, and any other fresh embellishments you’d like
Small branches or a wire wreath frame
1. If you’re using a pre- made frame you can skip this step. Begin by laying out the branches to form a circle the size you’d like.
2. Use twine or floral wire to tie together the branches.
3. Start adding your fresh greens and secure to the frame/ branches
4. Go around the whole frame until it’s full; trim away any excess to get the shape you desire
5. Add in other decoration such as ivy, berries, etc to get the look you want
6. Finish off with some pretty ribbon & loop a piece at the top to hang the wreath
7. Adjust the ribbon length so the wreath will hang where you want it on the door