Building Our Dream Home, Part 1

In the summer of 2009, my husband Jay convinced me to pack up our belongings, our daughter, and our lives, and move from Toronto to Vancouver. It took a lot of convincing on his part to get this to happen – I was totally against moving to the West Coast – I was a ‘City Girl’. Toronto was a happening place – amazing restaurants, shopping, nightlife – and only a short plane ride away from New York City! This was supposed to be our life, not some hippie granola-munching yoga-pants-wearing sloooow lifestyle that I’d heard happened out in Vancouver.  But I digress, he convinced me, and in October of 2009 I found myself in Vancouver. And thereafter fell deeply, madly, in love with it.

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The fresh air, the mountains, the ocean, it was intensely beautiful. Overgrown trees, beautiful flowers, and even palm trees were seen on a daily basis. The weather was so gorgeous (when it wasn’t raining!), and I even welcomed the rain into my life by trading in my Tory Burch pony-hair flats for a bright red pair of Hunter rain boots.

We quickly discovered that the only real draw-back to moving from Toronto to Vancouver would be the real estate market. The cost of living is a little more expensive here, but the real estate can double or triple in price depending on the area. It was a bit shocking to us, considering we had just sold a place in Toronto and were hoping to put a down payment on a home out here. C’est impossible!

What we wanted and what we could afford were quite different realities, and anything we could afford would either need a total renovation or wasn’t in the right location. Jay always had dreams of building his own house, he is not one that’s happy with a builder’s finishings, he likes to make things custom to his own designs, which leads to the problem of ‘settling’ for a home that wasn’t quite what we wanted and was out of our price range anyway.

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Then one day, sometime in 2010, Jay comes home and tells me about a ‘building lot’. I listened to what he had to say, but I hesitated to agree with him. We had purchased a lot back in Ontario and lost our deposit on it after realising that the project was too far out of our reach to complete. Building a home sounds like a wonderful dream come true, but when faced with a steep, tree-filled landscape (that is 40 minutes away from Vancouver, in the middle of nowhere) you really have no idea where to begin! And I need to see things before I can understand them, whereas Jay is a visionary and gets frustrated when others can’t see what he sees (in his head, mind you….).

One year after we moved to the West Coast, we had purchased a piece of land and moved from the city of Vancouver to a small mountain town, almost an hour north of the city, and set about our plans to build a home.

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After much prep work to the lot (dynamite! diggers! might machines!) we finally had a flat building area on our lot. Foundations were made, concrete was poured and steel posts and beams were put in. Very slowly, over the course of a few months, our building lot went from overgrown and forested to build-able and then, built upon!

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I admit, this process is exciting and frustrating at once! It is so awesome to watch things come together – from our first drawings, to our silly computer renderings (on an hgtv program, no less!), to all of our saved pictures and ideas, and then the real architect drawings – and to see it come to life is just amazing…. And frustrating that everything seems to take so slow, and requires a million details. And terrifying – what if it goes wrong? What if we did something wrong in the drawings?

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Thankfully so far everything seems to be going to plan, other than a few hiccups here and there. And to add to the project I got pregnant and had a baby along the way – so it’s safe to say that things have been pretty exciting in our family for the past couple of years! The home building process is intense but the end result is so satisfying, and I can’t wait to show you more of our home build along the way!

Read Part 2 and Part 3

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Kids and Videogames

One of the largest fights I have with my seven year old daughter (7 going on 17!) is about video games. Basically she wants to play her video games all. the. time. for. ever. and I don’t want her to. I want her to go outside, and have fun – read a book, play with her Legos – basically enjoy her childhood. I feel at times that she’s addicted to video games. I eventually give in, of course, and allow her to play. If it was only playing, that would be fine, but now there’s also whining involved. How often can she play? How long can she play for? When can she start? Why does she have to finish now? She can’t finish now because she has to go to a save point… ten minutes later the bloody game is still on – it drives me absolutely insane. I feel like she is addicted to video games.

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I used to try and regulate the duration of ‘playing time’, making it one hour long, but this quickly got canned as I NEVER monitored the time properly – and even when I did there were excuses about finishing levels and getting to checkpoints (all valid excuses, but still!). We used “games” (meaning her DS, our phones or iPads, the Wii…) as a means for good behaviour – meaning we would take away games if she misbehaved and give her more game time if she had proved herself to be ‘good’, but I’m not sure the lesson was learnt and really it gave me headaches for days – all the moaning and crying and whining… ugh.

The problem I have with regulating these video games is that I feel like a hypocrite for not allowing my daughter to play them. I LOVE VIDEO GAMES. There, I said it. Whenever we got a new game for the Wii, I would play it after everyone was asleep. And beat it. (How else would I know how to play them with my kid?) I have my own games on my iPad that my daughter is NOT ALLOWED to play. Not my daughter – not anyone. I laugh at the childishness of this, but really, it’s MY GAME.

So how am I supposed to suppress the wants of a 7 year old girl when I have the same inexplicable need to immerse myself into a game for hours at a time. The problem is that I don’t have the time – perhaps it’s jealousy?

The true problem lies in this: when my daughter plays video games for too long (and on any given day this is a different length of time), she turns into an emotional mess. She loses her patience quickly with us, with her brother, even with her game. She gets frustrated easily, and if ‘something bad happens’ she will absolutely lose her cool – no matter where she is – and nobody can help her.

This leads to more fighting, more crying and moaning – about how she’ll be good! can she please play more?

Parenting is hard. Video games make it harder. And since I know the fun that lies in these games, I don’t want to outlaw them completely.

New rule: NO video games on school days. 

This is actually working out pretty well for us, since on weekends we’re usually busy doing other things and she seems to forget about her gaming addiction for many hours at a time. I, in turn, try to relax and not be so controlling, sort of turning the other cheek and letting my daughter play her games.

I’m hoping with this rule we can achieve the balance of enjoying ‘gaming’ while still living life to the fullest.

How do you keep your kids gaming in check?

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Getting Rid of Paper Towels

Cheeky Dish Cloths

Cheeky dish cloths!

One of the easiest changes I’ve made in my home is getting rid of paper towels. I was initially very intimidated by this aspect and put up so many barriers to doing this – if I use rags, what type of rags? how much more washing will I have to do? what if I’m out of rags? cloth towels cost more than paper towels!

As in most things in life, the initial investment in cloth napkins and kitchen towels can be a lot to pay at once, however the cost of paper towels is a lot more in the long run, costing families an average of $200 or more per year – and it’s all being thrown in the trash!

As I said, I was terrified by the aspect of not having paper towels in my home – I used them for everything, all. the. time. Wiping faces, counters, sticky hands, cleaning EVERYTHING, wiping up spills, used as napkins, cleaning make-up brushes – almost any cleaning task was done with a crazy amount of paper towels. And I couponed my heart out and got the best deal for my dollar, but at what cost to our earth? Going through 3 or 4 rolls of paper towels a week, just because I could?

Since moving into our tiny apartment, we’ve switched to cloth napkins, microfiber cloths, sponges and rags for our cleaning and wiping jobs. I have a drawer specifically for these cloths and have a few hooks for ones we’re currently using. Once they get dirty I just throw them in the wash with our other towels.

Not once have I been out of towels or napkins – I’ve been low, but I’ve always had a couple of clean ones lying around. And the fact that I’m not contributing to more waste than necessary while cleaning makes me feel good. The family is adjusting fine – my daughter gets a kick out of the ‘fancy’ napkins we’re using, while my husband I think misses the ease of paper towels (always there, ready on a roll, throw it out when you’re done), he is definitely on board with it and I think after a few more months he’ll eventually stop asking me ‘where we keep the paper towels’…!

PS. Full Disclosure: We do have ONE roll of paper towels in the back corner of the sink, just in case. In case of what? I’m not quite sure yet, but it’s there – just don’t tell my husband!

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Impromptu Long Weekends

 longweekend

Tomorrow we’re taking a long weekend. There’s no holiday here, but we’re pulling my daughter out of school and we’re taking a mini-vacation up to Whistler for the weekend. I love these ‘staycations’ – hotel stays that are a 40-minute drive away from home, only for a few days – it means minimal packing and no crazy car drives filled with annoying children…!

Weather in Whistler

Instead there will be hot tubs and pools and no laundry! There will be a beer festival and yummy food and gorgeous summer weather in September! I mean, look at that weather forecast – it’s nicer weather than we’ve had all year long, and I am taking full advantage of it!

I bought a new swimsuit (50% off!) and I’m ready to lay out by the pool all. weekend. long.

In other news, Holland is learning all about how to use his potty – he will sit on it. he will pee in it. he will poop on it. We are all very excited about it – however! He doesn’t speak. He grunts. And screams. And shouts. And says “WAOUW”. So how exactly am I supposed to understand him when he has to use the washroom? How will I decipher the grunt that means “I have to go pee!” apart from the grunt that means “I’m hungry or thirsty and I’m going to squat here on the ground until someone picks me up!” ?

So although I’m super excited that he “gets” the potty, I’m not going full-force potty training until he can either take his own clothes off in time or say the words “potty” or “poo poo” or “pee!” or whatever he wants to call it.

Chanel on the other hand has started the second grade and is having mixed feelings about it. She adores seeing her friends and playing at recess and lunchtime (hello – who doesn’t?), but she hates how “hard” it is. Um. It’s school dude. If it’s not supposed to be a cakewalk the whole time – I know she’ll adjust and she’ll be fine. She’s built of tough stuff! Her teacher is great (thank goodness!) and I’m interested to see how this year goes for her.

Anyway, I’m going to pack for my ‘long weekend’…  and perhaps pour myself a well-deserved glass of white wine!

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Summer 2013

Holland & I

Splash Pad Fun

This summer seemed to fly by! July was spent packing up our home, purging unnecessary items, storing the rest of our life in a storage locker, and we spent the first three weeks of August back in Ontario visiting my parents and sister. When we came back we had a week to unwind, unpack in our temporary apartment, and check out the spawning salmon before school had started again. Here are some pictures of our summer!

Splash Pad Fun

My sister & Holland

My sister & I

Arcade Fun

Cosmic Bowling!

Mini Putt Fun

Brother & Sister playing Lego

Salmon Spawning

Finding a stone to throw!

Mamquam River

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