Friday, August 31, 2012

The Great Livingroom Make-over! Part 1

When we first moved in to our new house in October 2010 (almost 2 years ago!!) the place was in pretty good shape and generally just needed a face-lift. Everything was pretty much white and beige with no upgrades from the original finishes (1997).

Since then, RB and I have taken on more than one home reno project but they've largely been non-fun types. Like a new roof. Who gets excited about a new roof? Though the new central air unit isn't exciting it certainly has paid for itself over the two summers we've had it. We've done a few other minor things like painting and hanging things but nothing big. All the while my crazy brain has been churning around ideas for our main floor. FUN ideas. Creative ideas!

With that I have taken on The Great Livingroom Make-over!

Before you get too excited I'd like you to know that this make-over is by NO MEANS finished. My plan is to present to you the stages we've gone through and continue to go through and maybe one day I'll tie it all together. For now these are progress posts because really... who has time to do this much work in one weekend? Not real people.

The jist of it is that our livingroom is also our dining room is also our entry is also basically our kitchen is basically one giant living space which all adds up to me cowering in my (unfinished) basement. But, I'm powering through. I'm powering through so much that I'm giving you before pictures that show my messy house. Please be nice.

Here's the livingroom/entire main floor:
Coming down from upstairs... real life! Dog toys! Gym bag! Folding chairs because we didn't have a dining set! Note that beige carpet... and those weird beige curtains.

Dining space with folding chairs and an old desk because we classy like that. Please disregard my messy kitchen... Also note that awful light fixture.

Kitchen. Pay less attention to this space as it is getting less made-over. Kitchen make-overs are expensive.

Standing in dining area looking into livingroom. Beige beige beige white white black. Boring. That's a bathroom with the door open and that's the garage door next to the mirror. Front door is opposite the mirror.  

We have two giant couches. They take up a lot of space but are amazing for those post-Christmas party mornings... also: DOG!

So that's the current state of the space. A lot of beige, a lot of white, and a lot of black.

My plan for the space:

  • New floors - carpet and vinyl has to go. It's in good shape but it's a dated finish
  • New window treatment - those weird beige curtains are actually sheets with weird sheer curtains with dragonflies on them. No thanks. (Came with the house)
  • Paint - I think I've finally decided on a colour... maybe
  • New art work - I love the car pictures (taken by friends!) but I want a change
  • New coffee table - it's just all too much black. 
  • Bar cart for dining area - going DIY all over this
  • Buffet table for behind couch - provides more storage and I actually have one, just needs a face lift
  • New light fixture above dining table - that old one... will haunt me
  • New couch - this one is the least likely to happen any time soon as it'll be the most expensive addition but we'll see...
  • Bookcase - paint it or get a new one, it's falling apart
  • Dining set - the folding chairs and my old university desk have got to go
There you have it. That's where we live. This is our first home and much of the furniture is left-over student quality. We are slowly making updates and I'll tell you a secret... some of that list is already done!! Stay tuned...

Have you ever taken on a full room renovation? How did you tackle it? Did you try to DIY everything or did you hire someone? How did you budget? What would you do with my space??

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What I've been reading - Summer 2012

It's been a slow reading summer. Odd as I usually get through the most books when it's too hot to be outside. Blame it on the influx of amazing Bon Appetit and Wired magazines that have come out this summer. Really, what I've been reading is magazines with a few books scattered in. Here are a few...

  • Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See - this book was recommended by Amy a long time ago and I finally remembered and got around to reading it. It's a very cute and heart-wrenching story about two lifelong friends growing up in China. The story covers the painful process of foot-binding and the roles of women in ancient Chinese families. It's a fairly quick read and I had a hard time putting it down. Reminded me a bit of Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden which is probably in my top 5. Which reminds me... I should re-read that...
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut - I'm not actually finished this book because I keep getting caught up in something else that I'm trying to finish (see: magazines). I really enjoyed Cat's Cradle and never had the opportunity to read this one in highschool as many did. It's a bit odd, which is to be expected, I'm not sure I have an opinion, I need to finish it first! (The title is after all 'What I've been reading' and not 'What I've read'!) 
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern - did I tell you about this already? Probably because you. must. read. this. The circus... the characters... I can't even describe it. It's all very magical and twisty and crazy and colourful. If you like those kinds of things you'll like this. Even if you don't like those kinds of things you'll probably like this. Without spoiling anything I'd like to add that you PAY ATTENTION when reading. There are many small clues throughout that become important later. 
  • At First Sight by Nicholas Sparks - I didn't finish this one, I probably won't. A friend lent it to me and I just can't get into it. I've never read anything else by Sparks and I haven't even seen The Notebook (which is actually on my Life List). I think it's a bit too much perfect romance and less messy drama and magic than I'd like. Basically what I'm saying is I like magic. Give me books with magic. 

As always, I'm looking for suggestions of what to read next! I like fantasy and popular fiction. I originally spelled that 'fantasty' which is almost more appropriate...

I'm also on Goodreads

SO - what are you reading? What do you love? Have you read much this summer? Any books that you haven't been able to put down lately? Tell me about them!! Or just tell me about how we're going to go on a summer-long vacation next year to try out all the restaurants on BA's Top 10 Best New Restaurants... just me?

**If you say '50 Shades of Grey' I'm going to... well, nothing. If you like that kind of thing then more power to you - I'm just not interested. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Favourites ver. 20

In which I post fun and favourite things from my week, semi-regularly... every-other... randomly... on Friday! 
 The days are getting shorter and the shadows are getting longer...

1. This website has basically consumed my morning. No matter how good your dog is - there's always something! Boomer is generally well behaved but we have to be careful not to leave food within his reach or leave garbage out. The worst thing I could shame him with would be "I got into the garbage and ate a Styrofoam meat package which prompted me to vomit uncontrollably, be raced to the vet, shit in the waiting room and then get a finger up my butt and make mom and dad PAY for it" Ya. That happened. What would you shame your dog with?

2. Upon returning from Chicago I'm basically obsessed with the city and want to go back ASAP - specifically for this event.

3. Next weekend is Labour Day and we are making our annual trek to the Buffalo Wing Festival. I've written about it before here. If you're in the area you should check it out next year. We'll have some company this year with RB's sister and her boyfriend joining us, too!

4. Last weekend I went to watch RB compete in the Tough Mudder course. Have you heard of it? It was nuts. I watched him and his team cross monkey bars, get shocked by live wires, run up a half-pipe, trudge up and down a mountain and get shocked again. But they had a great time and it made me want to do it next year!! See you there? (check out my pictures here).

5. It's the last week of Frisbee and it's a bit bittersweet - we've had such a great season but I need a few weeks off to recover from a litany of small injuries. Last summer we won all our games which was great but this summer I really feel like I've learned so much and have improved as a player. Our beginner team has also come so far - hopefully we can get many of them back next summer. We'll play indoor this fall, a bit different but still good. Do you play?

Tuesday's game - looked like this puppy was going to land on the field! The sun is looking more and more like Fall is upon us...

Bookmarks this week:
Have a good weekend!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Running Playlist

Remember earlier this week when I told you how much I hate showering? Well, following that theme I also hate... RUNNING.

The anxious dog helps, too.

I would rather do jumping jacks, squats, shoulder presses, etc etc ETC (insert literally any aerobic skill and I'm in) instead of running any distance.

However, the appeal of running is pretty clear. It's easy to track progress, set goals, see improvements, and is very easily accessible. No one wants to stand in their backyard and do squats for 30 minutes.

Which bring me to the Running Playlist. What a friggen difference maker! I know what you're thinking 'blah blah blah this couch is so comfortable blah blah blah" and, you're right. That couch IS comfortable. MY couch is comfortable, too. BUT... but...running with a sweet playlist has taken me from wanting to run NO WHERE to wanting to run to EVERY WHERE.

Some of my favourites (links are for iTunes):
Some links to other playlists:
Are you a runner? What's on your playlist? Do you workout to music? What gets you moving??

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Soapy Mess

I should have added this to my 'Things I'm Afraid to Tell You' list.

I hate showering.

I know that it's not a waste of time but it sure feels like such a waste of time. If showering took five minutes I probably wouldn't hate it so much. In this life, though, showering takes FOR EVERRR (insert screaming toddler tantrum).

I feel it important at this time to tell you that I do in fact shower, at a frequency that is socially acceptable in this country.

In an effort to reign in on my getting ready time and to ease my shower hatred, I've started cutting things out.

My most recent cut is shampoo. I no longer shampoo my hair every time I shower. In fact I can't actually remember the last time I shampooed my hair (did you lol at the word 'shampooed'?). Not washing ones hair has been a bit of a trend in the past decade with new dry shampoos, leave in conditioners, and general distaste for dried-out hair that tends to result from over shampooing. So I have resorted to only shampooing about twice a week.

The results: well, nothing. My hair is exactly the same. I still conditioner my hair every time I shower and rinse it out.

When I do shampoo my hair I have started using a sulphate-free shampoo - specifically this one - because it doesn't dry your hair out as much and is generally less damaging. BOYS, if you're concerned about losing your hair go sulphate free!!

Conclusions:

  • I still hate showering. Thinking about it makes me all whiny-like.
  • I DO in fact still shower.
  • I no longer shampoo my hair everyday and have seen no changes so I will continue to not waste shampoo
  • I use sulphate-free shampoo and you should look that up and see if it's a good choice for you because it probably is, especially you boys who might be losing it (I'm sorry) and are very attached to it (I know, I like it too) and want it to last longer (life is hard).
So internet, tell me, am I crazy? Do you shampoo every day? Are you using a sulphate-free product? Do you hate showering and wish that someone would develop a machine that would wash, dry, and style your whole self in 3 minutes?? Me too...

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Chicago FOOD Recap

I took a bit of a different approach for eating this trip. I did an exhaustive search on restaurants from basically every city guide and trip advisor review. I selected a (large) handful and created map bookmarks for each on my phone. The idea was that whenever it was time to eat we would simply look up what I had bookmarked nearby. I didn't bookmark any breakfast places, instead I used Urbanspoon and chose each one based on reviews and location. We had a 75% success rate with this method. We had a 100% success rate with my other choices.

SO... what did we eat?? Short answer: EVERYTHING.

Long answer:

Breakfast:
  • Yolk: pretty typical breakfast place. We both had the build-your-own-skillet and they were awesome. 
  • Meli Cafe: a bit pricier but excellent food and extensive juice/smoothie menu. RB had the special (ranchero skillet) and I had banana pecan waffles
  • Whole Foods: after a big night out we weren't feeling like another big breakfast so we got smoothies and baked goods at the WF conveniently located across the street from Hotel Felix
  • E.Leaven: this was the only flop of the trip. The fresh bakery was appealing but the execution was poor. Go for the bagels but that's about it. 
Breakfast skillets at Yolk

Skillet & Waffles at Meli Cafe

Lunch/Dinner: 
  • GT Fish & Oyster: neither of us likes oysters but the rest of their menu was great. We had the clam chowder, crab cakes, lobster mac and cheese, shrimp bruschetta, and fish tacos. All wonderful. 
  • Avec: based on recommendations from my brother and many city guides we went here on Saturday night. We went early (4:30pm) as we didn't have a reservation. We got in right away but the place was full by 5:15pm so it was a smart move. We had the chorizo stuffed figs, cheese platter, pork shoulder, roasted peppers, and the plum sorbet. The figs are their signature dish and they are crazy awesome. I'd recommend everything except for the peppers which were only okay. 
  • Giordano's Pizza: there are a crazy number of pizza places in Chicago, it's overwhelming. It's also the most popular food to try while in the city. It's worth the effort and a very unique experience! We chose this based on recommendation from Jen, and it was very conveniently located. The pizza is literally a pizza pie - crust - toppings - topped with more crust and sauce. It was excellent. and massive. but excellent. In line a woman told us she liked Pizza Uno better so maybe we'll try that next time.
Meal at GT Fish & Oyster
Meal at Avec
Pizza at Girodano's
Other stuff:
  • The coffee at the White Sox game looked like Guinness and tasted like rotten charcoal. 
  • The beer at the White Sox game made up for it. 
  • We drank a lot of Starbucks. Like any big city they are everywhere. 
  • We had cupcakes down town and they were underwhelming. I did like the idea of a lemon-coconut cupcake but the execution left room for improvement... in my kitchen. 
  • The food at Lolla was surprisingly plentiful, reasonably priced, and pretty good! The fresh made potato chips covered in hot sauce were the highlight. 
Lolla food
We had to chase the brutal coffee with the only available alternative: Diet Pepsi & Miller Lite

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Chicago Recap

We survived! We survived the rain and the concert and the food! Chicago was amazing and we can't wait to go back.

View from our Architecture Boat Tour

Overall thoughts:

  • Don't hate me... I liked it better than NYC. 
  • The water - lake and rivers - are such a huge, beautiful part of the city and you can even go to the beach right off down town.
  • The people were lovely and welcoming and I didn't feel under-dressed, even at the nice restaurants.
  • The people of Chicago LOVE their city, and it shows, in a great, proud way.

View from our seats at the White Sox Game - daytime fireworks! (huh?)

How we travelled/accommodations:
  • We chose to fly out of the Kitchener airport. About $100 more expensive but on our way home we walked out of the plane at 10:29pm and walked into the house at 10:49pm. Worth the extra cash. 
  • We both travelled with carry-on only which is basically the only way I've been travelling lately. If you haven't done it, try it once. You'll never go back. 
  • In Chicago we either walked or took the train/subway/L. Very walk-able city and the trains are convenient and simple. We walked a lot but everything is very close so we never walked more than 15 minutes to any destination. 
  • We spent two nights at Hotel Felix - smaller rooms but excellent service, would recommend. 
  • We spent one night at the Conrad. Seriously exceptional service and quality. Probably the nicest hotel I've ever stayed in. We got a great price on it through Hotwire. (We booked our hotels separately to get a better overall price, I should probably write a post on Hotwire/Priceline as we are obsessed).

Cloud Gate at Millennium Park
What we saw:
  • Chicago Architecture Foundation boat tour. There are several river tours offered, I chose this one as it seemed the most intelligent and least touristy. The tours are run by volunteers and I got the vibe that our tour guide could have talked for days beyond the short 90 minute tour. Very professional and friendly. 
  • White Sox game. There are many sports teams to see while in town if that's your sort of thing. The Cubs were out of town and it isn't hockey season. It was fun to be at the game with the locals and we got the very worst cup of coffee I've ever had. Don't get the coffee at US Cellular field. 
  • Michigan Avenue/Magnificent Mile: so much shopping on one convenient street. If shopping is your thing make sure you go all the way up to Chicago Avenue as the shopping continues north. If you are walking north or south and don't care to shop, go one street over to Rush Street. It's less busy with no traffic signals so you'll have a quicker route. 
  • Second City: HILARIOUS. Wonderful experience. Tickets are relatively cheap at $23 pp. Get there early to get a good seat. Seriously - DO THIS. You won't regret it. 
  • Crazy Ass Thunderstorm: 5:00pm on Saturday the sky busted open and it poured rain, sideways. It was the craziest 30 minute storm I've ever seen. It also caused an evacuation at Lollapalooza.
  • Lollapalooza: by the time we were looking for tickets there were only single day passes so we went for Sunday to catch Florence + the Machine and Justice. I'm glad we didn't get a 3-day pass, one day was about all I could handle. 
  • Wrigley Field tour: as it's one of the most historic stadiums in the league, and in professional sports in general, we figured we'd go have a look. 
BEACH! Right off of down town!

What we ate... I'm going to write a WHOLE POST on this. Because it deserves it. Stay tuned. 

Pros:
  • I scoped out many restaurants and bookmarked them on my phone so when we were hungry we could just look up what was close. 
  • Hotel Felix and the Conrad were exquisite.
  • The 'L' was easy and cheap.
Water Tower Building on North Michigan Avenue

Cons:
  • While Millennium Park was very cool it only took about 20 minutes to look at everything, we allotted too much time for this. 
  • While the 'L' is very simple to ride, it is in fact ELevated and thus you hear the train rumbling all the time.
  • Arriving/departing during rush hour - our own faults, really. We had to ride the 'L' from and to O'Hare with our luggage and way too many people. Much sweating.

View of down town from Grant Park/Lollapalooza
For next time:
  • We went during Lollapalooza because we wanted to go to Lollapalooza. Otherwise, I don't recommend going during this concert. Hotels were crazy expensive and there were many (MANY) drunk hipster kids everywhere. 
  • As it was our first time we only scoped things out that were right downtown, next time I'd like to check out the rest of the city.
  • Go to the beach. The one that's right in the city. 
  • Art Institute - didn't make it this time
Outside of Wrigley Field before our tour

I seriously have 50+ pictures of food. I'll get my food post done ASAP!!

Friday, August 03, 2012

Friday Favourites ver. 19

You guys - I'm in Chicago!!

1. In anticipation of this trip I bookmarked every restaurant that has been mentioned in basically every city guide. I also downloaded the Flavortown app which will show us all the restaurants featured on Diner's Drive-ins and Dive's. I caught myself planning 'early dinner' and 'later dinner' for Saturday. What I'm saying is... there's going to be a lot of eating going on. Follow me on instagram to catch the food frenzie, I'm erica_rw.

2. ARE YOU WATCHING THE OLYMPICS? Seriously, are you?? I am basically obsessed. I spend my lunch break switching between the three different feeds and schedule my evenings based on what's being broadcast. I'm not sticking to one event or one country, I'll watch anything. The Men's Team Gymnastic finals were especially mind-blowing. Those guys are defying gravity.  Watching the Canadian athletes is obviously the highlight, though. Seeing them finish their race/routine/etc and then waving to their parents gets my eyes all sweaty like.

3. I've had really bad luck with shoe choices when it comes to travelling. I never seem to bring the right ones or choose the right ones for the day. Like getting stuck walking around NYC in knee-high rubber boots when not a single drop falls from the sky. This time, I thought I'd be smart. I'm going to throw fashion out the window and wear sneakers. Check out these babies!!

Electric Pink Nike Free Run

3. My friends continue to do this awesome thing where they keep getting puppies and bring them over to play. The fence around our back yard has basically paid for itself in puppy play time.

Totally pooped, after 2 hours
4. Bookmarks this week:
Enjoy your long weekend!!