Friday, 30 November 2012

Saving the Browns

Friday! Welcome to your Weekly Phil.

Yesterday, Cass caught you up on our Fall schedule that comprises everything up to the end of this month.  We’ve been busy—sometimes too busy—and while in our culture we might where that as a badge of honour, it’s time to stop thinking like that.

So this week, after a rough beginning, we’ve slowed down a bit. We’ve celebrated her mom’s birthday. We’ve watched a friend’s band play at a cool local coffeeshop/used bookstore (how is that not my favourite place on earth?).

And so I don’t have a renovation story to share today. We’ll be working through the weekend, trying to get our bedroom ready, so don’t worry, Grandpa Joe’s House will keep moving forward. But today I want to talk about something different.

I want to talk about money.

You see, I know a Nigerian prince who needs…

Just kidding. This isn’t about soliciting donations.
This is more about "saving the browns," which in 1995 Cleveland meant something entirely different than it does in Canada.
That's right. We're talking about...

How do we get the money to renovate with?

You might be able to DIY your way through the décor in your home. You might be able to dumpster-dive, repurpose, and turn lead into gold. But want to do a big bathroom renovation (like we hope to do around the holidays)? Want to redo a kitchen? Finish a basement? You’re going to need some cash.

It’s a well-known fact that money doesn’t grow on trees; it’s made from a plastic polymer now, so I guess it’s drilled out of the ground? And although my employer provides for me very generously, living on one salary doesn’t necessarily lend itself to having a lot of disposable income to throw at the house. So to be able to keep renovating, we have to be pretty judicious with our spending.

Fortunately, we’ve been big on budgeting from the beginning. (Alliterate that!) We aren’t exactly Dave Ramsey envelope-users—though if you have money struggles, check him out for sure—but Cass and I have a budget that we use to plan our spending in advance and track how closely we stick to that plan.

As long as we remember that our money is there to serve us, not the other way around, the process of budgeting remains a great source of blessing in our lives.

How do we budget?

It’s a common-sense series of 4 steps.
  1. List all the reasons you get money (your paycheques, your tax return, your birthday card from Great-Aunt Zelda) and you spend money (your rent or mortgage, your car, your groceries, and hopefully NOT your heroin habit). Don’t forget to list the special things you want to do, like renovations, charitable donations, or vacations (anything that ends in “ations,” apparently).
  2. Estimate your costs. The internet is your friend here. Err on the high side; it keeps you from running out of cash halfway through, and makes you feel good for coming in under budget. 
  3. Adjust your budgeted expenses to balance your income and expenses. This was probably the hardest part for us, prioritizing what’s most important, and imagining how we’d do without premium cable, our regular Starbucks runs, or (in my case) realizing I may need to re-sell some of my Blue Bomber tickets. But you can, and with the help of Netflix, a refillable water bottle, and a non-playoff Bomber team that often made me want to cover my eyes, we are. 
  4. Track your actual expenditures to make sure your keeping within your budget. The heartache of step 3 makes this step all the more tolerable. You realize you don’t miss spending money and that a beautiful new bathroom will outlast the pains of the sacrifice

How do you track all those transactions?

Some people use a paper ledger, others use accounting software. We’re somewhere in between. Fortunately, a few accounting and small business courses in university got me well versed in the creation of spreadsheets for just such purposes. When I was first moving out and getting ready to get married, I built a spreadsheet for use to track our spending. I kept refining that spreadsheet and, when our pre-marital counsellor asked us to give him a copy that he might share with others, I was inspired to try to make it accessible to everyone.

So here you are:

Every expenditure gets tracked. This is a good thing. It’s a bit time-consuming, but it’s also instructive: If you’re making too many transaction to want to type them into a computer afterward, you’re probably making too many transactions. The receipts sometimes to pile up, but fortunately the credit cards have online statements that we can check at any time and catch up on any entries we may have missed.

If it’s too complex, we’d be happy to answer your questions in the comments below or by connecting with me via Twitter.

Finally, on a totally different note:

November 30 means the end of Movember. While I didn’t participate formally (please donate to my good friend Ryan’s Movember campaign if you can), I did take the opportunity to test my mo’-growing mettle. Now, in my defense, I needed to be clean-shaven for my brother’s wedding on the 10th, so I only had two-thirds of the typical moustache cultivation period. How did things wind up? Judge for yourself.
Like a combover or mullet, trying to make up for a lack of thick hair by growing it longer doesn't work. This is why the moustache will be gone tomorrow.

If you really need to ask why there’s a terrified look on my face, it’s a healthy fear of having posted a photo on the internet that even the elephant man would consider “unflattering.”

Are you on a budget? How do you track it? Have an underwhelming moustache? Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Fall Update

For those of you following along on our updated to-do list, Fall is officially over tomorrow! With Philip doing his usual Friday post (one suggested title for these days is Filip Phriday - I'm a fan) I thought I'd write this post one day early, Fall Completion Eve. 

Let's take a closer look at the original list for Fall:

Fall 2012 (September-November)

Get HVAC inspected for the winter
Look into having boiler system and air conditioning system replaced with furnace and central air
Cut Insurance Rates
Silicone exterior cracks
Repair front steps
Have electrician address electrical issues
Correct other inspection issues
Present evidence of repairs
Bedrooms/Living Room
Remove old trim/baseboards
Convert outlets to properly-grounded three-prong
Replace windows
Install new trim/baseboards
Move out of basement
Fall Clean Up
Remove vines and trees from right side bushes
Remove circular flowerbed and seed
Empty rain barrels and store, redirect eaves troughs
Till the vegetable garden to prepare for sod
Seed open spaces
Turn off water to outdoor hose
Bleed radiators and reserve tank

Some of the things on this list have changed, but we actually did pretty well. 

Looking back, at the beginning of September when our Fall list commenced, we were living in our finished basement with our spidery friends, with plans to finish a bedroom and move upstairs. That changed to gutting the basement, replacing the HVAC system, and moving into the unfinished guest room upstairs in the interim. We had a pretty small list, but it became pretty big. 

We have a couple of last minute things to complete over the weekend (we actually did change the outlets and plugs already in the bedrooms a while back but haven't written about it yet and need to take pictures so maybe we'll change a plug in the living room just to provide a better step-by-step). You'll also notice on the more up to date to-do list that we didn't repair the front steps yet, it was shuffled down to a later date as Winter is here in full swing and it just isn't ideal for right now. 

Soon we'll finally be done enough things to invite a solid group of people over, already found the invitation.

Our blog was started on October 29, 2012 and so far we have published 27 posts (including this one). Here are some of the things we've covered:

  • New to the whole having a yard thing, there were a couple of posts about learning to cope with yard work - including this post and this post. I also apparently had a few things to learn about the indoors.
  • I got crafty as a domesticated house wife, learning to do things like use craft paint here and here. I also found inspiration through the ancient ways of library browsing
  • Carpet and walls were taken down for good in the basement to make room for our new HVAC system - Philip shared that with you here and here
  • Beginning our master bedroom and office renovations, we've shared our progress in this post, this post, this post, and this post
  • Our house was beautified with brand new clear windows.
  • Inglis Liberator Plus retired from our home to be replaced by my beautiful new LG high efficiency washer and dryer (in love). 
  • We learned about blogging, including adding a new page, and messing up big time *cough* Philip *cough*. You also learned about my inability to use a measuring tape, ruler, or any other measuring utensil.
  • While you learned more about us, we've started learning more about you through polls like this and this.
  • We tackled one of the worst projects ever of patching the ceiling, and the walls too. Keeping that trend going, Home Depot delivered the excruciating experience of purchasing closet shelving. Just to keep sane during all of that, we took a trip to Ikea a couple of days before the grand opening. 
I tried to link to every post here, hopefully I didn't miss any - but if I did feel free to use the archive tool on the side and start reading from the beginning! I'll review our upcoming Winter to-do list on Monday and hopefully it isn't too overwhelming. 

On a side note, we're going to extend the poll until Tuesday in order to start a new polling tradition which we're quite fond of so tomorrow there will just be the one post from Philip - with two to look forward to next Tuesday, Dec 4. 

Thanks again for reading! We've really enjoyed blogging so far, and can't wait to see some of the stories we'll be able to share as our house really begins to take shape. 

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

6th Time Is the Charm

Disclaimer: Be prepared for a really long post about wire shelving that is a bit low on pictures and a lot high on frustration and disappointment - just to get you through it, I promise it has a semi-happy ending!

Number 1

This Sunday we went to Home Depot with the purpose of buying some closet shelving for our new and improved Master Bedroom. Little did we know the adventure that was about to unfold.

You should first understand the closet organization shopping experience at a home improvement store, it involves a lot of signs, a lot of directions, and a lot of calculators. 

When we got to Home Depot for the first time (the title is a bit of a spoiler here), we had decided to go with the white wire mesh basic shelving and had begun loading it into our cart. Closet shelving seemed easy to us at the time and we knew basically what we wanted so just went for it. Our closet is 8' wide and about 2' deep, so our original thought was an 8' long wardrobe shelf at the top, a 4' long wardrobe shelf below to allow for some double hanging and some long hanging (I have a dress addiction), and we had also planned to put a narrow shelf at the top for additional storage. 

We started out loading up the shelves, and then we read some signs. They talked of C clips, Back Clips, End Clips, Shelf Supports, etc. Each of which had a different requirement such as use at the ends as well as every 36 inches, use every 40 inches as well as 2 inches from each end, use in between shelves if they will be holding twenty kittens while cooking cornish game hens and singing the theme song to "The Jetsons" - this is almost not an exaggeration. Every single different component was to be used at a different measurement, and came in a bag with a different number that didn't make sense. For example, shelf brackets only come in a bag of one bracket each, while c clips, which you only need a couple of, came in a bag of 20. Very puzzling. 

A list of the necessary hardware needed to mount our shelves.
Math was my favourite subject in high school (can't even explain that one - my favourite food is also broccoli...I'm unique), but somehow in a high stress home improvement nightmare, math can really cause me to become overwhelmed.

So anyway, we got our cart all loaded up and were ready to get out of there, when an employee at Home Depot stepped in to try and upsell us on the special shelves that you can add cool accessories to. We were pretty sure what we wanted, but being nice we didn't shut him down early enough which meant that we were still there when a nice couple walked by and awkwardly announced that Canadian Tire had a better deal and we should go there instead. The employee sort of awkwardly joked it off and we told him we'd shop around a little, so we unloaded our cart and moved on. 

Number 2

Off to Canadian Tire! We very quickly realized that they didn't have what we needed at all at Canadian Tire - don't know what that couple was thinking. One thing we did see there were some pre-made boxes of closets for certain sizes and so that added another factor into the equation - did we want to do it piece meal or buy a box that is already completed with all the hardware we need. More math! What was cheaper??

Number 3

Before heading home for the Grey Cup we figured we had time to stop at Rona just to make our home improvement Transcona tour complete. They had almost everything we needed but were missing one of the sizes of shelves that we wanted. We grabbed some free popcorn and headed back to Home Depot.

Number 4

We snuck the back way up the closet aisle to avoid our new "in training" friend John so that we could get in and out quickly and watch Toronto beat Calgary. We just wanted to see the price on the prepackaged closet kits there so that we could give it some more thought. The boxes cost around $200 so it was very close to the same price as the piece meal way of doing it. So confusing! I was very tempted, but the box didn't have the same amount of shelving we wanted and came with some components we didn't really need, like shoe shelves (which we keep in our front closet for the most part). 

Number 5

Yesterday, we went to Home Depot to get this all over and done with. They didn't have enough hardware (I believe the shelf supports were what they didn't have enough of) at the Regent Home Depot so we were headed to Polo Park. We got there and finally decided what we all wanted - after we got in a bit of a dispute and I had to return to the carpet section for some soothing once again. 

After all of this we decided it made sense to not put an additional shelf way above for extra storage as it would be awkward to get at or put anything sizable on, and we have plenty of storage in our house. It's hard to tell right now because we have stuff everywhere, but we will have a lot more room than we did in our condo once some more of our rooms are usable and things are put away. 

During this trip to Home Depot we finally calculated the difference in price between the box of prepackaged closet and the individually purchased components. With deciding against the top shelf, we would be saving over one hundred dollars and getting the same amount of shelving so it made a lot more sense for us. Definitely won't judge anyone who buys the box though, this experience made me hate closets forever.

We were about to leave when we realized that we weren't so sure we could fit the 8' length in our car. I feel like I can hear your audible groan through the computer as I write this. Somehow we didn't think of it before hand. We decided to go home and eat supper and then head out again with my father-in-law's truck.

Number 6

After filling up on some delicious tacos, we headed to the in-laws to pick up the truck. Little did we know there would be another obstacle, there is a storage box and hitch in the back of his truck so it wouldn't fit in there either. We measured our car and realized we could fit it in our Torrent if we put it in diagonally, so I stayed there and Philip headed out once again. 

A couple hours later and our closet shopping experience was complete, it only took 6 trips and a lot of angry discussions and tears, but we finally have shelves. Now just to install them without any issues. Knock on wood!

It wasn't nearly as easy as this guy makes it sound:

Has anyone else installed wire shelving in a closet recently? Any tips for us? Now just to get through this week, finish our bedrooms, and move in! The caulking is the death of me so wish me luck as I wrap that up and hopefully share about it soon. All of this work is putting us majorly behind on our Christmas shopping, fill in the poll and let us know how prepared you are for the upcoming holiday season!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Trimming the Tree...erm Walls

We haven't put our tree up yet, but we did trim a couple of other things this weekend...the walls in our Master Bedroom and Office are now fully painted and beautifully adorned with white trim. 

Our condo had oak trim, and this new house had some kind of wood trim as well and so I was definitely ready for some refreshing white trim. It also made our paint colours look way better! 

We went to Home Depot on Wednesday night last week and purchased it, making sure to get it a couple days in advance of installation in order to allow it to acclimate as recommended. My dad came on Friday to do the installation as he has the tools such as a mitre saw and brad nailer. 

First up was measuring all the casings and baseboards, and making sure that we allowed enough width to cover any and all flaws that were hidden behind the previous trim. That made our decision for us because our previous trim was 4" wide and the options at Home Depot were 3 ½" and 5 ½" - 5 ½" it is! We were able to get away with 3 ½" window/door casings though.

My mom manned the mitre saw while my dad measured (without his glasses) and I ran in between them. I am a little low on pictures because neither of them wanted to be photographed in their painting clothes - have to keep up the image after all. 

We did the casings first, although we ran out of material partway through and had to go back for more (not sure how that happened - measure twice, cut once!). After they were all done we did the baseboards which were finished a lot faster! 

The windows look even bigger and brighter now! 

Casings done in the office.

Drooling over my white trim.
Master Bedroom getting trimmed out. 

Mm baseboards!

It already looks much more finished, even baseboards in the closet makes a big difference!

This might be my favourite, looks so sharp against the Silver Streak walls.
Is anyone else drooling over this as much as I am? I realize these photos are about the least exciting pictures in the world, but to me they are pure heaven. I am so excited. 

Next up: sand, putty, paint, and caulk these babies. Then we can move in! 

Check out our to-do list, we're pretty close to finishing our Fall section! I'll do a review of it at the end of the month and then we can move on to Winter and the Christmas shopping that needs to happen. 

Monday, 26 November 2012

Poll Results 2 (Must think of a more clever title)

This past week we asked you to let us know what kind of blog reader you are. The results are in, and most of you love reading blogs, and some of you have your own (for those of you that do, share your link! We'd love to share our readers with you and add your blog to our own Google Reader). 

In the spirit of blog reading and sharing, we thought we'd each share our top three blogs to read with a little bit about why we like them. 

Philip's Picks

Since I’m sure Cass has covered the renovation/decor beat off pretty well (and, honestly, she’s the one who monitors the daily goings-on in that world for me), I’ll cover three of my favourite blogs from the non-renosphere.

Grandland's Hollywood Prospectus - Philip's top blog choice
1. Grantland’s Hollywood Prospectus and The Triangle blogs
These aren’t typical blogs as I like to think of them, because their authorship is so diverse and so similar to the more traditional journalistic endeavours of Grantland’s main oeuvre. But I’m a sports-and-pop culture-oholic, and this is where those passions intersect. Shane Ryan’s daily “About Last Night” piece is a daily must-read on The Triangle side; it’s like a brief version of The Daily Show or SNL Weekend Update; I get the top headlines along with a comedic take on said headlines. On the Hollywood Prospectus side, Dave Jacoby’s “Reality TV Fantasy League” infotains me by providing überanalysis of shows I don’t even watch (or would otherwise care about whatsoever).

Donald Miller is my alltime favourite author. His blend of memoir narrative, his authentic take on the struggles and discoveries of faith, and his wry sense of humour hooked me a few years ago when I really needed it. It can be a bit dry sometimes; I worry sometimes that Miller’s losing the humour aspect of his voice. But as far as challenging content and understanding the nature of leading and living a great story, Miller can’t be beat. And if you’re looking for more humour with your daily dose of inspiration, check out this honourable mention for Jon Acuff’s blog (author of the also-good Stuff Christians Like blog).

3. All the others I read infrequently.
I don’t read that many blogs regularly in large part because of the house this site is dedicated to and, you know, the need for gainful employment. But I’ll send a quick shout-out to the following occupants of my Google Reader:
Battleship Pretension: Cinema podcast with infrequent articles
Bryan Allain: Author, blogging coach, and resident of Intercourse, Pennsylvania
Chad Gibbs: Author of “God and Football,” which would only be more perfect if the football it talked about would be Canadian and not college.
Cory Edwards: Hollywood director of the first “Hoodwinked” and a hilarious guy I found through the Steelehouse Podcast (R.I.P.).
Hyperbole and a Half: Allie Brosh doesn’t update this anymore , but the archive of her crudely-in-MS Paint life experiences is worth it alone.
Rachel Held Evans: Rachel Held Evans is the author of a couple books that make conservative Christians upset, and that’s a calling in itself.
Seth Godin: Because I’m in Marketing and this is required reading.
The Big Picture:’s amazing curated galleries of large photographs from around the world.
The Oatmeal: Matthew Inman is the hilarious (albeit oft-crude) illustrator behind this comic and the book 5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Face.
XKCD: I don’t always get it, but XKCD is an imaginative comic lampooning science, geek culture, and everyday life.

Cassondra's Picks

Young House Love - Cass' favourite blog by far.

I've talked about this blog in the past, and it's because it began my love for blogs, as well as really helping us to gain confidence in our DIYbilities. John & Sherry explain things really well and come up with really fun projects, plus Clara & Burger make my day. Their blog is definitely what inspired this blog and we only hope to one day be as cool as them (although our friend Brittany said one day we'll be as famous as Oprah & Tyra combined - not sure if we'd need the Tyra boost if we were as famous as Oprah...but we'll take it!) Through this blog I also learned about Katie Bower and her blog is also a great light read.

2. The Faux Martha

This is the most beautiful food blog I've come across. Wonderful recipes, but the presentation of them is what really gets me. The photography is outstanding and the way that she describes food is delicious. I've made a couple of things from her site already, including rhubarb ice cream and definitely recommend it! 

3. Ditto.
I'm in the same boat as Philip as far as picking a third blog, I read a lot of blogs but they are all equal in my heart! Here are some more blogs I love:
Making it Lovely
Cape 27 Blog
East Coast Creative
iHeart Organizing
Ugly Duckling House
7th House on the Left
Our Fifth House

We hope that you'll enjoy reading these blogs as much as we do! If you visit any of these blogs leave them a comment letting them know and maybe even tell them where you heard of them :). Philip has been a long time blog reader, and I am more new to the whole concept but was a quick learner. Definitely a blog addict now and talk about the bloggers as though they are my real friends...

On another note, Christmas is coming fast! With December beginning this week, we'll start chatting about Christmas a little bit more and the decor/renos we have in store for that time of year. You've already seen my pine cone craft which was a bit of an early Christmas decor project, and you have lots of that to look forward to. Answer our poll this week about how prepared you are for Christmas - I'm sure you're beating us.

Ikea Sneak Peek!

We were very fortunate to be given some friends & family passes this past weekend to the newest Ikea which is opening in Winnipeg this Wednesday and thought we'd reveal a little bit about our trip!

Ikea is wonderful first of all, Philip goes crazy for it and even though we've already been there and the line ups will be huge, we'll likely go again before Christmas. The biggest perk about going this Saturday was saving 15% which helps when we already knew what we wanted to buy and were very organized! 

We couldn't take as many photos as we'd like because a lot of the displays were really crowded, but we did our best!

Having never experienced Ikea cuisine, we thought we'd start there to have the full experience. Both of us have been to a few Ikea's in our day - I lived in Seattle where we had one, as well as being to Ikea in Minneapolis, Chicago, Calgary, etc. Very familiar with it, but we'd never tasted the meatballs!

The Ikea Restaurant - love the white accessories everywhere!

Philip eating some delicious Swedish meatballs.
 A couple of things to note if you plan to visit this new Ikea on Wednesday:

1. Poor cell reception, make sure you don't lose your companions!
2. If you are going to buy soda, be prepared for a long arm stretch. A man with long arms must have designed that because I'm 5'10" and had to go on my tip-toes to fill our cups with some Pepsi.
3. The cart wheels all turn, all four of them, it was amazing.

Other than that I had nothing bad to say! It was a great experience and a very well designed store.

After eating, we went straight into the showroom and began the hunt. We had a list of what we wanted to buy, and we stuck to it pretty well so that was good!

A photo showing the amazing shopping carts. Philip was in love. 

Can't wait to have a new kitchen in our house...we're thinking white and something like this would definitely be alright with me!
Mint dishes - mint is the new best colour ever.
Kind of digging this tile.

Really cute salt shaker! Parents: add this to your Christmas list of things to buy for me. Also, those hand scratches are from installing trim this weekend. Yay for home improvement scars!
Inglis lives! We've replaced our Inglis Liberator Plus appliances, but apparently Inglis is still a top choice by Ikea!
I was kind of digging these colourful buckets, not sure what I would do with them but I'll think of something!

Can't wait for Spring time when I can buy these beautiful white pots!
Trying to squish Philip into this photo of our completed shopping cart!
We ended up buying:
Plus the 15% off saves us $30 to be used for something else! We may go back for more soon, but this was all we intended to buy so we tried to stick to it and not go impulse shopping. So proud or our will power.

Hope you'll have a chance to go to the new Ikea soon if you're local and we'd love to hear about your finds as well! Stay tuned later in the day to hear about the poll results and launch of the next poll.