Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Renovation Completion!


 The final look!

So that's it! That's our big reno. We are one or two light fixtures being hung away from saying we are DONE! (And we need a stair railing so small children can't fall off the side of our living room...but that's another project completely.) As I had mentioned in the Spring. I was very interested in projecting estimations for the project and seeing what actual costs were. I was hoping the whole thing would cost us $15k, but I think it was more like $20k+. Here's what my projections looked like!

Materials Estimated Actual
Laminate Floor 450 480  
Sink 300 250  
Cabinet Hardware 150 110  
Faucet 300 300  
Microwave 400 225  
Counter top 1,200 2,000  
Backsplash Tile 1,000 300  
Paint 150 75  
Cabinets 4,500 6,410  
Fireplace 250 160  
Lighting & Rough Electrical Supplies 1,000 1,500  
TOTAL $9,700 $11,810  

Labour Estimated Actual Comments
Demolition  500 250 Weekend DIY with friends. Costs include demo accessories and lunch.
Painting 1,200 1,258 Contracted out - ceiling, trim and walls and downstairs hallways
Plumbing 250 0 included with drywall
Electrical 2,000 2,490 Potlights, running new electrical, new breaker box
Flooring 500 0 Weekend DIY
Drywall 2,000 3,400 Going from popcorn to flat ceiling and repairing all the walls that we tore down.
Tiling 500 0 Thanks to helpful friends!
Cabinetry Install 5,000 2,091 Completed by Lowe's Installers
TOTAL $11,950 $9,488  

Sunday, 4 November 2012

What's for Breakfast?

I had to share these two great breakfast treats that I've been enjoying so much lately. I love my breakfast and I'm always trying to find ways to avoid cereal & milk for breakfast. A friend posted a link to Zain's Swiss Summer Oats and I was instantly hooked. Its easy to make at home and VERY convenient to take on the road.

I have two go-to favourites: Sweet Cherry Pie and Chocolate Hazelnut. I've manipulated both flavours to fall within my current eating guidelines.

According to the blog, Sweet Cherry Pie has the following ingredients:

1/2 Cup Slow Cook Oats
1/3 Cup Unsweetened Milk of Your Choice
1/4 Heaping Cup Fat Free Greek Yogurt
11/2 Tsp Flax Seeds
1/2 Tbsp Crunchy Almond Butter (Raw or Roasted)
1/8 Tsp Cinnamon
1/8 Tsp All Spice
15 Red Cherries
2-3 Drops Natural Almond Extract (Optional But Recommended)
5-7 Drops Liquid  Sweetener of Your Choice (Honey, Agave, Stevia Powder etc.)
6 Almonds Chopped or Whole (Optional Topping)
2 Tbsp Granola

I've been taking out the yogurt, stevia, and granola though and adding Chia seeds (for a creamier consistency) as well as half a scoop of vanilla protein powder.

When I first started making the Swiss Summer Oats, I would always be craving Chocolate Hazelnut (or Ferraro Rocher as the blog calls it) flavour. My discipline skills haven't reached the point yet where Nutella can stay in our house for longer than a few days without being eaten out of the jar with a spoon. But this is even better than Nutella (and a lot better for you!).

Here's the recipe:

1/2 Cup Slow Cook Oats
1/3 Cup Unsweetened Milk of Your Choice
1/4 Heaping Cup Fat Free Greek Yogurt
11/2 Tsp Flax Seeds
1/2 Tbsp Hazelnut Butter
11/2 Tbsp Cacao Powder
1 Tbsp Unsweetened Cacao Chips (Optional)
5-7 Drops Liquid Sweetener of Your Choice (Honey, Agave, Stevia Powder etc.)
6 Whole or Chopped Hazelnuts (Optional Topping)

Again I've tweaked it for my current eating guidelines by using more almond milk and removing the greek yogurt and Stevia. (I find it sweet enough as it is). And then adding chia seed and using an Almond & Hazelnut butter from Great Canadian Superstore. If this is my evening snack I'll use a chocolate flavoured protein powder and add cacao chips, but in the morning I find chocolate flavours a bit too overwhelming and will just use a vanilla flavoured protein powder. (If you've never tried Arbonne's Vegan Essential Protein Shake, you have to check it out. Contact Julie Karanfilis for more details!) So to sum it all up, without any added sugar, this treat tastes like Oatmeal Cookie Batter and it's delicious!

The best part of this is I can mix all the dry ingredients in canning jars and keep them in my pantry. In the morning when I need to grab them as I run out of the house, I need only to throw in the wet ingredients in and shake up the jar!

That's all I got for today folks! Thanks so much to Zain for the great idea!

Would love any creative and super easy breakfast ideas you have too!

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

What's Holding You Back

I know, I know...it's been way too long. In fact, this blog has been two and a half months in the making. I wanted to write about an experience I had at the end of August at Can-Fit-Pro conference in Toronto. Can-Fit-Pro Conference is a 3-day event of workshops, training, and fitness classes that teach and inspire fitness professionals (of which, the fact that I classify myself as a part of, still makes me feel funny) in every aspect of fitness and nutrition.

On the Friday of the conference I set myself up with a great line-up of classes starting with "Piloxing", "JumpSport Power Jump" (think mini-trampoline) and finally an amazing group exercise class called "Indo-Row". I loved them all, but there was something about the Indo-Row class that really captured me. In a nutshell, the class format was similar to a spinning class, but using the indo-row water rower the instructor goes through a series of drills and ends off with a competitive race that engages groups in the class to work together. It amazed me how much teamwork and comraderie you feel with a group of inidividuals that you had never met before. It was truly an amazing class and it the Indo-Row was an amazing machine.

As I had been participating in rec rowing during the end of summer, I asked one of the instructors Josh Crosby, a world rowing champion, if he could give me some critique and feedback. He told me to come back the next day to the indo-row booth and he'd be able to help me out.

Saturday morning started with the largest BodyPump class that I'd ever been a part of. After giving it my all in the classes on Friday, I felt, at best I was working at a 6 out of 10 that morning. I gave a half-ass performance in the pump class.
Once it was over I went over to the convention hall and found the Indo-row team.  When I got there, there was a girl trying to qualify for the "2 Minute Challenge" on the indo-row.  The 2 Minute Challenge is where you row your ass off for 2 minutes. The top 3 men and top 3 women qualify to the finals where the men have to row 600 m and the women row 500m for a prize of $100. After watching this girl on the rower, I had no inclination to even try the 2 minute challenge. She was giving it all she had and came up 75 meters short of the 3rd best time.

I sat down on the indo-row to work with Josh. He showed me a few things, helped my technique a bit, then told me to do the 2 minute challenge. I politely declined saying I didn't think I could. He said, "Of course you can." He hit the start button on my rower and started coaching me through. At this point, I didn't have a choice, and I had a world champion rower coaching me through so I started to give 'er. I mean, who wouldn't give 100% when you have a coach like that right beside you guiding you through the most torturous 2 minutes of your life? My first energy system guided me through the first 30 seconds, I wasn't feeling too bad, but then the minute mark hit. I didn't want to give up. I had an ego on the line. But I was dying. Before 1m 30sec hit, I couldn't see my timer nor my distance any longer, everything started to be blurry and the only thing I truly remember was Josh yelling at me to power through my legs. With more than 15 seconds left, I thought my body was done. I couldn't feel anything, I could barely see anything, but I couldn't stop. You can do anything for 15 seconds, right? Two minutes hit and time was up.

I have never been more exhausted in my entire life. I looked at Josh and while my body regained its supply of oxygen I said coldly, "That wasn't fun." Josh laughed and after replying "Welcome to my life," he said "Look at your distance." I was in the #2 spot on the board. He said, "Do you know who is #1? A medal holding national champion rower." After another two minutes or so, I was able to stand up. I'm not sure if it was an endorphin high, or because I had never been pushed like that, but I turned around, and purchased the indo-rower. (I could spend a whole blog on the buyer's guilt I had when I realized how much I spent without consulting my husband. But, thankfully, I have the most understanding and gracious husband in the world and am now a VERY proud owner of the Indo-row. And yes, I use it weekly).

Though one other person bumped me down to 3rd place sometime during that afternoon, I was still in the top 3 and had to come back at 5 o'clock for the final challenge.

I barely made it through the afternoon. I started the day feeling a 6 out of 10 at best, but after those two minutes, I dropped to a 3 or 4 and never really recovered. I didn't want to do the final rowing challenge, (though I really needed to win the $100 to help pay for the rower I just bought). Around 4 I went over to the booth and told group that I wasn't going to do the challenge. I'd show up, just in case the 4th or 5th person wasn't able to make it and I had to do it. I was out of gas. I was scared that I wouldn't be able to finish the race, that I wouldn't be able to stand up after (or ever again), or worse yet, that I'd puke in front of all kinds of people watching. I didn't want to be that girl that every cheered on "just to finish the race." After all, the #1 and #2 seated girls were both hard-core rowers. My rowing experience had more to do with drinking with your crew after the practice than anything else.

I had made up my mind. I had justified my reasoning and it certainly was valid. I had sprained muscles in my shoulder from an overuse injury that I didn't deal with for 3 months. I had done more hard core physical activity in the past 24 hours then most people do in a whole season. Plus, I still had Sunday to go, and I wanted to make sure there was at least a little left to give for Sunday's classes. These are all very valid reasons I told myself as I justified the reason I was backing out to the coordinators of the challenge.

Then one amazing lady name Doris said to me that she was disappointed that I was backing out. Her genuine concern touched me. It literally cut through my wall of justifications like a knife. And then she said words that have still stuck with me, "I wouldn't want you to miss out on this opportunity..." The opportunity to have a crowd cheering for you, to compete against other athletes, to push yourself to the limit. She said, "How did the last 30 seconds of the two minute challenge feel?" I replied emphatically, "Like Hell."  She said that in the final challenge I would only be rowing 500 meters, which really equates to only 1 min and 30 sec. I said to her that I didn't know if I had even that left to give.

For the next hour I wrestled with my fears. My justifications for not doing the race were completely logical to anyone on the outside. But I knew the real reason why I didn't want to do it. Plain and simple, I was afraid. I didn't believe I could. I was scared I would embarrass myself. I went over and over my reasoning for the next hour.

At 5 o'clock I walked over to the booth and said I would do it. Doris was right, I would've been so disappointed in myself if I didn't attempt the race. As  I sat down on my rower, I was literally shaking in fear and anticipation. As soon as they started the race, my friend Alison was there screaming in my ear. Amongst the cheering I really couldn't hear anything. My eyes had gone blurry. I was giving it everything I had. They tell me at one point I was in the lead (probably due to the insane pace that I started out the race with). As I predicted, my eyes went blurry, my body went numb and it took all I could just to keep going, but I finished the race. I barely could breathe let alone move. I'm sure my heart rate was higher than it had ever been in my entire life. But I finished....and as a bonus, I didn't puke!

They started announcing the times. I finished my 500m in 1minute and 36 seconds. The two other female rowers in the race finished in 1 minute and 35 seconds. The 3 male rowers finished behind us by a few seconds each.

My shock and amazement was overwhelming. They weren't cheering me on to just "finish the race." They were cheering for me to win. As I was flooded with mental emotion to the fact that I didn't think I would be able to keep up, let alone be leading, my appreciation for Doris (who spent the whole race banging on my rower, screaming cheers of motivation) was top of mind. One woman's motivation caused me to face my fears and to learn how strong mentally and physically I really am. I will never forget that moment, and I will never forget her inspiration.

And just for those of you who were wondering. It did kill me. We ended up going for a late dinner that evening where I bowed out early with a splitting headache. BUT...I was up and at it for a 730am class the next morning to get ripped to shreds in a Shockwave class facilitated by Doris and the Indo-row crew. And you know what? When I woke up and did the body check to see what hurting? Nothing did. In fact...I felt amazing.

What's holding you back? What opportunity have you justified your way out of because of fear? What goal do you think you can't reach because of your own limitations? You were created by an infinite God who has no limitations. Don't let your own fears hold you back from taking the most of every opportunity presented to you.

Here's a link to the final challenge done at Can Fit Pro in 2011. It's not my race, but my friend Julia is the second person from the right. Gives you an idea of what the whole experience was like!

Closing comments: Doris, I will be forever grateful for you! And I hope our paths cross again...

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Sugar Free?

I did it! 5 days! I got through the week minus the sugar! (Ok. I cheated once, but that was a well learned lesson. Read on).

Two to three weeks ago, I was speaking to a friend about her road of sugar-free. She had been going for over a month and was feeling awesome. As I ate cupcake upon cupcake of treats at the baby shower we were attending, she snacked on fruits and vegetables. I admired her will power...mostly because the cupcakes were amazing.

Then friend number 2 went sugar free...she was 2 weeks strong. Then friend number 3 jumped on board and had a solid week under her belt.

I've had trouble processing sugars (verified by naturopath's tests), but it wasn't until this past week that I really noticed it. I've been feeling bloated and yucky. Then on Sunday, I planned for my sugar free week. Now, I'm not talking about abandoning natural sugars all together. I have nothing against fruit, carrots and the likes of natural sugars found in quality foods. I'm talking about the unnecessarily added sugars I was taking in constantly. This challenge wasn't about reducing calories to lose weight, it was about seeing if I could kick the constant craving for sweet that I would have after every meal, first thing in the morning, or mid day.

When I thought about sugar free, there were a few "hiccups" that I was concerned about getting over.

1.) I LOVE cereal for breakfast. I'd eat a bowl of mini-wheats, cheerios, just right, shreddies.... first thing when I got up. I needed to figure out what I would do as an alternative. I remembered this recipe that Hol:Fit had reposted for "Overnight CrockPotPorridge" for a delicious morning meal and made myself a batch for the week. I took an extra few minutes and would fry an egg and have a plain yogurt with fruit, or I made myself a breakfast shake. And as I sit here right now, I'm not even missing my cereal.

2.) I have a giant vat of candy in my office. There's two reasons for this. One, I like candy. Two, when people come and vent stuff to me in my office, I like to provide them with candy as I'm not a therapist and often cannot help solve their problems. So, the question was, do I put the jar of candy in someone else's office? Or do I learn to avoid temptation.

This is where I failed. The candy was not a problem for me. I didn't crave it all week. But the bag of peanut butter cups unfortunately were. On Tuesday I ate about 3 of them and IMMEDIATELY felt gross after. My stomach started to hurt and I realized it wasn't worth it.

So, what helped me get through?

1.) Homemade zucchini bread. My zucchini in my garden is starting to come at a rapid pace, and finding things to do with it, other than give it away, is a great adventure. I made zucchini bread, minus the oil and sugar. I replaced the oil and sugar with fresh pineapple and applesauce. Was it the same? Probably not. But it still tastes pretty darn good!

2.) Veggie juice. My juicer broke! And I immediately got on Kijiji and found myself another one! Having a cup of veggie juice such as Hol:Fit's Green Lemonade or Pink Immunity Booster helped reduce my sugar craving. Does it taste like kool-aid...absolutely not. But when you are putting handfuls of kale, parsley and ginger in a juicer, do you really expect it to?

3.) Fruit: Costco had pre-cut mangoes and pineapple that I purchased and it saved my life. What an easy way to have a sweet and healthy dessert or snack during the day.

4.) Water: I'm surprised at both how much water I have craved this week and how much I have drank! I don't like the taste of water and I rarely am thirsty. But this week, I feel like I've doubled my intake. I typically put slices of lemon or lime in my water to disguise the taste, but I purchased an orange and a grapefruit, sliced them up, and have been using them to flavour my water. It's delicious!

So that's been my week. Is my plan perfect? Not even close. Could someone dissect my nutritional choices and point out better ones? Probably at every meal. But to me it's the little victories. And I feel pretty proud of this one.

Now it's off to another baby shower. This time I get to be the one avoiding the cupcakes! Wish me luck!

Saturday, 25 February 2012

To Splash or Not to Back Splash

I'm rarely satisfied when I come to a decision. I think and re-think and try to figure out different angles and options. And when I have made a decision...I question it again. (But more silently so people don't know I'm still thinking about it). Hence, ...the back splash dilemna.

When I go through pinterest pictures and decorating magazines, I always find that back splashes are either incredibly plain ...

...or too "busy".

The small glass tiles are very pretty, but then when you put lots of them up their together it reminds me of those pictures where you have to cross your eyes and try to make a clear picture pop up from the blurry pictures.

What about the ever-popular subway tile?? Well, I just feel that all of a sudden, we'll look back 5 years from now and be able to pick out the year the kitchen was created due to the back splash and the love of subway tiles that re-modelers have.

It will be white cabinets and black granite counters so I hesitate to go white or black with the back splash, and certainly am not so much of a fan of black and white!

Shoot me, but I can't stand this look:

So my dilemna continues...

In other news, I thought it would be a great idea to add in-floor heating under our laminate floors in the kitchen!! It's fairly inexpensive (in the grand scheme of expenses) and what house listing doesn't look great with the tag line "...in floor radiant heating..." When I told my husband of my brilliant thought, he replied, "Hmmm...no, I don't think so. It's just in the kitchen and I'm not there all that much." *Sigh*

(Side note: I tend to misquote my husband often. If you ask him, he'll likely deny saying this.)

So what's your favourite back splash look? Have you ever tried to purchase or install in-floor heating?

Monday, 20 February 2012

Renovation Budget

I'm always interested in renovation plans and improvements. I like to hear about people's plans for their spaces and their dreams for their home. I think this was part of who I was even prior to working for Lowe's. (Being in  a retail environment where everyday I get to help people bring dreams to reality is pretty cool and somewhat fuels my obsession. But it also fuels my ideas and drains my bank account!)

When it comes to renovations, I'm not very good at them. I consistently feel that my project ideas are inexpensive and easy. Usually the opposite is the case. I'm all gung-ho at the beginning of a project, but my enthusiasm usually fizzles out which leaves my husband to finish the ending details.

Now that our basement rec room is done and the downstairs bathroom repainted my efforts and attention have been focused towards the kitchen and living room space. I'm not very good with knowing what things will cost, I'm usually good at ballpark-ing only what I "hope" they will cost. So I thought it would be an interesting experiment to blog about our renovation, our ballpark costs and actual costs.

Lowe's has designed me a kitchen which I think I will enjoy very much. Knowing we will be here for probably 5 years or so, I haven't chosen the high end finishes that one might want in their "forever" home. But It will be fabulous none the less.

Our cabinet choice is Diamond Cabinet's "Hadley" (pictured below) but in painted "Pearl".

We'll be removing a wall and installing an island.While walking through our seasonal department, I came across a really neat looking electric fireplace that I thought would look awesome in the island (on the side that butts up to the living room.) I got in on clearance, and then got another discount when it went even further on clearance the following week.

The laminate floor I purchased and installed when I bought the house 3 years ago is now discontinued, but I was able to find a few remaining boxes at End of the Roll in Hamilton in order to bring it through the entire space and finish the kitchen with the same flooring. It's a great German floor that I adore. I got it for $1/sq foot then what I paid originally too!

The sink I purchased at our Grand Opening when it was on sale for $100 less than original price. My mom got one too! I think it's a great find and am likely to take it with us if we ever move! It's a Delta Ashton Touch faucet. It's a one-hole system so I won't have to cut up the new granite top too much!

Originally I thought about going with just a high-end laminate counter top (as I don't like the "tink tink tink" sound of  glassware, plates and everything else that hits the counter). But then I found this beautiful quartz counter that I adored. The price...didn't adore that so much. With a bit more research, Scott chose a granite counter, for just over $1000 more than we can get laminate for! It's a black with auburn and silver flecks in it which I think will go well with our floors.

Our walls are a cool tone shade of green currently. I love the colour, but it will need a refresher, so we'll be repainting everything in a slightly lighter version of Valspar's "Sag Harbour". (This screen shot doesn't do it justice as it has more green to it.)

Here's my estimated budget so far! I'll let you know how our progress goes and will try to scan and upload the design as soon as possible!

Materials Estimated Actual Comments
Laminate Floor $450 $430
Sink $300 $0 Free with purchase of granite
Hardware $150
Faucet $300 $300
Microwave $400
Counter $2000
Backsplash $1000  $0  None since we upgraded the counter
Paint $150 $150
Cabinets $4500
Fireplace $200 $160
Stair Railing $150
Lighting $1000
TOTAL $10,600 $1,040

Labour Estimated Actual Comments
Demolition $500 $0 Weekend DIY
Painting $1,200
Plumbing $250
Electrical $2,000
Flooring $500 $0 Weekend DIY
Ceiling repair $2000
Cabinetry  $5000
TOTAL $11,450 $0