Mmmm Homemade Bread

 Guys!  I love bread, I love not spending money, making my own bread is pretty great as it serves both.  The trick is, it takes patience to do it well.  My mom ran through everything with me, and adjusted the recipe to fit my KitchenAid when we made buns for Christmas.  Now that we've run out, I was inspired to keep going with this baking business.  Her method, requires we let the bread rise three times!  So start to finish, this takes 3-4 hours or so.

I love bunching down the dough!

Too much fun.

I couldn't find my third bread pan, I think Little Man might have put it in another cupboard somewhere.  So, we wound up with two loaves and six beautiful buns!

They aren't quite as smooth as my moms, but I'm super happy with how it turned out.

It's simple really - water, sugar and yeast to start.  A little butter or margarine, skim milk powder, then some brown flower and some white flower - more of the latter than the former.


Soup Stock


There is nothing like a cold winter day to have me wanting for soup!  I haven't done it on my own before, but I've had my mom's home made soup a lot and watched her make it too.  So today (well, I started yesterday), I'm making my own!

Starting with the stock, I pulled out a bag and a half of veggie scraps that I have kept in the freezer (just adding to it when we have carrots, or bits of onion, even a few potato peels), next I tossed in a few steak bones that were also in the freezer.  I had room in the pot, so tossed in a bit more celery and a limp carrot from my fridge that hadn't quite made it to the freezer yet.

I didn't have enough bones, so my mom gave me a few that she had picked up at the farmers market.  They were raw, chopped up small, from a local beef breeder/butcher.  Those bones I roasted for an hour, and then tossed in the pot too.

I topped it up with water ~ about 12 cups fit in my pot, and turned it on to low.  I added salt and pepper to taste, and a bit of garlic.  I tasted throughout the day and added a bit more salt a few times because I was pretty conservative with that.

It bubbled away for about 8 hours yesterday, and then we just stuck it in the attached garage overnight and I popped it back on the stove for a few more hours this morning.  Later today, I'll strain off the veggies and make the soup!

My mom lets the stock chill so she can scrape off the fat on the top, then, using the big pot, melt the fat, and add onions/celery until they are fragrant.  Then she adds the stock, any other veggies she wants, plus a tender cut of beef like Sirloin.

Yum, yum!


Electric Heat Woes

Guys, electric baseboard heat is expensive where I live :(

Billing is every 60 days - from October 20th to today, the cost is $773 for 6,582kWHs! November wasn't even that cold! BCHydro breaks the rate down into a step 1 and step 2 rates. It's meant to encourage conservation, which might work for homes that have alternative heat sources (my community has a lot of wood heat), but for homes with electric heat, the rate jump is pretty brutal.

  • Step 1: $0.08290 /kW.h for the first 1,350kW hours 
  • Step 2: $0.12430 /kW.h for the rest.

Our house in Alberta, which was about 2,700 square feet cost us about $450 for the same time period.  There of course was electric on top of that for lights and the like - maybe another $100?

The home we're in now is closer to 3,300 square feet - a fair bit larger.  We have all LED lighting, the thermostats are set to 17 or 18 degrees during the day and closer to 15 in the evening.  We have put up insulating plastic on all of our windows and have rolled up towels at the bottom of our doors for draft reduction.  We hang up most of our clothes and cloth diapers to dry, and wash them using cold water.

Given the temperatures, I'm now expecting the bill for December 20th through to the end of February is going to be closer to $1,000.  I'm not too sure what else I can do to manage the cost.

Do you guys do anything other than what I mentioned to save money on electric heat?  Are our rates here, more or less then the electric rates that you pay?


November Spend Report

We went to Alberta twice in November, but split the gas, so that's why eating out is quite a bit higher than normal.  Gas, groceries, and the rest are all pretty average - though we'll do an annual review in January sometime.

Gifts represents that for about 12 people, plus each other.  I feel pretty good about that.  In years past, we've spend thousandS not one thousand and change.  Next year, I'm sure it will be even tighter - depending on how my job hunt goes.

You might notice a new category here - Costco.  In the past, I've tried to split a Costco shop in groceries, home maintenance, clothes, etc. but it's never been very precise.  So, instead, I'm going to track what we spend overall at the place!


This and That

Guys, I am so, so tired.

Baby sleep is a big deal, momma not getting her sleep is a big deal.  Daddy too - but he's not writing this.  Kiddo slept in his crib for the entire night last night for the first time.  While he was sleeping that is.  The rest of the time he was crying, fussing, and being passed in the dark hallway between Jordan and myself.  It's been like this for months.  Fingers crossed he figures this stuff out soon.

In other news, I have been on four job interviews in the last few months...so far, no job offers.  It's starting to get, well, I guess I'm just disappointed in myself.  I'm either well, or over qualified, but no dice.  My severance is going to end in February, and while I'm not nervous about it, I am a bit anxious.  We have a plan, but it's going to be very hard if I'm not able to contribute to the household financially.

On the money front, our networth is actually now higher than it was when I was let go and started my maternity leave last year.  It went down steadily until we had our house re-assessed after the renovations were finished.

My grandmother passed away last month.  She had dementia for a quite a number of years, and had been in a care home where she was well loved and well looked after.  I say that to say that I knew it was coming, but my heart still hurts.  This would be my dad's mom (my dad passed away almost six years ago) - so my family understands, and are sad for me, but it feels a bit like I'm grieving on my own.  That might not be fair, and maybe other people feel the same way.  I think too that it's hard because I don't feel it every moment.  Just the quiet ones, when I'm alone, my son is napping and my husband's at work.

All of that said, I am actually looking forward to the holidays.  I've been doing something related to Christmas each day so far this month, and am keeping the momentum going.  I haven't been this excited for Christmas since my dad passed away.  I think because of Little Man's age.  It's going to be great to build and share new traditions with him.

Here he is in awe of the Christmas Tree.  This is just moments before he took three or four bulbs off while I was snapping photos.  They are all plastic this year, with the breakable ornaments on the top half of the tree.

I hope you all are enjoying this chilly winter so far, and are spending quality time with your favourite people.


Paint, paint, paint

We're doing so much painting!

 You know, after all the scrape, scrape, scraping. We're using General Paint primarily for our paint and paint supplies, with a few specialty items from Benjamin Moore from time to time. We decided to go with a blue/grey theme in our bathroom and the main part of the house is a pretty pale yellow colour called aeroroot. The blue we chose is called paleness.

So far, we've spent just under $700 on primer, drywall sealer, paint, brushes, rollers etc. So much paint.

This has been for our kitchen, dining room, living room, hallway, master bedroom, Little Man's bedroom and we have not yet done our guest bedroom.  So their may be another $50 or so depending on how far the last bits go.


Cabinets are in

 Thanks to everyone who weight in on my cabinet handles request for help a few weeks back.  We decided to go with the handle pictured here.  WE LOVE IT!  It looks so good!  It's sold, you can get your whole hand around it, and it's 8 inches long - so it doesn't fade away on our tall cabinets.

The handles totaled just over $215 - I had planned on about $300, so was pleased that they came in under.

Here's a shot of the cabinets going in!

We're so pleased with how everything is coming together.

The cabinets, pantry and handles total came to just over $7,100.

We did decide to go with IKEA for the bathroom - things didn't need to fit quite so perfectly in that space...but that's a post for another day.



Duraceramic - Tile not Tile

Duraceramic is a vinyl tile product that is super durable, and looks like tile when it's finished.  It's not as cold, or hard as a a traditional tile either.

We are super happy with how this turned out.  It looks great, feels great, and not a single scratch from dog paws!

Here's a shot of the floors installed...well mostly it's a picture of Little Man putting crumpled up packing newspaper in the cupboard, but you can see, it looks good!


Shower Tile

Love, love this tile!

We were inspired by some pinterest boards that had the tile running vertically instead of horizontally.  We knew we wanted a shampoo cubby, but my cousin who works at the local flooring shop upsold us on the double box.  He said that one is good for one person, two is better for two people. The cost difference was about $50, so completely worth it.

Tiling the shower cost $2,200.  Shower inserts that we looked at seemed to run about $1,000 or so locally, so while it was quite a bit of an upgrade, we thought that for only bathroom on the main floor - the master bath, the guest bath, and the kids bathroom...we wanted it to really shine.  This is both for us, because we enjoy it, and for resale ability.



Sweet Heat

We debated quite a bit about in-floor heating.  Well, it was more of an internal debate.  Jordan really wanted it, and I had to decide if I did before deciding if it was a debate.  Adding in floor heat, added about $1,000 to the flooring bill.  That's for both the installers, and the electrician to hook everything up.

It comes with a programmable thermostat so we can decided and manage when to heat and when to not so we're not paying to heat a floor that no one is benefiting from.


Wallpaper, it hides many a sin.

If you're ever doing renovations, please, please do not put wall paper on unprimed drywall.  It's just not kind, and primer is cheap. This wallpaper is everywhere in this house.  EVERYWHERE.  We knew it when we bought it, but didn't really think about the work involved in getting rid of it.  To top it off, the paper is filled with little wood chips AND has been painted.  We've gone through three wallpaper scorers, have used heat guns, steamers and paint scrapers to get this crap gone.

The best method we have found, when dealing with the un-primed walls underneath, is to separate the wallpaper and peel off the top layer first.  Then, saturate the wall with water/vinegar in a sprayer, then scrape of gently with a wide paint scraper.

The wall scorer works very well when their is paint or primer underneath - otherwise, it doesn't do enough to saturate the glue holding the paper down onto the wall.


My Money, My Choices - Level 5, 6, & 7 Done

In January of this year, I mentioned that we needed to get our wills and powers of attorney etc. updated now that we were moving to BC.  We also needed to name a guardian for Little Man.  We finally took care of the updating, and were able to move along in the My Money, My Choices program.

I know that Gail has retired from blogging, but the My Money, My Choices site is still a super helpful one full of lots of resources.  I'm still making my way through bit by bit.

Level six is all about insurance - life and personal disability.which I've written about at length.  Next is level seven which is a goal setting exercise.  We regular;y set and reach goals so we're moving on to level eight,


More Drywall

Oh Drywall!

So!  You know that we had a drywaller come in and do the walls that were rebuilt in the bathroom and master bedroom.  The shots in this post are in my dining room and living room.  You can see under the large window, in our peeling wallpaper efforts (which is bloody everywhere in this house), that we destroyed the drywall itself.  Our drywaller, when doing a walk through to quote the job, suggested a method for covering up the remaining wallpaper with a drywall compound.  It was a hard decision, but we decided to go for it in the living room.  It cost about $2/square foot and about two weeks.  Their was a  lot of layering and sanding.  This shot shows the wallpaper peaking out from between the two switches, by the time it was done - you couldn't tell wallpaper was ever there.We decided, for the hallway and bedrooms we would continue to scrape wallpaper and see what was underneath.The total drywall bill was $1.875.


Sexy Kitchen Sink and Sexy Savings

That's right.

I said it.

My kitchen sink is sexy.

This is a 9 inch deep, cast iron, 130 pound beauty!

I bought it online from Lowes for $344.  A bit of a splurge however; we felt like this was a really excellent statement piece for the space.

It get's better though.  Jordan and I were back at Lowes in the big city looking for kitchen faucets (that's a whole other dramatic story), when I saw that the same sink I had bought two months before, was now priced at $269.  That's a crazy $75 cheaper...so naturally I had to stand in line to speak to customer service to see about getting that money back.

It turned out that their normally policy was within 30 days - but after speaking with the department manage, the customer service manager, and the only sales supervisor, we got it approved!  Woohoo!  Everyone wanted to help, they just had to figure out how to do it.  They wound up 'returning't he original sale and then re-selling it to me at the new price.

But get this!  When they rang it it, it come up on the till at the originally $344.

It turns out that the sink was priced incorrectly in the store, so they honored it for me, and then promptly removed the tag in the store.  I was pretty pumped to save the money - and we were able to put it towards the faucet we were buying.


Drip, Drip, Drip

We're on to plumbing!  The list was long, but there were not nearly the surprises that we had with the electrical.  With plumbing we needed to move the sink drains/water lines in the kitchen, add in for a dishwasher and a refrigerator.  In the bathroom we moved the sink - added lines/drains for a second sink, moved the toilet and moved the shower plumbing and switched it to plumbing for a bathtub.

Phew!  See?  Long list.

Jordan and I had to find the city shutoff within the house when we removed the old kitchen sink, and we were left with a drip, drip, drip that was filling our giant red bucket once a day.  It took a week or so after that before the plumber made it in and was able to address the problem, but the good news in all of that was that we learned where the shut off was, what to do if it rusts/breaks and the phone number of a good plumber.  It didn't, break, but we were told to be prepared for it.

Here's a couple of shots of the bathroom.  Our pretty new plumbing, and our tub!  So lovely!


Kitchen Cabinet (Doors)

One of the ways that we are saving money in our renovations is tackling painting all of our kitchen cabinet doors.  We did look at buying stock cabinets from IKEA and a few other big box stores, but we found the cost difference between that and a custom fit solution to be pretty negligible - within about $500.  We got several quotes and decided to go with a local cabinet maker who agreed to cut our doors out of MDF and we would paint them.

I did a lot of research on paint, MDF, and cabinet doors.  They are a high use, often get banged up location so it's important that the paint is made of tough stuff.  MDF is also super absorbent so it's important to use an excellent primer.  I looked at General Paint and Benjamin Moore among other products and decided on the Benjamin Moore Advance line. This product is made specifically for cabinets - it goes on smoothly, is easy to clean up and still has low VOCs.  I didn't track my time well (or my moms, or Jordans) on this project - but it took us a couple of weeks or so, in the evenings and mornings.  The one drawback about this paint is that it has about a 16 hour dry time - we did two coats of primer and two coats of paint on both the fronts and backs - so many, many hours.

I will say that if you tackle something like this yourself BE CAREFUL OF DRIPS.

Sanding takes the most amount of time, and you're most likely to get them when you do the edges and the paint drips and settles on the underside.  After a bit of trial and error we settled on painting the fronts/sides at the same time so any drips would be on the back of the doors, instead of the fronts.

This is my mom sanding like a boss.

What Did it Cost?

Including sanding, primer, paint and brushes.  Painting cost us $303.  We saved around $1,000 by doing this ourselves, and saved more than that by going with MDF over a solid wood door.


Electrical Smetrical

Have you ever lived somewhere that didn't have an exterior plug outlet?  I haven't.  Neither had Jordan.  Neither of us thought to look for one when we bought the house.  So of course, there wasn't one.

Of course, our lawn mower is electric.


So another add on...you know, in addition to pulling out the random outlet in the dining room floor, was to put an outlet on the exterior of the house.

For now, we just did the one in the back yard.  It would be good to have one on the front too - but there wasn't an easy access point because of the level of finishing downstairs.  I don't have a breakdown of what each element cost but I do have the electric bill that I'll share with you guys soon.


Structure & Drywall

Perhaps the biggest structural change that we made was to the wall in between the bathroom and master bedroom.  There was this little one foot by one foot cubby in the master bedroom.  

We took that space for the bathroom and had the wall rebuilt.  This gave us the space we needed to re-arrange things enough to fit a five foot bathtub in the bathroom - otherwise we would have been stuck with just a single shower.

We don't lose anything of consequence in the bedroom but this makes a big difference for the bathroom.  It's the only one on the main floor - so it was worth it to us to put some money here.

The structure work we paid for instead of doing it ourselves.  The other piece of work here was venting the bathroom to outside instead of the attic.  The way it was venting was a pretty big mold risk.  There was electrical work here to move the fixtures and plumbing work to do the same.

After that work, there was dry walling to be done.  Here's a shot of that after it was finished.


Sub Floor Woes

Pretty, pretty sub-floor.

Not only did we find a lot of random holes in the original sub-floor, we also found an electrical outlet that had been covered up by old flooring.  Whenever you undertake renovations of this size, you're always expecting some unexpected finds...but the outlet...that was weird.  We actually found others under wall paper and hidden in other strange places too.

This is a good couple of shots of the subfloor going in.  We thought it might be something we could do, but after talking to our general contractor (who happens to also be my uncle), he advised us that his team should do it.  We didn't have to take out the old subfloor, but they had to tie in the new one really well.


August Spend Report

This one is a bit of a doozy!  I paid most of the bills for the house this month, we had deposits in June and then a reprieve in July - but this is the big hit.

Gas and eating out were higher then normal because we had a couple of trips to the city to shop for things for the house - lighting, clothing wardrobes = that sort of thing.

Alcohol was a bit higher too - I attribute this to home renovation beer.

Entertainment is more than I would like to spend on lottery tickets and slurpees, but it's one of Jordan's few indulgences these days (okay, except for renovation beer).  That also includes our Shomi and Netflix subscriptions.

Home Maintenance is our renovation expenses this month.

Legal is the updating of our wills etc. for BC.

Baby is a few gifts for Little Man's upcoming birthday as well as a few other odds and ends.


First things first...


We did so much demo!  I know I posted about this before, but then I kind of fell of the face of the blogosphere so I wanted to start over with posting this journey.  We saved about $2,000 in labour etc. by demoing the bathroom, kitchen and floors ourselves.

The first picture is from the kitchen.  We had to pull off drywall and flooring right down to the studs.  You can see the subfloor is littered with large holes.  This was unexpected and had to be repaired.  The second picture is from the hallway looking into the bathroom.  There were three layers of vinyl flooring in there!  Three!  It took forever to pull it all off.  Also.  Wallpaper.  So. Much. Wallpaper.  I have so much to say about wall paper I'll save that for another post.

The third photo is another shot of the kitchen.  The big red bucket saved us!  Even after the water was turned off, this shut off valve just kept leaking!  We had to dump it every day.  We did get the plumber in eventually to fix it when we were relocating things for the new sink and dishwasher, but sheesh, it was a bit ridiculous for a while there.


The Kitchen...

This is what the kitchen looked like when we bought the place.  

Two windows that don't open, and are not in functional positions, a dishwasher that was the tenants (sink connect style), a sink and electric stove/oven that were apartment sized.  A very skinny and tall fridge in a cubby and three free standing ikea shelving units.

Do you see?  How much crap the tenants had all over the counters.  That's because there is absolutely zero storage!  Okay, okay, not zero...but impractical and not enough storage.  There's also not a lot of good usable counter space.

There is hardwood floors here, but it's really cheap and installed really poorly.  It was put over top of existing flooring which lift about an inch transition step in between the dining room and living room.

Here is a snap of the dining room that is the corner of the L of the kitchen and living room.  It has the same floors in the kitchen and a beautiful large window letting in so much light.

The layout and the windows are what sold us!


The Bathroom....

This is what we started with:

Right?  Right?

This is awful.

That shower is so dark it's like a cave.  The vanity has this curtain hiding storage, not shelves, just empty storage space.  Light fixtures that don't work together and a ceiling fan that was vented into the attic.  The attic!  That's no cool.  Should we talk about the floors?  Because that blue and white sticky vinyl is pretty great.  Obviously it all had to go!


Appliance Rebate

Before moving in, we are doing some pretty extensive renovations.  Namely our kitchen and bathroom.  The kitchen was pretty dismal.  It had a poor layout, no dishwasher, a pocket fridge and an apartment size stove/oven in an IKEA plug and play counter.

We decided to upgrade all of the appliances and eventually decided on the GE slate line.  

So pretty! 

Our set is close to this but instead of a microwave we have a chimney hood vent and our fridge ice maker is on the interior.

Now, on to the appliance rebate.  I checked the BC Hydro site - and it turns out that they were having a refrigerator rebate program on.  I applied, and about six weeks later, found out that I was approved for $100.  

I decided for a bill credit rather than a cheque, and should see that on a future bill in the next month or so.  Woo hoo!  


Managing Electricity Usage

Managing our electric bill is a priority for both Jordan and I.  To start, Jordan and I have upgrade appliances to energy efficient ones.  During this summer and our renovation phase, the breaker for all of the baseboard heaters has been turned off - and we plan on managing which are turned back on, and what temperatures very carefully come the fall and winter months.  The next big thing that we've done is upgrade all of the lighted to LED.

We went with integrated fixtures where possible and in total have spent $1,120 on those and LED bulbs.  This includes our bathroom vanity and ceiling light, three exterior lights (including one motion sensor light), our dining light, and five just basic all the same fixtures.  For the latter we went with Costco's Cloudraker lights - can't say enough good things about them.

Some folks might be inclined to suggest that we should have just upgraded lights as bulbs died or what have you - but with all the other renovations, it made sense just to do it all at once.  I did keep all of the old fixtures that were pulled out and am going to try to sell them on my local classifieds site.

How do you guys manage your electricity consumption?


Annual Utilities

I've never lived anywhere before that had annual utility bills. It's interesting.  Also, it was a bit of a surprise.  After taking possession of our new house, we paid for the year (pro-rated).  Here's the breakdown:
  • Garbage - $125.04
  • Recycling - $31.08
  • Water - $246.60
  • Sewer - $313.20
Hydro (electricity) is billed every other month, so time will tell what we can expect there.  |The source of heat for the house we bought is baseboard electric.  It\s 100% efficient, but electric heat is pretty expensive.  My cousin lives a few blocks from our house, with the same heating and they pay around $300/month.  They are on an averaging program....so I'm expecting an expensive winter.

Do any of you have annual utilities?  How to you manage it?


Coffee Cake

Guys!  You need to try this cake.

For my birthday this year, I was craving coffee cake.  No, no, no.  Not the cake that you have with coffee, cake that tasted like.

Not sure where or why I got this idea, but it stuck.  I googled, and googled, and googled and eventually found what I was craving.  A real coffee cake, on The Pioneer Women's website.

I'm not going to copy/paste the recipe for you, but if you're interested, just click the link above.

I will tell you that instead of using  instant coffee, we used real coffee and added instant to that.

So.  Good.



Employment Insurance...Coming to an End

It's hard to believe it's been almost a year since I started my Maternity Leave.  I had left work two weeks before my due date, and went two weeks over due.  So my leave ends with Little Man is just shy of 11 months old.  When I say left work, most of you know that it wasn't a mutual separation.  I was advised when my leave was starting that my department was shutting down and I wouldn't have a job to come back to.


When my EI stops mid-September, my severance kicks in.  I haven't looked at the paperwork for a while, but it's about six months of my old salary.  I'm really looking forward to that - to help pay off some of the over runs of the renovations and to top up some of our savings funds.  It will feel good to go into the New Year on the right foot and that sure will help.

I've started looking for jobs in our new town - the first fell through, but I'm excited about a couple more contract opportunities that are on the horizon.

Wish our little family luck as our financial landscape changes, changes again, and changes some more.


July Spend Report

Here it is!

Groceries was higher than I expected but the previous month it was less...it all averages out eventually.

Most other categories are on track for what we typically spend.

This month has kept us busy with renovations.  I'm excited to start posting some before and after shots now that we are just about finished.  I think just a couple weeks away before we can actually start moving in.


Kitchen Cabinet Handles Help

Okay, so we have our kitchen cabinet handles narrowed down to these two - what do you guys think? I really wanted the one on the right, until Jordan found the one on the left, and now he likes the one on the right and I'm more partial to the other....

There is a $2 price difference, and we need about 30 of them.

Oh! and here's a link to our fridge if that helps.  We're going with all slate appliances.



Links ♥