Putting together our Basement

Do you remember that TLC show, While You Were Out? Someone left for the weekend and their loved ones completed a surprise room makeover in their house?

Just call me Evan Farmer.

Earlier this year, I posted about how our basement of doom is essentially our dumping ground for our crap.

Exhibit A, B and C:

James on Jessie Basement


basement 3


basement 2

It’s where dreams go to die.

Yes, that is a hose in the middle of the floor.

The space is already set up for use. There are new laminate floors and a fresh(ish) coat of paint. But we haven’t had the time or energy to do anything with it since we moved in two years ago.

Once we found out Baby James #2 was on his/her way, I got to thinking. And that thinking got to list making. Suddenly, Toby had a huge to-do list of things to get done around the house before the little bee came along (I have actually set up a Need To/Want To Get Done list on our corkboard – I love it. Toby wants to punch it).

We want to get the basement set up so that when the baby does come, we have a huge space for our toddler son to play. If I’m upstairs with the baby on an early Saturday morning, Toby and Alex can go play downstairs. If the baby is awake at night and fussy, we can escape to the basement so we don’t wake anyone up.

This past weekend, Toby was signed up for the Tough Mudder challenge with my brother. Three weeks ago, my nesting brain got to thinking: “What if I put this room together when he’s gone?” And so the planning began.

I confided to my friend who helped with the planning process. I purchased couches from a local lady and stored them at my sister’s house. I lied about playdates to go pick up picture frames in Ottawa via Kijiji. I even faked a gallbladder attack.

Then the weekend arrived. My friend was to come over Friday evening to begin the process, but I got slammed with two gallbladder attacks on Thursday that left me in a bad spot for most of Friday. But following two trips to the ER, I was given the okay, and decided that the project will keep my mind off the fun that’s going on inside my body.

I didn’t really fake the gallbladder attacks.

Friday and Saturday evenings as well as Saturday naptime was used to clean and set up the room. Here’s what we put together in that time:

Basement finish 1

Basement finish 2

Basement finish 3

We divided the room up into three parts: Toby’s office area, a television/sitting area (tv to come) and a play area. The middle of the room will essentially be used for hockey/soccer/running.

We worked on a photo collage, as well as set up an artwork corner of Alex’s crafts and found a way to hang the race medals we’ve collected over the years. I now just need to dig out the rest of them!

When Toby hobbled into the house Sunday morning, Alex and I were playing downstairs. Toby was shocked and loved what was done with the place. But I realized the space is actually more for Alex, as it will give him that place to play, especially in the winter when we’re stuck indoors.

It feels like we have a new house as we begin the use this space more often.

So, that takes one thing off the to-do list. Only 12 more to go…


Have you ever done a surprise room makeover?




March Focus of the Month: Get my Sh*t organized

Happy March! What do you mean it’s March 10?

Although we’re already 1.5 weeks into the month, I want to outline my March Focus of the Month: Getting my Sh*t Organized.

The brutal winter weather has turned our house into a hoarder’s nightmare, forcing me to continuously stuff junk in every corner and drawer in this house.


My Kitchen Monica Drawer.

My Kitchen Monica Drawer.


Our Basement of Doom


The home office closet.

Then, there’s my email inbox. It looks like a list created by a maniacal four-year-old looking to create havoc in the internet world.

Then, there’s my house cleaning schedule, which is essentially non-existent. We had company come up to visit this weekend, and all I can say is I’m grateful for my son’s extremely rare three-hour-long nap, which allowed me to get the house in presentable fashion. I’ve gotten into a bad habit of skipping household chores and doing the basics. I then turn into a crazy crazier person and spend hours trying to bring the place back into order.

In other words, March is going to be a household/email/life organization month. I’m going to find ways to better organize the house and my home office, and I’ll present some tips and finds along the way.

Last week I went to the library and signed out this book:


It’s a good book in that it provides you with quick tips on organization in every area of your life, but it’s a little much. If you took every piece of advice offered in the book, you’d be overwhelmed with life. And then you’d probably have to eat a row of Oreo cookies to feel better.

Here are five tips I took from the book that I will try to implement this month:

1. Make your bed every morning: this quick, one-minute effort will eliminate a piece of clutter from your life. It will also divert the dog from sleeping directly on my pillow during work hours.

2. Use the “clock” technique: Stand at the entrance of the room and designate a spot as twelve o’clock. Then start working your way around the face of the clock. This is a good tip to help me stay focused. Otherwise, my house-cleaning technique looks like I’m working in a time machine.

3. Put housework on your schedule. Spell out what tasks need to be done weekly,and write down those chores or times when completing them in convenient for you. There are a lot of people who do one household chore a day. For instance: Mondays are for vacuuming, Tuesdays are bathrooms, Wednesdays are dusting, etc. I’m going to try to put together a daily schedule and see if it helps.

4. Dust light fixtures. Holy, Steve Eurkel, this is long overdue. Just ask the ladybugs stuck to the lights.

5. Use discipline. Deal with e-mail messages once. I always have my email inbox open, which is a constant distraction from getting project work done.


What’s a tip that you feel helps you out when running a household or home office?

Trimming the Fat: February Dog Fitness

Is it just me, or did February fly by? Sure, the weather was as welcomed as a hole in my $5 Target cardigan, but it seems like the month whizzed by.

This month, we accomplished a lot in our household. Toby got his wrist cast off, Alex started walking and Tux got his butt kicked.

Tuxedo the dog

Interval Training.

We were told Tux needs to drop some el-bees, and so we went on a mission to trim the fat.

He got two walks a day: 25 minutes in the morning and at least a half hour at night.

He had a one-month follow-up appointment last Thursday and I’m so, so, so proud to say Tux has dropped three lb. He now weighs 84 lb. The vet was impressed with our efforts, and Tux is actually getting a waistline and his face has slimmed down. He is better behaved at home, he’s been wonderful around Alex and overall, he’s just a happier dog.

Our vet said to try for another three- to four-lb. loss this month. After trekking him through the cold weather, it’s tempting to hibernate for  a few more weeks until we hit spring. But we have to stick with our plan.

Turning our dog into artwork: an hommage to Tux

This month we’re focusing on trimming Tux’s waistline. To honour the pooch of the house, I recently took a pinterest idea and actually turned it into reality this month.

I silhouetted him.

Dog art

I did a mini-photo shoot with Tux  in the living room (fancy! Or, ghetto?) and selected the photo that best suited his profile.

So. Awkward.

So. Awkward.

From my insane nesting/nursery design days, I had a leftover canvas I purchased from the local book shop. I printed his photo, cut it out and traced the image onto the canvas. I wanted a bold colour, so I used a blue acrylic paint I had leftover from the previously mentioned insane decorating days.

As you’ll see, it’s hung up in our laundry room beneath a card I once bought for Toby from a local shop.

dog cardWe now always call Tux a, ‘great dog’.

And, yes, this is our new laundry room, thanks for asking! Well it’s obviously still the same laundry room, but it’s no longer sporting bird borders, gold door knobs and wooden pegs.

This was the before:

laundry room before

laundry room before 2

And here it is now.

Laundry room

As my decorating friend said, “It looks like it lost 50 lbs!”

As you can see, I’m too lazy to clean up my laundry room today to provide an updated image with the dog pictures. But you can imagine it, right? Ok, fine. Here it is. And, really, this is what our laundry room looks like 94% of the time.

laundry room after

I think I’m going to line up the photos together.

So, there, Tux. You can no longer say we don’t care about you. You’re in our stinkin’ laundry room.



Is a Farm Food Basket Worth the Price?

Last week, I got an exciting Facebook message.

A family was heading away for a week on holidays, and they offered us their weekly farm food basket. Score. Super score.

I graciously accepted their generous offer and on Wednesday afternoon, I met the farmer at a prescribed location in town and she handed me the basket. Wowza.

Veggie Basket

There is a lot of food in the basket. And by basket I mean laundry basket. Here’s what we got:

  • two loaves of homemade, artisan bread
  • package of ground beef
  • package of bacon
  • package of sausages
  • one dozen eggs
  • cabbage
  • carrots
  • turnips (peeled and already cut)
  • beets
  • turtle beans
  • quinoa
  • four large potatoes
  • onions

We received the adult share basket, which is $100 per week.

The company who provides the basket is Heritage Harvest Farm. They are officially recognized as the first and only year round full diet CSA in Ontario. Their meat and eggs are organic and it’s obvious they put a lot of sweat into their baskets (not literally, of course). I’m in love with their website and could spend hours reading their blog, recipes and information related to their business, which is located in Jasper.

Toby and I discussed the value to signing up for the basket. Our current monthly grocery budget is $600/month, which includes diapers and soon-to-be-eliminated formula. We almost always go over budget, but because of my January Focus, we’ve worked really hard to stick to our budget. Last month we did just that!

If we took part in the basket, it would eat up $400 of our budget. Can we buy the remaining necessities on $50/week? Or, would we have to increase our monthly budget?

Last summer we took part in a veggie basket program. For $11 a week, it was worth the price and we enjoyed discovering what we’d find in our basket each week. That said, we wasted a lot of vegetables throughout those months and I felt restricted to what was supplied.

We have to outweigh the pros and cons.


  • We’d be supporting a local farm
  • The meat and eggs are organic
  • We would consistently have healthy food in our home

(Potential) CONS:

  • The price may exceed our budget
  • The farm (understandably) requires a one-year commitment. If times get tough or we end up with triplets for our next pregnancy (I’d call them Tina, Amy and Kristen), then how would we make it financially work?
  • Would we waste a lot of the food?
  • Could we purchase the same amount of food for less money?

After having the basket for one day, there’s one thing I do know for sure: That artisan bread is like crack.

Artisan Bread

I’ve already slammed through the two loaves. The eggs are delicious, the meat looks really good and the veggies are gorgeous.

Essentially, I think it comes down to this:

Do you want to support a local initiative while giving your family good, healthy food, but comes with a potentially increased budget? And, can you afford that increased budget?


What are your thoughts on this? Would you do the farm basket? Would it exceed your budget, or would you make sacrifices elsewhere in your grocery budget?

Updating Our Home

When it comes to my birthday, I take a different approach to gift receiving. Rather than hope my husband has been listening to clues about things I’d like to receive as gifts (“Did you know Tiffany & Co. is now online?!” -2006), I just tell him what I’d like to get for a gift.

Greedy? Yes.

Insensitive? Probably.

Genius? Most definitely.

I’d rather just let him know what I’d like and I think he appreciates that he knows he can get me something and know I’ll like it. That is, until I told him what I wanted this year for my birthday: paint.

We purchased our home 1.5 years ago and we’ve been living with a stark white living room with wood trim. And it has window shears. Top it off with a glass-covered chandelier. *Shudder*


Ugly living room

Ugly living room


I picked a paint colour I knew worked well as it’s our master bedroom colour: Benjamin Moore Rockport Gray

So, last weekend, Toby hit the walls with the paintbrush. The room is alive!

Benjamin Moore Rockport Gray

Benjamin Moore Rockport Gray


So. Much. Better.

The only stipulation from my husband was what most husbands likely tell their wives (I hope?): Now that we’ve painted, it doesn’t mean you can go out and spend all this money to put the room together.

That’s like telling Martha Stewart she can’t sell stocks after receiving some pertinent information.

The room itself is a huge space and we’re not planning to furnish it because A) It’s Alex’s play area; and B) We don’t have any money. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to add art, curtains, throw pillows (angry husbands scoffing around the world) to the room.

My husband does know me too well: Now that we’ve made this change, I want to shop my face off (how does one even do that?!).

Here’s what I’ve dreamed up for this room:

  • Stain the wood banister a rich stain (Toby’s suggestion!)
  • White curtains or colourful curtains to lighten up the room
  • A huge clock for the wall
  • A collage of photos for the floating wall
  • Paint the trim white
  • Replace the pendant light
  • Long term: rip out carpets and change the trim

I’m going to create a mood board and share it once it’s crafted. It will be Toby’s Christmas present!


Question: What paint colours are you loving these days?

Angry Husband Question: How many throw pillows are in your home?

Scary Question: Have you ever shopped your face off?

Getting Our Veggie Basket On

Have you ever seen the South Park episode when the smug yuppies drive hybrid cars and think their poop doesn’t stink? So much so that they smell their own farts?

This is us. Right now. Except it’s because we’re buying farm-fresh veggies.

How about I start from the beginning?

There is only one person in the James family household who loves vegetables. And that’s our eight-month-old son, Alex. I’m quite confident he got switched at birth. He hates bananas, blueberries and apples but loves butternut squash, zucchini and green beans. Who is this child?

Rather than return him to the hospital, Toby and I thought we’d follow his lead.

Because Toby and I are brutal with our vegetable intake – unless chips count – we decided to make another attempt to get our 5-10 a day. So we signed up for a veggie basket program.

Cue the fart-smelling!

Miller’s Bay Farm is located less than 10 minutes from our house and each Thursday afternoon, Alex and I drive out and pick up a basket filled with vegetables.

Last week our basket included six corn on the cob, a large basket of potatoes, an onion, zucchini, cucumber and a bunch of carrots. We also had the option to bring home a 5-lb zucchini. I did, and gave it to a friend who loves to make zucchini muffins and lasagna. What an awkward gift. The vegetables are so fresh and we look forward to discovering what’s inside the basket each week.

We joined the program a bit late, but we estimate the “Basket for 2” costs us $11 each week.

And? Success.

Here’s why:

  • Because we’ve paid money for the program, we’re keen not to waste our funds;
  • The basket sits on our kitchen table all week, which means we actually do something about it;
  • As each Thursday approaches, we do an inventory on our remaining vegetables and use them up before the next basket arrives;
  • It’s farm fresh; and
  • It’s local.

Alex is also cashing in:

Miller's Bay Farm

They send us a weekly email to give us produce updates and tips on how to use the veggies. This week we’re going to get kale. I’m nervous. I tried Kale chips once and they didn’t go over well. But this is why the veggie basket is such a great idea. We’re trying out veggies we’d normally avoid in the grocery’s store produce section.

And hey, if I don’t like the kale, perhaps Alex can have it and I can have chips.

Just for one night.


How do you get your 5-10?

Do you smell your own farts? Gross.

Curtains, dog, no tv: updates

Doesn’t life sound thrilling when I’m excited to provide an update on the curtains in our home, the dog’s weight and how we’re surviving without any television?

I agree.

It’s like life on a roller coaster (side note: I ALWAYS get clichés and one-liners incorrect. It drives Toby nuts. Yesterday morning I said, “it came in at the ninth hour”. I think he had a mild stroke.).

First: The Curtains

Whenever the weekend is approaching, Toby is smart to outline our expectations for the next two days. Why? Because I usually have a lot of them that I don’t always communicate in a clear and concise manner. Or at all. So every Thursday evening or Friday morning, I get the, “okay, so what did you have planned for this weekend?” question.

He was made well aware that I wanted the nursery and office curtains to go up this past weekend.

And that they did.

nursery curtains


On bad days, I stare a hole through that poster. While breathing into a paper bag.

On bad days, I stare a hole through that poster. While breathing into a paper bag.

No more tablecloths!


B: The Dog

A month ago I swore we would work on chopping down our dog’s weight. He had gained five pounds since our baby was born. So we set out on a Tux boot camp and getting him out for walks twice a day. On top of that, our neighbhour hasn’t been around so the dog has also lost the two daily treats that could have also contributed to his weight gain.

We returned to the vet on Friday afternoon. I was anxious, yet excited, to see just how far he’s come.

One month ago he weighed 79 lb.

On Friday? 81.


Our vet encouraged us to continue our boot camp quest and to change his food, which has a high calorie count. If nothing changes and he continues to gain weight, he’ll get his thyroid checked. I don’t know how and when we’ll break the news to Alex that we spent his education savings on doggy blood work.


Last, but not least: the television

A week ago we pulled the plug on our Bell Satellite Service. We haven’t been watching much television and it was costing us $87/month.

So how are we doing? Well, Toby and I talk to each other a lot more, that’s for sure. Even about our feelings. And curtains.

Plus, we’re getting a lot more done around the house. On Sunday afternoon, Toby was out mowing the lawn while Alex was napping. I had already cleaned the house and put away the laundry on Saturday night (sexy, right?). With little else to do, I stretched. I took a half hour and worked on my hamstrings, hips and calves. I even foam rolled. It seemed a lot more productive than finding out why Scott cheated on Kourtney again or how Bruce got his ears pierced.

I know, know, know we will embrace television again come winter. But for now, we’re enjoying one less thing making noise in our house.

We’ll burn that bridge when we cross it.


Does your dog have a thyroid problem?

Do you have any money left for your child’s education?

Do you think Bruce is dead inside?