30 Apr 2013

When Life Gives You Lemons: Tile Help

Just a quick post today as I need some assistance please.  I am torn (what else is new?).

The work on the rental house is moving along quite quickly (hurray!) and we are at the point of picking out finishings.

These are a few pictures that our Project Manager took of the house with his phone.  It looks SO much better than it did a month ago!

rental house
The kitchen

rental house
Living Room
We were asked to pick out hardwood, floor tile, backsplash tile and linoleum at Lowe's, so a few weekends ago we had a marathon session picking those items out. 

Deciding on what to go with was a bit tricky as we aren't able to change the wall colour or the carpet.  The restoration company thinks that the carpet can be cleaned to remove any water marks (we've been assured it's been dried completely and properly).  The walls are a light tan and the carpet right now is a medium beige - very neutral.  All trim work is white except for a bit of oak on the fireplace mantle and bannisters. I have to work with what's there while still trying to modernize things where we can and sticking within budget.  Most of the finishings in the house were mid-grade, so I have to stick to picking out similar but new mid-grade products.  

I met with our Project Manager on Friday to pick out the cabinets.  Most of the houses on the street were built in the same year by the same builder, so they look almost identical.  Every one that we have seen for sale in the past few years has had light maple cabinets with a medium oak floor (exactly what we had before the water damage).  We figured since we had the chance to change things a bit that we would go with a dark cabinet.  If I had my choice I probably wouldn't pick an espresso cabinet for my own house, but since we are refinishing to sell I am trying to keep the bigger picture in mind here.  This must be how interior decorators feel sometimes....tough when it's not exactly your style!  

Anyhow....long story short, here is what we have so far:

It's all super neutral.  Where I am stuck though is with the backsplash tile for the kitchen.  

I had initially thought we'd go with the 2"x 2" beige tile with white grout, but now I am second guessing myself as it's all looking very brown.  

My other option is plain white shiny subway tile.  

Sort of hard to tell with a counter sample that is about the size of a quarter, isn't it?

Sorry for the photos....I had to snap these while there was still daylight left (in the middle of a snow storm yesterday!).  Hopefully you get the gist.

Which one would you pick?  Is it too brown if I go with the beige tile?  I could also see if Lowe's has a 2" x 2" white.  As much as I'd love to do something fancier, the insurance will only cover basic tile as that is what was there before, and we don't want to spend any extra money.  Please help a girl out.  Any other suggestions?  I have to make the decision within the next day or two, so I don't have a lot of time to stew. 

28 Apr 2013

Too Much & The Week's End

Can we have an honesty session on this Sunday?  Sunday is a good day for honesty, right?

Lately, I've been feeling like it's all too much.  I am getting bogged down by this world obsessed with perfect-ness. I get sucked in and start feeling like what I am doing isn't good enough, pretty enough, fast enough, smart enough...you get the idea.  I know I am not the only one that feels this way.

I was catching up on some blog reading this week and read so many recaps about blogging conferences that my head started to spin.  I know people mean well by sharing their tips so that those of us who can't attend can benefit from what they leaned, but after I read about the 4th recap it all became too much.  You have to be on Google +, you have to engage, you have to Pin between the hours of  7am-11am, you HAVE to be on Instagram (after all where the heck are you if you aren't on Instagram?), you have to edit each photo, you have to post at least 3 times a week....and let's not forget that you have to be original, creative and yourself.  WAHHHH?

How? How am I supposed to do all of that without feeling like a total and complete gigantic failing loser who isn't good at much of anything.  I can't.  I simply can't.  I know that so many of these tips are for people who want to grow their blog and who do this gig for a living.  I don't do this for a living.  I work at my day job for 31 hours a week, and I take care of Fin (my most important project), and I hang out with my hubby, and in the in-between times I start too many projects.  I love blogging, but it can't win over my family and other things that I also love.

I know it.  I know I put it on myself.  I know I am my hardest critic.  I know I can't do it all.  All these things I know, but it's still hard.  It all just catches up.  

I have decided that I am going to take control of it.  I am going to say no.  I am going to do what I want.  (If you know me in real life you know that I don't say no very well...so this is me attempting to be strong...).

I am on Facebook and I am on Twitter (sort of....), and for now that's going to be it for me.  I can't handle any more social media.  I am not going to start with Google + (as much as Google is trying to force me), and I am not going to publicize my Instagram feed.  Does that make me a bad blogger?  Maybe.  But I have to have faith that if you want to chat with me and connect you know how.  Right?  (hint: email, Facebook, comment....). 

Here's the other thing.....

I am starting to really get into photography.  Real photography, with my real camera.  I love it.  I am desperate to learn and to improve.  I like photographing rooms, but I like hanging out with my fam and my fur baby and taking pictures of them too (actually, they are more receptive subjects than rooms are...).  I spend time editing those pictures instead of writing blog posts....and I like it.  I know it's sort of taking on more, which is exactly what I said I wasn't going to do - but it's more that I am loving.  It's fun, not work.  It's like the best parts of blogging, except without all of the stuff I am 'supposed' to do that goes along with blogging.

So, I've decided to combine the best of both worlds.  I'm going to start a new series on Sundays called The Week's End.  It's going to be photos and only photos.  No text.  (Obviously this post and its giant rant is the one exception!).  Photos of us, photos of projects I am working on, photos of our week, you get the idea.  I know people love their Instragram, but I love real pictures that have been edited with purpose and thought (and in my case some serious time and usually a lot of Googling on how to adjust curves).   

I am excited about it.  My hope is that it spurs us into communicating in a new way. Let's chat through the comments or start a conversation about a photo up on Facebook.  Less text and more conversation.  

Don't worry, this doesn't mean my DIY stuff is going anywhere....it's still here, it's just supplemented with some other things I love.  I still have oodles of projects going on around the house and am going to share all of the nitty gritty.  

Does it sound ok?  Let's give it a shot.  

The Week's End - April 28, 2013

26 Apr 2013

Tribal Twigs?

Are they really tribal? I'm not sure...maybe a twist on tribal??  You'll have to tell me after you see the finished product.

Remember the totally awkward space in the basement bathroom?  It's the bathroom with VERY poor plumbing planning, which resulted in the toilet being unnecessarily squished against one wall with a big space on the other side, which is pretty much useless wasted space. 

Basement Bathroom

What am I supposed to do with that space?  I tried to fill it with the toilet paper holder and clearly that wasn't working.  Clearly. 

And, do you also remember that my budget to finish this bathroom is $50?  That means that whatever fills the totally awkward space has to be basically free.

Thankfully I had a big silver vase hanging around and a lot of deadfall near our house.  The 2 collided, along with some Frog Tape and a bit of paint, and now the space is looking a little better.

Twigs in Basement Bathroom

I couldn't just have plain old twigs, now could I?  Plus, the still somewhat-stern-looking owl needed to feel more at home. 

This project was insanely simple.  I basically just gathered up some big twigs during one of our walks.  I pulled off as much bark and debris from them as I could just with my hands.  Then I used Frog Tape to tape off some stripes and painted them white.  The next night I peeled off the tape and then re-taped and painted aqua stripes.  The aqua is Behr's Sweet Rhapsody - the same as is on the mirror.  Peel the tape off...and done.  2 nights and about 20 minutes of total work. 

Tribal Twigs - easy DIY

I did consider adding a few more stripes in different colours, but since the bathroom is teeny tiny, I didn't want it to start to feel like a big kaleidoscope.  

Tribal Twigs - easy DIY

Done like dinner!

So now all that is left in this little bathroom is a few accessories and dealing with the mirror above the sink that is off-centre.  I am still perplexed on what to do with the mirror, but thanks to some of your suggestions I think I at least now have a starting point.

Have a great weekend!  We are kid free for 3 days....yippie.  I love Fin to death, but man am I looking forward to some kid free time...and sleeping in....ahhh, sleeping in....I hope I remember how to do it!  What are you up to?  Do you get to sleep in too?  

23 Apr 2013

A Happier Ceramic Owl

This is going to be the week of the simple projects.  Seriously.  This one, and the other project I am going to post this week, are both about 10 minute projects.  We've been busy over the past few weeks so all I've had time for is quick little makeovers.  BUT, even though they are quick, I think they still make a pretty big impact.  The best part though is that I am totally in love with both of them.  Easy things make me happy!

Back in the fall we went garage sale-ing in the snow one weekend where we picked up a ton of good stuff including the hexagon end tables, Ferdinand and a ceramic owl.

Ferdinand and the owl

I've been hanging on to the owl for months just waiting for a space for him.  I also couldn't decide on colour for him (maybe it's a her??), so I had to stew on it....for months. 

He's actually been sitting on my desk right near the computer for a while just staring at me.  He started to freak me out a bit.  He was too stern.  Some lightening up was necessary. 

You know what happened next, right?

It starts with an S and ends with a T.  2 words.  Clearly I am no good at charades because I couldn't come up with a 'sounds like' phrase.  (I even googled it!).

The answer is Spray Paint....in case my clues weren't obvious!

I primed him with a coat of Rustoleum Primer Spray Paint and then gave him 3 coats of Painter's Touch High Gloss White.   

The primer is key here.  I find it saves a ton of time with ceramics and prevents drips by giving the gloss paint a surface to grip onto.  Totally worth the time and money.  My other spray paint tip is to use a Comfort Grip.  

Rustoleum Comfort Grip
Mine looks just like this one.  I bought it at The Home Depot, but I've seen them in most of the home improvement stores. It makes SUCH a difference.  It saves your finger from cramping, but mostly it makes a much more even and smooth spray as it maintains constant pressure.  Worth the $10! 

Anyhow....after being hit with some spray paint I then added a bit of neon cording to brighten him up a bit more.  

Spray Painted White Ceramic Owl

Less stern looking?  I think so.

Spray Painted White Ceramic Owl with Pink Cording

It's hard to be stern when you are balancing on a hot pink perch!  

The pink is some cording that I had left over from my DIY Yoga Strap.  I bought it at The Home Depot in the rope section.  I just wrapped it around and hot glued the end.  Totally removable if I decide to change the colour down the road.

Pink Cord

My poor ceramic animals....they start out all manly and dignified and are then glammed up with something florescent or glittery.

This guy has taken up residence in our basement bathroom.

Basement Bathroom with Spray Painted Ceramic Owl

I have him on top of the toilet for now, but he might move once I finish things in the awkward corner beside the toilet.  Is it weird to have an owl behind you while you pee?  I think maybe, just a little.

Basement Bathroom with Spray Painted Ceramic Owl

Basement Bathroom with Spray Painted Ceramic Owl

So tell me.....do any of you have an owl like this?  If so, did you paint it?  Since I bought mine I've seen the exact same one at multiple sales.   Will it freak people out if I leave him on the toilet?

P.S.  Our town is hosting a dog photo contest and the top 3 winners get a gift card to The Bone & Biscuit, which is a great little pet shop.  Diefenbaker is in the contest and we'd love to win since he goes through A LOT of food and the gift card would be a huge help.  The contest is based on Facebook 'likes' on his photo.  I'd be super grateful if you have a minute to vote for him.  You do have to be logged into Facebook for the link to work.   Thanks friends!  Vote here.

19 Apr 2013

Dresser Mirror Turned Wall Mirror

Ok, enough about all the crap-tastic stuff that's been happening in our lives....let's get back to the teeny tiny bathroom in the basement, shall we?

The space is fairly dark, and on top of BEING small, it also FELT small.  In an attempt to add some lightness to the space, I decided to hang a mirror above the toilet.

Dresser mirror on the wall

Recognize it?  

Maybe this will jog your memory....

Refinished Aqua Dresser

Yes, it's the mirror from Fin's dresser.  It's like killing 2 birds with one stone....but since that's not a nice image....it's like killing 2 rooms with one dresser.  Booyah!

All I had to do was remove the supports that attached it to the back of the dresser and screw in a couple of picture hanging thingies (I have no idea what their technical name is).

Then we just hung it on the wall.  Of course, hanging it level was the hardest part of this whole project!  We didn't use anchors since there were two hooks and the mirror wasn't too heavy (rebels!).

Hang a dresser mirror on the wall!  www.aswellplacetodwell.com

I know it's not really traditional to hang a dresser mirror on the wall, but I really like the shape of it and the colour that the teal brings to the space.   The teal colour is Sweet Rhapsody by Behr.

Mirrors in the bathroom.  www.aswellplacetodwell.com

I am sort of obsessed with seeing mirrors in mirrors.  Reminds me of a fun house.  Strange for a bathroom?  Maybe....

I am still undecided on that dark broze mirror, but am leaning towards making it white.  I did think about switching the mirrors out and putting this teal one above the sink, but it didn't fit between the sink and the vanity light.

Basement bathroom with mirrors and antique windows.  www.aswellplacetodwell.com

I found a rug, a soap holder and a towel hook over the past few weeks, so this space is sort of starting to feel a little more finished.  I also plan to attack some accessories with a can of spray paint over the next couple of days to fill that awkward space beside the toilet.  If all goes well there will be more bathroom posts next week.

So tell me....would you hang a dresser mirror on the wall?

p.s. If you are looking for another project to do with a dresser mirror check out the one that I turned into a giant chalkboard

p.p.s.  I recently took the plunge and joined an ad network (other than Google).  I am still playing around with a few formatting things, but you will notice a few new ads around here.  I plan on writing a whole post on monetizing my blog, but since it might take me a while to write it, I wanted to be totally up front with you about the ads now.  Yes, I do make a bit of money (like a Starbucks a month...) off of the ads.  I hope that my content still prevails and that you don't find the ads too obtrusive.  If you do please let me know as I am open to suggestions of how to make them less obtrusive!

16 Apr 2013

When Life Gives You Lemons: Part 2

If you missed Part 1 of this saga you can catch up here.

When we left off, the RCMP was at the front door of our rental house watching the water pour down from the second floor into the kitchen.....

We couldn't reach our local contact who had a key to the house, and waiting for him to call us back wasn't an option.  The RCMP Officer ended up calling a locksmith who was able to drill through the deadbolt and open the door.  The RCMP Officer told us that there was 2 inches of water sitting on the hardwood on the main floor and 4-6 inches of water in the basement.  Water was dripping from the ceiling in the kitchen.  The tape from the ceiling drywall was so wet that it had fallen off and was laying on the floor. Crap! Not good.

The worst part was that we were 3 hours away, so we were hearing all of this by phone.  All I wanted to do was jump in the car and go see it, but I knew that wouldn't do any good.  We called our insurance agent right away and started a claim.  

The next couple of hours seemed to fly by.  After multiple calls, we found out the house was empty and there hadn't been anyone living in it for at least a month.  This wasn't too alarming to us since we knew that the company we rented it to had people come and go.  Our lease agreement with the company said that they were responsible for the house if it was vacant or not.  They continued to pay rent and assumed responsibility for the property even when it was vacant.

Our insurance agent set up a restoration company to head out to look at the house right away and get started with the restoration.  Mid-afternoon we received a call from the Project Manager with the restoration company.  He said it wasn't good.  The 2 toilets upstairs had frozen and blown apart, which resulted in water spewing out of them.  The carpet upstairs was soaked, water was in the ceiling between the 2 floors, the kitchen cabinets were drenched, the hardwood was already buckling, and the basement was flooded.  

The Insurance
Late afternoon that same day we received a call from the insurance adjuster (our first call from her).  She asked us a bunch of questions about our tenants and how long the property had been vacant for.  We weren't able to tell her when someone had been there last.  She said the restoration company had told her that it looked like everything had frozen, which is what caused the pipes to burst and the resulting flood.  The last thing she left us with at 5pm on a Friday was that our insurance coverage was in question.  

I had already cried earlier that day, but then I really cried.  What were we going to do if insurance didn't pay?  This wasn't just a little puddle.  Even just 12 hours into the crisis we knew that there was MAJOR damage.  I felt really sorry for us for a while.  Then we picked ourselves up and carried on for the weekend.  We kept telling ourselves that we had the most money in the bank that we ever had, so we'd be ok.  We could make it work no matter what - we had to!  I saw everything we had been planning for months just go down the tubes......

We signed the emergency work order for the restoration company to start work.  They needed to get in there right away to get the fans and the dehumidifiers going to dry everything up before mould started to grow.  The one thing we had going for us was that it was the middle of winter, so it wasn't hot enough for mould to flourish.  The restoration company said they would do the minimum amount possible for now since they knew that insurance coverage was in question. 

Early the next morning Mr. Swell made the first trip to see the house.  It was in a sad state.  These pictures don't due it justice, but they will hopefully give you an idea of where we were at. 

The kitchen.  The blue things are drying fans and dehumidifiers.
The water had come down through the ceiling into the cabinets.  You can see the water marks on the bottom of the cabinets.

Parts of the ceiling had been removed to allow air to circulate.

The hardwood was buckling.
Ice did this!

This is in the garage.  There was so much water in the bedroom above the garage that icicles had formed.
The outside of the house. You can see the water had started seeping through the foundation from the inside.
We both took the Monday off of work to drive the 3 hour trip again and meet with the restoration company and the insurance adjuster.  The final verdict after a bit more investigation was that the furnace had turned off, which resulted in the pipes freezing and bursting.  Since the house had been vacant for so long, nobody caught that it was getting so cold inside the house.

As soon as we met the adjuster, she showed us a copy of our insurance policy which stated that during the 'regular heating season' if the house was vacant for more than 4 days, then it needed to be checked every 24 hours after that.   We had NO idea.  We knew that houses needed to be regularly checked (every 72 hours we thought), but were not aware of the every 24 hours policy.  It's our fault - we obviously didn't read the policy clear enough 5 years ago.  We gave the adjuster everything we had showing that it was the tenant's responsibility to ensure the safe keeping of the house.  We truly felt that we had done our due diligence in ensuring that the house was taken care of.  We left that meeting with an informal answer from the insurance company that our coverage would not pay.

We met with the restoration company again because we had to decide what our next steps were.  What choice did we have?  We had to get the house put back together and we had to ensure that it was done correctly.  We were also 3 hours away, so it wasn't an option for us to deal with everything hands on.  We gave them the go-ahead to do what they needed to do, and that we would figure out how to pay for it. 

The next few days were filled with very little answers (and very little sleep)....3 days later we finally received confirmation that our policy was not going to pay.  We were found at fault of not ensuring that the house was checked.  We didn't have a specific clause in our lease agreement that said the tenant had to check on the house every 24 hours, so the insurance company felt that we didn't have enough proof that it was the tenant's responsibility.  

The glimmer of hope through this whole time was that our tenants had filed a liability claim through their insurance.  In a pure stroke of luck, both policies (ours and the tenant's) were through the same insurance company so it meant that we didn't have to go meet with another adjuster and have more pictures taken, etc.  

The next day we received the call that allowed us to sleep again...

The liability insurance was going to pay.  The tenant was found responsible for the damage, so their policy would pay.  It felt like a hundred tons had been lifted.  There was still a lot up in the air as liability insurance is very different than a Home Owner's policy, but at least we knew that we weren't going to be on the hook for the full amount (which was quickly getting close to the $100,000 mark).

For the last 4 weeks we have been working close with the tenants, the insurance company and the restoration company to figure out what our next steps are.   Our tenants have given notice and will be moving out at the end of April.  We expected it as they need a place to house their employees.  The water was turned back on and it was discovered that the pipes needed more repairs than expected.  The restoration company has spent the last week fixing the plumbing and trying to estimate the extent of the damage.

For now we know that the replacement list includes the hardwood, much of the drywall on the main floor, the kitchen cabinets, the countertop, the lino in the entryway and in all bathrooms, the baseboards and all door casing, most of the doors, and the insulation on one wall and in the garage.  As of right now they think that the carpet can be cleaned instead of needing to be replaced.   It's a lot.  It's actually too much to wrap my brain around sometimes.

So far thee liability insurance has covered everything (and we are VERY thankful).  We will be out a bit once the tenants move out, but it is still way better than what we had originally thought.  We still don't know what will happen in the end once we start picking out finishings, but our goal is to get the place back looking like it did and to not pick finishings that will cost us extra money.  We are trying our best to ensure this is done as quickly as possible.

The Future
Needless to say, our plans for moving this spring have now been put on hold.  We are really thinking that once the rental is fixed that we will be selling it.  It was a good deal when we had long term tenants, but we are too far away to deal with finding new tenants and we don't make enough money off the rental to hire a property management company.  Our mortgage term is also up in June, so it makes sense timing wise to think of selling.  Unfortunately, until we know when the repairs are going to be finished and when/if it can go on the market, we can't make a move with our own house.

Although this has been a huge stressor in our lives lately, I know it's not the end of the world.  Even if insurance hadn't paid we would have survived, but we are glad that we didn't have to go there (and accumulate way more debt than we are comfortable with!).  I don't want to sound whiny and ungrateful, but I am bummed that the plans we had worked so hard for aren't going to happen the way we wanted them to.  We still have a roof over our heads (and a pretty nice one at that), but we were so looking forward to tackling a new house and spending the summer out on a big lawn with green grass playing with Fin and Dief.

Slowly I am getting over myself and our plans.  We will get there, it just won't be as quickly as we had hoped.  We will take the time to build up more of a down payment for a new house, which will be a good thing in the end.  Hopefully the market will be good in the spring and it will only raise property values to help to sell our rental house and to raise the value of our current house.  My hope is that we will still be able to list our house in the fall.  If it doesn't happen, then it doesn't happen.  We will wait it out another winter and start next year with renewed hope.

Through this whole ordeal we have learnt so much.  We've definitely leaned to read insurance policies carefully!  You'd think I would have known that since I actually deal with contracts for a living!  It's also been a lesson in standing up for yourself.  We joke in our house about me being a dragon lady....give me a bone and I won't let go.  Mr. Swell has told me numerous times in the last couple of weeks to unleash the inner dragon.  It's not to say that I am mean to anyone, but it does mean that I don't lay down and let people walk all over us.  I don't think everyone has us in their best interest, so it's up to us to make sure that our voices are heard.  I also think we were a bit naive about our rental situation.  We had a deal in place with the company to rent our house and just assumed they were doing everything they said they would (5 years ago).  We checked on the house a few times a year, but we never questioned very much.  When our main contact changed a few years ago we didn't sit down and have a conversation to ensure the same understanding was still in place.  The rent kept coming in and we kept assuming all was fine.  It was an assumption that we shouldn't have made.  Live and learn, right?  I can tell you with some certainty that if we ever go away for the winter (which we do tend to do), someone will be checking our house EVERY SINGLE DAY.  I can't even image if this had happened to our own house and the insurance had denied.  I am also so, so grateful that we sat down a few years ago and made a dedicated bank account for the rental that we put money in each month just in case of an emergency.  Although the money isn't even close to enough to cover all of this damage, it is enough to cover rent for  6 months, which makes everything a little less stressful.  Yay for financial planning!

We will be spending some time over the next couple of months picking out new finishings for the rental with the goal of modernizing it and making it the most appealing house we can to sell (or possibility rent again).  Don't be surprised if I am pestering you with questions and opinions as we choose the new stuff!   (Hope that's ok....we want to make sure our choices appeal to the masses....and you know...you are my masses :)  You know I'll keep you in the loop and will hopefully have some more pictures of a house being put together over the next few months.

I hadn't intended this story to be 2 full posts, but once I sat down to write it just kept coming and coming - so thank you for bearing with me through it all.  I have felt for the last month like I wasn't talking about this huge thing that had affected our lives, and that I just kept on blogging as if everything was hunky dory.  I needed to wait until the insurance situation was sorted out before I opened up about any of it.  I guess what I am trying to say is 'thanks'.  To those of you who have already reached out and told me to hang in there, please know that I so appreciate it.  I am hoping that I won't have another couple of epic posts like this again any time soon!

15 Apr 2013

When Life Gives You Lemons: Part 1

I am not really sure if it's an appropriate title, because I don't think I am quite at the point of actually making lemonade, but it seemed better than some of the other titles such as The Crap We are Dealt, or Why Did This Happen to Me?, or Ugh! (yes, I seriously considered that as a post title....).

More than a month after we received some bad news about our rental house I think I am finally ready to write about it.  I've debated if I should even share this story, but since it has changed so many of our plans and has taught us a huge lesson, I figure it's worth putting it out there.

As can sometimes happen with me, I started writing the story and it turned into a novel.  So, I am going to divide this up into a couple of posts - mostly so that you aren't stuck at your computer for an hour reading.  

My quick disclaimer up front is that I need to keep the identities of everyone involved confidential, so I am purposely choosing to not mention the town name, the insurance company, the tenants, etc.  Hopefully the whole story will still make sense, but if some details are a little foggy that is why.

The Backstory
When Mr. Swell and I met he was living in a town 2 hours away from where I was living.  He had lived there for 4 years and had decided it was time to move on from the small house he was living in.  The market was hot at the time and new houses were being built in the town.  In 2008, he took the plunge and bought himself a brand new 2 story house.  The house was about 1500 sq. ft, with 3 bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms.  It had real hardwood, a fireplace, maple cabinets and a HUGE backyard on a pie lot.  It was nice, really nice.

Right while he was in the middle of finalizing the deal, we met.  He moved into the house in May 2008 and we travelled back and forth for the summer and fall spending time together when we could.  (My car saw a lot of miles that summer.)

In the late fall of 2008 Mr. Swell accepted a transfer to a work location that would allow us to be closer together. It meant that he would be moving and would move out of his brand new house.  (Unfortunately it wasn't an option at the time for my job to move closer to him).

Between the spring of 2008 and the late fall, the bottom fell out of the market.  House prices were no longer rising, and interest rates plummeted.  His mortgage had a breakage penalty of either 3 month's interest or the difference in interest rates for the remainder of the term.  The interest rates had dropped significantly in the 6 months since he bought the house, and with 4.5 years left on his mortgage it meant that the breakage fees were going to be around $20,000.  Since the market hadn't increased, it meant that he wasn't able to sell his house without a loss.  Bummer.

In a happy coincidence, I came across a company that was looking to rent a home.  This company had employees who rotated through work posts in the town, so they needed a house that was appropriate for a professional person and had enough space to possibly house 1 or 2 employees at a time.  His house fit the bill.  It seemed perfect.  In our correspondence with the company they indicated that they had a lawn maintenance person, a cleaning person and they also had someone local who would check on the house if it were to be vacant. The lease was signed and we went on our merry little way.

In December 2009 we moved to Edmonton.  We sold the condo we had (and took a big hit), and bought our current house.  Our rental house was now 3 hours away, but the renters were working out so well that we decided to keep everything going the way it was.  Since we had long term renters who were covering the mortgage payment and taking care of the place (they said they had a maintenance guy, a cleaner, etc) we hardly worried about the rental.  We would go twice a year to fix any lingering items and to just check in on the place.  We had no idea when someone was living in the house or not because we continued to receive rent either way.

About a year ago we decided that we wanted to start saving so that we would be able to move this spring.  Our current house was starting to feel a little small and we craved a big backyard.  Fin and Diefenbaker need an area to run and play, and our current yard just doesn't have the space.  We thought about selling the rental house to provide us with some extra money for a down payment, but again since the renters were working so well, we figured we might as well keep it.  When we were ready to sell the rental we hoped that we'd have enough equity in the house that we'd come out quite a bit ahead.

The funny (maybe not funny ha-ha), is that we always joked that our rental house was nicer than the house we actually lived in.  And it was. It really was. We had always said if we moved back to that town we would have no problem moving into that house.

After weighing a million pros and cons about moving out of our current house we decided that it was something we needed to do.  It may make more financial sense to stay in this house, but in order for our family to thrive we knew that we needed a new space.  We set a goal and put it into action.  We had a number in our heads that we needed to attain in cash before we could even think about moving.  Our mortgage term was up in December, so we renewed it with the full intent of moving.  We picked a small term and went with the company that had the best porting policy around.

In February we reached our cash goal.  We felt so good.  It was the most money we had EVER had in the bank at one time.  We were busy finishing up those nagging tasks in the house (can you say baseboards??? My arch nemesis) and had full plans to start talking to real estate agents in April.  We were feeling pretty good. 

The Gong Show
One morning in early March (a Friday) I was at the gym when my cell phone rang.  It was Mr. Swell and he said he had received a call from the town telling him that an alarm was going off at the rental house.  I asked him what sort of alarm and he said he didn't know. We both figured it was a smoke alarm.  He said he'd call the Company and ask them to have someone go look into it.  I carried on running....

An hour later Mr. Swell called back.  He said that the RCMP (the police) were standing outside the front door and could see water pouring down from the second floor ceiling into the kitchen.  The cop's exact words where "you aren't going to be happy".  He asked if we approved him to break down the door to turn off the water.

Continued....read part 2 here.

11 Apr 2013

{13 things}

Ready for another round of randomness?  Here we go!

1. This is usually the first thing that I hear/see when I come down the stairs in the morning.  If Mr. Swell is the first one up, Diefenbaker will just keep sleeping, but as soon as he hears me coming down the stairs he gets ready to start his shake/stretch routine.  (You'll have to click through to see the video if you are reading in email).

Every day...guaranteed.

2. These house numbers from Back Bay Pottery are so cute.  We have no room on our current house for cute numbers (i.e. we have a miniscule little area on our front porch to attach numbers), but I am saving these ones in the back of my brain for when we move.

3. I feel like so many plans we had for this year are being postponed/changed because of other things that are happening in our lives.  I'm trying really hard to stay positive and take it all one day at a time.  I'm working on a post to explain it all, but it's taking me a while to compose it the way I want.

This quote helps.  Thank you Marilyn.


4. ZIB Textiles makes these leggings for adults, but I'll be honest in that I know I don't have enough confidence to pull them off.  My little one, however, can totally rock some crazy antelope (is that what they are??) leggings.  The question now though is do I splurge on them now, or wait until she is a little bigger and less prone to slopping spaghetti sauce all over her lap.

5. Do you ever go back and look through your Pinterest boards?  Sometimes I feel like I am a pinning fool just pinning every image that I find beautiful/interesting/calls my name, but when I went back through my house ideas board recently I was happy to discover that I am actually pinning images that mostly fall within the same aesthetic. It makes me feel a little more assured in my design choices....maybe I do actually have a style (a question that I sometimes can't answer....).

6. I've migrated all of the blogs I read daily from Google Reader to Bloglovin'.  I hated that Reader was going away, but am pleasantly surprised with how much I like Bloglovin'.  I read blogs using the 'frame' view, which allows me to see the full site and comment on posts all within Bloglovin'.  If you read multiple blogs and haven't checked it out yet, I highly recommend giving it a try.  And if you are so inclined, you can follow A Swell Place to Dwell here

7. This tea infuser makes me laugh.  Maybe tea would be so much more glamorous (or weird???) if it was in this guy instead of in plain old bags.  "Throw some tea in your trousers" - ha!
8. Have you had a chance to check out the new site Blogger Homes (by Shannon and Dean who also write AKA Design)?  It's a fun site where you can view blogger's homes by room, by blogger or by style.  It's set up in a gallery format, so it feels much like Pinterest or Craftgawker.  Each post on Blogger Homes links back to the original post.  Check it out if you are looking for some inspiration. 

9. I am in love with the song Gone, Gone, Gone by Phillip Philips.  Have you heard it?  Since we don't have cable I had no idea that he was American Idol - I think that's a good thing.

10. Someone is lookin' at you.....

Diefenbaker looking out

11.  I feel like this is turning into Diefenbaker's 13 things...he is such a photo bomber, because he's in the photo below too.  (mostly he's just too big for me to move so if he's there he is staying).  

I haven't been happy with the living room picture on our home tour page for quite some time now.  It was taken before I had my DSLR camera and it was just so dark.  I've updated it now.  Here's how our living room looks today.

Brown & Grey Living Room at www.aswellplacetodwell.com

12.  On a side note.....do you think I should trim the bottom of Fergus (our Fiddle Leaf Fig, of course!)?  In case you aren't familiar with him, he's the giant green plant in the pic above.  I've seen quite a few figs that look more tree-like than Fergus, and I kind of like it.  I asked Mr. Swell his opinion and he told me to leave him alone....he said a plant grows how it wants.  Maybe he has a point?

13.  I really want Chocolate Covered Katie to be my next door neighbour (instead of the guy who plays his electric guitar too loud).  I've already raved on about her Chocolate Cauliflower Cake and the Copycat Wendy's Vanilla Frosty, and now we are in love with the Chocolate Fudge Pops.  Fin loves eating snow, which totally grosses me out, so I satisfy her need for cold with these.  She loves them. 

I know it's only Thursday, but what are you up to this weekend?  Any exciting plans?  Let's share.....

9 Apr 2013

Dresser Mirror Turned Chalkboard

Last fall I was perusing the ads for free furniture on Kijiji and ran across a mirror that someone was giving away.  It was an old mirror from a dresser - the kind that attaches onto the back of the dresser.  It was ugly wood veneer and brass, but I figured that I'd be able to do something with it.  The seller (giver?) was really close to Mr. Swell's work so he agreed to pick it up for me one day on his lunch break.  He brought it home and plunked it in the garage, which is where it sat until last week.

After we finished the stairs down to the basement (actually, that's a lie...they aren't 100% done yet...but so, so, so close!), we were left with a ledge that needed to be filled.  Can't have an empty ledge!  (the horror).  I decided that I'd convert the free mirror into a giant chalkboard that will fill a good chunk of the space. 

Before we started working on this piece I thought of taking a 'before' picture, but I was pretty sure I already had one, so I didn't take a new one.  Well....I don't have one.  You can sort of see it in this picture.

It hopefully gives you an idea of how the bottom of it looked before we started working on it.  

Mr. Swell took the rails off (they were just screwed in), and then he attached a piece of 1x4 to the bottom and a little piece of square 1x1 trim to the top of that - essentially forming a ledge.

Adding a ledge to an old dresser mirror

The 1x4 is attached to the back with 4 L brackets.

And the little piece of square trim is attached to the 1x4 with screws from the bottom.

It took him less than 10 minutes.  I think the most time consuming part was moving all of the stuff out of the way to get to the saw so that he could cut the 1x4. 

After the new ledge was on it looked like this.

And yes, it was really that dusty!  

I cleaned it all up and brought it down to the basement for some spray paint action.  I gave the glass 2 coats of Rust-oleum Chalk Board Spray Paint.  I didn't bother taping off the sides as I was going to be painting them. 

use chalkboard spray paint on a old dresser mirror

I used a brush to prime the sides and ledge with Zinsser 1-2-3 Primer.  I let the primer dry for a day and then gave it 2 coats of latex paint in a medium gray colour.  The paint was a can of 'oops' paint from Home Depot so it didn't come with a colour name or code (sorry, as it's a really nice gray!).

In case you think that I paint in a nice big clean bright painting studio (ha!), here's proof that I actually paint in my basement surrounded by toys, pillows and construction debris.

I left it for another 2 days to cure and then primed the chalkboard surface.  Priming new chalkboard basically means that you use the side of the chalk to rub the whole surface, use a cloth to rub it in, then wipe it all off.  Priming it prevents the chalk from leaving permanent marks and also helps the chalk to 'stick' when you write/draw on it.

Priming a Chalkboard

Priming a Chalkboard

Priming a Chalkboard

Here's how it looks now with my favourite song lyrics courtesy of Mr. Lyle Lovett.

Turn an old dresser mirror into a giant leaning chalkboard

I love how big it is.  And let me tell you - this sucker is HEAVY.  There is no way we could hang it on the wall without some serious anchors, so having it lean half way down the stairs will work perfect.   The ledge is great for holding the chalk and eraser.  

Turn an old dresser mirror into a giant leaning chalkboard

My plan is to also add some framed pictures on the ledge once we have it all positioned in its permanent place.

Adding a ledge to an old mirror

I have a few more things to move around before the stairs are completely done and styled.  Hopefully I'll be able to show you a completely finished stairwell in a couple of weeks.  In the meantime though I am quite happy with this almost-free-to-me chalkboard.  I already had the spray paint, the primer, paint, and the trim, so the only thing we had to buy was the 1x4 and the brackets which rang in right around $5.

I've seen other mirrors like this come up quite a bit on Kijiji so if you wanted to make one too and didn't have any of the supplies, I'd guess that you could do it for less than $20 (just buy a sample size of paint and skip the primer if you don't already have it).

Turn an old dresser mirror into a giant leaning chalkboard

Linking to: Miss Mustard Seed

TDC Before and After
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