Tuesday, May 28, 2013

House Addition: Forming & Concrete

It's time for a quick progress report on the house-building situation.  Over the past few weeks a lot has happened.  First came the task of building the forms for all the concrete walls...

Here's Erik and his dad along with a couple of hard workers, Joel and Jeremy -  forms are finished and they're ready for concrete pouring...

Here comes the concrete truck...

We picked the kids up from school a little early so they could watch the concrete truck and the pumper truck at work.

Pumping the concrete down into the forms takes some skill...

The next day, the forms were stripped off and some pretty nice concrete walls were in place.

There has been no shortage of entertainment around here what with the concrete trucks, pumper trucks, dump trucks, excavators and tractors.  One morning we were blocked in our driveway while we waited for another big truck to come and pick up all the forms.  The kids obviously weren't too upset about being late for school...

Thankfully we've passed all the necessary city inspections so far.  And the last several days the excavators, tractors and manual labourers have been hard at work filling everything back in around the house and smoothing out the piles of dirt... er, mud.

Soon it will be time for the frame of the house to go up and we'll see the most visible progress in a short amount of time.  Hoping the rain clears up and the mud dries up for this next phase.
Stay tuned!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Bathroom Makeover

It's been a long time coming but I am happy to report that our bathroom renovation is almost complete.  I tried to type that last sentence without the "almost", but I just couldn't... since there always seem to be things that need to be tweaked. 

Let's first take a walk down memory lane, shall we?  Here was our bathroom back in early November right before we got down to business.  I don't miss the linoleum or the tacky behind-the-toilet-storage-unit and definitely not that disgusting bathtub.  

Wow.  It seems so gross when I look back at it now.

The vanity was nothing special - it had been painted white somewhere along the line which was it's only saving feature.

After we took some final photos, Erik took out his sledgehammer and got down to business.  He took it right down to the bare bones because of water and mould damage in the drywall and studs.  I was sad to lose the window in the bathroom but it had to be done since this will be a shared wall with the new addition.  In the end I don't miss the window at all, and you'll see why in a minute.

New studs and insulation and new bathtub too...

We seriously considered using one of the old vintage bathtubs that had been used as a flower bed when we first moved in:

One of them was in really good shape and I had visions of a white claw-foot tub in my new bathroom.  Erik actually started working on it one weekend but when he calculated the work and materials that would be required to restore it we decided it wasn't worth it.  In the end we chose a modern tub that is much deeper and more comfortable than what we had previously and I think we're both happy with it.

Drywall stage.

Then the tile started to go up.  This was the most exciting stage to witness because up until this point it was all the behind-the-scenes work... which took for.ever.  

Making the decisions about all the finishes in the bathroom was the hardest part for me, being slightly indecisive and unable to envision the finished product.  But Pinterest was a life-saver since I was able to find pictures of bathrooms that I liked and then pick out the common themes.  I quickly realized that white subway tile was definitely something I wanted in the space.

Erik and I agreed that we wanted a heated tile floor.  He started with a rectangular heating coil pad, which we then positioned where we wanted it in the space.  It wasn't long enough to cover all the way from the door to the edge of the bathtub so it ended up somewhere in between (I figured as long as my feet were warm when I sat on the toilet I was good.)  When the heating coil is turned on, the difference between the heated sections and the rest of the floor is pretty significant.

Here is the heating pad after it's been cemented into place:

We lived without a toilet and a sink for what seemed like a LONG time.  Thankfully the toilet was replaced right after I discovered I was pregnant.  (And I definitely appreciated the heated tile floors when I was hanging over the toilet puking up my breakfast.)  The kids got used to washing hands and brushing teeth in the kitchen sink for several weeks while we waited for our one and only bathroom to be functional again.

Erik & I agreed that we wanted some sort of wall treatment.  I had really hoped for some rustic-inspired panelling on the walls like these bathrooms I had seen online:

But Erik explained that achieving that look would require a lot more materials and labour and convinced me to stick with this more modern wainscoting, which was super simple for Erik to achieve.  

And slowly all the parts came together to bring about this finished product...

I shouldn't have worried about losing a window because we gained it in another way.  We had seen a couple of houses that incorporated tube sky lights to bring in more natural light and decided to add one into the space.  It creates enough light that we often don't need to turn on the light switch during the day.

Here's the bathroom with natural light.

The tube light makes a difference for the entire hallway.

For the vanity I chose a double sink from IKEA.  This bathroom will be our guest bath, but it also serves as our "ensuite" and I figured the more sinks the better.  This sink still has plenty of space to rest a curling iron or that morning cup of coffee and it's so easy to keep clean.  The upside to IKEA is the price.  The downside is that IKEA parts are not so great.  The plumber had to improvise a few things to get the plumbing parts to work underneath and unfortunately the sink stoppers are not fantastic, but I'm a sucker for a good price.

Erik did a couple of rows of white subway tiles behind the sink as a backsplash and built a frame for a free mirror that he pulled out of a house during a recent renovation.

I became educated on the difference between faucets when I bought and returned about 2 or 3 before I got it right.  The IKEA sink required that each faucet could only use one hole.  In the end I chose these ones from Home Hardware.

Erik's brother Doug built the vanity for us and it turned out beautifully.  I love how we went with legs at the bottom instead of carrying the vanity all the way to the floor.

I found a light fixture that I liked at Home Depot online.  It's not available in stores but by paying a bit extra for shipping I had it delivered straight to my house.

The tile around the bathtub turned out really well (though Erik had some frustrations with the grouting process).  I love the white grout and the white tile.  The kids kept asking me why everything was so... white.  But I love how it all turned out, including the pot lights above the bathtub.  Over the chilly winter months this became my new happy place.

A new chrome rod for the shower and white fabric shower curtain.

One of my favourite features is this 5-piece shower head.  A rain head for regular showers as well as a hand-held shower head.  The hand-held piece is so handy for rinsing out the tub and rinsing off soapy kids.  And it rests on an adjustable bar so the kids can use it for their own mini-shower.  Functional but also attractive - I realized that I love the industrial look of the chrome pieces combined with the white subway tiles.

Another one of my favourite features is the door we chose, because I think it has some rustic barn-door charm to it.  I decided to go with the black hardware even though we did chrome finishes throughout the bathroom.  Eventually we will replace all the doors on the main floor with this style.

Erik made me these 2 floating shelves out of old wood from our barn.  (For the record, in real life I think they look much less "orange" than they do here).  I need to work on the styling a little more here - I'm thinking a nice wire basket to house my toilet paper would be a nice addition - but for now I'm working with what I've got.

And we can't forget the floor.  This probably caused the most drama of anything.  After looking at dozens of Pinterest bathroom pictures I knew without a doubt that I wanted a small-scale tile on the floor.  Unfortunately the smaller the tiles, the more high-maintenance they are.  It's that much harder to get the floor installed evenly, and that many more grout lines to fill.  Erik was not pumped about this decision but he agreed to let me have my way on this one.  The tiles went in and turned out great but when it came time to pick the grout colour I was a little lost.  I didn't want white-on-white but was hoping for a light to medium gray colour.  I picked up a box at Home Depot that looked the most like what I was envisioning but as Erik mixed it up and started applying it I realized it looked so much different than the colour swatch on the box.  Of course by that time, it was already too late.  And it brought to mind my last grout-regret moment back in our old townhouse - and the sinking feeling of disappointment when you realize you made the wrong choice.  So that is our one regret.  In the pictures the grout looks pretty decent, but in real life it's a yellow/beige colour, which tends to look dirty even when the floor is clean.  Apparently there is a product that can be applied over top of grout to change it's colour, but right now we're not going to mess with a finished product...
It's just too soon.

And the minor things that need tweaking include putting in a toilet paper holder and maybe changing out the towel ring which I don't love, plus styling up those shelves a little bit better.  But for the most part we've been enjoying the one room in our house that is beautiful and (almost) complete!

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

So Long 2nd Trimester

After the nausea and exhaustion of the first trimester finally petered off, this pregnancy has really flown by.  The 2nd trimester is gone and I'm entering the last 3 months of pregnancy!  I did think it was going by quite fast until one day last week when 3 separate people asked me how much longer I had to go.  They didn't say it in so many words but I could see in their eyes what they really were thinking - that they figured I must be "nearing my time."  It feels quite humbling to reply that, "No, I'm only in my 2nd trimester...  I still have 3 months to go."  In truth it's probably more like 3 and a half months with my track record, but I figure most people don't need to be bothered with those details...

(26 weeks)

The other question I'm getting asked these days now that I'm very visibly with-child is: "How are you feeling?"  The quick answer is "Great!"  Because compared to the gagging, nauseating, exhausting first trimester, the second one is a breeze.  I'm not sure how much detail people really want when they ask the question, but I did think of some other possible responses...

1. "I think I've developed a food addiction." - This happened sometime in the last 3 months when the need to eat to stifle nausea turned into a plain need to eat.  I'm pretty sure I spend about 99% of my day thinking about food.  When I'm not eating I'm thinking about when and what I'm going to eat next.  And when I am eating, I'm thinking about what I'm going to eat after I finish what I'm currently eating.  Trips to the grocery store result in multiple impulse buys that are usually polished off within a day or 2.  I can't follow the old adage to "not shop when you're hungry" because it simply is never the case.

(26 weeks, 5 days)

2. "I feel like a whale." - I suppose this response and the last one go hand-in-hand.  No matter how much I determine at the beginning of each pregnancy that this time will be different, it just is what it is.  I don't know whether it's my habits or just my body type but I've come to the conclusion that when I'm pregnant, I'm pregnant all over.  The first time I was pregnant I was completely enamoured with the whole process and fully embraced the burgeoning belly.  I was totally oblivious to the fact that I was burgeoning everywhere else too.  I remember seeing a picture of myself in my 3rd trimester and wondering why it looked like my eyes were disappearing when I smiled.  Now I'm annoyingly aware of my rounder pregnant face every time I look in the mirror.  This pregnancy we have a digital scale - the jury's still out as to whether this is helpful or not - but I just can't seem to stop myself from stepping on it every single morning.  When the second trimester hits they tell you to expect to gain a pound a week.  But between 20-26 weeks I'm pretty sure I saw the scale jump up a pound every couple of days.  I figured at this rate I might literally be a whale by the beginning of August.  Thankfully the increase seems to have finally slowed down.

3. "Tums are my new best friend." - Some days, no matter what I eat, I feel that uncomfortable burning in my throat.  Who knew water could give you heart burn?   Needless to say, my staple bedside snack in the last month has routinely been a couple of berry flavoured antacids.

4. "I'm considering adult diapers." - Let's face it.  After 3 natural childbirths and the weight of a 6 month belly, it is nearly impossible to retain the contents of one's bladder.  When the urge strikes, a bathroom must be found.  And fast.  I'm thinking a pair of Depends might just save me some time.  And some laundry.

5. "I'm getting practiced up for sleepless nights with a newborn." - Besides getting up multiple times to go to the bathroom, I've started experiencing a bit of pregnancy insomnia. If I get woken up for any reason after 3 am I might as well just get up for the day.  In fact, I started writing this post in my head at 4 in the morning and finally decided to just get up and actually type it out.  It is nearly 5:30 now - the sun is almost up, the birds are wide-awake and apparently I'm wide awake as well.  At least I can look forward to an afternoon nap... :)

6. "My belly has a life of it's own." - Feeling the baby move has got to be my favourite part of pregnancy.  Hands-down.  So this isn't so much a pregnancy complaint as an observation.  All 4 of my children have been very active in-utero, making the idea of laying down to do a "kick-count" seem quite ridiculous.  Already I can sit and watch my belly jump and vibrate - usually when I'm sitting down in the evenings.  The kids have each had a chance to feel the activity of their little sister.  Silas has the least patience to sit still and wait for a kick (often he'll put his hands on my belly quickly and tell me that he feels her moving even though I know he can't feel anything).  But the other day he had his hand in just the right spot when his baby sister gave such a big kick that it startled both of us.  He's felt smaller kicks before, but this time his eyes got really big with the realization that there truly is a little person in there!

Despite all the discomforts and annoyances of growing a child, I still enter each day with a deep sense of thankfulness for this amazing gift.  This is a child that, at one point, seemed like an unlikely possibility.  I grieved over the realization that our family might be complete with 3 kids; I felt so sad at the thought that I would never again feel a little one moving inside me or hold my very own newborn again.  I am so, SO grateful to get to experience all of this just one last time.  It really feels like an undeserved blessing.  And the fact that it's a girl - a sister for Keziah and the perfect fit to our family's puzzle - is equally amazing.

Erik joked the other week that now that we're having 4, we might as well just keep going.  Why stop now?  And Silas likes to talk about our next baby or when Mommy's pregnant the next time...
Sorry boys, but I think after this one we are really and truly finished!