Friday

Our Kitchen Makeover - Before & After

What I am about to say, I say with great certainty. If you and your spouse can get through a major home renovation project, you can get through just about anything. Okay... I guess that was a bit dramatic... But trust me, renovating is a good way to put your relationship to the test.


Back in early November my husband and I set out to create the kitchen of our dreams. I had pinned enough ideas to design ten kitchens combined, all the materials were purchased, extra help was quoted and within our budget, and finally all the more important home projects were behind us. This took having to accept that insulating our basement and installing an energy efficient heating system was more important than new cabinets and more counter space, which wasn't particularly easy for me. Nevertheless, our kitchen needed some love too and there was only one thing left to do. Do it. The goal was bigger and brighter. The original kitchen had only one tight corner you could work in, and by you I mean one of you because it was much too small for two. It consisted of thirty year old hardwood floors that were scuffed and damaged by water among other spills, oak cabinets that didn't age well, warped laminate countertop with a dated wood design and finally, the most exaggerated Stucco ceiling you ever did see. The kitchen was so dark that even the brightest of paint and sunniest of days couldn't light it up, and it smelled like an old log cabin. 

 
Our project was more than just a face lift. Things got really, really messy and it took us an embarrassing five months to complete. You don't account for all the little road blocks and detours that arise when setting a completion date, or the dust that settles or the days you just can't muster up an ounce of energy or interest to screw in another drawer handle. It's a big commitment and if you're doing the majority of it yourselves, be prepared to quite literally sweat, shed tears and bleed throughout the process. There were many late nights spent assembling cabinets, cursing the mess we were in and cancelling our social life to get things done, but, it was all worth it in the end and we're still happily married.
 

Thanks to some wonderful handymen, guidance from friends, family and visitors who thought they were only coming over for a coffee, we got it all done right. We couldn't be more thankful. Here's how it all went down...
 
  • We busted out the dining room wall to expand the kitchen and brighten the space with an additional window. We never used our dining room, even when guests came over for dinner. Here in Cape Breton, you do most of your entertaining in the kitchen so eliminating the wasted space made sense. I've always been a lover of eat-in kitchens anyway.
  • Removed Stucco ceiling and installed drywall. Imagine dust covered, chalky, sharp,  four inch icicles hanging from your ceiling. Imagine the chore of having to clean or paint them and the eye sore they became over time. Let's just say, when this disaster was finally removed from my home, there was a happy dance (or two).
  • Removed laminate flooring from old dining room area and installed new hardwood. We knew we couldn't combine the two spaces to make one with a dark laminate on one side and a worn down hardwood on the other, so we gave the flooring guys quite the task of refinishing our old floor to match newly installed floor. 
  • Installed new light fixtures, outlets and moved the range across the room. What seems like the easiest task of all happened to be the most stressful. I will never again support the idea of re-routing electrical wires.
  • Assembled cabinets. Lifestyle Cabinets come in boxes and need to be assembled. The first one took us a solid three and a half hours to build, but once we got the hang of it we were banging them off in twenty minutes. They are good quality white cabinets that I highly recommend if you're wanting to save a buck and have the patience for the job.
  • Painted. Backsplash will come eventually but for now, a light shade of grey makes the kitchen warm and inviting.
  • Installed cabinets, door knobs, drawer handles, countertops and sinks. Black and white everything, just what I've always wanted. Black laminate counter, black knobs, a blank rinse sink and a black dish sink. 
BEFORE...


See? Dark, tight and all wood everything.
 
Smooth drywall, a thing of beauty! A missing wall, not so much.
 
 
This was at our halfway point, on the brink of a having major regret. We could no longer keep on top of the mess, Christmas was fast approaching and frozen pizzas were getting old real fast.  
 
Story of our lives for two months, spending our evenings assembling cabinets in our matching slippers. This evening like many was particularly nice; listening to tunes, chatting and working together - whereas other evenings weren't so relaxing. 
 
Finally seeing some progress!
  
AFTER...
 
 
Finally complete, and yes, we kept our red table. After traveling with us from apartment to apartment and house to house, this table holds a place in my heart. It's brought a lot of friends together and if it could talk, it would have many stories to tell. Not featured here is a window above the dish sink and two large bay windows on either side that make the kitchen bright and cozy.
 


The countertop has an Ora Edge which shows the flat face adding some bulk to the counter. It has a faint marble pattern throughout that adds some character and just so happens to match the light grey walls perfectly.



What's a dream kitchen without a coffee bar? The mugs and art featured here are flavours of the week. Next week, new favorites will be on display.



If you have any questions about paint colors, item numbers or brand names - don't hesitate to ask!


Thanks for reading!


XO
 

Thursday

Learn To Run Program

 
 
 
This happened.

Today, I had my alarm set for 5:45am and when it went off I was up and in my running clothes within minutes. I had a bag packed so I could shower at work and everything in place to leave the house by 6:15am. This is a big deal, you guys.
 
I met a group of runners who lead a program on the mornings of Monday, Wednesday and Friday to help beginners like me train for a Gathering Week 5K. Let it be known that anyone who has started and completed this program has stuck with running and credits it for their running success. It's now or never for me, really. I've been going to the gym, exercising at home, busting out squats on the regular - and even just last week I ran for forty-five minutes on the treadmill, ten and one. But, outside pounding the pavement and fighting the elements is a different story. Ten minutes of straight running outside is not happening, hence, the need to join a group to train properly.

With this program I will gradually build the strength and endurance to run long distances and maybe, just maybe I'll tick 'run a marathon' off my bucket list after all.

Day one, done!



Learn to Run Program


Week One
M-W-F  5 minute warm up walk. Run 1 minute, walk 2 minutes X 7. Cool down, 5 minute walk.
 
Week Two
M-W-F 5 minute warm up walk. Run 2 minutes, walk 1.5 minutes X 6. Cool down, 5minute walk.
 
Week Three
M-W-F 5 minute warm up walk.  Run 3 minutes, walk 1.5 minutes X 5. Cool down, 5 minute walk.
 
Week Four
M-W-F 5 minute warm up walk. Run 4 minutes, walk 1.5 minutes X 5. Cool down, 5 minute walk.
 
Week Five
M-W-F 5 minute warm up walk. Run 5 minutes, walk 1.5 minutes X 5. Cool down, 5 minute walk.
 
Week Six
M-W-F 5 minute warm up walk. Run 6 minutes, walk 1.5 minutes X 4. Cool down, 5 minute walk.
 
Week Seven
M-W-F 5 minute warm up walk. Run 7 minutes, walk 1  minute X 4. Cool down, 5 minute walk.
 
Week Eight
M-W-F 5 minute warm up walk. Run 8 minutes, walk 1 minute X 4. Cool down, 5 minute walk.
 
Week Nine
M-W-F 5 minute warm up walk. Run 9 minutes, walk 1 minute X 4. Cool down, 5 minute walk.
 
Week Ten
M-W-F 5 minute warm up walk. Run 10 minutes, walk 1 minute X 4-5. Cool down, 5 minute walk. 
 

Friday

Personal Goals From Lists Gone By

 
 
 



I have set many personal goals for myself over the years; lots that are kept private and are a constant work in progress, and others that have been made public on this blog. For me, telling people I'm setting out to do something helps motivate me to do it. I guess it holds me accountable, and if anything, the thought of inspiring others is fun too. I can't say I've read every book I set out to read or tried every recipe I've pinned, and I'm yet to run a marathon or even properly train for one - but hey, I shoot for the stars and there's no wrong in that.


Let's recap...
 
 
  • In this post I take myself up on a Reading Challenge. It's a tall order, but I've stuck with it. I'm hopeful by the end of the year I will have read an impressive number of books and blow your socks off with a hefty book review. So far? Not nearly enough reads under my belt to brag about, but summer is coming (at least I hope) and I can bang off beach reads like no one else can.

  • From this list so far I've managed to fight the urge to cut my hair (although I don't know how much longer I can do it) and I've followed a few YouTube tutorials to make cute braids. I've used my stand mixer quite a bit to make homemade dinner rolls and other baked goodies, and Pizza on Friday nights has been a thing. Also from this list, I've been drinking more water than I ever have before and I'm more apt to treat myself, even if it's something as simple as a spruced up Bloody Mary for an at home brunch or a new hand lotion for my purse. Lastly, *yawn* I saw the Dentist.

  • In this post I was beyond motivated to eat healthier and work harder to be physically fit. I can't say I've been the healthiest eater, but I am definitely more conscious of what I put in my body and more aware of how it makes me feel. I am happy to report my treadmill is getting some use and I'm coming a long way with my at home workouts. Am I 100% committed? No, but I'm on the right track and just reading these goals again and remembering where my head was then makes me want to work harder.

  • Lastly, from this long list I have done very little, but it's okay, I'm still happy and healthy. I never miss my yearly check up, I've got my eye on my money, I don't do drugs or go tanning and I absolutely love my home. As for the rest, meh.

  
It wasn't a personal goal but starting and finishing our kitchen renovation was a big deal this winter. I am beyond proud of my husband and I for working so hard (and working together) to see the job through. It consumed a lot of our time and energy and many times we questioned why we ever started such a job, but we came out on top. To look back at the drawing board of ideas and see that it has all come together is extremely rewarding. With that behind us, I can focus a little more on myself and tackle the things I've missed from my lists gone by. After all, it's about damn time I try Sushi.
 
 
Rachel Emmilee
 
XO

Monday

I Love How You Love Me (A Valentine's Day Gush)





 
I love that you watch your boring television shows when I'm not home so I don't have to sit through them, and without a complaint you watch all of mine. I love that you aren't afraid to kiss me in public and that you have no problem being alone with me on a dance floor. I love that your hand finds a place on my back when you walk by, and how you bring our morning coffee to the bedroom on weekends. I love that a serious conversation is always followed up with a comforting smile so I know not to worry, and you let me season our popcorn even when you'd prefer it plain. I love that you're always considering what is best for us now and later, and how you hang a clean towel outside the shower when you notice I forgot. I love that you go out of your way to surprise me with gifts from the heart, that you wink at me from behind your drums on stage, and you never complain about my cooking. I love that in ten years you've never discouraged me from wearing certain clothes or changing the style or color of my hair, and you never comment on me eating seconds or making my fries a Poutine. I love that you accept that I am an over-sharer, that I like writing and sharing my life through pictures and stories even though it's not exactly your style. You trust my ideas. You let me paint things, re-paint things, move things and change things whenever I want. You don't question me, and you never give me a hard time if my plan fails. I love how you purchase concert tickets before I even know they are on sale and you never raise your voice unless you're singing. I love that you never make me feel guilty for having had a lazy day or two or three, or six or seven in a row. I love that you pretend to be blind to dark circles, lines and spots, and swear I don't need makeup even after I point out my flaws. I love that you don't judge when I sing loud and off key, when I dance like no one is watching or wear frumpy, unflattering clothes.


I love how you love me.



*This post was written on Valentine's Day making it absolutely acceptable. Only on Valentine's Day can you use the word love fourteen times in one paragraph to gush about your guy and how good you have it. If I have made anyone gag... Sorry, not sorry.*

Tuesday

Mornings. The Struggle Is Real.


He wakes up before his alarm clock and instantly rises to his feet. He doesn't wait for the alarm just so he can hit the snooze button three times, or stretch, rub his eyes or take a few minutes to process that it is now morning. He jumps out of bed. No matter how little sleep he had he appears rested, energized and ready to tackle the day. He lets OB out for a pee, throws the lazy dog back into our bed and hops in the shower. He makes a trip downstairs to freshen his clothes in the dryer and comes back upstairs to iron his outfit. He may pack himself a lunch, make a cup of coffee, and may even sit in front of the television with a bowl of cereal.


Me? 

 
 

For the life of me I have tried to rise and shine, but I just can't. I have even set the alarm on my tablet to wake me with a motivational message. Good morning, Rachel. It's a new day! Get up, make coffee, exercise! I have prepared a lunch the night before, gone to bed early, set out clothes, pre-set the coffee pot to brew at 6am, and I've even slept in workout clothes but I still can't do it. I can't do mornings. Instead, I wake up with just enough time to shower, dress, grab my things and go. If a lunch is one of those things it's a good day.

 
If I could program myself to do mornings, I would give myself time to putter around. I like to putter. When I'm cleaning, cooking or getting ready to go somewhere I like to take my good old time. It may sound crazy or straight up lazy, but I like to give myself hours to do things. Don't get me wrong, I can clean, cook and get stuff done like a boss but I'd prefer to take my time. Ideally, I'd fold a basket of clean clothes over the course of an hour, watching a show on TV. Or, I'd set my hair in hot rollers two hours before go time just so I can enjoy some wine and sit around.
 

I would give anything to wake up in the morning with a few hours to burn. I'd sip on a cup of coffee while watching Breakfast Television, I'd eat breakfast and throw a lunch together, unload the dishwasher or do a wash, and I'd even try to get in some exercise. Perhaps a run down the North East with my dog while the coffee is brewing. Wouldn't that be swell? I'd even spend time styling my hair and put effort into picking out a cute outfit. I could make myself do all this... But it would be painful. I want to love it. I want to do it without a struggle.


Some of you actually love the morning, don't you? Some of you are out the door by 6am to get to the gym, go running, tidy up and tend to children. Teach me.
 
 
What are mornings like in your house? 

2015 Reading Challenge

Let's be real. The book with 500 pages will probably take me the entire year to finish, so chances are I will not tick all of these boxes by 2016. However, I do have every intention to try and with a long reading list and this awesome challenge to motivate me, I think I'll do just fine. Last Christmas my parents gave me a tablet and although I much prefer holding an actual book in my hand, it's made keeping up with good reads a lot easier. Here in the sticks, there isn't a library or decent bookstore for miles and miles!

 Are you on the fence about reading from a screen? I get it, but here are some perks that I personally love...

... Borrowing books instead of buying, although you can download or purchase to keep.
... Borrowing means you only have the book for a limited time which encourages slackers like me to finish it within a certain time frame.
... Having the option to listen to your book comes in handy when taking bubble baths, when you need to rest your eyes, or when you need to drown out noise in a crowd.
... Syncing to your vehicle Bluetooth means having your book read to you on long car rides. This is my favorite perk.

Is anyone else up for the challenge? I'm currently working on Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling and We Are Water by Wally Lamb. 




Get a head start on your New Year's resolution to read more books with our 2015 reading challenge!

Monday

This Year I've Got Some Big Plans

 
 
 
 

 
  • Entertain friends at our home more often, host dinner parties.
  • Put more time and energy into preparing meals, eat out less, waste less food.
  • Renovate both bathrooms.
  • Install new windows, doors and siding in the spring.
  • Get serious about playing the guitar.
  • Start a new journal.
  • Organize my craft supplies, complete the scrapbook I started years ago and start a new one with all that's piling up.
  • Play outside.
  • Drink more water.
  • Start a new weekend tradition. Pizza Fridays! (Can't take credit for that genius idea.)
  • Use my stand mixer more often.
  • Read more books, complete a reading challenge.
  • Start and complete a 30 day fitness challenge and get serious about exercising regularly.
  • Take advantage of the fitness equipment and shower facilities at my workplace. I mean, how easy can it be and why am I not in amazing shape by now?
  • Let my hair grow, master how to use a curling wand, find new ways to style my hair.
  • Present myself better, spend less time in yoga pants and leggings.
  • Stop cluttering our spare bedrooms with crap I should probably trash.
  • Visit friends and family more often.
  • Try Sushi.
  • Get new glasses.
  • Go on an adventure with friends.
  • Accomplish all the things I wanted to do last summer this summer.
  • See the Dentist.
  • Save money.
  • Treat myself more often.

Friday

Focus on the Good



Having spent New Years Eve under the covers asleep long before midnight, and having been isolated in the Out Patients Department receiving fluids through an IV for most of New Years Day, it's safe to say I didn't ring in 2015 in style... But that's okay.
 
After a beautiful Christmas with my parents, I got hit with a nasty bug that knocked me off my feet and right into my bed for a few days. Literally in bed for days, looking, sounding and feeling like death. During those few days, knowing there were many in the same boat as me if not worse, I tried my best to think positive. One of the many goals I've set for myself this year is to focus on the good, and although it was very difficult to see the good in said New Years Eve events, having no energy, a splitting headache, congested sinuses, a terrible cough and what felt like shards of glass lining my throat, I came up with this...
 
  • I have a warm house. I am safe here. This bed is not going anywhere.
  • Keith Urban concert from the comfort of my living room? Win.
  • Better yet, attending a Keith Urban concert this summer in PEI? Huge win.
  • Group texts are amazing. All of my caring friends in one conversation making each other laugh and helping each other from different parts of the Province is amazing. I don't even have to speak, just read and reply, and even from this germ-filled bed I am not missing anything.
  • I can finally binge watch Gossip Girl and not feel guilty about it. I've only ever watched bits and pieces of it now and then while tidying my room or getting ready to go out, so it's taken me a year and a half to get through Season 1. Well, I'm going to watch an entire Season today and an entire Season tomorrow and I'll finally know what's up and it will be awesome.
  • Speaking of awesome, Netflix is frigging AWESOME.
  • Thanks to this constant coughing and hacking I legit have abs of steel.
  • My husband is a gem. Between working hard on the kitchen downstairs and stopping every so often to come upstairs, check on me, bring me things to drink and snack on, he is really going above and beyond. He is taking care of everything and expecting nothing from me despite all we have to do, and he's encouraging lots of rest. On New Years Eve when I apologized for being so lame he said, "It's not what you're doing that's important, it's who you're with." Like really? I am extremely lucky, and I want to kiss his face off and I don't care if I give him my germs...
  • ... But I can't kiss him. But when I can, oh it will be great.
  • Our kitchen is finally in the end stages of its transformation and I could not be more excited.
  • All this down time has got me meal planning, recipe pinning and list making.
  • I'm convinced our dog is the stuffed animal I wished would come to life back when I was a little kid. He is the cutest, sweetest little thing and he adds so much joy to my life.
  • My family call me a lot. This is good, as it is proof they love me very much, just as I love them.

See that? I'm already carrying out one New Years Resolution like a boss. Try it, focus on the good.


XO

Tuesday

Merry Christmas!

Christmas 2013.
 
 
Boy, did I slack off this Christmas! With the monstrous renovations taking place at our house, we didn't do so much as hang a wreath let alone put up a Christmas tree. Now that's a first. See, things don't go as smoothly as they do on HGTV programs. We faced many road blocks and delays and had many days where we just didn't have time to work on the house, so our completion date has come and gone and still we're in a mess. It's okay. We don't have kids, we didn't have anything pressing us to be finished by Christmas and thankfully we have both of our family homes that offer that warm, inviting Christmas nostalgia that our home can't. We're actually having fun with it. Although it's been a bit overwhelming at times, it's extremely satisfying to see progress and know you did it all yourself. So what if it's taken longer than we anticipated? It's all good. We're extremely fortunate to be able to make these changes, and this business of living out of our bedroom hasn't been that bad. Wink wink.
 

So that's that. Our 2014 Christmas may appear pretty dull if you're judging by the amount of lights and decorations we've displayed, but I assure you it has been everything but. Our shopping is done and tonight I'll spend the evening with Mom wrapping gifts, sipping mulled cider and snacking on crackers and cheese, I've hugged all of my best friends, I've danced at Christmas parties and sported some festive red lipstick. Hubby and I have been singing Christmas carols in the car, we watched Love Actually and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation under the covers, and we're looking forward to a few days of eating, drinking and laughing with our favorite people. We may not have a tree or lights, but we have our health and a special kind of love. I am really happy, and life is good.
 

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas!
 
 
XO
 

Wednesday

Mulligatawny Soup




I made this traditional Indian soup a few weeks ago and can't wait to make again. You may find the list of ingredients a bit odd, but somehow they work together wonderfully and make a very satisfying meal for cold and blustery night. There are many variations to this dish so if you have an idea, by all means put your own spin on it. Perhaps you wish to use coconut milk instead of cream, cut back on curry or serve it over a bed of white rice? Knock yourself out. It will get two thumbs up either way!


Mulligatawny Soup


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts chopped into bite size pieces.
1 medium/large onion chopped small.
3 cloves of garlic minced, or 1 Tsp of bottled garlic.
1/4 cup all purpose flour.
1 tbsp curry powder.
1 box of chicken broth.
2 cups of blend cream.
2 granny smith apples, peeled and chopped into bite size pieces.
1 tbsp brown sugar.
Black pepper, salt, butter and cayenne pepper for seasoning.
 


Green onion, sour cream and red pepper flakes for garnish.
 

On medium to high heat in a Dutch oven, cook salt and peppered chicken in two tablespoons of butter. Brown and set aside. Once done, add two more tablespoons to the pot and sauté onions and garlic, stirring well to prevent burning. At this point, sprinkle flour and curry over onions and remaining butter, use a whisk to create a paste. Now add the broth and stir well. It's time to add the cooked chicken, brown sugar, and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Allow flavours combine - then add apples and cream. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes.
 

Garnish your bowl of soup with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkling of green onion, red pepper flakes for kick and some fresh naan bread.


- R