Our Little Apartment: An Update

When we first shared photos of our tiny little apartment, we just shared a few cellphone photos.

I finally took a couple of updated shots with my proper camera the other day, so I thought it was about time we post some higher-quality shots!

Et voila:

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CSA Harvest Dinner

This is long overdue, but back in the Fall, we were invited to a harvest dinner at the farm we get most of our food from. We have a weekly food share at Heritage Harvest Farm, and receive a weekly basket full of fresh vegetables, meat, bread, eggs, beans/legumes, grains, and maple syrup.

At the height of the harvest, we joined various other families who are part of the CSA for an amazing farm-fresh dinner at the farm. With the exception of two ingredients (coconut milk in the soup and flour in the dessert), every single ingredient we ate came straight from the farm. We had a fresh green salad, squash soup, roasted beef tenderloin with sides, and a fruit crumble. It was one of the best meals we’d had in a long time!

Here’s a few photos:

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Living Small

As we’ve mentioned, we live in a fairly small apartment. It’s a one bedroom, and we have a little bit less than 500 square feet of space in total. However, the smart layout and open floor plan paired with high ceilings, big windows, and light colours makes it feel spacious and comfortable.

While we will be looking for a little bit more space when there’s more than just the two of us (not any time soon, don’t get any ideas!) what we have now feels more than sufficient for two people and two cats.

When we do eventually buy a place of our own, we’re ideally looking for something up to 1000 square feet, but no larger. This doesn’t put us into the territory of the tiny house movement (although we admire their ability to live small and reduce their carbon footprint!) but by North American standards, that’s a small house, especially for a detached home. The average new home in North America is about 2300 square feet. That’s 2300 square feet to fill up with stuff, 2300 square feet to clean, 2300 square feet to heat – no thanks! As a contrast, according to the BBC the average home in France is 1200 square feet, in Spain it’s 1000, Ireland 950, and the UK is 800 (perhaps we’re on the wrong continent?)

Here’s a few adorable small houses I’ve come across lately:

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And here is my absolute favourite. Designed by Jessica Helgerson, this 540 square foot house is located on 5 acres outside of Portland, Oregon, and is home to Jessica, her husband, and their two children. The entire house was built with reclaimed materials, and features a living roof. They raise chickens and keep bees on the property, as well as maintaining a 1200 square foot vegetable garden. Gorgeous and inspiring!

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Living in a smaller space gives us a great sense of freedom. We have more time, more money, and more energy when our lives are less focused on the accumulation and maintenance of stuff. It forces us to be particular about what we bring into our home, and as a result we find we significantly reduce mindless consumption. On that note, I’ll leave you with some closing words:

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Have a great long weekend!

 

 

We’ve Moved!

As we’re prone to be from time to time, we’ve been conspicuously absent from the blogging world for the past few months. The excuse is the same as always, we’ve been busy, and mostly with things that aren’t particularly interesting to blog about.

That being said, we did have one BIG change while we were offline, and that is that we moved. Into the city. The exact thing I said less than a year ago we were in no hurry to do. I’m allowed to change my mind. So there.

While our commute was bearable in the summer, when traffic was light and conditions were good, the winter was another story. By December, long work days paired with 3-4 hours a day of driving, often in dangerous conditions and bumper-to-bumper traffic, was leaving us burnt out and lacking in any sort of social life. We were done.

Within a couple of weeks of deciding we were going to ‘start looking at other options’, we found an apartment in the heart of our favourite urban neighbourhood, and we fell completely in love. The apartment was tiny, but gorgeous. Full of cool architectural details, high ceilings, big windows, and hardwood floors. It had a big, sunny balcony, and was full of natural light. It was on our favourite street in our favourite neighbourhood, close to our favourite restaurants, our favourite Farmer’s Market, and most of our friends. The landlord had excellent references, and the other tenants in the building (it’s a triplex) seemed awesome. We knew an apartment like that wouldn’t last, and we knew we’d kick ourselves if we didn’t put in an application, even though it was only our first day of looking at places.

A week later, we got the call that the landlord had picked us out of all of the other applicants. In mid-January, we moved in.

Nearly three months later, we’re still giddy-happy with our choice. The apartment suits our style perfectly, and I still find myself smiling every day when I get home because the happy, colourful decor brightens my mood. We adore the neighbourhood and walk everywhere. Our landlord has proven to be just as awesome as his references suggested he would be. The other tenants are lovely and friendly. It takes us 10 minutes to get to and from work. It’s perfect.

And now, we want to share our tiny new home with you! Here’s a few photos of our happy new home when it was still a blank slate, awaiting decoration:

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And here’s a few now that we’ve settled in and decorated!

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We love the bright natural light and pops of colour everywhere. It’s such a happy place to come home to every day! Hopefully we’ll have many more adventures in this new place to share with all of you. We’ll try to blog a little more regularly through the summer months!

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

‘Tis the season for lots of zucchini, which means we have tons in our CSA basket lately! We’ve been eating zucchini all kinds of ways, but I decided to try a sweeter zucchini recipe this weekend. I wanted something fairly quick and straightforward, and came across this recipe for chocolate zucchini muffins.

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I adapted this recipe from a recipe on FortheLoveofCooking.net.

Ingredients:

1 cup flour
1/2 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder, sifted
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sunflower oil
1/2 cup granulated raw sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups shredded raw zucchini (I added a bit more, with no issues)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a muffin tin with vegetable oil or butter (I used oil).

Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl, and stir until fully mixed. Add in the chocolate chips and mix again.

In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, sugars, and vanilla until well combined. Add the shredded zucchini and mix. Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture until just combined. Spoon evenly into the muffin tin.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. Let them cool for a few minutes before placing them on a cooling rack to continue cooling.

Serve with a cup of hot tea for a delicious afternoon snack!

Spicy Squash Soup

We’re getting a lot of squash in our CSA right now, so I figured we should make use of it. Now that the cooler weather is approaching, one of the easiest ways to deal with excess produce is to make soup.

Those who know me know I don’t typically follow recipes when I cook, nor do I measure. So this ‘recipe’ will involve a lot of estimates and approximations. That being said, soup is a food that’s typically made ‘to taste’ anyway, so hopefully this is at least a good starting point.

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Here’s what I put in the soup:

2 average sized crookneck squash

1 medium onion

A splash of sunflower oil (any cooking oil will do here)

2 peeled carrots

1 average sized potato

2.5 cups of vegetable stock

1 small chili pepper

Paprika to taste

Cumin seeds to taste

Turmeric to taste

Chili powder to taste

Salt, to taste

Approximate instructions:

In a large soup pot, put a splash of sunflower oil, add your chopped onion, turmeric, chili powder, paprika, cumin seeds, and chopped chili pepper, and put over low heat. Allow to simmer while you prepare your other ingredients.

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Peel and roughly chop your squash, carrots, and potato.

Add the vegetable stock to the pot, stir, and then toss in your chopped veggies.

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Stir together, and turn up the heat to high. Continue stirring until the pot comes to a boil. When that happens, cover, and reduce the heat to medium.

Allow it to continue to simmer for approximately 20 minutes, or until the veggies are all soft. At this point, you can taste the soup and see if you need to add any additional spices or flavours.

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Remove the soup from the heat, and allow it to cool a bit before you blend it. You can use an immersion blender or a food processor to blend until smooth once it’s cooled a bit. At this point, you can add salt (a small dash at a time, you can always add more, but you can’t take it away), until you’re happy with the taste.

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Serve hot, with fresh crusty bread. Delicious!

A Proper Autumn Weekend

We had proper chilly fall weather this weekend, and we celebrated with some very autumnal activities!

Saturday was a rainy day, so we spent it baking and cooking. I made chocolate zucchini muffins (recipe in an upcoming post!) and Chris made homemade pasta with a hearty meat sauce.

Sunday was cold, but dry, so we trekked out to Jasper to go apple picking at Kilmarnock Orchards in the morning. From there, we went into Merrickville and snatched up some great finds from the $2 bin at the vintage record store, followed by lunch by the fire at a local pub.

We’re starting to get a lot of squash and assorted root vegetables in our CSA, so we made a warm, spicy squash soup for dinner (recipe for that will be in an upcoming post as well). We had it with some fresh crusty bread, and it was the perfect end to a proper fall weekend!

I hope everyone’s enjoying the best season of the year!

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Fall Bucket List

DSC_0068A past fall.

I love fall. It’s by far my favourite season of the year. I love everything about it – the crisp leaves, the fresh, cool air, the smells, the sweaters, and especially, the activities that go with fall (apple picking, pumpkin carving, making cider, having bonfires, etc). If there’s a place in the world where it’s fall all year (weather-wise), please tell me, because I want to move there.

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Now that the nights (and mornings) are getting cooler, my autumn-excitement is kicking into high gear. Fall always flies by far too quickly, and I feel like we often talk about all the things we want to do, but only manage to accomplish a couple of them. To try and prevent that from happening this year – we’re putting our fall bucket list in writing!

Here’s what we want to do this year:

  • Go apple picking
  • Make cider
  • Carve a pumpkin
  • Roast pumpkin seeds
  • Have a bonfire with friends
  • Go for lots of hikes to check out the fall leaves
  • Make delicious soups
  • Preserve food for the winter
  • Perfect some fancy hot drinks for cooler weather
  • Visit the best fall fairs in the area
  • Make Thanksgiving dinner
  • Finish the scarf I started knitting for Chris three winters ago (Rachel)

This list is admittedly a little optimistic. Fall has been a short season around here lately, and it’s also a really busy time of year at work, but we’re going to try!

Our (Late) Honeymoon

We finally went on our honeymoon last week, which also doubled as our first anniversary trip (can you believe it’s been a year?) We spent a few days in Niagara-on-the-Lake, a beautiful community not far from Niagara Falls. We visited wineries and an awesome craft distillery, ate lots of amazing food, went hiking, got massages, and explored the town and surrounding area, while staying at a gorgeous B&B that served exceptional breakfasts. We had a great time, and hope to go back sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Here’s a few photos from our trip:

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How to Change Your Name After You Get Married (In Canada)

Whether or not you change your name after you get married is a personal choice, and there’s a ton of different totally valid options for how to proceed.

In my particular case, I chose the traditional route, and took Chris’ last name when we got married. I ‘legally assumed’ his last name, which means I didn’t change my name on my birth certificate. This is the most common approach for a name change due to marriage in Canada.

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In reading about changing my name, I found mountains of helpful information for our American neighbours to the the South, but I found very limited information about changing your name in Canada. This may not be the most exciting post, but I thought it might be helpful for anyone in Canada who’s starting the process of changing their name. I will also add the full disclosure that I’m in Ontario, and some of this information will vary province by province.

Here’s the steps I went through:

First, I had to get a marriage certificate. This is not something that is automatically issued, contrary to popular belief. After your ceremony, your officiant should submit the paperwork that you complete during the ceremony to the province. This will then take 10-12 weeks to process. After the 10-12 weeks are up, you can go on the Government of Ontario site, and fill out the online application for a marriage certificate. The current fee is $22. You can access the online form here. Once you’ve completed and submitted the form and paid the fee, they will process your application and mail you a certificate. If at any time you lose or damage your marriage certificate, you can follow these steps again and quickly and easily get a new one (although you will have to pay the fee again).Once you have your marriage certificate in hand, you’re ready to start changing your name.

Provincial ID

The first step should typically be to change your name on your everyday ID, like your driver’s license and health card. You can do this by going in person to a Service Ontario office, with your current ID and your marriage certificate in hand. They will have you fill out some paperwork, and show them your marriage certificate as proof of name change. A word of warning: they will also take new photos for your license and health card, so be prepared! They will then issue you temporary IDs in your new name, and invalidate your old IDs. You should receive your new cards in the mail in a few weeks.

From here, the order you do things in is pretty flexible.

Banking

The next step for me was changing my name with my bank. This was pretty straightforward, as I have all of my main accounts (savings, chequing, RRSPs, student line of credit) in one place. I simply walked into my branch with my new provincial ID, and my marriage certificate, and they were able to change everything over in person. It took about 5 minutes and was the least painful of all of the name change steps I went through.

The one annoying catch though, was that I couldn’t change my credit card over in the branch, even though my card is associated with my account.

In order to change my credit card (a Mastercard), I had to call the company. They gave me an address and a list of items that needed to be included in a signed letter. I wrote the letter, which I then had to send to the address they gave me, along with a photocopy of my marriage certificate and another piece of my ID showing my new name. This will vary depending on your bank and credit card company, so it’s best to call your individual company for instructions.

Insurance and Loans

My next call was to my insurance companies. Despite their bureaucratic reputations, these were surprisingly easy! For both car insurance and tenants insurance (Belair Direct and Cooperators), I simply had to call them and tell them I’d changed my name, and they updated my account over the phone.

Next on the list was student loans. As I’m done school, all of my loans are held by the National Student Loan Service. If you pull out any paperwork you have from them, it should have a 1-800 number you can call, as well as your loan ID number. You’ll need that number, and your Social Insurance Number when you call them. Similar to the credit card company, they will give you a fax number or mailing address, and give you instructions for a letter you need to write confirming that you’re changing your name. You will need to fax or mail that, along with a photocopy of your marriage certificate and your SIN card.

Bills and Utilities

For utilities, I only needed to change my name on my hydro account, as the rest are in my landlords name. For Hydro, I simply had to send a letter to the company requesting the change. They didn’t require any proof. This will likely vary from company to company.

Phone and internet aren’t in my name, so I didn’t have to change these. I would imagine they’d be similar to utilities though.

Federal

To change your SIN card, you can either print a form off their website and mail it, or go into a Service Canada centre in person. You can get more information about that here.

You’ll also need to change your name with the Canada Revenue Agency for tax purposes. I actually forgot about this before tax season, so I ended up just doing the paperwork with the accountant while I filed my income taxes this year, but you can do this anytime by calling the CRA. More details here.

The one step I still need to complete is my new passport. There’s no way around it, the only way to change your name on your passport is to start the process over and get a new one. Not a renewal either, a totally new application (complete with guarantors and references and new photos). It doesn’t matter if you got a new passport 6 months ago, you still need to start the process over again and pay all the fees if you change your name. You will need to submit your marriage certificate (the original) by mail, or submit your application in person at a Passport Canada office and show them your certificate when you do so.

Online

The last big area, and this is a very 21st century thing, is changing your name on your online accounts. For me, this included changing my email address, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and my log in information for a variety of different sites that I use regularly. It also meant updating my PayPal account, and my usernames and log in info for a variety of online shopping sites (like Amazon and Etsy). I’m still occasionally stumbling across accounts where I haven’t changed my name yet, but I’m gradually finishing this process. Thankfully, in most cases, it’s very easy to change your name online. On most sites, you simply go to your account settings/preferences and change the name on the account.

Miscellaneous

And then there’s the miscellaneous things that you’ll think of on a case-by-case basis and that vary widely person to person. This could include memberships (gym memberships, clubs, sports, Air Miles, library), your hospital card if you have one, changing your name with your doctor’s office, optometrist, dentist, lawyer, or any other professional services you use, changing your name for any subscriptions you may have (such as magazines), and little details like that. Most of these are easy to change, and simply involve a quick phone call, an email, or in the case of services, telling them in person next time you’re in the office and potentially showing a piece of your new ID.

Telling People

In the 21st century, a lot of people will find out about your name change simply by the shift in your online presence. By changing your name on your email account, Facebook, Linkedin, or other social media, you’ll communicate clearly that your name has changed. You can also communicate your name change to people who attended your wedding by signing your new name on thank you cards after the wedding. Closer friends and family will often ask you in the lead up to the wedding whether or not you’re changing your name, and once a few people know, the word often spreads quickly. Offline, you will also want to inform your employer about your name change, as they will need to update your files, and possibly update your email account and business cards, as well as your company benefit plans.

I’m not going to pretend that this is a totally comprehensive list. I’m no expert on name changing, but I did think it might be helpful to pull together a list of all the places I needed to change my name, and a brief overview of what the process was for each change. It’s not a particularly quick or efficient process, but a little organization goes a long way!