The Design

The Design


  • 2035 sq ft.
  • 5 acres
  • 3 bedrooms
  • 2 bathrooms
  • Walk-out basement
  • Large kitchen and living areas
  • Covered front & back porch
  • Oversized garage

10 benefits of ICF construction

10 benefits of ICF construction

Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) is an alternative to traditional wood framed construction. The forms consist of two pieces of foam connected together with plastic rebar. The forms fit together like lego blocks and as you stack, you fill with steel rebar and concrete. There are many benefits to building with ICF which I will discuss in this post.

Quick construction

This was the primary reason why we decided to build ICF. ICF is a 5 in 1 step: the structure, continuous insulation, furring attachments, air barrier and vapour barrier are all completed at once with ICF. While you pay a little more upfront (compared to wood framing), building more efficiently ultimately saves time and money.

We decided to outsource the ICF to a local contractor however Brent will be completing all remaining construction. Since time is money, the quicker the contractor can get the structure up, the longer summer building time Brent has.

Energy efficiency

A close tie to quick construction is the improved energy efficiency. Concrete has high energy storage capacity with low thermal conductivity, it provides the most useful level of Thermal Mass. This helps to stabilize the internal temperature from day to night temperature fluctuations and provides a largely self-regulating environment. Reducing the amount of mechanical equipment needed for heating and cooling means less energy consumption, resulting in greater cost savings throughout the year. I designed the home using PassivHaus principals. I positioned the large backyard windows oriented towards the equator – which is South in the Northern hemisphere. This allows for passive solar gain. The overhang over the deck blocks out the high sun in the summer but allow for solar gain in the winter when the sun sits lower in the sky. This is all how I am hoping it will play out. Fingers crossed everything goes as planned! You

Large window sills

Due to the thickness of the wall, the window sills are so wide that I can sit in them. It looks so beautiful, like a castle. Since the jams are so wide we ordered our windows with no jams. This saved us money on the windows, however, now we must build custom jams.

No off-gassing

NUDURA, the ICF manufacturer we chose, emits no harmful CFCs, HCFCs or VOCs.

Low Waste

The waste resulting from the construction was so minimal that it only resulted in one trip to the dump. If the City of Ottawa recycled styrofoam, we would have been able to recycle all waste. Check with your local municipality to see if / where you can recycle styrofoam.

Natural Disaster Resistant

Last year our community was hit with a few tornadoes. I am curious how well our concrete ‘bunker’ would fair out if a devastating tornado hit. I think the roof might blow off but I think the overall structure would stand. Nudura’s website claims that it can withstand 250 mph winds

Quiet Interior

Once again, due to the thickness of the wall, the inside of your home will be very quiet. This would be very important to me if we lived on a busy road or in the city. Since we are in the country it is not too much of an issue.

Recycled Material

The plastic folding webs between the styrofoam in NUDURA Forms are manufactured from 100% recycled polypropylene and steel.

Fire Resistance

With a 6″ ICF thickness, NUDURA holds a 6 hour fire resistance rating.


Originally we were going to do the ICF by ourselves, however, due to my husband not going on strike, we decided to outsource. Nudura offers a day long crash course in the installation of Nudura ICF. Brent attended a course locally and felt confident in his ability to install. Guess we will never know if it was manageable enough to do on our own… Maybe we will try building a shed or a pool?!

Where to eat in Austin

Where to eat in Austin

I love Texas. I had the pleasure of visiting Austin in the end of July. As a lover of Barbeque, I strategically planned each meal around my meetings. I had to eat and savor as much barbeque as humanly possible since I was only in Austin for 3 days. Below are the restaurants I chose to eat at.


This is an Austin-based taco and salad chain. Similar to chipotle but better. They have 6 locations in Austin. I had the Ensalada Aguacate with chicken. I could eat Mexican salad everyday. If I stayed longer (and was not so focused on barbeque) I would have come back. They use fresh, locally sourced ingredients. For what it is, five stars.

Summer Moon

I visited the Anderson Lane location. Another local Austin chain. Their specialty is wood fired roasted coffee. The only thing I usually buy on my work travels is coffee beans. You can learn so much about a city or town by hanging out at the local coffee shops. I purchased the En Feugo beans. They “have a full body, a sweet trace of honey and very smooth delivery”. 

Blacks Barbecue

My first barbeque! I honestly was so excited that I was nervous haha. Nervous in that I did not want to make a poor decision.  I am very passionate about my food. Everything is done by weight so you can customize your meal. I ordered the pork spare ribs, beef brisket, extra cheddar mac n’ cheese and creamed corn. This was the best barbeque sauce I had out of all the restaurants. The brisket was a little too fatty for my taste, but the ribs were great.

Magnolia Silos

After viewing 20 annoying billboard signs announcing the Instagram famous silos, I decided to make a stop and see what the fuss was about. Waco was under a lot of infrastructure construction so I had to reroute a few times. The silos are about 5 minutes away from the highway. I purchased my two cupcakes, valued at a whopping $20. The lemon lavender was very good. A little too sweet. I also bought the Strawberries n’ Cream after asking the security guard what his favourite was… It was meh. I ate them in bed. If you planned a trip just based on visiting the silos you would be extremely disappointed.  

Micklethwait Craft Meats

I had wanted to go to the world-famous Franklin’s barbeque, however, since it was a work trip I do not have time to sit in line for 6 hours. Also, during my meeting, my account informed me that this place was MUCH better. I went at closing (2pm) so their selection was low. This spot had the best jalepeno cheese grits I had ever had. I had a jalepeno sausage, pork ribs and some cole slaw. You have to eat outside in 100-degree weather, so the free beer was very welcomed. 

Austin Beer Works

I had the Estel Dale Smoked Pale Ale which was made with Fredricksberg peaches smoked by Lewroy & Lewis BBQ. I loved this beer. I also had a sample of the lotion in a basket beer. It was ok.  I was chatting with the head brewer and coincidently he has worked with Beau’s brewery in Ottawa. It was so hot in the tasting room that I could not stay for long.

Iron Cactus Mexican Restaurant

Sixth Street is the party street in Austin. Tons of live bands and restaurants. Almost felt like Nashville.  I had intended to eat in the Rainey Street district, which had really cute restaurants, however nothing I was in the mood for. The restaurants décor was tired but the Tequila Adobo-Marinated Shrimp & Chicken fajitas were unreal!

La Barbeque

Best spot and it came heavily recommended by everyone I spoke with. Lineup was almost out the door but I only had to wait about 20 minutes. I actually purchased $150 worth of meat and transported it home for my husband in a cooler. The beans sucked, they used a gritty seasoning that I was not fond of. The brisket was mouth-watering and had perfect smoke ring. I did not like their barbeque sauce but the meat was so good you did not need it! 

Where to eat in Atlanta

Where to eat in Atlanta

While I was only in Atlanta for 2 days, I managed to eat at some pretty amazing restaurants. There are a lot of options in Buckhead, Midtown and Downtown neighborhoods. Below are the restaurants I chose to eat at.

Where I ate

High Velocity

I arrived at the hotel around 9pm and noticed that most restaurants near close their kitchens at 10pm. I found this very bizarre since it is a large city. I later found a quote from Drake (talking about his favourite Atlanta restaurants) where he stated that Atlanta restaurants all close early. Very weird. I usually avoid hotel restaurants however Marriott usually has decent restaurants! This one was not good. It is a casual sportsbar with lots of tvs and a large circular bar. I ordered the Sweetwater 420 Extra Pale Ale which is a local beer. Very delicious. I then ordered the lobster mac and cheese based on a recommendation from a person sitting near me. It was not very good. The bartender did inform me that Atlanta is known for having very fresh seafood since the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta airport (Delta’s hub) brings in fresh seafood every morning from the nearest port, Florida?

The Southern Gentleman Gastropub

Located in the trendy Buckhead area I enjoyed the smoked trout deviled eggs and a Sam Adams Seasonal. I sat at the bar and enjoyed the restaurant’s chic, masculine interior design. The restaurant’s design has the perfect balance as being a great hangover brunch spot but would transition into a nice spot for after work drinks with friends. The waiter was a little rude which is why it gets a lower rating 

Le Bilboquet

Also located in the Buckhead neighbourhood. I am a fan of the simplicity of French cuisine. The décor inside was stunning but the patio at this establishment is where you want to be on a beautiful day. I received the perfect seat to people watch and admire the luxury cars pulling up to valet. I enjoyed the beet and goat cheese salad and a glass of sparkling wine. Perfect spot to grab brunch with friends or a romantic date night.  

Hal’s The Steakhouse

After I received four recommendations for this restaurant, I decided to treat myself to an evening at Hal’s steakhouse. This is your classic, old school steakhouse. You can still smoke cigars on the first level. The entire restaurant was packed (including their main floor bar) so I was offered a seat at their upstairs bar. To start, I enjoyed a dirty gin martini with regular olives (which someone informed me I should have got the blue cheese olives). For my entrée I had caesar salad as well as a perfectly cooked filet mignon with mashed potatoes. 

An old cigarette dispenser at Hal’s

Where I want to eat next time


Apparently, the best lobster roll in the world. A few people recommended this place to me. An uber driver informed me it was the same owners as the Southern Gentleman 

Kevin Rathburn Steak

I almost went here instead of Hal’s. The reviews online said this was the best steakhouse in Atlanta however the people I spoke with insisted Hal’s was better. Have to go with what the people say!

The Optimist

Upscale seafood restaurant with Instagram worthy décor. It looked a little further from the downtown core which is why I did not go. 

Cafe Intermezzo 

Drake’s favourite restaurant in Atlanta.

Where I stayed

At the hotel’s completion in 1985, it hosted the world’s largest hotel atrium. It is very dark and dreary in the atrium and main entrance. The architect was known for his neo-futurism design. To me, it reminded me of the Place de portage government buildings in Hull, Quebec. Too much concrete and depressing. The room was renovated and large. A few of the elevators were broken so it was a blessing that I was on a low floor. The location was good however next time I would stay in the Buckhead region where I spent most of my time eating.

The Vegetable Garden

The Vegetable Garden

With building our home this year, we have opted to keep our 2019 vegetable garden simple. This post will show you our favourite gardening tools/products and briefly explain how we currently do things.

Seed Starting

I save my seeds from the previous year and start them in peat moss pellets early March. As soon as I thin, I remove the gauze and replant them in plastic pots from flowers I have purchased in the past. I allow the little seedlings to grow on my window sill until it is warm enough to transplant.

Peat pellets, here

Terracotta pots, here

Potting soil, here



I am pretty basic when it comes to tools for planting. I have my father till the land every year with his rototiller. I create neatly raised rows with a bow rake. I plant the seedlings in the ground using a narrow trowel, wearing latex dish washing gloves haha. I place the cages around the tomato seedlings immediately.

Wood bow rake, here

Wood trowel, here

Honda rototiller, here

Our 2018 garden


Once the seedlings are planted, all that is left is to feed, water and weed.

Feed: I like to use natural/organic fertilizers on my food. Tomatoes, spinach and squash love nitrogen rich fertilizers like blood meal. I feed my plants every 6-8 weeks.

Compost: I am new to kitchen composting however I plan to continuously add compost to my crops as it develops. I add all kitchen scraps to my compost pail except animal bones. At the end of the day, I take it out to the larger plastic composter next to my garden.

Water: I like to hand water my plants when they small. As they grow and become stronger I will switch to spraying them with the hose in either the morning or evening.

Weed: This year I plan to keep the weeds down by using straw in the rows and around my plants. I think this will help with watering as well since the soil will not dry out as quickly.

Watering can, here

Compost pail, here

Blood meal, here



The best part about gardening is the harvest. We harvested a lot more than these two pictures. This year my goal is to can enough tomatoes to last us the year in pizza sauce and crushed tomatoes. I am giving up on making salsa haha It always sucks. We also want to pickle beets again. Last year they turned out amazing. I also want to dehydrate enough basil to last us for the year.


Butterick B6453 Review

Pattern: Butterick B6453 Misses’ Princess Seam Dresses with Straight Skirt (option b) | Source here

Fabric: 100% Linen in Navy | Source here

Sewing Rating: Easy

Size: 12 (my measurements are 34-27-32) and 118 lbs

Cost: $53.87 CAD (with USD conversion)


  • I finished the interior of dress with french seams. Looks beautiful and very professional
  • I shortened the dress about 3″ to be slightly above the knee. Much better suited on my 5’3″ frame
  • Navy linen is slightly shear but once worn you cannot see through. It has a nice sheen to it
  • It is a little tight around my chest but still comfortable
  • The zipper was a challenge so I opted to do a simple invisible zip instead of the suggested lapped zipper

How to save money on windows

Here are five ways to save money on windows.

  1. Shop Around
  2. Colour
  3. Casement
  4. Grills
  5. Window Type

Shop Around

This is probably the best tip I can give you and the most obvious. During our quoting process we went to about 6 or 7 different window stores including big box stores like Home Depot and Lowes. I created a spreadsheet and entered each window from each quote. This allowed me to see window for window, what was a reasonable price to pay for each individual window.

Within this, I found there are differences between dealers and manufacturers. The manufacturers often have more playroom because they are producing the windows.

The game changer with shopping around was when I thought I had found a really good quote, I then took it to a competitor and asked them to beat it and they did! My quotes for windows and doors started at $35,000 and I was able to negotiate to $22,900.



As soon as you stray away from the traditional white, the cost rises. Black exterior windows are usually 15%-20% more. The window companies (like Northstar) do run promotions for free upgrade to black at certain times of the year. We took advantage of this promotion. Even though we did not use Northstar, the manufacturer still honoured this upgrade.



Casements are the opening/closing operation of a window. Our designer put casements on 2 panels in a 3 panel window. Each casement adds to the cost of the window so we opted for a single casement on these style of windows.



Each window that has a decorative grill adds about $30-$50 per window. If you were trying to save some money you could opt for grills on only the front of the house. This allows you to have the design aesthetic on the front elevation.


Window Type

I am not going into detail about the positives/negatives of double vs. triple panel. There are +/- about both. Based on my evaluation I had decided on double pane windows until my window manufacturer said it would only be $2500 extra if we got triple. When you go from $22,900 to $25,400 it really does not seem like that much of an increase, however, you need to put things into perspective. Would you rather triple panel windows or your dream stove/hardwood/fireplace/etc…


How much does a building permit cost in the City of Ottawa?

New Building Permit $1587

Education Development Fee $2280

Development Charges $13,554

9-1-1 Sign $92

Refundable Inspection Fee $300

Septic Permit $1280

Total $19,092

It is a little sickening to think we’ve spent almost $20,000 and have nothing to show for it except for a few pieces of paper. The septic permit would have been $700 however the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority is a scam organization. haha.