Renovations Series. The Exterior.

Setbacks….I know I know….we should have expected it. But seriously, I couldn’t have imagined we would run into this much. Some of it was out of our hands and some of it is totally on us.

The weather hasn’t exactly been on our side for this part of the renovation. It’s amazing how quick we turned the inside around…but the exterior is a different story and is taking much longer than we had hoped for. Typically Calgary gets a number a Chinooks throughout the winter months. Allowing for a week or two of work outside. Are you not familiar with the great Chinook Winds? it’s what makes our long long long winters tolerable.

Usually, Calgary has a longer than average winter, starting in Late October and sticking around till March, April, and yes…I have seen snow here in May (I joke that we have two seasons here, winter and summer). But the winters are mild. Much more mild than any winter I had growing up in Montreal. The winters in Calgary hover around the -5 to -10 (celsius people not Fahrenheit) but when a Chinook rolls in overnight the temperature will rise to +10 or +15!

We typically have hardly any snow and  you will find lots of brown grass and amazing big blue skies. These Chinooks can stick around for a few days or up to a couple of weeks. Throughout the winter we can see up to a dozen short or longer Chinooks. Ben has been golfing in February on several occasions. NOT THIS YEAR.


Setback Numero 1


Not this year. We have more snow than ever before, RECORD BREAKING. It has been cold and it has been never ending! NO CHINOOKS (maybe 1-2 early in the season). Our trades were lined up and ready to jump on the job but every time the day showed any promise of better weather…suddenly it would snow! AGAIN. Boooooooo!


Setback Numero 2

When we bought this house we had to replace a bunch of windows. We also planned to add some windows. We had to wait till the exterior project got started before we could put the new windows in. One, in particular, was replacing and adding to the window in the office area to add more natural light.

THIS turned out to be a huge setback and maybe a small case of “he said she said”. Back in September when we were measuring to order our windows, Ben and I sat together, took measurements together (a first for us and not something you want to mess up, enlist in some help if you are unsure about this one). We got the measurements right…but we got the window ordered the wrong way. And here’s the thing with windows, you can’t open them from the outside, haha. funny now.

The worst part about this was that I double checked the whole order form, followed by Ben. we both missed it and we didn’t even knot it until way after we hassled the window company a million times for being late, late, late and super late. Only to have the window arrive WRONG!

Not only did the window take forever to get here…but now we ordered it the wrong way! AHHHHHHHHHH nightmare! The trades were lined up to come in and when they started to get the job ready we all realized the issue. Major financial booboo. Take note people! Now we had to pay the window install guys for coming in, setting up and getting ready AND we had to REORDER THE WINDOW! OMG. In hindsight it’s funny. During the moment…not so much. So to save some of the costs, Ben got to help out last week and learn how to put in a second story massive window. Did I mention he’s afraid of heights?

New office windows after they were just put in! good job honey!

Setback Numero 3

I addition to the challenging winter and window debacles. Ben and I keep or kept…maybe keep…flip flopping on what we want to do to the exterior. We have had too much time now to change our minds. Over and over again.

Curb appeal is huge! and as a realtor and house flipper, my husband knows this and wants to get it right. I completely agree with him on that…and that’s about it! haha. At first, we were thinking classic, or arts and crafts but maybe a twist of modern. We wanted to take into consideration the neighborhood and community but we also wanted to make a statement…to encourage the community to continue with revitalization. (it’s a much older community).


Meet Scott. He can do just about anthing! The best!


It’s been a such a struggle trying to figure out exactly what it was/is we wanted/want to convey. Our exterior defines our interior. It’s the initial thing you see when you pull up to our house. This house has so much meaning to us. Sure we flipped homes before, we bought and renovated…but this house we know is THE forever home. We need to make sure to follow our hearts and combine our unique but simple sense of styles to create an amazing space that we love inside and out.

Stef was amazed by the crane lifting the new shingles!

So here we are. The weather has slightly improved and new windows are in. We ripped off all the old cedar exterior from 1979. Of course, during this stage, we ran into some obstacles (which we accounted for and so should you when you are renovating an oldie) such as rotten wood that needed replacing. The roof shingles have been delivered and we have a guy who has started on the eavestrough, soffit, and fascia.


I am sharing some of the inspiration we have for the exterior here. Ben and I have finally come to some design agreements. We wanted to carry the feeling of the simple, clean, white and modern look to the outside but still add some wood accents, pretty lighting, and charm.  Looking forward to the next reno post and giving you a peek into siding choices, soffit colors, wood accents and garage door choices. The below pictures were taken off the Becki Owens Instagram account. I love following her and her design ideas are really inspiring. Here are a couple of the pictures we are using to help guide us…


Now let’s all cross our fingers and hope that this winter is over soon!

Till the next post







Choosing Child Care & The BIG THREE To Look For…

I often get asked by friends and family many questions about choosing quality childcare. This all-important decision is sometimes intimidating and scary, especially for new parents; and by new, I mean before the baby has even arrived!


As soon as new parents get over the initial excitement of being pregnant, they are quickly thrown into the reality of how this new little person is about to bring some big changes to their lives. One of the decisions parents are often faced with is whether both parents will return to work which would mean that they will be needing childcare. It’s even harder on single-parent families who may have no choice.

The reality is, according to Stats Canada;

“71% of households where both partners worked for pay used child care for a preschool child, and 49% did the same for a school-aged child between the ages of 5 and 14. Child care rates were also high for lone-parent families where the parent worked at a paid job or business”

That being said, there are quite a few different options for child care for children ages 0-12 and it’s not a one size fits all. So how do you decide? Nanny, Day Home, Child Care program?  Each family has different needs and starting to explore each of these options will help your family figure out which might be the best fit for you.

I’m not going to get into the costs of child care or the politics of child care. The only thing I will say here is people need to value the profession more and the importance of the early years. there is so much research around this. The fields of child development and brain development have made a strong case for the importance of these foundational years and the need for investing more.

In addition to the obvious need for child care, parents do have a much better understanding today of the importance and value that early learning can bring to their child’s development. The importance of play, peer socialization, emotional and cognitive development has both the working parents and the stay at home parents interested in quality programs like preschools, pre-kindergarten programs, and playschools; another stream of childcare that is typically part-time and/or in some cases full time.



Today I want to focus on choosing a child care program. I want to introduce to you what to look for in a quality program in three words. Credentials, Programming, and Environment. What makes me qualified to do so? Hmmmm. Those exact three words. At AKIDEMY we really pride ourselves on offering a very high-quality program in the city of Calgary. This isn’t something that parents have voted on, or something we just say because we think it and it helps us sell it.

We know it because early learning is being taught by professionals in a safe and nurturing environment at our program. We know it because the people that are teaching and researching the early childhood field have recognized that our program is one of very high quality. We know it because we continue to stay accountable and informed to always continue to be offering the most innovative program we can that is based on the latest research. 

So let’s start here. These are the three biggest things to look for and ask about. In the end, I tell all parents, follow your gut. Your “parent” sense will guide you. Don’t jump on a decision. I always allow our families to think about taking a space before committing. At AKIDEMY we are transparent, and we don’t want to put pressure on an already difficult and big decision. When we have spaces we advertise and we allow that family or families a couple of days to reflect on the spot before offering it out to the next interested family.



Now, I have no doubt that you will find loving and caring people working in the field who have little or no background in early learning. BUT The fact is in order to be running a strong child care program, it should be taught by educators who have credentials in the field. Just this week Alberta Government finally tightened up the certification qualifications for Early Learning Educators. Something that was long overdue and sends a message of respect to an often undervalued profession.

As a parent, you should expect that when you walk into a program, it is being not only taught by but operated by, an Early Learning Educator. Just like when you meet the principle in an elementary school or high school; in order for that administrator to lead the team, they would have had to work their way up from education, to frontline staff and so on in order to really understand all the moving parts…Credentials.

At AKIDEMY we only hire Certified ECE’s with the highest qualifications to lead our classrooms. My business partner and I both have studied in the field and continue to learn and keep up with the latest and  most innovative in ECE. We expect the same from our team.

So if you are parent touring a new center ask about qualifications. Also, ask about things like first aid, police clearance, licensing, accreditation (if available in your province or state). Quality programs wouldn’t be striving to maintain bare minimums but going above and beyond to provide the best for our most vulnerable population.

Did you know that in order to maintain a license here in Alberta, not ALL educators have to have first-aid training, that only one in every two staff members on site need to be first-Aid Trained? At AKIDEMY it is an expectation that all staff be up to date and certified in order to work for us.


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AKIDEMY OWNERS, Dina Ottoni Battistessa and Tristan Katz



A quality program will post and share their programming. When on a tour, ask about the school’s philosophy, the programming in each class and how that information is shared with parents. See if this aligns with your beliefs and what your hopes are for your child. There are many different types of programs out there, and I don’t necessarily agree with some. Some are way too structured, some have children doing worksheets at the age of 3, some send home homework (I wish I could stick an eye roll emoji here)

All I am going to ask you, moms and dads, is do your homework on different programs and what the latest research on child development has to say about programs that offer the above. Research today clearly shows that play-based learning centers who offer lots opportunities for emergent programming that fosters wonder, curiosity, and exploration in a safe and nurturing environment, will allow children to grow socially, emotionally and cognitively. Children will develop a love of learning all while feeling confident and capable!

Doesn’t that sound like someplace you want to send your child?


The setting acts as a third teacher. Both Tristan and I have always believed in that. Children are so much more capable than we give them credit for. Our environment at AKIDEMY fosters that. We didn’t need to create a program that was screaming pink, red, green or blue. We didn’t want to cover our walls in those funny scholastic boards, with silly trims and stars. We wanted to create a beautiful space that was calm and made the children feel welcomed. The walls didn’t need to speak to them, the plastic toys are limited and glass jars and real materials surround them. This is us and it works because we believe that children are capable and competent. We know that our parents feel the same about our space when they come in.


When you walk into a program how do you feel? Think about this during the tour. listen to the children at play and the educators; look for clutter, ask about the classroom routines and ask about child safety. While on the tour does your child feel relaxed when visiting the classrooms?


And btw, they should allow you to bring your child along for the tour. Something we always strongly encourage.

So this is it. My first post on searching for quality early learning programs. If you have any comments please share! I would love to hear and also help answer any questions you might have. I am a parent too. I searched high and low for a quality program and when I couldn’t find, I decided to create it with my best friend for our children. I can empathise with your concerns and I know how hard the decision can be but I also know how amazing it feels when you find the right fit!

Want to check out more about our program visit our webpage AKIDEMY

or check out our instagram account at @akidemypreschool


till the next post,





Three blogs I am currently obsessing over

Ok. There are a million blogs out there. I have a serious obsession with searching high and low for interior design blogs. Through these blogs, I find inspiration for our projects. I am not an interior designer. I never took any interior decorating courses. But somehow I now find myself married to a man whose own obsession with design and decorating is much worse than mine. So much so that he changed his career to pursue his passion.


My friends aren’t far off. Two of my closest friends seem to have the same buy, design, flip and sell disease. We work together to feed on our obsessions, living vicariously through one another’s projects. it’s quite funny and seriously satisfying.


I can spend hours swimming through a sea of sites but I have a top 3 lately that I  lean on for inspiration. These 3 sites have amazing design concepts, DIY ideas, stylings tips and so much more…looking for some inspiration? I promise you will find something fabulous by giving these folks a follow.

  1. Jillian Harris, for those who know me well…they get it. This girl first came into our lives on the Bachelor and stole my heart with her cool Canadian attitude and ridiculously amazing fashion. Turns out she worked alongside some of my besties back in the day at Club Monaco, so we had to cheer for her, right? From that moment on we were TEAM JILLY all the way. Fast forward almost 10 years later Jillian Harris has grown into one of Canada’s favorite designers and bloggers.
  2. Chris and Julia, Ok THESE TWO! DYI Masters! I have been following along online, on their podcast and on their Instagram feed. These two have the cutest relationship, adorable children, an amazing house and the coolest backyard. I love all of Julia’s Instagram stories. She finds some super cool ideas and shares amazing deals and finds on home decor.
  3. Becki Owens, California cool interior design from I don’t even know how I stumbled upon her but now I am obsessed with all her Instagram posts. She finds the most beautiful exteriors inspiration pics, she has a blog filled with great finds and her color palettes are always so pretty. love.

I also want to mention a blog that I can’t live without – since we are talking favorites. My go-to site daily before I start my day is always the minimalists. I read their latest essays or revisit old ones to help inspire me and remind me of keeping things simple. Besides everyone could benefit from a little simplicity.

Although these are some of my top blogs right now it doesn’t mean I don’t have a bunch of favorites!

If you have a favorite blog you follow please post it below! I am always looking for more inspiration, ideas and beautiful stories.

till the next post,