by Olena

2018 in Review

by Olena

Happy New Year, friends!

We are such an iphone family and not a photo session beautiful Christmas cards bunch.:)

Instead of a regular coffee date I would like to reflect on the entire 2018. And what a better day it would be than when I’m sick in bed. I guess exhaustion took over my body as I never get sick. So here I am in my bed writing this post with a cup of hot lemon and honey water looking at the sunny day on the ocean. Listening to the waves, enjoying silence of the house as kids went back to school that is sometimes interrupted by a sound of measuring tape and drill from kids’ bathroom shower door installation. It’s a great day! I have been waiting for that door since October! Even though my ocean view is interrupted by a sunroom that is a complete construction disaster. But I learnt many-many lessons in 2018!

Towards December I was so exhausted by the renovations, holidays and kids, I honestly had no right mindset to write about my life. I also took a break from social media which has been wonderful. As a public figure my life is so public, it is easy to get caught up in a pressure of delivering fresh news. And I need to make sure I don’t live my life according to someone else’s requirements, with a phone in my hand. It actually has been my motto last year and I am going to work on it more in 2019.

If I could sum up past year and had to give it a name, I would call 2018 “outside my comfort zone”. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great-great year! But it was as challenging as 2000 when I immigrated to Canada. Both years I have done so many things I was scared of but that were necessary for growth. All these efforts pay off in the long run but you have to live a life in the meanwhile.

iFOODreal as a Business

iFOODreal grew so much last year. Not by a miracle but by the means of our hard work. Our traffic has tripled! I could say I’m blessed but I’m not. I worked sleepless nights on my website. I earned every single pageview with my hard work!

Here is a thing. I truly-truly love my job!!! I really enjoy cooking healthy recipes and convert people to healthy eating. Healthier people means healthier families, healthier moms for their kids, and healthier kids. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to change our world for the better! Of course I need to get paid for that because I have kids to feed, a mortgage to pay and a life to enjoy.

6 years later it still blows my mind blogging is a thing! It blows my mind it can be a family business. Possibilities are endless! But I stopped thinking of iFOODreal as a blog. It’s a healthy family recipes website. It’s an online cookbook. I do see more understanding on people’s faces when I tell them what I do. I honestly still avoid that conversation. I would rather not. It’s funny but I’m content not to talk about my successful website. You know why? Because even after multiple nodding and understanding what I do, 3 months later I hear “So how do you get paid?” LOL. It’s OK. It’s just funny.:)

With growing business comes bigger pressure. That’s where me and Alex had to draw a line on how much we want to grow. Because really America is a land of opportunities and sky is the limit. I just think it’s important to define my own limit so I don’t miss out on life. These 2 are so important! Not the green walls or $400 Costco tree. But these humans! That’s why we made an ultimate decision to keep iFOODreal team to only 2 of us. We are the team. We are the powerhouse! We have set a yearly goal for our company’s income and number of days per week we would like to work. Once our studio, kids’ bathroom and Alex’s office renovation is complete, we will be working according to this schedule. Right now I “lost” my husband to the renos 100%.

Our ultimate decision in life is to enjoy our location, our business and our children! This takes me to the next point.

2018 Was a Year of “No”

I mean I started to say “no” to things I don’t feel like doing deep down in my gut. On a personal and business levels. And it has been life changing! Tiffany Han has been a huge inspiration in this department. She is AMAZING! If you want to change your outlook on life, listen to her podcast “Raise your hand. Say YES”. So many people underestimate the power of investing in yourself…

As the entire blogging community was creating 1 minute Tasty style “hands and pans videos”, we tried them in the beginning of the year and stopped by June because I DID NOT enjoy them at all. I will be very honest. I think they lack personality, you can’t really cook from them and everyone is doing these videos right now. And I’m sorry but many are so bad. It just didn’t feel right to me. We stopped.

Further than that, I cut back on social media over all. I shut down iFOODreal Facebook page completely. Yep. To many other blogger’s dismay and thoughts that I’m missing out on revenue, I felt it was one of the best decisions I made last year. I got so tired to catch up on algorithms of social media. At same time I didn’t want to hire anyone to manage my social media because it’s money into nowhere as they can’t fight the algorithms as well.

I said big “no” to working with brands. OMG it was another life changing decision for my sanity! At some point beginning of last year I found having 5 bosses at a time – 3 brands and 2 kids. And let’s be honest, we all manage husbands too. I started dreading to wake up on Monday. That’s when I had to stop. I remembered why I started iFOODreal in the first place – to be my own boss, to spend more time with my family and to enjoy what I do. And working with brands was stealing all of that. I also didn’t feel like hiring a brand manager because going back to me not wanting to manage more people in my life than Alex and 2 kids.

I also started saying “no” to people. It’s been life changing. If I’m not enjoying your company during my precious off hours. If I feel like you are being competitive and making feeling yourself better at my expense by saying hurtful things. If I know you are using me for a vacation spot. If you make me think for you. I wish you all the best! I need to do even more of that.

The Move

As many of you know we moved from Vancouver suburbs to Vancouver island. I would lie of I don’t say it has been tough. It has been one of the hardest things I have done in my life. At some point Alex convinced me we need to move. I didn’t want to. But I kind of had to. We have made an ultimate decision to invest money into our property and at same time to create a separate space for iFOODreal. It’s a win-win. So I had to. But it came at a price.

Once we settled in and the novice of oceanfront wore off, I got so home sick and 26 year old decor started to weigh on me. As we started the renos, we have discovered major issues with plumbing that have been missed by a home inspector and undisclosed by previous owners. Think legal issues and arguing with your spouse whether to sue or not. It is honestly a miracle we are still married. I have never fought with Alex like that in my life. I cried every day for the month of October and November. I swear lol. I just couldn’t help it.

Which takes me to the next point.

Renovations Update

Somewhere in the midst of all crying and fighting with my husband, I found the strength to find a way to file a claim against the home inspector with the Home Inspectors Association. I’m telling you that so you know home inspectors have errors and omissions insurance. If they are found guilty, they pay large deductible and you get a settlement for the damage whatever you agree with the association. Nobody likes to go through that but trust me it’s worth it. It’s like mini arbitration by phone and email. And guess what? We got our money back to repipe an entire house! That’s probably was the pivot point when I stopped crying.

But we are not done. We are going after previous homeowners for not disclosing a few major issues. I can’t say anything more but I will let you know once it’s resolved. We learnt a lot during the renos. That many things don’t go according to plan, everything takes longer than expected and costs more money. And it’s fine! Renovations taught me so much patience OMG. It’s a great life lesson. I also learnt my taste is not your taste.  I stopped sharing our progress with many people. Everyone has an opinion, especially some people. I also changed my mind in a process many times. It’s been a roller coaster LOL.

As for the progress:

  • We hope studio will be done by February 1st.
  • And kids’ bathroom at same time. It’s been 4.5 months since we started and it’s still not done.
  • Powder room is completely gutted and we just keep the door shut – no money LOL.
  • We bought new washer and dryer.
  • We installed new central vacuum.
  • We did new roof – it had holes!!!
  • New roof on the storage shed – it had holes.
  • New cover for the boat.
  • Now we are working on properly draining our driveway and completely redoing it with new gravel as it has never been done in 26 years and water sits on it in huge puddles.
  • We will be painting and organizing Alex’s office soon.
  • Kids bedrooms are next on the list too.

It’s a lot but there are so many “yes’s” to why go through all of this.

Here is a picture of how the studio looks right now.

OMG I LOVE IT!!! We finally just now, 4.5 months and many thousands of $$$s later, just got to the fun part of seeing beautiful things and having fun decorating.

Lessons I Learnt in 2018

Oh boy, 2018 was definitely a year of lessons and mistakes!

The biggest lesson I learnt is that life doesn’t have to be perfect to be perfect! As we started packing our house in July, “chaos” became my middle name. As we moved in into our new house, “chaos” replaced my first name. I cried and cried, and got frustrated about it, until I let all my emotions out and kind of accepted my new norm for the next 2 years.

Because nobody died, nobody got sick and it’s just an old shower I’m standing in every day and half of my house has no heat only temporarily until next winter LOL. I kind of accepted waking up to a sink full of dishes, clean laundry on the floor for days and Christmas tree still up mid January. What’s a few socks on the floor when kids’ entire bathroom and office desk are “parked” in a hallway?! Because If I try to be a perfectionist right now, I will stress myself over nothing and I’m a strong believer stress causes illness. I will also miss on amazing life opportunities if I like my laundry clean and folded every 2 days and counters spanky clean. Screw that!

Other huge lesson was life is truly short. Here is why. Once I left my house where I raised my little boys, I realized it’s a new stage and time truly flies. We also live in the area with oldest median age population in entire Canada!!! All my neighbours are in their 80s. Watching them and hearing their life stories made me realize even more how life is short! Alex was laughing at me and I was balling my eyes for a long time – “I don’t want to get wrinkles”, “I don’t want my kids to grow up”, “I don’t want to get cancer”, “I don’t want you to die before me – lets’ do it together”. I went on and on and on. It got a bit better but I am still working on my fear of getting sick and missing out on life. I’m working on it. But Alex said he is never moving again. I think he had enough of crying me.:)

Above pictured is a peach stucco house covered in cobwebs, unwashed for decades, with half excavated lawn and mossy yard, with leaking sunroom windows, with crooked pavement. BUT that’s my family hauling firewood in December for a beach fire. That’s my hot tub I get to enjoy counting falling stars. That’s it!

All of these life lessons confirmed that it was the right decision to set the goals we set for iFOODreal. I really don’t want to be a workhorse!

What’s for 2019?

Oh boy, I’m such not a resolutions girl. To me, January 1st is just another day. No wait, to me it’s so special because that’s when my 2nd boy Adam was born!!! Can you believe it? I ended up with a New Year’s baby. We always have a special story to tell. And he is super special – his birthday is 1/1/11, his hair is red and his name is Adam (the first man). That’s the only way this day is special to me because that child made me realize I had to eat healthy, quit smoking and he actually made me start iFOODreal. It’s mind blowing how much Adam changed our lives. Not without the price tag – he is the most active and challenging kid to deal with. He does create half of my stress. But no pain, no gain.

So…I have only 2 goals for 2019:

  1. Grow our Youtube channel by creating authentic and useful videos. What would you like to see? I truly enjoy Instagram stories and once the studio is done we are creating our reality TV show. Just kidding. I truly enjoy sharing my cooking skills with you via video.
  2. Cook very quick healthy meals – 30 min max stovetop and Instant Pot. I’m obsessed with my Instant Pot! And as I found myself finding only time to quickly throw everything together and calling it a day, I realized that’s what you guys want as well. So be prepared to see lots of that!

That’s it! Tomorrow’s new recipe – Instant Pot chicken and potatoes. I made it last night once we got back from the travel hockey tournament. And I managed to paint kids’ bathroom while it was cooking. Isn’t it a miracle? I told ya!

Thank you so much for being such an awesome community! I appreciate how blessed I am to do what I love to do so much!

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19 comments on “2018 in Review

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  1. I know just what you went through as far as crooked owners. I bought this house in 2007 and I was not told that the wiring was really bad or that the roof was bad either. I cannot afford to sue them so I am left with a house that is in bad shape now because they did not put that in the contract and the inspector never told me.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear that, Laura. I’m not sure what is the statute of limitations in your area (how far back you can sue) but check. Also where I live, up to 25K damages can be sued in small claims court with like $100 filing fee. You don’t even need a lawyer. Also it doesn’t cost much send them a letter from a lawyer and they might pay even before court. I always believe that trying is better than not trying at all. At least you tried.

  2. I would disagree with “I could say I’m blessed but I’m not.” I understand that you worked really hard day in and day out, but with such a successful business and the financial capability to do so I would say you are very blessed! Thanks for the wonderful recipes that normal, everyday people can cook for their families!

    1. I came to Canada at age 19 with $100 in my pocket. I cleaned toilets, waitressed tables and made drinks at a strip club till 2am while local kids of my age slept sound at their free parents’ homes after doing homework and jumping in the car in the morning paid by parents to go to school. I quit my 9-5 oil and gas job, after paying 40K for the degree to get that job, in order to pursue my dreams. During 10 years of various business ventures I raised my kids without any family help while Alex supported us commuting 3 hours a day downtown.
      We identified opportunities and invested our time and pennies into them. My “financial capability” for many years was developing recipes with food with money I bought from jars my husband worked his butt off in a cubicle. It is not a blessing what I have now. It is hard work based on researched decisions and lots of risk along the way many are not willing to put in or take. Anyone can do what I did who lives in North America. Many sleep sound and sit in a comfortable 9-5 job while our brains are spinning and hands are working. And if we start going into I’m blessed to have a husband who can support me, all I can tell you that after surviving my parents’ divorce that I will never recover from btw I made sure to choose SMART when it came to choosing a husband. Again, no luck on this one – just hard work.
      I’m blessed with healthy kids. They in turn are blessed to be born in Canada and not Africa. You are so blessed to be not an immigrant. My kids are blessed with happy parents. Blessed to me is something you have no control over. I’m not blessed with my business – I worked my butt off for it! I just don’t like “someone unknown” getting a credit for smth I worked so hard. I’m sorry I’m not religious so maybe I do not view blessing as others. Again religion doesn’t define anyone.:)
      Let’s agree to disagree on this one.:)
      I’m so happy you are enjoying my recipes. Yes, I know what you mean about for normal people LOL. Hope this was a good chat and you do not hold anything against me.:)

  3. Happy New Year Olena! I read your post while my Instant Pot Chicken and Potatoes cooks 🙂 It’s -11 here in Montreal so I know when it’s ready the outdoor quick release will be spectacular (the kids love it!) I’m so glad things are starting to get easier for you and you are getting some compensation from those who have really wronged you and your family. Your new studio looks amazing, can’t wait for more updates <3

    1. Happy New Year to you too, Elisa! Montreal sounds dreamy! I saw it was snowing. I miss snow. As a PNW resident I do miss snow sometimes.:) Thank you! Studio is doing great! I feel like kids’ bathroom is my new nemesis but we will figure it out too.:)

  4. Olena, I’m delighted to be a subscriber. I finally started emailing myself the ingredients, on my phone copy the contents and paste it into the “notes” app, and always have recipes and ingredients with me when shopping. Your stuff is really fantastic! I wish you and your family a healthy and wonderful 2019.

  5. I can totally relate! In 2016, we moved to Vancouver after almost 20 years living in Ontario. Because I grew up in BC I thought it would be easy but like you I cried every day for the first few months. It’s been three years now (they FLEW by) and I only cry once a week. Haha! Kidding. Kind of. I definitely see another move for us as Vancouver isn’t a great fit. It is a beautifully ugly place to live, if that makes sense. Maybe it’s just because we are right downtown in the thick of it, but I am far too sensitive for most of what I see every day. I may join you on the island soon!! Happy new year Olena!! Your 2019 will be one to remember. In a good way!! xoxo

    1. I totally know what you mean about Vancouver. It’s a huge expensive “beautiful” city etc. I often think of you as we go to Victoria for hockey a lot. Just stayed in Sidney. So pretty. I can’t imagine you ending up anywhere else but the island very soon.:) Everyone comes back here eventually. It’s magical!!! Happy New Year, Sharon!

  6. Hi Olena: I enjoyed reading your update. Hopefully all your reno woes will be behind you soon. Great pics of the family wearing your Christmas sweaters! I am looking forward to seeing the studio updates and all the new recipes you create in there. Happy new year!

    1. Hi Tracey! As the paint went on, and floors, and etc. I started to see the light at the end of a very-very-very dark and long tunnel LOL. Thank you! Happy New Year to you too!!!

  7. Phew!! Olena, as I was reading this article I kept thinking to myself, “Oh. NO. this isn’t a farewell.. is it?” Thank goodness you’ve come to the realization that life IS short. You’ve been through a lot – I could tell you stories myself… I’m the one with the Home Inspection AC/Heating story if you remember. Anyway, you’re correct in doing what you’ve set your mind to do – to take time to enjoy doing what you love doing all while taking care of your family. And, you’re correct in saying “Stress causes illness”.
    Olena, I’m sooo happy for you… got the business taken care of ($$$) with the crooked home inspector and, I wish you the best in collecting from the previous homeowners who didn’t disclose things in honest manner. Not sure if the previous owners were elderly since nothing was done in 26 yrs to the house & the fact that you’re in a community, as you mentioned, that are in their 80’s. I’m hoping for the best outcome on that one too. You’ve endured a lot BUT… you SURVIVED – and you’re a survivor. Of course, a bit older than when you started out, and once again, stress can do a lot to one. I’m praying for a more “less stressful” life for you now that you’ve made it through the worst part of renovations… plumbing, etc..
    Olena, I love reading your blog about your life in the most honest ways – “THANK YOU” for that! And, I ABSOLUTELY LOVE your recipes. I’ve passed your website to many friends & will continue to do so as I believe you’re the real deal!
    Best of Wishes for Good Luck & Health – and for a super successful 2019 for iFOODreal.
    Hope you’re feeling better and getting much needed rest from all you’ve been through. And, as I look at that rainbow over the water in your backyard…it’s a sign from God!! (All’s good Olena!)

    1. :)You are sweet. Thank you! Of course I remember your story. I’m so happy you are enjoying my recipes! Thank you so much for sharing! I love my small community of dedicated recipe makers like you. Makes it so authentic and not over marketed.
      The owners were not elderly in fact. In their late 40s and 50s. I assume they had no money. Which I understand. But considering they made so much money on the house, it makes them crooked not to disclose latent defects they were aware of. Even if you had no money, you have to disclose that. It’s not my job to pay for someone else’s life. Nobody pays for mine.
      Happy New Year, friend!

  8. Very nice update! Thanks! But I have to stand up for myself and others who use their manners and don’t say rude things….we want pictures! So what if a few rude people give their opinions on your taste? You’ll hear 100x more positive comments! Like your studio…even empty it’s beautiful and I want to see the final product! But you do what’s best for you, OF COURSE, I just wanted to beg a little! You are great and I look forward to each new post! Happy New Year

    1. LOL I was like “Oh no, how did I offend anyone?” as I started reading your comment. I will share full post of finished updates here once they are done. Right now nothing is finished yet. Don’t worry.:) Happy New Year, Dana!!!