Odds & sods

Do you guys like the round-up/links/personal posts that so many bloggers do on Fridays? I enjoy them. They usually have a few links that are interesting to me, and they give me some insight into the person behind the blog.

The Odds & Sods posts that I do every so often are kind of my version of these types of posts (odds and sods was a phrase my paternal grandmother used instead of saying odds and ends).

I’m thinking about making O&S a little more regular. Not every week, but maybe at the end of every month. What do you think? Is this something you’re interested in?

I’m going to put one out there today. Please share any feedback you have.

The Fall 2018 Canadian Bloggers Home Tour happened a couple of weeks ago. I love seeing bloggers come together and supporting each other. Plus, I am proud of the talent, diversity and creativity from my fellow Canadians. I encourage you to check out all the homes on the tour. Here are some stand-outs:

  • I love the style of Vin’yet Etc’s living room, and even more I love her hummingbird and the connection to her mom. We see so many signs that my Dad is still with us, so this resonates with me so much.
  • Beautiful neutrals, blue-green glass, flowers and one of my favourite foods (charcuterie) from So Much Better With Age.
  • Thalita from The Learner Observer is someone I connected with a looooong time ago. I’ve loved seeing how she’s built her career, her family and her lovely home. Thalita also published a real life (didn’t even put her bra away) tour.

In other home and real estate news, Justin Bieber is apparently going to be our neighbour. (What does it say about me that I didn’t recognize him in the twitter pics? And I misspelled his name when I first typed it? #notabelieber)

Ellie eating food for the first time

Ellie turned 7 months old yesterday. She’s been eating food for about a month now. She quickly began devouring her meals–and decimating my baby food stash. We’re still in the basic puree stage, but we’re looking ahead to more complex meals (and a time where dinner does not end up in her nose). Do you make your own baby food? What are your baby’s favourite foods? Do you have any good recipes to share?

  • Once Upon A Farm (with Jennifer Garner) has an interesting business model: they make organic baby food, but they also publish the recipes in case you want to make it yourself.
  • I’ve saved recipes for month of baby food–although I feel like my girl may go through this in less than a month.

Apparently I’m in a feminist kind of mood right now.

My writing elsewhere:

I hope you all have a good week. We’re wrapping up September with a date night for Daddy and Mama, hopefully a trip to the swimming pool (a test run before Ellie starts swimming lessons next month) and a very special family project that I’ve been wanting to do for years.

What’s on tap for you?

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Off our rockers #DIYfail

Ikea Strandmon wingchair review

Last week I sang the praises of Ikea’s Strandmon wing chair. However, there is one shortcoming we encountered with this chair that I didn’t talk about.

(To be fair, the shortcoming is more a result of a DIY we attempted rather than the fault of the chair itself.)

When I was planning the nursery, I knew I wanted the Ikea Strandmon. I also really wanted it to be a rocking chair.

I saw a tutorial converting the Strandmon to a rocker and it seemed really straightforward, so I thought it would definitely be something we could handle.

The biggest obstacle was sourcing the rockers. I was skeptical of the rockers that were available online. I wasn’t sure that the dimensions or the curve would be right for our chair. And I of course didn’t like the prices.

I contacted a local specialty wood store that does custom orders and got a quote from them. They wanted about $300. Not at all unreasonable given the work involved, but they also wanted me to supply a pattern. Figuring out the arc was my main stumbling block. I wanted someone to do that for me! If I was making my own pattern, I might as well make my own rockers.

The Strandmon is a large chair, so I knew I needed big rockers. My parents have a large rocking chair, so my Mom and I turned it on its side and traced the rockers. Then I went back to my specialty wood store and bought a beautiful (and heavy and expensive) piece of red oak.

Drawing a rocking chair pattern

I traced my pattern and carefully cut the rockers on my Dad’s bandsaw (I wish I have a photo of this as I was quite pregnant at the time). Then I brought them home and sanded the heck out of them. They came out so, so well. Perfectly smooth. Great curve. I was so proud that my plan was working.

Pregnant lady sanding

Then Matt and I tested them. We were trying to figure out where to drill the holes to affix the Strandmon onto the rockers. So we set the chair on the rockers. And the chair tipped right over. The weight of the back was too much for the rockers and the chair became super unstable.

We tried again and again to find a spot where the Strandmon could balance. We eventually found a point where the chair would sit on the rockers without toppling over. But it was still really tipped. I couldn’t imagine how I would maneuver myself into the chair while holding a baby.

I was super disappointed, but it was also pretty funny to see how crooked I made the chair (please note how crooked this photo is, which actually makes the chair look straighter than it is).

Adding rockers to a wing chair

I spent a couple of weeks trying to come up with a solution. I considered cutting Strandmon’s legs to shift the balance somehow. I had a plan to adjust my rocker pattern to decrease the curve. I was going to do a pair of test rockers out of cheap wood before going to buy more oak. But in the end, I tucked the rockers and their pattern under the bookshelf in Ellie’s room and tried to forget about them.

Now, after nearly seven months of many, many hours spent in Strandmon, I pretty much have forgotten about the rockers. The rocker-less Strandmon has been working well as my nursing chair, and I’m honestly not missing the motion.

Ikea Strandmon wingchair review

What kind of chair do you have in your nursery? Anyone else going rockerless? Make me feel better, would you? Share your own #DIYfail in the comments.

Renovation regrets in Illinois

One of my former bosses used the phrase “even better if.” As in, “We just finished this big project, and it went really well. But what are our even-better-ifs?” It was a great way of looking positively at areas for improvement.

Last week I posted one of my renovation regrets and asked other people to share theirs. Sarah in Illinois immediately thought of one at her house. But instead of calling it a regret, I’m going to call it an even-better-if. Because she and her husband Steve did make lots of improvements to their kitchen. There’s just one little spot that could be even better.

Early when Steve and I first started dating he made the decision to renovate his kitchen. Both of us worked on expanding his small galley kitchen into an existing dining room. We removed a wall, relocated all plumbing and electrical and more than doubled the counter area.

However, it wasn’t until we were really using the newly expanded kitchen that we realized we had a design flaw.

We made a small walkway to enter and exit the kitchen and although this is plenty large enough to walk in and out, we did not realize until much later that this opening was the prime “hanging out” spot. There is always someone standing at this opening.

This is the ideal section of counter top to do meal prep because it is so close to the refrigerator. If you need to enter or exit the kitchen or reach the refrigerator, you will have no choice but to squeeze by someone standing right in that spot.

We have considered re-configuring the kitchen but since we laid all of the floor tile in the room around the cabinets, this is a much much larger project than we want to tackle at this time.

This is an instance where we really should have lived and worked in the space before making final decisions. We learned our lesson and hope we have fewer renovation regrets in the future.

Argh. I’m sure that’s frustrating, Sarah. Matt gets super bugged when people are in his way when he’s cooking. Most of the family has learned to steer clear! Hopefully you can enjoy the other fixes that you did make. More counter space is always good.

Ikea Strandmon wing chair review

Ikea Strandmon wingchair review

I’ve made no secret of my love for the Strandmon wing chair from Ikea. Our first Strandmon lives in the reading nook in the basement, and I like it so much that this chair was my first and only choice for the nursery (and now for my friends too).

Screenshot

My posts about Strandmon are some of my most frequently visited on the blog, but I’ve never published an official review, so today I’m going to remedy that (with only a slight overdose of cute baby photos).

Ikea Strandmon wingchair review

Size & shape

The Strandmon is a pretty classic wing chair. Ikea first introduced it in the 1950s and the design hasn’t changed dramatically in today’s version (although they continue to release new colours). I like that the chair isn’t super mod or unusual. Its timeless design means it will always be in style.

Ikea Strandmons in the store

Strandmon is a large chair. Overall, it’s 32 1/4 inches wide, 37 3/4 inches deep and 39 3/4 inches high.

The back height is super supportive, and the wings are a great dimension to support my head when I nod off while feeding Ellie. The arms are the perfect height to support my elbows when nursing or reading.

Ikea Strandmon wingchair review

I am not a very tall woman (5 feet 4 inches) and was not blessed with long legs. With my butt all the way to the back, the seat is too deep (21 1/4 inches) and too high (17 3/4 inches) for my feet to touch the floor. However, I like the generous depth.

Ikea Strandmon wingchair review

I pretty much always sit with my feet up, and I highly recommend a footstool or pouf to increase the comfort of the Strandmon. (I’ve not tested the footstools that Ikea offers. Instead I made my own sturdy round ottoman for the reading nook and a large Moroccan-style pouf for the nursery.)

For nursing I like to have a cushion at my back for extra comfort.

My favourite thing about the shape of this chair is the angle. The seat, the arms, the back are all tipped back slightly. This encourages lounging and is the biggest factor in making the Strandmon so comfortable.

Ikea Strandmon wingchair review

Materials

Both of our Strandmons are in the dark grey fabric (what Ikea calls Nordvalla). We’ve had the basement Strandmon for 5 years and the fabric looks new (although this chair does not see daily use). In the nursery, this chair is used multiple times every day, and it’s holding up really well.

The nursery Strandmon was bought secondhand. It came from a house with dogs and has now seen six months of baby. Matt gave it a coating of Scotchguard spray before Ellie arrived, so it has an extra layer of protection from spit up and milk and whatever else Ellie might (literally) throw at it.

Ikea Strandmon wingchair review

What’s under the fabric is also important. I like a firm seat, and the Strandmon lives up to my expectations. The cushion is very sturdy and hasn’t softened despite frequent usage. The frame also feels very strong and we’ve not noticed any wiggles.

While most Ikea furniture requires assembly, the Strandmon comes nearly fully assembled. The only construction is screwing in the legs. The legs are solid and we’ve not had any issues with them loosening.

Price

Our version of the Strandmon is $299. Different upholstery options cost a bit more. I paid $140 for the nursery Strandmon secondhand.

Ikea Strandmon pricetag

Not as expensive as many chairs out there, but definitely not Ikea’s cheapest offering.

For me, the Strandmon is a good value.

Ikea Strandmon wingchair review

The final verdict

I highly recommend the Strandmon. For comfort, style, quality and value it ticks all of the boxes for me.

Renovation regrets

As Frank says, “Regrets, I’ve had a few.” But when it comes to our renovations, they’re very few.

I think there are a few reasons for this.

One, I’m pretty decisive. I take the time to figure out our spaces and what will work best for us, and once we know what we want we go for it.

Two, I am a pretty visual thinker, so I can picture a space in my head and see what it’s going to look like. This means for the most part I’m not surprised as a project unfolds.

Three, and most importantly in my opinion, I’m not picky. Sure there are spots where the drywall could be a bit smoother or maybe the paint colour isn’t exactly what I pictured. But I can live with them because overall I’m happy with the results of our renos.

However, there’s one spot that I wish we had done differently. So while Frank’s regrets are too few to mention, I’m going to talk about one of mine today.

I wish we had insulated the ceiling of the basement TV area.

Basement TV area

The reason for this is the ceiling of that section of the basement is the floor of Ellie’s room. So every night when Mama and Daddy go off duty and sit down to relax, we’re very conscious of every little sound and how it carries through the floor and upstairs into her room.

Turquoise gender neutral nurseryTurquoise gender neutral nursery

Now I should be clear that Ellie is an excellent sleeper, and we’ve had very few issues. In fact, one night my girlfriend was over with her two rambunctious boys–both younger than 5 years old–and they played noisily downstairs while I successfully put Ellie to bed.

However, sound is something I’m very aware of and I feel like I’d be able to relax a bit more if we had better sound insulation between downstairs and upstairs.

When we renovated the basement, we were not thinking about kids, let alone what room would be the nursery.

Potlights in the open ceiling

As well, interior insulation was not on my radar. For all of the years that I worked in my Dad’s construction company, insulation was usually reserved for exterior walls. It was about temperature, not sound.

Sound separation has become more of a consideration in recent years, I feel. But it’s something I wish I’d thought about six years ago.

What about you? Do you have any sound issues at your house? Have you insulated any interior walls or ceilings? Do you have any reno regrets?

Mystery squash

Circumstances have not been on the side of our vegetable garden this year. I knew with a new baby the garden would be a challenge this year. But I really thought we’d be able to do something. I had plans to at least maintain the perimeter beds and protect my asparagus, grapes and blueberries from being choked by weeds. Matt actually did rototill and then planted potatoes.

But since then, nothing.

Oh the poor garden. The weeds are definitely winning this year.

But hope springs eternal. Next year, the baby will be able to sit on her own, and she can have her own shovel. She might enjoy digging more than her current supervisory role.

Baby wearing sunglasses lying outside under an umbrella

Our most successful “gardening” this year is happening at the composter behind the house. Last week Sarah in Illinois was talking about her volunteer Morning Glories. We too have a volunteer vine–and like all of our experiences with squash, this one has designs to take over the world. It’s conquered our back steps and is now advancing on the little deck.

Squash growing around the composter

Squash growing around the composter

Remember when I cleaned up this area last year?

Composter on the back patio

I’ve read that squash, when it reseeds, grows back as something else. I don’t mean it becomes broccoli. But I’ve heard that a butternut seed does not get you a butternut plant. So I don’t know what is actually growing here. Honestly, it looks like we may have two different plants. And they look more like gourdes right now than squash.

Small round yellow squash

Small oval green bumpy squash

I think the fruit is a minor factor. This plant (or one of these plants) is not going to be distracted from its quest. It has sent out a force away from the house (thank goodness) aiming for the pond.

Squash growing around the composter

Watch out world.

To comfort you, want one more glimpse of our cool dudette? Of course you do. Because babies in sunglasses are hilarious.

Baby wearing sunglasses

Stay safe.

I’m going to be taking next week off for a little vacation with the dudette and her Dad. See you in September.

Morning glory surprise

As a teenager, I once planted a Morning Glory at the base of a light pole by the walkway at my parents’ house. I carefully trained it up the pole and enjoyed the heart shaped leaves and trumpet blossoms all summer.

There’s something about Morning Glories that make them especially special, in my opinion. I like everything about them. So does Sarah in Illinois. She’s sharing a surprise Morning Glory that she’s been enjoying this year.

Every year in the spring when seed displays start popping up in every store, I always buy several packets. I buy all brands and all price ranges. When I see the displays that advertise 4 for $1 or even 10 for $1 I stock up knowing that the germination rate of these bargain packets is not very high.

Last year I remember buying a packet of Morning Glory seeds. I planted them along the outside of the chicken’s run. I had two small vines that climbed up the outside of the run and I was able to enjoy the beautiful blooms every morning.

This spring I recognized the leaf shape sprouting out of the same spot. I was so excited that they had reseeded themselves over the winter.

I started training the vines every morning to climb up the outside of the run. Then of course the chickens became curious of this green treat that was within their reach so I had to create a barrier between them.

My persistence paid off.

Every morning I have 10-20 new blooms on this beautiful vine. And the chickens can enjoy a little shade!

Did you have any surprise plants pop up this year? Do you have any favorite climbing vines? Can you pass the seed displays without buying when they show up in the spring?

What a treat, Sarah. I love it when plants pop up unexpectedly. Although this year we have a surprise plant that’s turned into a major vine and has become quite an obstacle. I’m not sure even chickens could keep it under control. I think I may have to talk about it next week!

Updating the guest room to make a multi-functional space

Sewing area in the guest room

I’m very glad that we kept the guest room. You may recall it was one of the options when I was thinking about which room was going to become Ellie’s nursery.

Matt and I have each been having some trouble sleeping recently, and we’ve both taken a turn in the guest room. My Mom has stayed with us a few nights too, and I’m grateful that we have a comfortable space ready for her.

It occurred to me during one of my shifts in the guest room that I haven’t shared some of the changes I made prior to Ellie’s arrival. As I dismantled my office to turn it into Ellie’s nursery, the guest room had to do multi-duty as a work space, craft space and guest space.

I replaced my vintage trunk with our filing cabinet. Not as attractive, for sure, but it still works as a night stand, and it also gives a spot for some office supplies.

Filing cabinet night stand

Office supplies on the filing cabinet

I still procrastinate about filing, and our mail sorter helps me corral paper until I’m ready to deal with it. I drilled a couple of holes in the cabinet and mounted the sorter with wire.

Mail sorter

On the other side of the room, the slipper chair that I reupholstered now sits at Matt’s childhood pine desk.

Flowered slipper chair

I sold the wooden chair that I painted and distressed along with the white desk that I refinished. My sewing machine has a new home on Matt’s desk. I figured our guests wouldn’t mind seeing it.

Sewing desk in the guest room

I also transferred the tiny shelf that holds my thimble collection, and affixed it under the window.

Thimble collection

Thimbles on a narrow shelf

We’ve maxed out the closet filling it with fabric, wool, and other items from both Matt and me. The idea of emptying this closet and finding new places for everything was so intimidating that it was a major factor in my decision not to use the guest room as Ellie’s nursery.

I’ve been happy about how we’ve been able to fit everything into the guest room and make it a multi-functional space. Ellie (and Baxter) both enjoy laying and kicking on the bed while I sew or do paperwork. So it’s a good way for us to spend time together too.

Another perk: I made $100 selling the trunk and the desk. And the trunk was pulled out of the garbage and the desk was left behind at the farm by the past owners. Yay for free money.

Do you have a multi-functional space at your house? How do you balance form and function? Has anyone else gotten something for free and then sold it for a profit?

Unwelcome guests

As I pushed the mower out of the driveshed, I felt plops hit the top of my head. A few seconds later, sharp burning pains in my neck. I knew what it was right away, though I didn’t know how it had happened. I ran for the house, frantically sweeping my hands through my hair and over my neck.

Wasps.

I had noticed the nests that were high up in the gable of the driveshed had fallen but not thought much of it.

Wasp nests in the driveshed

Then the day before the stings I noticed a new nest had been built under the hose hanger on the driveshed.

I had moved Baxter’s and Ralph’s water bowl over to the driveshed, as it was easier to fill there, particularly when I was wearing Ellie in her carrier. When I think of the times I’d stood there WITH HER RUNNING THE HOSE NEXT TO THE NEST my stomach clenches.

Wasp nest under the hose hanger

Wasp nest under the hose hanger

I hadn’t noticed that there was a second nest in the corner of the garage door. Until I opened the door and disturbed its residents.

Wasp nest

Matt checked my stings and then set off to the store for bug spray. That evening, Ellie safely asleep in her crib, Matt suited up, and we mounted an eviction.

Matt dressed for wasp eviction

Despite appearances, this is not an ad. Although I think Matt has a future as a spokesmodel, right?

Spraying a wasp nest

Spraying a wasp nest

A few nights later Matt gave the nests an additional shot, and the next morning his Dad showed up. After surveying the nests briefly, Matt’s Dad grabbed a shovel, knocked down the nests and carried them to our burn pile.

Thank goodness the spray worked.

I’m a live and let live woman, but not in this case.

Hand feeding hummingbirds

Hummingbirds are regular guests in Illinois for Sarah. This year she has more visitors than ever… and she’s getting even more up close and personal in a really exciting way.

We are in what I am guessing is the peak of the season for hummingbirds here in Illinois. I am not sure how many birds we are feeding but I know that last weekend they went through over a gallon of syrup in two days.

There are a few sources that say that an accurate way to guess how many hummingbirds you have is to count how many birds are at your feeder at one time and multiply it by six. So for example, if the most birds you see at your feeder are 3, you are probably really feeding closer to 18.

One evening Steve and I tried to count as fast as we could how many hummingbirds were at our feeders at one time and we feel we were pretty accurate at counting 30. So by this estimate we may be feeding close to 180 hummingbirds! I’m not sure if this is true but I know for sure that we have a bunch.

The more I watch them the more I am fascinated by them. I just want to learn more and make our property as inviting as possible for them.

I have had an idea brewing in my mind for quite a while now that I want to hand feed or possibly even hold a hummingbird. So I started collecting the little tubes that come on some fresh flowers. I thought it was just the right size to hold in my hand and already had a small hole for the hummingbird to eat from.

Now I just had to come up with something to attract the hummingbird to this feeder. I looked around the house and found a red plastic cup.

I decided that would be easy enough to cut a flower shape. So I just cut the bottom out of the cup and then cut a petal shape all the way around the disc.

My first idea to attach the flower to the rubber cap on the tube was to use a hot glue gun. Unfortunately this did not hold tight very long. Steve found a bottle of glue we had sitting around the house and it worked perfectly.

After filling the tube with syrup the only thing left to do was hold the tube very very still near where the hummingbirds stop for their meals, and wait. And wait and wait and wait.

I practiced a lot of patience one Saturday evening. But it paid off:

Have you ever hand-fed a hummingbird? Do you ever collect something thinking one day it will be useful? Do you ever have trouble practicing patience?

This is awesome, Sarah! I’ve tried coaxing our chickadees to eat from my hand, but I don’t think I gave it enough time. Apparently I have trouble practicing patience! (Although I blame the cold.)