The baby’s first build

Growing up, my parents always included my siblings and me in whatever was happening at our house. Maintenance, building, painting, renovating, cleaning–we were all involved. Some of it was chores. Some of it was just how our family rolled.

Looking back, I can see how these experiences gave us confidence, responsibility, skills, teamwork, work ethic, understanding and much more. This foundation set us up for our own homes and our own lives.

I don’t think my parents necessarily thought too deeply about the long-term benefits their approach would have. They liked doing things with us and wanted us to be involved. Or they needed help, and they had 8 extra hands hanging around. … Or, more likely, they had 8 extra hands and needed to keep them busy.

Today, a year into parenting, my sense is that most people spend a lot of time thinking–and worrying–about how to raise our children. What type of person do I hope my child grows up to be? How do I help her become that? I don’t think our aspirations are too much different than those of our parents. But I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves and spend a lot of time reading different theories, trying different techniques and thinking about how to set our children up for success.

Admittedly, I’ve only been doing this Mom thing for a year. I have a long way to go, and I expect that we will face many challenges. However, I’m hoping that I can channel my own parents and remember how much I benefited from simply being involved in whatever they were doing.

Ellie and I did our first real build recently. You’ve seen her previously helping to make our invisible bookends and supervising some sanding. But this time she actually got her hands on some of the tools and materials. Of course, she also got her mouth on them too.

Baby playing with screwdriver and drill

My Mom gave Ellie a set of table and chairs for Christmas. I decided that since they were hers she should be part of putting them together.

Baby leaning on a box

I of course spent a fair amount of time making sure she didn’t drop the drill on herself, stick the screwdriver too far down her throat, cut herself on the scissors, or eat too much of the packaging. But we also had fun talking things through, finding the right pieces and putting it all together.

Baby excited to be holding a piece of wood

Fun is the best word I have to describe how it felt to build this little table and chairs with her.

Mom and baby sitting a child size table

I hope we have a lot more fun in the future. And I hope that she grows up to be a confident, capable, helpful woman, in part because of the things we do together.

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The red room

Growing up I always thought to myself, “When I have my own house, I will paint one of the rooms red.”

When Matt and I bought our first house, two of the rooms were painted red. We repainted one, but kept the other.

By the time we moved, I was so tired of that red room.

Red room

As I’m gearing up to paint the dining room, one of the colours on my list is chocolate brown. I think it’s a holdover from our first house where top on my list to replace the red was chocolate brown.

However, I’ve learned since moving here that I don’t love strong wall colours. I get tired of them quickly. I don’t feel as relaxed in a vibrantly coloured room as I do in a subtle one.

For example, our bedroom. I painted it trendy Hale Navy four years ago (holy moly how is it already four years ago?). It looks awesome. But I don’t know that I love it and sometimes I think I’m ready for a change.

Navy blue and white master bedroom

In contrast, the living room, hallway and kitchen are all a light greige (Abalone from Benjamin Moore mixed at 75% intensity). I love this area of our house. I spend most of my time in these rooms and I always feel very comfortable.

Hallway painted Benjamin Moore Abalone

Greige may be boring and a non-colour, but it works for me. I’m likely never going to be a white walls person. They look nice on Pinterest, but they’re not something I want to live with.

I’ve learned I need a bit of colour. But not too much.

So as I’m working on the dining room, I’m not thinking chocolate brown any more. I’ve decided I’m going to stick with my tried and true Abalone. Our dining-living room is open concept enough that picking the same colour makes sense, and more importantly it’s a colour that works for me.

Do you have a tried-and-true paint colour? Are you a fan of vibrant rooms, or do you prefer subdued colours? Who’s on team white? Do you have any painting regrets?

The first project of 2019

I think I’m going to paint the dining room.

I know. I know. Such an assertive, decisive statement.

I find it difficult to plan very far ahead these days, and I’m hesitant to start a project that I won’t be able to finish in a reasonable time. But Matt thinks painting the dining room is achievable, and I really want to believe him.

Baxter sitting in the dining room before it's painted

The dining room is our last “easy” makeover in this house. Easy meaning mainly cosmetic. Honestly, it’s mostly a coat of paint. However, I’ve been holding off on this room because I want it to be more than a coat of paint.

You saw in my post a few weeks ago that I have plans to do something to the ceiling in this room, whether scraping off the stipple or covering it up. The responsible, logical DIYer in me wants to do the ceiling first, then the walls. That way, dust or plaster or what-have-you doesn’t fall on my freshly painted walls.

Vaulted ceiling in the dining room

However, I have no idea what I’m going to do to the ceiling or when I might do it. And waiting no longer makes sense to me. We’ve lived here nearly 7 years. I could have painted the walls when we first moved in, and I’d have no hard feelings about repainting them now.

So I’m going to avert my eyes from the ceiling and work on the rest of the room.

Here’s my to-do list:

  • Sand and patch walls (like all of the walls in this house, the texture is like sandpaper)
  • Prime walls
  • Remove corbels from the archway (too small, not my style)
  • Paint trim (I like to paint trim before the walls)
  • Paint walls

After that, we’ll see what else happens.

I have some things to hang on the walls. I’d like to finally figure out how to style Matt’s grandmother’s piano. I have plans to paint the entertainment unit/china cabinet (and build doors or have them built for me). I’m pondering curtains. Some day I’d like to refinish the table and chairs.

Maybe by then I’ll have the ceiling figured out.

Do you ever delay projects because you want to do everything at once? Or are you a fan of the temporary makeover? What cosmetic makeovers are on your wish list? What have you been working on around your home so far this year?

Odds & sods

Happy Monday, everyone. I hope that you had a great weekend.

Matt and I marked our 11th wedding anniversary on Saturday (and I have to insert here that this month marks 21 years since we started dating). The past year has been full of a lot of reflection for me, as I think about changes in our family, all the things we have accomplished together, and the many plans we have for our future. We’ve shared so much–not all of it easy–and to feel part of such a strong unit is something I never take for granted.

We celebrated just the two of us with a nice dinner out on Friday while my Mom watched the baby. It was awesome to sit and talk without distraction. Any parents out there who can identify?

Anyways, on to today’s post. I began this odds & sods series last year as a way to wrap up the month, sometimes share something a bit more personal, and pass along some of the inspiring and interesting things that I’ve come across. I enjoy writing them every month, so it’s something I’ll be continuing this year. Here is this month’s round-up.

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“WHERE. IS. BREAKFAST.” ~Every animal on this farm

A post shared by Kit (@_kitliz) on

Kit and I bought our farms at approximately the same time. I admire her animals, hardcore DIY, all-in approach to life and commitment to authenticity.

Good life lessons from Mr. Rogers

Be okay with your life and your goals and don’t compare yourself to others

The best look. Inside a dog’s. Mind.

I am really enjoying podcasts. A few recent listens that were particularly interesting and inspiring:

My writing elsewhere:

We’re wrapping up January by reconnecting with some friends this week. Matt’s planned a trivia night, and I’m having brunch with five ladies I’ve been friends with since grade school–one of them since kindergarten. In other exciting news, Baxter, Matt and I are all visiting the dentist this week. I’m not sure how we managed to line our schedules up like this, but that’s what we’re doing. Ellie’s six teeth are exempt for now. What are you up to this week?

Plans for planking a vaulted ceiling

Vaulted or cathedral ceilings used to be no big deal to me. Even when we bought our house, the vaulted ceiling in the living room wasn’t a huge selling point. I didn’t dislike it. I just didn’t really care.

But now, the vaulted ceiling in our living room is one of my favourite features in our house. It makes the room feel bigger and makes the space much more interesting.

Living room with vaulted ceiling

I have a plan to make the ceiling even more special: plank it.

You know that I’m on a continuous quest to add more country character to make our house feel more farmy. I think wood planks would be a great way to do that.

Plus, the planks would be an easy way to eliminate the dirty stipple that covers the ceiling currently. In all of the bedrooms, we’ve scraped the stipple, but the living room is large. There is no way I want to scrape that ceiling.

I’m inspired by this ceiling that Sarah Richardson did in her farmhouse many years ago. I think something like that would be great for our living room. (The chandelier would also be a lovely upgrade from our current terrible green ceiling fan, thankyouverymuch.)

Sarah whitewashed her planks. I like seeing a bit of the wood grain. But plain white paint is another option. What would you do?

The other part of the photo above that’s inspiring me is the centre beam at the top of the vault. Our ceiling has a beam as well. It’s about 6×6, which looks a bit wimpy. It also appears that someone tried to make it look handmade rather than commercially milled (we have a hand hewed barn beam for our mantel, so I know what the real thing looks like and this beam does not compare).

Faux beam at the centre of the vault

We could clad our beam like Sarah did (this would allow us to beef it up and also cover the faux distressing). My other idea is to strip it back to real wood, or cover it with something that looks more like real wood (something like this from The Handmade Home, but without the “vertical” pieces). What would you do with the beam?

The vault extends into the dining room, so I’m also trying to figure out what I want to do there.

I’m more open to scraping this ceiling. It’s about the size of two bedrooms, which feels doable to me.

Vaulted ceiling in the dining room

Whatever I do to the centre beam in the living room, I’d do the same in the dining room. But what about the rest of the ceiling? Would you leave it flat? Or plank it like the living room? Can you coffer a vaulted ceiling? Or is there another treatment that would add some interest?

This project is a little while in the future. So we’re in the thinking stage still. I appreciate your thoughts. What would you do?

Word of the year: Slow

I honestly wasn’t sure I was going to be here. Actually, I wasn’t sure I was going to be here last week.

A couple of times over the last few months, I’ve thought about taking a break from blogging.

Between the baby and the rest of our lives, we don’t have a  lot of time for projects or home improvements, so I don’t feel like I have as much material to write about.

As well, sometimes blogging has felt like a luxury among all of the other ways I could be spending my time.

Frost covered fields at sunrise

But obviously writing is important to me.

I love writing for the same reason that I love home improvements–they’re both creative outlets for me. While home improvement is a way for me to turn off my brain and not think for a little while, writing is a way for me to think more deeply, work through things and process parts of my life.

And these days, my brain feels very full.

So I’m here. And as I did last year, I’m going to start the year with a word to help guide me through 2019.

This year, my word is “slow.”

Since having Ellie, I’ve found that I’m often rushing. With a baby, I have a narrow window of naptime, or “she’s-content-playing-by-herself-but-this-won’t-last,” or “we-have-to-eat-dinner- bath-and-go-to-bed-before-she-gets-overtired.” So whatever I’m doing, I try to do it as fast as possible. I’d like to slow down and focus on what I’m doing.

As well, I want to remember that I don’t always have to be doing. Sure there are always things to do. But sometimes reading my book or sitting down with Matt and Ellie and Baxter is the thing I should do.

Sitting in front of the fire

Scene from yesterday: I could take down the Christmas stockings. Or I could sit here with my feet up.

Life is short. Usually shorter than we want. Occasionally shorter than we can ever conceive. We have to do our absolute best to live a life that we are satisfied with. I want to feel good about what I do, who I am with and how I spend my time. And the word “spend” is important. Time is valuable. Time is precious.

This year I will be slow and savour my time.

A look back at 2018

What a year it was. I kicked off 2018 by sharing the news that I was pregnant. Ellie arrived at the end of February and we haven’t looked back. Our new family was absolutely the highlight of last year. We had some low times too–my Dad’s death and some other moments too hard for me to talk about yet. But Ellie is always light and joy and love.

Ellie–or rather her nursery–was also the source of some of the top posts on the blog last year.

I shared the reveal of her colourful, farmy, happy space and then dove into the details of various DIYs and other projects we completed in this special room.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

Some of the most popular posts were her DIY Moroccan pouf (and a round-up of other poufs you can make yourself), the blackout window treatments (and how to pleat Ikea curtains), and an easy, low-budget Eames Hang-It-All.

How to make your own Eames Hang-It-All

A feature of the nursery is my favourite Strandmon wing chair from Ikea. I finally wrote a proper review of this chair, and it quickly became one of the most popular posts of last year.

DIY Moroccan pouf free sewing pattern

Just before Ellie arrived, I finished a project that’s been in my plans for awhile–a new coffee table for the living room. You all liked it as much as I do, and it ended up also being a top post of 2018. I used the Benchwright plan from Ana White, modifying it to have drawers on both sides. This table turned out so well, and the extra drawers are very helpful now that the baby is turning into a complete busybody.

DIY Benchwright Coffee Table

Obviously, our lives now revolve around that busybody. We didn’t do quite as many projects in 2018, but I can’t complain about how we spent our time. Sharing the farm with our little family is all I want for 2019.

Christmas stockings full of memories

Christmas tree in front of the fireplace

In the 1970s, my Dad got into latch hooking (or rug hooking, as he called it). He made a big wall hanging, a Christmas wreath and, when I was born, my Christmas stocking. He went on to make stockings for each of my sisters and my brother as well.

When Matt and I moved into our first house, I brought my stocking with me. Matt did the same. They don’t match. They’re not large. They are certainly not trendy. But they are full of meaning and memories for us.

When I realized Ellie needed a Christmas stocking, I wanted hers to have the same meaning. As she grows, it will take on more memories. But I wanted it to be special right from the start.

I’ve written before about how we’re trying to keep my Dad alive for her, so I decided that I would latch hook a stocking for her. I found a company online that had lots of kits, and Matt picked out the pattern–a puppy, of course.

Our Christmas stockings

It arrived at the start of December and I worked diligently (sometimes feverishly) every day to finish it by Christmas. Every time I sat down with the yarn and the hook and the mesh, I felt connected to my Dad. It feels so special to know she’ll have this stocking, chosen by her Daddy, inspired by her Grandpa and made by her Mama.

For the first time, we have three stockings hanging above the fireplace. It’s so special to mark this first Christmas with our new little family and add to our memories together.

I hope that you all have a wonderful holiday, filled with memories and family.

Family, legacies, memories and more barn repairs

Last week you saw some of the repairs that we did this fall on the barn’s foundation. Today, I’m sharing some other work that we ended up doing on the siding.

Patching wood siding on a barn

Patching wood siding on a barn

Patching wood siding on a barn

Patching wood siding on a barn

It took four cousins, two very tall ladders, a pile of lumber, hundreds of nails (and we still ran out), and a few other assorted other tools and supplies.

We replaced missing boards, renailed loose boards and closed a trap door that had swung open a couple of years ago. It might seem odd that Matt and I left the door open for a couple of years. However, it was at the peak of the gable, and the climb was a bit daunting. One of my cousins brought a climbing harness and ropes, so he went up.

Climbing inside the barn

Working together felt so good. Not just because of how generous and kind and caring our family is. And not because it was a chance to balance Mama-me with DIY-me. What was best about the few hours we worked together that morning was how strongly I felt my Dad.

Patching wood siding on a barn

Patching wood siding on a barn

Patching wood siding on a barn

All of my cousins worked with my Dad at various points. We know how to do so many things because he taught us. We also know how to work together because we all learned from the same person.

There was such a great rhythm between all of us as we talked things through, divided up the tasks and did the work. We trusted each other to make the right cuts, choose the right materials and hold the ladder steady no matter what–even when it was fully extended and nearly vertical.

Patching wood siding on a barn

Patching wood siding on a barn

“You happy?” was always my Dad’s line when he and I were working together. That meant, “Is your end good? Can I nail/screw/glue/attach mine now?”

A short while into the work, my cousin at the top of the ladder called to the guy at the bottom, “You happy?”

Hearing that, I was definitely happy.