Turquoise farm-inspired gender neutral nursery

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

Thank you very, very much for all of your kind wishes for Ellie. The warmth of your welcome means a lot. We are all still doing well, and Ellie is still being pretty easy for us.

Today I’m excited to share her nursery. Decorating Ellie’s nursery was a very fun experience for me. It was really special to think about the room and our child and our hopes for her (or him).

As I shared before, we didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl, so we wanted the space to be as neutral as possible. But I quickly decided that neutral didn’t mean without colour.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

As soon as I decided to use my office as the baby’s room, I knew we wouldn’t be changing the colour. I loved the dark turquoise (Benjamin Moore Coat of Arms) that was on the walls, and I thought it would be perfect for a baby.

My initial plan was to mix the turquoise with lots of other colours–pompom trim on the curtains, a brightly patterned footstool, fun coat hooks–but as the room came together, I found myself drawn more to white and wood.

The result is a space that feels bright, cheerful, fresh, farmy, while also being calm and homey.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

I first discovered the Animal Print Shop years ago, and I knew if I ever had a nursery of my own that I wanted some of Sharon’s pictures for the walls. The trio of portraits above the crib are perfect for our farm. I love the expressions on the goat’s, duck’s and lamb’s faces–although Matt thinks the duck is plotting something.

Animal portraits in a turquoise gender neutral nursery

Tucked beside the crib is a vintage pedal car tractor that my siblings and I drove growing up. It will be awhile before Ellie rides this one, but I love that my daughter already has her own tractor. This girl will learn to drive the tractor (the real one) long before she gets her driver’s license, so this is a small nod to the independence, confidence and responsibility I’m hoping to instill in her as she grows up.

Vintage pedal car tractor in the nursery

Ellie’s room connects to our bedroom through a pocket door. While pre-baby this was weird, it is now so convenient. We keep the door open and her crib is just inside. She’s slept in her crib since the first night we brought her home, and we’re able to hear her clearly and go to her when she needs us.

Baxter looking into the nursery

The window treatments are the same layered window treatments that I used in the master bedroom. Blackout blind hidden behind a decorative bamboo valance and then everything covered by full length curtains. In this case, I added a blackout lining to the curtains too in case Ellie needs extra darkness. I’ll be sharing more details about the window treatments in an upcoming post.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

The Ikea Strandmon wing chair is the very first thing I bought for the nursery. I love this chair in the basement and knew it would be perfect for the nursery.

Shortly after I figured out I was pregnant, I hopped on kijiji and found a secondhand Strandmon for sale for half the regular price. It seemed like a sign. I had just found out I was pregnant. The chair I wanted for the nursery was for sale. A few quick emails and the next day it came home with me.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

The chair has been everything I thought it would. The high back and generous wings are helpful as Mama dozes off during late night feedings. The seat–where I’ve spent more time than I care to think about–is very comfortable. The arms are just the right height to support a nursing baby.

I had considered adding rockers to the chair, but that didn’t work out. However, I’ve found that I’m not missing them.

Vintage pedal car tractor in the nursery

The side table and footstool are absolutely essential.

This quirky triangle side table lived in my family’s cottage for years. When the cottage was sold, I refinished the table and since then it’s had numerous lives in my bedroom at my parents’ house, the living room of our first house and, for a time, the living room of this house. The table was tucked away waiting for its next life when on a whim I dragged it up to the nursery. It turned out to be just the right height next to the Strandmon, and it’s the perfect size for my water bottle, phone, a box of tissues, lip balm and other nursing necessities.

Ikea Strandmon in the nursery

The footstool was a spot where initially I was expecting to add more colour. The pouf is a DIY courtesy of a free pattern from Better Homes and Gardens. As I started fabric shopping, I sourced lots of different options, but found myself coming back to a durable white vinyl that looks like leather. I’m very proud that I made this pouf myself, and I’ll be sharing more details on it in an upcoming post.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

The bookshelf in the corner is another secondhand Ikea kijiji score–the Hemnes. The backing was in rough shape, so I replaced it with a piece of beadboard for a little bit of a country touch. Then I covered everything with a coat of Benjamin Moore Cloud White.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

At various points, I’ve questioned whether we needed a full bookcase in the nursery, but the books that we received have been some of the most special gifts and reading is another thing that we’re looking forward to sharing with Ellie. I also love that the bookcase can grow with Ellie as her reading taste evolves. For now, the bookcase offers helpful extra storage for toys, blankets and other trinkets.

Nursery bookcase

Toy storage in the nursery

The dresser is a special piece that I’m hoping becomes an heirloom for Ellie. It was made by a local Mennonite craftsman. The dresser serves as our changing table, and also holds her onesies, sleepers and diapers.

Cloth diapers in the dresser drawer

As a new mom, I wasn’t sure what height would be best or how much surface area was needed for a changing table. This dresser has been perfect for our needs (and for reference for other new parents out there, the dimensions are 18 inches deep by 36 inches high by 54 inches long).

Turquoise gender neutral nurseryTurquoise gender neutral nursery

Above the dresser I hung a set of alphabet animal flash cards. The watercolour illustrations on these cards are lovely. While they’re not all farm animals, they fit in with the menagerie elsewhere in the room. Ellie may not be able to see all that much yet, but she does seem to enjoy looking at the cards as we’re changing her.

Alphabet flashcards above the changing table

The other animal in the room–and the one thing aside from the paint that stayed from my office–is Bill. I bought this papier mache goose head years ago because he reminded me of the pet goose I had growing up. I loved him in my office and thought he’d be perfect presiding over Ellie’s farm nursery.

You may remember from when this room was my office that we have a weird little nook just inside the door. I left the narrow dresser that I built in place. The lamp, which my grandfather rewired so that I could use it in my childhood bedroom, casts a beautiful glow at night when we’re feeding.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

Above the dresser, I removed the bulletin board and calendar and replaced them with two meaningful heirlooms. One is my collection of nursery rhyme figurines and the other is the sleepers that Matt wore home from the hospital when he was first born. The nursery rhyme figurines are on the cutlery divider shelf I built for my office. I’ll be sharing how I built the custom shadow box for the sleepers in an upcoming post.

Sleepers framed in a shadow box

The nursery is a mix of old and new, DIYs, hand-me-downs and purchases. It was special to plan it and put it all together, and it’s been special to spend time with Ellie in it.


Wall paint Benjamin Moore Coat of Arms | Trim paint Benjamin Moore Cloud White | Bookcase (customized with beadboard backing and BM Cloud White paint) Ikea Hemnes | Wing Chair Ikea Strandmon | Crib Ikea Gulliver | Pouf DIY (free pattern via Better Homes and Gardens) | Dresser Penwood Furniture (local Mennonite craftsman) | Curtains Ikea Ritva | Curtain Rods Ikea Racka Hugad combination | Curtain Rings Ikea Syrlig | Animal Portraits (above crib) Animal Print Shop | Frames (for animal portraits above crib) Ikea Hovsta | Alphabet Flash Cards (above change table) Susan Windsor (Etsy) | Papier Mache Goose Head Macheanimal (Etsy)

If you’re curious about a source for something not listed, please leave a comment (although most of the other items are DIYs, hand-me-downs or gifts).


Hints of spring in Illinois

We are officially a week away from the first day of spring. (Is anyone else boggled by the fact that we’re already halfway through March?) Sarah in Illinois is here today, sharing some of the signs of spring that have popped up at her property.

The temps are still too cool to actually do any kind of gardening outside. But while taking a tour around my yard over the weekend, I could see many signs of spring.

First, right outside my backdoor was a clump of chives that looks like they could be used right now.

The daffodils once again have fought their way through the gravel that we put down.

The lilies are coming up through the old growth and reminding me that I still have a lot of yard clean up to do.

The plum tree has some promise of buds to come.

The magnolia out front has some beautiful buds starting.

Even my mums are reaching for the sunlight.

And finally out in the garden, my strawberries are reminding me that time in my garden is not that far away.

What signs do you have that remind you that spring is coming?

Can I say I’m glad I’m not the only one starting the season with garden clean-up yet to do, Sarah? Your lilies look like they could be any number of spots at our place. We’ve had snow flurries every day this week, so I haven’t done a formal tour yet, but I’m hoping to see some more signs of spring soon.

Our new addition

Ellie's birth announcement

Matt and I are very happy to introduce our daughter, Ellie, who joined our family on Feb. 23.

Ellie arrived one week before her due date and weighed 8 pounds even.

Ellie with pink tulips

Her full name is Elizabeth Audrey Julia. Elizabeth from my mother’s middle name and Audrey from Matt’s mother’s name.

We’ve been doing very well getting to know each other. Ellie is a good sleeper and eater so far, and we’re doing our best to keep meeting her needs.

Family picture

Baxter is maybe a little more watchful, but mostly he is his usual relaxed and lazy self. He chooses to interact with her every so often, sniffing or sharing his sunbeam or hanging out on the bed with us. He’s not bothered by her noises, except for the occasional moments when angry baby shows up. Mostly he ignores her and carries on as usual, which is exactly the response I was hoping for.

I’m continuing to write about the steps we took to prepare Bax for Ellie’s arrival on ThatMutt.com.

Ellie and Baxter on the bed

We’re all taking our time adjusting to our new family and enjoying life together.

It’s amazing to see our families come together in this little girl and think about what her future holds. The optimism and possibility that a baby brings are pretty special.

Chickens by the numbers

It’s been more than a year and half since Sarah in Illinois welcomed her first chickens. She is here today with an update on her flock.

7 – Number of chickens still happy and healthy.

2 – Number of breeds of chickens still on my wish list (Leghorns and Ameraucana).

4 – Number of chickens my stepdaughter put charm bracelets on.

5 – Average number of eggs I still collect every day.

3 – Number of weeks a 50 pound bag of feed lasts.

1 – Number of wheelbarrows of corn I still have left to crack

0 – Number of chickens that will leave the coop if there is any snow on the ground.

100 percent – How happy I am that I decided to take on this adventure.

Between their bracelets, disdain for snow and hand-cracked corn, I think you have some pampered hens, Sarah. (Although I think aversion to snow is fairly common in chickens.) It’s great that you’ve been able to keep them healthy and happy and keep receiving eggs from them. Your enjoyment of them is obvious.

5 ways to decorate with family photos

Today we’re enjoying Family Day here in Ontario, so I thought I’d mark the occasion by sharing some of the ways we feature our family when we’re decorating the house. (Happy President’s Day to my American readers.)

I recently updated the display of family photos on the sofa table in our living room. My brother and sister-in-law gifted us with a new family picture from their fall wedding, so that went in the centre. Then there was a pair of photos of my Mom and me when we were both six years old. I finally printed my favourite photo of our newest nephew. And best of all I dug out this blond cutie in a mini RCMP uniform (Matt was the ring bearer at his uncle’s wedding, who is a Mountie).

How to decorate with family photos

You all know that when it comes to decorating, I’m all about keeping it personal and affordable. One of the best ways to do both of those things is with family photos.

Here are five ways to decorate with family photos, including some favourites from our house.

1. Go for quantity – Don’t limit yourself to just a few pictures. You have lots of memories–and possibly lots of family members. Pick out your favourite photos and print them all. Get a variety of frames–thrift stores, the dollar store or Ikea are good sources–and display all of your photos at once. Display the photos in a gallery wall, on picture ledges, or set them on a table, as I did on the sideboard behind our couch.

Family photo display

2. Go back in time – Family photo displays don’t have to be limited to the current generation. Dig through your family archives to find pictures of your ancestors. In our guestroom, I have two photos that I love: one of my great grandfather driving a team of horses pulling a sleigh full of huge logs, the other of Matt’s great grandfather with his own team of horses in front of a wagon loaded with hay. They fit in perfectly with our farm setting, celebrate our ancestors, and–with scanning at home, printing at Walmart and framing from Ikea–they’re super affordable as well. So dig out those old albums and see what treasures await you.

Vintage family photos displayed in the guest room

3. Go big – The family photo shoot has come a long way since the stiff studio portraits. (Did anyone else get dressed up and pose with their parents and siblings?) How you display your photos should be upgraded as well. Technology means that pretty much any image can be printed on canvas or you can run off a large scale print at your local copy centre. A large picture makes a great statement and celebrates your family at the same time.

4. Go beyond the frame – Just like photo shoots have come a long way, so have albums. Customized, personalized photobooks are the upgraded version of albums . These can be great art on your coffee table, or propped on a bookshelf–like our wedding album–can be a photo display on their own. There’s something really special about flipping through a book of photos, rather than clicking through a hard drive.

Custom photobook

5. Go offline – Instagram has taken off as the place where we “publish” our digital photos. Part of the beauty of those Instagram shots is that they capture everything from special occasions to everyday life (sometimes… let’s not get into perfectly curated feeds that are more about branding than they are about life). Don’t limit those great memories to just online. There are lots of services for printing Instagrams–even Walmart is in the game. Print them as mini-prints and use washi tape to affix them to the wall. Or string a piece of twine between some pushpins and use mini paperclips or clothespins to attach your pics. Or check out one of the many online services that offer cute magnets and stickers (and lots of other options).

Family photos are one of my favourite go-tos when I’m looking for special art. How about you? Do you display family photos around your house? What’s your favourite way to decorate? How do you balance between digital and print?

Growing fruit in a cold climate

Apples frozen on an ice covered tree in the winter

While our gardens may be buried in snow–and after freezing rain yesterday, ice–many of us are still planning, dreaming and thinking about what we’ll be growing this coming season (see Sarah in Illinois’ plans that she shared last week).

I recently wrote an article for The Canadian Organic Grower, sharing some tips for growing fruit in cold climates.

As hard as the snow, cold, ice and wind can be on humans, the climate can be equally harsh for plants.

Despite the challenges, many Canadian gardeners want to grow and enjoy fresh tender fruit right in their own backyards. Fortunately, a growing number of nurseries, breeders and researchers are cultivating trees, vines and bushes that can thrive in Canada.

Frost covered raspberry cane

In our own garden, I am excited by the prospect of hopefully picking our first crop of grapes this year and seeing our blueberries and blackberries return. These fruits are all cold hardy varieties that I specifically selected to ensure they survive (and hopefully thrive) at our farm.

You can read the whole article here.

For my fellow cold climate dwellers, do you have any recommendations of particular varieties that you grow at your garden? Or tips to help plants survive cold weather? What climate and growing challenges do you face in your garden?

Seed starting plan from Sarah in Illinois

Sarah in Illinois is being very methodical in her garden planning this year. She’s here today sharing how she’s mapping out what she’s going to grow and when she’s going to start planting.

We’d love to hear your tips for starting your garden. What works for you? How do you  plan what you do when?

We still have below freezing temperatures down here, but it hasn’t stopped me from daydreaming about being out in the garden. One way to fill that void is to make a to-do list or game plan for the spring. Here are a few things that I have planned for the upcoming weeks.

1. Make a list of what I want to grow in the garden this year and divide them up into 3 categories: start indoors from seed, sow seed directly into the garden and purchase as established plant.

2. Place order for any seeds purchased through mail order.

3. For seeds started indoors, plan what day I should start them.

To do that I searched online for last frost date for my zip code. One source said April 17 and another said April 14. I decided to just use April 15 since it is an easy date to remember (tax day for us Americans). So for example I want to start my Black Krim tomato seeds indoors. The packet says to start 6-8 weeks before planting outdoors. So I should start it indoors sometime in between Feb. 18 and March 4.

4. Set up indoor seed starting area.

I have mentioned before that I have a lot of trouble starting seeds indoors and transferring them to the garden. So this year I am going to take it more seriously than just throwing some seeds in the dirt. I purchased a seedling heat mat and I am going to set up a grow light. I plan to post about it as I go along both to help others and to get advice.

Do you place seed orders through mail order? Or do you have another source for your seeds and plants? Do you start your seeds indoors? Do you have any advice for me on transferring them outside?

You seem very organized, Sarah. Well done. It’s been great to see your garden evolve through the years. I love how you learn and adjust each season and keep working to improve your approach. I’ll be interested to hear how your plan works out this year.

Two gender neutral nursery designs

There are just a few finishing touches left before the baby’s room is finished and ready to share with all of you. Before the official reveal, I thought I’d share two alternate nursery plans that I considered–one colourful and one neutral.

There were a couple of things that both plans had in common.

We knew we weren’t finding out if we were having a boy or a girl, so no matter what the room looked like it needed to be gender neutral. (Sorry, no gender reveal post coming until baby arrives.)

The second thing was that I wanted an Ikea Strandmon wing chair and Animal Print Shop photos in the room. The Strandmon is a super comfortable chair. I knew the high back, wings, arms and generous seat would be good support for a tired nursing Mama. The Animal Print Shop images are super fun and would be a friendly addition to a baby’s space.

I’ve really enjoyed pulling the baby’s room together and thinking about what feel I wanted and what made the most sense for us and our baby.

Here are the two ideas that I started with.


The neutral design came when I considered using the guest room as the nursery. This room has faux wood paneling on the walls, which I thought would look great in white. The dropcloth curtains that I made for the guest room were a soft non-colour that would contrast just enough with the walls. The rest would be wood, leather and natural tones like brown, white and grey. Something like this room from Cheetah is the New Black or this one from design dump.

I’ve learned that light colours are very calming for me, so I felt like this would be a zen space, even if I’m not always feeling zen.

I also felt like this scheme would work really well with our farm–all of the natural materials and neutral colours would be a fit for the country setting.

Here’s a moodboard with some of the items I was considering.


The colourful scheme was the one that had been in my head the longest. I had originally planned on using my office for a baby’s room. The walls were turquoise, and I liked the idea of that inspiring, high energy colour for a baby. This pillow from Anthropologie (which is no longer available) inspired the rest of the decor.

Lindi Fringe Euro Sham from Anthropologie

I felt like white would be important to temper the turquoise. At the same time, I liked the colourful tassels, and they inspired me to think about other colours that would mix with the turquoise.

Here’s the moodboard for the colourful nursery.

The final space ended up being a bit of a combination of the two plans, and I’m excited to show it to you.

What design appeals to you most?

How to prepare your dog for a baby

#2018 onesieAs you can imagine, lots of baby prep is happening here at 129 Acres. We’re finishing off the baby’s room, figuring out how to unfold and then collapse the stroller (seriously, I feel like I should have studied engineering), installing the car seat, freezing meals and a whole bunch of other things.

One of the most important parts of our preparation is working with Baxter to get him ready for the changes that are coming.

Baxter and me in the baby's room

We have a great trainer, and she’s been very encouraging and helpful. As well, we have a great, easy-going, relaxed, lazy dog, so I think we’re starting from a very good place.

I’m going to be documenting our baby prep strategies for Baxter on ThatMutt.com. The series kicked off yesterday and new posts will be added every other week for the next several months.

I encourage you to hop over to That Mutt and check them out. I also welcome feedback, advice and more questions. I may not know the answer yet (#firsttimemom), but I’m happy to figure it out.

Baxter is a really important part of our family, so we want to make sure he’s as comfortable as possible when the new addition arrives.

Baxter up close

I’m still going to be your baby, right?

How to make a shovel scraper

It may still be winter outside, but Sarah in Illinois is already looking ahead to gardening season–or at least her Mom is. Today, Sarah’s sharing how to make a simple tool that can help keep your other gardening tools in good shape.

It’s been two weeks since I posted that we were having such low temperatures and, as I write this, it is the first day that we have made it above freezing. My wood shop is not heated but thankfully I had a super easy, super fast project that I could finish before my fingers got frostbite.

The idea for this project came from the magazine Mary Jane’s Farm. I highly recommend this magazine if you have any interest in farm life, recipes and simple living. My mom showed me this picture from the October-November 2014 issue and said that she would really like a shovel scraper.

It’s a simple concept. Just a pointed block of wood used to scrape the bulk of mud off of your shovel before you put it away. I will give the dimensions that I used, but every single measurement is adaptable to your own needs. Feel free to adjust them as you see fit.

I started with a scrap piece of 2×4 lumber. After taking out old staples I cut the board to 12 inches in length.

I set my miter saw to cut the end of the board at 22.5 degrees. Again, this is just the angle I chose based on what looked appropriate for my use.

I then drew a guideline of where I would cut my handle. Note my crudely drawn measurements.

I then cut along these lines with my jigsaw.

I drilled a hole at the end of the handle to make it easy to hang up and all I had left to do was sand down the corners to make the handle more comfortable and to prevent my mom from getting splinters.

Remember my post back in October where I was longing for a new sander? Well, when my dad told me that he didn’t know what to get me for Christmas I had the perfect suggestion!

I’ve only used it this one time so far, but I am very happy with it. I don’t know if my old sander was really worn out or this Hitachi is that much stronger, but it feels like it has twice the power of my old sander. You can see we went with the hook and loop attachment. I just have to get used to the fact that this is pretty much what the industry is going to.

Back to the project, it didn’t take long to sand down the edges and make the scraper quite comfortable to hold.

I decided this morning after looking at it again, that I am going to coat it with a light coat of linseed oil to protect it just a bit, but other than that, it is ready for my mom.

Have you ever used a shovel scraper? Do you have a quick and easy wood project to try? More importantly, is your project area heated?

Thanks for this tutorial, Sarah. I’ve never heard of a shovel scraper. I think my Dad would appreciate me making one of these for myself. When he taught me how to sharpen my shovels, he grimaced as he looked at the dried mud on my shovels and began the lesson with a lecture on taking care of my tools.