Home Goals 2021

It’s been a while since I’ve posted home goals. Looking back, 2017 is the last time I looked a year ahead and thought about what I wanted to change around the house and property. I was surprised it’s been that long.

But I am ready to think about home goals again.

It’s nice to feel this part of me coming back.

Here are some of the projects I’d like to tackle this year.

Playground expansion

The playground that we got for Ellie last year has been awesome. As soon as it arrived, I started thinking about how I could expand it. When I saw this set-up from heart of this home, everything came together in my mind (and in a hastily scribbled sketch).

Pond shore

Having déjà vu yet? Yes, the pond shore makes the list every year. And yes, with a lot of help we cleared the shore last year—or at least part of it. I’d love to clear a little bit more and build a little bridge so that we can cross the creek more easily.

Vegetable garden

Another item that always makes the list. Matt’s Dad and I cleared a lot of the weeds out of the garden last fall, and that gives me hope that I can maybe possibly hopefully manage one quadrant this year. I’d love to try raised rows, deep mulch and no dig. The promises of a low maintenance garden make me feel like the set-up would be worth it.

The last big junk pile

Between the garden and the tree line of the front field is one of our last remaining junky areas. It’s full of brush, skids, bricks, lumber, barrels, a basketball net and who knows what else. It’s in direct view out the dining room window, and I’m tired of looking at it every day. I’d like to finally tidy it up and mow the grass.

Bedroom refresh

I guess I should put at least one house project on my home goals list, eh? I saw before Christmas that Ikea has a new duvet cover in a pattern I’ve coveted for years. As soon as the king size comes back in stock, I’m planning to order it. I’m thinking a bedding refresh might inspire a couple of other changes. Paint? A different dresser? A better closet organizer? I have some ideas.

Source: Ikea

History

Connecting with the woman who’s family first owned this farm was a very meaningful experience of the last year for me. I am looking forward to continuing to stay in touch with her and learning more about this special place.

Black and white picture of a two story farmhouse surrounded by open fields

Even without goals the last few years, we’ve accomplished things around the house: demolishing the sunroom, redoing the dining room, setting up Ellie’s nursery (I have an update to share) and a new play area for her, clearing the pond shore, finally putting the finishing touches on the basement.

I’m proud of what we’ve done. But I’m also happy to be back in a more plannful frame of mind. It helps me focus–there’s that word of the year.

Stick with me. Let’s see what happens.

What are you aiming to do at your house this year? Are you focused inside or out? What would your dream playground have? Any tips for low maintenance gardening? Is there such a thing?

Word of the year: Focus

Hello. Happy new year. I hope that you are well and had a nice holiday.

Over the last three years, I’ve enjoyed figuring out a word of the year.

The word gives me some guidance for the year ahead. It reflects my mood and some of the things that are on my mind.

When I was pregnant with Ellie, my word was balance as I wanted to hang on to who I was and be open to who I was going to become. When we were in the depths of Matt’s illness, my word was slow. I was trying to savour moments with Matt and Ellie and not rush through our time together. Last year my word was resolve, as I was trying to figure out how to keep it together and keep moving forward.

This year the word that keeps coming into my head is focus.

I want to focus on what is most important to me. Ellie, this farm, myself, family, friends, my work. Knowing what I value means I know where to put my energy and time. By being focused, I give myself permission to spend extra time playing with Ellie, prioritize a home project or connect with a friend. I can also say no to things that don’t fit with what’s most important.

I also want to be focused in the moment. There are a lot of thoughts in my head and the to-do list is long. I am often rushing, distracted and multi-tasking. In simple tasks like tidying up from meals, I flit between loading the dishwasher, putting food away and clearing the table. Several times I’ve walked past the dining room an hour after we ate and discovered I left the orange juice or milk on the table rather than returning it to the fridge. I’ve learned I do better if I can focus on one thing–clearing the table–and then move onto the next. This goes for more complex tasks too, whether it’s work or Ellie.

My word of the year isn’t at the forefront of my mind every day. But it’s enough of a reminder most of the time to help me focus on what matters most and how I want to be.

What are you feeling as we begin 2021? Anyone else seeking focus or balance or to slow down or resolve?

Merry Christmas

This has been a year of love and joy. Of challenges too, absolutely. But love and joy have prevailed.

We are going to be soaking in all of the love and joy–and working through more challenges, I’m sure–for the rest of this month. I will be back with more posts in the new year.

I wish you love, joy and peace this holiday.

Odds & sods

How are you? How are you doing? What are you feeling?

If anyone asks me how I am doing, I rarely say only “fine” or “good.” I figure if you care enough about me to ask, I’m going to give you a full answer.

So how are you doing?

We’re in a weird time. A hard time. As Christmas approaches and virus cases rise, things feel a bit harder. As well, outside of a global pandemic, everybody has other stuff happening. Family stuff. Health stuff. Home stuff. Money stuff. Kid stuff.

In many cases, we don’t have a choice. You have to get through. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. However, it’s sometimes easier to keep going if you talk to someone about what you’re going through.

So how are you? I really want to know. Leave a comment if you feel comfortable. Or send me an email at homeon129acres@hotmail.com. Or find someone else you feel comfortable with and tell them how you’re doing.

It may make a difference in how you feel about your day.

For me, I’m doing alright. I’m definitely overdoing it with late nights right now as I try to work, organize Christmas and keep the rest of this train on the tracks. Ellie has been going through a hard toddler stretch, so I’m working on finding my patience, positivity and energy.

But I keep putting one foot in front of the other and checking another thing off my to-do list. And find downtime in front of the fire, with our books, in a good podcast or in a few minutes every night when I find something else that inspires me, intrigues me or interests me.

Here are some of the things I’ve come across recently.

This thought-provoking podcast about Indigenous fashion led me to an even more thought-provoking Instagram account for this Indigenous fashion designer. Her mission to use fashion for the betterment of future generations is powerful.

12 Days of Christmas, Canadian style

A stunning historic Canadian lakehouse gets a major makeover (I liked this episode the best so far, but you should go back and watch from the start.)

The kitchen of 1914. So much interesting commentary on the value of home making and how efficiency matters.

An amazing story of restoring a natural environment and our role as caretakers

My writing elsewhere:

I truly hope that you are well. If you’re struggling, I hope that you are able to reach out to someone and find some support. Take good care.

Barn cat with a broken leg

Our girl, Ralph, has a broken leg.

Ralph is, like most cats I’ve met, assertive. She likes attention, likes to be involved, likes to know what’s going on. As a result, when anyone comes to visit us, Ralphie is right there. As in right there under the car before you park.

So yes, I ran over Ralph. We’ve done dance hundreds of times. I drive in very, very slowly. She gets too close. I go slower. She gets out of the way. I park and we discuss traffic safety and proper greeting procedures.

Two weeks ago, our usual routine went awry.

A trip to the vet revealed her leg was broken (though thankfully no other injuries). She was sent home with a splint, pain medications and instructions to take it easy and keep the bandage dry.

We turned the mudroom into Ralph’s room with food, water, an old dog bed of Baxter’s, a litter pan and lots of treats. While she hated being in the house at first, proximity to Ellie (aka Giver Of Treats) has changed her perspective.

Also, she’s realized that being out of the wind, rain and, yesterday, snow, is not a bad deal. In fact, every time I tried to put her outside yesterday, she scooted around me to get back in the house.

She’s figured out how to walk on three legs and has made it back to the barn several times. She’s also made a few escape attempts the other way–through the mudroom and into the rest of the house (not happening, girl). She yowls when she needs to go outside (the litter pan is also not happening–she’s always been part dog).

A check-up last week revealed that the bones are still aligned, though they’ve not started to mend yet. With our at least 8-years-old cat, it may take awhile. For now, we’re doing our best to take care of each other and be comfortable in our new routine.

Have any of your pets ever had a broken leg? Has anyone else ever accidentally injured a pet?

History

Thank you very much for your kindness after my last post. I appreciate all of the thoughts, prayers and support that have been sent our way over the last several years. They mean a lot.

Last weekend, on the anniversary of the day Matt came home, I felt like he sent a special gift for us.

A woman came to the farm who had been born here in 1936.

I have always wondered about the history of this property. Who lived here? What were their names? What happened to them? Where was the original house?

Well, now I know… at least a little bit.

Black and white picture of a two story farmhouse surrounded by open fields

The woman’s name is Lorraine. Her grandparents were the original owners of the property.

Black and white photo of a man and woman on their wedding day in 1897

Eventually her father and mother took over the farm, and this is where she spent the first six years of her life.

Lorraine

She talked about riding her tricycle down the barn ramp (just like Ellie likes to do in her little car), climbing trees and trying to keep up with her older brother.

Black and white photo of two children sitting on top of a wood gate

Her father worked the farm for awhile before he took a job in the city.

Black and white photo of a man and a horse working in a field

The driving shed (I always call it the drive shed, but she says “driving”) and the barn are the same as she recalls. She said that the original barn burned down when her father was young and was rebuilt.

Black and white photo of a child riding a tricycle in front of a small barn

The pond was not here when she was a child. It was just a stream that they crossed every day on their walk to and from school.

She says that the house burned down sometime in the 1950s. The property was always 129 acres.

Black and white picture of a two story farmhouse

Lorraine left the farm in 1942. She has returned few times since then, though the last time was about 20 years ago. Last weekend (with, I feel, a nudge from Matt), she got up her courage to come again and see who was living there now. I am so glad that she did. I feel like we connected right away.

Lorraine and I have talked on the phone several times and met twice more already. She came out to the farm again on Saturday and walked around a bit and shared more memories. She has given me so many stories and obviously some very special photos. I have so many more questions, but what I’ve learned already has meant so much.

The experience of connecting with the people and history of this special place is very precious.

One year

It’s been a year.

For awhile, that was all I was going to write here. I didn’t know what to say. I’m still not sure what to say. I have many stories. Many thoughts. All of them feel small. Inadequate. How do you write about a person? All of them. How they feel, how they sound, what they do, how they act.

I struggle that what I share of Matt with Ellie will be small. She will not know him for who he is–for all he is. But I need her to know him, even if it’s just a small part. So I keep telling stories.

When we moved to the farm, herons became my talisman. It was always special when I spotted one at the pond or flying overhead. That’s one of the reasons I chose a picture of a heron to hang over my nightstand in our bedroom.

Audubon print of a heron in my bedroom

Herons took on even greater significance during Matt’s illness.

I saw herons more than ever.

Heron wading in the pond

Wading at the pond, flying over the fields, in the east field (where I had never seen one before), out hiking with my friends. Twice, we even saw a heron flying over the highway as we were traveling to the hospital. Surrounded by concrete, asphalt and traffic, no water in sight, we saw herons.

These sightings gave me a lot of comfort.

Heron wading in the pond

On Saturday afternoon, as Ellie played joyously in the leaves outside, I saw a heron flying overhead. It glided down and landed in the pond. And I knew Matt was with us.

It has been a year. But I have never felt alone. It has been a year, but we fill each day with love and joy.

Odds & sods

I have decided to become a hugger. After we’re through this pandemic, of course.

A friend and I were talking the other night about how much we’re missing hugs. We’ve never been huggy friends, but we’re going to change that.

Being in a situation where it’s not safe to hug. Being in a situation where you don’t have a partner whom you can hug and who will hug you back. I’ve come to realize how important physical connections are.

I am making renewed efforts to connect with friends and family. As the year and the pandemic progresses, these connections are helping me cope. Even if I can’t hug people yet.

What we need on any given day changes. I hope that you are finding what you need and finding your own ways to cope.

(I’ve also decided Ellie is going to be required to hold my hand forever.)

Here are some other things helping me cope this month.

“Our culture is very solution-oriented, which is a good way of thinking for many things… But it’s a very destructive way of thinking when you’re faced with a problem that has no solution.” Coping strategies for difficult times.

Practical, real-life examples of how to talk to your kids

I don’t love making pastry. I find it fussy and worrisome. But I made Joanna’s quiche, and it wasn’t as much work as I feared. Also, it was good.

Even monsters need haircuts

Demo tools and tips (it’s not about smashing everything)

A guy who grew up down the road from Matt also died of melanoma (a different form) very young. His Mom recently reached out to me and shared this beautiful memorial. I hate that memorials like this exist. But I am grateful for all of the care and the love that leads to these tributes.

My writing elsewhere:

What are some of your coping strategies? Are you a hugger? Or planning to become one? Anyone else have feelings about quiche?

Basement games area details

I am back today with another look at the basement games area. Today I’m diving into some of the details of this space, because as I said in the before and after post everything has a story with me.

The dining set is obviously the centrepiece of this spot. This set is something I treasure, but it came our way somewhat accidentally.

I first fell in love with the chairs. You may recall that I have a thing for chairs. These chairs were scattered around Matt’s grandpa’s house, and I would see them in the bedrooms or tucked in corners when we went to visit him (this was way back when we were still in school and dating).

Vintage dining set

When Matt’s grandpa died and we were cleaning out the house, I learned they were part of a set. The set was one of the items that ended up in a family lottery, as multiple people wanted it. Matt’s Dad was not in contention, but then Matt said, “Oh Julia likes those chairs.” Matt’s Dad put his name in the hat, and his name was pulled.

As we were loading the table and chairs to bring them home, I learned there was also a hutch. Okay. We got a whole dining set. (Also, we were still dating and each still living at home with our parents. The set stayed in Matt’s Dad’s shed for awhile.)

When we bought our first house, the table, chairs and hutch came with us. The joints were loose on the chairs, the seat covers were torn, the finish on the table wasn’t great, and it was on the small side for entertaining. But I still loved those circle motifs.

When we moved to the farm, we had the table and chairs refinished (the hutch was fortunately in good shape), and I recovered all of the seats. Eventually, as I found other furniture for the dining room, the set made its way down the stairs. It’s the perfect size for this space, and the warm wood tones are a nice natural touch in the basement.

Games area in the basement

Plus, having a table for games, work, crafts, puzzles, food adds a lot of function to our basement.

The china cabinet houses board games, puzzles, decks of cards and other fun stuff. The drawers give me a spot to tuck away papers or work materials.

China cabinet for boardgame storage
Boardgame storage in a vintage china cabinet

Matt always maintained that the basement was his space, so it was always my intention to style the top of the cabinet for him. I chose a lava lamp that I bought him when we were dating, a few toy cars that he treasured, and his prized trophy from the 1989 bicycle safety rodeo. A fake plant (I can’t keep real ones alive) gives a bit of greenery.

Games area

The tic-tac-toe game is an example of how I like to think outside of paintings and pictures for art. I bought the game at an antique fair ages ago, and always planned to use it here. It fits in with my fun and games theme in the basement.

Also fun and games are the playing card posters. This is another thing that I had always envisioned for the basement, but I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for. Finally, I decided that it was okay to invest in what I wanted, and I had a local graphic designer make the posters for me.

I kept asking Matt what his favourite card was, and he never answered me, so I picked my favourite: the queen of clubs.

Games area in the basement

The chandelier also used to be in the dining room. I did not like it at all there. But down here I think it’s okay.

I zoomed out for a few photos to show you how the games area fits in with the rest of the main room in the basement. I love how we’ve been able to make different zones, all within this one room.

Games area from the reading nook
Games area from the couch

If you want a recap of the rest of the basement, here are the other spaces:

With the art on the walls, the cabinet styled and the furniture all in place, this games area is done. And even better, it’s used and enjoyed all the time.

Are you a board game and puzzle family? How do you store games and puzzles at your house? What’s your favourite card in the deck? Do you use dining furniture for things other than dining?

Thankful

It is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. Thanksgiving is Matt’s favourite holiday. He loved the food and being together with family–and had very definite opinions on the importance of both.

It’s hard to mark Thanksgiving without him.

Yet, I am thankful.

I am thankful for our life. The choices we made, the things we have done, the opportunities we created.

I won’t say tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. I honestly can’t yet. It hurts a lot to lose this love.

There is this one terrible hole in my life. And yes, it’s a huge and terrible hole.

But there’s one. Only one.

In so many other ways, I am incredibly fortunate. I know that. I never take it for granted. I appreciate it so very much.

The kindness of the people around us, the peace of this farm, the joy of our girl, good food, a safe home, financial stability, the option to continue to make choices, the chance to feel like myself and do things that matter to me. I am thankful for this and so much more.

We have a good life.

I am thankful for everything that Matt did–and does–to make that possible.