Embroidering with my great-grandmother

Embroidered fabric cutlery holder

I am one of those people who loves my “nice” dishes. I picked out a china pattern when we got married and I was grateful to receive crystal wine glasses as a wedding gift. I love pulling them out when we have a family dinner.

Some day, I hope I’m able to add a set of silver cutlery to my “nice” collection.

Even if I don’t have the silver yet, I have a place to keep them.

Rolled cutlery holders

I’m not sure what these are called. They have little sleeves for the various utensils, and then they roll up to tuck in the drawer. They protect the cutlery from scratches and keep them organized.

Rolled cutlery holder

These holders were made by my great-grandmother and me, which I think is so, so cool. (My great-grandmother died before I was born.)

A few years ago I was helping my Mom organize some things in her sewing room, and we found these holders. The spoon and fork ones were done, but the knives was barely started.

I haven’t done embroidery in years, but I liked the idea of finishing the set. I also liked the idea of having a place to store extra cutlery. While we don’t have a silver set, we do have lots of cutlery for those family dinners, and my storage technique was not ideal.

Cutlery stored in plastic cups

I especially liked the family heritage.

I tried to pick colours similar to the ones my great-grandmother chose and mimic her stitch patterns, and I’m really happy with how the set turned out.

Rolled cutlery holders

 

Do you have a silver, china or crystal set? How do you store extra dishes? Any other embroiderers out there? What craft or organizing projects have you been up to?

 

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Grapes and goodness in the garden

Red somerset grapes

We have grapes!

Three years ago I planted eight grapevines, and two years ago I added four more. Every year since then I’ve cut off any fruit that has appeared with the idea that the plants need all their energy to grow big and strong, rather than growing grapes.

This year, I let the grapes grow, and I was so thrilled back in August when they were finally ready to harvest.

Bunches of red somerset grapes on the vine

Ellie was delighted as well. Girl looooooves fruit, and grapes are a favourite.

Ellie picking grapes

It’s been so exciting to watch the grapes grow over the season. Seeing the big bunches of unripe green grapes made me feel like I’ve been doing something right.

Bunches of unripe green grapes

I have I’ve felt like I’m fumbling along with my grapes ever since I planted them. Figuring out where to plant them, how to trellis them, how to prune them, protecting them in the winter, even my decision to cut off the grapes the last couple of years were completely me winging it.

As I watched the grapes finally coming on this year, I was worried something would happen before I was able to taste them. Blight, birds, bugs. Something would get them instead of me.

But nothing happened. The grapes ripened, and they were beautiful.

Unripe and ripe grapes

In the end something did get them instead of me.

Blame it on the baby.

Ellie learned very quickly that anything purple or red in the garden was ripe for the picking. She would happily stand there and eat grapes by the bunch.

Ellie eating grapes in the garden

The flavour of the sun-warmed grapes was unmatched. They were so lovely and sweet. The pop as I bit into them, the stickiness of the juice on my hands, the sight of Ellie opening her mouth to ask for another and then the feeling of a little hand smushing a grape into my mouth in return make grapes a favourite summer memory.

Basket of sovereign coronation blue grapes

Odds & sods

I know summer is winding down, but we are still savouring every second. We’re having such a good time all together and really, really enjoying each other.

We’ve spent time with our extended families and also with our own little crew. There were lots of swims in Matt’s parents’ pool and a very special cottage week with my family. There have been tractor rides, hikes and harvests. Life is very full and very good.

Our rhythm is changing these days, but we make sure to treasure our time at the farm together.

Here is my monthly round-up of some recent happenings:

Dining room by Luke Havekes

The September issue of House & Home was over-the-top with a Milanese “guesthouse” (on the scale of a chateau), a Parisian pied-à-terre, and a large London flat. Completely out of my league. But tucked amongst all of the splendor was a home that felt completely attainable and identifiable by Canadian designer Luke Havekes. It was comfortable, colourful and personal. A few spaces even felt familiar, as they had elements that I’ve used here at the farm, like the white china cabinet with the arched tops.

Are you watching American Ninja Warrior? It is such a positive, uplifting show. The physical achievements are super impressive, but the competitors themselves and their stories are even more inspiring. Plus, watching two women finish the course last week was a great milestone.

“Resilience depends more on what we receive than what we have within us.”

I’ve been trying to recycle Ellie’s infant carseats rather than putting them in the garbage (they were hand-me-downs and are near expiry). It took awhile, but Atmo does recycling all across Canada. There is a cost (about $20 per seat), but there are various drop-off locations, which is more affordable than some of the other options I found that required me to ship the seats to a depot.

Chris Loves Julia’s kitchen makeover has been all over the internet–for good reason. It’s a great example of what can be done with DIY, creativity, some simple materials and paint.

My writing elsewhere:

Do you feel summer winding down? How are you wringing every last drop out of the season?

 

DIY toddler step stool – Ikea hack

As I wrote the title for this post I realized, wow, we have a toddler. Holy moly. Ellie turns 18 months old this week, but she’ll always be our baby.

Ellie is a smart, curious, confident little girl who loves to be included in whatever we’re doing–actually, she insists on being included.

Pretty much as soon as she could stand, I realized I needed a way to help her be involved and help me keep her safe and corralled.

I went looking for plans to build her a step stool and discovered the world of learning towers. One of the first plans I came across was a simple Ikea hack using the popular Bekväm stool from Happy Grey Lucky.

DIY learning tower from Ikea Bekvam stool

The plan is super detailed with clear instructions.

I was skeptical about Sina’s direction to drill through the full width of the 1X2. I thought for sure the pine would split, but I went very slow with my pilot holes and worked from a 1/8 bit up to 5/64″, and I had no problems when I screwed it all together–even though I couldn’t find #6 screws in the right length and was using fatter #8s instead.

The stool went together very quickly. Once I had the wood cut, Ralphie and I knocked it out in one naptime.

Assembling the stool outside with our barncat

Close up of the baby monitor

I chose not to paint it, as I like the colour of the natural wood. However, I do feel it may be helpful to coat the wood with Varathane or some other sealant, both to protect the wood and make it easier to wipe down.

We use the stool mainly in the kitchen for cooking and washing dishes. Between food spills and water splashes, I feel like it’s inevitable that the stool will become stained. (There is a coating of some kind on the actual Bekvam, but the upper framework is naked.)

Water spill on the Ikea Bekvam

I’m most interested in how the stool works as opposed to how it looks, and it is great.

Ellie loves her stool. She grabs on and tries to climb it whenever I’m cooking–she still needs help to get on it. She also drags it across the kitchen floor when she wants to wash dishes–girl loves water and is very insistent.

DIY learning tower from Ikea Bekvam stool

Ellie on her learning tower

We love it too. It keeps her pretty secure and occupied–we sometimes joke that it’s a standing baby jail. I say pretty secure because I would never leave her unattended in case she tips, climbs out or slips down.

I was hesitant about just one dowel at her back, worrying about her slipping out, but we only had one incident where she tried to get down on her own. It would be easy to drill a couple of larger holes so that you could slip an extra dowel in if you felt like it. The larger gap makes it easy for her to climb up herself, although she’s only figured it out once so far.

DIY learning tower from Ikea Bekvam stool

As she grows, I hope she will continue to want to be involved in what we’re doing–and more helpful in actually doing it.

Deer in the dining room

Hello. It’s been a little while. Thanks for your patience during my blogging holiday. We’ve had a lovely summer, and having this time all together is something I will always treasure.

Our days have been filled with all kinds of fun, including a few little projects. One of the projects was a final decorative touch in the dining room. Hanging two sets of antlers in the corner.

Two sets of antlers hanging in the dining room

This was always part of my original plan during the One Room Challenge this spring, but in the finishing stages it was cut.

The delay was mostly due to one set of antlers not being mounted. It took me some time to figure out how I wanted to mount them and how to do it.

The first set of antlers came from Matt’s Grandpa. We’ve had them for awhile, but haven’t had a good place to put them. They’re mounted and varnished and quite old.

Two sets of antlers hanging in the dining room

I decided to try to make our new antlers match the old ones as much as possible. I traced the mounting plaque, but made it a bit taller, as the skull plate on the new antlers was a bit larger. I know the skull plates are typically trimmed and covered, but I actually like seeing the bone. I’ve written about my (potentially strange) attraction to skulls before. If antlers are considered attractive, why can’t the bone be as well?

Covered skull on mounted antlers

Mounted antlers unvarnished and uncovered skull

I also decided to keep the antlers natural rather than varnishing them. I like the light tone of the antlers and wanted to highlight their natural beauty.

The next step was to try to match the colour of the plaque. I didn’t want to buy new stain for such a small project, so I tried blending a few different stains. I got close, but not exact. Part of that is likely due to a difference in the woods. The grain of the new plaque is much more pronounced than in the old one.

I was nervous about attaching the antlers to the plaque, but it worked out much better than I expected. Online tutorials prescribe bolting the antlers to the plaque. I simply drilled pilot holes in the skull and then screwed through the back of the plaque into the bone using regular screws. The skull seems secure, so I hope that it will hold.

The final touch was adding a picture hanger to the back of the plaque.

Back of mounted antlers

I put both antlers in the corner next to our deer painting. When I first photographed the dining room for the reveal post, this corner looked very empty. Over the last few months, I’ve gotten used to its emptiness–part of my draw to a bit more minimalism. However, since the antlers are a bit hidden in the corner, the room doesn’t feel too busy.

Two sets of antlers hanging in the dining room

I like that the antlers are finally on display. I feel like displaying them honours the animals. While my preference is always to see deer alive walking around outside, these deer in some ways live on as I appreciate their antlers every day.

Are you a fan of antlers in decor? Do you have any antlers at your house?

 

Summer holidays

I love summer. I love heat, sun and time together.

We’re getting all of that right now.

So I’m going to take some time to savour it.

Ellie, Ralph and Baxter

So far, we’ve been spending lots of time with family, had a bit of a getaway up north, done some special outings for just our little family and are enjoying this season together.

We have more of the same planned for the next little while, so I’m going to take a little break from the blog for the next few weeks.

I hope that you’re enjoying your summer and are getting time to do all of the things you love with all of the people you love.

Odds & sods

We’re at the last week of June.

We always think about my Dad. Between Father’s Day and the anniversary of his death our thoughts have been a little heavier at times this month. We see lots of signs that he’s still with us and we feel his love all the time.

Life is hard. But life is also very, very, very good.

We had a lot of fun this month. Ellie finished her second class of swimming lessons—she passed 😉 —so she’s all set for pool and lake time this summer. We celebrated Matt and his Dad with Father’s Day and remembered my Dad too.

Here are some of the other things we’ve been up to and inspired by this month:

Ellie with a miniature donkey

One of our family outings in June was to The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada. We’d never been there, even though it’s fairly near the farm. It was so much fun and their programs are super impressive. There are 86 rescued donkeys and more at local foster farms—which is giving me ideas. I highly recommend a visit if you’re in the area.

The garden on the turnaround has always been a challenge. The big maple tree keeps it in perpetual shade and also sucks up all the moisture from the ground. Plus the garden is big, so I feel like plants disappear. I went to a presentation at a local nursery about shade gardening to get some tips and came out with a list of plants and solutions to try. I’d like to try turtlehead because it’s a big plant and a late bloomer, although I’m worried our soil is too dry. Do you have any plants or tips that have worked for you?

On the topic of gardens, Cathy and Garrett over at The Grit and Polish did a massive makeover in their vegetable garden. They made a great family hangout space.

Looking for some food to serve at your next family hangout? Call it a bruschetta bar, charcuterie platter or tapas, this is what I love to eat.

“There are all these phenomena in human life that are really resistant to language… It’s that personalization of experience and the urge to share experience. We all desperately want other people to hear us and hear our stories and know what our feelings feel like, and they can’t.” Beautiful reflections on the power and limitations of language by John Greene of The Anthropocene Reviewed podcast on 99% Invisible.

Another quote that’s inspiring me: “talent comes everywhere, but having something to say and a way to say it so that people listen to it, that’s a whole other bag. And unless you get out and you try to do it, you’ll never know.”(From A Star Is Born)

My writing elsewhere:

We’ll be rounding out the month with lots of family time this week, and our first overnight trip with Ellie. Matt’s parents are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, so there’s a special dinner and family photoshoot in the plans.

What was your highlight from June? How are you wrapping up the month? What’s been inspiring you recently?

 

Tiptoeing towards (a bit more) minimalism

A project in one part of the house brings chaos to others. By the end of the dining room makeover, the kitchen floor was in a state I prefer not to think about. The guest room still hasn’t entirely recovered from being the dumping ground for all of the things I removed from the dining room.

But while there was chaos in most places, the dining room itself–once it was finished–was calmer than ever. And it wasn’t just the fresh light paint.

White china cabinet in the dining room

In preparation for painting the china cabinet, I emptied everything out of it. In the process, I designated many dishes for donation. Shot glasses and bar stuff that we don’t need. Wedding gifts that we’ve never used. Extra serving pieces. Wrap it up, pack it up, take it out.

When I reloaded the china cabinet, there was so much breathing room. All of our dishes fit easily, and on the upper shelves where we have some of our more special items on display, we could actually see them. They weren’t lost in a mass of clutter.

China cabinet

I also took down the stained glass window and the display of family photos from behind the couch to protect them from paint spatters.

When the room was finished I was reluctant to put these things back. If you’ve been following along for any amount of time, you know I’m super sentimental and love all of the family and personal touches we have around our home. So I was really surprised I didn’t want to have the stained glass Matt’s uncle made for us, or my hand-picked favourite family photos back on display.

Those things are super precious to me. But without them, the dining room felt calmer–a feeling that I liked.

Vintage shelving unit used as a china cabinet

There’s a push for minimalism–or at least paring down–by a lot of bloggers these days. While I will likely never be a Marie Kondo devotee, I am feeling a pull to simplify. I love my stuff, but maybe I don’t need quite all of it. Maybe some of it is more precious than others.

When the dining room makeover began, I had felt pressure about what to do with the top of the piano. What should I put there? How should I style it? During the challenge, I realized I didn’t have to do anything. The top could just be empty. There’s the metronome (functional) and the art Matt’s parents gifted to us on the wall above, and that’s it.

Deer painting above a piano

Inspired by the feeling I felt in the dining room, I’m now looking at the rest of the house. The bookcases in the living room, my closet, the kitchen–what do I actually need and love?

How about you? Anyone else making a move towards minimalism? How do you balance sentimental collections while making your home feel calm and uncluttered?

 

 

Tiling the east field

Our farm came with six fields, but in the years that we’ve lived here, only five have been in use. The far east field has been “in rehab.” In fact, it’s also known as the rehab field. (This post shows a bird’s eye view of the property.)

The field is boggy with two marshy areas, one of which is right in the middle. It’s hilly and on some of the slopes the soil has washed away and the ground is very stony.

Green marshy area in the middle of the east field

The farmer who rents our fields told us that several years before we bought the farm, one of the previous owners brought in some dirt and regraded the field, and after that it didn’t drain properly. In the time that we’ve been here, the farmer has augmented the soil with manure and tried various measures to drain the field. Nothing has worked.

In fact, he’s gotten more and more frustrated as his equipment gets stuck in the mud and the field remains unuseable.

This view shows the east field and the big field from the same vantage point a few years ago. You can see that the big field is a lot healthier looking than the east.

East field

Big field

Every year we talk about tiling the field, and this spring our farmer decided to go ahead.

Note I wrote tiling, not tilling.

Tiling involves running weeping tile throughout the field underground to drain the water.

Our farmer hired a drainage contractor for this project. The first step was to survey the fields using GPS to map out the best drainage path.

Surveying the field by ATV to prepare for tiling

Then the big stuff showed up. A backhoe, bulldozer, a drainage plow and biiiiig rolls of weeping tile.

Baxter surveys the backhoe

Baxter standing in front of a spool of weeping tile

The plow was a really cool piece of equipment. It was a large tractor on caterpillar tracks with a spindle to carry the giant spool of tile. The plow cut into the ground and fed the tile into the trench and filled it back in all in one pass.

Drainage plow

Even after living in farm country for seven years, the novelty of farm equipment has not worn off for me. I marvel over the tractors, the combines, the plows and all the rest. So I loved seeing the drainage equipment at work. The maneuverability and power of the tractors was awesome. They went through the water, up hills, through trees–nothing stopped them.

Baxter watching the drainage plow tiling the field

Tiling the field

The crew laid tile all through the east field, a bit into the big field and drained it all through the front field and into the creek that runs across the front of the property.

Weeping tile

Field drainage tile flowing into a creek

There is still work to be done before the field is finally out of rehab. There’s a big section where top soil was scraped off, and it needs to be pushed back. As well, the trenches and ridges from the plow need to be leveled.

Field after tiling before levelling

Ridges in the field after tiling

The ground is still a little squishy in spots, as you can see by my boots (please give me props for not tipping over and dumping the baby into the mud).

Standing in the mud

But the tile is a huge step towards hopefully making the field more useable.

Do you have any muddy spots at your house? Or have you spotted any cool equipment at work? Is part of your property also “in rehab”?

 

Repair, don’t replace, your broken vinyl window

Vinyl windows have a good reputation for being low maintenance and energy efficient. However, they sometimes get a bad rap for longevity–as in they only last so long before they have to be replaced. Wood window aficionados will talk about how their windows can be repaired multiple times and last for decades or even centuries.

When I walked into the dining room one morning a couple of months ago and saw that one of the panes of glass had cracked, I was immediately anxious. All of our windows are vinyl, and the one in the dining room is huge. Replacing it would be expen$$$ive.

Cracked window pane

After a bit of research, I discovered that there was in fact a way to repair the broken pane, and I didn’t have to replace the whole window.

Phew.

This was one of the tasks on my One Room Challenge to-do list, but I didn’t go into any details during my ORC posts. You’ve seen the new dining room, but I wanted to share more on the window.

The dining room window is made up of five panes of thermal glass. The centre is a large fixed pane. At either end we have a double hung window. The upper sash on the right side was the one that cracked.

Dining room window

My online search uncovered multiple window repair companies. I picked four and called them up.

I asked about their process and timelines, gave them the measurements of my window and got a rough quote.

The quotes were all over the map: $450+tax on the high end to $175 all-in on the low end. For reference, our pane was 17 1/2 inches wide by 28 1/2 inches high.

Beyond that, between the different companies everything was pretty much the same. Someone would come to the house to measure the window accurately. They would then order the new pane of glass. It would be a thermal pane, just like the rest of the window. The new window would arrive in 2 to 3 weeks and then a repair person would return to install it. Install would be quick, about an hour.

The company with the cheapest price (The Glass Medic for locals) had a bunch of super positive reviews online, so I decided to go with them.

There was a slight delay as delivery schedules were adjusted for the Easter holiday, but our new glass arrived, along with the our installer, Mark.

Repairing a vinyl window

The old glass was held in place with plastic strips. Mark popped them off and lifted out the broken pane.

Repairing a vinyl window

He cleaned the frame carefully and put little spacers in place to allow room for the glass to expand–so it hopefully doesn’t break again.

Repairing a cracked vinyl window

Repairing a cracked vinyl window

Repairing a cracked vinyl window

He put the new thermal pane in place and reinstalled the strips. Then he wiped off the window,  and the job was done.

Repairing a cracked vinyl window

Repairing a cracked vinyl window

I am super happy with our repaired window. Obviously I’m very relieved we didn’t have to replace the whole thing. I’m also somewhat surprised that I hadn’t heard of these types of repairs before.

Repairing a cracked vinyl window

Broken panes, broken seals, a variety of issues can all be repaired. This obviously saves money, but also saves waste as a whole window is not going in the garbage (an often cited objection to vinyl windows).

What type of windows do you have at your home? Have you ever broken a window? We’re not sure how ours cracked. Mark said it could have been a long-time fault in the glass that finally came out. Have you ever fixed a window? Or replaced one?

Repair, don't replace, your broken vinyl window