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?

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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.

An evening walk

Most of the time, walking with Baxter is a highlight of my day. I love getting outside. The quiet of the farm and the dog clear my mind or give me space to think things through. Usually, Ellie is with us and we savour the farm, the three of us together.

Like me, Sarah in Illinois is trying to slow down and be in the moment. Her time with her favourite furry fellow, Blitz, is special for her too.

The older I get, the more I try to find ways to improve myself. One way I do this is to try to slow down and appreciate things around me. Especially everyday things that I tend to take for granted.

One thing that I realize I am very lucky to have is a nice quiet safe road to take Blitz on walks.

This road is mainly used for field access so most times of the year it is untravelled.

I take a leash with me just in case but for the most part Blitz is free to roam. There are always smells for him to check out.

I got in a great habit of going on a 20-30 minute walk every day after work. However, now that time changed and our daylight has shortened, we don’t get to go nearly as often.

I sure do miss those sunsets!

Blitz and I will both be anxiously awaiting spring and longer daylight hours.

Do you have a favorite walking spot? Do you dread the dark days of the winter months? Do you take the time to watch sunsets/sunrises?

This looks like a great spot to spend time with Blitz, Sarah. We do road walks occasionally at the farm, but our road is pretty busy, so usually we walk in our fields–not a hardship at all!

I find that one “bright” spot of shorter days is that I catch more sunrises and sunsets.

Barn repairs – Starting at the bottom

Barn

When we were looking for our farm, I think our real estate agent started to think we were buying a barn rather than a house. I love the beams and the stones and the history, and we fell in love with pretty much every barn we saw.

Fortunately, our barn is in pretty good shape. In fact, previous owners had done quite a bit of work on it–more of an investment than we would ever make.

But we had one issue come up–or down. Some time in the spring, a section of the barn foundation caved in.

Collapsed barn foundation

The stone foundation is double layered, and the outer layer under one of the windows fell down.

The inner layer stayed in place, but as I looked at the wall and thought about fixing it, I came up with a new plan. Take down the inner layer, remove the window and make a door.

The cave-in happened in the corner where I want to put our coop, so having a door would make accessing the birds a whole lot easier.

But first we had to access the barn. We’ve not done a good job of yard maintenance around the barn, and we had all kinds of trees and brush. Matt’s Dad brought his chainsaw and spent a day clearing the mess.

Clearing vegetation from around the barn

Then our mason was able to remove the stones and pour a new threshold for us.

Matt, Ellie and I all put our handprints in the cement (then Ralph and Baxter trampled all over them to add a few prints of their own. I retrowelled the cement and we smushed our hands in again). I love so much that our prints will be here, part of this farm and this beautiful old barn.

Handprints in cement

My brother and sister-in-law came for a visit, so I took advantage of the extra help and my brother and I removed the window and framed up the opening.

Building a door in a barn foundation

Then the mason returned and rebuilt the wall up to the new jamb. This is the same mason that built our fireplace, so he’s very skilled in working with stone and enjoyed the puzzle of fitting everything together. (These pictures give you an idea of the width of these fabulous walls. The jamb is a 2×10, and it’s just about half the wall.)

Repairing a stone barn foundation

Repairing a stone barn foundation

We haven’t figured out the door itself yet. The opening is blocked with plywood, which will likely stay up for the winter. Next year, we’ll build a door. I haven’t quite made up my mind whether it will be sliding or swinging. The opening is very large, so whatever door we have will be heavy.

I often feel that we are stewards of this property, and I feel the same about the barn. It existed long before we arrived at this farm. And hopefully, with a bit of care from us, it will exist long after.

Odds & sods

Happy last week of November. I hope everyone had a nice weekend and a great Thanksgiving.

I know everyone always says that time flies, but I am seriously amazed that it’s already the end of the month–and one month from now will be Boxing Day. Hard to believe.

I’ve really been trying to be in the moment over the past few months and not look too far ahead. I want to savour my time with Ellie and Matt. It’s not about what’s next. It’s about what we’re doing now and enjoying it. Admittedly, life isn’t always enjoyable, but moments are temporary. If Ellie needs to be held a little while longer, I’ll give her that, because someday she won’t want to sit with Mama.

Speaking of the passage of time, our baby is 9 months old now. She’s been out as long as she was in. Ellie shared her 9 month birthday with what would have been my paternal grandmother’s 104th birthday, which made the day even more special. We marked the occasion by taking another photo of our girl with her tractor.

Ellie sitting on her tractor

Looking back over the rest of the month, here is a round-up of some things that have caught my eye.

Kitchen refresh by The Handmade Home

A really smart kitchen refresh

A checklist for making green home improvements

I’ve realized I have many feelings about names… and apparently others do too

How dog agility applies to all dog training

The world is better than we think (my book recommendation from Obama)

Worrying is praying for stuff you don’t want

Say yes to your life. Because… this is it.

My writing elsewhere:

How we care for our barn cat

Livestock Guardian Dogs – An Introduction

Why does my dog refuse to walk with other people?

We’re gearing up for a busy week here. We have a bunch of appointments, including a doctor visit for Ellie and her last swimming lesson. We’ve loved swimming and will be buying a pass to go on our own until Ellie’s eligible for the next level of lessons.

We’re also preparing to host some of Matt’s extended family for our annual month before Christmas party this weekend. It’s always so nice to see everyone and spend time together. While Christmas has obviously already hit the blogosphere, this party is my cue to start decorating and start getting my head into the season.

What’s ahead for you this week? Are you in Christmas mode yet? Or are you, like me, trying to live in the moment?