Looking back at Home Goals 2021

I returned to annual home goals last year after a four-year break. It felt good to be focused and have some projects to work on through the year. And I feel like I did pretty well at accomplishing my goals.

Here’s a look back at what happened around the farm in 2021.

Garage addition

Our biggest project last year (biggest home project so far) was the garage and mudroom. These spaces have made such a difference for our home and how we use it. There are a few things to work on still (Home Goals 2022 coming soon!), but I am so happy we did this renovation.

Playground expansion

The treehouse playground was a highlight of last year. Both for the actual building and for the fun Ellie has playing on it.

Pond shore

The pond shore is my perennial home goal. Last year, we cleared a little more of the shore, though I didn’t do as much as I hoped and I didn’t build a little bridge across the creek. What is clear, we enjoyed, though. I had bonfires almost every week with my friends over the summer, and Ellie and I make regular visits to the little waterfall.

Vegetable garden

I would classify the garden as a fail last year. I tried mulch, but didn’t build proper raised rows. And I didn’t spend enough time in the garden to maintain it. We did grow a few things, and I feel like I keep learning every year.

The last big junk pile

The last big junk pile is pretty much gone and our new compost area is built. I have a bit more to tidy this spring, but the view out the dining room window is vastly improved.

Bedroom refresh

I thought my new duvet cover might inspire other changes in our bedroom. That didn’t happen. (My Mom did gift me with new pillows for Christmas.) The space is working well enough. Though I still think a closet reorganization would be lovely.

History

I was able to keep in touch with the woman who’s family first owned this farm over the last year. In fact, I have a story of a special tree planting to share soon.

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

The garage, mudroom and treehouse are the big wins of last year. The garden is the big fail. But overall I am really happy with what we accomplished. I work best when I have specific projects to focus on, and I’m looking forward to setting new goals for 2022.

What was your biggest accomplishment at your house last year? Did you have any fails? Did you set any home goals?

How to make a simple Christmas tree skirt from a tablecloth

After we’d set up the tree, after we’d strung the lights and hung all the ornaments, Ellie asked, “Where’s the cape?”

The “cape,” or the tree skirt, was the final touch to hide the stand and, most important, provide a spot to rest all of the presents.

These days, there are lots of options for the base of your Christmas tree. However, I still like our simple skirt. And simple is the best word for this DIY.

I made our tree skirt from a Christmas tablecloth.

Here’s how:

Find a round tablecloth in a pattern you like. Ours is about 6 feet in diameter.

Slit the tablecloth along the radius. (In other words, cut halfway across your table cloth from the edge to the centre. You can find the centre by folding the tablecloth in half and then in quarters. You’ll have a generous slice of pie. The point of the pie is the centre of your tablecloth.)

Cut a 6 inch diameter circle out of the middle of your tablecloth. This will be where the tree trunk goes. Use a plate or another round object as your pattern.

Sew a zigzag stitch around the edge of the trunk cutout and the slit to prevent your fabric from fraying.

Attach velcro along either side of the slit.

Drape your tablecloth around the bottom of the tree. Use the velcro to close the skirt. Put the velcro at the back of the tree so it isn’t visible.

And voila. Your Christmas tree now has a beautiful cape.

Does your Christmas tree have a cape? How do you style the bottom of your tree? Have you ever used a tablecloth for something other than a table? How many presents are under your tree so far?

Halfway through Home Goals 2021

I really like setting goals for the farm every year. With a large property, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done. Or pulled in a million different directions working on a million different projects.

This year has been feeling really good. I love being productive and making progress, and that’s what’s been happening so far.

At the start of the year, I identified seven projects or goals that I wanted to work on. (The original post has six because I wasn’t ready to talk about the garage yet, but it was definitely on my mind when I wrote the list.)

The goals were garage addition, playground expansion, pond shore clean-up, vegetable garden, the last big junk pile, bedroom refresh, and farm history.

Some of these goals are interconnected. The garage addition led to the playground expansion, as we used the wood from the old pool deck for the treehouse. The junk pile started to get organized (and downsized) because I needed a spot to stash the brick that were removed from the pool exterior. Part of organizing the junk pile involved tossing two old bales of hay into the garden for mulch.

With any home project, dominoes can happen really easily and it’s nice to be able to line them up intentionally. Here are some more details on how we’ve been doing with each goal.

Garage addition

The garage and mudroom are turning out so, so well. After thinking about this renovation for so long, I’m really pleased with the result. We are also so close to being done. (I owe you a look at the panelled and tiled mudroom.) We are waiting on doors. Person doors. Garage doors. We need doors. Once doors go in, trim can be finished and we can move in.

Playground expansion

I am almost as excited for Ellie’s treehouse/playground as I am for the garage. It’s big. It’s fun. And it’s something that I’ve done mostly by myself. It’s been a long time since I’ve built like this. I’d like things to be going a little faster, but bit by bit I keep making progress.

Pond shore

The barometer for the pond shore is can I mow it? Well, I’ve been mowing a little bit more shore this year. I clipped back brush and tiny trees. Matt’s Dad cut some more trees that had sprouted out of an old stump. Ellie and I carried everything to the firepit and had an epic blaze. We’re not ready to build our new bridge yet, but we have the beginning of a little path between two pines as I’ve always envisioned and we can access the waterfall more easily.

Vegetable garden

Ellie and I finally unrolled two old bales of hay and spread them over one quadrant of the garden. The hay (along with the cardboard I put underneath it) is doing a good job of keeping the weeds down for us. (Though everywhere else they’re as prolific as ever.) I haven’t managed to build any raised rows, but we have planted some tomatoes and a few other seeds. We were late and the seeds were old, but we have a few things growing in the garden for the first time in several years.

The last big junk pile

We’ve done dump runs, dragged brush to the burn pile, dug things out of the ground, picked glass out of the dirt and finally started mowing a little bit of the area beside the garden. In addition to being the dumping ground for who knows what, this spot is also my compost pile for weeds and other cuttings from the gardens. I’ve dealt with most of the who knows what. What’s left is piles of brush and leaves and weeds. Then the plan is to build a new compost bin that will contain the mess.

Bedroom refresh

The inspiration to refresh our bedroom was the new TRUBBTÅG duvet cover from Ikea. Which appeared to be out of stock for the first half of this year. It’s finally here, and now I’m wondering what else I want to do for this room?

History

Connecting with the woman whose family first owned this farm was a very meaningful experience last year for me. Due to lockdowns, we’ve not seen each other very much, and she’s not been out to the farm yet this year. We have kept in touch and I am looking forward to learning more about this special place.

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

Progress is the theme for our Home Goals so far. Nothing is done yet. I’m not sure we’ll be completely finished any of them by the end of the year. But we’re making progress, and that makes me very happy.

It felt good to set goals at the beginning of the year. It felt like I was coming back into this part of myself that has been pushed to the background since I got pregnant, since Ellie was born, since Matt was sick.

It’s also felt good to work on these goals this year. Every day is a juggle of Ellie, work, farm, life. But the juggle has felt like a balance–of sorts–so far. I feel like I’ve made more progress this year than we have in a long time, and I’m excited to see what we accomplish over the rest of the year.

What have you been up to this year? How to you prioritize projects at your house? Are you feeling in balance? Productive? Motivated?

Ellie’s big girl bed

Ellie’s room got an update just before Christmas when we took apart her crib and set up a bed.

Colourful toddler bedroom

I had always envisioned this bed in the space. This was my bed when I was her age. Before that, it was my uncle’s bed when he was a child. It came from my grandmother’s family’s furniture store.

It is solid wood. Clean lines. Great quality. With super cute cubbies built into the headboard.

Anna doll lying in a cubby in a bed headboard

The finish was natural wood, but a little bit orange for my taste and also for her space. I didn’t want to change the other parts of her room. The turquoise paint on the walls, the grey wood toned dresser, the white bookcase. Those were all staying, so I needed the bed to work with those pieces.

I was a bit worried my Mom (the caretaker of the bed) wouldn’t like my plan to paint the bed, but she was all for it. A few coats of my go-to Cloud White by Benjamin Moore (in their Advance finish, which is good on furniture), and it was exactly what I had envisioned. And my Mom was thrilled, both that the bed was being used again and that it looked so fresh with its new white paint.

Ellie’s room is not large, so we could only fit a single bed. We rearranged some of her other furniture to make everything fit. It might be a wee bit tight, but everything fits (including her tractor) and the layout works for us.

Colourful toddler bedroom

And, best of all, the transition from crib to bed went pretty well too.

Who else likes secret cubby-holes? Have you repurposed any family hand-me-downs at your house? What is your crib-bed transition story?

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?

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?

Glam bench makeover from a 70s TV stand

I have a core group of 5 really, really close friends. Many of us met in grade 1 or 2. The history and the shared experiences are immense.

As the years have progressed, we have each taken different paths in life. Sometimes we don’t see each other very often or keep in touch the way that we feel we should.

When Matt died, all of my friends rallied around us, exactly the way that I knew that they would. They have been there for us in so many ways.

One friend started coming every Thursday night for dinner. The commute from her work was usually more than an hour, and she would often roll up the driveway just as I was putting dinner on the table (hungry toddlers are not to be messed with).

After a couple of weeks, she said to me, “You can stop inviting me. I’ll be here.” We would eat, and I would put Ellie to bed, and then we’d sit and talk. Sometimes another friend would join us.

When quarantine began, our Thursday dinners stopped. And oh I miss them. It felt like a huge hole in my week. Daily texts were not enough.

Desperate to connect, we came up with the idea to watch Celebrity IOU on HGTV together. Or as much as you can be together when you fear for your life during a global pandemic.

I would sit alone in the basement, the baby monitor by my side. My friend would sit in her condo with her cats. And we’d text commentary back and forth. It was fun. A connection. Casual. Someone who shared my delight in home stuff. Someone who shared my opinions and sense of humour… most of the time.

One episode was a more glam makeover. My friend texted, “Oh, I want that” at the same time as I wrote, “That would be perfect for you.”

So when I came up with the idea to redo this old TV stand, she was the first person I thought of. Something glam. Special. Fun. Feminine.

Vintage 70s TV stand

She–like me, like the rest of this special group of friends–is turning 40 this year. So the day before her birthday, I gifted her with this bench. She was really happy. It felt like her. It fit in with what she’s doing at her home–and has inspired her to do a few more updates to her bedroom.

Brass and white bench

Brass and white bench

Brass and white bench

Our furniture and our homes are so, so much more than just things and spaces. They represent the people who live in them and use them. For me, this bench represents 40 years of my friends and I figuring out who we are and how to embrace it. Nearly 35 years of caring for each other and helping each other.

It represents how we all–all six of us–work to give each other the love, peace and joy that we wish for each other.

Musing about kitchen floors

The scene plays out most nights at our house. After dinner, I go to the sink, turn on the water, squirt in the soap and start washing the dishes. Ellie comes running. “Ellie help! Ellie do dishes!”

She collects various play cups, we drag her step stool over to the sink and we switch the faucet back and forth between her sink and mine as we do the dishes. I feel like the “we” and “do this dishes” each deserve their own quotation marks there.

Every few minutes, I swipe the counter, the floor, the toddler with the towel and try to stem the flood.

And I think to myself, we can never have wood floors in the kitchen.

Now I realize I will not always have a two year old who loves to play in the water. But I still don’t think wood floors in the kitchen are for me. I am not that tidy of a cook or diligent of a housekeeper.

I feel lucky to have wood floors in our living, dining and bed rooms and plan to extend them through much of the main floor someday. But I don’t think I’ll be extending them into the kitchen.

A rule of interior design seems to be have one consistent flooring throughout your house (or at least the main floor). It makes your house seem larger, and, especially in an open concept plan, it allows spaces to flow together. And wood is the go-to flooring choice.

But when we (someday) renovate the kitchen, I’m going to be looking for something other than wood that works with wood elsewhere. And I’m going to have to figure out how to transition from wood to whatever floor I use in the kitchen.

I took a little tour around the internet to get some ideas, so I thought I’d share some of them with you today. I’d also appreciate your advice. Have you seen any flooring transitions that you like? How do you mix flooring? What flooring do you like best for a kitchen?

Stops and starts

Room boundaries are the most common points where flooring changes. Right now our wood stops and our tile starts at the large archway between the kitchen and the living room.

This house is open concept, but you can see they’ve defined the kitchen and dining area with different flooring.

This kitchen uses the boundary between the living area and kitchen as a rough guide, but it plays up the division in an artistic, creative way. I’m looking for something more subtle, but I feel like this look works in this cool, colourful kitchen.

I felt like I’d had a major breakthrough the other week when I realized I could choose another landmark other than the “line” between the living room and the kitchen. A landmark like the island. What if I made the island the boundary of the kitchen and used my durable, non-wood flooring on the kitchen side of the island and wood everywhere else?

Sarah Richardson kind of did this in her farmhouse. She put a tile section in the main work area between the sink and the stove. The rest of the kitchen (and the main floor) is wood.

You can see in this picture that the tile is barely visible from the other side of the island, so the feeling of consistency and openness is maintained.

Now I’m mulling over what kind of floor would work. I know there are wood look-a-likes out there, but given the real wood we have elsewhere, I don’t want to mix. And I’d like to stay away from tile or stone, as I find it too hard to stand on during long cooking sessions.

The kitchen reno is a long way off, likely, but thinking about it is part of the fun for me. Want to join me in a little day-dreaming?

What would you do?

 

Child’s art display in the playroom

I am someone who loves bulletin boards. I fill them with inspirational pictures and sayings, family photos, reminders, notes, calendars–anything and everything.

When Matt and I moved into our first house, one of the bedrooms had a built in desk with upper shelves. I took a roll of cork and pasted it to the wall between the two shelves. When I switched jobs, I covered the utilitarian grey bulletin board in my new office with pretty floral fabric. In Ellie’s room, when it used to be my office, I built a custom tall, narrow cork board (and again covered it in pretty floral fabric) for the weird niche that’s just inside the door.

I had the idea to add a cork board to Ellie’s new basement play area awhile ago. There was a big blank wall above the shelves that was perfect for some art. Or lots of art.

Cork board art display in our toddler's playroom

Our girl loves drawing and painting and making. And when I started putting her creations up on the fridge, she was thrilled. It was so touching to see how proud she was to have her art on display.

I wanted to give her a designated spot to hang her pictures, and adding a bulletin board to her play zone was the perfect solution.

Cork board art display in our toddler's playroom

But I wanted a large bulletin board and every where I looked they were expen$ive.

I finally decided that I spend very, very little on art. I spent very little setting up her play area. I had been thinking about a bulletin board for a few months. Ellie’s art collection is only going to grow.

I could afford to splurge on the bulletin board.

So I found the most affordable source I could and ordered it.

It fills the wall perfectly (I chose a 6 foot by 4 foot board), and it’s a fun addition to her play room.

Cork board art display in our toddler's playroom

I feel like this cork board is an example of how I like to think beyond pictures when it comes to art and wall decor.

Elsewhere in the basement we have our oversize wood scrabble tiles, DIY posters, photo collages of Matt (hung at Ellie’s height), and even some enamel basins in the laundry room. Wall art is all about adding interest to your space and there are so many ways to do that beyond pictures. A bulletin board may not seem artsy, but it soon will be filled with art. And it will be a meaningful, personal display for Ellie’s play area.

Are you a bulletin board person? Do you call it a bulletin board or a cork board? Is there a difference? How do you display your kid’s art? Have you made a decor or organizing splurge? What unconventional “art” do you have at your house?

Colourful and cozy toddler play area

Thank you everyone for your kind comments on the last few posts. It has felt like a big step to return to blogging and find my voice again, and I appreciate your warm welcome and patience very much.

Keeping busy has helped me get through the last few months, and one of my projects is a new play zone for Ellie. I think I love it just as much as she does.

Colourful toddler playzone

We had already amassed what felt like a large collection of toys. Then Christmas arrived and I felt overwhelmed by all of the new additions every time I walked into the living room.

Baby, you’re movin’ to the basement.

It was time to get organized.

Bring on the bins!

Colourful toddler playzone

Well, before I could get to the bins, I first had to find the shelf to store them. I reused a shelf that I had built for the office in our first house. It had a brief life in the main area of our basement here, but has been tucked away for a few years.

I hauled it out and gave it a fresh coat of white paint. A trip to the dollar store found bins that fit pretty much perfectly (they’re a bit long, but that makes them easier to grab). Initially, I was not in love with their bright green colour and planned to spray paint them, but once they were in place, the colour worked with the our DIY refurbished ding pong table and felt fun and fitting for our basement.

I’ve organized toys by category: cars, stuffed animals, farm, food, lego, balls & blocks, music. I may label the bins with pictures at some point, but for now I do the clean-up most of the time so labels aren’t needed.

Colourful toddler playzone

The top of the shelf holds some of Ellie’s extensive tractor collection and a few books and everything is within Ellie’s reach.

By far Ellie’s favourite thing to play with are books, so I knew I had to have a library of some kind. I’ve loved the idea of book ledges, so off to Ikea we went for some spice racks. I picked a small selection of books from the main bookshelf in her room and tucked in some small stuffed animals for extra fun.

Toddler reading nook with spice rack bookshelves

A collection of pillows under the shelves make a cozy spot to read.

Toddler reading nook with spice rack bookshelves

Purple is the one pop of colour that we’ve not used elsewhere in the basement. I’ve been trying to incorporate it for awhile, but I’ve never found the right spot. When I decided that the pink and purple ape would be a regular resident of Ellie’s play space, I knew it was time for the purple.

This ape was a class mascot that came home from school with Matt years ago. He has been wearing a T-shirt that had a nerdy saying about history on it and sitting in a corner of the basement all this time. When I took off the T-shirt, I was shocked to see that Matt’s students had written “Merry Christmas” and then all signed their names on the ape’s belly. This will be something nice for Ellie to see when she’s a little older and help her understand how special her Dad is.

Colourful toddler playzone

The ape is lounging on some purple pillows. I already had the purple upholstery fabric, pillow forms and even zippers, so these were a quick project. But when I spotted a rare Purple People Eater pelt at a local fabric store, I knew some faux fur was just what this little nook needed.

While the shelf and the nook and the books are the main play area, the rest of this room is also very much about Ellie. Bigger toys line up along the wall, her growth chart hangs in here. There’s even a spot for Baxter, who likes to keep an eye on his little sister.

Colourful toddler playzone

 

Colourful toddler playzone

And at the far end of the room, I added a special gallery of photos.

Colourful toddler playzone

Matt’s brother made these photo collages for Matt’s memorial. Ellie loves looking at pictures of Daddy, and it’s important to me that he has as much of a presence in her life as possible. So hanging these photos where Ellie can see them easily was an easy decision.

Ellie looking at photos of Daddy

Having a little DIY, organizing, decorating project felt really good. It was a distraction, but also a reconnection to who I am and a reminder of what I like to do.

I also feel really good every time Ellie asks to go downstairs to play, which is often now.