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?

 

The baby’s first build

Growing up, my parents always included my siblings and me in whatever was happening at our house. Maintenance, building, painting, renovating, cleaning–we were all involved. Some of it was chores. Some of it was just how our family rolled.

Looking back, I can see how these experiences gave us confidence, responsibility, skills, teamwork, work ethic, understanding and much more. This foundation set us up for our own homes and our own lives.

I don’t think my parents necessarily thought too deeply about the long-term benefits their approach would have. They liked doing things with us and wanted us to be involved. Or they needed help, and they had 8 extra hands hanging around. … Or, more likely, they had 8 extra hands and needed to keep them busy.

Today, a year into parenting, my sense is that most people spend a lot of time thinking–and worrying–about how to raise our children. What type of person do I hope my child grows up to be? How do I help her become that? I don’t think our aspirations are too much different than those of our parents. But I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves and spend a lot of time reading different theories, trying different techniques and thinking about how to set our children up for success.

Admittedly, I’ve only been doing this Mom thing for a year. I have a long way to go, and I expect that we will face many challenges. However, I’m hoping that I can channel my own parents and remember how much I benefited from simply being involved in whatever they were doing.

Ellie and I did our first real build recently. You’ve seen her previously helping to make our invisible bookends and supervising some sanding. But this time she actually got her hands on some of the tools and materials. Of course, she also got her mouth on them too.

Baby playing with screwdriver and drill

My Mom gave Ellie a set of table and chairs for Christmas. I decided that since they were hers she should be part of putting them together.

Baby leaning on a box

I of course spent a fair amount of time making sure she didn’t drop the drill on herself, stick the screwdriver too far down her throat, cut herself on the scissors, or eat too much of the packaging. But we also had fun talking things through, finding the right pieces and putting it all together.

Baby excited to be holding a piece of wood

Fun is the best word I have to describe how it felt to build this little table and chairs with her.

Mom and baby sitting a child size table

I hope we have a lot more fun in the future. And I hope that she grows up to be a confident, capable, helpful woman, in part because of the things we do together.

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.

Family photo shoot at the farm

Family photo in front of the barn
There’s a very special project at the farm that I have wanted to do for years. A family photo shoot.

Aside from our wedding, Matt and I don’t have any professional photos. Since moving to the farm, I’ve wanted to have a photographer come here to this place that’s so special to us.

With the addition of Ellie, my desire for photos only increased. So for my birthday in September, I reached out to a local photographer and booked a shoot.

Matt and Ellie

We kept things fairly simple. Just a half hour. Outside at the farm. Wearing our regular clothes (although this was Ellie’s first time in jeans and I did put on makeup).

Me and Ellie

Top on my wishlist was a photo of all of us–Ralph, Baxter, Ellie, Matt and me. But I wasn’t sure we could make it happen. Ralph was the wildcard because she’s occasionally not around. But as soon as the photographer arrived, Ralph came out of the barn, tossed her head and struck a pose–basically saying, “I’m ready for my close-up.”

Family photo in front of the barn

At one point the photographer suggested some shots of us sitting on the driveway. My reaction was to smile, and she said, “What? Is that weird?” And I said, “Having a long driveway was one of my requirements when we were looking for a farm. So having photos done on the driveway is actually perfect.”

For Bax though, the driveway photos were a bit weird. He sat slightly behind the photographer off to the side for awhile, and then he slowly moved closer and closer. Until, “This sitting on the driveway thing is weird, but if this is what we’re doing, okay.” (Aside. This sequence resulted in my favourite photos from the whole shoot. Matt’s facial expression is so natural and so happy. Please ignore my awkward, not at all natural, attempt to lay my head on his shoulder.)

Baxter photobombing our family photo shoot

Hiring a professional is so worth it. She understands lighting and setting and composition and equipment. It’s very different from getting a family member or friend with a “good camera” to come over and take some pictures. Plus, photographing a dog, cat, baby and two self-conscious adults is not an easy task.

(Our photographer was Ashley of One Love Storytelling Photography. Her storytelling approach resonated with me so much. You can check out her site to see wonderful photos of other beautiful families.)

Family photo shoot at the farm

These photos are something I know we will always treasure. It is so special to mark this time in our lives and have this record of all of us together.

Remembering

Ellie and I at the Remembrance Day ceremony

Before my Dad died, maybe even before I was pregnant with Ellie, I said to Matt one night how sad I was that if we ever had children they would never know their grandfather. My Dad’s Parkinson’s was progressing, and coupled with dementia he wasn’t himself anymore. Matt said, “There is more than one way to know someone.” My wise husband.

So I make sure to tell Ellie about her grandfather and teach her some of the things that my Dad taught me.

Today is an important day for our family and part of the tradition I want to pass on to Ellie. Remembrance Day.

This is the day when I think about my grandfather, another man that I want Ellie to know.

The annual Remembrance Day service at the legion in my hometown is something I shared with my Dad every year. It was different this year.

My Dad was not there in person.

But we went with Ellie. And we talk to her over the day about her grandfather and great grandfather. We will carry on the tradition with her.

I feel my Dad’s spirit every day. So he was there still. And so was Ellie.

What is taken and what is given

In the early days of this blog, my Dad was a regular presence. He showed up in photos and posts as we shared the various projects we were working on.

Matt, Dad and me tiling the basement bathroom

Over the years, his presence here has slowly dwindled as Parkinson’s Disease took more and more of his body and his mind.

A few weeks ago, Parkinson’s Disease took his life.

Way too soon.

We are mourning that he was taken from us. But we are also mourning everything that was taken from him. More time at the farm or the house he built with my Mom, helping my brother and sisters with their houses. Time with Ellie and his other grandchildren. Time with his garden, his lathe, his boat–all of the things and places and people that he loves.

Dad meeting Ellie for the first time

We grieve what has been taken. But we celebrate everything that he has given us.

A few years ago, I wrote about how I became a DIYer. I said, “When it comes to the renovation and home improvement side of my DIY personality, my biggest influence is my Dad.”

Working with my Dad and Grandpa

I see my Dad in so much of the farm.

When we first moved in, Dad was here every weekend, helping us put the basement back together. A contractor, he ran his own business and worked construction all week, and then he gave us his weekends, doing more.

Removing a window well

He supervised trades, leaving us notes to let us know how things went. He advised us, he supported us and he taught us.

Note from Dad

This note, left on the day we had our new well drilled, gives details on the well and pump and ends with “Drinks is on me. Love Dad.” He had filled the glasses outside with water from the new well.

He is the most selfless person I know and does everything for his family.

The major reason we felt ready to take on the farm and actually looked for a fixer-upper was that we knew Dad was there for us. He’d been with us through our first house and I’d worked many summers with him in his business.

Drilling post holes with an auger

He helped us to achieve this dream of having a farm and making it what we want. I feel him here, even as I miss working with him. Being at the farm gives me an amazing feeling of peace. I would not be here without him.

All my life, my Dad included me, taught me, gave me confidence and spent time with me.

My Dad took every chance to tell me how much he loves me, how proud he is of me, how happy he is to see who I have become. Especially as he neared the end of his life, he made sure we had no doubt how he feels about us.

I love the life that Matt and I have built together. I hope that we can give Ellie the love, guidance, work ethic, responsibility, kindness, strength and confidence that my Dad and Mom give me.

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Dad, I am so grateful for the life you have given me. Thank you. I love you so much.

We’ve been encouraging people to honour our Dad with a few suggestions that are in keeping with how he lived his life:

  • Get together with a friend or family member whom you haven’t seen in awhile

  • Donate blood at your next local blood donor clinic

  • Donate to Parkinson Canada or the Alzheimer Society of Canada

  • Help a child have a fun experience outdoors (take them yourself or donate to a children’s charity camp)

If you choose to do any of these things, it would mean a lot if you’d share it with me in the comments.

First Father’s Day

The moment Ellie was born, she let out a cry and the doctor placed her on my chest. Matt said, “It’s a girl.” And he was laughing. I was in an over-whelmed haze at that moment, but hearing that happiness, that emotion is something I will never forget.

So much joy that he had to laugh.

Matt and Ellie

A few hours later, our midwife asked for her name. I looked at Matt and he said her name for the first time. That act of him naming her is one of the best moments of my life.

Matt, Ellie and Baxter snuggling on the bed

We have some amazing examples of fathers in our lives. Men who are hard-working, kind, selfless and who do anything for their children.

These are qualities I have always seen in Matt, and they have reached another level as he has become a Dad.

Happy Father’s Day, from our family to yours.