Creative, affordable and personal art for a nursery

My approach to art is all about keeping it personal and affordable. When it came to the nursery, I had so many ideas that I couldn’t fit them all on the walls.

I thought it might be helpful to share the ideas here–including some that we did and some that we didn’t. I’d also love your input on what art you’ve incorporated into your babies’ rooms and other ideas you have.

Family mementos – The most sentimental piece of art in the room by far is Matt’s first pair of sleepers. These were what he wore home from the hospital. Can you believe it?

Baby sleepers framed in a homemade shadowbox

I built a simple shadow box, which protects and displays the sleepers and hung them in the little nook just inside the door. (I’ll be sharing more details on this project in an upcoming post.)

Anything can go in a shadow box–and a shadow box makes anything look artsy. Consider displaying a special toy, a small collection or a hospital bracelet. They would all make beautiful art.

Sleepers framed in a shadow box

Baby animals – Is there anything as cute as a baby animal? Before we considered having children, I knew if I was ever decorating a nursery I wanted some prints from the Animal Print Shop–they’re a nursery staple for a reason. The photos are so crisp and full of personality.

Animal portraits in a turquoise gender neutral nursery

I picked three animals that you may find someday on our farm. They make me smile every time I see them–although Matt thinks the duck is scheming something. Paintings, drawings, illustrations or photos, there are lots of options online–or even on your own camera–to get some cute animal art.

Animal busts – While I’m not advocating taxidermy for a baby’s room–not that there’s anything wrong with that if that’s meaningful for you–I love the different options that are available now for displaying animal heads on the wall. Most are really fun and whimsical.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

Way back, before the third bedroom became my office and before my office became the nursery, I bought a papier mache goose head on Etsy that reminded me of the pet goose I had growing up. Bill has made the transition from office to nursery, and I think he’s a perfect fit for our farm theme.

Paper mache goose head

A favourite story book – There are so many great children’s stories out there. Consider scanning or cutting pages from your favourite story book, framing and displaying them. This isn’t something we’ve done in our nursery, but I know exactly what story I’ll choose if I ever change up the decor.

Children's story Jill's Jack

Children's story Jill's Jack

Growth chart – While it’s not applicable to an infant, I love a growth chart to track Ellie as she grows through the years. I made growth charts for both of my sisters when they had their first children, and I was excited to make one for our own baby.

Ruler growth chart

Alphabet/numbers art – Babies and children are learning so much, and we want to start them off right. So educational art is a natural fit for nurseries. Plus so much of it is pretty cute too. I found these animal alphabet flashcards through The Grit and Polish and knew right away they’d be perfect for the baby’s room.

Alphabet flashcards above the changing table

Like many of the commenters on Cathy’s blog suggested, I had them laminated so if they ever go on to a life as actual flashcards, they hopefully won’t get too tattered. Rather than framing 26 individual cards, I strung a pair of twine clotheslines and clipped the cards up with miniature clothespins. Etsy is a great source for beautiful flashcards (my set are by Susan Windsor).

Alphabet flashcards hung on a twine clothesline

Ultrasound print – Ultrasounds are very special moments in our journey to being parents. For me, the first ultrasound was the moment our baby became real–“holy moly, there’s really something in there.”

Remember that moment you first “met” your baby with a print of an ultrasound picture. If you have a bit of Photoshop or design skills, this is something you can DIY fairly easily. Or there are lots of services that offer ultrasound prints these days. Chris Loves Julia shared one in their daughter Polly’s nursery.

Ultrasound art

Quote – I admit I’m not the biggest fan of typography art. A sign with a word or two just isn’t my thing. But these longer quotes that I first saw on The Painted Hive are absolutely lovely and really speak to me.

Book quote art by the Painted Hive

You could use a quote from a favourite story (this would go great with the storybook art idea above), a song verse, an inspirational wish for your child or something that is particularly meaningful to you. For a different treatment, The Handmade Home does beautifully coloured quotes.

My mama choice would be this poem from Kahlil Gibran On Children:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

A talisman – This idea may be a bit abstract, but sometimes there’s something that we associate with our children. At the baby shower Matt’s family hosted for me, his sister-in-law decorated each table with sunflowers and sent every guest home with a packet of sunflower seeds to plant in their gardens. Sunflowers have now become something that I associate with our baby, and I love the idea of incorporating a photo of a sunflower or an artificial sunflower into the room. Nicole at Making it Lovely wears a special piece of jewelry for each of her children, which I think is absolutely… lovely (of course).

Sunflower puckered up for a kiss

Online printables – There is so much beautiful art available online. Minted and Jenny’s Print Shop are popular sources, but there are many more too. Don’t forget free printables as well. This pencil drawing from Shades of Blue Interiors is an extremely moving image for me. I printed and framed this as a gift to Matt’s brother and sister-in-law just before they had their first baby, and I still may find a spot for it in our baby’s nursery too.

Shades of Blue Interiors nativity print

Silhouettes – Anyone remember tracing their profile in silhouette in grade school for art class? A silhouette of your child’s profile is a super easy DIY and super personal. I spotted this silhouette via Shailey Murphy on Instagram, and I love how the artist Kendra of Lilac Paperie incorporated flowers (including Shailey’s daughter’s birth month flower) and other elements to make it even more special.

Child's silhouette by Lilac Paperie

Family tree – I made this fan family tree for our master bedroom, but I think it would be perfect for a baby’s room too. Put her name and birthdate in the centre and then branch out from there. It’s a lovely reminder of the heritage you’re carrying on in your family. (Martha Stewart has a free template).

Fan family tree

There are so many more creative ideas out there for creative, affordable, personal art. You can make a space that perfectly fits your style and is meaningful for your family.

What’s your favourite art idea from this list? What other ideas would you add? Have you tried any of these? What art did you use in your baby’s room?

12 creative, affordable, personal ideas for nursery art

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Ideas for a beautiful herb garden

Sarah in Illinois is back today with more gardening plans. This time, she’s focusing on herbs and the ever popular herb garden.

I was hoping that this blog post would be pictures of all my plants that I started from seed under my grow light.

I have started a poultry mix (a mix of clovers and alfalfa that chickens like to eat), and I have started some dill and cilantro from seed. Both instances I used my grow light and warming mat and the seeds broke through the dirt and that was it. I think that even though they are on a heat mat, the room is too cool for them to get a good start. So I will keep working on this project and report back later.

What I have been thinking about is what I plan to do with my herb garden this year. I am not sure if I have shared a picture of my herb garden before. Right now it is just brown sticks with that little patch of chives that I showed in my last post.

It is fairly small only measuring 9 feet by 3 feet. For the past two years I have grown chives, salvia, oregano, lemon balm, lavender, peppermint (all perennials), and I usually add in dill, basil, and sometimes cilantro.

I decided that since I have so many perennials that have filled the small garden, I need to set aside a larger and more planned out garden just for my herbs. Of the herbs that I currently have, I mostly use the chives and oregano. But when I look in our kitchen at the herbs that we use constantly, I realized that I really need to add more dill and cilantro and, although not technically an herb, I really need to be growing garlic.

The thing with perennial herbs is they spread. A lot. So if I am going to make a larger garden I need to make sure that I designate an area for each herb to keep any one herb from over taking the garden. Ever grown mint? It spreads like crazy!

One option is to use different sized pots stacked up like seen here. This would be good for someone with a small backyard or maybe just a deck or patio.

Here is an attractive container garden that uses cinder blocks to prevent the herbs from spreading. It has a modern look, and I am sure it needs watered often.

Cinderblock Succulent Planter

Source: contemporist

I am leaning towards creating a more formal herb garden, similar to the one seen here on Better Homes & Gardens. I have recently received my grandma’s birdbath and I need somewhere to display it. Surrounding it with herbs in a tidy layout sounds like something I would like.

However, I can’t help but be drawn to this beautiful herb garden. There is just something about the checkerboard pattern and every herb having its own little square that I am really admiring,

So what style herb garden do you prefer? Any suggestions on taming out of control mint? What are the most used herbs at your house?

Those are some neat ideas, Sarah. Rather than set up a dedicated space for herbs, I’ve spread them around our garden in the raised border beds. The one that’s spread the most is thyme, but we have so much space that I don’t worry too much about it taking over. I did plant mint for the first time last year, and I sunk a large pot in the ground first and then planted the mint in that. It looks like it’s part of the garden, but I’m hoping that the pot helps to contain it.

DIY Benchwright coffee table with double-sided drawers

DIY Benchwright Coffee Table

The Benchwright coffee table from Ana White (originally by Pottery Barn) has been on my wishlist ever since we moved to the farm. I loved the look of it, the storage potential that came with the drawers and lower shelf, and the DIY factor–building myself versus buying is pretty much always a win.

Well, I’m excited to share that the coffee table is finally done, just in time for Ellie’s arrival.

Ellie in her chair on the coffee table

In a lot of ways, the new coffee table may not look all that different from our old one.

Comparing our old and new coffee tables

The old one cost $15 at a garage sale when Matt and I were furnishing our very first house. My Dad helped me add a lower shelf, and then I painted the whole thing dark brown–and I just discovered that I missed a spot on the inside of one of the legs. It only took me 10 years to notice. Whoopsie.

The size and the shelf worked really well for us, so I knew I’d like those on the Benchwright. But I was ready to move away from the heavy brown paint to real wood, and I loved the idea of drawers to tuck things away–like remotes, if it turns out our new small person likes buttons.

Drawers on the coffee table

I won’t post a full tutorial because Ana’s plans have that pretty well covered. I’ll talk a bit about some of the changes I made and what worked and what didn’t.

I will say that this is my first time using an Ana White plan. I think her library is a tremendous resource for DIYers. I would agree with the “advanced” rating on this plan, not because of the drawers or overall complexity, but because a certain amount of detail is skimmed over on the plans.

I’m not sure if this is typical of Ana’s plans, but I often had to study the drawings, written instructions and cut list together to figure out what piece went where. In fact, I had two tabs open on my computer so that I could quickly reference the cut list without scrolling up and down repeatedly.

Nothing stumped me, but I did spend some time figuring things out as I went, and I think that would have been the case even if I hadn’t customized the plan.

Speaking of, I made one big change to this coffee table by doubling the number of drawers so that we had two on each side.

DIY Benchwright Coffee Table with four drawers

On the fireplace and TV side we can store newspaper, the lighter or DVDs.

Drawers on the coffee table

Then on the couch side we can tuck away remotes, magazines, books or other Mama and Daddy things.

The shelf underneath can hold bébé things, like toys or books–and be easily accessed for time in the baby jail play yard.

Toy storage under the coffee table

 

Doubling the number of drawers was not as difficult as I thought it might be. If you want to do this yourself, it’s important to start building the coffee table at step 8, the drawer frames.

Two sets of drawers slightly changes the dimensions of the coffee table, so you need the drawers first to determine all of the other measurements.

In Ana’s plan, the table measures 24 inches wide from the outer edge of each leg (this is not the overall width, as the top has an overhang that makes Ana’s table 27 1/2 inches wide in total). My table ended up being 27 1/4 inches from leg to leg.

In Ana’s plan, her drawers are 16 inches deep. I didn’t want the table to turn out too much wider than hers, so I shortened the drawers to 12 inches. All of the length measurements I kept the same. As you can see from the measurements above, my table ended up being 3 1/4 inches wider than Ana’s–not too much bigger.

I made two face frames–Ana’s plan calls for just one–so that I had one for each set of drawers. All of the drawers connect to one centre support, which again, I built according to Ana’s plan. The only change was the location because my support is right in the middle of the table.

Benchwright coffee table drawer frames

The back end of the drawer slides share the centre support. Installing the drawer slides determined the placement of all of the frames and the overall dimensions of the table. I used 12 inch drawer guides by Richelieu and attached them with 3/4 inch screws.

Richilieu 12 inch drawer guide

Attaching drawer guides with 3/4 inch screws

Drawers are intimidating to a lot of people. They’re actually not all that difficult. With purchased slides, you build your drawers to be 1 inch smaller than your opening. The slides take a half inch on either side.

On the table, you attach the slides in 3/4 of an inch from the outside edge. On the drawer, you attach them even with the front edge of the box. At the end, you cover the front of your drawer box with a “face” that hides the slides and the gaps. (Ana’s plans cover all of these details, so trust the instructions.)

Ana preaches throughout the plan the importance of building your drawers and frames square. I found that wasn’t a huge challenge. I followed the measurements, used my speed square and made sure my saw blade was set properly. The result was that everything stayed pretty square.

Speed square

Once I had the drawer frames built and the slides installed, I knew what the new width of the coffee table was going to be. Again, 27 1/4 inches (not factoring in the top).

This affected the side “aprons” on the top and bottom, and the dimensions of the bottom shelf and top. Again, I kept the length and height the same as on Ana’s plan.

Benchwright coffee table drawer frames

So with the drawer frames done, I went back to step 2 and started building the base. I say step 2 because for the bottom shelf (step 1), I used a piece of nice plywood, rather than piecing it together out of 1x12s as the plan called for. I had some good quality plywood leftover from another project, and it seemed easier to use that when I would have had to add an additional small piece of lumber to the 1x12s to get the width I needed.

Benchwright coffee table base

The one issue that I uncovered with the base, which would have been an issue even if I’d built the coffee table completely according to plan, was teeny gaps around the legs and drawer frames. Ana’s plan relies on exact measurements of your lumber. As in no overlap.

Gaps

They’re little tiny hairline gaps (despite looking giant in that picture), but they had me worried for awhile. I didn’t love the idea of seeing the gaps on my finished table. Fortunately, with the drawers and top in place, there are enough shadows that you can’t tell the joints aren’t completely tight. If I shine a flashlight through them, you’d see them, but I don’t expect that to happen, so I’m not worrying about them now.

For the top, you may recall that I debated whether 1-by or 2-by stock was the best choice. The resounding feedback on my last post was 2-by and you guys were all right.

Toy storage under the coffee table

 

When it came to the top, I decided that I wanted less of an overhang than Ana’s plan called for. Her table appears to have a roughly 3 inch overhang on either end and 1 3/4 inch overhang on the sides. I decided a 1 inch overhang all the way around was what I was aiming for, which meant my top was going to be 52 inches by about 30 inches.

The top is probably the area I struggled with most. Calculating the dimensions and the materials I needed wasn’t the problem. The problem was the wood itself. I bought all of my lumber at Home Depot, and the selection at my local store was terrible. In the 2×8 and 2×6 piles (I ended up using both to get the measurements I wanted), most of the wood looked like it had been chewed by a wild animal. Those that hadn’t been mauled were twisted like spaghetti noodles. In hindsight, I should have gone to my local lumber mill, but after this pregnant lady had single-handedly dismantled most of the stack, I just wanted to buy some wood and go home.

As I did when I made our wood countertop, I had the wood milled to ensure my pieces were completely square without the rounded edges typical of stock lumber. The staff member at HD was not at all happy by my request (apparently they’re not permitted to rip lumber like that), but he did it for me (looking over his shoulder for his manager the whole time).

The square edges make it much, much easier to get a tight joint and smooth top between the boards. However, because my lumber was so badly warped, we ended up with a few imperfect joints. Matt used all of his strength to try and hold the boards straight while I screwed them together (using my Kreg Jig).

In the end, the joints aren’t bad, but they aren’t great. I used a bunch of woodfiller, which is visible along some of the joints. I also sanded and sanded a few spots that were particularly chewed, which gave us a couple of dips.

Pregnant lady sanding

The biggest issue though is that the top as a whole had a huge twist from the warped boards.

Warped coffee table top

When we attached the top to the base, it pulled the base out of line. We ended up with a very tippy table. Matt’s advice was to ball up some paper and tuck it under the elevated leg. Thank you, husband.

Uneven table leg

My solution was that we each spent some time sitting on opposite corners of the table, trying to bend the top back into shape. We managed to twist it in the right direction a bit, but not quite all the way. I leveled it with a stack of foam pads. Perhaps not all that different than a ball of paper, but I feel like it’s a little less obvious.

Levelling coffee table with foam pads

Fortunately, all of our drawers still slide nicely and haven’t been pulled too far out of square. Just in case each drawer fits slightly differently, I’ve labelled the bottom and frame of the drawers so that we know which goes where.

Labelling drawers

Labelling drawers

None of our furniture is precious, so I’m happy to live with the top as it is. We have meals and snacks at this table. We put our feet up. Some day, Ellie will likely be drumming and then colouring on the coffee table. I’m not going to worry about any of it.

If I decide to in the future, the top will be easy to rebuild–with better lumber. It could also be replaced with a beautiful live edge piece if I want to go for something a little more precious.

We finished off the table with stain in Minwax Provincial, a couple of coats of Varathane and simple black handles from Lee Valley.

Black drawer handles on the coffee table

I’m very pleased with how it all came together and that we were able to build this ourselves. I love having it in the living room after years of envisioning it in our home.

DIY Benchwright Coffee Table

Thanks Ana for a very good plan. Thanks everyone for your input on this project. If you have any questions about the drawers or other aspects of this table, please leave a comment, and I’ll do my best to explain my process.

Turquoise farm-inspired gender neutral nursery

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

Thank you very, very much for all of your kind wishes for Ellie. The warmth of your welcome means a lot. We are all still doing well, and Ellie is still being pretty easy for us.

Today I’m excited to share her nursery. Decorating Ellie’s nursery was a very fun experience for me. It was really special to think about the room and our child and our hopes for her (or him).

As I shared before, we didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl, so we wanted the space to be as neutral as possible. But I quickly decided that neutral didn’t mean without colour.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

As soon as I decided to use my office as the baby’s room, I knew we wouldn’t be changing the colour. I loved the dark turquoise (Benjamin Moore Coat of Arms) that was on the walls, and I thought it would be perfect for a baby.

My initial plan was to mix the turquoise with lots of other colours–pompom trim on the curtains, a brightly patterned footstool, fun coat hooks–but as the room came together, I found myself drawn more to white and wood.

The result is a space that feels bright, cheerful, fresh, farmy, while also being calm and homey.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

I first discovered the Animal Print Shop years ago, and I knew if I ever had a nursery of my own that I wanted some of Sharon’s pictures for the walls. The trio of portraits above the crib are perfect for our farm. I love the expressions on the goat’s, duck’s and lamb’s faces–although Matt thinks the duck is plotting something.

Animal portraits in a turquoise gender neutral nursery

Tucked beside the crib is a vintage pedal car tractor that my siblings and I drove growing up. It will be awhile before Ellie rides this one, but I love that my daughter already has her own tractor. This girl will learn to drive the tractor (the real one) long before she gets her driver’s license, so this is a small nod to the independence, confidence and responsibility I’m hoping to instill in her as she grows up.

Vintage pedal car tractor in the nursery

Ellie’s room connects to our bedroom through a pocket door. While pre-baby this was weird, it is now so convenient. We keep the door open and her crib is just inside. She’s slept in her crib since the first night we brought her home, and we’re able to hear her clearly and go to her when she needs us.

Baxter looking into the nursery

The window treatments are the same layered window treatments that I used in the master bedroom. Blackout blind hidden behind a decorative bamboo valance and then everything covered by full length curtains. In this case, I added a blackout lining to the curtains too in case Ellie needs extra darkness. I’ll be sharing more details about the window treatments in an upcoming post.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

The Ikea Strandmon wing chair is the very first thing I bought for the nursery. I love this chair in the basement and knew it would be perfect for the nursery.

Shortly after I figured out I was pregnant, I hopped on kijiji and found a secondhand Strandmon for sale for half the regular price. It seemed like a sign. I had just found out I was pregnant. The chair I wanted for the nursery was for sale. A few quick emails and the next day it came home with me.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

The chair has been everything I thought it would. The high back and generous wings are helpful as Mama dozes off during late night feedings. The seat–where I’ve spent more time than I care to think about–is very comfortable. The arms are just the right height to support a nursing baby.

I had considered adding rockers to the chair, but that didn’t work out. However, I’ve found that I’m not missing them.

Vintage pedal car tractor in the nursery

The side table and footstool are absolutely essential.

This quirky triangle side table lived in my family’s cottage for years. When the cottage was sold, I refinished the table and since then it’s had numerous lives in my bedroom at my parents’ house, the living room of our first house and, for a time, the living room of this house. The table was tucked away waiting for its next life when on a whim I dragged it up to the nursery. It turned out to be just the right height next to the Strandmon, and it’s the perfect size for my water bottle, phone, a box of tissues, lip balm and other nursing necessities.

Ikea Strandmon in the nursery

The footstool was a spot where initially I was expecting to add more colour. The pouf is a DIY courtesy of a free pattern from Better Homes and Gardens. As I started fabric shopping, I sourced lots of different options, but found myself coming back to a durable white vinyl that looks like leather. I’m very proud that I made this pouf myself, and I’ll be sharing more details on it in an upcoming post.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

The bookshelf in the corner is another secondhand Ikea kijiji score–the Hemnes. The backing was in rough shape, so I replaced it with a piece of beadboard for a little bit of a country touch. Then I covered everything with a coat of Benjamin Moore Cloud White.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

At various points, I’ve questioned whether we needed a full bookcase in the nursery, but the books that we received have been some of the most special gifts and reading is another thing that we’re looking forward to sharing with Ellie. I also love that the bookcase can grow with Ellie as her reading taste evolves. For now, the bookcase offers helpful extra storage for toys, blankets and other trinkets.

Nursery bookcase

Toy storage in the nursery

The dresser is a special piece that I’m hoping becomes an heirloom for Ellie. It was made by a local Mennonite craftsman. The dresser serves as our changing table, and also holds her onesies, sleepers and diapers.

Cloth diapers in the dresser drawer

As a new mom, I wasn’t sure what height would be best or how much surface area was needed for a changing table. This dresser has been perfect for our needs (and for reference for other new parents out there, the dimensions are 18 inches deep by 36 inches high by 54 inches long).

Turquoise gender neutral nurseryTurquoise gender neutral nursery

Above the dresser I hung a set of alphabet animal flash cards. The watercolour illustrations on these cards are lovely. While they’re not all farm animals, they fit in with the menagerie elsewhere in the room. Ellie may not be able to see all that much yet, but she does seem to enjoy looking at the cards as we’re changing her.

Alphabet flashcards above the changing table

The other animal in the room–and the one thing aside from the paint that stayed from my office–is Bill. I bought this papier mache goose head years ago because he reminded me of the pet goose I had growing up. I loved him in my office and thought he’d be perfect presiding over Ellie’s farm nursery.

You may remember from when this room was my office that we have a weird little nook just inside the door. I left the narrow dresser that I built in place. The lamp, which my grandfather rewired so that I could use it in my childhood bedroom, casts a beautiful glow at night when we’re feeding.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

Above the dresser, I removed the bulletin board and calendar and replaced them with two meaningful heirlooms. One is my collection of nursery rhyme figurines and the other is the sleepers that Matt wore home from the hospital when he was first born. The nursery rhyme figurines are on the cutlery divider shelf I built for my office. I’ll be sharing how I built the custom shadow box for the sleepers in an upcoming post.

Sleepers framed in a shadow box

The nursery is a mix of old and new, DIYs, hand-me-downs and purchases. It was special to plan it and put it all together, and it’s been special to spend time with Ellie in it.

Sources:

Wall paint Benjamin Moore Coat of Arms | Trim paint Benjamin Moore Cloud White | Bookcase (customized with beadboard backing and BM Cloud White paint) Ikea Hemnes | Wing Chair Ikea Strandmon | Crib Ikea Gulliver | Pouf DIY (free pattern via Better Homes and Gardens) | Dresser Penwood Furniture (local Mennonite craftsman) | Curtains Ikea Ritva | Curtain Rods Ikea Racka Hugad combination | Curtain Rings Ikea Syrlig | Animal Portraits (above crib) Animal Print Shop | Frames (for animal portraits above crib) Ikea Hovsta | Alphabet Flash Cards (above change table) Susan Windsor (Etsy) | Papier Mache Goose Head Macheanimal (Etsy)

If you’re curious about a source for something not listed, please leave a comment (although most of the other items are DIYs, hand-me-downs or gifts).

Hints of spring in Illinois

We are officially a week away from the first day of spring. (Is anyone else boggled by the fact that we’re already halfway through March?) Sarah in Illinois is here today, sharing some of the signs of spring that have popped up at her property.

The temps are still too cool to actually do any kind of gardening outside. But while taking a tour around my yard over the weekend, I could see many signs of spring.

First, right outside my backdoor was a clump of chives that looks like they could be used right now.

The daffodils once again have fought their way through the gravel that we put down.

The lilies are coming up through the old growth and reminding me that I still have a lot of yard clean up to do.

The plum tree has some promise of buds to come.

The magnolia out front has some beautiful buds starting.

Even my mums are reaching for the sunlight.

And finally out in the garden, my strawberries are reminding me that time in my garden is not that far away.

What signs do you have that remind you that spring is coming?

Can I say I’m glad I’m not the only one starting the season with garden clean-up yet to do, Sarah? Your lilies look like they could be any number of spots at our place. We’ve had snow flurries every day this week, so I haven’t done a formal tour yet, but I’m hoping to see some more signs of spring soon.

Our new addition

Ellie's birth announcement

Matt and I are very happy to introduce our daughter, Ellie, who joined our family on Feb. 23.

Ellie arrived one week before her due date and weighed 8 pounds even.

Ellie with pink tulips

Her full name is Elizabeth Audrey Julia. Elizabeth from my mother’s middle name and Audrey from Matt’s mother’s name.

We’ve been doing very well getting to know each other. Ellie is a good sleeper and eater so far, and we’re doing our best to keep meeting her needs.

Family picture

Baxter is maybe a little more watchful, but mostly he is his usual relaxed and lazy self. He chooses to interact with her every so often, sniffing or sharing his sunbeam or hanging out on the bed with us. He’s not bothered by her noises, except for the occasional moments when angry baby shows up. Mostly he ignores her and carries on as usual, which is exactly the response I was hoping for.

I’m continuing to write about the steps we took to prepare Bax for Ellie’s arrival on ThatMutt.com.

Ellie and Baxter on the bed

We’re all taking our time adjusting to our new family and enjoying life together.

It’s amazing to see our families come together in this little girl and think about what her future holds. The optimism and possibility that a baby brings are pretty special.

Chickens by the numbers

It’s been more than a year and half since Sarah in Illinois welcomed her first chickens. She is here today with an update on her flock.

7 – Number of chickens still happy and healthy.

2 – Number of breeds of chickens still on my wish list (Leghorns and Ameraucana).

4 – Number of chickens my stepdaughter put charm bracelets on.

5 – Average number of eggs I still collect every day.

3 – Number of weeks a 50 pound bag of feed lasts.

1 – Number of wheelbarrows of corn I still have left to crack

0 – Number of chickens that will leave the coop if there is any snow on the ground.

100 percent – How happy I am that I decided to take on this adventure.

Between their bracelets, disdain for snow and hand-cracked corn, I think you have some pampered hens, Sarah. (Although I think aversion to snow is fairly common in chickens.) It’s great that you’ve been able to keep them healthy and happy and keep receiving eggs from them. Your enjoyment of them is obvious.

5 ways to decorate with family photos

Today we’re enjoying Family Day here in Ontario, so I thought I’d mark the occasion by sharing some of the ways we feature our family when we’re decorating the house. (Happy President’s Day to my American readers.)

I recently updated the display of family photos on the sofa table in our living room. My brother and sister-in-law gifted us with a new family picture from their fall wedding, so that went in the centre. Then there was a pair of photos of my Mom and me when we were both six years old. I finally printed my favourite photo of our newest nephew. And best of all I dug out this blond cutie in a mini RCMP uniform (Matt was the ring bearer at his uncle’s wedding, who is a Mountie).

How to decorate with family photos

You all know that when it comes to decorating, I’m all about keeping it personal and affordable. One of the best ways to do both of those things is with family photos.

Here are five ways to decorate with family photos, including some favourites from our house.

1. Go for quantity – Don’t limit yourself to just a few pictures. You have lots of memories–and possibly lots of family members. Pick out your favourite photos and print them all. Get a variety of frames–thrift stores, the dollar store or Ikea are good sources–and display all of your photos at once. Display the photos in a gallery wall, on picture ledges, or set them on a table, as I did on the sideboard behind our couch.

Family photo display

2. Go back in time – Family photo displays don’t have to be limited to the current generation. Dig through your family archives to find pictures of your ancestors. In our guestroom, I have two photos that I love: one of my great grandfather driving a team of horses pulling a sleigh full of huge logs, the other of Matt’s great grandfather with his own team of horses in front of a wagon loaded with hay. They fit in perfectly with our farm setting, celebrate our ancestors, and–with scanning at home, printing at Walmart and framing from Ikea–they’re super affordable as well. So dig out those old albums and see what treasures await you.

Vintage family photos displayed in the guest room

3. Go big – The family photo shoot has come a long way since the stiff studio portraits. (Did anyone else get dressed up and pose with their parents and siblings?) How you display your photos should be upgraded as well. Technology means that pretty much any image can be printed on canvas or you can run off a large scale print at your local copy centre. A large picture makes a great statement and celebrates your family at the same time.

4. Go beyond the frame – Just like photo shoots have come a long way, so have albums. Customized, personalized photobooks are the upgraded version of albums . These can be great art on your coffee table, or propped on a bookshelf–like our wedding album–can be a photo display on their own. There’s something really special about flipping through a book of photos, rather than clicking through a hard drive.

Custom photobook

5. Go offline – Instagram has taken off as the place where we “publish” our digital photos. Part of the beauty of those Instagram shots is that they capture everything from special occasions to everyday life (sometimes… let’s not get into perfectly curated feeds that are more about branding than they are about life). Don’t limit those great memories to just online. There are lots of services for printing Instagrams–even Walmart is in the game. Print them as mini-prints and use washi tape to affix them to the wall. Or string a piece of twine between some pushpins and use mini paperclips or clothespins to attach your pics. Or check out one of the many online services that offer cute magnets and stickers (and lots of other options).

Family photos are one of my favourite go-tos when I’m looking for special art. How about you? Do you display family photos around your house? What’s your favourite way to decorate? How do you balance between digital and print?

Growing fruit in a cold climate

Apples frozen on an ice covered tree in the winter

While our gardens may be buried in snow–and after freezing rain yesterday, ice–many of us are still planning, dreaming and thinking about what we’ll be growing this coming season (see Sarah in Illinois’ plans that she shared last week).

I recently wrote an article for The Canadian Organic Grower, sharing some tips for growing fruit in cold climates.

As hard as the snow, cold, ice and wind can be on humans, the climate can be equally harsh for plants.

Despite the challenges, many Canadian gardeners want to grow and enjoy fresh tender fruit right in their own backyards. Fortunately, a growing number of nurseries, breeders and researchers are cultivating trees, vines and bushes that can thrive in Canada.

Frost covered raspberry cane

In our own garden, I am excited by the prospect of hopefully picking our first crop of grapes this year and seeing our blueberries and blackberries return. These fruits are all cold hardy varieties that I specifically selected to ensure they survive (and hopefully thrive) at our farm.

You can read the whole article here.

For my fellow cold climate dwellers, do you have any recommendations of particular varieties that you grow at your garden? Or tips to help plants survive cold weather? What climate and growing challenges do you face in your garden?

Seed starting plan from Sarah in Illinois

Sarah in Illinois is being very methodical in her garden planning this year. She’s here today sharing how she’s mapping out what she’s going to grow and when she’s going to start planting.

We’d love to hear your tips for starting your garden. What works for you? How do you  plan what you do when?

We still have below freezing temperatures down here, but it hasn’t stopped me from daydreaming about being out in the garden. One way to fill that void is to make a to-do list or game plan for the spring. Here are a few things that I have planned for the upcoming weeks.

1. Make a list of what I want to grow in the garden this year and divide them up into 3 categories: start indoors from seed, sow seed directly into the garden and purchase as established plant.

2. Place order for any seeds purchased through mail order.

3. For seeds started indoors, plan what day I should start them.

To do that I searched online for last frost date for my zip code. One source said April 17 and another said April 14. I decided to just use April 15 since it is an easy date to remember (tax day for us Americans). So for example I want to start my Black Krim tomato seeds indoors. The packet says to start 6-8 weeks before planting outdoors. So I should start it indoors sometime in between Feb. 18 and March 4.

4. Set up indoor seed starting area.

I have mentioned before that I have a lot of trouble starting seeds indoors and transferring them to the garden. So this year I am going to take it more seriously than just throwing some seeds in the dirt. I purchased a seedling heat mat and I am going to set up a grow light. I plan to post about it as I go along both to help others and to get advice.

Do you place seed orders through mail order? Or do you have another source for your seeds and plants? Do you start your seeds indoors? Do you have any advice for me on transferring them outside?

You seem very organized, Sarah. Well done. It’s been great to see your garden evolve through the years. I love how you learn and adjust each season and keep working to improve your approach. I’ll be interested to hear how your plan works out this year.