Grapes and goodness in the garden

Red somerset grapes

We have grapes!

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

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

Bunches of red somerset grapes on the vine

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

Ellie picking grapes

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

Bunches of unripe green grapes

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

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

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

Unripe and ripe grapes

In the end something did get them instead of me.

Blame it on the baby.

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

Ellie eating grapes in the garden

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

Basket of sovereign coronation blue grapes

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DIY toddler step stool – Ikea hack

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

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

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

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

DIY learning tower from Ikea Bekvam stool

The plan is super detailed with clear instructions.

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

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

Assembling the stool outside with our barncat

Close up of the baby monitor

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

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

Water spill on the Ikea Bekvam

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

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

DIY learning tower from Ikea Bekvam stool

Ellie on her learning tower

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

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

DIY learning tower from Ikea Bekvam stool

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

Odds & sods

Our girl is officially one year old! I know everyone says time flies, and it definitely does. But when I look back over the past year and think of everything she’s learned and how much she’s grown, it feels like it has to have been a year.

It’s amazing to watch a human grow.

Collage of 12 months of baby photos

We celebrated with a big pizza party with Matt’s and my families. It was really special–and also completely overwhelming. So many people. So many presents. So much food. We ended up delaying Ellie’s final tractor picture to the day after her birthday because it felt like we were trying to do too much. But I managed to finish a tractor cake for the big day–after Matt did an emergency run back to the grocery store for more icing sugar.

Baby with tractor pedal car

Tractor birthday cake

Our other excitement this month came courtesy of Baxter. He met up with someone or something in the woods and came home with a few gashes. One on his neck ended up needing stitches. He was not happy with his vet visit–nor the haircuts that were needed for his IV and to assess his various wounds. But we are happy that his injuries were relatively minor, that we have an amazing, kind, caring, gentle, skilled, generous team at our vet, and most of all that he’s home safe. He’s now on leash any time he’s outside, especially since he is completely fixated on the woods, apparently looking for a rematch.

Baxter looking into the woods with stitches in his neck

And now on to some of the inspiration I’ve come across over the last month:

Rambling Renovators living room

  • Jen at Rambling Renovators has amazing style, and she is going behind the scenes, sharing her process of how to decorate a room. She shared how to start and how to layout the furniture. Bonus, she’s updating her daughter’s room, which is a super fun project… not that I’m planning Ellie’s tween bedroom yet… much.
  • A reminder to not get stuck in our to-do lists and make time for family and fun
  • I’ve never made macaroni from scratch. But I’m trying to find an alternative to Matt’s favourite Kraft Dinner. I had high hopes for this vegan version (Chloe’s recipes have great flavours), but it was not a hit. Deb’s endorsement of Martha’s (non-vegan) version is making me think it’s the way to go. Any suggestions of how to get the flavour of KD with more real ingredients?
  • “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” Inspiration from Arthur Ashe via Thelma Golden in In The Company of Women by Grace Bonney.

My writing elsewhere:

Did you celebrate anything this month? Or have any excitement courtesy of your pet? Do you have a macaroni recipe to share? What’s inspiring you these days?

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.

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.

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?

A baby, a cat and a peck of potatoes

Basket of potatoes

Against all odds, we have a harvest this year.

The best description for the garden this year was neglected. Back in the spring, Matt planted some potatoes. That was about the last time that we went into the garden. His parents took pity on us and weeded a few sections. But I had given up on picking anything this year.

Then one grey afternoon a few weeks ago, Matt decided to see what he could find.

Digging for potatoes

Accompanied by Ralph, the potato sniffing cat, and Ellie, the potato inspecting baby, they uncovered some bounty.

Ralph looking for potatoes

(Despite appearances, the baby is not freaked out by the potato.)

Baby admiring a freshly harvested potato

We celebrated the harvest with breakfast for dinner–complete with super fresh hashbrowns.

White and purple potatoes on the cutting board

There weren’t as many as we’ve had in past years, but there are enough for a few meals and some seed potatoes for next year. Because we’re not giving up. We will try again next year and hope that we have more potatoes than weeds this time around. Maybe we’ll put the cat and the baby to work earlier in the season next time.

Odds & sods

Do you guys like the round-up/links/personal posts that so many bloggers do on Fridays? I enjoy them. They usually have a few links that are interesting to me, and they give me some insight into the person behind the blog.

The Odds & Sods posts that I do every so often are kind of my version of these types of posts (odds and sods was a phrase my paternal grandmother used instead of saying odds and ends).

I’m thinking about making O&S a little more regular. Not every week, but maybe at the end of every month. What do you think? Is this something you’re interested in?

I’m going to put one out there today. Please share any feedback you have.

The Fall 2018 Canadian Bloggers Home Tour happened a couple of weeks ago. I love seeing bloggers come together and supporting each other. Plus, I am proud of the talent, diversity and creativity from my fellow Canadians. I encourage you to check out all the homes on the tour. Here are some stand-outs:

  • I love the style of Vin’yet Etc’s living room, and even more I love her hummingbird and the connection to her mom. We see so many signs that my Dad is still with us, so this resonates with me so much.
  • Beautiful neutrals, blue-green glass, flowers and one of my favourite foods (charcuterie) from So Much Better With Age.
  • Thalita from The Learner Observer is someone I connected with a looooong time ago. I’ve loved seeing how she’s built her career, her family and her lovely home. Thalita also published a real life (didn’t even put her bra away) tour.

In other home and real estate news, Justin Bieber is apparently going to be our neighbour. (What does it say about me that I didn’t recognize him in the twitter pics? And I misspelled his name when I first typed it? #notabelieber)

Ellie eating food for the first time

Ellie turned 7 months old yesterday. She’s been eating food for about a month now. She quickly began devouring her meals–and decimating my baby food stash. We’re still in the basic puree stage, but we’re looking ahead to more complex meals (and a time where dinner does not end up in her nose). Do you make your own baby food? What are your baby’s favourite foods? Do you have any good recipes to share?

  • Once Upon A Farm (with Jennifer Garner) has an interesting business model: they make organic baby food, but they also publish the recipes in case you want to make it yourself.
  • I’ve saved recipes for month of baby food–although I feel like my girl may go through this in less than a month.

Apparently I’m in a feminist kind of mood right now.

My writing elsewhere:

I hope you all have a good week. We’re wrapping up September with a date night for Daddy and Mama, hopefully a trip to the swimming pool (a test run before Ellie starts swimming lessons next month) and a very special family project that I’ve been wanting to do for years.

What’s on tap for you?