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?

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Mystery squash

Circumstances have not been on the side of our vegetable garden this year. I knew with a new baby the garden would be a challenge this year. But I really thought we’d be able to do something. I had plans to at least maintain the perimeter beds and protect my asparagus, grapes and blueberries from being choked by weeds. Matt actually did rototill and then planted potatoes.

But since then, nothing.

Oh the poor garden. The weeds are definitely winning this year.

But hope springs eternal. Next year, the baby will be able to sit on her own, and she can have her own shovel. She might enjoy digging more than her current supervisory role.

Baby wearing sunglasses lying outside under an umbrella

Our most successful “gardening” this year is happening at the composter behind the house. Last week Sarah in Illinois was talking about her volunteer Morning Glories. We too have a volunteer vine–and like all of our experiences with squash, this one has designs to take over the world. It’s conquered our back steps and is now advancing on the little deck.

Squash growing around the composter

Squash growing around the composter

Remember when I cleaned up this area last year?

Composter on the back patio

I’ve read that squash, when it reseeds, grows back as something else. I don’t mean it becomes broccoli. But I’ve heard that a butternut seed does not get you a butternut plant. So I don’t know what is actually growing here. Honestly, it looks like we may have two different plants. And they look more like gourdes right now than squash.

Small round yellow squash

Small oval green bumpy squash

I think the fruit is a minor factor. This plant (or one of these plants) is not going to be distracted from its quest. It has sent out a force away from the house (thank goodness) aiming for the pond.

Squash growing around the composter

Watch out world.

To comfort you, want one more glimpse of our cool dudette? Of course you do. Because babies in sunglasses are hilarious.

Baby wearing sunglasses

Stay safe.

I’m going to be taking next week off for a little vacation with the dudette and her Dad. See you in September.

How to prepare your dog for a baby

Baxter and Ellie

As our little family has grown, I’ve loved watching Baxter with Ellie. I’m so proud of how relaxed he is with her.

As soon as we found out we were pregnant, I started thinking about how I wanted Baxter to act around our baby and what behaviours we needed to work on. We consulted with our trainer and at the beginning of this year (about two months before our due date) we started working in earnest to prepare Baxter for his new role as big brother to Ellie.

Baxter watching Ellie in the play yard

As regular readers know, I’m a contributor to ThatMutt.com, where I write about dog training and behaviour. I’ve been sharing all of the details of our baby prep strategies for Baxter through a series of posts on ThatMutt, and this weekend the final entry was posted. I’m really proud of this series, so I wanted to mention it here.

Baxter and Ellie are both really, really important parts of our family. While Ellie isn’t super aware of her big brother yet, Baxter has been doing very well with Ellie. For the most part he ignores her—which is fine with us—but he also chooses to lay as close as possible to her stroller when we’re working outside and waits beside the car until I unload her when we come home from an outing. He seems to recognize her as part of the family.

Ellie in her stroller in the garden

Here are the links to the individual posts in my series on how we prepared Baxter for our new baby:

As Ellie grows we’re going to have to teach her how to behave in many situations–and especially how to behave around Baxter and other dogs. Likewise, he’s going to have to keep on adjusting to her. We’re very focused on working with them both to make sure everyone lives happily and safely together.

Hiking with Ellie and Baxter

I hope you’ll check out some of the posts and leave a comment if you have any advice or questions. I also hope that this series becomes a resource for other parents and dog owners out there. Thanks to Lindsay at ThatMutt.com for allowing me to document this important time in our family.

For all of you dog lovers out there, ThatMutt.com is having a huge giveaway featuring $500 worth of great dog gear from Mighty Paw. Baxter has a bunch of MP equipment, and we love it. Just for entering, you’ll receive $5 to spend on anything in the Mighty Paw store and a free copy of Lindsay’s dog training ebook, “The Good Mutt Guide.” The deadline is Wednesday. Click over to ThatMutt.com to enter (and read a couple of the baby prep posts while you’re there 😉 ).

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.

Role model

Our nephew digging out rocks while Ellie sits in her stroller

When he first met Ellie, our oldest nephew was worried. He thought that we might not need his help anymore now that we had Ellie. She would work with us around the farm, or we wouldn’t be doing as many projects because we were busy with her.

We quickly clarified that we felt like we needed him more than ever. Ellie is a long way from being helpful and, yes, we are busy with her, but there is still lots we wanted to do.

Every time we saw him after that, he asked if we needed him to come to the farm. Finally, we set a date for him to come over and start the spring clean up, picking up branches that had fallen over the winter and piling them up to burn.

I set him up with the tractor, and he went to work. A month later he was back, digging out rocks, burning more brush and helping to pick up firewood.

Loading firewood into the tractor bucket

Over our six years at the farm, and especially since having Ellie, we have had lots of help from family and friends. We are extremely grateful that people are willing to give us their time and help make the farm what we envision.

Our nephew is 18 years old. I remember the first time I met him at the hospital the day he was born. It’s been so rewarding to watch him grow up, and I’m so proud of the responsible, caring, hard-working young man that he is now.

I hope that we can teach Ellie those same values and that she shares her big cousin’s enthusiasm for helping around the farm.

What I got for Mother’s Day

Chainsaw in the woods

Wood is the traditional gift for fifth wedding anniversaries and, apparently, first Mother’s Days. Last Sunday, Matt and his Dad spent hours working to clear the trails in our back woods. I love walking the trails on our own property, but I’ve written before about how they’re a bit overgrown. An ice storm and wind storm this spring made the trails nearly impassable. For my walks with Ellie and Baxter, this situation was far from ideal.

Tree fallen across the trail

Firewood blocking the trail

Imagine if you will a woman walking in the woods. She is wearing a baby in a carrier on her chest and she has a dog leashed around her waist. They come to a stream crossing. The catwalk has washed out and a tree limb has fallen, blocking the trail.

She forges ahead, contorting herself to slither around the tree without dumping the baby out of the carrier and into the water.

The dog chooses a different route and the leash ends up wrapped around various trees.

The woman temporarily loses her balance and adjusts her footing–right into a deep part of the stream. Her boot fills with water.

Hiking with Ellie and Baxter

After emptying out my boot, wringing out my sock and untangling Baxter–all while still balancing Ellie in the carrier–I decided the trails were out of bounds until we did some work.

So I was thrilled to receive a Mother’s Day present involving chainsaws, wheelbarrows, multiple loads of firewood and clear(er) passage on the trails.

Matt and his Dad wheeling firewood out of the woods

My FIL and Baxter cutting wood in the forest

Loading firewood from the forest

Matt unloading firewood
You may recall that Matt and I had done this chore previously, so I know exactly how much work this was. I’m over the moon happy to have access to our trails and incredibly grateful for Matt and his Dad working so hard.

I’m also still holding out for a brigade of forest rangers equipped with ATVs, wood chippers, weed whackers and chainsaws (these trails could seriously use a whole season of work from a whole crew). Perhaps next Mother’s Day?

Behind the scenes

Just because I can’t keep all the cuteness to myself…

Ellie and Matt assembling our new wheelbarrow.

Matt and Ellie assembling the wheelbarrow

Quality control testing.

Matt holding Ellie in the wheelbarrow

Ellie, Baxter and I helpfully supervising on Mother’s Day.

Carrying Ellie

Blackout window treatments for the nursery and how to pleat Ikea curtains

Blackout window treatments in the nursery

When it came to window treatments for Ellie’s room my first priority was making the room completely dark.

Both of my sisters at various points struggled with getting their babies to sleep and eventually resorted to taping black garbage bags over the windows. For my one nephew, the smallest strip of light was enough to hold his attention and keep him awake.

Fortunately, Ellie has been a really good sleeper so far (and please may it continue for all time), but I have found that a dark quiet room is very helpful to ensure she sleeps as soundly as possible.

My first step in making sure I could get the room as dark as possible was the layered window treatments that I used in our own bedroom. Blackout blind, hidden behind bamboo blind (which really acts as just a valance) and then full-length curtain panels for the finishing touch and an extra layer of darkness.

Blackout window treatments in the nursery

While I still like the dropcloth curtains that I made for the guest room and our room, for Ellie’s room I really wanted white curtains. Some sales around Black Friday netted me four Ritva panels from Ikea. At first when the curtains arrived they looked super creamy to me, but once I tried them in the baby’s room they were white (or white enough for me). They also have a bit of a texture, which I initially wasn’t planning on, but now I like that the fabric isn’t completely flat and boring.

Texture on Ikea Ritva curtains

I elected to get four curtains (two packages), so that I could do two panels per side, ensuring that the fabric covers the full width of the window, and also that the curtains look nice and full whether they’re open or closed.

My first step was to wash all four curtain panels to preshrink them. Then, I sewed two panels together so that my four curtains became two, one for each side.

Now, on their own, the Ritva curtains are not blackout–in fact far from it. Since it was important to me that these curtains block the light as well as add style to the room, I added a blackout lining that I bought at the fabric store. Tip: Wait for a sale. The amount of fabric needed is not small, and this lining is not cheap. A discount makes a huge difference.

I cut the lining so that it was just a bit shorter and narrower than my finished curtains were going to be. The fabric didn’t fray or ravel, so I didn’t bother hemming the edges. I sewed the lining to the curtains, just underneath the curtain tape that runs along the top edge of the Ritvas.

I will say that the curtains were absolute beasts to sew. They were huge and I had metres and metres and layers and layers of fabric that I was trying to slide around. It was very awkward, even though I was only sewing straight lines.

But once the curtains and lining were all together, the next step was pleating the curtains.

The curtain tape that comes with the Ritvas is the neatest thing for me about these Ikea curtains. This tape has little pockets at regular intervals and allows you to form pleats in the top of your curtain by inserting special hooks. (When I made our dropcloth curtains, the tape was something I had to buy and sew on separately).

How to pinch pleat Ikea curtains

Ikea sells hooks that you can use to pleat your curtains. However, I wanted to replicate the really full, traditional pleats that I made for our other two bedrooms, and the Ikea hooks didn’t do that. I bought four-pronged hooks at my local fabric store (again, on sale) and went to work to figure out how to make my non-Ikea hooks work with my Ikea curtains.

Hooks for pleating curtains

The thing with the curtain tape I’ve used in the past is that each pocket is set up at exactly the right interval to make perfect pleats. The Ikea curtains aren’t quite the same. They’re set up so that you can get as many different looks out of one curtain as possible. There are lots and lots of pockets and then, in the event that you don’t want to pleat your curtains, there are also loops that slide directly over your curtain rod.

So figuring out how to place my hooks took a bit of time… and trial and error… and measuring… and math. For my pinch pleats, I left about 4 sleeves in between the prong of each hook. The spacing varied ever so slightly because those pesky loops threw off my count every other hook. The joint where I’d sewn the two panels was another spot where I had to fudge the hook placement. Between each hook, I left 12 or 13 sleeves.

Once I was happy with the spacing, I went along the back with a marker and made a little dot on each sleeve that was going to receive a prong. I used a permanent marker so that when I wash the curtains, I can reinsert the hooks without repeating the whole trial and error process.

How to pinch pleat Ikea curtains

The panels for the other side of the window went much quicker, because I was able to use the first curtains as my pattern. However, I made sure to mirror the spacing, so that each panel is symmetrical.

The hooks simply slide into the sleeves, and it can take some smooshing to make sure that one prong stays in place while you’re inserting the others. My fingertips were a bit tender by the time I finished.

How to pinch pleat Ikea curtains

Once the hook is in place, turn over the curtain, and the pleats are nice and even.

How to pleat Ikea curtains

As soon as I hung the curtains, I was super impressed by how effective this blackout lining is. But I took one more step to ensure the room will be as dark as possible. Because we have a double rod with the back rod supporting the bamboo valance, I was able to loop the curtains around and hang a few rings on the back rod. This means that the curtain is right up against the wall, and there is less gap to let light in.

How to make blackout window treatments

The final touches were hemming the curtains to the right length and adding a wand to the edge of each curtain so that we can pull the curtains open and closed without pulling the fabric–a surefire way to get our white curtains grimy over time.

Wand for pulling curtains closed

My plan for bedtime or nap time was to simply pull down the blind, and let the curtains block the light around the edges of the window and look pretty. But after the time change this spring, I noticed Ellie was waking up earlier and earlier in the mornings. I pulled the curtains shut over the blind, and morning sleep-ins returned–love that blackout lining.

Blackout window treatments in the nursery

If you want to make your own blackout window treatments like these, here are the materials I used.

Materials

What is your go-to window treatment? Do you like the look of traditional pleated curtains or are you more modern? Can you sleep in the light, or are you on the dark side? Any tips to help babies sleep?

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).

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.