Thursday, September 18, 2014

Off My Needles: A Baby Sweater for Chilly Days

I didn't do much knitting in the months before Isabel's arrival. Oddly, I felt a little guilty about it. I was going to be a new mother. Shouldn't I be knitting little baby things like mad for the tiny person that would be needing them? In fact, the only thing I had knitted up for Isabel was a light baby blanket, intended for hot summer days.

Back in April, looking for a simple, small project, and searching for a way to connect a little more deeply with the squirmer in my stomach, I started a baby cardigan. I stuck to a beautiful, gender neutral teal, even though by that point, the Husband and I knew the sex of the baby; we were one of those infuriating couples who chose to find out, but kept it to ourselves.

I finished the knitting fairly quickly. Baby sweaters knit up fast, partially because they're so small and partially, I think, because their construction tends to be very simple. Or, at least, this one was. I chose to use the Baby Sophisticate pattern, available for free on Ravelry. Raglan sleeves mean it can be knit in one piece, with no seams to put together afterwards, and the garter stitch collar added just enough punch to heighten the cute factor without making it overly complicated.


I finished the knitted before Isabel arrived. It should have been done, especially considering the week and a half I was overdue before I finally went into labour. But, it wasn't. No big deal - I chose to knit the 6-12 month size, knowing that she was unlikely to wear a lot of sweaters during the warm summer months of her newborn stage. I washed it and hung it in her closet with all the other clothes that are too big for her. All it needed were four buttons. Such a simple task to finish and yet, there it hung, waiting.

These days, the weather is turning and Isabel is getting bigger. She's solidly into 3-6 month sizes, and doesn't even swim in 6-9 month clothes anymore. A month, maybe two at the most, and this little sweater will fit her perfectly. Knowing this, I knew I needed to get some buttons on it. I pulled out my sewing box and dug out the baggy of vintage buttons I picked up at a thrift store a few years back. I didn't have many options. My collection didn't seem to have a lot of buttons of the right size to begin with, let alone four that matched. Eventually, I gave up and found two and two in the same brassy colour.


They were perfect. Originally, I had planned on little green buttons, a bright contrast against the teal, buttons just like the ones I had put on the little yellow baby sweater I gave my best friend and her daughter. But they had disappeared, the whole package of them, so I was forced to consider a different option, and I'm glad I did. The flowers on two of the buttons add a little femininity, a little girly-ness to the sweater, and the brass pops without overpowering against the teal of the yarn.

Isabel hasn't worn it yet. She won't for a month or so, I expect. But, I'm glad she's got it hanging in her closet, waiting for her to fit into it. I don't know when I'll make her something again, when I'll find the time or the desire. When I do, hopefully it won't take me another 5 months to sew four buttons on.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Time to Paint: Accessorizing

As soon as I finished painting and cleaned up the epic mess I caused by spending 4 days at the project, I realized my accessory situation was a little lacking. I've spent all 3 years we've lived in this house waiting for a time when we would be done renovations and could actually start the decorating stage. Now, with every patch covered and the walls freshly painted, we've finally finished. This painting project means it's time to accessorize.

Unfortunately, I have very little to accessorize with. I'm going to have to do a little collecting over the next little while, but for the moment, I shopped my house a little and pulled together a few accessories that would pop against the the pale blue-grey of my fresh walls, keeping just a few things in mind.


Pieces of furniture are accessories too. In the dining area, we already had the kitchen table, with its dark wood top and chairs to match. It went really well with the dark stain of the stairs. But, we had a little extra space in this room and it needed filling. Since I recently freed up the vintage dresser I was using as a diaper change table in the attic, I brought it down, put it in place and realized it was perfect, meshing well with all the dark wood against the bright, freshness of the wall. With these pieces of furniture in place, I felt like the space needed very little extra. 

Use the walls. This is something I definitely need to improve over the next few months. At the moment, I have very little hanging on my walls. I want more art! I think colourful, high contrast prints would look great against the grey. Perhaps I'll have to DIY something in the next few weeks. 


Tie pieces together. Not literally, of course. What I mean is, find some commonality between the pieces in a space and use it. I feel like this is likely a bit of a safe technique, but I've found it works. A year or so ago, I found the painting hanging above our television on the curb on garbage day and ran it home in excitement. From that painting, I added a few other splashes of orange, yellow and green, highlighting the orange and greens in the painting. Green throw pillows, an orange bowl, a pile of old National Geographics.  Against the grey wall, these colours really shine, and make the room feel like I've actually pulled it together, rather than getting lucky with a few random pieces. 

Love your accessories. If you love something, display it! On the flip side, if you don't love something, even if it works in a space, get rid of it. An accessory might make your room look magazine-perfect, but if it's not you, you're not going to feel comfortable in the space. 

Hence, the ampersand. I know these things had their day of being trendy, but I loved it the moment I laid eyes on it, so I was pretty excited when I hung it in the corner above my lamp after finishing my painting and realized it was perfect for the corner. It was a simple detail that felt very 'me', especially against the grey wall. 


I'm sure you can tell I'm nowhere close to finished accessorizing both rooms, but we'll get there eventually. For now, I'm loving what I do have against these fresh grey walls. Soon, perhaps, I'll start visiting thrift stores and keeping my eyes open for the perfect additions. In the meantime, I'll be scouring the Internet for inspiration. Don't forget, the Benjamin Moore website is a great resource for all things colour related! 

Although this post has been generously sponsored by Benjamin Moore, the opinions and language are all my own, and in no way do they reflect Benjamin Moore.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Time To Paint: A Makeover Reveal

Nothing spruces up a space more than a fresh coat of paint. I don't always feel like I'm either a great decorator or the most immaculate house keeper, but somehow, painting a room makes me feel like both. Recently, Benjamin Moore sent me one of their ben & ME bags to try out. The timing was perfect, considering the number of months we've lived with mud patches and paint swatches on our walls. Besides that, so much of our house hadn't been painted in 3 years and, with two dogs in the house, the walls were looking a little grubby.


I knew the space that would benefit the most from a coat or two of paint was the dining room area. Much of it had never been painted before. The yellow on the wall was the original paint colour in the house when we bought it and we still had chunks of plain drywall to cover. A couple months ago, when we painted the dark grey of the stair walls, we got a little peak at how big of a change a little paint would be.


Yeah, this space really needed some paint.

And then, there was our living room, a giant scar right through its focal point.


The whole space, dining room and living room combined, was a big job. With Isabel still napping for many hours in the day, and a ben & ME bag in hand, I picked up a roller and got to work.


The ben & ME bag came with pretty much everything I needed. Two gallons of the best paint I've ever used, plus 1 quart for the trim, a sleeve roller, a paint brush, a paint tray with a paint tray liner, a drop cloth, a paint can opener, and painters tape. Because some of our trim was brand new, we also had to make use of a couple tubes of caulk in order to close up any gaps and get a nice clean line from trim to wall.

The bag also included a how-to guide, particularly useful for DIYers who have never painted on their own before. It was full of tips, many of which I used in order to get through this huge job.

The ben & ME bag is only available for a limited time (until October 5th) and you are able to get all these contents inside for just $109* at a value of $169. Make sure you get to a Benjamin Moore store to get one for yourself.

Because a number of our walls hadn't been painted before, tip number 3, preparation, preparation, preparation was especially important. Cracks needed mudding and sanding, and fresh drywall needed at least one coat of primer. We had some cobwebs in our highest corners to sweep down before I picked up a paint brush, and wiping down the trim made painting far smoother.

Tip number 8 was a good reminder before I got started. Splatter happens. And, I'm not the neatest of painters. Keeping a damp cloth close by for drips and droplets that landed on the floor was absolutely crucial. I went through so many damp rags over the four days I spent painting, but my floors are more or less paint splatter free.

Considering the quality of the rollers and brushes in the ben & ME bag, I paid pretty close attention to tip number 14 - Clean 'Em to Keep 'Em. With some cheaper materials, I won't worry about this too much, just tossing the roller sleeve when the project is finished. These ones though, were worth cleaning immediately at the end of the project in order to keep them as immaculate as possible. As for all my leftover paint? I think I might have enough to do my bathroom yet too!


The painting itself took 4 full days. It wasn't easy, balancing getting paint on the walls and trim, and taking care of Isabel when she needed me. I woke up early, took advantage of her naps, and passed her off to the Husband as soon as he got home in the evening. By the end of the 4 days, I was exhausted and felt like I missed our snuggles and naps, but the house was finished and I was thrilled with the result.

Ready for the reveal?



The pale grey colour I chose went really well with the dark stain of our stairs, our table, and the dresser I brought down from our attic - you know, the one I was using for a diaper changing table. After the patchy yellow that was in this space before, the bright coolness of the grey seems perfect to open up our space and make it feel clean and fresh.

And, the living room?




Here, the grey seemed to go well with the green and orange accessories I already have. I'm looking forward to adding a little more to both spaces to accessorize and emphasize the colour of the walls. Maintaining the same colour from space to space kept everything feeling large and unified. The house feels amazingly fresh, just in time for me to start school and head into my own fresh start. The new paint job just feels good right now, helping me to clear my mind and get in the right headspace to start something new.

It's amazing how something so simple can have such a high impact.

Twitter Party Alert!

Join sheblogs Canada on September 18 from 7-8pm EST for the #DIYwithBen Twitter Party and win some great prizes. RSVP for the party HERE.

Although this post has been generously sponsored by Benjamin Moore, the opinions and language are all my own, and in no way do they reflect Benjamin Moore.

* With  a qualifying purchase of two cans of 3.79 l ben® interior flat K625, eggshell K626 or semi-gloss K627 and one can of 946 ml ben® interior semi-gloss K627 for $109.00 suggested retail price, receive a FREE ben® & Me tote and painting kit at participating dealers. Limit one (1) per customer. While supplies last. No substitutions. Qualifying purchases must be made in single transaction. Actual price will be determined by dealer at checkout. Offer cannot be combined with other offers, discounts or promotions, or applied toward prior purchases. Offer valid August 25, 2014 – October 5, 2014. See your local participating dealer for details. Void where prohibited.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Time To Paint: Colour for a Small House

We live in a small house. Since we added 300 square feet through our attic renovation, I can no longer say that it's a tiny house, and these days, it feels like it's quite a comfortable size, even with the addition of our little one and all the baby things that go along with her. But, it's still not large in North American terms, so when choosing paint colours, I'm very careful that my choice doesn't make my small house seem even smaller. Coupled with my difficulty in choosing paint colours, this can be tough.

Over the years, however, I've learned and absorbed a few tips and tricks to make sure that the walls help make a space feel open and comfortable, rather than closed in and claustrophobic.

Royalty free image from freeimages.com

Skip the accent wall, unless it has a purpose. Our last paint job included one wall that was a shade or two darker than the rest. It was the longest wall in the house, yes, but there was really no reason for an accent wall since it wasn't meant to be a focal point. Now that it's gone, the room feels a little more open and cohesive.

That said, this time around, I've chosen to paint the majority of the walls of our living space a shade lighter than the stair walls. Because our stairs, which we put so much work into, are a focal point, something we want to draw attention to, this makes far more sense. I also find that it draws attention to the fact that there is indeed more space in our house.

Use bright, light colours. This is by no means a hard and fast rule, but lighter, cool colours will reflect more light and will, therefore, make a room seem bigger. We have always kept the colours in our small spaces fairly bright, for this very reason.

Stick to one colour. This is a tip I haven't actually made use of in my own home, but that I've read many times while searching for inspiration for paint colours. Of course, painting the walls all one colour - and skipping the accent wall - goes a long way to making a small room look larger, but if you also paint the ceiling and trim in different shades of the same colour, you can trick the eye into thinking the room is larger. It's important to maintain the contrast in the room, but playing around with the standard white ceiling, white trim paint job may present some impressive results.

Really stick to one colour. In a space with low ceilings, it can help to paint the walls and the ceiling the exact same colour. By continuing the wall colour on the ceilings, the solid line, or boundary created by the corner is removed, making the space feel larger. We used this technique - sort of - in our attic by painting the dormer walls and peak white.


Maybe I've drawn this out too long, but this week I will finally reveal the paint job I've been talking about so much here. I hope I've succeeded in making out home feel just a little more spacious than it did, using some of these tips. You'll be the judge of that! In the meantime, be sure to check out Benjamin Moore's website for some paint inspiration!

Although this post has been generously sponsored by Benjamin Moore, the language are all my own, and in no way do they reflect Benjamin Moore.




Friday, September 5, 2014

On Leaving My Daughter For The First Time


The night before, I spent hours packing her diaper bag. What would she need? Diapers, of course. Wipes. Diaper cream, maybe, though she hasn't had much of a problem with rashes yet. Multiple changes of clothes. Blankets. An extra pacifier. Bottles. How many? One? Two? Or is that not enough? Breastmilk. 15 ozs? I'd read somewhere that she would eat way more than I expect. 5 bags? But a couple of them are smaller. Better do 6. Baby soap, because what if she has a blowout that makes it all the way up to her hair, even though such a blowout has never happened before?

I had been anticipating this day for two months. Some days, I chose not to think about it, and others, I couldn't keep my mind off it. It has loomed large on the horizon of my summer.

That morning, I zipped the frozen bags of breastmilk into a freezer bag and clipped Isabel into her stroller for the short walk to her new daycare. We've been fortunate to find a neighbour who has run a home daycare in the past and was happy to take on our itty bitty baby. To have someone so close, someone we saw on a semi-regular basis before entrusting our daughter to her care was a huge relief, especially here in the city, where daycare can be astronomically expensive or completely inaccessible.

Stepping away from my daughter that morning was difficult, but not impossible. I coaxed one last smile out of her, accepted the reassurances of our smiling neighbour and returned home, which felt suddenly empty, despite the rambunctious presence of the dogs and the excitement for the activities of the day.

Isabel was being cared for. It was time for me to just be me.

I quickly learned how impossible it is to turn the mom off after being steeped in it for 2 months. The first thought on my mind as I arrived on campus was finding the bathroom with the breastfeeding/pumping room I'd read about on the school's website, so I could make sure Isabel would have enough to eat the next time she goes to daycare. The second thing on my mind as I settled into the first orientation session of the day was whether or not Isabel had accepted a bottle from a stranger in a strange place. The third thing on my mind as the afternoon wore on was whether she was napping or spiraling into her fussy cry, the one that usually hits around 6pm and continues on and off until 10pm, When 5pm hit and my academic advisor continued talking for 5 more minutes, I got antsy in my chair, ready to bolt out the door the minute everyone else started packing up.

And yet, despite the tension I felt throughout the day, there were brief moments of an odd kind of joy. Standing in line at Starbucks with no stroller to maneuver through the doors. The bursts of excitement I felt as the faculty talked about the concentrations I'm interested in. The itch I felt to get started, to get back to reading with purpose, writing things that count for something, talking about something other than how well she napped, or the long walk we took with the dogs.

When I got back, she was awake, calm, happy to see me, even. I gathered her up, took her home, fed her and snuggled her. Despite being away from me all day, she was normal. Not fussy in retribution. Awake, but content. Asleep at her normal time. Her evening was exactly as it always is. She was fine, and I was more than fine.

It was hard, leaving her. Throughout the day, I felt a bit like I'd forgotten to put my pants on, or like I'd left home with the door wide open. But, I'll get used to that feeling, knowing that at the end of the day, we'll be together again, her, happy and well taken care of, me, mentally stimulated and excited about the new direction I'm taking, the work I'm doing. I'm sure there will be times when I second guess myself, wonder if this is really what's best for her and for our little family. There will be long nights scrambling to finish projects and long days, with the dishes piling up and the dogs missing out on their long walks as I juggle baby and school work.

But I know we can do it, now. I know it will all be ok, that we'll manage just fine and, in the end, we'll all be happier for it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

An Adventure in Diapering: My Stash


I waffled back and forth a bit about whether or not I wanted to use cloth diapers. In the early days of my pregnancy, I was certain we would be purchasing a stash of cloth diapers and would be using nothing but. Turned out, the Husband wasn't quite on board, skeptical about how easy they would be to use. Why should we be making something as unpleasant as diaper changes any harder on ourselves?

During the nine months of waiting, I researched pricing, types, cute prints, and washing techniques. The more I researched, the more I got caught in the research. Knowing that the Husband wasn't fully on board, I hesitated about pulling the trigger.

Then, Isabel arrived. We started with disposables, going through two boxes of newborns and half of one ginormous box of size 1 diapers. I hated the disposable diapers piled up, hated the ginormous bags of garbage that filled our bin, hated the hunt for the best price in order to keep our supply affordably stocked. And yet, I bulked at the prices of cloth diapers, still dragging my heels on making any changes. In the meantime, I joined buy/sell groups on Facebook and occasionally saw lots of cloth diapers popping up, usually well after they had already been claimed.

And then, one day, I lucked out, jumped first in line for a whole stash of used cloth diapers at a fraction of the price I would have had to pay to buy them new. Isabel was big enough, threatening to grow out of her size 1 diapers. It was time to make the switch.

How did it go? I'll admit, I had a little buyer's remorse in the first few days we were using the diapers. Isabel seemed to hate them, screaming through diaper changes and the first two days she wore them. On top of that, while I knew they would be bulkier, they were even more bulky than I expected. My little girl looked like a little pear, and I hated it. Aren't cloth diapers supposed to be cute?

Since those few first days, she and I have both started to get used to the cloth, and the downsides of cloth started to pale next to the incredible upsides. No more blowouts, no more poop stained onsies, no more diaper garbage, no more buying boxes of diapers, no more wondering if she's grown out of one size and into another. I have discovered that washing them is hardly a pain and more a comforting exercise in routine in my more-or-less routine-less life.

My Diapers


Through the stash purchased used and a single order of diapers from a China-based online retailer, I've managed to not only buy enough diapers to keep Isabel clean, but I've also managed to get a little diversity in my diaper stash.

I have 31 MotherEase one size fitted diapers. They're made of terry cloth - so, towel material - and are fairly absorbent, but they're not waterproof, so that means I need covers to go with them. They're one size with a fold down rise, meaning the length of the diaper is adjusted by folding down the front of the diaper. Many diapers have a rise that snaps up, so when I first bought these diapers I was really confused how they worked and had to turn to YouTube for a little tutorial.


I like these diapers to a point, but they've had to grow on me. They are extremely bulky, especially on Isabel, who is 10 weeks old this week, and 11.5 lbs. And, the covers that come with them are some of the ugliest things I've ever seen. Pairing them with a cuter cover hasn't really worked so far. Only the MotherEase covers have been guaranteed to be leak-proof with the MotherEase diapers - go figure.

However, when I put Isabel in one of these with every single bit of terry cloth safely tucked inside a MotherEase cover, they work. I haven't had a single leak, a single blowout. As she gets older, additional absorbent soakers can be snapped in so they'll last her through the night. They're easy to wash, coming out smelling fresh and clean, no matter the mess that they've been covered in, and they dry on the line within a few hours as long as it stays fairly sunny.

Ultimately, I wish I didn't have quite so many of these, so I may be looking to sell a handful in the next couple months if I manage to add some reasonable replacements to my stash. I will, however, always keep a few in my stash for night time, especially as Isabel grows.

I also have 9 pocket diapers, 6 BumGenius and 3 AlvaBaby.



The BumGenius were freebies, thrown in with the MotherEase diapers by the seller as a thank you for taking the whole lot of her hands. They're not in the best shape. The hook and loop is pilled and rough, and the pocket opening a little stretched out, but they still work great for the most part. The AlvaBabies are the only brand new diapers I added to my stash, purchased because I couldn't resist the price during my research process. $16 for three? And with such cute patterns? I figured if I hated them, at least my PayPal account would hardly notice.

The BumGenius and the AlvaBabies come with inserts and are meant to be stuffed, but I was sold on pocket diapers after another mom showed me how she uses prefolds as an insert and just lays them on top of the diaper. That way, if its just been peed on, I can toss the insert in the laundry and reuse the diaper itself. Less laundry? Sounds good to me!  

I don't feel like my stash is actually complete yet. I'd love a few more diapers with cute prints, and as Isabel grows I know I may find that some of these diapers work better than others. I'd like to try out other brands, other types maybe. But this has been a good place to start. With a decent stash of diapers in my cupboards, I can buy and sell as I see fit and will, one day, be perfectly happy with the diapers I have.

Fellow moms, do you cloth diaper? Why, why not? What do you use?

Friends and readers who aren't moms, would you cloth diaper if you were? Or, like the Husband*, are you not fully on board?

* The Husband is now more or less fully on board. A topic for another day!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Time to Paint: Finding Inspiration

I've talked before about the difficulty I have in picking paint colours. It's not something that comes naturally to me. Flipping through a paint deck, I feel like I'm merely stabbing in the dark as I pick paint colours, and attempt to develop some sort of cohesive colour scheme from room to room to room. I have difficulty envisioning how a chosen colour will look on our walls, and the way they will look with the other colours in our home.

Because our attic renovation caused a number of scars in the drywall on the main floor, we decided it was time to repaint. Besides, the last time we painted our living room and kitchen, we had just finished the renovation projects we did when we first move in, three years ago. Some of our walls were dirty and scuffed, some scratched up significantly by the dogs. But, I really didn't want to get my colour choices wrong. This is the majority of our house, after all - I didn't want to spend a lot of time, money, and effort on a project I wasn't going to love when I was done.

We tried to go with painting test patches on the wall. We chose to bring the grey of the attic down the stairs and on the wall below the stairs. But, as soon as we put up the colours I had chosen from my paint deck up on the walls in actual paint form, it quickly became clear that the bluish colours I was interested in were wrong, wrong, wrong for the grey. In my frustration, we lived with those patches for months.


With a Benjamin Moore ben & Me kit in my possession, I knew it was time to finally settle on a colour and get painting. So, I turned to the only source I actually trust for a little inspiration: friends and family. I brought my best friend into the space and asked for her honest opinion. When my mother suggested the same thing, the Husband and I realized that their suggestions were the most natural option. All we had to do was actually look around our house to see it for ourselves.

Their suggestion was simple: a few shades lighter than the dark grey we already had on the wall. This makes sense in any setting, but in our home, it makes even more sense. The colour combination already exists.


Our kitchen blacksplash is a mosaic, combining three different shades of grey/blue and white. The colours work really well with accents of any colour, giving me so much freedom in accessorizing. They're easy colours to work with, a crucial requirement for my somewhat bumbling decorating abilities.

So, inspiration has been found from within my own home, pointed out by those closest to me. If you're looking for paint inspiration, you may find your own the same way, but if that fails, Benjamin Moore has all sorts on their website.

Are you working on any painting projects these days? Any walls you need to paint?

Although this post has been generously sponsored by Benjamin Moore, the opinions and language are all my own, and in no way do they reflect Benjamin Moore.