Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Baby Knits: A Light and Airy Baby Blanket


You would think, with my own baby coming along, my needles and hooks would be flying with anticipation, whipping up baby booties, little hats, blankets, sweaters, and all manner of little knits. After all, when my best friend announced her pregnancy, I churned out a full-sized baby blanket in matter of mere weeks. The knowledge of a tiny new life pushed me into a focused frenzy, as I poured my love and hopes for my best friend and her new baby into each stitch of that blanket.

When I found out I was pregnant, I cast on a baby blanket almost right away. I chose a small little blanket, carseat sized. Considering Baby V is due in June, this made sense to me. I won't need particularly heavy blankets right away, and considering the number of knitters in my life, I don't expect it would be the only baby-sized blanket in our home. Especially considering the size, I figured I could fly through the delicate pattern and use the little blanket - along with our dogs - to announce the good news.

Obviously, that didn't happen. Instead, this did:

A) The first trimester sucks. I fell asleep on the couch at 8:30 every night for a month. I didn't realize how low my energy levels really were until I hit the second trimester and some of it came rushing back. I had no desire to do anything, and even picking up my knitting needles felt like a chore.

B) The pattern I picked was a challenge. I knew it going in, but combining the pattern with my yarn choice made it more of a challenge than I really bargained for.


I started this blanket on October 16. I finally finished on Sunday, January 26. Three and a half months for a tiny, light little blanket, three and a half months that felt like forever.

I chose this pattern - a free one! - but paired it with a light DK weight yarn instead of an aran weight as it called for. I used a measly single skein of Caron Simply Soft Light, which, while as soft as the label claimed it would be, was not the ideal yarn to use on such comparably large needles (6mm) for such an intricate pattern. Every time I put my knitting down, I lost my place on the pattern chart and, because of the nature of the yarn, it was not easy to find said place back again. A few times, over the Christmas holidays, I leaned on my talented mom to help me figure myself out again so I could move forward.

The baby blanket was very nearly done. Two pattern repeats away. And then? Those unruly dogs. Filled with pent-up energy from the deep cold Ontario has been stuck in for the whole winter, they found the baby blanket, and the crunchy bamboo needles that held its stitches. I gently removed the splinters and remnants of the cable, folded it all up and shoved it in a drawer. By that time, I was already feeling off about the little blanket itself, since it had caused me so much trouble. On one hand, I was ok with the destruction. On the other, I couldn't help but acknowledge the hard work I had poured into it. Could I really just toss it away now, when it was so close to finished?



Once again, my mom came to the rescue. With a tapestry needle, she carefully picked up each of the 83 stitches and handed it back to me, safely on 6mm plastic straight needles, a cheap replacement for the interchangeable tips and cable I had lost. I rushed to finish. I wanted it done. As soon as I cast off the last stitch and tossed it in the washing machine, I breathed a bit of a sigh of relief. I felt like I was free of it, finally.

I spread it out on the counter to dry. It's perfect. The nature of the pattern means that any misplaced stitch threw the whole thing off, so every error I made, I carefully ticked back and corrected. It's probably the most error-free project I've made to date. I'm proud of it, for persevering, for knowing when I couldn't manage and requesting help, for each individual stitch and yarn-over.

I hope my little one likes it one day, once he or she is old enough to appreciate it. Perhaps the little blanket will even inspire him or her to pick up a pair of needles.


(For details on the project, check out the project page on Ravelry.)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Shifting Focus: Bamboo floors finding completion

I have much to show you in the attic. This weekend was a productive one for the Husband! But, while those changes may be exciting, I cannot allow myself to forget the changes we've made on the main floor of the house, changes that have been so very crucially important in reaching completion with this whole renovation.

For a very long time, our dining area has looked like this:


Even though we took a wall down months ago, during the spring, our main floor space still felt very delineated. We lived with a scar down the centre of our living space for a long time as we focused our energies first on our basement waterproofing efforts, then on our curb appeal, and now on our attic. Over the Christmas break, we took some big steps towards getting rid of that line down the middle of our house, and pulling the space together into a home that flows, living room into dining room, dining room into kitchen.


The rest of the bamboo floor is down!

No longer is there a little lip, stepping down from the bamboo floor to sub-floor, an irritating line that caused stubbed toes and nearly twisted ankles on more than one occasion. No longer does the floor visually break up the rooms of our house, preventing smooth movement around the open concept space.

We still have lots to finish yet.


The stairs must be refinished, the closet for the washer and dryer studded in and built, the walls patched where the plumbing for our attic radiators runs, artwork properly hung, instead of tossed on a random nail to get it out of the way. But getting these floors down felt like a big job that took our house from construction zone to nearly finished. As the attic comes together, so does this space, and maybe, just maybe, one day we'll live in one of those houses that looks new and polished, well put-together, and beautiful.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Little Pretty For Our Living Room

We've been pretty focused on our attic. So focused, there's been a few changes on our main floor that have seemed so small in comparison, I've hardly noticed the impact they actually have had on our space.

One such change is this lamp:


Because we've been so focused on renovating for the past 2.5 years, I sometimes lose sight of the pretty things in our house. The gaping holes in the wall, the dust I can't seem to keep off our floor, the drills, screws, and bits of spare wood stacked on our kitchen table, it's hard to see the pretty things through it.

This lamp though. From the moment it landed on my door step, I was in love. It's large, a bit of a statement piece, but it's also on the delicate side because of the see-through wire base letting the light flow through it.


The arrival of the lamp forced a little improved organization of our house too. Previously, in its spot, I had a small bookcase, two of the shelves turned uselessly towards the couch, the other filled with the base and speakers of our monstrous, early 2000s era stereo. Since I now needed to find a place for this pretty thing, I tossed the terrible, cheap bookcase, and brought one of our old bedside dressers out of our bedroom to put in its place. A few extra trinkets, and the vignette seems complete enough to me.

It's one little corner among the chaos in which I can clearly see the way our house might shape up, provided all these renovations finish before the baby comes and every nook and cranny gets filled up with brightly coloured plastic toys.

(I must add a thank you to this post, to Lamps.com, who sent me this lamp for review purposes. While the lamp was a gift, I promise I would not give something a positive review unless I actually appreciated the product.)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Crib Conundrum: The Jenny Lind

Way before I got pregnant, way before I even considered having kids, way before I ever looked at a nursery on purpose, I fell in love with a crib.

It's the perfect crib. It's simple, but not overly so. It comes in white, black, cherry, yellow, turquoise, and red. It meets all the safety standards in Canada and the USA. It's affordable, with an easy-to-swallow price tag of anywhere from $150-220.

Fellow Toronto blogger Lindsay at Little House Blog used it four years ago in her son's nursery.


Fellow Canadian blogger Christine at Just Bella used it in her nursery three years ago.


Target sells it. Walmart sells it. Babies'R'Us sells it.

Falling in love with this crib should not be a problem. Except, it is.

Lots of retailers sell the Jenny Lind by Davinci in the States. It's easy to find and, since it has such a good price tag, seems to end up being a bit of a default for many. However, retailers don't actually seem to keep these cribs in stock. Instead of wasting precious shelf space on such a large, but cheap item, they offer free shipping. To their American customers that is.

Switch over to the Canadian versions of their online sites and the Jenny Lind is nowhere to be found. Amazon.ca carries it, but only if you're willing to pay double the price. And, there seem to be few other manufacturers that have dipped their toes into the Jenny Lind style crib. The term 'Jenny Lind' refers to the design of the crib's spindles and is, in no way, trademarked by Davinci, but despite the apparent popularity of the crib in the States, the only other manufacturers selling the style want at least $500 for it.

I'm trying really hard to swallow my disappointment and accept the Jenny Lind as an impossibility. The crib isn't that important anyway. Another crib will do just fine. In the grand scheme of things, this doesn't matter a single iota.

I figured all this out months ago. I should be over it by now. But, occasionally, I can't seem to help starting the cycle over again, researching, combing blog after blog and message board after message board for a clue, a work-around. I have yet to find one that wouldn't be such a hassle, it's no longer worth it.

Why do I keep coming back to these delicate spindles? Is this just about a crib? Or, is it merely a distraction from thinking about the life that those spindles will keep safe in sleep, a distraction from thinking about the incredible responsibility that is only a few months away?

Update, April 30, 2014: There's more to this story! 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

This Dusty Bookshelf: The Book of Negroes

The Book of Negroes

By Lawrence Hill

I've been wanting to read this book for a long time. I didn't really know what it was about, but ever since it won Canada Reads in 2009, I've known it would be worthwhile read.

Did you know that Hill was not allowed to publish it under its original name in the United States? My American readers will be able to find the book under the title Someone Knows My Name. Which, is a good title too, but not nearly as accurate as The Book of Negroes

Hill titled the novel after an historical document by the same name. The Book of Negroes is the book in which the British wrote the names of freed slaves - Africans and their descendants - during the evacuation from the 13 Colonies to Nova Scotia after the Americans finally defeated their British overlords and gained their independence. In the novel, Aminata Diallo, the main character, is one of those who speaks to each person, verifies their status in service to the British and writes their names in the book, thereby securing them passage out of New York and away from the danger of being dragged back into slavery. 

The book is not just about the Book of Negroes, however. The book follows Aminata's life from the moment she is captured outside her village and shipped to America, through her life to old age, which finds her in London, presenting her life story to British abolitionists. 

This is the kind of book that makes me angry. Ashamed. Hypo-aware of my own white privilege. It does this beautifully, however, not by villianizing the slave traders and Americans as a whole - though there are certainly specific characters that can be described as nothing but villainous - but by presenting the issues in all their complexity and simplicity at once. 

There was one theme, thread throughout the book which, every time Hill brought it to the surface, he brought tears to my eyes at the same time. It was the theme of home. Much of the book is centered around Aminata's longing for, striving for home. A number of times, she finds a map of Africa, but instead of seeing towns and villages, something that might point her towards her own home, all she finds are sketches of elephants and bare breasted women, a startling misrepresentation of the place that Africa is. 

(No wonder so many still consider Africa all one place, as opposed to countries and villages rich with their own life and culture.)

I have never had to wonder where home is. True, my family chose to leave their home in the Netherlands sometime just after World War II and come to Canada. But, they were never leaving a home behind; they were traveling to a new place in order to create a new home. Two generations later, Canada is a chosen home, not a forced one, and I never have to wonder at where I came from.

I wish the telling of Aminata's story could reverse it. I wish a book could change the world.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Attic of Awesome: Zoning the Space

Our attic renovation has, more or less, become a blank slate. Drywalled, primed and waiting for paint, bare subfloor, waiting for some kind of finished floor, a window waiting for trim and treatments.


Now is the time to start making decisions. We need to figure some things out, design-wise, in order to wrap up this renovation. There are paint colours to choose, floors to install, art to hang, and furniture to purchase. There's a lot to think about.

We know this room will have two or three zones. It's a big space - 320 square feet - and in our tiny house, that much space can't have just one purpose. Getting each zone to work together and feel cohesive will be a challenge, but not one that I think is outside of our capabilities.

Zone A: The bedroom. Our quiet night-time retreat. We already know that the bed will live under the window. In fact, being the impatient people we are, we've already moved it there. We also know that our current bed frame, with the high headboard, is not going to cut it. We need something low, something that doesn't block the light from entering the room in any way. This means that, for a long time, our bed will live on the floor until we find something perfect.


Zone B: The nursery. Because our house is so tiny, for the first 6 months to a year (allowing for the flexibility children require), our little one will nap, sleep, feed, and be changed in this room. The crib and changing table will live against the east wall beneath the slope, just a few steps from my side of the bed. I've considered room dividers, or gauzy layers of curtains to give us the illusion of a little separation, but I'm not sure how this zone will work in the space, considering I have no crib, change table, or baby to test it all out with.


Zone C: The dressing room. Some days, I am truly jealous of those who have the luxury of a full dressing room in the form of a ginormous walk-in closet or an extra, unneeded room. With three closets along the back wall of this room, I should have plenty of closet space for my wardrobe, but I've always wanted a space of my own to do the rest of my morning routine, the hair, the make-up. We have one tiny bathroom to share and not nearly enough counter space. So, into this room, I want to incorporate a little make-up table, along the opposite side of the room, against where the railing will one day stand. There will be just enough space for a narrow table and a little stool or chair, with a full length mirror on the wall at the top of the stairs. In the future, once the little one is a little older and in need of his or her own room, this space will become an office space instead - or as well as - adding in filing cabinets, a printer, and all manner of household papers.

Knowing what we want and what we need from this space is the first step, right? From here, we'll determine the atmosphere we want to develop in order to tie in all three zones. We may have progressed to our blank slate, but I feel like we have a long way to go yet. We'll get there, but yes, there's a long way to go.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

16 Weeks Pregnant Thoughts


I have grown. Proof? 13 weeks.

I'm going to admit. The growing is hard. I have always taken care of my body, obsessed and worried about it at times, perhaps. I've noticed minuscule weight changes and shifted eating habits and exercise to accommodate. I have spent so much mental energy and time keeping myself healthy.

This weight change hasn't been miniscule. I am not one of those women who can hide her first growing baby until halfway through. I've put on 11 pounds in 16 weeks. Most of my pants can no longer be buttoned around my bump. I'll admit it; it's hard to watch it happen. It's normal, it's expected, it's healthy, but it's hard. I watch my growing belly, knowing it's never going to be the same, knowing I may develop the craggy lines of stretch marks, knowing my belly button will one day look unrecognizable. My life is changing, and it's starting here, right at the centre of me.

But, there's an upside to the bump. An amazing, kind of mind-blowing upside that everyone knows but no one really elaborates on much. Every so often, somewhere deep in my stomach, I feel an odd kind of shift I've never felt before, like something is pressing up against the inside of my skin. It's a reminder, my little boy or girl affirming to me that this is something I want, something I prayed for, something I can't wait to come to fruition. Losing my baby-less body is scary, but when he or she gives me a little poke, I know it's a sacrifice I won't regret.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

An Attic of Awesome Update: In Which an Actual Room Emerges

Today, I went back to work for the first time after 10 days. In those 10 days, we got a lot done on the attic, and elsewhere in the house. It's been exciting to see the room emerge over the past few days. We went from rough drywall, to a beautiful, more or less, dust free space.



Among the things we've accomplished in the past few weeks are windows. We needed a new window in the attic dormer, since the existing one appeared to be original to our 1920s house, so we pulled the trigger and replaced all of them at once. They're beautiful, with gorgeous grills to give them just a little bit of extra pizazz.


We have finally arrived at our blank slate. We've already decided on and ordered hardwood floor for 340 square feet. We've begun the process of planning for our permanent stairs, including railings, spindles, and nosings. I need to start thinking about paint colours and trims. On those things, I'm at a loss. Dark and cozy? Or light and bright?

We made the move on Tuesday to drag our bed upstairs and place it under the window, even though the room isn't finished yet. It's a beautiful place to sleep. Our fish found a new home here too, on the dresser I bought at a thrift store over a year ago. The space is so large, I've even set up a small sitting area at the end of the bed with the club chairs that desperately need to be reupholstered or slip covered. There's still room to spread out a yoga mat in the middle of the room.

There's still a lot to do, of course, but I'm feeling pretty proud of how far we've come.