Tuesday, April 29, 2014

This Dusty Pregnancy: 33 Weeks


33 weeks.

7 more to go, give or take.

I haven't done many of these posts. Originally, I wanted to post a bump picture and update every single week, à la every single other pregnant blogger out there. I wanted to be able to document baby's development, my thoughts about pregnancy, and the changes in the attic as they happened around me all at once. But, when it came down to it, I had very little energy to take that bump picture every week, and I surprised myself to discover that I didn't have nearly as much to say about bringing a child into this world as I thought I might.

In some ways, I think I'm likely avoiding thinking too deeply about it. I'm avoiding thinking about the pain of labour. I'm avoiding thinking about bringing the baby home into the lazy chaos of my life. I'm avoiding acknowledging the uncertainty such a little life brings to my predictable stability. The Husband and I will take all of these things as they come, new experience by new experience, moment by moment.

But, how am I feeling? Depends on the day, depends on the hour. Recent blood tests came back perfect except for my iron levels, which were just below the normal range. Not uncommon, but it means I have difficulty dragging myself through the day sometimes, especially if I forget my every-other-day iron pill. My feet ache all the time, and I'm a little concerned that I should have taken my wedding rings off a week or two back, rather than allowing my fingers to swell up around them. But, I still feel more or less myself, even if I feel I no longer look it.

And, are we ready? Not even close. Yes, our crib is set up. We've even got baby's closet all ready to go. (Post on that coming up!) But, beyond that, our home is still pretty devoid of preparations for a little one. No diapers, no swaddling blankets, no hospital bag waiting by the door, no car seat already strapped in. All these things will come in the next few weeks with a trip or two to Babies'R'Us.

In the meantime, one day at a time. The end is coming, but not quite yet.

(PS. I got new glasses! The dogs ate my old ones, and, since I couldn't imagine wanting to labour in contact lenses, I ordered the cheapest pair I could get from Clearly Contacts. Only $100! For someone who is used to spending $450-$600 on a pair of glasses, it felt like a bit of steal. Still getting used to them, but I think I like them!)

Monday, April 28, 2014

A Crib Conclusion

On Friday, I told you all about our crib, how I found it for sale on Kijiji, how I freaked out for a while about the drop side and the lack of information on them, how we broke it during assembly, and were shocked when the company sent us a replacement piece, no questions asked. The crib was, however, still natural pine. Not the right colour.

What was the right colour? For a long time, I had just assumed white. If necessary, I could have figured out a way to get a white Jenny Lind crib. Throughout the process of breaking, and then fixing the crib, I realized I didn't actually have to stick with white. In fact, why would it? I had a whole world of colour to pick from. Now, one month after the project began, the crib has gone from simple pine to something far more interesting.



Painted! 

There are a myriad of tutorials in the blogosphere on how to paint a crib. It's time consuming, but it's straightforward. Of course, the first question I asked myself when I thought about doing this was "Is it safe?"

Short answer, yes

Longer answer: In my research, I learned there's pretty much no paint on the market today that isn't safe. They don't make paint out of lead anymore after all. Nonetheless, it's wise to use a good quality low VOC paint. This isn't a place to skimp. After all, I hear babies are likely to chew on their cribs and may very well end up ingesting little chips of paint. 

We did choose to be a little careful with the sealer we chose for the crib. When we polyurethaned our kitchen table, we went with an oil-based sealer. This time around, I went with a gentler, non-toxic water-based polyurethane. It tends to be lower VOC and cures faster. 


There are three steps to painting any piece of furniture, and a crib is no different:

Sanding: It doesn't have to be perfect. Just enough to rough up the surface to give the paint something to bond to. We used 80-120 grit sand paper, and didn't worry too much about getting into each crack and crevice of the Jenny Lind spindles, but we did our best.

Painting: We did three coats, but this stage can be played a little by ear. If you're getting enough coverage with two coats, it's all you need. I used a brush in the difficult to reach spots at the end of each spindle and a sponge roller everywhere else. Contrary to what you might read on other blogs, a paint sprayer is not necessary. You'll get a perfectly smooth finish with a little sponge roller. Of course, if you have a paint sprayer, it's certainly a legit way to get the paint on those spindles.

Sealing: If you don't seal the painted surface, it won't have any durability at all. This maybe doesn't matter for a piece that is never or rarely touched - a side table, tucked into a difficult-to-access corner. We used a combination of a normal synthetic hair brush and a sponge brush to apply the polyurethane. This step was the most painful since we were already exhausted by the project by the time we got to it. Thankfully, water-based poly dries really fast.


And, done. Seems so simple, right? So easy, so doable. 

I didn't want to touch another paint roller by the time the project was done. I was sick of sandpaper and paper and polyurethane and I was almost - almost - sick of the crib itself. But, now that the crib has been very carefully set up, the offending drop side immobilized and placed against the wall, the mattress covered in a freshly laundered crib sheet and tucked into place, I'm so glad we went through all that work. In the end, the place our baby sleeps won't matter in the least, but I think this slaving over a project for him or her has been good for me anyway. Each time I faced those little spindles, I knew exactly who I was doing this for. Maybe it's a stretch, but each turn of the paint roller, each spindle turned greeny-blue felt like a commitment made in love and determination. 

I know. Sappy.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Laughing in the Face of a Crib Conundrum

Remember this? A few weeks ago, (who am I kidding... months!) I wrote a post about the crib I really want. It was, admittedly, a bit of a whiny post. In response to it, I experienced an outpouring of support from what readers I have left. Suggestions came from all corners of the Internet, along with assurances that I don't have to give up on the Jenny Lind crib. Even more importantly, they were coupled with assurances that really, once baby comes, the crib he or she sleeps in will matter very little.

Those suggestions and assurances prompted me to turn to Kijiji. A little poking around, and I found it! Or, at least, close enough.


The Jenny Lind crib by Storkcraft. You won't find this crib on shelves anywhere anymore. The seller claimed it had been purchased in late 2010 and gifted to them, only used minimally for one baby. It wasn't the white I was looking for, but that could certainly be fixed. Excitedly, I agreed to her price - $100, with a mattress and all the fitted sheets she had to go with it.

Before and after picking it up, I went through an odd cycle of excitement and dread. A little research into this crib revealed a bit of a problem: it has a drop side. In 2009, all Storkcraft drop-side cribs were recalled and new rules related to drop-side cribs were put into place in both the United States and Canada around the same time. In my communication with the seller, she assured me that this particular crib came with the parts designed to fix the side, making it safe. Perfect! We bought it. But, because it's just the way I am, I couldn't stop researching after making the decision. In the process of researching the drop-side crib - and coming up very empty handed when it comes to Canada specific guidelines - I came head-to-head with a fear I never fully expected to have. How could I really ensure that the space in which my baby slept - the most basic of human activities - was safe?

(In my research, this is what I learned about drop-side cribs in a Canadian context:

They have been recalled. It is not legal to sell them.

However, it is not illegal to own and use one. It's not necessarily recommended, but no one is going to stop you.

Purchasing used cribs at garage sales or through online classifieds is also not recommended, but if you do it, make sure it was manufactured after 1986, since that's when the official guidelines about cribs were last changed.

Storkcraft never admitted that their drop-side cribs are unsafe, despite the recall. Rather, they pointed out that the incidences that occurred were related to improperly assembled cribs. It is very easy to put the drop-side on up-side-down, which apparently led to the issue. Since the piece appears symmetrical to me, I'm not sure how this works, but ok.

Finding information on the immobilizing kit that manufacturers provided to owners of drop-sided cribs proved very difficult. Are these enough to make the drop-side considered 'fixed' and therefore legal to sell? I don't know. Somehow, I doubt it.

Finding information about drop-side cribs was very difficult. In the end, I focused my attention on the crib guidelines from Health Canada, which our crib satisfied well enough. If anyone has any more info, please feel free to share in the comments! Note, American guidelines appear to be very different when it comes to drop sides, making it even more difficult to research.)

While still in the midst of this bit of dread, the Husband and I tried to put the crib together. We had to pick up a few new pieces of hardware, standard things that we could easily pick up at Home Depot. Those in hand, we began with that controversial drop side. The drop side has plastic claws that slide onto a track to hold it. The immobilizing clips fit on the bottom, blocking the side from sliding into the dropped position. With the Husband holding the two ends, I slid the drop side into place and attached the immobilizers. He let go of it. The wheels shot out to the right and, with a sickening snap, the right end fell, snapping the claw in the process. I hadn't ensured both top and bottom claws were in place before giving him the go-ahead to let go.

Drop-side or no, our crib went from controversial to garbage in two short seconds. I sat on the floor and bawled.

And then, I picked myself up, found the Storkcraft website and ordered a new part (learning, in the process, that our crib was actually manufactured in 2006. Beware the Kijiji seller who doesn't know anything about the item they're selling.). Turns out, you can do that! I had no idea if they would send it to us. After all, we'd bought the crib used, a practice they certainly don't recommend on their website. My order went off into the darkness of the Internet, it's status murky and unknown. I half expected to receive an email that our crib was outside of any warranty, and besides, it's dangerous, so throw it out immediately! We thought about different ways to fix it - four bolts, since the side is supposed to be fixed anyway. But, we thought, let's give it some time. Maybe Storkcraft will come through.

About 4 weeks later, a package appeared on our doorstep. One claw piece, sent free of charge, no questions asked, no warning about the status of the model number of our crib.

By then, I had done all the research I possibly could and comfortably decided that our crib was not going to kill our baby. The immobilizers ensure that the claws can't move, and besides, we'll be co-sleeping for the first six months to a year. This in itself will help us keep Baby V safe while he or she sleeps. Replacement claw in hand, I was ready to turn our second-hand, almost perfect crib into the perfect sleeping place for our baby.

Coming soon, hopefully: a crib painting extravaganza! And a proper picture of it. Because really, a stock photo is not the same as a photo of the real thing.

(I'll do my best to not leave you hanging too long!)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Easy Chicken Alfredo

Pregnancy has done a number on my desire to cook. This didn’t surprise me at all in the first trimester; after all, nausea was a way of life for me for what felt like forever. But, as I moved into the second trimester and now the third trimester, I have been a little surprised that my desire to cook hasn’t returned. Every time I do settle in with my favourite knife and Dutch ovens, it quickly becomes drudging work rather than the joy it used to be.

So, solution? Easy, easy, easy. The only requirement I have for the meals I do end up getting on the table is simplicity. This means we’ve been eating a lot of sandwiches and platefuls of perogies. True, perogies are delicious, but they get a little boring after a while, not to mention a complete lack of balance.


Recently, I was introduced to Kraft’s new shredded cheese, Kraft Shredded Cheese with a Touch of Philadelphia. It’s been specially blended with just a touch of Philadelphia cream cheese, which causes it to melt like no other shredded cheese, so soft and creamy. The possibilities for it seem endless: cheesy tuna melts, nachos so melty the cheese is all that matters, casseroles covered in just the right amount of gooey cheese.

But, my thoughts went to Alfredo sauce. When I was in university, I ate a lot of Alfredo pasta dishes, unceremoniously dumping the full contents of a jar of canned Alfredo sauce over noodles with chicken or shrimp thawed from frozen. If I was getting fancy, I might have added a pepper, but I was a student: vegetables weren’t particularly important to me back in those days.


My eating habits have certainly changed. I can no longer justify alfredo sauce from a jar. The expense of it for the questionable nutritional value means it never finds its way into my cart at the grocery store. This week, I discovered that it really isn’t that hard to make my own, from scratch, with a little Kraft Shredded Cheese with a Touch of Philadelphia to help.

It was delicious. The husband agreed. The baby agreed. And even better, it was so easy to whip up.


Chicken Alfredo

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bell peppers, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper
2 cooked chicken breasts, chopped
3 tbsp flour
1 cup chicken stock
1 package Kraft Shredded Cheese with a Touch of Philadelphia
¼ cup cream

  1. Over medium heat the olive oil in a large pan or skillet.
  2.  Add the onions and garlic to the pan. Saute until the onions are slightly translucent.
  3. Add the peppers and cook for a few minutes, then add the chicken.
  4. Sprinkle the flour over the chicken and veggies, and mix in.
  5. Slowly add the chicken stock, stirring constantly to make a roux.
  6. Reduce heat. Add the Kraft Shredded Cheese with a Touch of Philadelphia and watch it melt into the mix deliciously.
  7. Mix in the cream to make it even creamier. 
  8. Serve over cooked pasta of your choice.


The cheese and its memorable melt definitely made this recipe. I used the Creamy Herb and Garlic flavour because I love garlic, but I’m looking forward to trying the Creamy Mozza and Creamy Mexicana flavours too. There are a lot of other recipes to try on the Kraft website too, just as easy and delicious as this one. Make sure you check them out!

If you crave even more new recipes and dinner ideas, check out the Kraft Twitter Party too! @KraftCanada will be hosting it on Wednesday, April 16 at 9pm. Use the hashtag #TouchofPhillyCheese to keep up on the conversation.

Make sure you let me know if you try this recipe and the new cheese. I’d love to hear what you think.

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


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Letting Go of Things

Yesterday morning was garbage day. As the husband gathered the kitchen garbage and compost to whisk out the door, I thought for a few minutes, just to make sure that the decision I was about to make was actually the right one. Then, I sent him upstairs to get the chairs.


Nesting has come out in me in the form of purging. I'm certain this is a symptom of living in a small house. The longer I live with something I don't use, the more I want to get rid of it. Just, get it out of my house.

I've had these chairs for a few years now. The one on the right spent 10 months in the garage before emerging, triumphantly reupholstered. It was a wonderful learning experience, that I wouldn't exchange for anything. The red one, I picked up from a neighbour's garage sale, excited to find a matching chair to go with the one I already had.

But then, as often happens with things in our house, Kingsley's puppy teeth got into them. The seat cushions were destroyed. the arm of the red one chewed apart, the trim on the white and grey one ripped off in one satisfying puppy tug. I can fix them, though, I insisted. They'll still be perfect!

Problem: when it comes to comfort, I don't like these chairs much. They're awesome for about 15 minutes with my feet tucked up underneath me. And then, of course, my feet fall asleep and every other position seems inadequate.

So, yesterday morning, as the husband got the garbage out on the curb, I made the decision and out the door they went. As I watched him carry the first one out, the one I spent hours reupholstering, I felt a slight twinge of regret, regret that the chairs had become so dilapidated so quickly, in such bad shape there was no way we could even donate them, regret that I don't have the dedication to an attractive home to sacrifice my comfort, regret that I never got around to reupholstering the second one at all.



I didn't have long to see them sitting on the curb though. The chairs were gone, swallowed up by the back of a dump truck before I left for work. And, I was ok, letting go of a couple things that at one time, I thought were so perfect for our little space. Our needs changed. It's ok. It happens.

Now, our attic bedroom is even emptier than it was before, the chairs making way for a crib. Their absence has, however, brought up a new question: where will night feedings happen? Bed? Maybe. Or, will I prefer a comfortable, back-supporting chair tucked into a corner? If so, where am I going to find that chair?

I suppose it's time to go shopping.

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Laundry Closet That's Actually A Closet

For months and months - wait, years? - our washer and dryer have been sitting under the stairs in a laundry closet that had yet to be built.


For 3 years, it's always been a plan to hide them. After all, they create a lot of visual clutter that I've never been fond of. Originally, we planned to stack them, but the more I used them, the less I enjoyed the process of getting wet clothes from the washer up into the dryer. Unstacked it was.

With our stairs in place and the upstairs more or less liveable, the Husband turned his attention to the laundry closet. He quickly ran into a problem.

Originally, when he created the hole in the ceiling for the stairs, he made it with the washer and dryer in mind. Unfortunately, he forgot to calculate in the width of the wall. There was no way the washer and dryer would fit in a closet made under these stairs. We considered our options. A bump out maybe? Could we somehow made it look purposeful and not like a mistake?

But wait, I thought, looking at the washer and dryer critically for a moment. Are they as wide as they are deep? What if we turned them?

The new configuration saved our butts completely. We turned the washer and dryer to face each other, creating a walk-in laundry closet. Totally different than the original plan, but it's possible that I love it even more. The wall went up on the weekend, and it's amazing the difference it makes in our space.




The house is still a mess of leftover bits of construction and paint splotches for dramatic wall ideas we're considering, but maybe it's coming together. Some paint, some trim; we're getting there.