Sitting Room

Having new floors installed in April has really inspired me to refresh the decor of the apartment. Unfortunately I’ve been pretty broke this year so right now it’s all just daydreams and pinterest boards, but I’m pretty sure the tide will be turning soon (knock on wood that I’m not hit with anymore financial disasters) and I’ll be able to turn at least some of my ideas into reality.

I definitely want to repaint/finish painting most of the house, and with the full bath and our bedroom already halfway done I feel like we could get those out of the way pretty quickly, and with my faux-tile backsplash in the kitchen the amount of painting to be done in there is very minor. The hideous yellow hallway is another story; there’s not a lot of wall to paint but with a whopping SEVEN doors opening off it the taping job is monumental. My biggest plans though, are for the living room.

With our open plan living area we don’t so much have “rooms” as just four different designated areas within the space: dining room, living room, playroom and office. My plan is to switch the living room area with the playroom, and hang some black-out roller blinds between the two so the playroom can also be used as a nap room for the daycare kids. I’m not sure yet if my plan will work (I’d have to relocate the tv under a window that might be too low?) but a big part of it hinges on getting a new sofa.

Our current big sectional is completely caved in on one side and the colour (brown) and shape (HUGE and curved) don’t go with what I’m envisioning. Initially I wanted to get a blue sofa but now I’m thinking a neutral colour would be better in case I get sick of blue. Obviously with the kids and the dogs and my own propensity for spilling drinks/salsa/gravy all the time a light colour won’t do, so in a shocking twist I’m thinking… dark grey. I know, I know. Such a surprise.

Of course, the colour isn’t the only thing to consider. Since we’re not getting another sectional Taylor has just one criteria our new sofa has to meet: it has to be long enough for him to sleep on fully stretched out. He’s 6’4″ or 193cm so it’s kind of a tall order HA HA PUN INTENDED.

I’ve been idly browsing for something I liked that would also be long enough and affordable (the tide of my murky financial waters hasn’t turned THAT much) so of course I’m looking at Ikea because you know what? I love Ikea! I’ve read a lot of articles about how when you grow up you are supposed to graduate from Ikea but to what? West Elm??? Our current sofa is not from Ikea and cost a ton and it didn’t really last that long before becoming un-sit-on-able.

Ikea has quite a few options in dark grey that I’ve been comparing, and I think I may have narrowed it down to just the right sofa for our space and our family.

1. One I was looking at is the Stocksund. It comes in two different solid greys and also a lighter grey & white floral pattern that I actually really like. Unfortunately, the full width of the sofa is 199 cm and once you subtract the arms there’s no way Taylor could fit on it.

2. The new 2017 Stockholm sofa is interesting, and with a seat width of 190cm it’s very close to the right size, but as much as I love the idea of velvet, our fluffy pets and messy children preclude it. Also, ten cushions? I woudl spend my entire day putting them back in place!

3. I had almost decided on the Norsborg and really like the little pockets on the outside of the arms for remotes, books, etc, but the height of the legs and all that space underneath throws me, and when I calculated the seat width it’s only about 180cm, which is not even close. NOT EVEN.

4. With the Kivik the too-much-space-under-the-sofa problem is eliminated, and those wide, flat arms would be perfect to hold a little tray with my drink or snack or whatever craft I’m working on at the time. Tragically though, the seat width once again comes in at just 180cm.

5. Enter the Vimle. I don’t think this product was available when I started looking so it’s new to me. It comes in a medium grey and in spite of not looking particularly oversized it is actually the longest of all the sofas I’ve been looking at (at Ikea and elsewhere). Minus the arms and the seat comes in at a whopping 211cm! I’m pretty sure this is going to be the perfect piece for us, pending a sit-down test next time we’re actually in the store.

If you have any honest opinions about any of these pieces, sofa suggestions under $1000 (Canadian) dollars or why Taylor is so obsessed with sleeping on the couch, let me know!

How does Gwen’s Garden Grow

At the end of June I was offered a raised garden box for myself & the kids. My neighbourhood had received a grant to build some for people who can’t access any of the community gardens for whatever reason, so it was totally free and even came with all the dirt it needed! I’m notoriously terrible at gardening but I figured WHAT THE HECK and said yes. The garden box was built and left in the part of the yard I’d specified, and over the long weekend Gwen and I went to pick out some plants. We got two tomato plants, a yellow pepper, a green pepper, one pumpkin, a strawberry, a blueberry, sage, parsley and chives. I put Gwen in charge of watering them and she’s very diligent about doing it every day.

We’ve had our garden for two weeks and amazingly, not only have I managed not to kill any, some are even starting to bear fruit! The pumpkin seems like it might not be long for this world, and I have my doubts about the blueberry (which is basically a single twig with some leaves that squirrels have dug up twice, but I dearly want it to live and grow because it is actually a PINK blueberry bush) but everything else is growing and thriving. The tomatoes especially, but the yellow pepper looks like it’s ready to blow up, and the sage and chives are doing well enough to use in meals already.

Caring for our Cast Iron

Earlier this year Taylor and I got rid of our old, damaged & unsalvageable stainless steel and non-stick frying pans and replaced them with cast iron. We started a small, 6 1/2″ skillet Taylor got in his Christmas stocking. This little skillet is ideal for making perfect fried eggs (I’ll share my tips’n’tricks for that in another post) but obviously isn’t suitable for cooking a whole meal for the family! So we’ve expanded our collection to include a huge 15″ skillet, a 10″ square grill pan, a pig-shaped bacon press and the real workhorse of the group, a 10″ skillet that I use for EVERYTHING.

There are a lot of opinions on how to properly care for your cast iron. Taylor prefers to scrub the pan with just a little kosher salt and then wipe it out, but since I use the pans to cook foods both sweet and savoury I like to be a little more thorough. I’m just leery of trying to bake a dutch baby in a pan that still has an oniony vibe from last night’s dinner! After some trial and error (by error I don’t mean damaged pans, just needing another scrub) I’ve developed a method that keeps our cast iron clean and well-seasoned while also satisfying my need to scrub everything until it’s sparkling (cast iron never sparkles but when I’m done it does gleam).

You’ll need:
• kosher salt
• mild dish detergent
• cooking oil*
• sponge
• paper towel and/or clean, dry cloth

First, I like to use paper towel to wipe out the excess grease or any loose bits of food still on the pan (if necessary). Next, depending on the size of the pan and how dirty it is I sprinkle about half a tablespoon of kosher salt and squirt about half a teaspoon on dish soap- I uses Mrs Meyers Clean Day- into the pan. With a damp sponge, I scrub the soap & salt all over the inside cooking surface of the pan. Once the pan is scrubbed clean, I rinse it in the hottest water from my tap and dry it immediately all over (inside, outside, the handle, the bottom, and in all the little grooves and crevices of the logo) with a clean, dry cloth or paper towel. The last step is rubbing the entire pan all over (again it’s inside, outside, the handle, the bottom, and in all the little grooves and crevices of the logo) with a couple drops of cooking oil. That’s all, and it keeps our pans looking (and cooking) great!

* we use canola oil but you can use one of your own preference; you just want to make sure it has a high smoking point.

slowly, slowly

We are like 80% of the way done putting our apartment back together- we’d probably be closer to being finished but I’m a masochist and decided that this weekend was the PERFECT time to start painting our bedroom (just one wall, and only because it’s impossible to do with all the furniture in there!). I think for the most part we have all the big furniture put away and a lot of the bins & boxes unpacked. I’m trying to do another mini-purge as I unpack rather than just dump a ton of stuff out and have already filled another bag for donation as well as set aside a lot of book to give away (we have a little free library in our alley and let me tell you it has been GREAT for getting rid of unwanted books, comics and movies).

Of course the real star of the show is the new floors, and can I just say that I love them? I’ve been in apartments with some combination of gross carpet and linoleum since Sym was about six months old and I am SO HAPPY to be free of them, finally! The nice new floors do make the dingy, patched walls look extra rough though, so I can’t wait to finish all the painting/repainting I have planned for this year and really make this place shine.

floored

I’ve mentioned this on social media but we are finally, finally getting new floors in our apartment! I’m super excited about this because I hate the wall-to-wall carpet/linoleum combo we have going on now. The carpet is super impractical in a childcare environment as I always have at least one little kid here who is in the body fluids everywhere stage: spitting up, potty training accidents, barfing, bleeding noses from picking, etc. Five years ago they partially replaced the carpet (I begged them to put down any other kind of flooring but they refused, claiming there was no budget for it, and then less than a year later replaced my all my neighbour’s flooring, wth) and within a week a child had full on peed all over it! And while the linoleum isn’t 100% terrible it does have some pretty big dings, gouges and stains, plus it’s starting to peel up. So yeah. It’s all gotta go.

One corner of the carpet (where the carpeted playroom meets the linoleum dining room), had started disintegrating and pulling up from the little metal edge that holds it in place, so a few weeks ago I called the property manager about it. He came over and said he’d have his “carpet guy” come and repair it, and I was like NOPE NO UH-UH NO WAY and made a big fuss about it until they capitulated. I actually only asked to have the floor in the front half of the apartment (the living area) replaced but they are going to do the whole thing, the front and the back half. This is actually ideal because the hallway & bedrooms in the back half of the apartment have two different carpets from when they were partially replaced, so some of it is over 15 years old and quite grungy. I mean, I DO have the carpets cleaned (both professionally and by myself with a rented cleaner) but there is only so much that can be done, you know?

Since we found out we’ve been packing & decluttering like mad. I’ve gotten rid of SO MUCH STUFF already and I still have more (clothing, furniture, housewares) that I’m planning on donating, giving away or just tossing out. The contractors are starting work on Monday morning so I have three days left to get everything done. In the meantime they’ve already had all the flooring supplies delivered to my cleared-out dining room> I didn’t get to pick the colour of the flooring (boo) but thankfully I actually love it? It’s a very neutral medium grayish brown (the name of the colour is “Seadrift” so presumably they were going for a driftwoody vibe) faux wood vinyl plank flooring. I’m happy with having vinyl flooring for one very important reason: IT’S WATERPROOF. I’m very much looking forward to just wiping up spills or accidents rather than trying (and ultimately failing) to blot them out of the carpet with towels.

While this is all great and exactly what I wanted, it’s also a bit of a nightmare because. Well. We live here! The apartment is full of all our stuff! Initially I considered putting everything into storage for a week so they could do all the floors at once, but it just wasn’t practical. Instead they are doing half at a time: first, we have to move everything from the front half of the apartment to the back half while they do those floors, then come back and move everything from the back half of the apartment to the front half while they do THOSE floors. We can’t stay here while the work is happening so I had to make arrangements for somewhere for us to stay as well. I had hoped we could just take this opportunity to go out-of-town and visit family but having to come back mid-week to move everything made that impossible. It definitely makes me a little bitter that they didn’t do this when I begged them to five years ago when I only had ONE kid and much less furniture, but oh well. At least it’s finally happening now!

hello spring!

We took the kids to the playground yesterday and I think it was the first genuinely nice (ie NOT WET AND/OR FREEZING) day so far this year. Last year all the plum & cherry & apple trees in my neighborhood were flowering in February and this year I feel like they’ve just started to bud. It’s so nice to say goodbye to winter, it seems like it was so long this year, but I guess that just because I’m used to the more typical global warming winters. Were winters this long when I was a kid? This winter was snowy in Vancouver but I certainly remember there being much more snow back in the 80s.

Anyway. I have slacked on a bunch of the home projects I wanted to have done by this point (mostly painting related) but I’ve tackled a few other big projects, namely a massive craft closet declutter. I’m still not 100% finished with it but once it’s done I have big plans for decluttering the kitchen cupboards and the little kids’ room (THERE’S SO MANY TOYS), as well as possibly switching some of the living areas around. Plus all that painting I still need to do! It’s going to be a busy season.

baby bunking

Gwen has wanted to get a bunkbed to share with Nicky basically since before he was born. She was going through a big Peppa Pig phase last summer, and Peppa & George share a room with a bunkbed, so I think that might be the source. There’s also a big sister/little brother bunkbed combo in Little Miss, Big Sis, the book about becoming a big sister we bought for her last year when I was pregnant. Of course, Nicky is in a crib and Gwen is too young for an upper bunk still, but I’ve started doing a little bunk bed planning already.

I had almost decided on the Ikea Norddal bunk bed, which can be reconfigured into two twin beds in case they get sick of being stack up. However I was recently discussing bunk beds on instagram with Alison from 600 Sq Ft and a Baby and she asked if I had considered the Ikea Kura.

For those who aren’t familiar, it’s a reversible bedframe that can be used low, almost as a canopy bed, or high, as a loft bed (the high configuration is lower than a loft bed for a teen or adult). It’s also a favourite of Ikea hackers, a lot of whom use it in the high configuration as a bunkbed by putting a mattress under the loft.

A few weeks ago I saw this adorable playhouse online that Gwen fell in love with (I posted it in my five faves that week). The $250 price tag was a lil much for me though and when a friend sent me a link to a DIY to make one that is similar I figured that might be the way to go. Then I thought about it more and realized we just don’t have the space for a large, permanent (ie non-collapsable) playhouse like that, even with the airy openness of it. The playroom (really part of the open-plan living area) already has the toy shelf and play kitchen (which I’m planning on replacing with a larger play kitchen) and the little kids bedroom has Nicky’s crib, Gwen’s toddler canopy bed, a large dresser/bookshelf and another toy shelf. There is plenty of open area in both rooms but it’s floorspace that needs to be kept clear for playing and walking through.

I started looking at various hacks and LO AND BEHOLD WHAT DID I SPY? Kuras that had been hacked to add a roof-shaped canopy! All I’ve found is pictures with no real sources, so no instructions, but HONESTLY how hard can it be? Kura beds are pretty much just a 2×2 pine frame with white particleboard panels, so I’d just need some extra 2x2s. I even already have a mitre saw to do the cuts, so I’m basically halfway there. Now I just need the bedframe, the extra wood and oh yeah, two years to go by so Gwen and Nicky can use it! JUST KIDDING STAY TINY FOREVER MY BABIES.

photo sources: 1 ikea // 2 Nanette Wong // 3 simons// 4 homeday // 5 erdmute

My Finished Kitchen Backsplash

One thing I really wanted to finish this month was my kitchen backsplash. For an apartment I have a fairly large kitchen with a decent amount of counter space but there was NO BACKSPLASH at all. The wall between the countertops and the bottom of the cabinets was always getting splattered with stuff and was so annoying to clean. I’d been planning on painting it (which had never been done in the 10+ years I’ve lived here) but in my heart I was wishing for tile. Of course I wasn’t about to shell out for actual tile in a rental apartment so I went with the next best thing: STICKERS.


We use this little mouse kitchen timer to limit Gwen’s screentime.

Is a faux tile peel & stick backsplash tacky? Probably, but it is 1000% better than what was there before, ie nothing. After doing some research I decided to go with tiles from Smart Tiles, which had the best reviews. They have a lot of different options but I wanted a) simple and b) cheap so I went with plain white subway tiles. The best price I found for them here in Canada was at Lowe’s, where a pack of six sheets of fake tiles (a little under a square foot each) is $47 (most other places here have them at 1 sheet for $9.99). They were actually cheaper ($43) when I bought them and I also waited to buy them on sale to save a little extra.

I am not going to pretend I’m like a super pro at installing these because I made a lot of mistakes. Good news though, you can learn from them! I have a few tips as to how you can make your faux tile installation as hassle-free as possible:

1. USE THE CALCULATOR ON THE SMART TILES SITE. Each product page has a calculator that will let you know how many of that type of tile sheet you need to cover your surface area. I didn’t realize this and initially ordered based on my own estimation and WOW it was wildly inaccurate. I only had enough sheets to do one wall and had to wait for them to go on sale again to order more and finish the job.
2. MEASURE YOUR CUTS ACCURATELY. Part of the reason I ran out of my first batch of tiles so quickly is because I kept messing up the cuts I needed to do. I ended up being able to use most of the flubbed sheets anyway (I did a narrow strip of wall from floor to ceiling which used a lot of scraps) but I def would have saved at least some money by not screwing up.
3. START WITH THE EASIEST WALL FIRST. For some reason I thought I should start with the wall behind my stove, which meant all sorts of tricky cuts AND the biggest surface area to fill. This is also why I messed up a lot, and I realized after I should have started with the easiest and smallest wall, between the fridge and the window, where the only cuts were just a couple straight edges and a cut out around an outlet.
4. USE TAPE WHEN MAKING CUTS. You can cut these tiles with just a box cutter, cork-backed metal ruler and a cutting mat, but it was easier for me to cut the straight edges with the tile taped to the mat so it wouldn’t slide around. When I had to make unusual cuts (around corners or outlets) I would put tape on the front of the tile in the general area I needed to cut and then draw my cutting lines on the tape (this worked better for me that drawing them on the back, which I messed up a lot). Painter’s tape left the least residue but scotch tape worked fine as well.


The Nespresso & Baby Brezza formula dispenser are both plugged in here and both have large and visible black plugs & cords. I used this outlet cover the disguise the plugs & somewhat wrangle the cords.

Thankfully, the look of these tiles is forgiving and hides a lot of mistakes, and even when I’ve challenged people to figure out my most egregious error that haven’t been able to figure it out (or they are just being nice, who can say). Overall I’m happy with the results and would definitely use this product again.

a fresh start

Happy Friday everyone! This week has been long and exhausting- we’ve had a couple room-sharing hiccups with Gwen & Nicky that have really interfered with me getting any sleep, including one night when Taylor forgot to put the hallway gate up when he went to work and Gwen snuck out and had herself a 3am juice & candy picnic. Several, actually. All over the house.

I’m heading into the weekend with 300 million projects on the go; my goal for this year is to reorganize, declutter and re/decorate the apartment, and I really dove into it this week. I got rid of the big shelf that held all the bins of daycare toys which opened up the dining room & playroom, however I don’t have any replacement storage yet so now there’s just a big pile of toy bins against the wall, oops. I did get myself a new desk, I was planning on waiting on that but then I found one I liked on sale so I scooped it up. The new desk is a lot smaller than my old one, and has less storage, so you would think it would make sense to clean out and organize everything on/in the old desk before setting up the new one, but NOPE. That is not what I did.


mom realness: the baby monitor parent unit hiding behind my calendar

The new desk arrived yesterday and I built it IMMEDIATELY, and just threw everything from my old desk in boxes and piled on windowsills. So now I need to sort out and organize everything! Since a lot of this stuff is probably going to end up in my craft closet I need to sort out and organize that as well, which is a super daunting task. I feel like I need to do a major de-stash but then I’m like… WHAT IF I NEED THIS STUFF IN A YEAR??? I have gotten rid of craft supplies before only to regret it later, but the closet is bursting so I think it’s really time.

I didn’t use a mousepad before but I need one for the new desk. I made my own by cutting a circle out of platinum leather, it’s a little creased right now but with some use it should smooth out & develop a nice patina. Another change to the office area is I took down the large canvases & corkboard that were hanging in the interior window above my desk, which had been there for probably close to 8 years? I’m not sure but they were SUPER dusty! Taking them down has LITERALLY opened up the space, but because it’s right opposite the front door Taylor says it’s very receptionist-y coming in when I’m at my computer, which I can see. I don’t want to fill it in too much but I feel like I should hang something else there now? I also decided to replace my somewhat janky Ikea-by-way-of-craigslist office chair with one of our dining room chairs, at least temporarily. We have four dining chairs but with Gwen using a junior chair we only really use three at any given time. I’ve ordered a chair cushion that I think will serve nicely for the time being.

make the most of it: goals for 2017


notebook // pen // tablecloth

This year I really want to get shit done. I had a lot of things I wanted to accomplish in 2016 and well, I didn’t accomplish any of them. I think I had a pretty good excuse though, as I was kind of distracted by being pregnant all year, and all my self-care and nesting energy went into that.

Get into some sort of shape. I KNOW I KNOW A TOTAL CLICHE. But this isn’t actually a new-years-lose-weight resolution, this is actually a post-pregnancy lose weight resolution. It was just unfortunately postponed by my c-section recovery, and then the discovery that at some point in the last few years of being pregnant, being sick with an autoimmune disease and being pregnant again, I threw out all my workout clothes. When decluttering goes wrong, y’all. So I had to get all new stuff and by the time it arrived it was full holiday season and I couldn’t find the time to get started, and now it’s resolution season at the gym which makes me disinclined to go because it’s gonna be so busy! I’ve figured out that the only time I can possibly go to the gym is Monday and Friday mornings at like… 6:30. I am in NO WAY a morning person so my ACTUAL fitness goal is training my body to get out of bed at 6 so I can get to the gym, work out, get home & shower in time to start work at 8. Then the other days I can work out at home I guess? My idea is to set an alarm for an earlier time each week and slowly ease myself into it, so this week I have it set for 6:45. Tuesday I managed to get up that early, but Wednesday I stayed in bed and dozed off until my regular alarm went off at seven and today to my hame I snoozed it until like… 8. IN MY DEFENSE Gwen woke me up at 3 on Wednesday morning and I woke myself up at 5 today so I was extra tired! Honestly I feel like this is my life rn…

I can’t not work and I’m not willing to give up time with my family so I’m going to have to sacrifice some sleep if I want to make this happen. I guess we’ll see how it goes.

Finish the half-done home decor projects around the house. The kitchen backsplash is half-tiled. The bathroom is half-painted. My side of the office is where unwanted furniture goes to die and the hallway has no storage so there are always bins and boxes piled in it.

Start some new home decor projects. I want to repaint the living room, dining room, hallway and half-bath. I should probably repaint the entryway (it’s the first room I painted in like… 2007? and it’s looking rough). I’ve never painted my bedroom at all in TEN YEARS and it looks just godawful, and I really want to get a headboard for my bed. I have windows that need curtains and closets I’ve taken the doors off that also need curtains.

Replace busted and/or janky furniture and appliances. Did you know I’ve never ever bought a desk for myself? It’s true. Before Taylor I shared a computer with Sym’s dad and he picked out & bought the desk. After we separated I had no desk for a while, and then had a hand-me-down desk from Sym’s room. The desk I have now I found in the trash (really). So yeah. A decent desk would be nice. We also need a new couch (ours has become basically unsittable) and the dishwasher hasn’t worked properly in years. YEARS.

Keep on top of like… basic housework. Fun fact: having a baby DRASTICALLY increases the amount AND frequency of laundry and dishes you have to do, and also cuts into the time you have to do them. It can quickly build up and spiral out of control, leaving me with even less time to do anything else. I’ve committed to getting back into using my to-do lists. I got out of the habit of making them last year but HONESTLY it help me a lot. I need to have a physical list to remind me of what I’m doing, the satisfaction of crossing things off as I complete them, and no option for things like “sit in front of Netflix for three hours while scrolling through instagram” :X I have a new notebook and pen and I’m doing monthly lists of large or irregular project as well as daily lists of everyday things. I also find it useful to break my most hated chores up into teeny-tiny daily increments; for example I don’t necessarily have the time or inclination to clean the whole of both bathrooms in one day, but cleaning one type of fixture a day is totally doable.

Reorganize & declutter. The kitchen cabinets. The bathroom cabinets & shelves. Almost every closet in the house but ESPECIALLY my craft closet. Our storage room! The entryway! It’s basically all a mess and needs serious looking into.

I know none of this follows the typical blogger new year goal list of mindfulness and personal growth (maybe that is the real cliche…), but after the total wash of last year I need to make practical choices. Maybe if I accomplish all this next year I will have goals that are more abstract (but probably not).