Gardening Plans for the Front

Remember how we spent all last summer digging up and waterproofing our foundation? Well, this summer’s project is trying to make our yard look halfway respectable again. This is going to be an interesting project, because we will have a “Before, Before” with our flower beds and yard looking lovely, a “Before” for when we tore it all out to fix the foundation, and an “After” for when we redo all the grading, planting, and landscaping. I’m sure the neighbors were watching us last year and weeping for the previous owners, who apparently loved to garden- as indicated by the well maintained and lovingly tended perennials we used to have.

I tried to keep some of the plants but there just wasn’t the time to plant them somewhere else and salvage them. I feel super guilty about the planticide we are responsible for, but let’s face it, a leaky basement doesn’t make up for a beautiful garden!

Here’s how the front of our house looked before we tore it all up last year.

DSC_1916_blurredDSC_1920_blurredDSC_1921_DSC_1922_.blurredjpgDSC_1917_blurredIt might be too cringeworthy to share how it looks now. Imagine all the grass is brown, all the plants are gone, the front steps are sitting in the middle of the yard and there is treacherous boot-eating mud everywhere. Got that? Ok.

Now for my plans… I’m not going to be reinventing the wheel here. I quite liked how it looked to begin with- the bush beside the front door turned a beautiful red colour in the fall (a Burning Bush I think?) and I liked the variation in heights of the plants in the front bed. I’ll probably do something pretty similar to how it looked before. For the bed below the large front window, I’m thinking a few shrubs flanking a row of white hydrangeas with hostas in front.

hydrangeas and hostas

A La Campagne on Facebook

I haven’t decided yet what to do with the other bed below the two smaller windows. The same thing as the other bed? Something different? My mother-in-law offered me some of her bleeding hearts, so I might do a couple of those, maybe with something that can climb up the wall on a trellis? I like how astilbes look and that area gets a lot of shade in the afternoon… Obviously I still have some work to do on my plans. But seeing as we got snow a few days ago I probably still have some time!

bleeding hearts and trellisPinterest

astilbes hostas bleeding heartsPinterest

Of course all of this can’t take place until we have regraded the yard, planted grass seed, and leveled out all the tread marks in our lawn from the excavator! Looks like this summer will be just as busy as last. Anyone have a green thumb I could borrow?


PS. Oh yeah, we totally had the baby. My husband was right all along; Baby H is a girl! She is healthy and happy and keeping us very busy. Being a parent is just as hectic, terrifying, and amazing as we thought it would be… maybe more. :)

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Baby H’s Neutral Nursery Reveal

I’m super excited to share our finished nursery! I took advantage of the 30 cm of falling snow outside to stay in and do a little photo shoot with our new camera, which I’m still learning how to use. If you want a little refresher, check out this post for my style board and plan and this post for a progress report. I’ve been working on this room on and off for about 3 months and I’m really happy with how it looks. It kept me occupied between losing my job and waiting for baby to come, which I am grateful for! But enough of my nattering, here are some visuals.DSC_4809_DSC_4781_ DSC_4807_DSC_4778_DSC_4786_ DSC_4826_DSC_4793_DSC_4794_DSC_4797_This room featured a lot of DIY and craft projects, like the papier maché zebra head I previously posted about and the 2D cloud mobile I made, loosely based on a wooden one I saw online.DSC_4828__01
The wall art is pretty much all DIY, from the zebra head to the art prints I made with some free web graphics that I found online – I love how these turned out!DSC_4838_DSC_4843_We really tried to save money anywhere we could, like using coupons, shopping sales, and repurposing things we already had in the house (like the curtains). I really wanted some cute maternity photos to frame and to have as a keepsake but hiring a photographer was not in the budget- so we bought a new-to-us DSLR camera that was an upgrade from our 10 year old one and did our own photoshoot at a nearby park with a tripod and a timer.

DSC_4799_ DSC_4805_I may have gone a bit overboard with storage containers. It’s hard to know what we’ll need before the baby actually gets here, but I tried to give us lots of options for toys, blankets, clothes, diapers etc- all the various baskets and containers will help keep things as organized as possible!

DSC_4804_I really liked the idea of a shelf/organizer combo with hooks above the change table but couldn’t find anything I liked at a price I wanted to pay. So I made my own with an inexpensive shelf, wall hooks, and baskets. I think this will end up being really valuable storage and functional space for diaper changes!

DSC_4802_My favourite corner of the nursery is the rocker, bookshelf, and ottoman, and I’ve already been testing it out! Hard to believe that soon I will be sitting here nursing our baby, and later reading to them.  I love the little zebra stool which will function as a drink station for those midnight feeding sessions.

DSC_4819_If you’re interested in where we got everything and our budget, here is a handy little source guide with a price breakdown too! I’m pretty happy with what we ended up spending on this room.

  1. Crib – Delta “Waves”, Sears, $130 on sale
  2. Mattress – Simmons Peaceful Slumber, Sears, $75 on sale
  3. Linens – ÄLSKAD 4-piece set, IKEA, gifted
  4. Mobile –  DIY with supplies purchased from Michael’s and Fabricland, ~$10
  5. Rocking chair – POANG rocker with black leather cushion, IKEA, $219
  6. Macramé ottoman – HomeSense, $39.99
  7. Antelope accent pillow – Village International, gifted
  8. Zebra stool – Village International, gifted
  9. Book shelves – MOSSLANDA picture ledge, IKEA, $16.99/ea
  10. Floor lamp – HEKTAR floor lamp, IKEA, $79.99
  11. Wall art – DIY prints from free vector images found online in RIBBA frames from IKEA, $9.99/ea
  12. Accent stripe – Behr paint in Perfect Taupe, $18.97/quart
  13. Curtains – recycled beige and black panels previously purchased with added blackout liner, $30
  14. Curtain rod – RÄCKA rod with 3 brackets and BLÅST finials, IKEA, $19.49
  15. Toy storage unit – TROFAST storage combination, IKEA, $105
  16. Bone/enamel picture frame, Dollarama, $3
  17. Laundry hamper, HomeSense, gifted
  18. Papier maché zebra head – DIY, free!
  19. Wall lamp – RANARP lamp, IKEA, $29.99
  20. Change table/dresser – Kijiji, $80, with change pad, gifted
  21. Bamboo basket for wipes, HomeSense, $12.99
  22. Change table storage – EKBY shelf, $18.99, with SVARTSJÖN hook rack, $6.99, and NORDRANA baskets, $9.99; all IKEA
  23. Painted mason jars, Little Miss Mason, gifted

As always I’d love to hear what you think in the comments! Now we just need sweet Baby H to arrive to really pull it all together. 😉


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“Neutral Nursery” Progress

Today I’m sharing how the nursery is coming along. If you want a reminder of where we started, check out this post for some seriously old school wallpaper and this post for my plans.

So far we have all the furniture and the window treatments figured out, which were slapped together from a couple of old panels we had kept from our very first apartment. I was super impressed at my ingenuity of adding the black panel to the bottom of the beige ones and when I showed off my accomplishment to my husband he said “But they were already curtains anyway, right? All you did was stitch them together and change the length?” Huh. Next time he can sew. Slight segway: I will never NOT buy curtain rods from IKEA. For the price, look, and quality, they hit the sweet spot for me! The sweet spot being a ~$20 price tag, that is. The finials match the dresser knobs nicely too.

IMG_5113 IMG_5114

One project that has kept me busy lately is lining the drawers of the change table. This was my first attempt and there was definitely a steep learning curve! I can post more about this if anyone is interested, basically I just used wrapping paper cut to size and Mod Podge to adhere and seal it. Now the insides of the drawers look nice and fresh! I shared this on Instagram a while back, obviously I move closer to real time in social media land than in blogging land, so you might want to check me out there @dear_diy.

lined dresser drawers

I’m not sure what to do above the change table- a shelf? Artwork? It might be nice to have the wipes and Penaten or something within arms reach so we don’t have to be opening the dresser drawers while trying to restrain a pee machine.


(Happy to report that I have since removed the price tag from the laundry hamper- for someone with “attention to detail” I sure miss a lot of stuff. Perhaps I should remove that from my resume when I start looking for a job again?)

I really like the idea of a shelf/storage/hook combo unit like this one from Finding Silver Linings.


So far the only ones I’ve found run about $50-60 at HomeSense. They also tend to have more of a “rustic” look which doesn’t really jive with the mostly modern look I have going on. I think I have hit upon a solution, I just need to convince my husband that we really do need more storage (when does anyone ever NOT need more storage?!).

Stay tuned, I’m hoping to wrap this room up in the next few weeks just in case Baby H decides to make an early appearance!


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Winter AKA “Before Baby” To-Do List

Yep, a few things on our list have changed in priority due to the impending arrival of Baby H. I love doing these lists because they really help me stay accountable to Future Cathy, who is notoriously hard to please. We managed to get most of our Spring/Summer list done, with the exception of the sunroom, which I didn’t think we’d get to til next year anyway. Honestly, I’m just so glad we got the foundation done!

Here’s what I’m hoping to get done before the end of February (fingers crossed Baby H doesn’t decide to come any sooner):

  1. Finish the nursery. Obviously, we need somewhere to put that baby. We are most of the way there, or at least we have all the furniture. I still need to do all the requisite organizing of baby clothes and hang pictures on the wall, but we’re making progress! Check out my post on our plans for the nursery for more details. I’m particularly loving this corner and have been trying out that rocker already! As you can see, we’re still deciding on a paint colour for the accent wall.IMG_5112
  2. Work on the back entrance. Now that our kitchen floors are done, it has put into sharper focus how truly terrible the back entrance is. We’ve been using it as our main entrance while we wait on redoing our landscaping- we don’t have a path leading to our front steps any more (come to think of it, we don’t have front steps period at the moment) and due to Richmond’s lovely clay based soil, this leads to an obscene amount of mud being tracked in the house- so we’re using the back door until we figure that situation out. Luckily (ha) all the snow we just got has covered up the entire mess of our lawn so we can pretend it doesn’t exist until April-ish. I’ve already ripped up the old carpet, which has reduced the old person smell drastically! The paint colour will be the same as our hallway and the trim will just get a fresh coat of white paint. We’ll probably continue the vinyl tile from the kitchen here, maybe with painting the steps and risers.CPZY1511
  3. Shoe moulding. Seriously, for real this time. After ripping up the carpet in our living room/dining room and laying the new tile in the kitchen, this is the last step we have to finish the floors off in that half of the house, and somehow it keeps getting pushed back by other stuff. It’s the kind of thing you can ignore for a long time and as soon as you notice it again you’re like “Hmm. This looks really crappy and we should change that. But wait, let me do this other thing first…” and repeat 10x.
  4. Floors in the hallway. After we discovered the hardwood didn’t continue down the hall like we had hoped, my husband ripped up the vinyl flooring that was underneath the old carpet and the first layer of subfloor as well. Since then we’ve been living with it and it’s annoyingly shabby looking, and is really affecting my selfie game. Plus those different levels and rough wood won’t be so kind on sweet little baby hands and knees. We want to try to match the hardwood in the living room and hopefully the transition won’t be too obvious.
  5. Touch up paint. Ugh, but I don’t want to. Our carpet installation messed up some of the pain paint (haha, I just Freudian slipped that) in the hallways and bedroom trim, so that needs to be touched up. Also, one wall of the kitchen never got a 2nd coat of paint and it’s kind of obvious in certain light. Plus there are just spots that I didn’t do the world’s best paint job on initially.
  6. Basement plans. Now that the foundation waterproofing is ♫ALL DONE♫ (sing it with me!) we can start to think about how we want to plan out the space- all 1100 square feet of it. It’s entirely unfinished so it’s a beautiful blank slate for us. Our plans will most likely include at least one bedroom, enclosing the laundry room and adding a toilet/shower there for a second bathroom, walling in a family room/rec room, and figuring out some sort of extra pantry storage area. Part of the basement will also remain unfinished for tools and general storage.

And that is probably enough to keep us busy! Realistically this will probably take us into the Spring as well, I’m sure I’ll find the time with a newborn baby… I hear all they do is sleep and poop, right?

If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard anything lately about our bathroom reno, it’s because we decided to put it on the back burner for now. Although it’s hideously ugly in all its green, bronze, floral-wallpapered glory, it is functional. And it’s our only bathroom. Our strategy going forward is to rough in a second bathroom downstairs before we start any work on our bathroom, now that we have firsthand experience about how not-fun not having water is from our foundation well water line shenanigans.

Stay tuned for my progress!

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Christmas Cookie Decorating Tips

I haven’t written a baking post in forever! Baking is pretty much my life right now and I’m ok with it. Since I lost my job I have been trying to keep busy any way I can without actually spending money, and I got the idea to try and sell some baking during the Christmas season- I love to bake so it’s something I would be doing anyway, I can just scale it up as necessary! It’s not a lucrative career but I do have a lot of time on my hands at the moment, and it sure beats the last season of Gilmore Girls on Netflix (ugh Lorelai, Chris or Luke? Make up your damn mind). I’ve been really lucky to have a lot of support from a great network of family and friends.

cookies in boxes

One order I received was for sugar cookie cutouts and I was a bit nervous about it, because in the past when I’ve made them they have not exactly been photo-worthy. They taste great, but the icing is always a bit too runny or a bit too thick, and I can never get the rich red and green colours that you want to see on a Christmas cookie. But I spoke to a friend who also bakes, and did a bit of research, and with some practice I managed to make them look quite presentable!


I thought I’d share some of the tips I learned, because I’m not kidding, these are LEAGUES nicer than anything I’ve made before. The proportions I used for the icing was as follows: 1 cup icing sugar, 1 tablespoon milk, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (or almond extract for pure white); adjust consistency as necessary.

Use gel food colouring for richer colours.

This really makes a difference! I could never get the liquid food colouring to the right red/green colour. You still have to use a somewhat obscene amount of dye and it will thin out the icing a bit, so you might have to adjust the consistency again. But I’ve never been able to get this colour intensity with liquid dyes.


Use a piping bag and a piping tip (#4 worked well).

Maybe a bit obvious, but in the past I’ve tried to get away with a ziploc bag and a hole cut in the corner. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t measure up! I bought a reusable piping bag (Wilton) and rinsed it out between colours; it’s very durable and I can minimize my consumer guilt by avoiding disposable bags. I just pop the tip in the bottom of the bag, push it towards the end, and fill the bag with icing; I found it works to use a glass to hold the bag and fold the edges over the rim so that you can get the icing right in the bottom; then I tie off the top of the bag with a rubber band.

piping bag and glass

Follow the 10 second rule for icing consistency.

This was really important! My icing usually falls off the cookie in a big messy puddle or is too thick to pipe. Here is a helpful video that shows you how to do this; basically the icing should settle into a smooth surface at about 10 seconds after disturbing the surface.


Allow icing to harden and set before packing.

It’s really hard to be patient and wait when it FEELS like the icing is set, but giving the cookies more time won’t hurt, and no one wants to spend hours and hours decorating cookies only for them to crush each other in the container. I laid them out in a single layer on baking pans, and covered the pans with a layer of plastic wrap (more as a cat prevention technique than anything- the icing forms a protective layer that will prevent the cookies from getting stale if they are left out for under 24 hours). When packing in containers, place in a single layer with parchment paper in between multiple layers.

cookies drying

And that’s it! They take some time for sure but the end result is both tasty and pretty. I really liked substituting the almond extract in the white icing instead of vanilla- vanilla darkens the colour too much, plus I love the almond flavour. The stars and snowflakes were my favourite!


Happy baking and Merry Christmas if I don’t post again before then!

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