DIY baby gym

homemade baby gymMy husband found time to put together the frame for the baby gym, just in time to catch our baby being interested in playing at 6 weeks old. I wanted a simple wooden frame high enough for the toy straps that we could put in our living room, and that could be folded up when not needed.

homemade baby toys

A few toys I made.

Somehow I found time to make a few toys after the toy straps I last posted about. The soft blocks took the most time. My older kids each helped make those, as well as the yarn things. My baby likes “jingle bird” a lot, and he loves looking at the felt triangles.

baby playing homemade baby gym

Action shot

cute baby playing


Getting crafty: baby gym

toy straps DIY

We got rid of all our baby stuff a few years ago. We had essentially decided we were done with having kids, and I realized it wouldn’t be that hard to get new baby stuff. In fact we found most of what we needed again frugally. But now that Asher is six weeks old, he’s starting to wake up to the world, look around, and will soon want to play. I thought I’d make a simple baby gym. I didn’t want to buy one, or have a plastic or flimsy one. After taking a quick spin around pinterest, I had a page full of sketches of what I wanted to make. While I wait for Curtis to make the frame, I got started on the toys.

Fabric tubes in progress

Fabric tubes in progress


Actually, these stretchy toy holders that I saw here. At first glance, I thought, “Nah, that doesn’t look very fun or worth my time.” Then I decided to make them anyway. In conclusion, it took me two days to make them (of course between baby care and grocery shopping and playing dominoes and reading with the older kids).

Fact: reversing a narrow strip of cloth that you’ve sewn inside out is really hard.

Fact: getting a safety pin off a piece of elastic that is 5 inches from the end of a cloth tube is really hard.

Fact: Figuring out snaps is one of those things that for some reason confuses me.

But in the end, “Ta-da!” – plus, I got to teach my 7-year-old daughter how to use the sewing machine, which she is thrilled about.

Middle strap after elastic was added.

Middle strap after elastic was added.


I absolutely love hiking. I’ve been making the most of living in the Fraser Valley in British Columbia over the past few years. I especially love hiking during spring and fall, when every day I can see changes in my surroundings: the moss is getting greener, buds are coming out, plants transforming, fungus appearing, the creeks swelling and waning.

Caleb hike

I love packing my babies in an ergo and getting into the forest. The baby loves it, and sleeps the entire time. Fresh air is the cure for a fussy baby. My older kids love it too – always charging ahead and discovering places to jump from, streams to poke at, collecting stones or sticks or other treasures.
hiking mckee

One of my favourite things about nature is how evident it is to me that God created everything. I know this is not a given for everyone, but for me personally, I cannot accept that the natural world could have just appeared, in all its complexities and miracles and wonders. When I am in the forest, I feel close to God.

I love the Wendell Berry poem, “I go among trees and am still…” It is a place I crave and revel in.

As an artist, I find my creative stores renewed and inspired. The other day, I was alone with my three kids (and a neighbour girl) and decided to take them all on this hike. It was quite steep but so beautiful. I stood in a cave with water flowing down like a veil in front of me! So much better than being cooped up in the house. I’m very thankful for this beautiful region where we live.

Creative roundup

Two weeks ago he is 13 lb at 6 weeks.

Two weeks ago already…now he is 13 lb at 6 weeks.

My son is six weeks old now, and while my sleep is still coming in only 2-3 hour stretches around the clock, I am still trying to squeeze in the things I find life-giving: hiking and making things. I’m surprised how many people make comments on me doing these things so soon after the birth.

asher 1 month chair 2 copy

For me, this is a chance to do the things I love when I’d normally be spending about 10 hours either at work or commuting. I’m trying to make the most of the year of maternity leave that I’m blessed to have. It’s really helped that my older two kids are in school and that Asher is an “easy” baby. That being said, I still am very tired and getting the typical feedings every 2-3 hours at night. So if I can squeeze in a hike (nothing the baby likes more than napping in the ergo), or sewing for an hour here and there, or cooking (we have to eat!), then I’m going to do it with a little creativity.

pregnant and newborn photo

For our first family hike, we ventured back to the same week where we took a pregnancy picture about 10 days before Asher was born.

So while I’ve been doing some of my favourite things, I haven’t been spending time writing about them, but often share them visually through instagram. Here’s a little round up from the past two months.

A few days before I had the baby, I started painting a landscape (north view from the Fraser River at Matsqui). I haven't been able to paint again yet.

A few days before I had the baby, I started painting a landscape (north view from the Fraser River at Matsqui). I haven’t been able to paint again yet.

Both kids are doing well with the new addition. My daughter loves holding the baby whenever she can. My son (in Kindergarten) just decided to start reading this week.

Both kids are doing well with the new addition. My daughter loves holding the baby whenever she can. My son (in Kindergarten) just decided to start reading this week.


Soon after the baby was born, my kids wanted me to make them these hobby horses. It took a few days, but we came up with these.

Soon after the baby was born, my kids wanted me to make them these hobby horses. It took a few days, but we came up with these. I am so thankful for the mild spring weather we’ve had throughout February. Our kids love playing outside together and with some neighbour kids.

cherry blossoms

Blossoms came on in early February. One day I painted a few tiny watercolours on scraps of paper. It’s somehow easier to paint on scraps than blank canvases or full sheets of paper.

During my long early labour, I tried doing some collages...not sure where I was going with these.

During my long early labour, I tried doing some collages…not sure where I was going with these.


New addition: baby Asher Leif

Well I have the finishing touch here to the Woodland Nursery series: baby Asher joined our family on February 4. So far he has been just beautiful and fairly easy/quiet. He is 2.5 weeks old, so some of those days are naturally easier as he sleeps a lot. We don’t sleep so much though!
For those interested in birth stories, read on (for others, skip this paragraph!) This birth was not the easiest of my three, though all were natural/unmedicated, essentially. I think I was expecting this to be less painful; perhaps I forgot how much it hurts or it has just faded over the 5.5 years since I last had a baby. My 2nd was a smaller baby (7 lb 2 oz), so I actually think it was easier. I had about 3 days of early labour, during which I tried to get lots of rest, but timing contractions and expecting labour to happen still tired me out. On February 3rd, I had contractions from about 3 am on. My husband decided he better not go to work. Contractions continued all day but not intense enough to be “the real thing.” At 6 pm the midwives came by to check on me and did a sweep. I had mentally prepared myself to not go into labour that day. But shortly after eating dinner, I had some seriously painful contractions. I tried to read my kids their bedtime story and couldn’t keep going through the pain. By 9 pm I was in labour. By 10:30 or 11, contractions were about 4 minutes apart. We met the midwives at the hospital at 12, and I was 6 cm and in crazy pain. I laboured this way for a couple of hours, not progressing much until my waters were broken. I was rather grumpy and didn’t want to go through labour. I thought later, if I could have only held the baby before going through that, I would have been more motivated! I was trying to avoid finishing the job naturally but did not have anyone giving in and giving me drugs or c-sections.

I had two midwives, a nurse, a nursing student and my husband present. During the transition stage I used the gas, which is the first labour I’ve used anything for the pain. It did help me get through that part. Once my waters were gone, I quickly transitioned to pushing and within about 15 minutes I sent little Asher into the world, weighing in at 39 weeks as my heaviest baby at 9 lb. I liked the end the best – I felt like I could do something about speeding up the birth, and knew I would soon have the baby in my arms and the whole thing would be over with. Every day that has passed has made that pain more worth it, and in perspective it’s only one day of pain really, compared to a lifetime with a precious child.


Our kids love their baby brother, especially my daughter who loves to help, particularly to dress him. I’m finding baby care easier this time around, since both the older kids are in school. It was so much harder last time when I had a 20 month old daughter under foot! We feel very blessed and happy to have such a healthy baby.

Sewing project: knitting bag

I finally had the chance to make this “knitting bag” on the weekend. I’ve had these vintage wooden handles kicking around for years, and thought it would be good to sew up a little tote to keep my knitting away from the cat. It may seem that I am on a yellow kick, and I guess that’s because I am! I bought this fabric in the summer when we were in Oregon, but hadn’t had a chance to use it yet.

vintage wooden handles cloth bag

About 10 years ago I sewed my “bird purse” using another pair of wooden handles I had. That time, I made a cute little purse. I tell people I don’t like sewing – I’m honestly not very good at it – I could never sell the things that I make because there are tons of messy little spots where I’m figuring things out as I go. The process of making this bird purse put me off for years! I like designing prototypes, but don’t like to try to replicate items to sell or give away.

handmade purse

“Bird Purse” circa 2005

So that being said, I’m not even going to pretend to posture this post as a tutorial; in fact, I did not even take any progress photos. Basically I traced the rough shape of another cloth bag, measured it against my biggest pair of knitting needles in an effort to get them to fit, and then just experimented. The bag is lined and I made a bottom shape by tracing the beater attachment from our Kitchenaid.

handmade bag with wooden handles

One tip I’ll mention is that after I had the entire thing sewed up, I realized that I could barely squeeze a hand past the inflexible wooden handles! I forgot to allow for their structure in any way, so I had to remove the seam from the top sides of the bag where I have the grey material and refinish them by hand to allow the bag to flap open and access the inside better.

handmade knitting tote

So that is the story of getting crafty on my first day of maternity leave on Saturday. Now to finish knitting the little photo prop I’ve been storing inside.

Ikea dresser makeovers

ikea tarva before and afterNeedless to say, our bedroom redecorating has spiraled over the past couple of months. True to third trimester nesting instincts, one idea led to another. We sold the old IKEA change table we had in this nook in our room, and had a hard time finding something with character to replace it that would fit into this spot, which is a little less than 35 inches wide.Detail of dresser

Over the Christmas holidays, we finally decided on this plan to refinish an IKEA Tarva dresser, which is quite cheap new (and not very well designed, we discovered!). I picked up the wooden appliques from Home Depot, and the new knobs from Pier 1 Imports clearance. Like a good pregnant wife, my husband ended up being tasked with a lot of the grunt work.

Painting stage

Painting stage

I should mention that we also repainted our Hemnes night stands, which were in antique stain but don’t match our bed, crib or new dresser. We had to buy some ebony-coloured stain because our new Hemnes dresser came with one piece of wood that was not stained on the out-facing side! So we used the same stain to do the tops of all three pieces of furniture to create a consistent theme. My husband sanded the night tables down to bare wood, and primed everything except the tops of the furniture with KILZ spray primer. Next he painted everything with yellow latex paint we had on hand – we did a lot of reading on different ways of painting furniture and decided this would cheer up the space without us having to buy chalk paint or a new colour of paint. Once it dried though, I found this shade of yellow too light.

yellow paint shades: bottom is the latex colour, top has acrylic paint and natural pigment glazed over it.

yellow paint shades: bottom is the latex colour, top has acrylic paint and natural pigment glazed over it.

I took all of the finished yellow pieces and painted a glaze over top, which was a mix of acrylic medium, a few shades of yellow artist acrylic paint, and even some natural pigment I have on hand from France. This created a better shade of yellow. Next, my husband did some antiquing using sanding and by applying and removing stain. He used a blend of the ebony stain from the tops of the dressers, and a chestnut colour we had in the garage. We finished the pieces off with a couple of coats of polycrylic.

Drawer fronts after being "antiqued"

Drawer fronts after being “antiqued”

One of my favourite additions to the room is actually this round mirror that we found for $35 at HomeSense. It’s like a porthole that has totally opened up the room, especially with the feature wall reflecting in it. The round light above it I think is a bit of a design disaster, being almost the same size and shape. I might have to find a different lamp shade at some point, but for now it’s perfect.

Finished product!
One of my inspiration pieces for this project was a dresser by Little Mustard Seed (view dresser). I tried to replicate this hand painted style (it was harder than I thought it would be – I think I should have used a finer brush but I did it in about 20 minutes one night after work).

nightstand doors, hand painted

nightstand doors, hand painted

Here is how they turned out:

Hemnes night stand refinished

Refinished Hemnes night stand

So we learned a lot about refinishing and repainting furniture over the holidays, and we are glad to be finished! Our room feels much homier. We don’t have a “before” picture showing the turquoise tree wall, but it was gray. I think we’re finished for now, though you might notice we still have one Hemnes dresser that is in antique stain. We may eventually refinish it! We were going to sell it and buy the black brown, but we already have the stain etc….

Here are a few more pictures:

"Before" room photo

“Before” room photo



Master bedroom nursery with birch tree wall

“After” nursery view