Thursday, 31 January 2013

Craft Fair

     This April I have the opportunity to participate in my first craft fair. I am incredibly nervous and excited about the prospect of my crafts being purchased by others. This week I have been working away on prototypes for the goods I want to sell. I hope to make some new friends and sell a few of my baby headbands. 
     My best friend, Sheila, helped me with naming my line of baby goods: Blueberry Blossoms. "Blueberry" for Abigail's nickname and "Blossom" because it means alliteration success. We're English major dorks. I am making three or four different designs and naming them using the top female baby names that Mark and I loved and debated through when we were naming Abigail. I have three down so far, and am still deciding on the fourth. I used mostly recycled materials to ensure the softest feel for baby's head, as well as to produce a more environmentally conscious product. Everything is hand sewn because I have an irrational fear of my sewing machine. 

This is the Olivia

The Charlotte

The Abigail

     I promise this girl does smile. She just doesn't like having hats put on, and I think that's what she thought I was doing. Poor girl doesn't love the camera so much either...I swear I don't have an over-documentation problem...

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Cranberry Chai Simple Syrup

This is me being artsy, you caught me. 

     Mark has been busy in the kitchen prepping for his fancy new cocktails at Supply and Demand. His enthusiasm had me inspired one day: and so was born the mighty Cranberry Chai syrup. I had promised to make some homemade iced tea and he had extra cranberries. To combine them seemed natural. The recipe is super simple, (as the name implies) but it's what you can do with it that is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!

Cranberry Chai Simple Syrup:


1 part white sugar
-1 part water
-chai tea bag or loose leaf
-half a cup fresh cranberries


1. Bring sugar, cranberries and water to a low boil over medium high heat just until the water changes colour and the cranberries begin to split, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.
2. Let cranberry mixture cool and pour into mason jar (or container of your choice). Add tea bag or loose leaf tea to mixture and let steep for 30 minutes (or less depending on how much chai flavour you want). Remove tea bag.
3. You can strain out the cranberries if you want at this point, or refrigerate as is. I'm not sure of the shelf-life, nor would I feel comfortable giving one without being an expert, but I'll bet you'll use it up before it spoils anyway.

We've been on a mason jar kick lately. We bought a few cases for homemade Christmas gifts and are using the extras for food and beverage storage in the kitchen.

 Try it:
- in a boozy drink (I had it on the rocks with some Southern Comfort)
- reduced over pancakes
- cook some apple slices in it for a special apple sauce or french toast topping
- reduced over vanilla ice cream!
- as a sweetner in your favourite tea

I hope you enjoy experimenting with simple syrups as much as we are. I think honey, blueberries and molasses are on my radar for new concoctions. 

Saturday, 26 January 2013

DIY: Updating used baby gear

    I've said before that this family is on a tight budget, but let me state the obvious: babies are expensive. I'm not saying you have to buy all the latest gear or even follow the suggested lists most store registries have, but even the fundamentals add up quickly. We were very fortunate to have generous families and friends supply a lot of what Abigail needed (ahem, and then some). But we were also constrained by our lack of space in the apartment, so instead of registering for a lot of the big items which Abigail would outgrow in months, we borrowed them from friends and family. We borrowed a swing and a bassinet which we recently returned.

This is Mark and I at our second shower. Like I said, our families were very generous.

       Borrowing was a way for us to save money, space and the environment. If you have the chance to start swapping baby things like this with your friends, I'd highly recommend it. It saves everyone so much money and time. Do initial or label all the items (even clothing) that belong to you before starting such a swap though, or things get forgotten in the mix. Another thing to consider is that a lot of baby gear safety standards change, and recalls happen. Make sure to only use items that are safe for your baby- and look it up if you're unsure!

Abigail at 24 days old enjoying our borrowed swing.

     We also inherited used things from a family I used to nanny for. We got glass bottles, plates, utensils and a booster seat. Because we have so little space in the apartment (even our dining chairs live on the balcony) we knew we wouldn't have room for a full-sized high chair when Abigail started eating solids. The booster seat was well used and in need of a bit of a colour update. The straps were stained and the plastic covering on the cushion was cracking. The seat itself was still safe and sturdy so I decided to give it a facelift. 
     I bleached the straps first, removing darkening and stains from slobber and food. Next I cleaned the seat and tore the cushion off. 
I thought about using a shower cap-esque fabric cover at first, and then realized that I wanted something that I could wipe clean. 
    I used a plasticized shopping bag from Homesense a) because it was pretty and b) because I could adhere it with hot glue. 
 To do a similar DIY at home you will need:
- a reusable shopping bag in the pattern of your choice
-hot glue
-high chair or booster seat 
-pen, pencil or marker for tracing around your cushion
Before (this is a stock photo because I realized halfway through my DIY that I hadn't taken one myself. So imagine it MUCH more used than this one.):

Step 1:
Remove straps and cushion from the plastic base. I actually ripped the cushion's back tabs off and then fastened them again with hot glue when I was done. If you have a cleaner, less violent way of removing the cushion, then feel free to do that.

Step 2: 
Cut one side of your shopping bag and trace the shape of your cushion on the back (or side you don't want to be facing outward), leaving an inch or so around the perimeter to fold over and glue. Cut this shape out.

Step 3:
I glued around the slits for the shoulder straps first, both to anchor my cover and to ensure that I could find them to cut them open again later. Like you are upholstering a seat cushion, fold your edges over in small sections and glue as you go. Be careful not to burn your fingers! Use lots of glue to make sure the new cover stays in place. 

Step 4:
Cut slits in the new cover for the shoulder straps. I used my scissors for this step, but you could easily use a craft knife if you have a safe surface to cut on. Re-attach your cushion and feed clean straps back through the holes.

Step 5: 
Use scraps from your bag to make drool/food covers for the shoulder straps. (I did that to add more pattern, and to cover stubborn stains).  Simply cut two rectangles and glue along the seam to make tubes around the straps, that way they can slide up and down according to the baby's height. 

My finished product.

This is the shopping bag I used.

     I am really pleased with how this DIY turned out. I did it on a whim and am glad that while being sturdy and easy to clean, the hot glue also makes for easy (yet forceful) removal if I become bored with these colours or pattern. I'm also glad that I've discovered another use for the many shopping bags we have lying around- easy to wipe down means they will probably be used for a bib DIY soon!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

A beautiful butterfly bunting

       I am slowly but surely finishing Abigail's nursery. It has been a struggle not to rush things, and to only include pieces that I really love and that really add something to the space. I spend a lot of time in there; nursing, rocking, changing and dressing her so I want to enjoy the room too.  This week I started her statement wall. Yep, my four month old will have a statement wall. Mark and I painted her room light green this Summer, and decided on dark espresso furniture. So the bones of the room are there, it's just not quite finished yet.
     This week I saw a clever and inspiring bunting on Kaylah's cork-board. She used the pages of a thrifted science textbook and the finished look is so pretty!  I had a similar book given to me during my first practice teaching placement which had started to crack at the spine. Instead of throwing it out or letting it decompose further on my bookshelf, I decided to use the pretty diagrams to decorate Abigail's room.
     I simply chose the pages with the biggest pictures and least amount of text. Next I cut one page into the shape I wanted and used it as a template to cut the others. Then I used hot glue to adhere the pages to a length of burgundy yarn. I taped it to the wall and stood back to admire it!

  So here is the inspiration via The Dainty Squid:

     Here is my version in the nursery:

When I finally jump on the washi tape bandwagon I will be able to get rid of the scotch tape currently holding it up. 


I love the way the pages are starting to brown. 

This one is my favourite.

        I am excited to start adding more to the walls. I'm feeling really creative again, and I feel like blogging is helping to keep me motivated. I think I might make my own cardboard letters next, and use the same yarn to cover them. 
   What has you inspired these days?

Monday, 21 January 2013

Supply & Demand

        There has been an exciting buzz around this apartment, and indeed around the whole city, these past few weeks. Our dear friends Jennifer and Stephen Wall, have finally realized their dreams and are the proud owners of a new restaurant. We could stop there, saying they're just our friends, that they're great people and that this is a VERY exciting new chapter in their lives- but that would be such a gross understatement of both how incredibly awesome this place is, and how much they mean to us.

Steve and his team making magic happen.    

      Jen and Steve have been my surrogate Ottawa family for more than two years now. I worked for them as their nanny before becoming a mother myself this past Summer. Jen has seen me through many a dramatic experience during those two years, and even though it's only been that long I feel like we've been friends forever. She and Steve have gone out of their way to make sure that I felt at home here in Ottawa (even getting me a pumpkin pie when I found myself separated from family on Thanksgiving). They have invited me to family functions, included me in  celebrations and were the shoulders I cried on when life got tough. 

          Jen was also one of the first people we called when we found out we were pregnant. Why? Because she's a great friend, employer and person in general? Sure, but also because she is the reason Mark and I met. Mark and she worked at the same restaurant, town. for quite a while. She poked and prodded us both into introducing ourselves when we found ourselves single. She was the tiny whisper in our ears saying, "go for it!" I even remember texting her frantically when I was getting ready for my first date with Mark. 
         Boy was she right about him. She must know us better than we know ourselves. We are a perfect match, and we are so thankful to her for knowing that! Now she and Steve have employed Mark as their head bartender. Holy smokes what an honour! And so our families will continue to stay connected. We couldn't be happier.

Abigail and her Aunty Beth at Supply & Demand, this past Saturday

A family affair: Kinley and her Grandmother and cousin Max sure made Abigail feel like part of the Supply & Demand family.

         Abigail, her Aunt Beth and I attended the first dry run at Supply & Demand this past weekend and man oh man it did NOT disappoint. I won't pretend to be a great connoisseur of food and drink, nor will I say that I've tried many fine dining establishments (though probably more than most people in my tax bracket thanks to friends in the industry) but holy-giant-list-of-expletives! Stephen Wall and his team are magicians...absolutely nothing short of MAGIC came from that kitchen. If you are in Ottawa ever, even just for a few hours, you have got to make your way out to this place. 
         Located in the trendy and pedestrian-friendly neighbourhood of Wellington West, Supply & Demand is both a beautiful place to see and a mouth-watering experience for your tastebuds. Small plates to share and entrées to knock your socks off. If you have room for dessert, try the trifle; sponge toffee and earl grey? You read my mind. 
           They open to the public today, so get on your phones and make a reservation, or two. Trust me, you'll be going back for more!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

make it happen

           I saw this print on Pinterest the other day, and it really struck me how much it relates to my life in so many ways. I was drawn to it not just because it's pretty, and totally something I would put in Abigail's room, but because it is something I need to remind myself of these days. I love being a stay at home mom, and really (honestly) do feel fulfilled each and every day, but making certain changes have been difficult for me. For example, making physical activity a part of my daily like is something that I've had to "make happen." It's a great way to boost my mood during the winter blues, get Abigail outside, be a positive role model and get into shape for our 2014 wedding- but it's not something I've always *cough* enjoyed doing. 
            Eating healthier is also something we've had to "make happen" as a family. Mark and I have been meal planning and strategically shopping since I moved into this apartment last May, but making sure to eat more balanced meals has really been more of an ongoing growth thing than an accomplishment already reached. 
            We want these things for ourselves, and for Abigail, but that doesn't mean they don't require lots of effort on our part, we need to remember that. 2013 is seeing this family make lots of changes for the better. We are making things happen over here!

What are you making happen?

Abigail: 3 months, 3 weeks

Big News This Month:

      Abigail is talking, laughing, standing and sitting with help, rolling from her tummy to her back and loving tummy tickles. This month she also started sleeping in her crib and gave up on night time feedings. The first night it happened we thought we just hadn't heard her when we woke up the next morning (talk about a "terrible parent moment" ) but then we realized that her blanket hadn't moved all night! Our little lady keeps surprising us and bowling us over with how special and wonderful she is. Her smiles and belly laughs bring tears to my eyes still. I feel so overwhelmingly loved and lucky. She is our angel, our unexpected miracle. 

She loves playing on her tummy now. Watching her do little baby push ups is amazing!

Standing is her new favourite, maybe Daddy's too!

She has started looking up at us like this. It melts my heart watching her smile at her Daddy.

The smiles and squeals that come from her when she catches that blue bird are adorable. She loves her playmat. She also loves to scoot herself around in circles with her feet to reach different toys. she's a mover.

Looking Forward To: 

       Sitting up without mommy and daddy's help, rolling from her back to her tummy, and reaching for us. Continuing to watch this little lady grow and change and learn. She is learning so fast.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Currently Steeping: Alpine Punch


             This Christmas Mark and I both asked for a plethora of gift cards (yes, you read it. I said, "plethora." I'm officially that girl) Living on a single income has us pinching pennies, and the idea of being able to go shopping was just as exciting to us as opening gifts this year.

             My younger sister, Krista, got me a DAVIDsTEA gift card as a part of my gift. Mark and I were feeling a bit under the weather last week, and had just finished the last of my pre-pregnancy tea hoard, so we loaded the little one into her car seat and went to restock. 
            Alpine Punch was one of the first teas the sales associate brought to us at the counter. We were sold almost immediately because it was caffeine free. As a nursing mother I wanted to be able to have gallons of tea without having a wired baby, thankyouverymuch. We also wanted something that packed enough flavour to make iced tea! If you haven't tried this one I'd definitely recommend it. It's fruity but also warms you with hints of black pepper and cinnamon. 

PS- I hope to make "currently steeping" a regular series on this blog. Like good food and wine, I believe that tea should be loved and shared with those around us! Especially for those of us living in Canada, where winter chills can last half the calendar year. 

Thursday, 17 January 2013

first impressions

      So this is hello. The awkward first post of an unknown, first time blogger in her tiny corner of the internet. I won't promise anything ground-breaking nor will I attest to being the authority on...well anything, but I'm going to be me- so there's that. So who is this, "me?" 
      My name is Jessica. I'm a 23 year old new mom and (even newer) fiancée  I live in down town Ottawa with my little family in an even littler two bedroom apartment over a convenience store. I've been a nanny and tutor for the past two and a half years and am a certified elementary school teacher. The fiancé is Mark; a server/bartender and father extraordinaire. The baby is Abigail; a four month old redhead with a smile that melts our hearts. 
     So what will I offer you in terms of reading material? Hopefully I will blog about being a young mom, planning a wedding, personal goals, do-it-yourself projects, recipes, fashion and family outings. I am starting this blog to share with my friends and family who live across the country; babies grow fast, and I don't want them to miss a thing! That being said, expect posts that are rough around the (blogging) edges, photo- heavy and wobbly at first. If baby giraffes can't walk perfectly when first born, why should my first posts be perfect, insightful and hilarious right away? Please give me some time to get my blogging legs sorted out. 

This is me at 30 weeks in Abigail's nursery

This handsome man is Mark. I took this picture while we were apple picking on my due date.


This is Abigail.