Category Archives: Style

Eco-Thrifty Birthday Present

What seemed like “a good idea at the time” has turned into a larger-than-expected project making a play kitchen for our two year-old daughter. I am posting a visual step-by-step now, but will write a full post sometime in the future.

Cabinet from a second hand shop.

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Cutting it into pieces.

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One piece.

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 Piece, pieced back together.

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And with a lid.

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Other piece.

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End of day one.

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Start of day two.

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End of day two.

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Day three.

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End of day three.        Screen shot 2014-08-24 at 5.58.56 PM


Peace, Estwing

A Toddler-Centred Room

Two weeks ago I wrote a column in which I featured Castlecliff Beach in a design exercise of eco-thrifty renovation. The exercise was used to demonstrate that ETR principles can be applied across a broad spectrum. Among the core principles are working with nature instead of against it and investing money up front to save money over time.

While the above design principles embody both the ‘eco’ and the ‘thrifty’ of ETR, the column was written to include some more universal design ideas: ‘form follows function’, and designing to scale. Although these design ideas have been around for a long time, they can still be applied through new lenses.

As our cultural perspectives evolve, so do the ways we apply tried and true beliefs. For example, think about a baby’s nursery. Is the space designed for a crawler/toddler or for an adult?

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Many of the nurseries I have seen tend toward the traditional, magazine-photo-shoot variety. They are painted either pink or blue, they are tidy, and everything is set to adult height. As a way of thinking outside the square this week, I thought I would share our perspective on a more child-centred nursery design for our daughter, Verti.

Form follows function: For our family, the functions of Verti’s room are: sleeping (wishful thinking); independent play; toy storage; story time; playing with us.

Like many parents, our aim is to keep the ‘mess’ confined to her room. While this has not been accomplished yet, our design thinking was to make Verti’s room the most desirable place in the house for her to play. We did this by using a number of toddler-centred design elements that are lacking in other parts of our home.

For example, Verti’s room is the only carpeted one. A quality off-cut wool carpet and thick underlay purchased on TradeMe make the floor – where she does most of her playing – both warm and soft. The carpet remnant was more than twice as long as Verti’s room but only half as wide. We fit it to the room as needed and then hid the seam with furniture and a colourful area rug.

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Colour is another way we tried to entice Verti to play in her room. The Moroccan palette was inspired by a hanging string of elephants from a fair trade shop.

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Dani bought the area rug to match, and we reused paper lanterns from my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary party to take advantage of the 12-foot ceilings in a fun way. While those colourful paper orbs may seem miles above her head, everything else in Verti’s room is designed to her scale.

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Right-sizing: From the perspective of making a nursery child-centred, one must understand a child’s perspective. The best way to do this is to sit your bum on the floor. There you go. Done. That is a child’s perspective.

Two habits we want Verti to develop are choosing her own entertainment and putting things away after using them. To these ends, we have five toy storage areas in her room that she can access. These include a low shelf (secured to the wall for safety), two draws under her cot, a large toy basket, a rack for her play scarves, and a driftwood tree limb for her bags. She can access any of her toys whenever she wants, and has just begun putting them away too.

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Additionally, the low couch – really just three cushions and a cleverly made wooden frame – has been a big success. Verti loves being able to climb onto it easily and act ‘grown-up’, and we love sitting on it with her and reading stories.

The bottom line: Almost the entire world is designed by adults for adults. We wanted Verti’s nursery to truly be a child’s space and we think we have accomplished this. Whenever her little friends come over they immediately head for her room, and recently one of their dad’s lay down on carpet and said, “I really like this room. It invites you to get down to their level.”

Styley Maternity Clothes That won’t Break the Bank

So when I say I’m eco-thrifty, I mostly mean I’m cheap. Bonus- being cheap can often have the upside of being eco-friendly (buying second-hand = no new junk coming onto the planet). But just because I’m “eco-thrifty” doesn’t mean a girl don’t wanna look fine.

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23 Weeks. I thought my belly was big. Ha! Wrap skirt from thrift store, tank top from pre-preg.

So, I was kind of hell-bent on not buying maternity clothes. I just didn’t see the point in spending tons of money on sweat-shop made garments that I would wear for just a few months. So, I didn’t. I was gifted a bunch of maternity clothes from my sister and some friends, but to be honest the clothes I wore most weren’t maternity. I just felt more comfortable in clothes that were things I would normally wear, things that I could find at second-hand stores. Things that were more me.

So here are my tips for dressing styley (if I do say so myself) while your body goes through the most dramatic changes possible in a span of 40 weeks.


25 weeks. Stretchy mini-dress over leggings = happiness. Mini-dress from thrift store. Pink sash and mardi gras beads courtesy of my 5 year-old neice. Sick dance moves courtesy of me.

1. Stretchy is your friend.
When else in your life will people tell you how great your belly looks And I swear, the bigger you get, the more the compliments will roll in. So, flaunt it girlfriend. Strethcy will not only show off that bump, but will also give you lots of room for lungs and bladder to expand when baby shifts positions.Image

27 weeks. Ignore my ridiculous face here, and focus on the cute stretch mini dress. Dress from Valley Girl pre-preg. I wore this over leggings all the time (you’d think I’d have a better pic) into my third trimester, and still wear it now. 

2. If you buy something, make it something useful for after baby.

I think I bought a total of 3 actual maternity items. One of them was this cross-front shirt. It was super cosy during pregnancy and is now one of my favorite nursing shirts. The material is super stretchy so it wasn’t awkward or baggy after baby was born, and fit me nicely as my belly went from big firm to  big squishy to (hopefully kind of sort of) medium firm again.Image

30 weeks. Top from Pumpkin Patch, jeggings see below. Me and belly protesting fracking, deep sea drilling, and asset sales. 

3. Jeggings. (Seriously)

This may be the only time in your life where it is ok to wear jeggings. Why? because they are stretchy (anyone sense a theme here?), and you are a beautiful gaia mama. Honestly a friend gave me a pair pre pregnancy and I swore I’d never wear them, but damn if I didn’t live in those things. Even once the waist stopped fitting I did the hair-tie trick, then the bella band, and then just left those suckers open. I’m wearing them in the picture above and below. I don’t wear them anymore… somehow they don’t look as cute without the giant belly.


26 weeks. Rocking the jeggings while I belay my 4 year-old neice. Girl can climb.

4. Buy this skirt (from a second hand shop that sells H&M stuff… or ebay?).

OK, if you can’t find this one, buy any stretchy mini skirt. But really, the texture and super-stretchyness of this one, made it my ultimate favorite. I actually can’t believe I don’t have a picture of me in it, because I seriously lived in this my third trimester, when I had to dress up a bit for work. I would wear it over leggings and pair it with a nice top. Image

5. Emphasize that belly.

Gone are the days of big blousy maternity wear that tented over you and baby, making you into some sort of family-sized camping accessory. Your belly is your best accessory. I know you might not believe me, but you look gorgeous. People are envious of your glow. You don’t look big, you look perfect. Rock that goddess body!


40 weeks. Sari skirt tied over belly with t-shirt tucked in.

Other than the jeggings I still wear all of these clothes now, which is more than I can say for most maternity purchases people make. So be bold, go stretchy and embrace that belly!