Monday, 30 April 2012

Blooming for my Birthday

On Saturday, the kids and I spent some time together outside in the sunshine for the first time this year.  Usually I just send them out into the back yard while I work inside the house.  This time I had a headache and didn't feel like doing the badly-needed cleaning up.  I figured I could handle resting on the porch while the kids used their sidewalk chalk.  And Juli recently told me she didn't want to play outside because she was pretending to be a grown-up...I need to change that misconception if I want her to get healthy activity!

Once I got outside, I couldn't resist doing a little garden clean up, while wearing my nice jeans and cute red flats.  I sliced my hand a little on my garden clippers, but my clothes survived.

The first thing I saw when I glanced into the flower bed was pretty pink blooms!  Last year (or the year before?) for my birthday, Kevin bought me my favourite shrub, the Double-Flowering Plum.  When I used to take the bus to work, I would always see these bushes covered in beautiful little pink rose-like blooms, and always over my birthday.  So I've wanted one for a while.  It was too late for blooms last year when we got it, so I'm pretty thrilled that it looks like it's going to be covered in pink very soon!  These first blooms are crowded around the very base, almost buried in the dirt.

The rest of the flower bed looks promising too, with tulips and daffodils about to bloom, irises, bachelor's buttons, lady slippers, peonies, and something unknown sprouting, and my favourite surprise of all, my lavender is growing!  I am beyond thrilled about that.  Lavender doesn't really overwinter here, but we had such a mild winter, that I had my fingers crossed.

The other two front yard beds need some help.  This one is a very dry west-facing rock garden.  The lilies did well last year, and I want to plant more snow-in-summer.  I'm not sure if the shrubs will survive.  The diablo ninebark were transplanted out of the front garden bed, and I did a horrible job of replanting them.  One of them will probably make it, but who knows about the other.

This little rose garden will be extended to include the shrubs.  I hate digging up grass though.  But Kevin might help, since he hates weed-whacking between the shrubs.  The one at the back by the fence is a bridal-wreath spirea, but I don't remember what the closer one is (near the stray plastic bag).  I'm going to have fun in the garden this year!

Juli had to bring out her camera too.  Here she is taking pictures of the moon.

I have a question for you garden experts (like Heather): What is this seedling?  I think I planted it, because they're only growing in the area around my tree where I threw some seeds one year.  But I don't remember what all I planted.  I know there were violets and poppies and something else.  Maybe cosmos?  These just look too much like weeds to me, so last year I pulled them all out.  I guess I didn't take a picture of this garden also needs help since we enlarged it last year to acccomodate the weeping caragana that Kevin wanted.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Coffee-Dyed Paper Tutorial

...or, the best-smelling craft project ever! (except for anything that involves real lavender)

Way back at the almost-very-beginning of my blog, I learned how to dye cardstock with instant coffee.  I love the aged, spotted look it gives to the papers, and I've used it in countless projects since then.

I just made some more to use with the centrepieces, so I thought I'd share it here!

- Cheap instant coffee
- white (ish) cardstock
- water

Step 1: Boil water (a kettle or pot full should do...amount doesn't really matter)
Step 2: scoop some instant coffee powder and place in a glass dish big enough to hold your cardstock.  I used 1/2 a cup of coffee powder, and my 9x13 glass pan.  I'm sure you can use less coffee.
Step 3: Pour in boiling water and carefully stir (I only filled my pan to half-full).
Step 4: Place cardstock into the hot coffee one at a time, pushing it down so it can kind of soak.  Don't do more than 4 or so at at a time or the paper gets too fragile by the time you take it out.
Step 5: Lay out the wet, coffee-soaked papers on a towel.
Step 6: Sprinkle some granules of coffee powder over the paper.  This is what creates the spots.  I was really skeptical of this step the first time I did it.  But without this step, you just get tan paper, not the aged vintage look.

Let me know if you try it!  This paper can go through the printer, but I reccomend flattening it for a few days first.  I had a really hard time printing on it this time because it was so freshly made and warped.

Friday, 27 April 2012

A Cluttered Life

Boreas by John William Waterhouse.  My favourite painting.

My life has been far from pretty lately.  My home has reflected my life: cluttered.  I feel like there are so many things I want to do, project-wise and life-wise.  But there are also so many things I have to do instead.  Of course most are self-inflicted, such as commitments I've made that I've just procrastinated too long, or letting my home get so out of control that I don't know where to start and it all just hangs over my head like a gloomy, nagging cloud.

On Wednesday, I just got so fed up with the physical clutter in the kitchen, but didn't have time to really clean it up and put it away.  So I grabbed a laundry basket (or two!) and started tossing stuff in.  If I couldn't put something away right then on the main floor, it went into the basket!

You wouldn't believe how much better that made me feel!  Yes, I still have all the clutter to deal with in the baskets.  But my counters were clear!  I love that and it doesn't happen often.

My mind is still cluttered up with all the things I have to do, and my children are overtired from a few late nights and all the daytime running around.  But at least I made one step toward peace and simplicity.

I have a goal--an unrealistic one perhaps--to one day keep my home clean enough that the mess never gets in the way of the good and beautiful things I'd rather be doing.  I want to get away from simply crisis-cleaning and have a real routine that runs so smoothly that I actually enjoy caring for my house.  In my few spare minutes, I'm rereading Cheryl Mendelson's book Home Comforts.  I'll post more about that another time.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Something to Read on a Rainy Day: Books by Patty Froese Ntihemuka

Once upon a time, when Juli was about 2 years old or so, someone new started coming to our moms' group.  Her name was Patty, and she had super-short-almost-buzzed hair, and the most adorable little boy.  She was a very sweet woman who added a little spice to our conversations, and we all really missed her when she moved away.

One of the things that most amazed me about Patty though, was that she was a writer.  A real published writer!  She didn't announce the fact or brag, of course, but it just came out in conversation.  I had never had a real writer for a friend before!  (This was before I joined Inscribe)

I managed to find one of her books online in the used section of Chapters because it wasn't in the new section.  The Woman at the Well is Patty's first book, I think.  I loved it!  It's a story about a character in the Bible who most people probably don't give a second thought to.  But Patty brought her to life and gave her a history and a purpose beyond being just someone that Jesus met one day.

Patty has just released her newest book, Perfect on Paper.


"Anne Stanborough, a well known mystery writer, inherits her maiden aunt's book store, Perfect on Paper. The lawyer handling her aunt's estate is none other than the handsome Jake Harrison, but despite his attraction to the beautiful author, his painful divorce has made him wary of a marriage between two driven professionals. Anne can't let go of the career she's worked her entire life towards, and he isn't willing to make a second mistake in marriage. It looks like they should call the whole thing off until Anne discovers that her late maiden aunt might not have been so "maiden" after all… A love story from the past tugs this couple back together again, but will it be enough to prove that a love founded in God really can overcome anything? " 

I don't know about you, but I really want to read this book!  And I will once I get those centrepieces taken care of.

Lucky for you, you don't have to go find it in a book store, it's an e-book! Patty's writing will dazzle you.  If you don't have a kindle, you can download a free version of the software from Amazon.

PS: The above opinions are mine alone and I was in no way compensated.  I just think Patty is amazing, and so is her writing, so I wanted to spread the word to my lovely readers! 

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Spring Centrepieces: The Design Process

For the past two years, I've been in charge of the table centrepieces for the women's ministry events at our church.  I really enjoy doing them, even though I procrastinate too much and end up stressing myself out!  But this time I've been thinking of this spring event's design since before our Christmas event.

I knew I wanted to use my vintage books.  But I was worried about them walking out the door!  But after talking with the other members of the planning committee, I decided to go ahead with my plan.  I haven't exactly finalised the look, but I'm aiming for vintage, spring, nests, and green.  Don't worry, the Easter eggs won't look plastic when I'm done with them!

The event is on Monday night, so between now and then I have to decoupage some eggs (but not as many as I thought I would need to!), dye some cardstock with coffee (a delicious-smelling project), print and cut out, and a few other things.    So it's going to be a pretty easy task this time around.  Although it will still probably take me at least 2 hours to set it all up on the 26 tables.

Some of the other centrepieces I've done include:
Grass and Butterflies
Apples and Sticks
Gifts and Snow
Flowers and Ribbons (I wasn't happy with these ones, so I didn't take any pictures)
Flowers and Sea Shells
Mason Jars and Candles
Pine and Cranberries (This one was one of my best yet!  But I forgot my camera.  Boo!)
and of course, Frogs and Clouds!

A Birthday Pie

Yesterday was my husband's birthday.  He had to work...first day back after our vacation.  I used to buy (and once attempted to make) him a black forest cake for his birthday every year.  But eventually I realised that I should make what I do best: Pies!  Kevin loves pumpkin pie, so that's what he's gotten for the past few years.  This one turned out deliciously, if I do say so.

Happy birthday, Kevin!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Tagged again!

We're due back from our Mexican holiday today!  I thought I'd repost this little meme since it has pictures from our first trip to Mexico for our honeymoon.  Originally posted June 19, 2008.  Enjoy!


I've been tagged again! This time by Jill of Forever and Ever House. Jill lives in Canada like me, though on the oposite side of the country. Her home is beautiful and creative. Go check out what she did in her daughter's gorgeous pink room! So here's the meme, where I talk all about me-me.

1. What was I doing 10 years ago? I was 15 and being homeschooled. We had just moved from the small city where I grew up back to the larger city where I was born. I was a loner, and felt terribly out of place at church, where I didn't feel like I fit in. See this post to find out what happened next!

2. Five Things on my To-Do List Today.
  • clean out the cabinet under the kitchen sink (done!)
  • post on this blog...and come up with a prettier word than "blog", trademark it, and sit back becoming rich collecting royalties every time someone uses my new pretty word.
  • install cabinet latches (I did two of them already, and probably won't get around to the other 4 in the kitchen until KD takes a look at the latches and approves them. He said he didn't like them when I bought them, but the only alternatives were the things that latch around the cabinet handles, which doesn't work in our kitchen, or the really expensive magnet system.)
  • write a birthday letter to my niece who is turning 10 in a couple of weeks, and package up her gift.
  • mail said gift.
  • make supper for KD.
  • is that 5 things yet?
3. What are my favourite snacks? Tim Horton's Iced Cappuccino. Other than that, sugar in general, chocolate in particular. And fruit. I tend to snack when I'm bored or procrastinating, so I snack on whatever is available.

4. Places I have lived. I have only ever lived in two cities, and I'd rather not post the names if you don't mind. Instead, I'll tell you all the places I've traveled!
  • Australia for 2 months to visit my aunt and her family (with an overnight stopover in LA just in time to experience the Northridge earthquake in January 1994)
  • Hungry Horse, Montana for summer camp
  • Knoxville for a homeschool conference
  • Cabo San Lucas Mexico for our honeymoon, where we went on a quad tour through tht desert, and I discovered that I love dry heat (not a fan of humid heat)
  • Various places in the Ottawa area of Ontario (including a day trip to New York State to see Boldt Castle)
  • Chicago because KD is a fan of the Blackhawks.
  • England on a church mission trip when I was 17
  • Vancouver to visit my sister when she lived there.
  • hmm...I think that's it.
5. Five Things I would do if I was a billionaire.
  • Build a house to satisfy my desire for the character and beauty and quality of old houses, as well as KD's desire for the cleanliness and creaklessness of new houses.
  • Invest for the future.
  • Take care of our families.
  • Travel.
  • Go antique shopping!

So there it is! I know some people don't like to do these things, so I'm not going to tag anyone specifically this time. But if you want to do it, consider yourself tagged! (Since I mentioned our honeymoon, I thought I'd include pictures from that trip.)

Friday, 20 April 2012

Friday's Favourites #10

Hello friends!  Since I'm not browsing the internet this week, I wasn't able to gather my favourite links and posts for you.  But I didn't want to leave you hanging either, so here are a few blogs with weekly round up posts.  I'd love it if you come back and let me know in the comments what interesting things you find!

The Nesting Place's Bird Watching

Oak Ridge Revival's Friday Finds

Kyla Roma's Weekly Week Knees

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

A Favourite: Gunmetal

One can't go on a tropical vacation with bare toenails, right?  This "gunmetal" colour is one of my favourites. It's a dark blue-grey that is far from girly, but not quite goth like black would be.  Although I love having black nails too!  It's so unexpected on a goody-two-shoes like me.  

My other favourite nail polish colours these days are purple and ivory.  What are your favourites?  And do you wear polish on your fingernails?

(And for my sister Carmen: Ooh, sexy toes!)

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

A Pretty Little Menu

When I was a baby, my family went to Victoria BC to visit friends and family.  Some of my mom's friends owned a ceramics factory and gave her this pretty frame for me.  When I was quite young, Mom had one of my newborn pictures taped in it.  Then as the four of us kids grew bigger and more destructive, the frame was put out of the way.  I'm actually amazed it survived!

When I got married and moved out nearly 10 years ago, I took my frame with me.  But I could never figure out what to do with it.  Anything displayed in it would have to be taped or glued.  Then a few months ago, I had an epiphany!  I pulled out a dry erase marker and wrote "Menu" across the top.  It's the perfect size to jot down the day's supper plans in my messy printing.

One day I'll order a vinyl cut-out for the "menu" to make it look more intentional.  But for now, this works.  When I remember to update it.  Before I wrote the meal in the first picture, it read "chicken and rice a la carte" for almost a month.

The back has this handy pocket that I could use to store the dry-erase pen and a cloth or little eraser.  But not 'til it's placed somewhere that my two-year-old can't steal it.

Ok, so this isn't the newborn picture my mom used...
but it's one of the cutest pictures I have on  the computer.
The rest of the pictures are in Nick's closet and he's napping.
I'm the little one in blue.

Monday, 16 April 2012

The Story Behind the Distressing: Guest Post by Leanne from Apple Box Boutique

Good Monday morning!  I am thrilled to host the first ever guest post here at To a Pretty Life.  Leanne from Apple Box Boutique, the artist behind countless pieces of painted and distressed furniture is here to share what it is about old furniture that she loves.  Enjoy!


To begin, I would like to thank Joanna for inviting me to be a guest writer on To A Pretty Life. I love that every day this blog holds a new and personal perspective intermingled with creative ideas.  I am excited to be a small part of it.

Joanna suggested I write about distressed furniture and why I like it.  That made this post stress-free to put together, because I really do love it -- and live it (mostly)!

Contrary to general belief, my own home is not completely shabby chic.  It has modern pieces, things that have been handed down, vintage items and even Ikea has infiltrated here and there. This picture was taken while we were still finishing our family room but everything you see is still here; just surrounded by more stuff.

What ties it all together is the fact that nothing is a perfect match and yet it works for us.  The uniqueness of what our family has created is what we love about every room... the distressed pieces add interest, they have a heritage and that is what helps make it a home.

Whenever I obtain a new item to refinish, I like to find out its history.  Not just the date it rolled out of the manufacturer's shop but who owned it, where it is from, if it has travelled and how it came to be for sale. Because in the end it's not just about furniture; the children in our life are learning there are people and stories connected to each piece.  It teaches them to value the past and makes it real for them.  It allows them to understand why caring for the things they receive or work for is important.  It is more than just decor, it is a life lesson.

So when we find something like this:

...we can share that it belonged to one of the first female professors at a Canadian university who decided that instead of working to be more like a man in a 'man's world', she would celebrate her femininity and start a ballroom dance club at the school.  She went on to be highly respected in her field and personal life.
Or something like this:

...that once belonged to a woman in Saskatchewan who worked tirelessly to raise and educate five of her own children and 3 more belonging to an ailing friend, all by hand-washing other people's laundry.  This is the only piece of furniture she ever purchased for herself and she loved it dearly.
Maybe one of those examples will make a difference in their lives, or ours.

All things do not come with a narrative, but when they do, it makes them even more special.  It is worth something to the heart as well as the eye.  When I acquire an antique or a vintage item, I know it has been well-loved or ill-used, cared for or abandoned, or perhaps made someone's life a bit easier by being functional.  If a little paint and sprucing up is all that is required to give it new life and continue its story -- well, what's not to love about that?


Thanks so much Leanne!  I love the stories behind those pieces of furniture.  For me, if I don't know the story, I make it up!

You can visit Leanne's charming store if you're in the Edmonton area, and you can read more at her blog, On the Apple Box.