Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Missing: My Dream House

When I was about fifteen, I loved anything Victorian, the flowerier the better, I guess.  I had a subscription to Victoria magazine for a year.  In one of the issues that year, they printed a house plan that I loved.  It was 1 and a half stories, and perfectly farmhouse with a front porch (I think), and a garage in the right-hand wing.  I kept that issue for a long time...maybe ten years.  But of course now that I want that house plan, I don't have it.  It was either in the June issue:

Or the July issue:

I think.  At least, those are the only two covers I remember seeing.  It could be any other issue from about 1997 to 1999.  I know long time readers of Victoria are fiercely protective of their stash of back issues.  But if you or someone you know has one of these two issues, I'd love it if you could scan and email me the house plan.  I tried contacting the magazine, but since it folded and then was revived by a different publisher, they don't have any back issues before 2007.  I'd buy them on ebay, but the shipping is $10-$20...a little much to spend on a magazine that may or may not have a house plan that I may or may not still like.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Pretty, but Little

I've posted before about my hatred for our awful Walmart rug.  It took about 5 minutes after cleaning it for it too look either stained or in need of a vacuum.  It was nice and big, but also nice and cheap.  The edging was coming off of one part, and I just didn't like it.

So on my recent Christmas-gift-card-fueled shopping spree at Home Sense, I found a 4/6 woven plaid-ish rug that I thought might work.  And for only $20, it was worth giving it a try.  When I first rolled up the big one and put the new rug in its place, I was sure it was too small.  But no one knows for sure what the decor rules for rugs are (furniture on? or furniture off?).  And decor rules are meant to be broken anyway.

Even if it is too small, it still looks miles better than a stained rug.  I'm sure this one will get its share of stains, but at least it's reversible, and possibly mashine-washable.

I thought I'd try a lighter-feeling coffee table too, while I was at it, so I brought out my old piano bench. Back in the fall I removed the cushion, sanded all the glue off, and refinished the teak-wood top.  I left the legs painted grey-green, but distressed them a little and used a light brown glaze made of water and stain.  Please vote: Which should I use, the trunk or the bench?  for now, I've put the bench at the side of the loveseat for an end table, and returned the trunk to its usual spot.

My husband got a cuckoo clock for Christmas.  It's beautiful, and with it and our other nice wooden wall clock hanging on opposite walls, our house is starting to look a little like my grandparents' lovely clock-filled home.

Here are a few of the other items I picked up at Home Sense.

Steak knives with gorgeous handles
and adorable bees
pretty note cards
A book that should prove interesting for an
aspiring writer of fairy tales and fantasy

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Calling all fans of To a Pretty Life!

I'm beginning to crave tulips.

Time for some reader feedback!

So, I haven't really stuck to last year's stated goal of treating this blog like a magazine.  But I believe I have improved the look and feel of most posts, and I know more people are visiting.  I'd call the year a success after all.

Now I'd love to know what you think:

  • What do you want to see here?
  • What kind of posts are your favourite?
  • Which posts do you skip?
  • Why do you read To a Pretty Life?
  • Do you want to see more posts about writing editing?
  • Do you want more book reviews?
  • Do you like my honesty about my failures and efforts, or do you just come for the pretty pictures (if that's the case, I'd really better work on my photography!)
  • Do you like the ads in my sidebar, or do they bother you?
  • What about the blog's format?  Is it easy to read, easy to find what you're looking for?  Is it too wide for your screen?
  • What else would you like to let me know?

(You may comment anonymously if you like...just be nice while criticizing  If you would rather answer privately, feel free to email me)

I started this blog in order to show off my creative projects.  But it has evolved (is still evolving) into much more than that.

Here's to an even better year in 2013!

Monday, 21 January 2013

Don't Sit Down!

It's no secret that I'm not a great housekeeper.  In the ten years that I've been married, I've tried and failed at so many systems, routines, and plans.  I have preschoolers to cause a little chaos, but even before my kids were born I struggled.

For my entire life, my modus operandi has been, "play first, work later if there's time."  I slacked through my homeschool years.  I slacked through high school (which, curiously, only showed in my math and chemistry courses).  And at times, I've slacked at work.

So, for housekeeping at least, I've adopted a new motto:

Don't Sit Down.  For a procrastinator like me, this is the plan I need.  When I feel like sitting down to read or "just quickly check my email," I need to look around and choose one more thing to do beforehand.  And maybe one more.  Then when I've really earned it, I'll be able to relax guilt-free.

Of course, there are people who are the opposite of me and need a motto more like, It Can Wait.  But I'll never ever be one of those people.

Wish me luck!  My one more thing before sitting down to write this was to clean out my fridge.  It desperately needed it.  And I've discovered that I have about a dozen sauces and flavourings in the fridge.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

The Inspiration of a Spotless Home

My tools: Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson, House Rules by Clare Coulson, and my underused Swiffer Duster.

My son had a play date yesterday.  As the boys played in their crazy-three-year-old way, and my niece wandered around, the other mom and I had a lovely visit and got to know each other.  I was in awe of her beautiful home!  Aside from its perfect balance of traditional, modern, and industrial decor, it was spotless.  I have no idea how she does it, and don't really care (since I'm pretty sure she has a more industrious personality than I do).

But I came home to my dusty little house and suddenly had to DO something about it!  So I started at the top.  I dusted everything with my trusty little swiffer duster while the two little ones napped and my daughter watched way too much TV.  I was hoping to move on to washing the windows, but I needed to make supper, then my husband arrived home, etc.  I hope my cleaning motivation lasts for today.  Even though the windows are still covered in fingerprints, the floor is dirty, and I haven't even started upstairs yet, I already feel like my home is fresher.

How does someone else's home motivate you?  Or does it?

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Little Snow Pixie Hat

I found a pattern that I absolutely could not resist making.  And I knew the perfect person to make it for!  My adorable niece.  I babysit her on week days, so it was easy to make sure it fit.  The picture above is the final size.  The two pictures below are from the first time I finished it back.  It looked ok when I first put it on her, but soon stretched and was over her eyes.  So, since I needed to remove an inch or two, I didn't bother delicately undoing the kitchener graft.  I just cut it up the back, (Gasp!) undid the portion needed, then re-knit the last two rows.

I made a few modifications, and finished it off with a navy button, because it was the biggest I had.

I'm becoming more confident with the kitchener graft now.  This is the best-looking one I've done yet.

I tried my hand a short rows for the first, and had a pretty good result.  But I think I wrapped the stitches the wrong way on the purl side, so I ended up with two flaws in the final result. 

So I embroidered a few imperfect snowflakes over them, using leftover yarn from the cowl I made for my niece's mama.

Also linked to the All Star Block Party.  Couldn't find the button quickly, I'm in a hurry this morning.  We have a play date.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Lucy's Hat: Ready for a trip through the wardrobe.

I made another Clara cowl for a Christmas gift, and had a whole skein of yarn left over.  Since I'm simplifying my craft supplies, I don't want to accumulate a huge yarn stash, so I committed to using up some of the yarn I already have before buying more.  I decided to make the Lucy Pevensie Tam for my daughter, because it would look so cute on her.  I don't know what was wrong with my sizing (I tried the hat band on her several times, and even frogged the last repeat to make sure it would fit snugly), but once it was done, it was way too big for her!  It still looks adorable on her, but fits me perfectly.  The trouble is, I'm not sure this is a style of hat I will wear.  I must say though, I do like how it doesn't come down so low over my eyes like the tuque I normally wear does.  I hate squishing my bangs.  They're flat and lifeless enough on their own!

What kind of hat do you wear in the winter?

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Multigrain Onion Bread

My sister gave me this recipe about four years ago, and I've never made it 'til now.  Part of that was not looking very hard when trying to find the multigrain flour.  I finally found the Robin Hood Best for Bread Multigrain flour yesterday, so I decided I had to finally make it.  The recipe makes 2 small loaves, or as I discovered yesterday, one huge one.
Multigrain Onion Bread
1 tbs yeast1/2 cup warm water1 tbs brown sugar
mix sugar and yeast, then add warm water.  Let it foam then add:
1 cup warm water3/4 cup warm milk1 tbsp brown sugar2 tbs butteronion, chopped and fried
(my sister leaves large-ish pieces of onion, which makes for a delicious chunky bread.  I minced mine in a food processor because my husband doesn't like onions and that's how I always chop them, so they blended into the dough, and were mostly invisible.)
Add approx. 5 cups multigrain flour one cup at a time, and knead until smooth and elastic.  Let it rise until doubled, shape into loaf, then let rise again.  Bake at 350 until done [but she doesn't say when that would be...I baked mine for about 35 minutes.]

The bread was a hit, both at home last night served with lasagna (my onion-hating husband had several pieces, and took some to work today), and this morning at mom's group, served with cream cheese.  And cake.

Monday, 7 January 2013

I'm All-In

I have an obsessive personality.  Not in a stalker-ish way, I hope, but when I'm interested in something, it consumes my attention for a period of time.  And then eventually, my interest moves on, and I drop whatever I'd been doing.  I'm all or nothing.  The time period varies, usually depending on how much fuel I give my obsession.

This one-track-mind obsessiveness was at its peak when I was a teenager.  Then I got married, and it improved a bit.  Then I had kids, and out of necessity, it improved a bit more.  But I still find myself, in my spare time, immersing in one hobby/topic/activity at a time.

But I wonder, is this a bad thing?  I'm not a psychologist, and I'm sure what I've described has another official name.  Should I try to temper my obsessions, taking the motto, "In all things, moderation"?  Or should I just go with what seems to be the way I'm made and allow myself to fall whole-heartedly into my current interest? Providing I don't neglect my family, of course.

My current obsession is knitting.  Previous ones, which come and go in cycles, are sewing, different genres of fiction, medieval history, regency history, antiques, diy, home decor, gardening, blog reading, etc.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

The Great Book Purge of 2013

Yesterday after supper, my husband was in the mood to purge.  As I washed the dishes, he went through his books and finally decided to get rid of a few I've been certain for years that he was never going to look at again.  He's not a re-reader like me.  Once he was done I went through my books and together we are getting rid of thirty-three books, ranging from such classics as the 96-97 Chicago Blackhawks Media Guide to new books like Water for Elephants.

Then he decided we needed to go through our storage shelves in the basement.  I tossed most of our cards from our wedding (sorry friends and family!), and consolidated my childhood keepsakes into one box instead of two.  I still need to purge most of my crafty stuff, and  go through my old writing and writing books (most of which will probably join the 33 other books).

It's amazing how a new year can give the needed nudge of motivation to clear out accumulated junk.

Are you purging this month too?  What is the hardest thing to get rid of?  For me it's my old writing ideas.  I have several notebooks, a binder, and a hugely overstuffed folder to go through.  Most of it is trash, of course.

I used to doodle a lot...my notebooks are full of teenage angst, doodles, and half-formed story ideas.
Edited to add: By the way, if my step-mother-in-law is reading this...that copy of The Wealthy Barber Returns is not the one you just gave us...I got it from the bank when I opened an account and totally forgot I had it.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013


My pretty new alarm clock from my niece.
Must get better at reading analog clocks in the middle of the night...

Happy New Year!  Now that the holidays are over, which I thoroughly enjoyed even though we didn't do anything particularly exciting or interesting...except the snow fort my husband built yesterday (it's pretty amazing), it's time to get to the stuff I've been putting off.

I have a bunch of editing to do this week. Not a whole lot since I'm not doing a full issue alone this time, but I'll do the editing and layout for a little less than half of the February issue of FellowScript.

And I need to get going with fixing up the house.  Now that my hole-in-the-wall cupboard is complete (and again crammed overfull with a bunch of kids' crafty stuff), I can move on to painting the rest of the yellow walls in the house, starting with the stairwell.  Just before Christmas, I took down the pictures hanging there, and it seems really stark and hospital-like.  Soon I'll patch the holes, and paint.  I'm planning on just doing the whole stairwell white, so that I don't have to be particularly careful when doing around the two-story ceiling part.  But I'm worried about the starkness and the possibility of all that white making the beige carpet look dirty.  Maybe if I paint the handrails?

After that is done, whatever I decide, I plan to paint our bedroom.  It will probably have to be done in sections like I did the living room, since we'll still have to sleep there.  I'm tired of the dinged-up yellow.

Then only my son's room will be left with yellow walls.  I'll paint that if I get around to it, but possibly not 'til after I touch up the main floor paint.  It's about time for that.

In the midst of all that, I am still on a relentless mission to get rid of extraneous stuff.  If we don't love it, or at least use it regularly, it's going.  I'm at the point where I don't even have the patience to try to sell stuff online.  I just want it OUT of the house...yesterday.  The back of the van is currently filled with a load for goodwill.

As for fun stuff, I'm still obsessed with knitting.  I finished a fingerless glove last night, and plan to start the other one today.  And I'm pretty sure that I want to knit myself a pair of socks sometime soon.  I'm just a little intimidated by the thinness of sock yarn and the number of stitches involved.

These aren't resolutions, per se.  I don't have any of those, other than a vaguely urgent sense of the necessity of self-improvement in the areas of fitness and self-discipline.

What is on your to-do list for the new year?