Tuesday, 25 February 2014

For Such a Time as This...

I mentioned in my last post that I have a growing stash of cash that I'm saving to buy a decent rug and/or other home decor things.  It's all part of my plan to spend net zero dollars on decorating.  But today, I willingly handed $40 of my hoard to a stranger who may or may not have been telling the truth about being stranded by drunk friends.

It doesn't matter whether he was scamming us.  I think what matters is whether I am willing to help a stranger in need.  I hope he was telling the truth.  I hope his offer to pay it back (which we declined) was genuine.  But that's not the point.  Maybe my recent "luck" in selling things, and finding great deals has not actually been to build my stash and let me buy the pretty things I want?  Maybe there is another purpose for it?

I am normally the type of person who cannot stand the thought of someone else breaking the rules.  But somehow today I have managed to not care whether I just threw $40 down the drain.  If he was telling the truth, I'm so glad we could help him.  If he wasn't, I truly hope our "gift" will help to change him and that God will use it anyway.

Thrifted: Mid-Century Cane-arm Chair

Years ago, my grandparents bought a chair at an antique auction.  As soon as I sat in it, I knew I wanted one!  It was the most comfortable and elegant chair I've ever sat in.  I have seen a few come and go on kijiji, but I've never been quick enough to snag the ones that were in my price range.

Until a few weeks ago.  I saw this chair come up, and emailed within twenty minutes of the time the ad was posted.  I didn't care about the colour or condition of the upholstery, but wanted to make sure the caning wasn't damaged.  Upholstery I can replace, but I'm not ready to learn caning!  Lucky for me, the chair was in my price range, in excellent condition, and even the light teal-ish colour was perfect.  When I picked up the chair, the sellers also offed two middle-eastern carved tables (one with an ivory inlay, the other with a wood inlay), so I got those too.  They're similar to one that sits on my mother-in-law's front porch that I was admiring this summer.

As soon as I put the chair in  its place, my living room was suddenly more sophisticated.  There's something about an accent chair that just has that effect.  And since I am short of room, and saving up for a decent rug, I decided to sell the little green and brown 1950s chair.  I'm sad to see it go!  But we already have a few too many pieces of furniture (every family of four needs eight wooden dining chairs, two benches, and four folding chairs, right?).  So if all goes well, it will be picked up tomorrow, and my rug fund will be that much bigger!

Monday, 24 February 2014

Learning Photography the Hard way with my Nikon p510

I still haven't read the manual for my Nikon.  I'm trying to make a point of pulling the camera out more often, and figuring things out.  I'm working on close-ups and macros, because my default is the typical Sears Portrait distance.  I really need to use my tripod more often too.  But even without it, I think I'm improving.  I hope.

Nikon Coolpix p510, pics, photos, photography, macro
I'm lucky to still have several Valentine bouquets to practice  my photography on.

Nikon Coolpix p510, pics, photos, photography, macro
I love this chair!  I'll be posting more about it this week, or if you can't wait, hop over to Instagram for details!

Nikon Coolpix p510, pics, photos, photography, macro
My husband actually took this photo, but it shows what the kids did for a big chunk of the weekend.  The first game they played included a lot of fighting, whining, and frustration, but after some reminders (aka, lectures, threats, and warnings), J patiently and calmly taught her little brother how to play checkers and Uno, and they did several puzzles together.  And cleaned up.  This is what I've always dreamed of for my kids, even though I grew up fighting tooth and nail with my three siblings.  I INSIST that my two be the best of friends.  I don't care how many other BFFs they may get.

Nikon Coolpix p510, pics, photos, photography, macro

Nikon Coolpix p510, pics, photos, photography, macro

Nikon Coolpix p510, pics, photos, photography, macro
I cannot get enough of this boy's eyelashes!  It's hard to catch him still enough to get a decent close-up of him, but he was busy painting a wooden race car on Saturday.

Nikon Coolpix p510, pics, photos, photography, macro

Nikon Coolpix p510, pics, photos, photography, macro

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Relearning Contentment - Three Pretty Things

I've been struggling with being content with my home.  We just renewed our mortgage, so we're stuck here for a little while.  Additionally, the price we could sell our house for, five years after buying it, isn't much more than what we paid for it, in spite of building a super-expensive fence, and adding landscaping, etc.  So its discouraging, and my dream of one day living on an acreage couldn't seem farther away.

But I know that the little acts of service one does for a house are what make you love it.  The other day I looked around my house and challenged myself to point out and photograph three pretty things.  I need to stop looking at the flaws, and start seeing the beauty.  Two different people have told me recently how lovely my house is.  I tend to forget that it has changed a lot since we moved into a banana five years ago.  And it is pretty.  And peaceful (when the kids aren't bowling and/or jumping rope through the length of the house).

So here are a few of my pretty things.  Post in the comments about the first pretty thing you see in your house.

Someone interrupted my quest for pretty.  LOOK at those eyelashes!

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

My 2014 Word of the Year?

I like to be intentional with my life.  That's not to say that I actually am intentional, but I always have great expectations of myself.  I've spent the last 5 or 6 years trying to remember to be a gentle person.  As in not sarcastic or rude or harsh.  But I've been thinking it is now time to add another goal to that.  Perhaps, I need to focus on the word "calm".  My husband would agree with that!  I have an penchant for hyperbole, and I go from unruffled to overwhelmed (aka, freaking out) in about 0.5 seconds flat.  Hmm...that sounds a lot like my daughter.  I wonder where she gets that from?

Then, I thought, maybe instead of picking one word for the year, I should sit down and figure out what I want my life to look like, and work on that.  But that's getting dangerously close to excessive expectations again...as in, setting myself up for failure.

Then my beloved Scottish Nanny told me that I stay at home and think too much, and need to get out more.  Which is true.

And who am I kidding?  There's no way I'm going to remember and implement something for an entire year.  I can barely remember a resolution for three days! (#squatchallenge? Oh yeah...)

So I don't have a word for the year.  Or even a concept for the year.  What I do have is my habits.  I've developed a lot of bad habits since my son was born, and without changing those, I won't ever be the person I yearn to be.  So I resolve to tackle one habit.  Just one.  Right now, it's sweeping the floor daily.  I already wash my dishes most nights, and make my bed most mornings (but not last week, at all, for some reason. I wonder why?  Probably because I accidentally pulled the curtains down, so the room is in shambles).  So now, I try to remember to sweep the floor every evening right after I wash the dishes.

My word for the year? It doesn't exist. My word for right now is: SWEEP.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Who are You in Literature?

I know there are dozens of online quizzes to test which literary character you are  most like.  But I find they're never really accurate.  Have you ever truly thought about who you are most like, among your favourite books?  When I was little, I wanted to be like Anne of Green Gables.  Then I grew up and realised that I actually really am!  Unfortunately, I'm not so much like the refined, elegant, grown-up Anne.  I'm most like the 11-year-old impetuous, dreamy, forgetful, emotional Anne.  Although I've never yet drowned a mouse in the pudding sauce.

But I'm an Anne who didn't marry a Gilbert.  Instead, I married Mr. Darcy.  We seem to make a good match.

I don't know if the original Anne would have suited the original Mr. Darcy.  What do you think?  Who are you in literature?

Thursday, 13 February 2014

My Mother's Coat Rack

So I made my mother a coat rack for Christmas.  Several years ago, my sweet Papa made me one, painted red and green, for a stocking hanger.  I love it.  In fact, we've used it fairly often as a front-door kids' coat hanger.  Then a couple of months ago when I was visiting my mom, I noticed that she, being short to begin with and now stooped from health issues, needed something like it.  I didn't want to part with my own stocking hanger, so I resolved to make one.

The post cost more than I was expecting, but all together it still fell close to my normal price range for mom's gift.  It's a bit taller and heftier than mine, so perhaps I could have shopped around to find a smaller post, but I am happy with how it turned out.  Initially I planned to paint it teal, but in the end decided on stain and wax.


7:00 PM - My pillow cradles my pounding head as I squeeze my eyes shut and will the medication to kick in.  Thoughts drift.  In the distance I hear the soft clatter of dishes being washed, and the chatter of two kids happy to spend time with Daddy.  The crunch of footsteps in the snow outside and the deep rumble of my love's voice as he coaches my girl through piano practice and tears of frustration.  She wants to be perfect. The first time.

8:00 PM - A whisper wakes me. "Mom, I'm ready for you to pray with me."  Ok. I turn toward her, the sheets tangling my legs.  Holding her hand, I whisper the same prayer I've been praying every night since she was tiny and I was desperate for her to sleep so I could rest.  I squeeze her hand and she scampers off to bed.  Next my brown-eyed boy pops up next to me. "G'night mom."  Goodnight Nicky.  I ask him for a kiss and he obliges, his face sopping wet from brushing his teeth.  I wipe my face and drift away again 'til morning.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Organisation for the Disorganised - Personal Planner Review

All of November and December, I was half-heartedly looking for a new calendar/planner/whatever to use daily.  I didn't find anything like I wanted, even while being unsure of exactly what I wanted, so I figured I'd just go back to printing my 1- or 2-week excel spreadsheet that I've used off and on over the years.  Then I got an email asking if I wanted to create a personalised planner and review it.  I looked at the site, and said, "yes please!"

Check it out at: http://www.personal-planner.com/

 Review Part 1 - The ordering process

I waited 'til the day after Christmas to order my planner, thinking it would take a while to do.  I'm not sure exactly how long it did take, since I interrupted it with a lengthy phone call to my sister (I had to confirm her kids' birth dates...and chat), but it was much less time than I expected it to be.

The site was easy to use, with logical work-flow, and never once timed out on me.  Help and/or explanations were immediately available every step of the way, with little reminders to ensure I didn't forget anything.

The only hiccup I noticed was when I went back through the steps to double-check everything, the image showing my front cover and back cover were reversed.  As in, it said, "Showing Front Cover", but the image shown was the back cover, complete with the coil spine on the right.  I was pretty sure that wouldn't be a problem, since it still had the front cover text on the correct image.

A few of my favourite things:

  • The ability to use my own images
  • Customisable layout, colours, and features
  • The 50+ extra pages at the back, with several different options, such as teacher planning resources.  I chose blank pages: graph paper for one section, and ruled paper for the second..
  • The ability to chose the month I wanted to begin with.  Initially I chose January 2014, because, well, I ordered it in December.  But after I submitted the order, I noticed it would take about 3 weeks to print and ship my planner.  You'd think that since I'd already submitted the order, it would be too late, right?  Nope!  Right on that page was a list of all the options, and links to change them if necessary!  So I changed the starting month to February, and I couldn't be happier.

Review Part 2 - The planner

My planner took more like six weeks to get here.  Living in Canada, I'm used to that.  When it still hadn't arrived by the week before February, I was starting to get a little worried.  But I needn't have.  It arrived January 25, the very Friday before the first day in the planner.  Perfect timing!

I was impressed with the quality of this planner.  I ordered the A5 size, which is perfect for my use.  The individual pages are thick, good quality paper, much better than I was expecting.  This does make the planner thicker and heavier than I would want to carry around with me, but since that isn't my plan, it's more of a bonus, since my highlighter won't leak through.  You could probably even use a sharpie on these pages with very little bleeding.

The plastic covers are textured to disguise any scratches.  A little too textured to see the pictures clearly, but certainly functional.

The photos on the front and back covers are bright and clear and lovely, and the colours on the pages are exactly what I was expecting.  One thing I wasn't expecting was how bright the ruler/bookmark is.  It's positively neon!  I was expecting, based on the colour shown on screen, a muted spring green.  But it's not an unpleasant green, so I don't mind it.  And it sure will make it easy to find if I ever lose it.  It is thick and sturdy and functional, which is of course its purpose.

I love the personalised birthday/anniversary/occasion list.  You enter the name and birth date, and it shows you each year how old the person is turning.  It's perfect for keeping track of my nieces' and nephews' ages.  Although I had to call one of my sisters to find out what year a few of my nieces were born.  If I order a planner next year, the ages will automatically update on the site.  It's perfect for disorganised, forgetful people like me.  There is also the option to pre-order next year's planner already, to take up where this one leaves off.

When choosing the language for the planner, the only English options were UK and US.  So, naturally, being Canadian, I chose UK.  I figured it didn't matter which I chose, because there wouldn't be much text in the planner anyway.  But, I wasn't expecting to have all the UK holidays in the planner as well.  It is interesting to have all the royal birthdays, etc, but I really would prefer having Canadian holidays as an option.  Maybe next year!

Overall, I'm thrilled with my planner, and look forward to using it all year long.

I'd love to know what kind of planner or calender or to-do list or whatever you use to organise your days.  Share in the comments!

I love this photo from our raspberry-picking day.  Even though the kids aren't looking. My husband wondered why I didn't include a photo of him.  But I don't have any good ones, or didn't look hard enough when I was creating the planner.

One of my favourite quotes, from one of my favourite books.

I'm sure this info will come in handy one day...right?

So far, I haven't been making good use of this section.

My baby brother will be 27 this year!

Extra pages

I tell my kids that they are each other's best friends.  Or else.

The neon ruler/bookmark

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free ordering code to create my personal planner for the purpose of this review.  All photos and opinions are mine.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Dealing with Necessary Clutter

I love the idea of spring cleaning.  Every house needs that annual clearing out of dust and cobwebs and stale air, whether it is done all at once in a week-long fury of cleaning, or gradually over a couple of months.  I've never successfully accomplished a full spring cleaning.  This year, I'm feeling an urgency to Get Rid Of Stuff.  I've been doing this regularly over the past two years, but now I'm bothered by the necessary clutter.  This is the stuff that we need and use all the time, but it becomes clutter because it doesn't have a home.  And why don't these things have homes?  Because the less necessary stuff, the things we use only occasionally, are so nicely organised and put away and taking up all the space.  So my goal, as I clear out each area of my house for my months-long 2014 spring cleaning (that I have already started), is to decide what things are always used, what things are sometimes used, and what things are never used.

The first category will get the prime storage spots.  Instead of living in piles on my kitchen counter, or the turn of the staircase, or strewn across the computer desk (do you "store" things on your stairs too?).

The second category will get the less-accessible storage spots, like the hard-to-reach corner cupboard or a box or bin in the basement storage area.

The third category will be sold via kijiji, consignment stores, or community swap groups.  Or donated.  I plan to be ruthless with this.  Wish me luck!

When do you start spring cleaning?

First Memory, circa 1985

sisters, rain, first memory, umbrella, toaprettylife
sisters in the rain, circa 1986

I clutched my furry white blanket (named "Munkit") close to my chest.  I was cozy in my fuzzy turquoise sleeper as my nose pressed against the cold glass of the screen door.  Thunder rumbled and crashed, and wind whistled through the rattling door, but I wasn't scared.  Big rain drops pounded on the concrete steps outside and lightening flashed again and again, illuminating the darkness of the neighbourhood.  I was alone in the doorway, but I was safe.

I was probably less than two years old.  Is it any wonder that I still love rain and thunderstorms?

What is your first memory?

Monday, 3 February 2014

DIY Farmhouse Table: Ikea Hack

DIY Farmhouse Table: Ikea Hack

I've been teasing you on Facebook and Instagram over the past few months with shots and comments about my kitchen table.  What started out as a basic black-stained ikea dining table just like this one, is now my ideal: a big farmhouse table with a distressed, stained top, and white-painted legs and skirt (I think that's what it is called).  Most of the dents on the table top are naturally acquired, but I did take the heavy handle of a butter knife to it as well.  I got really tired of sanding, so it didn't turn out as light as I wanted, but I may take it outside in the spring to sand it properly.  Until then, its one coat of brown stain, and one coat of poly is just lovely.  The chairs will get the same treatment in the spring, I think.

DIY Farmhouse Table: Ikea Hack

DIY Farmhouse Table: Ikea Hack

DIY Farmhouse Table: Ikea Hack

DIY Farmhouse Table: Ikea Hack

DIY Farmhouse Table: Ikea Hack turquoise kitchen #myrealhouse
Wide view of my kitchen and mudroom, cluttered counters and all.  What do I do with those windows?  I wish I could redo the window trim.  But instead we have to keep the casings and the mini-blinds.

my daughter's tea party

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