Monday, 31 March 2014

New Sponsor: Katya Valera Jewelry


I'm pleased to announce a new sponsor. Kacie of Katya Valera makes gorgeous jewelry, and I'll let her tell you a bit about it:
"I began Katya Valera, my handmade jewelry business, while shopping online for bridesmaid jewelry just over two years ago. I saw so many pieces featuring the loveliest polymer clay roses, researched the style, realized I could make them myself, and jumped right in making and selling in my Etsy shop. "My jewelry quickly branched into more than just clay pieces, and I now offer an eclectic collection of jewelry, from minimalist pendant necklaces to statement bibs to dainty filigree bracelets. Yet all my pieces have a vintage-bohemian feel to them no matter their design, something I can never get away from regardless of how my taste changes or my skills evolve over time. I’m an old soul, and I can’t help reflecting that in my jewelry. "When I’m not making, planning, or thinking about my jewelry (not sure when that is), I’m busy working to improve my health naturally, as I live with chronic illnesses that keep me home most of the time. My jewelry not only helps keep my mind off those problems but gives me a way to add some happiness to the world even from my own little world of health issues."
Check out the etsy shop, and Kacie's blog.

A few of my favourites from the shop:

blush pink rose necklace
long red and silver bohemian necklace
dark purple bohemian bib necklace

Friday, 28 March 2014

S.T.R.E.S.S.E.D

Well, my camera is collecting dust, and my house is a disaster, and my basement is full of all my mom's stuff, and my exercise schedule is sporadic, and my work is way behind schedule, and my migraines are daily, and the ground is covered in fresh snow, and I just need a rest.

How's that for an explanation for not posting much lately?

On the flip side, my husband is sweet and understanding, my friends are there for me, my mom is now getting the medical care she needs in long term care, my kids are mostly well behaved, my daughter is suddenly a bookworm (yay!), and my son wrote his own name for the first time ever yesterday!  Yes, I know he's four-and-a-half, but he has never liked to sit and colour or draw or write.  I know he knows more than he's willing to show.

So that is life.  I absolutely hate being busy and I hate having so many things hanging over my head that need to be done.  But it is only a season.  Before this all started (when my mom went into the hospital), I was more together than I usually am.  I was cooking creatively, my house was clean-ish and being decluttered, and I was set to begin my next work contract.  Then life happened.  My mom went into the hospital for yet another fractured vertebrae, and was put on the waiting list to move into long term care, since her current residence wasn't able to provide the nursing and everyday care she needed.  So suddenly, I needed to clean out her old place within 72 hours...by myself, since all my siblings were out of town at that time.  Luckily my brother came back just in time to move the furniture with his truck.  I would not have been able to handle that!  The stuff was moved into my kitchen (and it was a lot of stuff for one very small studio suite), and the furniture moved into my sister's basement.  Since I hadn't yet quite completed my laundry room decluttering, I had nowhere to put the stuff!  So it sat in my kitchen for about two weeks, while I worked on getting Mom settled.  I finally moved the last of it to the basement (and now my laundry room is stuffed to the gills...so much for using my new desk any time soon).

But of course, as hard as this month has been, I do it gladly.  Mom has done so much for me over the years, which is probably a big part of her current health issues, so how can I begrudge doing this for her?  She has already lost so much.  Anyone would likely do the same for a beloved mother.  I had a dream the other night that she was suddenly able to walk and run and jump again (not that I've ever seen her jump in my life).  It was rather heartbreaking to wake up and realise it was only a dream.

Just a memo to the universe: Please, no more crises until I figure out how to get a handle on everyday life!  Or at least until I meet my May 30th deadline.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Friendships in Anne of Green Gables

source

Yesterday I had a long-overdue phone chat with my "Diana," my bosom friend from childhood.  I hadn't realised just how much my poor soul still needs her.  I have been so blessed with other friends just as dear, but there is something about "Diana" that cannot be replaced.  It made me think about the other friendships in Anne of Green Gables.
  1. Katie Maurice and Violetta - Katie Maurice was Anne's reflection in a bookcase door, and Violetta was an echo.  Ok, so these are imaginary friends.  I can't recall ever having any, seriously, but I've always held quite detailed long-winded conversations with other people (real people, usually) that only happen in my head.  Then there were my stuffies: Amy the rabbit, Amy the panda, Amy the panda purse, Amy the ragdoll, Amy the Care Bear...  My 4-year-old often tells me what his "boys" are doing.  The number varies, but it is usually two or three.  Most of the time their names are any combination of Skyler, Skylander, Sky, Hotdog (also what he wants to name a cat one day), Watt, or Jacob.
  2. Matthew Cuthbert - Matthew and his sister Marilla adopted Anne.  Matthew was a quiet and shy and industrious man of about 60 years old, and probably the first person who ever let Anne talk about her wild imaginations.  I haven't had many father-figures in my life, but I cherish my Papa (my paternal grandfather).  He is quiet and thoughtful like Matthew, and I just love the rare times that he tells me stories about growing up in Scotland, or imparts wisdom, such as "Every child should read the classics.  It gives them their foundation." (or something like that...I can't remember his exact words).  Plus, he's got that infamous Clark wit and knows everything about everything.  I love him.
  3. Diana - Diana was the first child she was ever allowed to play with, having spent her childhood looking after other people's babies ("I enjoy babies in moderation Mrs. Hammond but twins three times in succession is too much!").  Before even getting to know her, Anne declared her a kindred spirit and they swore to be lifelong bosom friends.  My Diana was also a friend because of proximity at first.  Our mothers are good friends, and so once my older sister went to live with our grandparents when I was eleven (is it a coincidence that Anne and Diana were also eleven when they pledged their friendship?), we quickly became inseparable.
  4. Jane and Ruby - Yes, I did have more than one friend when I was a child/teenager, although at times it felt like I didn't.  "Diana" and I were part of a girls' group started by two of the mothers.  There were five of us "God's Girls", and we got to hang out regularly from about age 12 to age 14 when I moved away.
  5. Gilbert - I can't say I've ever hated anyone as passionately as Anne believed she hated Gilbert.  Nor--until high school--did I ever have a male friend for more than the two weeks at summer camp (and honestly, those boys were most likely my friends just because they had a crush on the gorgeous "Diana"). Actually, I was not allowed to be friends with boys at all.  So when my now-husband started seeking me out and talking to me, I had no idea whether he just wanted to be friends or what.  
  6. Mrs. Allan - A mentor, an encourager, a friend.  One of my "Mrs. Allans" is my "Diana's" mother.  She's my second mama.  I learned just as much from her as from my own mother, and spent nearly as much time at her house as my own.  Two of my aunts also played Mrs. Allan's role in my life.  Without them, I wouldn't have had the courage to make the choice to go to public high school (my very first act of rebellion and my very first independent choice), and I would have been even less prepared for marriage at age 19.
  7. Stella and Priscilla - Stella and Priscilla were the friends that Anne met at Queens College.  They were the ones that Anne chose when she knew herself better, rather than being just the closest in proximity like Jane and Ruby.  Their souls matched Anne's, and their friendship lasted through Queens, through two years of teaching in distant parts of the Island, and three years of living together for university.  I have a few of these.  The friends I've mad as a late teen and adult.  I've gone from thinking I'm a stereotyped first-born loner destined to have only one good friend, to having more friends than I have time to spend with them. I am so blessed. (yes, I know I'm technically second-born, but my sister moved out when I was 11, and I have way more first born tendencies.  I am not a stereotypical middle child, that's for sure.)
  8. Marilla and Mrs. Rachel Lynde - If you're familiar with the book, you may wonder why I've left these two characters 'til the end, since they are the first two characters we meet in the book.  Or maybe you won't wonder, because you'll realise that Anne's relationship with these two esteemed women didn't really develop into friendship until closer to the end of the book.  They are the mother-figures.  The ones who offer advice and critique and love whether it is wanted or not.  It may take awhile to realise the priceless value of the mother-figures in your life, because their role also comes with conflict.  My mother and my Nanny (paternal grandmother) are the ones that I value more and more as time goes on.  
This has been fun!  I may continue with the rest of the series too...



Monday, 10 March 2014

Don't Quit Your Day Dream

Source: The Lettered Cottage

I am a dreamer.  Always have been, always will be.  When I was a kid, I used to fantasize about running away.  Not because I had an awful home life.  I didn't.  But simply for the adventure of it.  I had it all planned out: I would go south, to my aunt and uncle in Medicine Hat.  Because that would be easier than going over the mountains to my grandparents.  I planned what I would pack, the route I would take...everything.  And then happily went back in the house to ask mom for a pink popsicle.

When I was a teenager, I'd dream about my future.  I alternated between dreaming about being a stay at home mom, and about moving out, having an apartment a career.  And of course I was always dreaming about what my life would be like when I was a famous novelist.

Now, I am living my stay-at-home mom dream, and my career and writing dreams are still there, simmering.  We had a speaker at our church on Sunday.  He said,
"When God gives a dream, it won't die." (Bill Prankard)
And my friend sent me this verse this morning: (Matthew 11:7-8)
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
These days, I'm dreaming about peace, quiet country, thickly-starred night skies, and wide-open windows.  I'm still trying to sort out what my real God-given dreams are, and what are just idle escapism.  But I just love the new t-shirts that Layla of The Lettered Cottage is selling.
"Don't quit your day dream"
What are your dreams?

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Book Review: Wildwood Creek, by Lisa Wingate

Leave it to me to do something as last-minute as possible.  This review was to be posted by March 7th.  So I finished reading the last chapters on March 6th, and here it is.


It didn't take me that long because I didn't like the book.  In fact, I loved the book!  I read most of it in three evenings.  When I had to stop to go to sleep that last evening, with about three chapters left, the heroine was stranded with some long-dead people and it was creepy, and I wanted to read the rest in the daytime.  But of course I don't think to pick up a novel during the day.  On to the review.

Wildwood Creek, by Lisa Wingate is not the nostalgic cowboy romance I thought it was.  The cover art, while lovely, and the main thing that made me chose this book to review since I only skimmed the book description, could probably be tweaked to better represent the book.  This book is actually romantic suspense.  It is the perfect balance for me of fun personalities and characterisation and romance with suspense, danger, and dread.
Allie Kirkland has always heard the call of her father's unfinished destiny. When she's offered a production assistant's job on a docudrama filming in the hills near Moses Lake, Texas, the dream of following in her director-father's footsteps suddenly seems within reach. The reenactment of the legendary frontier settlement of Wildwood is a first step into the film industry. A summer on set in the wilderness is a small price to pay for a dream. 
But in 1861, the real Wildwood held dangerous realities. Town founder Harland Delavan held helpless residents, including young Irish schoolteacher Bonnie Rose, in an iron grip. Mysterious disappearances led to myths and legends still retold in the region's folk songs. Eventually, the entire site was found abandoned. When filming begins, strange connections surface between Allie and the teacher who disappeared over a century ago, and everyone in Wildwood--including Blake Fulton, Allie's handsome neighbor on the film set--seems to be hiding secrets. Allie doesn't know whom she can trust. If she can't find the answers in time, history may repeat itself...with the most unthinkable results.

From the very first page, I was fascinated.  The first person narration by two different characters is well balanced.  Allie's chapters are light-hearted and nicely reflected her trusting, humourous, self-deprecating nature.  Bonnie Rose's chapters just made my heart ache for her and the trauma she experiences, both before the book begins, and throughout its pages.  But it ends with hope.  It is beautiful.  And Essie Jane is a gem of a character.  The epilogue is perfect.

I did think that the description of Allie's appearance could have been woven in a bit sooner.  Yes, we know right off that she has red hair, but I got the impression from Allie's narration that she was short and pleasantly plump (not unlike myself).  Turns out, thanks to an excellent description given by Allie's friend Kim several chapters in, Allie is tall and thin!  But it is a great illustration of female body image.  We always see ourselves worse than others see us.

The parallel story lines were both well-crafted, and complemented each other.  If the book only had Bonnie Rose's story line, it would have been morose.  With only Allie's story line, it would have been chick lit.  Woven together, the result is something deeper.

I am grateful for the opportunity to review this book, and I plan to add a few of Lisa Wingate's other books to my TBR list.  One of my dream jobs has always been to work at Bethany House.  Perhaps reviewing their books will be the closest I get.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. 
Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group. 

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Steeped Tea with Sherisse - New Sponsor and Giveaway


You may remember, if you've been reading for the past couple of years, that my friend Sherisse and I hosted a spring tea party.  It was so much fun!  We went a bit over-the-top with the delicious food (made by Sherisse) and the decorations, and even made feathered fascinators for the guests to wear.  At that time, we used grocery store teas that Sherisse skillfully picked out (I recall a blackberry tea in particular that was delicious), since we didn't yet know about Steeped Tea.  So you can see that she has enjoyed tea for a long time.

I am thrilled to introduce Sherisse as my newest sponsor! Check out her new ad in the sidebar—better yet, click on it to check out her website.
Steeped Tea is a homegrown Canadian company that was started from a love for tea and wanting to share it with others. It offers high quality loose-leaf teas and accessories. The main philosophy of Steeped Tea is "It's who you share it with . . ."
Sherisse White is an independent consultant with Steeped Tea and loves to share high quailty and amazing tea with those around her. The best way to share tea is to have a tea party. Invite friends and family for a casual time of conversation and discovering new tastes.  Sherisse will set up a party for you and all you have to do is invite friends over and you will even get free teas and accessories. If you would rather not have a tea party but want to try new teas you can view the catalogue and order straight from her website.  Like her facebook page for tea tips, sales, and specials.
When Sherisse started selling Steeped Tea, I went to her launch party and got to taste several teas, as well as cookies and a dip made with tea-based ingredients.  Of course, being the sometimes-ditz that I am, I forgot my wallet at home that night!  But I did host a party a few weeks later at my house.  What I love about Steeped Tea is that—unlike other home party companies—you don't have to spend an arm and a leg to buy something.  Additionally, it's something you run out of, so you are free to host another party or participate in a fundraiser to restock.  I mean, honestly, there are only so many $50 measuring cups you can fit in your kitchen!  But tea...well, I've got almost a whole cupboard for my tea.

And lucky you!  Sherisse is offering a giveaway for my Canadian readers.  The prize consists of a beautiful mug, sliding heart steeper, a bag of Sweet Pineapple Sencha Green Tea (50g), and a bag of Earl Grey de la Creme (50g).

I must say, Earl Grey de la Creme is my favourite.  

a Rafflecopter giveaway



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