lifestyle

Happy Heart Day

Heart shaped plate with pink hearts on it filled with chocolate truffles sitting on a lace tablecloth

Happy Valentines Day dear Reader! I’ve come down with a cold, so just a quick post today.

Lately I’ve been…

(Re)reading: Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions, which has a lovely chapter about Valentines Day, and turning it into a celebration of family, not just romantic love. I, of course, love that sentiment, as Valentines Day has always been one of my favourite holidays.

two heart garlands, one with red clay and raffia hearts and one made of paper

Loving: I don’t do a lot to celebrate Valentines Day, but each year I send out cards, hang my heart garland and try to make some sort of themed dessert. This year it was raspberry chocolate truffles!

scrapbooking pages and photographs spread out across my desk

Making: My mom and I have been sorting through years worth of family photos, and I’ve started scrapbooking again! I started scrapbooking 20 years ago, but I took a long break from it. I was originally planning to put my photos into regular albums, but then decided to scrapbook them. I won’t necessarily make them as fancy as the pages I used to do, but I like that the 12×12 format will give me a place to put all the documents and keepsakes I’ve gathered over the years alongside the photos.   

Finding: New artists to love on Redbubble. I had a voucher to use, and while browsing came across this lovely Jane Eyre painting by Zuzana Čupová. I love Jane Eyre, and fell in love with this painting the moment I saw it. It fits perfectly into my gallery wall. I also really love the artwork of Oh Jess Marie and purchased some of her adorable tea and book themed greeting cards and stickers. (Ps. the print quality on everything I got from Redbubble was great!)

framed jane eyre watercolour painting artwork hanging in a gallery wall

Thankful for: Videos to watch and podcasts to listen to while I am sick and don’t feel up to reading. A few of my favourites lately are Aly Art, Relatable by Allie Beth Stuckey and Farmhouse on Boone.

And, finally, on this day of love, I will leave you with this verse about the best love!

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”- Romans 5:8

A Year of Reading | My Favourite Books of 2023

a cup of tea in a blue floral patterned teacup sits on a wooden background and a vintage book is open beside it

Happy New Year, Dear Reader! Can you believe we are already in 2024? For this first post of the new year I thought I would share my favourite books I read in 2023. Last December, I decided that I wanted to finally read some of the books on my To Be Read list that had been there for a while, as well get through all of the unread books on my bookshelf. (I think that’s my goal every year, and I always fail, but I still keep trying…) I compiled a shortlist of 14 books, some of which were available in the library and some I needed to buy or borrow from others. Then, to accomplish the other goal, I pulled all of the unread books off of my bookshelf (they get lost amongst the other books) and dedicated a shelf specifically for them. As I purchased and borrowed new books throughout the year, they joined the others on that shelf and then as I read them, they went back onto my main bookshelf. (Or into the donation bin for a few I didn’t enjoy!)

This method helped keep me focused and I was able to get through quite a lot of them, while still giving me the freedom to read what I was in the mood for. I know some people like to schedule books to read each week/month, but I would rather have an array of choices and pick what appeals to me the most in the moment. I like to read a variety of genres, but I’m not necessarily always in the mood for all of them.

While I did read almost all 14 of the books I had planned on, I didn’t make it through The Slave Trade by Hugh Thomas. It was a lot thicker of a book than I anticipated, so if I finish it in 2024, then I will consider than an accomplishment! I did read more than those 14 books this year, but this list is a bit on the smaller side, since not very many ended up being ones I “loved” and wanted to share. But now, onto the books that I did like in 2023, in no particular order…

The book Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxes sitting on a wooden background

Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas

I said they weren’t in particular order, but we’re starting off with what was, by far, my favourite book of the year. Last year I read Hitler’s Cross by Erwin Lutzer… which then led me to read Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas… which then piqued my interest in more of Metaxas’ books… which then led me to this volume about William Wilberforce. This book was published in conjunction with the 2006 film of the same name. While I am familiar with Wilberforce, I loved learning more about him as well as the other Reformers and Abolitionists. This is one of those books where a good subject is made even better by a great author. Here is a small example of Metaxas’ writing style, in his “Acknowledgements”, so you can get a feel for what I mean.

“Life is a collaborative effort. That books are is a cliche, but not a fiction. I wish first and foremost to thank my typist, yours truly, for quite literally transcribing my thoughts as I thought them, a feat hardly to be explained, and yet quite literally true.”

While the book chronicles a serious topic, it is not depressing. Metaxas explores both Wilberforce’s personal and political life, his Christian faith and how that propelled him in his work, and the ups and downs of the Abolitionist movement. I found this to be an extremely encouraging and uplifting book, akin to the the way I feel about The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom; it is definitely one I will pull out and read again. If you have never watched the accompanying film Amazing Grace, then I also recommend it!

Little House on the Prairie and Laura Ingalls Wilder biography book sitting on a wooden background

Laura by Donald Zochert and the Little House Series

Alright, so this wasn’t one book but 10, but I’m including them all in one review. I hadn’t read the Little House series for probably 15 or more years, so when I picked up this biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life, I was inspired to read them again. I liked the biography because it filled in some of the areas of her life, clarifying details (such as which States “the West” were, or specific years events happened) and shared Laura’s story from an adult perspective. Then, after I finished the biography, I read the Little House books, spacing them out throughout the year, with other books in between, so I wouldn’t get tired of them as sometimes happens when you read a series too fast. Because they are children’s books, they are quick to read, but they are so enjoyable. As I read them, I just keep thinking about how glad I am that I am not a homesteader, because I would definitely be dead before the first snow came!

paperback version of Les Miserables book sitting on a wooden background

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

I’ve had this book on my list for years, but was always intimidated to start it because I thought it was probably a difficult read which would take me too long to get through in time, if I got it from the library. I found a copy at a second hand book store last year and discovered that I could have borrowed it from the library years ago because I read the story in under a week! However, I am glad to have my own copy now, because I love the story so much I will definitely re-read it in the future.

I was familiar with the general storyline since I have seen the musical both performed live and as a movie, but I was pleasantly surprised with how much more I liked the book. Hugo has an excellent writing style and, obviously, delves deeper into the characters and events than a musical could ever sum up. I thoroughly enjoyed this one: if you liked the musical, then you will love the book too.

adorned book sitting on a wooden background

Adorned by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

I was simultaneously encouraged and convicted when I read this book, which is a study on Titus 2 about Biblical womanhood and the importance of “older” and “younger” women learning from and teaching one another. She talks about how that learning and mentoring can only happen when we are involved in each others lives, and dives deep into this passage of Scripture (it’s a 14 week study). I liked the book so much that I am actually now reading it for a Bible study with several women from my church. However, even if you don’t have a group to go through it with, I still recommend it to read by yourself as there is plenty of food for thought and opportunity for personal reflection. (I also love the cover design of this book!)

artwork of david copperfield

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

This is the only audio book I listened to this year. I really meant to listen to some more, but just got busy listening to other things, like podcasts, in the evenings and forgot all about audio books (even when it would have been nice to listen to while I was sewing and crafting). This was Dickens’ personal favourite of the books he wrote and while I wouldn’t say it is my favourite, I do love to read his stories- or rather listen to them because I love his style of writing and storytelling, and the characters are always so loveable. I listened to this version. I already briefly mentioned this in a post earlier this year, but it is worth repeating again this wonderful quote, which is so typical of Dickens’ wordy descriptions,

The pigeon-pie was not bad, but it was a delusive pie: the crust being like a disappointing head, phrenologically speaking: full of lumps and bumps, with nothing particular underneath.”

I got very frustrated with this story about halfway through, because I didn’t like where he was taking the story, but then he brought it around and resolved it with a strong and satisfying conclusion.

what kitty did next book sitting on a wooden background

What Kitty Did Next by Carrie Kablean

This was another book that had been on my “To Read” list for a few years, recommended to me by my book and Jane Austen loving friend, but it wasn’t available at the library, so I had to get it secondhand. It was on my Thrift Books wish list, but was always out of stock, until one day in October when I checked and it was in, so I quickly grabbed it! This story follows the Pride and Prejudice character Kitty Bennet after Elizabeth and Jane’s marriages. It was written in the style of Jane Austen’s writing and I enjoyed the characterization of Kitty; I thought she was quite believable when compared to the original work. It was a meandering story, which I liked, however, I thought that Kablean’s climax/crisis was a bit weak and could have been resolved a bit more believably. Despite that flaw, I am sharing this one in my list because I like reading about the Bennet family from different perspectives (I’m not sure there is a more famous historical, fictional family than the Bennets) and if you like Jane Austen fan fiction, then I think you will too. I also really liked the cover design of this one! (Ps- if you like reading about the Bennet sisters, then you will probably also like The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow, which has a completely different storyline to this one!)

Well, there are my favourite books of 2023. As for this year, I don’t have any particular reading goals other than to finish the few that I didn’t get to this year. I’ve also got quite a few Classics on my list, so maybe I will listen to more audio books of those. I’ve started listening to Wuthering Heights (it’s been so long since I last read it that I can’t remember any of the story) so I’m already off to a good start on that.

What books are on your list for this year? What were your favourite books of last year? Have you read any of these and if so, what did you think of them?

Handmade and Vintage Christmas Home Tour

berry branches and fairy lights strung over a window with paper stars hanging underneath

I can’t believe it’s less than a week to Christmas! This year I didn’t have much of a theme for my decor, but it ended up that most of what I decorated with was handmade, so I guess that was kind of the theme. My mom and sister and I had fun crafting new pieces, as I mentioned in my last post, and then there were things from years past as well. I like to change up how I decorate each year, and don’t usually put everything out each year. Anyway, this is a rather photo heavy post, so let’s stop talking and get to the pictures.

branches and berries with fairy lights draped over a window, paper stars hang in the window and an orange vintage sofa sits underneath.

First up is the spare room, which doubles as my cozy reading nook. I hung berry branches and fairy lights over the window, kind of like I did last year, minus the juniper branches. Three paper stars hang in front, and I love how they are constantly moving and twirling.

sparkly vintage book paper stars hanging in the window

Next up, my bedroom. I made a simple pinecone and string garland for across my window, and entwined it with fairy lights. I love turning on the lights in the evening when I’m reading in bed. This year was much more pared back than what I did last year, and almost has a Scandinavian minimalist look, which I’ve been really enjoying.

A bedroom window with a cream coloured lace curtain. There is a gallery wall of photos along the side and a pinecone garland is draped over the curtain rod. Fairy lights are entwined with the garland

A pinecone and twine garland hanging across the window with fairy lights

Quilling style paper stars painted gold hanging in the window

My favourite craft this year are these paper quilled style stars that I painted gold and hung in my window. They also turn and twirl and catch the light.

handmade paper stars/ snowflakes hanging in a window with fairy lights glowing in the background

pinecone garland and fairy lights hang across the window in the evening casting a glow across the room

a woodburned snowflake garland drapes across a vanity mirror and a vintage christmas card is tucked into the edge of the mirror frame

a lit beeswax candle sits on a bookshelf in front of a gallery wall of pictures casting a warm glow

A new addition, and a great thrift store find, is this vintage ceramic Christmas tree. I saw one exactly like this on Miss Mustard Seed’s blog last year and thought it was cute. Then I walked into the thrift store a few weeks ago and found this one. It was missing the lamp base and the bulbs, but I was able to find the bulbs online, and am planning to make a lamp base for it for next year. In the meantime I put an LED candle underneath. I also didn’t put a star on the top, as I’m not a big fan of the ones that go with these types of trees, but a bulb in the top actually worked perfectly fine.

a vintage green ceramic christmas tree lamp with clear light bulbs sitting in front of a mirror which is reflecting the lights

The final festive touch in my room is this little picture of Christmas trees. It’s actually a card from my friend which was exactly the same size as this frame. Adding a velvet ribbon bow on the top finished it off nicely.

a framed picture of scandinavian style christmas trees hangs on the wall with a green velvet ribbon

In the living room, we went for a much more sparkly and vintage look. This year the nativity is on the mantle again. We did pinecones, fairy lights and handmade sparkly paper stars along the sides. The stars look so pretty in person, but not so much in the pictures, so just imagine that they look prettier.

A ceramic nativity scene flanked by a pinecone garland, fairy lights and book page stars

sparkly book page stars hanging over the mantle. Underneath are pinecones and fairy lights

This year we hung the advent calendar from a piece of driftwood (last year it was on the mantle). This is the advent calendar; I love it! 

An advent calendar made of watercolour illustrations hangs on the wall and a tiny paper house is displayed under a glass cloche

Finally, my favourite Christmas decor this year is the china cabinet. My mom got it a few months ago, and it’s been so nice to have a place to display her collection.

antique pink and white floral dishes styled in a dark wood antique china cabinet. Christmas decorations are scattered throughout

We added some vintage pink and reproduction mercury glass ornaments in the bowls and platters, a pile of vintage Christmas crackers on a cake stand, and a beaded tassel on the key. The pink ornaments are the perfect festive touch and coordinate so nicely with the dishes. (Doesn’t she have some lovely pieces? The oval plate pattern is called “Indian Tree” and the other shaped platter and teacup is “Blossom Time”)

A beaded tassel hangs from a skeleton key in the china cabinet door and vintage pink oraments are piled in a crystal bowl

vintage pink and mercury glass ornaments arranged in a pink glass bowl

three vintage christmas crackers sit on a white cake plate inside the china cabinet

And that’s it for the Christmas decor this year- I love adding these festive touches throughout the house. While I use many of the same pieces each year, it’s also fun to change up how I style them and where I put them.

Do you like to put out the same decor each year, or do you like to change it up? Do you have any favourite holiday pieces? What’s your best Christmas thrift store find? 

gold quilled paper stars hanging in the window with fairy lights glowing behind them

Blush Pink & Cream Roses

bouquet of cream and pink roses sitting in front of a gallery wall

In the middle of Winter, when the world outside is frosty and covered in mountains of snow (which holds it’s own beauty), but is starting to feel a little bleak and won’t see growing things for months….it’s nice to get a bouquet of flowers. They don’t last very long, and yet they manage to bring so much cheer in the short time they’re here.

These cream roses with a tint of blush pink on the tips were so beautiful and elegant, and they coordinated very nicely with my room too!

Do you like to get a bouquet of flowers in the winter? What are your favourite flowers to get?

cream and pink tea rose bouquet on a shelf in front of a vintage mirror on the wall

details of cream and pink rose bouquet

bouquet of pink and cream ombre roses

bouquet of pink and cream ombre roses sitting on a shelf

bouquet of cream and blush pink tinted roses sitting on a shelf with pictures in the background

A Year of Reading | My Favourite Books of 2022

stack of books that I read in 2022 sitting on top of a wooden table

Here we are already in 2023, which means it’s time for round up of my favourite reads of 2022! I read 46 books this year, and while I did enjoy many of them, there were only a few that I felt excited enough about to share in this list. In no particular order, here are the books I loved this past year.

daughters of fortune book series by judith pella book covers

Daughters of Fortune by Judith Pella

This series is a re-read, (I first read this series when I was 17 or so). I’ve always had an interest in WWII for some reason, so a fictional story that spans the three areas affected by the war: Europe, the Pacific and the American home-front was right up my alley. The story follows three sisters, Cameron, Blaire and Jaqueline as they navigate the war years. I love the storylines of each sister. It’s one of those books that you get immersed in one storyline and then it switches to the next character and you get mad, but then get immersed in their storyline, only to have it switch on you again! The only criticism I have of the series is that by book Four I honestly think she was getting tired of writing, because there is a huge rush at the end, and then a jump to the epilogue and then the story is over. I felt like we needed a few more chapters to wrap things up, but it’s still a good story despite that. My local library doesn’t have this series, so I was happy when I got my own copies last year as a Christmas gift! I bought them from Thrift Books which is always a bit of a gamble as to the quality, (and then the first book got lost in the mail and I had to wait several months for a replacement copy!) but I like having them on my shelf now, so I can read them again in the future.

hitler's cross book cover

Hitler’s Cross by Erwin W. Lutzer

This book has been on my TBR (to be read) list for a year, and it wasn’t one that my library system had. I got this one from Better World Books and I am so happy I did, because this was probably my favourite book of the year. It wasn’t a happy read for sure, talking about how the church in Germany was so weak and became fooled by Hitler, but it was a very prescient book. I see so many similarities between the culture of the German church in the 1930’s and the church in the West today. Which is, of course, why Lutzer wrote it 10 years ago. It is just as relevant today as ever before. It’s one of those books that you are reading along and wanting to underline so many sections (which I never do, but should!) that pretty soon the whole book is underlined. If you’re curious about the culture of the church during WWII this is a great book, and if you’re interested in the culture of the church today, then this is also great book.

ps. I also want to clarify that the anniversary copy I got has a forward by Ravi Zacharias, but the original book does not to my knowledge. That forward, sadly written by a man with a double life, does not change the meat and message of the book. 

bonheoffer book cover

Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas

After I finished Hitler’s Cross, I was intrigued to read more about Deitrich Bonhoeffer, since he was a key figure during WWII and I wasn’t super familiar with him. I then came across this book at a second hand book shop, which was perfect. It was a slow read and it took me several months to work through. (Although some of that time I was sick and wasn’t reading anything.) It’s a slow read, but that’s because it’s so good. This is also one of those books that would be very underlined with hardly any sections unmarked. I learned so much about the Germany, the War and the Church in this book. It also raised so many good questions about what our response should be when faced with those seemingly “grey areas”, as well as the importance of being faithful to God in the small things, so that we are ready when the big things come. This was my other favourite book of the year. I would also like to get Bonhoeffer’s book Ethics, for further reading.

Feels like Home book cover

Feels Like Home by Marion Parsons

Because this list is starting to be all WWII content (Again! Last year was too!), here’s a change of scene (yes pun intended, of course). I read so many decorating books this year, but my favourite was this one by the blogger Miss Mustard Seed. I loved it so much I got it for my birthday! I had actually never read her blog before, but came across the book first and after reading it, I now love to follow her blog. This is one of my favourite decorating books of the year, though, because it’s not just pictures, but also has so many tips and how-to’s included, as well as the story behind her decorating. Many bloggers (myself included I’m sure) tend to ramble, which comes across OK in a blog post, but can get repetitious in a book. I was very happy that her writing in this book is not repetitious or tedious in any way! If you are stuck in any way with decorating, I’m sure that this book will be helpful. She has it broken into chapters featuring each section or room in the house, “living spaces”, “kitchens” etc and goes through so much information about how to curate your own style. I loved this book so much I also gave a copy to a friend.

the tale of beatrix potter vintage book cover

The Tale of Beatrix Potter by Margaret Lane

I wrote a post last summer, about the movie Miss Potter, which is one of my favourites, so when I saw this book at our local library I checked it out immediately. Not only is it a beautiful vintage edition, but it’s a lovely read as well! Written fairly soon after Beatrix Potter’s death, and with the help of her surviving husband William Heelis, this book tells the story of Beatrix’s life and art. It’s a beautiful book, with colour illustrations, photographs of her life and even an insert of the Tale of Peter Rabbit story, which was originally written as a letter. I didn’t take a photo of it for some reason, but the reproduction letter was photocopied onto small pages so you could flip through it like it would have been originally when she sent it to her young nephew (who was ill at the time). I really enjoyed this book, and was debating whether to add it to my bookshelf..there are a few vintage editions for sale online, but I haven’t bought one yet.

facepaint book cover

Facepaint by Lisa Eldridge

My sister was the one who introduced me to Lisa Eldridge’s videos and this book. I’m not a huge makeup devotee, but I do enjoy wearing it and especially learning about the history of it! In the first part of the book, she covers the three main colours of makeup: Red, White and Black. I had never thought of that before; even though we have a rainbow of colours in makeup now, for most of history all makeup pretty much narrowed down to these three colours. She covers the history of makeup from the ancient Egyptians (some of the most famous historical makeup!) up to the modern era. In the second part of the book, she covers the trends and styles of each decade of the past century, featuring celebrity makeup icons of each. I learned a lot about makeup, especially how it transitioned from taboo to respectable. I also had no idea that some brands such as Rimmel and Maybelline were so old! The other nice thing about this book was it’s size and glossy pages which made all the images pop. If you like makeup or history or both, then you will definitely enjoy this book. (Also, the makeup featured on the back cover is from her personal vintage make-up collection; so many beautiful and interesting makeup packages!)

welcome home book cover

Welcome Home by Myquillyn Smith

This was the other good decorating book I read this year. It was one of those ones that really feels like a breath of fresh air as you’re reading it. I read it, and then I read a whole bunch of sections to my mom and sister because I liked it so much. Written by another blogger, whose blog I also didn’t know about, the focus of this book is on hospitality and celebrations. She talks about how we can often get so caught up in wanting our homes to be perfect, and our holiday decorations to be festive, that we can unwittingly put so much pressure on ourselves and our imperfect homes that we never even end up celebrating and hosting because things aren’t quite as good as we think they should be. It was a gentle reminder to me of the importance of hospitality, which from a Biblical perspective is nothing like “entertaining”, but is rather focused on serving others and sharing our homes with one another in a spirit of love. The book is divided into four seasons, and each chapter is named after a different hymn that corresponds to the topic of that season- I loved that! She had a lot of great ideas for how to simplify each season to really enjoy each holiday, and ways to share these holidays with others.

in the midst of life book cover

In the Midst of Life by Jennifer Worth

This was one of the first books I read this year, and it got the year off to a good start, even though that seems odd considering that it’s a book about hospice and palliative care. After she was a midwife, Jennifer Worth, the author of the “Call the Midwife” books, left midwifery and went into end-of-life nursing. This is her book about that field of nursing. It was a very thoughtful and thought-provoking examination into how we treat death and dying. She talks about how in times past, people died of “old age” and were left in relative peace to do so, but how in the modern era, everything is treated as an illness that must be cured, despite the fact that sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. She shares stories of some of her patients and their experiences in hospice as the end drew near, and does so with compassion. I also thought her section on assisted death was rather prescient considering the epidemic of medically assisted suicide here in Canada, and the wake of grief many loved ones face when people opt for assisted death. I really wish that I had recorded some of her quotes, because she has a good way of putting things. I might need to get this one out of the library again.

the blue castle book cover

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

The final one on this list, is my favourite book by L.M. Montgomery. And that is saying a lot because I love so many of her stories! However, this one featuring a “spinster” heroine is not just my favourite of hers, but also one of my favourite books of all time. I read it first about four years ago, and have re-read it a couple of times since then. I did this year because I told my mom to read it, and then after she was done I had to refresh my memory so we could talk about it together (and laugh at the funny characters and situations). I read a biography of Montgomery a few years ago and discovered that most of her books were written about real places and based on her own experiences. While the story is not based on her life, the setting of the story, the Muskoka region of Ontario, is based on a trip she took to Bala, Ontario in the summer of 1922. I love this story; it’s one of those that you simultaneously don’t want to end, but also want to find out the ending! I rate it 6 out of 5 stars.

Well, there is my list for this year! I’m already looking forward to next year’s list of books, and planning which ones to order from the library or pull from my shelf. And I’d like to branch out into some other topics, as I seem to have gotten into a rut with WWII! Some that I’ve got on my list for 2023 are David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, (that will be an audiobook), The Seamstress by Allison Pittman, a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Slave Trade by Hugh Thomas and, as always, a few Agatha Christie murders thrown in for good measure! I really enjoyed this post, about reading a book a week. While I can’t quite do that, since I get a lot of my books from the library and have to wait for them to come in via inter-library-loan, I am still planning a list of books to request, and then will fill in the gaps with ones I already own. While I still did read a lot this year, I also opted to read on the internet a lot more than I read physical books, which is something I’d like to change for the next year.

What books did you enjoy reading this year? Do you have a list of to-be-read books for 2023, or do you just plan to read as you come across something that interests you?