lifestyle

How to Plan and Host a Tea Party

round wooden table with lace doilies and a runner on top. The table is set with teacups and a bouquet of tulips

Despite the fact that there is still snow here in Alberta, the calendar does say that it is now Spring! And now that Spring is finally on its way…that means it’s time for a tea party to celebrate, right? I hosted a small party last week for my mom and sister and a friend and, since I’ve hosted quite a few tea parties over the years, I thought I’d share some of my tips for how to plan one for yourself. Whether you are planning for a large or small group, here are my tips for how to plan and host a tea party!

bouquet of tulips wrapped in paper

Choose an Occasion or Theme

While you can always host a party “just because”, it is also fun to host one for an occasion. Your occasion could be something simple, like mine in honour of Spring, or something much more elaborate and involved like an Anne of Green Gables themed tea, or a Hat and Glove or Victorian tea where guests dress up in appropriate attire. The benefit of choosing a theme or occasion is that it gives you something to work around, and will make your other decisions a little bit easier.

Outdoors or Indoors?

I love hosting outdoor events- there is nothing more photogenic than a tea table set out on the lawn. However, the most beautiful of table settings can quickly turn into the most disastrous when the weather doesn’t cooperate. Any outdoor event calls for two times the amount of planning: a Plan A for if the weather cooperates, and a Plan B in case it doesn’t. If you plan for an outdoor event, you have to consider rain, sun, heat, wind, bugs….the list goes on. Make sure that you’ve thought of how to deal with those things, and whether you can move the tea party indoors if the need arises. I’ve hosted two parties before where we had to go inside last minute because of rain.

table indoors set and ready for a tea party

Small and Cosy… or Large and Social

Once you’ve chosen the occasion and location for your party, it’s time to decide how large of a group you would like to host. Both large and small gatherings have their benefits, but they also have unique considerations.

If you are thinking of hosting a larger group (and by this I mean 20+ guests) take into account the size of the room or outdoor space you are planning to host in and how much seating the space will allow. How many chairs will you need? How many teacups and plates do you have? Will you be able to borrow, rent or buy more, if your group is quite large? Also, how much advance preparation and cleanup do you want to do? Will you be able to get someone to help you?

china cabinet with stacks of teacups and plates

Large parties can be fun, because you have lots of opportunity to mingle and visit with people. When we have hosted larger parties for the ladies in my church, we’ve had between 20-30 ladies show up which is great for visiting with people I don’t know very well already. My family has a huge living room as well as outdoor space, to accommodate a lot of guests, but we did have to borrow tea cups since we didn’t have enough. There was also a lot of upheaval in the planning, baking, moving furniture around, and cleanup for this large of a group; and there were three of us sharing the workload. As well, in this day and age, people don’t always RSVP, so you have to account for surprise guests as well as guests not showing up (in which case you might have a lot of leftovers!)

If you choose to host a smaller group, many of these considerations will be negligible. A party of six can easily fit around most dining tables, or in your living room without having to bring extra chairs, and you’ll most likely have enough dishes to go around without borrowing extras. Another advantage of a small party is that you probably won’t break into smaller conversation groups, which gives you a chance to visit with all of your guests. However, you’ll want to make sure that you choose your guest list carefully so you don’t end up with a group of introverts who have no idea how to get a conversation going!

Invitations and RSVP’s

If you are having a smaller more informal gathering, you might be able to invite people on short notice, but if you are hosting a larger group, you really will need to give more time for people to schedule it in. You generally want to invite people several weeks before the event so they have time to check their schedules as well as allowing for time to RSVP. In my experience, most people won’t RSVP (so frustrating!) so you’ll probably have to follow up with them closer to the date as you begin to plan for food.

tea party invitation

A real paper invitation is always an elegant touch and is also helpful for guests, so they don’t forget the date or time. In this day and age a real invitation stands out, but it doesn’t have to be elaborate; I usually print out invitations. But, of course, if you are planning only several days in advance, then texting or phoning is fine too.  The most important thing is getting the information to the people you want to spend time with, of course!

Decorations & Centrepieces

Now for the fun part: figuring out how to decorate your table(s). For a larger group, you may want to have a buffet style serving, in which case you could add your decorations to the food and drinks tables instead of the tables you’ll sit at.

Since my tea party was to celebrate the arrival of Spring, I chose a bouquet of tulips- my favourite Spring flower! Unfortunately the pink tulips didn’t last long, and you can see how they are bending downwards. I had them in a shorter vase, but they were touching the table top, so I had to change out the vase for taller one…which meant I couldn’t actually keep them in the centre of the table during the party. You should always keep your centrepieces either low or high so as not to obstruct the guests’ view across the table. Since this vase was tall it meant that the tulips were right at eye level, so once we sat down at the table I removed the flowers so we could easily pass the food around and converse.

table set with lace and pink and white floral china teacups for a spring tea party. A bouquet of pink and white tulips is in the background.

As for setting the table, the fun part is pulling out the pretty dishes and linens! I took cues from my flowers and chose a pink and white colour scheme for the dishes. I didn’t have a tablecloth the right size for this table in white, so I used a runner and two doilies as placemats, and I quite like how it turned out!

a drawer open with linens and lace doilies spilling out

Always try out your table setting in advance of the party, so you can see if you need to change your plan. I was originally going to use a different Battenberg lace runner and two placemats, but I couldn’t find the second placemat! After looking everywhere for it (except where it was, obviously…) I had to change my plan to these doilies instead. Of course, I did later find the other placemat, but I decided to use this arrangement since it was already set up to go.

If you’re hosting a themed event, this is time to bring that theme to life with your decor. For example, at the aforementioned Anne of Green Gables tea, how about using vintage books and a slate with a quote written on it as your centrepiece?

Plan Your Menu

Of course, there will be tea, at a Tea Party… but what do you want to serve alongside it? A themed tea can definitely guide your menu- for example- at the Anne of Green Gables Tea serving ice cream, raspberry cordial and carrot cake would be a perfect fit. But if you don’t have a theme, you can also do a variety of foods of your own choosing.

plate of lemon squares

I usually do sweets at tea parties, but if you are planning a high tea (so named because you sit at a “high” table, not with occasional tables) you might want to serve a variety of sweet and savoury. This time, I chose lemon squares because they seem to capture the essence of Spring; something about citrus always tastes like Spring to me. If you’d like to try my recipe, you can get it here.

It is also a good idea to ask your guests if they have any dietary restrictions you can reasonably accommodate. And if you won’t be able to bake something for everyone, you can serve fruit on the side. Fruit makes a nice palette cleanser as well as being something almost every guest can eat. Toasted nuts are also a good choice.

plate with a lemon square on it and pouring cream into a cup of tea

As well as choosing food, what varieties of tea will you serve? I love black Orange Pekoe, and drink it every day, but for a tea party it’s nice to offer some other blends, as well as having a variety of caffeinated and non caffeinated versions. I usually make a pot of one tea blend- this time we chose Lavender Earl Grey- and sit other options on the side that guests can choose to make single cup of if they’d prefer.

a plate of lemon squares with a bouquet of pink and white tulips sitting behind it

Prepare What You Can in Advance

Finally, this is my best advice: prep everything you possibly can before the day of the party. And if you are a list person, like me, you should definitely write a list of everything that needs to be done- right down to the smallest task. That way you can make sure that everything that can be prepared in advance is done beforehand. It’s fine to do some things last moment, but you don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen trying to finish cutting up squares as guests are arriving. I like to have the table all set and ready, the desserts baked, and maybe even cut and plated, the day before. It really takes a lot of stress off to have as many things finished in advance as you possibly can. You don’t want to be running around like mad at the last moment, with curlers in your hair and flinging dirty dishes into the dishwasher as guests are coming up the driveway (yes I have done that!)

a pink and white floral teacup with tea in it

I love hosting tea parties, and while elaborate plans can be fun, remember that the most important thing is spending time with friends. With a bit of planning, hosting isn’t difficult at all, and even if something goes awry, it’s not the end of the world. I hope that these tips inspire you to start hosting your own tea parties…writing this post has definitely inspired me to start having them more often!

Have you ever hosted or attended a tea party? What theme would you choose if you were hosting? And is it feeling like Spring where you live?

round dining table set for a tea party with tulips and pink and white teapot and teacups

a small plate with a lemon square on it and a cup of tea in the background

Finding and Styling Thrifted Home Decor

thrifted home decor items on a table: a teacup, pitcher, picture frames and vintage books

I was recently inspired by one of my favourite bloggers, Sarah from She Holds Dearly, to do my own version of her series “Styling Thrifted Finds”. Almost all of my decor is thrifted or secondhand, and it would actually be easier to find the pieces that were purchased new so this is just my “recent” thrifted home decor; otherwise I would have to post a picture of my entire bedroom!

I love thrift shopping, and we have an excellent thrift store in town. It’s housed in the ground floor of an old building from 1912, and is a rabbit warren of rooms full of treasures waiting to be unearthed. It always requires a lot of digging past junk to find those treasures, but the prices are so good that it’s worth it. And because it’s a charity shop, I am always more willing to buy than I am at a for-profit shop. (And to donate my old items to as well!)

a gold enameled vintage oval mirror

First up, here are some items that made their way into my recent gallery wall. I found this vintage gold mirror from that thrift store in town. It was originally priced at $25, which I thought was a bit steep for that shop, and when I brought it up to the till, the lady who organizes the shop knocked $5 off (without me saying anything), because she thought it was a bit steep too! It pays to have a good relationship with your local thrift shops.  There is some of the gold enamel worn off on the bottom edge, but it just adds to the patina. The oval shape of the mirror fit perfectly over top of my bookshelf, and it lines up perfectly with my dresser mirror opposite, so I can use it to see how the back of my hair looks.

three vintage frames leaning against the wall

Thrift stores are also excellent places to find picture frames. The wooden frame with the oval opening cost $0.50, and even though it doesn’t have glass, it was still a bargain. If I want glass for it someday, I could always buy another frame for the same price and steal the glass and it would still only cost $1.00. The oval opening in the frame was perfect for this antique styled photo of my friend and I. (Ps. the black frame with the fashion illustration, below, was originally white, but I painted it with black chalk paint and waxed it and it looks so much better. I also painted the mat with acrylic paint. If you find frames that are the perfect size, but not the colour you’re looking for, you can always transform them with a little bit of paint!)

vintage wooden oval frame; styling thrifted home decor in my gallery wall

Both the wooden frame and the large gold one were frames that I saw at two different second hand shops, decided to not buy, and then wished that I had. Amazingly when I returned to the shops weeks later, the frames were still there, so I brought them home, of course.

vintage gold frame with view from the elbe landscape painting

I wasn’t in love with the watercolour that was originally in the large gold frame (for $8.00 by the way), so I removed it and decided to print some new artwork. I found a couple high resolution downloads of vintage artwork online and got them printed as poster prints. Because they are in the public domain, they are free to use and some can actually be downloaded directly from museum collections. I also printed an artwork for this black frame, below, at the same time. The two pieces I chose are this gorgeous black botanical “Still Life with Roses” by Elias van den Broeck”, and for the gold frame, this landscape which is titled “View from the Elbe” by Johan Christian Clausen Dahl. If you are looking for a different landscape, there are some other really lovely ones available here. (I love the one of the cottage with the chickens in front, but it was the wrong aspect ratio for my frame).

dutch floral still life with roses

I found the vintage brass frame with the convex glass on Poshmark (that’s a dangerous place to browse) and I have put a Victorian calendar page in it for now, but if I ever find a Victorian portrait, I will replace it.

tiny hanging picture frames

I also picked up these little brass frames to add to my gallery wall. I put pictures of my mom and both grandmas in them, and they fit in perfectly.

stack of vintage books

Moving on to finds of a different sort, vintage books are always a great thing to look for. The bottom one, Mary Queen of Scots, was from a thrift shop for $1.00 and the top three were from a library sale; all three for just $1.50.  The library books had dust jackets- always make sure to look behind the dust jackets of vintage books to see if they are clothbound. The top one, unfortunately, had glue residue from the ancient library tape which had ruined the colour and finish of the spine, so I painted it over with gold paint. It originally had gold lettering, similar to the bottom book, so it was too bad that the spine wasn’t in good condition, but for $0.50, I don’t mind. I have gathered all of my vintage books onto the bookshelf in my bedroom, for now.

styling vintage books on a bookshelf

Vintage books also make a nice backdrop for other decor. In the past I have used my vintage books to create vignettes on my IKEA bookshelf. They can also be used as risers to give height to seasonal decor, and large ones can be used as a sort of tray to ground other items when placed on a table. And, of course, you can read them too!

silver spoons before and after polishing

Another thing to keep you eye out for at the thrift stores is silverware. It is getting harder to find, but I do still come across it sometimes. These pieces looked so terrible and tarnished they were mixed into the bin of loose stainless steel cutlery, and were only $0.25 each. After a polishing, they are ready to add to my mismatched silverware set! To polish silverware easily (I wouldn’t use this for anything too precious, since I’ve heard it can blur delicate detail work) this is the method I use.

Line a heat proof container, or your sink, with tin foil. Place silver on top of the foil, leaving space between the pieces. Sprinkle 2 tbsp. of salt and 2 tbsp. of baking soda over top. Boil a kettle full of water (mine is 1.7 L). Pour the boiling water over top of the silver until they are submerged and watch the tarnish magically disappear! Let soak for up to 2 minutes, remove and rinse the pieces and then buff dry with a soft cloth to remove any remaining colour. It works amazingly well!

brass pillar stand

Another find was this brass stand. It is approximately 6″ across and 3″ tall. I think it may have originally been for a pillar candle? Or perhaps it originally had a glass cloche?

plant on top of the brass stand

The top was very scratched, but it makes a perfect plant stand. It gives the purple shamrock at the back of the buffet just enough height from the plants in the front.

vintage transferware pieces

And the last thrifted finds for today are these two transferware pieces- one featuring a scene of an English estate and the other of an 18th century man riding a horse. The teacup didn’t have a saucer, but that was fine because I had another plan for it. Likewise, I didn’t know what I was going to use the little cream pitcher for, but I quickly had an idea. I think the teacup was $4 and the pitcher was $2, from two different shops.

transferware pieces in a drawer and on top of the dresser

I store all of my makeup and toiletry supplies in baskets and castoff teacups. They work perfectly to hold my brushes and lipsticks and makeup wipes, and look so much prettier than usual organizing bins. I added this teacup in with a few others I have in my makeup drawer.

And for the pitcher, I put a bit of stuffing and a piece of black felt inside to create a cushion to hold my hat pins. I wear these pins on my berets, and it’s nice having them easy to access on my dresser as I get ready.  

That’s how I have styled my recent thrifted home decor. I’m always on the lookout for unique home decor pieces, though I leave more pieces behind than I buy these days. I’m trying to be more of a minimalist…but that doesn’t always work out.

What sorts of things do you keep your eye out for at the thrift shops? What is your best thrifted find ever? Do you have any good charity shops where you live?

A Vintage Cottage Inspired Bedroom Tour

a bouquet of dried baby's breath in an amber bottle in front of a gallery wall of frames and pictures

It has been few months since I moved into my new bedroom… but I’ve finally finished decorating it! I might change some things in the future, as I do like to redecorate occasionally, but for now it’s pretty much finished, and I love how it turned out. This room really feels like “me” in a way that I don’t think I’ve had since I was 8 and had a pink and purple room with Barbie wallpaper. I’ve had a lot of different bedrooms over the years, but somehow none of them ever felt just perfect…and this one does. The only thing that would make it better is if I had vintage wooden floors instead of vinyl (haha).

When I was planning to move into this room, I took some time thinking about what I wanted it to look and feel like, what colour I wanted it to be, and after moving in, to take my time deciding where to hang pictures etc.  I’m glad I did, because I love its eclectic vintage cottage inspired feeling. A few years ago I read something about defining your decorating style and I came up with “a fashion designer moves into her granny’s kitschy English cottage”. There usually isn’t much of a rhyme or reason to my decorating- I just decorate with things that I like. And the things that I like are usually fashion related, English cottage, antique, natural, a hit of 1970’s kitsch, and I always like to add in a least a few ugly or funny things to keep it from being too serious!

view of the room from the doorway facing the window

First, when you enter the room, you see the opposite wall with the window. Because this is a North facing room, I chose to paint the walls a warm, ivory white. The colour is “Acadia White” by Benjamin Moore. I got paint chips and debated getting a sample to test the colour first, but just decided to jump in headfirst with it, and it was a great choice. It has a slight undertone of ivory/yellow in it, but it’s not too saturated. In a South facing room I think it would definitely pick up those yellow tones, and perhaps lean a bit towards buttery yellow, but the cool light in this room tones it down to a perfect cream. I found in the past that crisp whites can turn grey in the shadows, so this was a perfect choice of colour and the room is always warm and bright even on cloudy days.

another angle of the gallery wall

If you turn to the left wall, you will see one of my favourite two things about this room: my gallery wall! I have been wanting a full gallery wall like this forever, and have been collecting frames and artwork for years. Now I was finally able to put them all together like this on one wall…and I love how it turned out. I didn’t start out planning for a gold, black and cream colour theme, but as I started gathering the artwork and frames together, I noticed the colour scheme emerging and decided to continue with it. I left some of my more colourful art pieces out of this arrangement and will hang them elsewhere.

framed botanical

To hang this gallery wall, I took a photo of each piece, and a photo of the wall, and then moved them around in Photoshop until it looked like a good arrangement. (Making sure there weren’t too many black frames or wooden frames beside each other etc.) Then I traced each frame onto wrapping paper I had saved from Christmas and taped the pieces onto the wall. Once I was sure of the placement, I measured where the nail needed to go, and then hammered it right through the paper. It worked like a charm! I didn’t have to mark up the walls at all, and every single frame was exactly where it needed to be without gaps or spaces. If you are planning on hanging a gallery wall, definitely do it with paper. It was my first time with that method and I am never going back.

detail of my artwork story of a dress in my gallery wall

There are definitely no secrets about what my hobbies and interests are in this room. Almost all of the artwork is fashion, floral or vintage themed! (Or portraits of people we have no clue who they are). My wall is a mix of postcards and greeting cards, calendar pages I saved, one of my own artworks, book pages, some photos of my family and friends, and some art pieces I’ve picked up along the way. (Two pieces that are, sort of, still available are the black framed diamond print of The Five Solas that I got online here. And I have a print that is similar to that “Story of A Dress”, of a dress, but without the text, available in my Society 6 Shop here. ) Many of the frames are second hand or thrifted, some are IKEA frames, and a few were picked up at Michael’s craft store or Walmart years ago.

vases and candle on top of a bookshelf

Also along this wall I placed a short bookshelf, which gives me a spot to put flowers and seasonal decor and other knick-knacks. I wallpapered the back of the shelf, but unfortunately the glue just didn’t want to stick, so you can see the seam. Maybe some day I’ll get around to redoing it.

small bookshelf with vintage books, baskets and boxes and shoes on it

As you saw in my closet tour, I keep shoes on the shelf, as well as clothing/shoe care items in the basket. Gloves and sunglasses are in the round box, stationery is in the shoebox, a couple of clutches are on display and then all of my vintage books are on the top shelf.

shelves with vintage books and boxes on them

gallery wall

I love lace curtains and I hung these with curtain rings to add some interest.

vintage lamp turned on and casting shadows across the wall

Turning to the right there is a small pathway as wide as the nightstand alongside the bed. I like to have my bed out from the wall, if possible; it’s so much nicer to make the bed when you can access both sides! On my nightstand is the ever present stack of books to be read.

lamp casting shadows on textured beadboard wallpaper

And here you can see my other favourite thing about this room: the bead board wallpaper. I turned on the lamp so you can see the shadows picking up the texture of the wall. Up close it doesn’t fool anyone, but from a distance it really does look like bead board. I love how it gives such a cottage look to the room, as well as being a subtle focal point.

beadboard feature wall in a cottage inspired bedroom

I was originally planning on hanging a row of three botanical prints above the bed, but after living with the room for a while, I realized that I liked having this wall left bare. It gives a bit of negative space, while not being completely boring. And this way I can have all the artwork on the opposite wall without overwhelming the room. (And I love being able to sit in bed and look at the artwork).

battenburg lace pillow shams

My bed is covered with my favourite Battenburg lace pillows and the quilt and pillowcases made from vintage sheets. I used to have a lot more decorative pillows on my bed, but I got tired of having to remove the mountain of them every night.

vintage wooden dresser with a mirror above it

To the other side of the bed is my vintage dresser. I inherited this piece from my parents. I didn’t ever officially inherit it, I just had it in my room for a long time, and so I kind of absorbed it into my belongings. It was originally my great-grandmother’s and she refinished it with Danish oil which gives it this lovely patina. And it has such a pretty mirror, doesn’t it?

view of the closet and dresser and chair

Continuing full circle in the room, we at last come to the least pretty part of the room (because there’s no way to hide my very plastic air purifier!) I’ve already shared a more thorough look at my closet in this post here, so I won’t share it again today. That chair is just there temporarily, because I have plans for another project to take it’s place…if all goes well I will be able to share that on the blog sometime in the future.

a hatstand and tray on top of the vintage dresser

Finally, here is the top of the dresser. A hat stand, featuring a seasonally appropriate hat, and a tray with perfume and jewelry on it. And, on the right side you can see the handle of my vintage mirror and brush. I don’t use the brush, but I do use the hand mirror all the time!

Well, there is my vintage, English cottage inspired bedroom! I’m so happy with how this room turned out, and I enjoy spending time in here. I’m going to be sharing another post about decorating either next week or the week after, so stay tuned for that.

How would you describe your decor style? What is your favourite thing about your home or bedroom? Have you ever moved into a “blank slate” and, if so, did you take your time or did you know right away how you wanted to decorate it?

baby's breath bouquet in front of a gallery wall

A New Year & New Closet Organization

closet organization for the new year

While I’ve actually been living in my new bedroom for a couple of months now, I figured that the New Year was a good time to share how I have finally settled my new closet organization. I love to organize, but I also like to make my closets and storage areas “aesthetically pleasing”, so here is how I have done that in my new room, in case you are also thinking of conducting a closet refresh for the new year!

rows of wooden hangers with shirts hanging on them

The closet in my old room (here) was designed with shelves across most of the area, in order to hold sewing fabric and supplies, with a small rod on the side to hold the UFO’s (UnFinished Objects) and Projects-In-Progress. So, when I moved into the room, as a bedroom, I had to change the way I sorted things, because of the small rod area. Now I have moved into a new bedroom which has a standard closet with a full rod, though there are small shelves on the left side of the closet, so I again have had to change the way I organize my clothes.

stacks of cream coloured hatboxes

Starting with the top shelf, all of my out-of-season hats are stored in hatboxes. While I do love to display my hats, they can get dusty, so I have opted to only leave out a few hats for the season. These cream hatboxes are ones I recovered with a map printed wallpaper and I’ve got labels taped on, so I know which hats are inside without having to pull everything down.

large blue storage box, a white fabric bag and a metal cake carrier

I also have hats stored in this large blue box. The cloth bag holds my petticoat, which I don’t wear all that often, and it takes up less space in a bag than hanging.

rose metal cake carrier

And no, I don’t have cake stored in my closet (I wish!)- guess what’s under that cake carrier?

hat inside a cake carrier

Yep, another hat! It was my mom’s idea to keep a hat in there, since I didn’t have anywhere to store the carrier- and then that way I can enjoy looking at the cool vintage cake carrier!

stack of shoeboxes

On the far right of the top shelf, I have a tall stack of shoeboxes. I keep all of my neutral coloured shoeboxes (not the neon orange Miz Mooz ones!) to store my shoes in when they are out of season. Since I don’t need to access them regularly, the stack is all the way to ceiling! Closets with headers are annoying, so I always like to keep infrequently used items up there. I also have these boxes labeled with what is inside.

In front, I have a spray bottle of vodka. Despite the fact that my closet is starting to resemble a pantry, it’s not actually for sneaking a drink; it’s for spraying clothes in between washes. Spraying clothes with alcohol is an old theatre trick to keep costumes free of odours in between shows. I use it for delicate and dry clean items or for things that aren’t dirty, but for which I want to extend the time between washes.

wool and fur coats

Now moving down to the rod, on the right I have all of my fancy evening dresses under garment bags in the very back of the closet. Then in front of them I keep my dressy winter coats. I keep these coats in this closet because I like to select them alongside my outfits, whereas I keep my everyday winter coat in the front closet.

hanging scarves and belts

Next I have my scarves, organized in the iconic IKEA Komplement organizer. I didn’t have enough scarves to fill it, so I folded it in half. I don’t love having the scarves in my closet like this, since it makes browsing a bit more difficult, but I don’t have a better place to hang them, so it works for now. In front of the scarf organizer I have a hoop shaped hanger to hold my belts. Again, not the best spot, but it’s what I have for now.

hanging bottoms and tops

After the belts comes bottoms on wooden hangers with clips. I have organized my items by type and each type of garment has a different kind of hanger.

For my tops, I have these vintage wooden hangers I got off of Poshmark. They were originally from a fur storage vault in Toronto. Since I’ve kind of got a capsule wardrobe right now (from getting rid of so many clothes in 2020-2021) I’ve switched from using slim velvet hangers to using these. They definitely take up a lot more horizontal space, and I might not use them forever if I add to my wardrobe in the future, but right now I am quite enjoying seeing these lovely vintage hangers in the morning when I get dressed!

hanging knitwear

After the tops, come the knits. I KNOW you’re not supposed to hang sweaters and knitwear, but I really can’t be bothered to iron or steam creases out every time before wearing them… and so I keep my most commonly worn knits hung up. I use vintage satin padded hangers, which, again, do use a lot of horizontal space, but they are so pretty that it’s worth it! Knits that I don’t wear as often are stored on a shelf, but for these, I’d rather hang them up than be wrinkly.

extra hangers

And at the end of the clothing rod, I keep my extra few hangers from items that are in the laundry.

organized and pretty storage shelves in the closet

Now moving on to the shelves along the left, which hold a lot of my accessories and knitwear. I use the top shelf as a bit of display area; here’s where the aesthetics perhaps take precedence over the economical use of the space.

top display shelf in the closet

I don’t like having all of my jewelry on my dresser, so I store my special occasion pieces here in the closet, and everyday pieces on the dresser. I also like to keep a few hats out on display, so I’ve got one sitting here and one on my dresser. I also put this little miniature tea set here just for fun.

I have a couple purses leaning in the back, but I might replace them in the future with a picture. I have a small print of this piece by Marc Johns, and I’d like to put it in here once it’s framed, even if it’s something that only I will see, because it will bring a smile every time I look at it!

knits and berets on a shelf

The next shelf down also holds knits- the ones I don’t wear as often. I put in this wooden half shelf (which fits perfectly!) so I could double the amount of space and put my berets here too.

row of purses on a shelf

The next two shelves hold my purses and bags. My small vintage clutches and travel shoe bags etc. are stored inside the cream overnight bag and the large wicker bag.

row of purses and luggage on a shelf

And finally, on the floor at the bottom is a basket I use to hold my work clothes… the old ones I wear to refinish furniture or other messy tasks like that, but don’t need access to all the time.

vintage metal laundry hamper

To the right, under the shorter hanging garments, sits my vintage laundry hamper. I will always be indebted to my brother for this hamper, because I found it at the thrift store for $2….and their debit machine wasn’t working. I didn’t have any cash, so he lent me the money (forfeiting whatever he had found) so I could buy it! Since then I have seen people selling these for MUCH more- sometimes for up to $50, so I am so happy that I got it when I did. Oh, and yes, I always carry cash now, just in case!

jewelry oval frame organizer

Now moving out of the closet and to the left, on the wall beside my dresser I have my jewelry frame. I made this probably 14 years ago, and it has proven to be one of my most useful projects. I did a terrible job attaching the fabric with hot glue, but even so, after 14 years it’s still holding up! And it works so well to organize long necklaces, brooches and dangly earrings. I am a person that needs to see what I have or I will forget to wear it, so this works perfectly for me.

drawer full of fur collars

In my dresser I store my “unmentionables”, socks and tights in the top two drawers. And then in the bottom drawer…fur collars! A bit unconventional, but I decided to put them here to keep the dust off them… it works.

rows of shoes on a bookshelf

Lastly, to the right of the closet sits my bookshelf. I use the bottom two shelves to store shoes and boots; I keep my everyday winter boots in the front closet, but all the other shoes stay here. I keep them here so I can match them to my outfits easily, but also to keep them from getting battered in the communal closet! In the basket, are all of my shoe and clothing care items.

So that’s pretty much how I organize my closet! It always varies a bit from season to season, but I think this will be how it stays for a while. This is only my in-season clothing too, by the way. The rest of my summer clothes are stored in two plastic bins under the bed. I don’t like keeping everything in my closet year round because it overwhelms and clutters the space, and I think it is good to give my pieces a rest from hanging if they aren’t being regularly worn.

(Oh and, not pictured, I keep my fabric tote bag and everyday purse hanging on the back of my door, along with my bathrobe and shawl, for easy access.)

How do you set up your closet? Do you like to do a closet organization refresh in the New Year? Do you prefer to put an emphasis on the practicality or the aesthetics when you are organizing?

hat and jewelry box on display

A Year of Reading | My Favourite Books of 2021

a plate of tarts and a teacup in front of an open book

Here we are at the end of 2021… already? It seemed like a busy year for me with so many projects going on, but I still managed to get in a fair amount of reading too. How about you? Since I started this blog series, last year, I thought I would carry it on by sharing my favourite books I read this year. In no particular order, here they are!

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

This was maybe my favourite book of this year, recommended to me by my friend Meghan, who also has a YouTube “booktube” channel, in case you are interested. (I get so many great book recommendations from her!)

This is the biography of Louis Zamperini, which follows his life from his beginnings as an Olympic runner in the 1936 Berlin games, then to his time during WWII as a fighter pilot and after that as a POW in a Japanese camp. I wouldn’t recommend this one if you don’t like reading about war, especially the Pacific theatre, as it is quite brutal at times. He went through, and suffered, a lot during the war, but thankfully the book doesn’t end there. It chronicles his path afterwards, finally ending in a very powerful and beautiful redemption.

Miss Fortune by Sara Mills

This is a fun spy/espionage novel set in the 1940’s just after WWII. It is written in the style of film noir, about New York’s only female private eye, the “P.I. Princess” Allie Fortune. Unfortunately the author intended to write three books, but was only able to finish two of them. This is the first one, which does set up the beginnings of a secondary storyline which isn’t completed, but the main storyline is good and is resolved by the end. (I wouldn’t recommend the second book in the series, though, because she never wrote the third one, and there was too much of a cliffhanger at the end.)

Target Africa by Obianuju Ekeocha

Africa has a long history of colonial influence from the West. In this book, Obianuju Ekeocha, who is a biomedical scientist and founder of Culture of Life Africa, talks about how the West is still trying to influence African countries with what she calls “Ideological Neocolonialism”. She talks about how much of the “foreign aid” from wealthy donor nations comes with strings attached; including the population control abortion agenda, sexualization of children and radical feminism, which many African nations, including her own country of Nigeria, are not interested in. It was an eye opening look into how much of the foreign aid money sent from Western nations, including my own country of Canada, is being used ineffectually and is siphoned off into corrupt organizations, instead of being used to help poor third world nations with their immediate needs, and to actually help them flourish.

Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce

This is another quick and enjoyable novel, this time set during WWII about a young woman who moves to London in hopes of becoming a war correspondent. Instead, she accidentally ends up getting hired as an assistant to a women’s magazine advice columnist! I read this one in a couple of days, and thoroughly enjoyed it. There are a couple of more intense scenes, because it is set during the London Blitz, but it’s overall an entertaining, heartwarming and funny story.

the covers of the three Madame Chic books

Lessons from Madame Chic, At Home with Madame Chic and Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott

This is a three-for-one, because this is actually a series of books that I read this summer. Jennifer is the blogger and YouTuber of “The Daily Connoisseur”, and in these books, like her blog, she speaks about how to add elegance and “chic” to your everyday life. When she moved to Paris as an exchange student, she was so inspired by how the French live, that she adopted many of their habits. She shares these stories and lessons that she learned from her host family about how to add elegance and poise to your own everyday.

My favourite one was definitely the first in the series, Lessons from Madame Chic, since I found there was a bit too much overlap with the other two books. It felt a bit like I was re-reading the same advice for several chapters- perhaps if I had read them farther apart I wouldn’t have noticed it so much.

The Shallows by Nicolas Carr

This is the other book that ties for #1 with Unbroken in my list. (Though they are totally different subjects, so maybe they can both place #1 in their respective categories!)

The most striking thing about this book is that it was written in 2010- more than ten years ago now- and it so accurately predicted the trajectory of internet; our usage and habits, and how it has continued to affect us as a society. He talks about how the internet is quite literally changing our brains, which is in turn making us more distracted and less capable of critical thinking. Interestingly, social media was in it’s infancy in 2010, (Instagram wasn’t even around at the time of writing) but already he saw the negative impact it was having on people. Reading this book and then taking a look around at the culture in which we are living in now was more than a little eery. Of course, here I am writing about the evils of the internet…on the internet! He doesn’t condemn it entirely, but instead demonstrates how we should be aware that the internet is making us “shallow”, and how we should take the time to put limits on it; relegating it once again to just a tool.

My favourite quote which I didn’t copy down, but recall from memory, goes something like “the internet is so helpful and good a servant, that it would be a little churlish to note that it also seems to be our master.” I definitely recommend checking this book out, if you’ve ever thought about your internet habits and wondered whether they are entirely all that healthy.

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

This is one of my favourite books of all time and I like to re-read it every few years when I need some encouragement.

The Ten Boom family was a Dutch Christian family who hid Jews in a secret room in their house in defiance to the Nazi’s during WWII. The story follows the family pre-war, how they got involved in the Dutch Resistance and then how Corrie and her sister were eventually sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp. The book doesn’t end with the war; she focuses the final section, most importantly, on forgiveness, her faith in God and how there is “no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still”.

Forgiveness by Mark Sakamoto

In a similar vein, here is another book about WWII (I sure read a lot from that era this year) and this time from a Canadian perspective. The author shares about his grandparents’ experiences during WWII, and how their stories weave into each others lives and into his life. His maternal grandfather fought for the Canadian army in the Pacific theatre against the Japanese army, and his paternal grandparents were Japanese immigrants to Canada who lost everything they owned in BC and were sent to forced labour in Alberta.

He writes poignantly about his own struggles towards key figures and events in his life and how he was able to learn forgiveness from his grandparents and how they were able to forgive the “other side” and build a new life together after the war- one that wouldn’t even have been possible without that forgiveness.

If Walls Could Talk by Lucy Worsley

Lucy Worsley is a British historian and curator at Historic Royal Palaces, so she is definitely qualified to write a book about the history of the home. However, maybe even more importantly, she is also a great presenter who is quite funny, in a cheeky way, and so her books (and TV programs) are engaging as well as informative.

I had already watched the BBC program that this book is based on, but I still enjoyed reading about the evolution of the way we live in our homes. She talks about the practical and social reasons changes occurred, from the medieval times of the Great Hall, to the more intimate and private Victorian Parlour, all the way to the current Living Room (which is remarkably similar to that medieval model). If you don’t feel like reading it, I would recommend watching the four part BBC program!

Unplanned by Abby Johnson

I had listened to Abby Johnson’s testimony before, but I still wanted to read her book: and then I received it for Christmas and was able to read it just in time to add to this list! In this book, Abby shares her story of how she started volunteering at Planned Parenthood in her college days, which eventually led to her working full time as a clinic director. She wanted to be able to help and counsel women in crisis, but God used a series of events to lead her to leave the clinic and, to her surprise, join the pro-life movement instead.

Educated by Tara Westover

The last book in my list is another excellent one. I had heard about this memoir last year and then when one of my favourite bloggers listed it among their favourite books, I knew that I had to pick it up the next time I was at the library.

The author chronicles her life growing up in a dysfunctional family in a rural area. Although it wasn’t that remote of an area, they didn’t mix with other people, and she only attended school sporadically. The story is quite intense and frightening at times as it follows the author’s life as she grows up and decides to eventually leave her family’s home and go to university. This book is a rare glimpse into what life in an isolating and abusive environment can be like, and how it can affect even the strongest person.

Tara Westover truly has a gift for words and engaging storytelling; I was hooked from the moment I read the introduction.

Well, that’s my list of favourite books from this year. I read 50 books in total this year, so these are just the highlights. I’ve already got a stack on my nightstand…so here’s to reading more good books in 2022!

What was your favourite book you read this year? Do you have any recommendations?