life lately

A Year of Reading, In Review

stack of books with a teacup on top

I love reading. For education, for entertainment, lighthearted books for passing the time, heavy books to challenge my reading skills…

2020 was going to be my year of finally getting through my massive “To Be Read” book list but, alas, the library closed for quite a few months and derailed that plan. However, I was still able to read through a variety of books, and took the library closure as an opportunity to read through some of the unread books on my own shelves too. I didn’t quite succeed in finishing off my personal collection, but still managed to read 40 books this year, so it was a good year for reading! Thankfully the library opened again in the fall, so I was able to get a few more to last me for the next while. When you’re stuck at home on a bleak winter day, there’s nothing better than curling up in a blanket with a book and a cup of tea, right?

I thought I would share a few of my favourites today, so if you are looking for some books to add to your list, here are my 2020 reading highlights (in order of when I read them).

Wives & Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

wives and daughters book cover

I’ve watched the BBC version of Wives and Daughters and it is excellent. It stars Francesca Annis as one of the main characters, and she is really good in that role. I read North & South last year, (I asked for books for my birthday and Christmas gifts, and was happy to get copies of both North & South and Wives & Daughters.) and was able to get through Wives & Daughters early on in the year. I quite like Elizabeth Gaskell’s writing. There weren’t any surprises, since I have watched the film, but it was still an enjoyable way to spend a few days. I would like to read some of her other works- I’ve added Mary Barton to my list.

The Panic Virus by Seth Mnookin

The Panic Virus book coverI heard about this book a couple of years ago, and had it on my library list for quite a while. It delves into the history of vaccinations and all of the scandals and cover ups that have come along with them (and that still plague us today). It kind of sounds like a boring topic, but it is actually a really good book. It is quite well written and surprisingly engaging. 10/10 would recommend this one if you like medical history and science!

Quiet by Susan Cain

Quiet book cover

I had also heard of this one a couple of years ago, from Susan Cain’s TED talk, so I added it to my library list. It wasn’t mind blowing, but it was a helpful book for me to read, to learn about some of the differences between introverts and extroverts, and how to use my introvert tendencies as a strength instead of a limitation. It’s a slower paced book, but was well researched and informative.

The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson

The Body book cover

Hands down, this was one of the most enjoyable reads of my year. This is an interesting overview of the human body, but it was funny and witty as well. It is a thick book, but is broken up into small, manageable sections, so you can pick it up and read a little bit without losing your place and having to start over.  I never understand why textbooks can take an interesting topic and distill it down into the most boring format possible- this book is really the furthest thing from being a textbook (it’s actually fun to read) and I learned so much. I also thought that the index was good, so you can find sections easily if you want to read about a certain topic again.

The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth by Thomas Morris

The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth book cover

Another medical book (What can I say? I love reading about science and medicine!) This book recounts some of the hilarious, horrifying and miraculous medical cases from historical medical journals. The book is compiled of excerpts from journals (all written in proper Old English, which makes it even better) but the best part of the book is the commentary that Thomas Morris offers alongside. He has the perfect dry/dark sense of humour that lands just right. I read this one, and then I made my sister and mom read it too!

King Raven Series (Hood, Scarlet & Tuck) by Stephen R. Lawhead

King Raven trilogy book covers

This series is a reimagined version of the tales of Robin Hood, set in Wales during the 11th century. It’s the perfect blend of history, action and adventure. Each book is told from the perspective of a different character (Robin Hood, Will Scarlet and Friar Tuck) and I really enjoyed the story. The author did so much research into this time period and his world building was very believable and realistic. Even though Robin Hood is likely a legend, after reading this series he definitely seems real! I do love a good historical fiction series to escape into and I can see myself re-reading this series again in a few years.

How to Be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman

How to be a Victorian book cover

I had heard good reviews of this book, but after reading the back cover, I was kind of wondering whether it would be one of those “corsets are oppressive” sorts of history books. However, I was pleasantly surprised as it was nothing like that! I learned quite a bit about daily life in the Victorian era- the author is a British historian and was actually part of BBC’s historic farm television series. She had a lot of insight about what life could have been like (of course, she points out, we’ll never know completely) during the era. This book was also broken up into manageable sections, so you can pick it up and put it down as you have time. As a lover of vintage and history, this was a great one to read!

You’re Not Enough (And That’s Okay) by Allie Beth Stuckey

You're Not Enough book cover

I listen to Allie Beth Stuckey’s podcast occasionally, so was interested to read her first book. She tackles the self help and self love culture that is so prevalent today, and how it is ultimately unfulfilling and empty. There was lots to ponder in this book, and I am debating adding this one to my library so I can re-read and refer back to it in the future.

Death in the Clouds and The Hollow by Agatha Christie

Death in the Clouds and The Hollow book covers

I do love a good murder mystery, and if you haven’t read any of Agatha Christie’s, you are missing out: there is a reason why she is the most popular writer of the 20th century! I received a whole stack of her books for my birthday in October and, while I haven’t gotten through all of them yet, these are my two favourites so far. Both of them are Poirot mysteries, and very quick enjoyable stories. I can never guess who the murderer is!

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsely

Jane Austen at Home book cover

My last read for this year was this biography of Jane Austen (who is also one of my favourite authors!) I have watched some of Lucy Worsely’s BBC histories, and have found them engaging and entertaining; her ‘If Walls Could Talk: The History of the Home” series is a really good one. I’ve read a couple of other biographies of Jane Austen, but I quite liked this one. Of course so much has been lost to history, and we’ll never truly know Jane, but I feel like I got a glimpse of her in this book, and she really does feel like a kindred spirit. I am also debating adding this one to my personal library too!

—-

Fields of Joy by Ruth Chou Simons

fields of joy book cover and pages

Ok, actually my last book of the year, which I haven’t completely read, is this one, Fields of Joy. My friend gave it to me for Christmas, and it was the most unexpected, yet lovely, gift! It’s not a book designed to be read cover to cover, but is filled with pages of verses and watercolour artwork, so you can read a page each day. This is going to be a good one to keep on my bedside table to refer back to often.

So, those are my favourite reads from this year! Have you read any of these titles? What were your favourite books from this year? Do you keep track of how many books you read each year?

(Also, on a side note, I noticed that my library prints on their receipts how much money you’ve saved by using the library, instead of buying books, and I saved $363.43 this year!)

That Fresh Hair Feeling

There’s nothing better than a fresh new haircut, is there? OK, well, yes there are plenty of things better than a new haircut…but when you’ve been waiting patiently for four months, it’s a lovely thing to walk out of the salon with significantly less hair on your head!

I got my hair cut into a fresh bob on Tuesday, and my hairdresser also added in some colour to blend out my platinum, which was starting to look rather brassy and harsh. Growing out platinum is hard, but at least this looks a bit softer. I keep saying that I’ll never dye my hair again, but I probably will again someday- it’s a lot of fun while it lasts!

I don’t have much else to say about these photos except that this is the last of the lilacs. We didn’t get a very good show of them this year. I think that it was maybe too cold earlier in the spring, and the buds got a bit too cold with frost. It’s really too bad, because usually this hedge is just covered, and I love to do photoshoots with it as a backdrop. At least we did still get some blooms, and I got these photos before they all faded away.

What have you been up to lately? Are you long overdue for a haircut, like 99% of the population? Have you ever tried to grow out dyed hair?

And this is what happens when you take photos in the wind!

Days Like These

sitting and looking out of the window

I think we can all agree that 2020 hasn’t really turned out the way any of us thought it would. When we celebrated the return of the “Roaring 20’s”, on New Year’s Eve, I don’t think this was quite the kind of turbulence we were anticipating.

It’s been a rather strange year so far for me in other ways too; losing one of my jobs (before the pandemic even came into view), switching to working only at my work-from-home job, moving out of my apartment and back to the country with my family, and then, of course, the pandemic which put a stop to everything else….and here we are already in June. My lifestyle has dramatically changed in the past six months.

It’s been a bit of a strange time fashion wise too, switching from a job where I worked in a boutique and wanted to look put together every day (of course with my own vintage twist!) to now working strictly from home, at a desk job. I’ve always loved fashion, so curating a “work/social” wardrobe over the past couple of years was a lot of fun, but now with the pandemic putting a halt on going out in public, I really have had no reason to wear many of those clothes, except for my own enjoyment. Most of my days for the past few months have been spent at home; this is a situation I am sure many of us have found ourselves in this year?

at home outfit details and houseplants

I was scheduled for a haircut back in March, but my hairdresser closed their salon one day before my appointment…so it’s now been 4 months without a cut or colour. (In hindsight, choosing to go platinum blonde in February was not a timely decision.) Not getting my hair touched up has definitely saved money, and it’s not as though anyone is seeing my grow-out line, but all I really care about is getting a good haircut! It’s grown so long and uneven that even styling it can’t fix it!

All this to say…it has been a challenge some days wanting to look nice while at home, but then not having a lot to wear that is practical, comfortable and stylish. A lot of my everyday clothing had started getting really worn out (un-mendable holes etc) and with all the shops sadly closed up, I haven’t been able to fill those gaps in my wardrobe. The result has been quite a few boring and repeat outfits over the past few months.

I’ve also realized that I am quite lazy when it comes to dressing for myself. Even though I could wear my dressy clothes at home, I apparently don’t want to, which is a rather ironic thing for a fashion blogger to say, isn’t it?

Upon further thought, though, I think the problem is not so much that I don’t want to dress up, but that I don’t have a lot of clothes that are good for the kind of life I am now living day to day. I don’t like days when I don’t dress nicely, as they always feel unproductive and messy, but it’s been a bit hard getting out of that rut. Its kind of crazy how much of an impact your clothing can have on your outlook, isn’t it?

days at home, polka dot plant

I suppose one good thing that has come out of this period at home, though, is that I have had the time to do a really good evaluation of what is working well in my wardrobe, and what is not. I’ve been meaning to go through the book “The Curated Closet” for while, and decided that this was as good a time as ever, especially considering the drastic change in my lifestyle. I have been taking the time to evaluate why I don’t wear some of the items in my closet, what pieces I do really like and what styles I need more of.

I’m realizing the need to evolve my closet into something that suits how I actually spend most of my days- not how I wish I was spending most of my days. As much fun as dressing up to work in the boutique was, I need to be dressing for my life at home now, and comfort is really key for me. I don’t want to look like a mess, but I also don’t want to wear clothing that is too fussy or precious. I have been working on creating a more defined vision of personal style that suits my lifestyle, and hopefully I’ll have more to share on the process I went through in the next while.

Anyways, things are starting to open again. Here in Alberta, we are three weeks into our reopening. I am so thankful to live where I do, since we have not seen the numbers of cases that other places have seen. (In the area I live in, there has been zero cases of COVID.) Hopefully I will be able to get out and do a bit of clothing shopping soon, to fill in those holes in my wardrobe. And I’ve finally got a hair appointment this week, so this is the last time you’ll see my hair this long (thankfully!)

Even though my wardrobe isn’t at a place at the moment that I find particularly exciting, I wanted to take a moment to document these days, before everything changes again.

How has your lifestyle and wardrobe evolved in the past few months? Have you kept things relatively the same, dressing as you always have, or have you had to make some changes? Do you dress differently at home than you do out of the home? What are your thoughts on dressing up for your everyday?

sitting and looking out of the window

naked sage moonstone earrings

Earrings by Naked Sage Jewellery

reading a book

Think Pink…Hair!

I’m not much of a pink person.

Aside from a short lived pink and purple bedroom with Barbie wallpaper when I was a child, I’ve never had much pink in my life.

I don’t decorate with pink (though it would be so much easier to find a vintage sofa, if I wanted a pink one- they are simply everywhere!)

And I can probably count on one hand the number of pink clothes and accessories that I have. A pair of shoes, two floral skirts, a hat with a pink flower, a pair of cameo earrings…

But, despite the fact that I’ve never been much drawn to pink…I love pink hair! Just before I started this blog, four years ago, I dyed my hair pink, but it wasn’t quite the colour I wanted. And ever since then, I’ve been dreaming of the day when my hair would be pink again.

And then I said to myself, “Why is my hair not pink yet?” so I scheduled an appointment. I walked in last Friday a natural blonde, and when I left three hours later I was a platinum and pink!

It was a bit brighter than I was planning originally to go, I was thinking more of a light ash and pink mix, but then I just decided to go all in, and go platinum blonde! I was platinum four years ago, and I’ve kind of missed it. It’s taken some getting used to, and I’m still not used to it, actually. I do a double take when I see myself in a mirror! It faded a bit when I washed it, which is kind of sad that it’s only a demi-permanent, but I will enjoy it while I have it…so, I guess I am a pink person, after all!

Have you ever dyed your hair an “unnatural” colour?

Life Lately: Spring is Here

row of plants, life lately

Hello everyone! It’s been a rather crazy past few weeks for me, so it’s nice to sit down with a cup of tea and put together a blog post. Without getting into too many details, the month of March was a crazy and long and tiring 31 days- it was exhausting mentally, emotionally and physically- so I am glad to be done with it and moving on to April!

Ss, some of these pictures are from my Instagram, and I thought I’d post them here- along with some other photos I’ve taken in the past few weeks.

It’s finally starting to feel like Spring around here, and the flowers are starting to come up. This little viola on the right side is only about 2″ tall, and it’s been blooming ever since it popped up through the snow!

flowers coming up, life lately

It’s always nice to use the fine china when you invite friends over for tea and cake. And it’s nice to eat up the leftover strawberries for breakfast the next day too 🙂

life lately, tea party

The trees are starting to bud out, finally!

blue skies, life lately

Part of the exhaustion in March was due to my sister and I moving out of our apartment. We thought we were getting a new place, but it all fell through, and so I’m now looking for a new place and temporarily living with my family. I’m so thankful that I can live with them, while I find a new housing situation!

My mom bought me tulips a few weeks ago. I love how fluid they are! And on the right, is one of the last sunsets from our previous apartment. I’m going to miss seeing that view every day!

tulips and sunset

I love how colourful the rhubarb leaves, on the right, are! They are such a bold pop of colour amid all of the brown around them.

plants coming up

Just some cute little cactuses of my mom’s growing in her window. And, even though I will miss the view at our old apartment, at least my parents live on a lovely acreage with lots of trees to enjoy!

cactuses and trees

Anyways, these are just some photos I’ve taken over the past few weeks- I’m glad that Spring is finally here! Although it was a bit colder this past week, it’s nice to be able to pack away the winter coats and boots (I hope I’m not too optimistic with that…) and start thinking about Spring and warm weather outfits!

How is your April, so far?