“Happy New Year” Dear Readers! Does it feel like it should already be 2022 to you?
I’ve had an enjoyable and productive last few weeks of 2021, how about you? Above, I received this lovely pottery dimensional candle holder for Christmas, and it’s so nice to have it sitting on my windowsill reflecting the light in the evenings.
I like to change out my wreath depending on the season, so I put gold stars on it for New Years, just for fun!
I don’t often get up before dawn, but the last time I did I was met with this beautiful sight. I haven’t gotten up that early since, though, I guess it wasn’t enough of an enticement to leave my cosy warm bed.
One of my mom’s succulents is blooming. I have no idea what this plant is- it didn’t have a tag. Do you know what it is? We call it the “alien plant” since it has long stems with round leaves and spines that look like antennae.
As for projects lately, I’ve been enjoying some more embroidery. This time a little pouch for my sister. I’m really enjoying making these, and I’ve been contemplating adding some to my Poshmark Shop.
I’ve really been wanting to make things with my hands lately- embroidery, sewing etc. However, I haven’t felt like sewing anything for myself because fitting patterns is the worst part of sewing, so instead I’ve started making other things- like baby clothes. Not because I’m having a baby anytime soon, but because kid’s clothes are so fun to make! I plan on creating a bit of a stockpile of them to gift to families in my church who have little ones on the way, as well as bringing some pieces to the pregnancy care centre.
These little felted boots are so adorable, aren’t they? And little hair bows are a quick and easy (and cute!) project to whip up in an afternoon. I’m having so much fun making these, that I may have been dedicating just a bit too much time to them lately…. well, it’s the New Year now so time for a fresh start!
Do you make New Year’s resolutions? I make a list of 3-4 goals for the year, whether personal, creative etc. Last year I planned to finish organizing my hard drive and compiling a photo album of all of my Instagram photos…but I didn’t get to it…so, it’s back on the list for this year. Other than that, I haven’t thought of any other goals, but I’m sure I’ll come up with some in the next few days.
I hope your 2022 is off to a great start! Happy New Year!
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.
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?
I love decorating, and I especially love salvaging old furniture and “junk” and transforming them into new pieces for my home. While it can be fun to buy new ready-made things, it is so satisfying (as well as zero waste!) to save something old or broken from the trash and turn it into something completely new. While this post is a little bit out of my usual blog niche, I am really happy with how this latest DIY craft room organizer project turned out, so I wanted to share it here, in case it can provide you with some inspiration.
At the shop I used to work at, we had these carousel stand organizers, but they were poorly made, and over time the bases broke. They got put in the back storage room until we were clearing out the store, and my boss decided that she didn’t want them anymore. I couldn’t bear to put them in the dumpster, so I called my mom and asked if she thought we could do something with them. At the time, I wasn’t actually thinking that I would use them as a spinning organizer- I was thinking more along the lines of turning them into plant stands, or hanging them as outdoor planters. My mom said we should definitely save them, so we brought them home and put them in the workshop…where they have been sitting ever since! Then, a few weeks ago when my dad was cleaning out the shop, I was reminded of them again, and started thinking that perhaps an organizer for my sewing and art supplies would be a good idea after all. I was trying to think of some way I could make a new base, or fix the old one, when my dad mentioned that he had seen an old umbrella stand at the dump. “Aha!”- that was the perfect solution!
I was just going to use the original rod, paint it and call it a day, but my dad came up with a much better method of building the pole/ stand. Even though you probably won’t have baskets exactly like these, this method could still be used to easily create a stand with trays, or other baskets.
I also saw this picture online of a vintage pole plant stand, which I think would be so cool to make with this method (especially since the only other versions I can find online are ugly plastic ones!) If you offset the trays, or used small wooden shelves you could easily make a really cool space saving plant stand!
OK, so here’s how to make this DIY shelf/organizer. My dad did all of the work with the pipe, and I basically just did the painting! Firstly, I took all of the basket pieces apart and cleaned them with some soap and water and then rinsed them with the hose, because they were very dirty!
We used 3/4″ copper pipe and couplings to create the pole. I know that new pipe can be expensive, but we had a bunch of old used copper pipe lying around from past renovations, so it worked perfectly for me. You could also salvage pipe, use black steel pipe (which has all sorts of threadable pipe fittings available) or even use an extendable metal curtain rod.
We cut the pipe with a tube cutter into the lengths needed. The bottom two pipes are 17″ and the top one is 10″. We then used 3/4″ pipe couplings to create the connections for the baskets to sit on top of (so they don’t slide down the pipe). The bottom basket sits directly on top of the umbrella stand, and then the pipe threads through the middle, and so on until the top.
Because the umbrella stand’s diameter was much wider than the pipe, my dad made a wooden spacer with a 3/4″ hole drilled through put inside the tube for the copper pipe to slide through. There is a coupling flush with the top of the stand and then a washer on top as a spacer for the basket so it doesn’t sit directly on the stand.
We didn’t solder the couplings to the pipe, but you could solder one side, leaving the other loose so it can be dismantled. Or if you don’t need to it to be able to be taken apart, you can place your shelves and then solder both sides of the couplings to create a more rigid and sturdy pole. Because I had that original pole, I didn’t solder the pipe, but slid it straight through the copper pipe to make the entire stand sturdier, since it was a bit wobbly.
If you aren’t using pipe, but are instead using an extendable curtain rod, I would make it by cutting the thinner pipe the height that you want it to be (my stand is 54″ tall, by the way). Then, instead of using small couplings, cut the outer rod into “spacers” the height you want the shelves to be placed at. So, instead of having just a small coupling, the entire inner rod will be covered with the outer rod and you can assemble it by threading “stand, basket, spacer, basket, spacer…etc.” until you reach the top. Using a curtain rod will work perfectly too, because then you can use your finial to finish off the top!
After my stand was assembled, it was time to paint it!. I debated about polishing up the copper and have it metallic with black baskets, but then decided that I don’t really have copper as an accent in my home, so I painted it. (Of course after I decided that, I remembered that my fan is antiqued copper so I could have….)
I painted it black to give it a more industrial look to match the style of the punched metal. I started with satin finish paint, then realized that I should have gone with matte since the shine highlights all of the imperfections of the metal! Oh well; it is a salvage project, after all. I used Rust-Oleum 2x Ultra Cover Satin Canyon Black, (and noticed that I took the picture of the French side-haha) since I already had 1/2 a can on hand. I did three coats and I guess that I used about 1 1/2 or 1 3/4 cans of paint for the entire project. I still have almost an entire can of paint left over, so I can use that for a future project!
Once the paint cured, the organizer was done and ready to use! As I brought it inside, I realized just how heavy that umbrella stand is when you need to move it around. I am keeping my eye out for the base of an old metal rolling desk chair to swap out the stand for. That would make it so easier to move around when required!
I haven’t filled all of the compartments yet, but this is going to work perfectly for ribbons and laces and zippers and other sewing notions. They were previously in drawers, which made it hard to find anything. I usually like closed storage solutions, but for some things, open storage just works better. And sewing and crafts, is one of those things that works better when I can see things and find them easily.
This method worked so well to create this craft room organizer stand that I am considering whether I should make another with offset shelves using the curtain rod method in order to create a plant stand. (I have a lot of plants!) The curtain rod I have is already black metal and I could use wood for the shelves, so it wouldn’t require any painting. Maybe a good project for over the Winter?
Do you like to DIY furniture or other home projects? What’s the best “salvage” piece you’ve ever saved and transformed? And do you prefer open or closed storage solutions?
Letter writing has been around for nearly as long as people have been on this earth. It’s a way to communicate with people if you aren’t able to be there in person and for much of history writing letters has been the only channel of long distance communication. At least until the advent of the telegram, telephone, and internet. As wonderful as those advancements in technology are, though, there’s still something so special about receiving a handwritten note in the mail. I love writing letters, and while I’m not always consistent, I do try to write a few times a year to my friends and family who live far away. I inherited my love of writing letters from my Grandma. She was an excellent letter writer and it was always such a joy to receive one from her in the mailbox! If you aren’t used to writing, here are my tips on how to start writing letters.
Of course my first tip is to make yourself a lovely cup of tea (or other beverage) and find a comfortable spot to sit at. Perhaps even light a candle to make the experience more enjoyable. I wouldn’t suggest playing music, though, as I find that I get distracted and start to listen to the music instead of writing! Try to think letter writing as an elegant ritual.
Choose who you will write your letter to and consider your audience. From there, decide if it is to be a formal or casual letter. What you write to your grandmother might not be what you write to a friend. My Grandma often used to leave her writing paper out on the table for a week or more, adding bits and pieces to the letter as she thought of them. They were quite newsy and a joy to read since she’d include tidbits in her letter that you wouldn’t always think to say on a telephone visit. She’d include information about what the weather was like at the time of writing, where she was sitting in the house or about the chickadee she was watching out the window. Details like that really did make reading her letters feel like you were there with her.
If you aren’t used to writing, and don’t quite know where to start, then start slow by sending a greeting card with a heartfelt note written inside. A “thinking of you” card is nice to receive in the mail and it’s not as much pressure to send as a long letter is. Since there are only two pages on the inside of a card, it gives you a boundary to write a quick note without feeling the need to write an entire epistle.
Get some good writing paper. It doesn’t have to be stationery, though that is a nice thing to invest in. I often use lined paper that I trimmed out of a journal. It’s a perfect size to fit in an envelope, and the lines help me to stay tidy. Once you’ve gotten the rhythm of writing letters, and perhaps found a pen pal, then getting some dedicated stationery or writing paper is a nice touch. You can find all sorts of beautiful stationery including monogrammed and letterpresses, all the way down to simple plain paper. Keep an eye out for sets of stationery that have matching envelopes in the correct size, so that you don’t have to origami your letter to fit in an envelope for mailing. That being said, I have received letters that were written on construction or copy paper and I never cared, since it was the words on the paper that were of much more importance!
Letter seals or stickers are a fun touch to add to your envelopes- some stationery sets even include matching stickers. Wax seals are another gorgeous touch, that hearken back to the days when security was of utmost importance for top secret correspondence. Another way that letters were kept confidential was through the art of “Letterlocking”. This is a fascinating article from the BBC about how letters in the past used ingenious methods of folding and cutting to ensure that they couldn’t be tampered with. I want to get some heavy writing paper and try out this technique- wouldn’t it be fun to receive a letter like that in the mail?
Another nice touch, is to use a pen that writes really well; I personally prefer liquid ink pens to ballpoint pens. I don’t use a pen with a nib, though I would like to learn how. Right now, I use the Uni-Ball Vision Needle pens in black and I like how they write. I’ve found that when I have a nice smooth pen, my writing is neater. If my pen is scratchy or dry, then my writing gets progressively worse!
On that note, letter writing is a great way to practice your handwriting. Cursive is another lost art, sadly, and while I don’t have the best handwriting myself, I do like to practice while writing letters. I’ve been trying to slow down when I write, because when I write fast, I might as well write in shorthand considering how illegible it can become!
If you plan to start sending letters often, then buy your stamps in bulk. They aren’t cheaper the more you buy but (at least here in Canada) if you buy a single stamp at the mail counter it is more expensive than buying a pack. Also in Canada, we have “permanent stamps” which means that when the price goes up next time, we can still use the stamps we already own. So buying a roll of stamps might save you money in the future.
Always include a return address, either in the top left hand corner or back of the envelope. Once I mailed a letter but forgot to put on a stamp- oops! At least because I had included a return address, the postal worker just placed it back in my box. Otherwise that letter would have been lost into the abyss! Also, make sure that your letter is clearly and neatly addressed. Some postal services are quite excellent (yay England!) while others can be rather abysmal (looking at you Canada Post).
As for receiving letters in return, if someone does send you a letter back, make sure to answer it in a timely fashion, or you’ll forget what you wanted to say. As I read a letter I’ve received, I find myself thinking of all kinds of things to write back in return but, if I put it off, then I find that I’ve forgotten all of those bits of “news” and have to rack my brain to find something to write down!
Well, those are my tips to start writing letters. Of course, letters can’t replace other forms of communication in our lives, but I think that there is a special art in letter writing, and that it is a lovely way to add a bit of elegance to your everyday life. Oh, and of course I can’t finish off this post without mentioning that if you’re looking for some greeting cards to send, you can check out my shop here or here.
How about you- do you enjoy writing letters? Or do you prefer instant communication instead? If you haven’t in the past, do you think you’ll start writing letters?