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To a Pretty Life

Updated: 2017-12-31T08:08:01.827-07:00


Year of Risk Update - #wordoftheyear


Here we are half-way through my Year of Risk.  My first time ever choosing a word of the year.  I entered a writing contest (and didn't win).  I applied for--and didn't get--an internship at a literary agency (that would have been so much fun!).  I applied for--and didn't get--a couple of other positions.  Then I posted a random complaint on Facebook about the difficulties of finding a job that let me avoid having to get before and after school care for my kids, and--ta-da!--a few weeks later I'm working basically full-time for an awesome boss doing interesting work, and not needing to pay for child care!  And now I'm busier than I've ever been in my life.  I've also said yes to some social situations that aren't exactly comfortable for an introvert like me.  I should probably have brought a friend to one or two of them, since I hate looking like a wallflower (which I am, of course).

It has, so far, been a year of risk-taking unlike any I've lived before it.  I don't do risk, generally.  I really like my comfort zone.  But what is interesting is that I'm also currently more fearful than ever before.  More introverted.  More awkward.  More doubtful of my abilities and talents.  Maybe pushing myself to jump in has made me more afraid.  This is the opposite of what I hoped would happen.

Usually I like going out to a house party, or other event.  I like being with people, as long as I know I'll have one or two people to talk to.  I like people-watching.  So why do I suddenly have a heart-racing, sweaty-palm reaction to the idea of going to an event?  Or at the idea of starting a conversation with one of the other soccer-moms lined up at the side of the weedy field?

In addition to the extra dose of anxiety, I'm also becoming discontented with that so very comfortable comfort zone.  Maybe I don't want to be the same as I've always been.  Maybe I want to change, even as I fear it?  I'm sure some famous somebody has said something about this paradox I find myself in.


Right-Brain Writer


I have lived pretty much my whole life in the sphere of my right-brain.  Particularly when it comes to my writing.  I write to capture a feeling.  Such writing is pretty much always dependent on the illusive muse.  While such a state of flow is exhilarating, It does not naturally lend itself to finishing things.  Particularly long things like novels.

I tried NaNoWriMo for the first time this past November.  While it was a lot of fun, it was also really hard.  My best days were those in which I had previously thought out which scenes I needed to write, and had a rough plan for my writing time.  I still got to that fun place where the writing flowed, and I even got there faster!

Part of my risk-taking in 2017 will, I hope, be focused on developing and encouraging more left-brain analytical activities, which don't come naturally to me.  So I am giving an honest shot at serious outlining.  I've always loved planning.  But stories I've planned out never get beyond that stage.  And stories I haven't planned peter out by about 3000 words.  By combining the two--serious outlining, followed by a writing start date and maybe a NaNoWriMo-like sprint to finish the first draft--maybe I'll hit on the system that works for me.  It's worth a try!

If you're a writer, please share what works for you.  How do you get your writing done?  Outlining? Not outlining?

(image) (image)

Risk - #wordoftheyear


For the past couple of years, I've been feeling gentle but persistent nudges to move out of my comfort zone.  Mostly I've resisted, but the few times I have opened myself to something new and scary, It's been awesome.  So, for my first ever word of the year, I strongly feel I should embrace the concept of RISK.  Maybe it's time to stand up and jump out of the nest rather than waiting to be pushed.


Write what you know? What do I know?


My talented friend, Alexis Marie Chute (who accomplishes more in 5 minutes than I do in a year...oh, to be a high-energy person!) recently posted a "write what you know" reminder on instagram.  Upon seeing this advice, I had my usual reaction of, "I don't KNOW anything!  I haven't done anything!"  Since I married young, have only had a few jobs, have only taken a few college courses, haven't travelled much, and have spent the last nine years barely surviving the raising of little kids, I feel like I don't have a lot of interesting personal experiences to draw from. At least none that I want to write about.  Then I realised that I do have something: Random trivia that I've read about over the years.  My obsessive personality likes to read everything possible about whatever topic is most interesting at the time.  And I tend to retain a lot of it.  So here is a list of things that I DO know something about (even if I've never actually done many of them and they'll probably never help me win a game of Trivial Pursuit):

  • medieval history (most recently, the Plantagenet dynasty thanks to library audiobooks and Dan Jones)
  • medieval heraldry
  • medieval reinactment groups
  • period-appropriate medieval and regency costumes
  • wilderness survival
  • how to do projects without reading the directions or following the rules
  • how to furnish a house with second-hand items
  • Harry Potter
  • latin names of plants...although I'm never sure whether the name that comes to mind when I see a plant is the correct one until I look it up and prove myself right.
  • L. M. Montgomery's books and life (her journals are fascinating)
  • potential problems in renovating an old house
  • building
  • furniture refinishing
  • living in the country
  • tea
  • writing
  • master's degrees that I'd love to get, but both can't afford and don't qualify for (since I don't have an undergraduate degree...can't I skip that part? Or win the lottery so I can do both?)
  • And much more that I can't remember now, but I'm sure will float to the surface of my mind when I'm trying to remember important things like picking up prescriptions, or when was the last time I cleaned the bathroom?
Now, how can I use all this to write a novel?


Book Review: The Painter's Daughter, by Julie Klassen


The Painter's Daughter, by Julie Klassen, is set in regency England, as are all her books as far as I know.  Sophie Dupont, daughter of a portrait painter, assists her father in his studio, keeping her own artwork out of sight. She often walks the cliffside path along the north Devon coast, popular with artists and poets. It's where she met the handsome Wesley Overtree, the first man to tell her she's beautiful. Captain Stephen Overtree is accustomed to taking on his brother's neglected duties. Home on leave, he's sent to find Wesley. Knowing his brother rented a cottage from a fellow painter, he travels to Devonshire and meets Miss Dupont, the painter's daughter. He's startled to recognize her from a miniature portrait he carries with him--one of Wesley's discarded works. But his happiness plummets when he realizes Wesley has left her with child and sailed away to Italy in search of a new muse. Wanting to do something worthwhile with his life, Stephen proposes to Sophie. He does not offer love, or even a future together, but he can save her from scandal. If he dies in battle, as he believes he will, she'll be a respectable widow with the protection of his family. The heroine, Sophie, is so relatable, with her insecurity about her looks and her talent, and the mistakes she's made. She is sometimes a little too meek, but I think that's what got her into the mess in the first place. I love that we get to see a glimpse of her hidden passion in the very first scene, as she hurls a portrait of herself off the cliff.  I love the current trend in inspirational fiction to allow flawed, damaged, or even "soiled" heroines. The Christian historical romances I read as a teenager nearly always featured a chaste and virtuous girl who never once had a passionate thought, and whatever scrape she was in at the beginning of the story was no fault of her own. Real, confusing, heartbreaking passion is refreshing. Stephen, our dashing and scarred hero, has his own flaws, and his own secrets, and I love him for them. He is a problem-solver. A fixer. And does his best to fix Sophie's problem. Plot:  I like the way the plot progressed, with Sophie being torn between absent, irresponsible Wesley and present but distant Stephen.  Sophie and Stephen's need to keep up appearances with his family adds even more tension into the mix.  As I read, I was braced for some horrid betrayal, which I thought would be inevitable, and which I hate.  I'm way too empathetic to bear such a thing.  Yet, (SPOILER! sort of) it never came and consequently I loved how Julie Klassen let the story unfold. When I was halfway through through reading the book, I stayed up way too late reading, then dreamed the rest of the story after I finally went to sleep.  The real ending is much better than what my subconscious came up with, Now I would love to read a story about Sophie's sweet little sisters and their selfish mother. Perhaps, The Painter's Stepdaughter for your next book, Ms. Klassen? I was provided with a copy of this book by Graf-Martin Communications in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own. [...]

My Real Job


My daughter (age eight) told me yesterday that I should get a real job.  And it broke my heart.  I know she only says that because she thinks daycare would be fun.  But it hurts to think that maybe she doesn't value the same things I value.  It is important to me that I be able to pick up the kids from school, help them with their homework and piano practice, and be there to teach them to be good and kind and helpful and loving.

This job I do all day, every day, and even every night as I'm tucking my son back into bed because the wind is too loud or he's feeling sick or he's too bored to sleep, is real.  It takes all of my energy and all of my thoughts and all of my heart.

I've never been a great housekeeper, even though that is part of my  very real job.  But I do keep trying.  I get enough mental criticism from my own mind that I don't need it from others.  What I need is encouragement.  And to have them believe in me.  And to find worth in the goals I am striving for.

Dearest daughter, you will have your whole life to hang out with your friends.  But your childhood here, with mom and dad and little brother, is so fleeting.  And guarding it is my job.  You're nearly half grown up already.  I want to be here for the rest of it.


Proof that I'm no poet


I was really bored on the flight from Calgary to Victoria. With the turbulence, reading made me sick, and I felt like I had been knitting all day. My seatmate's long legs kept me from digging around in my bag for my headphones. I used to write poetry when I was a teenager. None of it was any good. Nor is this one. I always feel cheesy or fake when I try to be poetic. Additionally, I have no clue about poetry's conventions and rules. Enjoy!

The sunset taunts as it lays
on a horizon of blue-grey cloud
spread in drifts far below me.

Ever before me in my westward journey,
never changing, never setting.

It rests and waits for me,
its smooth orange glow
holding a promise of the rest
that I know I will find eventually.

Until then, I fly,
sitting too long and thinking too much.

My fingers fly too, with needles and yarn,
as my mind, awkward and rusty,
composes poetic nonsense
from a muse long banished. 

Calgary at dusk. 


What I Love About Our New House


Well, it's about time for some positivity around here! My recent posts have been full of Big Feelings, but have been rather on the depressing side. So let's walk through the new house—with words, because I don't have very many pictures. (All photos taken by me at the home inspection, and purposely chosen to show a minimum amount of the current owner's things, out of respect.) To start with, I love the neighbourhood.  It has a mix of traditional house styles, like colonial, craftsman, farmhouse, etc. Ours is more on the farmhouse side of things, or would be if it had a bigger front porch and a steeper, more gabled roof. Our street is lined with trees on the boulevard, and in 15 years the street will look just like the beautiful riverside neighbourhood that I've always loved.  The front porch is a little bigger than the one on our duplex, but not quite big enough for a swing. But that's OK because I have the perfect bench for it. And visitors will be welcomed by a cheery red door, which opens into a real entry instead of straight into the living room. I was quite impressed with how pretty the tiles in the entry are (and by our realtor's gorgeous shoes!). As you walk into the house, the living room is to your left, with its big southeast-facing bay window that I adore. The room also has an awkward corner fireplace, which is not ideal. I've never liked corner fireplaces, or gas fireplaces (although I do concede that they're more convenient than the wood-burning ones that I love). It's going to take some creativity before I'm happy with it. I've never liked corner fireplaces. But, as The Nester says, it's a "lovely limitation," and I'll be gleaning ideas from the way she worked with her own corner fireplace. Except for the entry and bathrooms, the entire main floor, stairs, and upper floor have gleaming hardwood in that variegated blonde colour that makes me think "Swedish farmhouse" for some reason.  Maybe because it's exactly the colour and sheen as the pine Ikea table we had for the first eight or so years of our marriage. Between the living room and kitchen lies a broom closet (Yay! Our duplex doesn't have one!) and a powder room. But the curious thing about the powder room is that it is also the laundry room. This room is going to benefit from my time spent browsing Pinterest. I'm really excited to work on it. It has a lot of potential, and will look amazing when I'm done with it. The back left corner of the house holds the kitchen. I get a white kitchen, finally! I don't care that the cupboards are that plastic-covered MDF instead of real wood and the counters are basic dark grey laminate. It will look pretty for now, and there's plenty of time to upgrade if we choose later. One thing I will definitely change ASAP is the backsplash. It is currently shiny white 4-inch square ceramic tiles in impeccable condition. But to me they look like they belong in a bathroom. I think that's because they're so much shinier than the cupboards. (You can keep up with my ideas for the new house on Pinterest) The back door and closet are in the kitchen. I'm really going to miss my mudroom, tiny as it is. But we can make it work, as long as we work hard on developing tidy habits once we move in. A lovely, large dining room is in the other corner of the house, with a huge window looking out on the deck. I've never had a dining room before. I've never actually lived in a detached house before. This room is just the right size for our big farmhouse table, and wide enough to have a lot of versatility too. Upstairs, the main bedroom is at the front of the house, with another big bay window. The room is huge, and what it lacks in versatility, it makes up for in floor space. The closet is weird. It takes up one entire long wall, is not walk-in, and is accessed via three evenly-spaced bi-fold doors. Thi[...]

Mourning a Dream


Don't get me wrong.  I love our new house.  I can't wait to get my hands on it and farmhouseify it and make it ours. July 3rd can't come fast enough! But I'm also in mourning.  This new house, close to schools and family, and in a lovely neighbourhood, is where our kids will grow up.  And I have to say goodbye to my lifelong dream of raising my kids in the country.  That door is closed.  I'm not sure if I want to push it out of my mind and stop thinking about it or allow myself to grieve. I spent half my childhood on my best friend's acreage in the country, complete with woods, a pond, and a big garden.  We wore elaborate prairie-girl costumes when we walked miles down the dirt road unashamedly, because there was no one to see.  We picked armfuls of lilacs, and cuddled kittens and sang loudly as we jumped on the trampoline. I learned what cornflower blue really is from the flowers in her mother's garden. I explored the woods on my own, and even lived on a horse farm for two months when I was thirteen.  Even back at home at the very edge of the small city I grew up in, I had country experiences, catching salamanders and frogs in the creek and weaving mats with the cattail reeds.  I always wanted that kind of life for my kids. I've known for several years that it was unlikely that my husband would ever want to move to the country.  Between the commute to his job downtown and the high price of land around here, there was very little chance that it would happen.  And I thought I had accepted it.  But with a simple signature on a piece of paper that says we're buying this beautiful house in the suburbs—the one our kids will remember when they think of home—has brought back all this longing that I now know will never happen.  It's official now.  I think I really do need to allow myself to feel these emotions and truly mourn this loss, as silly as it may seem to other, more logical people.    I will never be able to help my kids build a fort in the woods (and then check them for ticks?).    I will never be able to raise a horse or have chickens or a big vegetable garden (I'm undecided whether I actually want to do all that or just like the idea).    I will never be able to send my kids outside to play out of sight without that tiny worry in the back of my mind about traffic or kidnappings (but then, I'll also never have to worry about wolves or cougars or a cranky bull moose).    I will never have a clothesline.    I will never learn to shoot a bow (at least not without either spending a fortune on club fees or driving an hour to my brother-in-law's acreage).    I will never be able to watch the sunrise on the horizon from my kitchen window (or any window) before the kids wake up and the day's rush begins.    I will never be able to build an addition on the house (it has no mudroom.  Just a back door straight into the kitchen, with a closet to the side), or a bigger porch, or a detached studio/office.    I will never be able to walk out of my house, look up, and see ALL the stars.  I've almost forgotten what that even looks like.    I will never have an orchard (although I'm pretty excited about the one apple tree in the new backyard).    I will never have enough flowers in the garden that it doesn't look denuded when I cut a lot to bring in the house. And wildflowers are completely out of the question.    My kids will never be able to explore the woods and fields at will, or climb trees or have a treehouse, or learn about wildlife because it visits our yard. Have you ever had to mourn for something that was only a dream? Sunset at my in-laws' cabin...the place that soothes my longing for natural[...]

We Found a House!



House Hunting Stress


We sold our duplex last week.  It took two days...less than a week after we first contacted a real estate agent.  The inspection is scheduled for Friday, then on Monday conditions will be removed and it will be official. So we've been house hunting. Exciting! Fun! Stressful! Oh my word, this is so stressful!  This new house will be the one our kids remember.  The one they call "home."  It will likely be our forever home--for the next ten years anyway.  Unlike last time, when I only had to wonder if I'd like the house for a few years, and had very little experience in houses to influence me (I've never yet lived in a real, detached house.) The trouble is that, at our budget every house we like has major issues that are out of our control.  My absolute favourite was a side-by-side split level in a little ravine neighbourhood (see pic) that was in absolute perfect condition and the use of space was exactly what I was looking for.  That one had two serious problems.  First, was the loud traffic noise from two major highways.  Second, there was no school in that neighbourhood, and the closest school with open boundaries is already full for next year. And then there's the newer one in a great neighbourhood, with beautiful upgraded finishes, and a main floor laundry that I loved.  But it was listed in the very top range of our budget, and has no neighbourhood school. Then there's the one we saw yesterday, in a great area for schools. We discovered the problems before we even walked into the house.  It's the second house in from a busy corner with no parking allowed at the front of the house.  Any guests would have to park at the back on the miniscule driveway or one very-muddy spot beside the garage and come in the back door (I have always hated that!  Where I grew up it was very common for people to either only have a side door, or have a front door and never ever use it.  The only other parking option would be to park down a small side road a block away, which I suspect is often full, making the walk to our front door even longer.  I've always wanted a hospitable home.  This home isn't very hospitable.  The traffic noise, even from the busy intersection, wasn't that bad.  Perhaps I could have wrapped my mind around the parking situation and lived with it.  But the trouble is that I don't like the kitchen well enough to make that compromise.  It's a bit small, and a bit cramped. Then there was the one in my favourite neighbourhood, with excellent access to all three schools.  I even liked the layout, although the pictures were really bland and the house had no personality.  But that one had high voltage power lines running practically overhead.  I probably would have overlooked that issue, but Kevin wasn't happy with that. Oh, and the one in an older neighbourhood, well maintained but obviously being sold by the original owners (who like mint green).  It was full of potential, but there were too many things that required too much work in that one (regrading the yard, tearing down the sunroom, possible crack in the foundation). Are we being too picky?  I don't think so.  I'm not looking for perfection, by any means.  My favourite house, the split level, had really dated country blue counters, and linoleum in the kitchen, neither of which I particularly liked.  The house doesn't have to be pretty.  I just really need a good location, and a layout I can work with.  Kevin needs a house that doesn't need a lot of major work before it can feel like home. We are going to see another tonight that I already think is too far south, and we will have to literally drive past the road to my kids' current sc[...]

Farmhouse Style Jars and Shelf - Chalk Paint™ by Annie Sloan Review #1


I get a lot of marketing emails, most of which I don't have time to read thoroughly.  But when I got one about the outdoor possibilities of Chalk Paint™ decorative paint by Annie Sloan I had to respond.  I've read a lot about the paint, and seen some gorgeous pieces painted with it, but to be honest, the price for a quart of paint was holding me back.  I'll keep a tally of how many projects I can eke out of a quart. This year marks the 25th Anniversary for Chalk Paint™ decorative paint by Annie Sloan. They sent me two quarts of paint in colours I selected (Duck Egg and Old White), along with a sample pot of my third choice (Arles).  Also included were two small pots of Soft Wax (Clear and Dark), a gorgeous brush (which I apparently forgot to take a picture of), and the book, Quick and Easy Paint Transformations, by Annie Sloan (CICO Books).What impressed me about the book is that there are so many effects to be achieved just from the way the paint is brushed on.  The thickness of the paint can be manipulated for different uses, and even the wax can be played with.  I can tell that Annie Sloan has fun working with this paint.  The book details numerous different techniques for using this paint and wax.  I can't wait to try more.For my first project, I wanted to try something small and simple.  I had this little wooden rack/shelf/thingamajig that I found at the MCC thrift store and bought simply because it looked farmhousey. I think it was around one dollar because it was Wednesday and I drew a 75% off card at the till.  I have no idea what this thing's original purpose was.  After I bought it, I simply sanded and distressed it and called it a day.  It held my china platter in the kitchen for awhile. I have used many different kinds of paint in my almost-seven years as a blogger and DIYer:  Regular latex wall paint, acrylic craft paint, oil paint, homemade milk paint, homemade "chalk" paint, etc.  And I've used a couple of different kinds of furniture waxes: Antiquax, and homemade from olive oil and beeswax.  I've never used a soft wax before.  So I was excited to try something different.  I painted two thin coats of Old White, followed by a coat of Annie's clear wax.  The original paint job was really poorly done, so I didn't want to accentuate any of the drippy texture by using dark wax.  And as a bonus, I found a new use for it! After I removed one of those square dowel pieces that did nothing but get in the way near the bottom.  I loved how smooth the paint is going on.  And how quickly it dries.  It is quite absorbent, and I'm looking forward to finding out how it fares outside (without needing wax, they tell me).  Once dry, the Chalk Paint paint sucked up the wax as I applied it.  My favourite features of the paint are that it can be used without preparation (no sanding!), and ease of clean up (it took seconds to clean my brushes). Working with the Soft Wax is every bit as dreamy as I thought it would be.  You can apply it with a paintbrush!  No elbow grease required!  It was really easy to apply the dark wax and wipe it off (along with the clear wax first coat) to get the smooth finish and look I was going for.  I'm NEVER going back to hard wax! Part two of the project:  I bought these jars at Target.  They each had an embossed frame on the side that I wanted to paint with chalkboard paint. (Note: Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan is not the same as chalkboard paint.  Chalk Paint got its name from the matte velvety finish, and it can be applied to virtually any surface [...]

Leather Bracelets



I did not make these bracelets.  My husband did.  He commandeered my leather scraps and asked me for whatever other tool or supply he needed throughout the afternoon.  The snaps were either my grandma's or his grandma's.  I love his designs.  He's currently making one for me.



Thoughts on Clothes Shopping and Target Canada's Closing


Target recently announced that they are closing their Canadian stores. My first reaction when I heard was, "Noooooooooo!!!!!!!!"  I love Target. It's like the posh Walmart. They earned my undying loyalty with my $60 wool 7x10 rug. Plus, a big percentage of my clothing is from Target. Where am I supposed to buy my underwear now?But maybe I should take this as a sign to buy less, but better quality. Maybe instead of buying whatever looks cute, I should instead shop with a plan. Actually try things on in the store. Make sure they fit.I've been scared to commit to quality clothing, because I don't like the shape of my body. Or the way clothes fit me. Instead of having child-bearing  hips, I have flat boyish hips and a child-bearing tummy. I don't believe clothing is made to fit me, as I am, right now. This insecurity makes me hide in whatever cute, oversized sweater Target happens to have on sale that week that looks good with leggings or old navy skinny jeans.But the trouble with making a resolution to buy better quality clothing is this: I have no idea where to shop. I don't know what is available between Target prices and Anthropologie prices. And is the expensive stuff even worth the money or is the price inflated just because of the brand?I've purchased supposed brand name clothing before. The Kismet sweater has a faulty zipper. The amazingly-soft Roxy hoodie pilled horribly after one wash. The Bench jacket has no lining and some other questionable design issues. And what is with all the "hand wash" and "dry clean only", eh Marshalls?My other issue, beyond price, is style. It seems that all the stores selling styles I would like to wear make their clothes for flat-chested teenagers. Where is a busty girl supposed to get a flattering, non-matronly dress that doesn't have a waistline six inches too high (which leads to congratulations on my non-existent pregnancy)? Or a shirt that "the girls"won't fall out of every time I bend over and I can actually wear to church without yanking the neckline up every five minutes?So what do I do?  If you're 30-something and into fashion on a buget, where do you shop?  [...]

Smells like Christmas - ScentSicles Review and Giveaway


Author Chelsey Krause I am lucky to have some awesome friends.  I never thought I would have so many great friends.  I thought I was just not good at making friends.  I'd like to talk about one friend in particular today.  She's a fairly new friend, but almost from the first time we met we knew we were kindred spirits. Chelsey is fun and flamboyant, and quiet and sweet all at the same time.  She's a nurse by profession, and is raising two tiny and adorable little ones. We're very different in many ways, but it's funny how much we have in common too, right down to our homeschooled backgrounds. And Chelsey is a writer.  Her first book, Can't Always Get What You Want, comes out on January 13th, and I am so excited for her!  I read her book as a beta reader, and I can't wait to get a copy of the real thing.  The e-real thing anyway.  Her publisher, Loveswept, is a digital imprint of Random House.  My goal is to help Chelsey's book rocket to the top of the charts so fast that they have no choice but to print it on paper.  And I will be first in line to buy it then too. You may think that I am so enthusiastic about Can't Always Get What You Want simply because Chelsey is my friend.  You would be wrong.  Yes, it is fun to have a friend get published, but the main reason I rave about this book (and my book club will be reading it in February) is because of the writing.  I've read a little Chick Lit (aka romantic comedy) before.  I've read romance before, even the stereotypical bodice-ripper variety.  I've even read Sophie Kinsella, one of Chelsey's favourites in her genre.  No offence to Ms. Kinsella, but I honestly think Chelsey's book is better. The writing sparkles brighter than a vampire in sunlight.  Chelsey's hilarious wit is enhanced by the emotional depth that I honestly wasn't expecting in a Chick Lit book.  Lots of tears were shed over this book, both in laughter and empathy. Here's the blurb from Random House: Sophie Richards has been looking forward to a much-needed girls’ night out: a Rolling Stones tribute-band concert, a few drinks, a distraction from her grueling nursing shifts in acute care. But when her best friend bails, Sophie gets stuck with a blind date. Although Brett Nicholson may be the hottest carpenter alive, and Sophie may technically be single, she isn’t exactly on the market . . . And that's all I'm giving you.  Head over to read the rest, or better yet, just buy a copy, plunge right in and find out that way (It will cost you less than a latte).  I loved not knowing why Sophie wasn't on the market until the story doled it out bit by bit.  It was torture, but the kind that makes you stay up all night to finish reading the book. One of my favourite scenes in the book is the very first one. It's shocking (for a prudish old woman like me) and hilarious, and showcases perfectly Chelsey's knack for putting her characters in horrifyingly awkward situations.Oh, and the hero's twist!  Loved it.  I promise you will have fun reading this book. And, dear readers, that is why I'm giving some copies away!  I really want to share this book with you, so in addition to the three copies Chelsey's editor has offered for my readers, I will to give away three more (that's six winners, folks!) From now 'til January 13, please spread the word, tweet, share, whatever.  This book deserves to be read. a Rafflecopter giveaway Disclaimer: While I received free product in exchange for writing a review, the opinions expressed in this post are mine alone.  [...]

Good Mornings = Good Days


Yesterday, the kids' school had a PD day, so we didn't have to get up in the morning at any specific time.  I didn't have to make any lunches.  And I got up even earlier than usual.  Sleeping in does not make me feel good.  It sometimes gives me headaches.  What does make me feel good, however, is the quiet peaceful house early in the morning.  Just me, a mug of tea, and a twinkling Christmas tree. It has taken me years to get back to this point of being able to wake up before my kids.  Even after they consistently slept through the night—even twelve or thirteen hours—they would wake up the instant I set foot outside my bedroom door.  Talk about frustrating!  All I wanted was half an hour of quiet time to myself, yet every attempt I made resulted in kids waking too early, and possibly being cranky all day. Now, though, they can both read a clock.  At least well enough to determine what hour it is.  My 5-year-old sometimes gets the minutes and hours mixed up.  On weekends, when they are told to sleep, or play quietly in their rooms until 8:00, he'll sometimes come out at 6:58 or something, saying, "There's an eight on my clock!"  So I shoo him back to bed and he goes reluctantly. Since the start of the school year, I've begun to add purpose and routine to my early mornings.  The first thing I do, after (usually) making my bed and coming downstairs, is put the kettle on (just call me Polly), then make my daughter's lunch for school.  I have only missed this on one day, and then I had to scramble to throw something together last minute before we ran out the door.  I don't intend to forget again. Once my tea is steeped, and the school lunches and snacks are all packed away, and any homework or other school paper signed, I sit down with my bible and my hot tea—next to the Christmas tree these days.  A couple of months ago, I joined the Hello Mornings challenge. The purpose of the challenge is to build habits around three things: spending time with God, planning your day, and exercising.  I still haven't worked out the daily exercising habit, but the other two are going well.  When the 6-week challenge was over, I wasn't sure I would keep it up.  But my motivation now comes from a different source: an audience. You see, when I finish my tea-making and lunch-packing, my husband is still home.  He likes quiet in the mornings too, so he doesn't interrupt the peaceful start of the day I need.   Unless he needs his shirt ironed, which I actually love to do for him.  But when the challenge ended, I had a choice.  It was the first Monday after, I had my tea in hand, and since he was using the computer, my choices were to grab my iPhone or grab my bible.  Well, I couldn't have Kevin seeing me slacking off, after six weeks of devoted devotions, now could I? I'm still working on building other habits into my routine, because when I have a good, productive, peaceful early morning, I have a much better day.  I'm much less cranky.  And I have more patience for my kids, who seem to take positively forever to get dressed, eat breakfast, brush their teeth, and put on their outdoor gear. And apparently, judging by today, I'm much more motivated to put my thoughts into a blog post when I've had an early morning. [...]

Soaking it in


I have no words.  Nothing to share.  I'm empty.  At least that's how I've been feeling lately.  Not empty in a depressed and despondent way, but more in an "I need to be filled" way.  Which is a good place to be.  So I've been soaking in good things.  As if I'm dying of thirst.  I listen to back-to-back episodes of the Inspired to Action podcast as I fold laundry or cook dinner.  I just can't get enough of the advice and experiences shared by host Kat Lee and her guests.  I want to be a better mom.  I crave this.  And so I soak it in. Have you ever been there?  So desperate to learn, to grow, that you feel you need to absorb as many good things as you can?  My column for FellowScript was a struggle to write this time, because I feel that right now I need to fill myself up before I can share and write.  But I wrote about my long-proven obsessiveness—voraciousness, I called it.  And at the moment, I'm obsessed with motherhood and marriage encouragement. Podcast episodes I've been listening to: Inspired to Action Episode 60 - Automating Motherhood with Kellye Peters Inspired to Action Episode 57 - Learn to Say Your Best Yes with Lisa TerKeurst Inspired to Action Episode 40 - How to Harness the Power of Habits (This one made me tear up...simply because I feel so lost in this area, and for a second I felt like I'll never be able to form the habits and routines that will help me get the most out of each day...or because of hormones) Music I've been listening to: Jen Stanbro, and my extensive collection of CCM Christmas CDs that I won in a giveaway one year. (more about music in another post, maybe), and my daughter's christmas play.  She has speaking roles in both the church play and the school play. What I've been reading: Hello Mornings Challenge Mom in the Mirror, by Dena Cabrera and Emily Wierenga (Emily Wierenga lives in the same province as me! And from what I've read and listened to from her on podcasts, she seems to be so sweet and caring, and I kind of hope I bump into her one day.) What I've been watching (admittedly, not as edifying as it could be): The Bletchley Circle Midsomer Murders All eight Harry Potter movies.  Yep.  I'm a nerd.  I actually didn't get the eighth one watched before my husband got back from a week visiting family on the other side of the country, so it's still on my to-do list.  And don't be surprised if I start speaking with a British accent.  I'm already thinking in British slang.  No one can beat the British for slang! [...]

Review: Adore Me #bustygirlproblems


I've hesitated to write this post, because, well, writing about my underwear might be a little TMI on a blog read by many of my friends and family (including my brother and ex-coworkers).  Although I've done it before (complete with photos). I just couldn't keep this to myself.  Being on the busty side of things, yet otherwise small-ish, I've had a horrible time finding bras that fit.  I don't even bother shopping at the usual stores here, since they don't actually have my size.  Or if they do (like VS) they cost an arm and a leg.  So I took a risk and ordered one online a couple of years ago.  It fit perfectly!  But I haven't been able to find anything else comparable in price without paying a LOT extra for duty and shipping (comes with being Canadian). Then I found Adore Me.  Hello, pretty bras? That actually fit? And don't look like the horrible white boxed bra that my mom bought me when I first started needing one?  That one was probably bullet-proof. I have now ordered three from Adore Me, and I have to say, they have earned a loyal customer.  For the price and quality and colours!  I'm probably now a little bit addicted.   I loved the first one, from the second I opened the box.  And instantly felt grown up for wearing an actual "set" for the first time ever.  The second one I ordered didn't thrill me at first, but I think it was because I just wasn't used to the style.  I've since adjusted to it, although I still may move the straps in a bit.  I can't wait for number three to arrive! Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are my own, and I received no compensation whatsoever for writing this post, not even free product.  Although the Adore Me links included are referral links, so if you sign up and buy something, I will get store credit. In other news . . . [...]

Loving THIS Nest


I wrote this mid-August (with my phone, using one thumb).  I've since dealt with my mountain of junk in the laundry room (thanks to my husband's gentle prodding), and the kitchen has been reorganised and decluttered. The closet full of baby clothes is still waiting.  I'll have to stock up on podcasts and tackle it. ***** I've been in a slump lately. Maybe for the past two years. I've been mired in discontentment and envy and maybe even bitterness. I've forgotten that when I do things for my house, I love it more. I've forgotten to take the time to do things for myself. I've forgotten to take pleasure in beautifying my surroundings and instead focused on all the work that was staring me down.  That I just kept putting off because it was so overwhelming. I never felt like I was caught up on the housework. Even when the house was clean, those nagging bits of remaining chaos disturbed me. The unused junk hiding in the kitchen cupboards, the seriously scary laundry room (that's not Mount Washmore...that's the beginning of Hoarders Peak!), and the closet still crammed with baby stuff and my baby is five years old. I have just realized that maybe home decor isn't a luxury item in the budget. Maybe it is a necessity. Even birds put thought and care into their homes, as temporary as they are. They don't skimp on this year's nest, saving what they really want for the next one.  That's what I've been doing. I've been focusing on all the ways this duplex of ours is flawed, rather than on its beauty spots, or ways to improve it. Slowly, I have been starting to put care into my home again. I was trying to be frugal and so I stopped finding this homes potential. But my sell-the-excess-so-I-can-get-what-I-really-want plan has made me realize that I can make this house beautiful. It can feel finished. And I now have a few dollars of leeway. I can buy that perfect thing that is exactly what I needed instead of hemming and hawing over whether I can really justify it and I could probably make something like that and what would Kevin say? I recently bought some of those tie-on cushions for our kitchen chairs. I wasn't going to, because the were $13 each and I needed four and that's over $50... But then I remembered that I could use my stash, and my living room rug had cost less than half of what I planned for. So I bought them guiltlessly. Along with a couple of other things. My rug makes me smile every time I look at it. My kitchen chairs, which were slightly too low for the table are now just right, and the annoying paper towel roll is now securely mounted in a cupboard and off the counter. So, do you love this year's nest?  Or are you waiting for the next one? [...]

A Season of Quiet


I was going to send my resume to a new publishing house here in town. But I didn't.

I was going to join The Nester with an October 31-day series. But I didn't.

I was going to have the first draft of a novel written by now. But I don't.

Instead, I find I'm desperately in need of a season (or two) of quiet. I've always been a something-and. A mom-and-writer-and-editor, etc. and although I haven't actively consulted God about it, I feel he's nudging me to strip away any extras.

I've never allowed myself to just be the simplest version of me. I'm always adding things to my life, and not juggling them very well at all. I've already cleared my life of most extra activities and commitments, but I find I haven't yet cleared my head (and I still have a couple of commitments that I can't wait to be finished with). I still want to be that famous novelist or busy editor or viral blogger. But why? I need to take a step back from even these possibly-God-given desires and rest. So that's what I'm planning to do.

I want to be just a mom.

Just a wife.

Just a homemaker

Just a friend.

Just for awhile.

I need to figure out the basic tenets of who I am supposed to be and what I want out of life. Then maybe I will know exactly which book I need to write. Maybe I'll be able to eke out some kind of household routine and start enjoying my home and being hospitable. Maybe. But even if none of that happens, maybe I just need to be still and know. I will continue blogging as I feel led, so y'all get to come along on my journey to stillness.

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Vintage Wooden Sign Tutorial


One of my dear friends had her second baby boy last week.  Since I made a sign for his big brother, I figured baby Riley needed one too!  I absolutely love how this one turned out!  And it didn't require purchasing anything at all...not even paint.  I had everything I needed, right down to the lemon ("Lemon?" you ask. Read on!) This is how I made it. Step 1: Obtain a piece of raw wood.  In my case, it was an oval plaque that I think my mom gave me 12 years ago. Or something like that. Step 2: Paint.  I used homemade milk paint (that's where the lemon comes in).  Let the paint dry.  No need to let it cure for two years like I did. Step 3: Create your text on Pic Monkey or something similar and print it in an appropriate size.  Mine looked like this: And ended up the perfect size for my little oval. Step 4: Scribble on the back of the paper with a pencil. Lay the sheet pencil-side-down on your wood piece, then trace each letter with a pen. Step 5: Outline and fill in the letters with a black sharpie. Step 6: Rub on a coat of homemade furniture wax.  I did this before antiquing, because the milk paint is completely water soluable and would have been ruined. Step 7: After a suitable amount of time (5 minutes in my case...I was running short on time), buff off the excess wax. Step 8: Mix some brown paint with water to make a glaze, paint it on your piece, and rub off immediately.  I just used the same cloth I buffed the wax with.  To get a bit more of the stain off, and wear the letters down a bit, I dampened a corner of the cloth. Step 9: Staple a ribbon on the back or otherwise attach a hanging device. [...]