Easy, wreath-y, beautiful

Today I attempted to put up my new spring wreath. When I say “attempted”, I really mean that I froze my butt off (because it’s only 1 degree out today, which – at the time – felt like spring) only to have my fingers get so cold that they fumbled the knot on the hanging ribbon and the whole thing came crashing down at my feet.

At which point, I decided that it was NOT spring, and took the photos indoors.

Behold: my spring wreath!

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Note the careful use of white, in keeping with the “look” of my current landscaping:

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I call it “Bare Branches, Dirty Snow”. I’m expecting a call from National Geographic any day.

Kidding aside, I think my wreath turned out pretty well.  I can’t wait until it’s warm enough to actually hang on my door!

It was SUPER simple to create. I already had the grapevine wreath, left over from last year’s spring wreath.

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I tried out a couple of combinations before finally settling on the green and white theme. If I am completely honest, I was still smarting a bit from last year’s wreath failure (in which my combination of greenery and red silk peonies made for a somewhat Christmassy feel – to the point where the neighbour’s kid asked me why I still had a Christmas wreath up in July – point taken).  So, I was pretty determined that this year’s effort be light and airy and NOT Christmassy.

First I thought I’d go with a funky green and white ribbon, plus the “B” (which – conveniently – is the initial for both our last names). But I really wasn’t feeling it.

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Then I considered going with a pink ribbon and flower, which was pretty, but a little too girly. wreath2

But then out of the corner of my eye I spied the super-sweet little paper flower I snagged at a wedding recently (such a cool wedding!) and thought that would look really lovely. ALL the floral details at this wedding were made out of PAPER. And most of it came from recycled copies of Jane Austen novels. How awesome is that?!

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Then I remembered that I had some little white paper flowers left over from my travels in Mexico. Hooray for the zero-cost craft project!

So out came the glue gun and I got to work creating the wreath. You guys are intelligent human beings, so I won’t bore you with the gory details. Basically, glue on the greenery, position and glue on the “B” (or whatever your focal decoration is), and then go to town with the flowers. As we say, it is “simple comme ‘bonjour'”!

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Here’s hoping it will warm up enough for me to actually take pictures of it in situ. Have a great week, all!

Garden Plans 2015

(*Sung to the tune of “Let it Snow”*)

Oh the weather outside is frightful,

Spring is clearly in denial,

Since there’s no end in sight

My garden, I’ll plan out of spite.

So it’s -24 here. That’s only 2 degrees “warmer” than in Iqaluit. Just to give you an idea of why that’s crazy:

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Yeah…

So what does a desperate Canadian do when confronted with arctic temperatures when the rest of the world is enjoying spring? She plans her garden, of course!

Now, please don’t laugh at my horrendous drawing skills. I really tried.

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A lot of this plan is purely hypothetical. I planted the forsythia (down in the bottom-right corner), the lilac (right side), and the allium bulbs (right side) this fall, and with the winter we’ve had, I have no idea if they’ve survived. I’m also pretty sure that I’m missing A LOT out of this diagram, but it does at least give me something to go on.

I’ve bought some seeds and I’ve ordered some bulbs through my school, so I’m looking forward to adding some new flowers to this space. In particular, I’m excited to plant some oriental poppies, multi-coloured lupins (which always remind me of family vacations to Prince Edward Island), brightly-coloured zinnias, and “Harlequin mix” columbine.

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Photos courtesy of Burpee.com

I’d also like to see if I can grow some sweet peas up the side of the deck. We had those in my childhood garden, and I loved their little frilly petals. Bachelor’s Buttons, Anemones, and Ranunculus (a personal favourite for bouquets) are also on the menu.

I’ve taken out quite a lot from the back yard, and I’ll be removing some more lilies before I’m done. Now, before everyone jumps down my throat over that, hear me out: the garden is just too weedy-looking. I need to edit it somehow, and lilies have never been my favourite. So, if you live in the area and want free, mature lilies, just let me know.

In the front yard, I have a nice starting point. The previous owner obviously put a lot of thought and effort into her gardens. The rose bush is mature, but didn’t bloom that much last year. I’ll be researching how to improve it, because I really have very little experience with roses. If you have an tips, I’d love to hear ‘em!

Front yard - 2015

I have to leave room for my dahlias again this year, because they need tonnes of sun. This garden also contains a bunch of spawn of the devil some kind of creeping flower similar to phlox (but not phlox). I’m gonna rip that sucker out because all it does is overcome everything around it. And I really don’t like bullies! :-)

I also planted two peonies in here this fall. Again, we had such a hard winter that I’m not 100% sure they’ll come up. It’s always been my dream to have a garden full of peonies, so I’m really hoping they survived!

Now, if only Spring would get a move on… Fingers crossed for some good weather this week, otherwise my next garden update won’t happen until July!

Encore… India!

I managed to get iMovie to behave, so I FINALLY get to show off the incredible singing of my three choirs at Angels’ Place in Churachandpur, India! Yesss!

Before we go any further, I should tell you that everything you witness in this video happened in about three days of rehearsal. Seriously, these kids are ON FIRE. How many groups of 16-year-olds do you know who request a two-hour rehearsal at 7:00 in the morning?! Right?? Right.

These children can do anything. Four part harmony? No problem. Add a choreography? No sweat. Do it all in their third language? Piece of cake! Sing convincingly about ice and snow… A little more of a challenge but certainly nothing they aren’t capable of!

During the concert, they not only sang, but also performed several cultural and pop dances. Their talent knows no bounds. These young ladies worked and worked on this dance, which shows the agricultural history of Manipur. It turned out really well!

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These young men did a fabulous performance, combining modern and break dance. They were awesome!

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In the video, you’ll hear all three choirs. We start with the Senior Choir (made up of roughly 120 teenagers), who perform “Good Cheer” and a medley of two African songs, “Siyahamba” and “Tshosholoza”. Then, the Junior Choir (for kids form 6-12 years old) take the stage and perform “One Small Voice” (have your hankies ready) and “Mairi’s Wedding”. Finally, you’ll hear the Chamber Choir (20 of the real keeners), who perform “Promised Land” and “Northwest Passge” (Go Stan Rogers!).

Of course, a home such as Angel’s Place doesn’t just happen. It takes time, energy, and plenty of money to feed, educate, clothe, and care for the children, let alone provide them with all the “extras” like music classes, sporting equipment, and art supplies. If you feel so inclined, please make a donation to the James Connection, so that the important work going on at Angels’ Place can continue.

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I’ll be back soon with some regularly-scheduled DIY programming. In the meantime, I’m taking a few days to enjoy the almost-yet-not-quite-spring weather we’re having here in the Great White North. :-)

India 2.0

I’m baaaaack!

From India, that is. And I had the Most Amazing Trip. For the second time, I had the opportunity to travel to Churachandpur (which is in the north-eastern state of Manipur) with the James Connection. The James Connection is a charitable Christian organization that founded Angels’ Place, an orphanage that supports 160 of the neediest children in the Churachandpur area. At Angels’ Place, the children are housed, fed, clothed, and educated. This trip was a special moment for everyone, as it was in celebration of the orphanage’s 10th Anniversary and we were dedicating a new building, Lydia’s House.

Despite the hardship and tragedy these children have endured in their early lives, they are some of the kindest and hardest-working young people I have had the pleasure of meeting. They are motivated and intelligent, and have much to teach us about perseverance and resilience. They are spiritually connected, and share a sense of community that is wonderfully rare.

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Last year I was brought in by the James Connection to teach music to the children. I had had no prior contact with the organization, and I didn’t even know the people I would be spending 10 days with! Looking back, it was a pretty risky endeavour, but something was telling me that this was important. Maybe it sounds cliché or trite, but I felt I had been called to it.

I’ve never been a particularly religious person. I believe in God, and I have always had a strong sense of faith, but organized religion has never had a very strong pull on me. These children showed me the true meaning of Christianity (and what I believe should be the most basic human value – regardless of religious affiliation): service. We are called to serve, and to share our gifts with others. Keeping them only for ourselves and for our own personal gain is, to me, as selfish as a millionaire who hoards his money all for himself. If I can instil only ONE  core value in my future children, it will be the value of service.

These children are such beautiful and talented young people, who are eager to please and quick to learn. In just a few short days of rehearsal, they took songs they had never heard before and made them theirs. Despite having no notion of what Canada’s north is like, they owned Stan Rogers’ “Northwest Passage”! And just when I thought they were all rehearsed-out, they would call out “Again! Let’s sing it again!” These children have a thirst for knowledge that is inspiring.

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Going back to school today was tough. We have no idea how good we have it here. Government-funded school is luxury. Health care is luxury. Basic sanitation is luxury. We would all do well to remember that much of the world lives without these luxuries; yet, it seems all we can do is complain about the low test scores, long wait times, and weak pressure of our potable water.

And now I’m complaining! :-)

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If we can only keep fighting the good fight for these kids, there is no end to what they will accomplish. With only a tiny fraction of the resources available to our North American kids, they are educating themselves, pushing themselves, and bettering themselves. We have a lot to learn from their example.

This brings me to my request: if you feel so moved, I encourage each of you to make a donation to the James Connection. No amount is too small, and every penny goes straight towards helping out these marvellous children, and providing them with opportunities. I mean come on: how can you say no to this face??

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That’s Mawi Mawi (pronounced “moi moi” – and it means “pretty pretty”). If I could have brought her home in my luggage, I would have. In fact, I would have brought all 160 of them if I could! What a choir I’d have… :-)

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P.S. Right now I’m struggling with iMovie and trying to edit down all the video we took of the kids singing. I’ll try to have more for you on Saturday. Until then, goodbye or “mangpha”! 

On the fence about the bench

I mentioned in last weekend’s big music room reveal that I’m still working on this little piano bench that I picked up several years ago at a garage sale. It started life looking like this (after being hastily reupholstered):

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Here it is, primed…

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Painted…

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And now I’m ready to upholster that bad boy! So now I need YOUR input. Here’s your chance to help me make my decorating decisions! I figure this way, I won’t wander the aisles of Fabricville aimlessly for the rest of my life.

Who am I kidding? Fabricville and I are locked in a tragic cycle of dependency.

I have two options for upholstery: A) dark grey fabric (possible trims include yellow or grey) or B) yellow and white print (grey or white trim)

I realize that the yellow in the carpet is a mustard yellow, but the yellow elsewhere in the music room is a brighter yellow. Remember this?

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So what do you think? Will it be A or B? Please take a moment to make my decorating decisions for me vote in the poll!

I’m off to India today, so I’m not promising any regular posts for the next week or so, but I’ll be sure to have plenty of updates when I get back. I’ll be working with the kids at Angel’s Place again, and I am so pumped to make music with them this week!

See you on the other side!

Feeling sunny

Here comes the sun, do do do do… Here comes the sun and I say… It’s time for a music room reveal!

As I said in this post a couple of weeks ago, this makeover has been a long time coming. We moved into this house in November 2013, and basically plunked things down in here and left it at that. The time for a more permanent (and aesthetic!) set-up had definitely come.

Since this is a music room: drumroll, please…………………………

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Ta-da!

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Since the music room is in the basement, I went for a nice bright white on the walls (Ben Moore’s Simply White) and lots of sunny yellow accents. I’m so excited to get working in this room, now… Which was the whole point of this exercise!

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One of my favourite details are the ombré labels on my file folders. I used paint chips, collected from various hardware stores (because, you know, they kinda frown on you making off with their entire stock of yellow chips), which I cut to fit the front of my file folders. I’m so happy with how they turned out!

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Another of my favourite little details are these two framed travel prints of Spain and Mexico City. Can you keep a secret? They’re both greeting cards! One is from my family in Mexico and the other I bought at Omer deSerres yesterday for $4.50. Oh, and the frames came from the dollar store. Budget-friendly decor for the WIN!

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All of the yellow boxes came from Ikea, from their Tjena series. They’re really reasonably priced, so I got three large boxes, two small ones, a large box with insertable dividers, and two file folders for $24.

I decided to forgo new furniture and just use what I had. The two small white bookshelves are hand-me-downs from my parents. They’ve definitely seen better days, but they’ll do the trick for now (the bookcases, not my parents).

The black bookshelves are care of a colleague of my mom’s. Again, they’re holding up my music and not falling down, so that’s good enough for now. :-)

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The little potted yellow plant came from Home Depot and cost a whopping $1.90. I mean, come on: I had to buy something to justify taking off with all their yellow paint chips!

All of my “styling” stuff are things I already owned. It’s amazing what you can come up with when you shop you own home. Plus, knick-knacks don’t come cheap these days. I must have wandered seven different decor stores looking for tchotchkes, only to realize that I had a pretty good (and free!) selection waiting for me at home. Plus, HomeSense doesn’t really approve of drinking wine and shopping in your PJs…

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The “Parapluie – Revel” print dates back to my university days, and graced the front hall of our apartment for a few years. I’d kind of forgotten about it, until I went looking for decor for this room and discovered it in a box that we hadn’t even unpacked! Free decor is the best kind of decor.

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The rug came from my parents (thanks, mom and dad!) and of course I already owned the drums, piano, and general music paraphernalia. In fact, the only things I bought for this project (so far) were the paint, blind, yellow boxes, greeting card, and plant.

Now for the ol’ budget breakdown:

Paint & Supplies   $80.00 (We have a lot left over for another project)

Boxes                   $24.00

Plant                     $1.90

Blind                     $57.00

Spain Card           $4.50

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Total                     $167.40

Not bad at all! I still plan to purchase a new light fixture (the current one is actually broken, so that has to happen sooner rather than later). I also need to recover the piano bench (more about that ongoing saga on Wednesday), and either buy an office chair, or make a seat cushion for the one I’m using now. It’s one of the chairs I made over last spring for our deck. It’s slightly off-white so I’d like to either get a white office chair, or maybe paint up another chair to match the piano bench.

All in all, I anticipate that this project is going to cost around $250. I guess we’ll see how close I come in! For now, I think I’ll kick back and enjoy a glass of wine write 300 report cards. At least I can write them in my pretty pretty new music room. Sigh…

P.S. Thanks, everyone for the blogiversary wishes! If you missed that post, you can check it out here.