Monday, January 31, 2011

The Unravelling

Tomorrow's the first day of February, so you could be forgiven if you feel as though you're becoming a little unravelled, perhaps a little frayed around the edges. The February blues didn't get their name without good reason. For many, February is a most difficult month to get through. Some February's are tougher than others and I've certainly had my share. February's where I've wanted to pack it all in, to stay in bed and draw the covers over my head and wait until spring to venture forth.

So, I am setting out to post a simple idea each day for the whole month of February that will help in a small way to get us through this most tiresome of months. I happen to live in a place where February means winter, that season of cold and ice and snow and short days. So my suggestions are aimed to combat that dreary reality. Hopefully some of these ideas may help you too. If you've found other ways to make getting through February a little easier, then please let me know. It's February tomorrow so beware, and take care!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Strength of Words

Since we're not quite finished with January, there's still time to give the year ahead some thought. I set aside some time this weekend to think about the words that described what I would like to see in my life this coming year. I then picked out some smooth flat stones and wrote one of these words on each stone in either silver or gold. You could pick one stone a day and reflect on what that word means in your life. Recognise the ways in which it is already present, and ponder how to draw more of it to yourself. What would your words be?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tea Display

Around Christmas, I saw a set of three wooden squares, each one a little smaller than the other so that they could nest. Together they could be configured in various ways to form a sort of display unit. I liked them but couldn't figure out what I would use them for. By the time I realised that they would be a great way to display my Asian tea things, and went back for them,they weren't there anymore. So it was quite a happy moment when I noticed this little shelf at a thrift shop priced at $3.99. Although not quite the same as the little nesting squares, it was up to the job. The only trouble was its nasty shiny veneer. Two coats of black paint and it was ready for the job. A quick and easy makeover.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cold Beauty

Sometimes you come across a scene so beautiful it stops you in your tracks. It's a cold day here. Cold enough for the radio to issue warnings, to remind people to dress for the weather, and cold enough for the temperatures to make the front page of our city's newspaper. But look at what these cold temperatures can produce. This lovely scene greeted me this morning on my way to work. An example of Nature as artist.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Heartfelt Display

These twigs, twisted into a heart shape, were found at a thrift shop for $2.99. It will be transformed in some way for St. Valentine's Day, but for now it sits looking decorative just as it is, paired with the bird-laden branches from January 9th's post, and an amaryllis I potted up in November and is only now blooming. Such sweet fluffy blossoms with delicate dark pink stripes on creamy petals, tinged with light green.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Winter Blahs to Bliss

Now that the winter has established a firm toehold, I was even happier that I had registered for a yoga workshop called The Art of Blissful Being: Transforming Winter Blahs to Peace Filled Aahhs!
Two hours of deep breathing, relaxation, stretching and gentle yoga poses and there was a whole lot more bliss in the room than when we arrived this afternoon with our yoga mats rolled up under our arms. One of the suggestions that Monica, our instructor, had for us was to write down 5 things that we are grateful for, every day, for the next 40 days. She even supplied the cutest pudgy notebooks to record our gratitude in.
Here are my first 5 things:
1. a husband who cooks (delicious meals I might add)
2. a warm cozy house despite the cold temperatures outside
3. inspiration for creative projects that bring me joy
4. my digital camera that makes taking photographs so convenient
5. an endless variety of foods at the grocery store even in the winter months.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Doily Bowls

For years I've been collecting doilies: lace doilies, crocheted doilies, eyelet lace doilies, the types of doilies your grandmother made or her mother made or her grandmother made. Having accumulated quite a sizable collection I've been trying to think of ways to use them.

This is a doily bowl that is made by using fabric stiffener. If you search "doily bowl" you'll find loads of entries with instructions, so I won't add them here. The bowls are very pretty and certainly allow doilies to be put to a practical use beyond their original purpose. Best of all it gets them out of the drawer I've been storing them in for oh-so-many years.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Blue Monday

There was a lot of hype around Blue Monday. Turns out the formula used to calculate the day that is supposed to be the most depressing of the year may not be all that scientific. The whole thing may actually be more of an ingenious marketing ploy by a travel company. It may even be next Monday rather than today. But there's no arguing that this time of the year is certainly challenging and no matter which day, we can all use some ideas to get us through the winter blues.
Here are some suggestions:
1. Buy a single bloom to brighten up your living space.
2. Take a walk outside. Extra points if it is a sunny day. If it's really cold, enjoy the crunch and squeak of the snow underfoot.
3. Eat chocolate, even better if it's the dark variety.
4. Spread a little kindness, do someone a favour. It will make you feel good.
5. Write a note to someone you've been thinking about, or surprise someone with a phone call that you don't stay in close contact with.
6. Read a book or watch a movie that transports you somewhere far away.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Tea Time on a Winter Afternoon

"A wandering mind spoils the tea -- awareness and well-made tea are one and the same."
From The Tea Enthusiast's Handbook by Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2010.
Mindfulness. In that moment when you drink that "well-made" tea, if you can continue to avoid a "wandering mind", if you can be in the present, drinking your tea, not thinking about the future or remembering something from the past, then you can freely drink and enjoy your tea and experience moments of peace and happiness.
Tea time on a cold winter's afternoon. The tea cake with its lovely paper wrapping is a Pu-erh tea from Yunnan Province, China. It has lotus leaves mixed in which supposedly makes it even more effective for weight loss. Just the tea to remedy all that holiday indulgence! The porcelaine gaiwan has a cup, lid and saucer, making it a perfect vessel for steeping tea. Discovering new teas is like taking a journey and learning about different parts of the world.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Creating Fitness to Live By

With January well underway, my fitness routine is starting to shape itself as I attempt to create a regime that will not only bring the desired results, but will also be one that I can keep up and hopefully even enjoy. I have found that seting a task for yourself that is pure misery is a sure recipe for failure.

With this in mind, I have been trying a number of different classes before committing to them. It looks like I'll be taking a pilates/yoga class, a dance mix class, and a class that involves using a stability ball. I'll also do weights, stretching and cardio at home in between. And little things like taking the stairs (10 floors) at work, drinking more water and getting up from my desk more often during the day will all combine to provide improvements that will be noticeable over time. That's the plan anyway.

While waiting for the stability ball class to begin today, I snapped some shots in the fitness room because the colours and textures seemed photo worthy.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Different Perspective

I first noticed this painting in the window of the local thrift shop on one of my lunch hour jaunts. I was immediately drawn to it, feeling as though I was there underneath the snow-laden boughs, peeking out at the landscape that lay beyond. The snowy canopy reminded me of one from a particular afternoon walk along a trail when I had emerged from under a group of pine trees laden with clumps of snow, blue-shadowed in just the same way. I was so taken with the scene that I felt compelled to go into the shop (which doesn't take much prodding, truth be told, when it's a thrift shop) and fished it out of the window, to check the artist. As I suspected, it was Lawren Harris, one of Canada's Group of Seven. It is a partial view of his 1915 "Snow II".

What I didn't expect though, was the discovery that the painting had been placed upside down in the display. And right-side up, the scene was not nearly as interesting to me, just a group of snowy trees. What I took to be the trunks of the two trees at the centre are actually the tips. What I thought was snowy ground was actually the sky. Disappointed, I replaced the painting, careful to put it back in the window right-side up.

A few days later I was passing by the window and noticed that someone had shifted the whole display. The painting had been moved over a little and again was upside down. How peculiar. What is it about this painting that makes people see it so differently than they way it was painted?

Taking this as an omen, I decided to buy it (not really a major purchase at $1.99). The painting is a reminder to keep an open mind, to try and see things in different ways. Maybe we should all turn the artwork in our homes upside down now and then, just to see things from a different perspective.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Chirping a Little Cheer

I found these sweet little birdies at a Community Centre Sale in the fall and I knew that I would eventually find a use for them. They were such cheery little fellows, how could I pass them by? There were 15 in all and the entire lot cost only $2. With the return of winter and that blanket of white outside, I thought it was just the right time to inject a little colour into our days. What better way than by digging out these birds and setting them into some branches I cut from the garden. Only about 1 to 2 inches long, they are quite realistic for their small size. Aren't they sweet?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Back to Winter

We knew it couldn't last. More snow again today.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Desktop Display

Sitting at my desk today I was struck by this vignette. The happy juxtaposition of mandarin oranges, juice and glasses, positioned in front of the two cards, made for an orange-themed display, created by chance.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Is this Winter?

Does this look like winter in January in the Great White North? This was the view out our living room window today. All the snow has melted except for the odd tiny snow island in a sea of green lawn. Framed by these perky salmon-coloured geraniums, the view looks like a spring day in April. One could be forgiven for expecting the tips of tulips to be poking through the soil. Does this mean an early spring? More likely it's just a little blip and winter will be back with a venenge, but it's nice to dream...

Saturday, January 1, 2011