DIY Gallery Wall and Jewelry Display

While I am not much of a DIYer, I am all about creating a living space that reflects my family and the people and things that we love. Have you heard of man-caves? Well, in this house of 5, I am the sole female. The lone wolf. A man-cave we don’t need but a mom-cave? Yes. That I do need!

My office is a small room in our basement that houses my favourite treasures, mostly books among a few knick-knacks and a beloved chandelier. I have slowly added to the room over the years, taking advice from Nate Berkus to only add things that I love and “tell my story”.

This one wall remained a blank space for years, but I finally decided to take wedding photos of my parents, in-laws, grandparents and grandparent in-laws (is that a term?) and create a gallery wall. The first step was deciding on frames that would fit nicely on the wall in a cluster of six. I am what some may call a traditionalist, and others may call boring, so black frames won out.

I then visited Blacks with the original photos, a few more than 60 years old, and spent some time with one of their photo technicians. They helped me to digitally restore and resize the photos. Their expertise proved invaluable and regardless of how tech savvy you may be, ask them for input. No need to DIY it all.

I would like to preface this by saying that a gallery wall is a lot harder to hang than it looks. First off, it involves math. A lot of it. And measuring. A lot of it. I can hold my own when it comes to math, but I wanted to limit the number of holes made in the wall. Needless to say the adage “measure twice, cut once” was running through my mind while I wielded my hammer.

My thorough research suggested that I tape off the gallery before actually hammering in the nails, and this worked out well for me. I was able to rearrange the photos and modify the spacing to my liking without puncturing the wall. Overall, I am happy with my handiwork (one is slightly off, but I can obsessed about that another day) but more so, this DIY project fills my space with people I love, and tells quite the story.

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Next up on my DIY project list was to arranging my collection of costume jewelry.

My pretty necklaces and chunky bracelets were stored away in boxes and drawers, not allowing for admiration or ready-to-wear. My favourite style blogger and interior designer, Erin Gates, provided inspiration with this picture from her recent best seller.

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This is a photo from Erin’s Pinterest board, showcasing elements of her master bedroom.

Here’s my take. Thank you, Erin for showing us that it’s okay to have fun with our girly accessories!

 

I sourced a collection of inexpensive display vessels from Home Sense.  The trays were less than $30, the cake stand was $6.99, the butter dish $6.99 and the small vase $3.99.  The mug was from my kitchen.

I sourced a collection of inexpensive display vessels from Home Sense. The trays were less than $30, the cake stand was $6.99, the butter dish $6.99 and the small vase $3.99. The mug was from my kitchen.

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I have two of these guys flanking the display.  My husband thinks it's weird but the boys like looking at them.  My youngest calls them "the treasure men".  I like that.

I have two of these guys flanking the display. My youngest calls them “the treasure men”.  I like that.

What My Graveyard of DIY Projects Taught Me About Parenting

Behold the graveyard of DIY projects.

There is a box of papers, colorful scissors with various edges, a hodgepodge of stickers, stamps and decals residing on a shelf in my office closet.  Last year I discarded a two-inch stack of recipes torn from magazines promising mouth-watering delicacies.  A clear, plastic, zippered pouch that contains two spools of soft, chocolatey brown yarn and a partially completed scarf resting on needles has followed us to two homes and remains under my bed.

I had never given much thought to the DIY culture until I became a mom and then I couldn’t escape it.  Personalized Valentine’s Day cards, hand-stitched Halloween costumes, laboured over meals, ornately designed snack foods, and play dates requiring more scheduling and production than a low-budget highschool musical seemed to be the norm. I mean, WTF ever happened to just knocking on someone’s door and playing with a Skip-it in the yard while eating FunDip?  And then just when I thought I had it somewhat figured out, Pinterest came along and upped the game.

I spent years on that hamster wheel trying to do it all and do it “right”, but the years have brought me three busy boys, and an acceptance that “good enough” is really good enough.  I learned to identify, appreciate and accept my limitations.

This year I did make my son’s skeleton costume for Halloween but it was the process more than the end product that proved to be “pin-worthy”.  My son and I worked together to turn my son’s vision into reality.  He learned the importance of communication and teamwork.  I learned there are no perfect skeletons but there are happy kids.

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Being honest with myself is difficult.  I used to feel that doing everything for myself was somehow a reflection of my worth as a mother.  If the Valentine’s Day cards were perfect, than somehow this meant that I was a good mother, a kind mother, a patient mother, the mother that we are all supposed to be.  Never mind that it was a grueling process with me snatching the scissors from my boy’s hand while muttering with exasperation, “I’ll do it”.  Never mind that while eating a store-bought birthday cake at little Jimmy’s party or surveying the parade of made in China Buzz Light Year costumes knocking on my door, it never once crossed my mind that these mothers were “bad” mothers, lazy mothers or not the mothers that we are all supposed to be.

I thought that people were judging but it was really me who was doing the judging.

There is a part of me that does long for DIY projects.  I am nostalgic for the lost arts that generations before were commonplace.  I am amazed when my husband fixes things around the house without consulting You Tube.  It’s his confidence that I admire as much as the skill.  Now when I find myself lost in a chosen project, it’s the sense of calm and the absence of expectations that I find as rewarding as the final project.

My experience with parenting and DIY projects is very similar.  At first I was lured by the glossy images promising picture perfection but it’s the fails: the shattered glass, the burnt dough, the botched hemline – that’s when the real learning occurs.  It’s often the most basic projects, the ones that are the least glamorous or fun, that most need mastering and bring about the greatest sense of accomplishment.

Easy DIY Hand-Painted Glasses

 

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I am not much of a DIYer.  Instead I prefer to think of myself as a COOPTer.  Celebrator Of Other People’s Talents.  I am under no delusions that I can do everything well enough to meet my exceedingly high expectations, so I graciously turn to experts and pay them for their talents.  I only try what I know I can execute but retile my bathroom floor? Sew Halloween costumes? Hook my own rug?  No.  Not for me.

Since the theme of this week is DIY activities with kids, I have quite craftily I think, repurposed a previous post.  Here’s one attempt at a DIY that turned out nicely.  And fetched $140 for the boys’ school at silent auction.

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My boys’ school hosts a silent auction every two years to raise funds for the school’s various programs.  This year they asked that each class contribute a collaborative piece of art to be auctioned off.

I like this idea because it involves the children in working towards a common goal, which ultimately benefits them.

I volunteered to head up the project in my eldest’s grade 2 class.  I scoured Pinterest for age appropriate ideas and finally decided on these hand-painted tumblers and I followed the instructions outlined by Savvy Sugar.

It was a good choice.  The project was easy to manage, required few supplies and was completely child-driven.  I didn’t want the project to require adult participation.  I wanted the students to feel a sense of accomplishment working together, creating something beautiful, and contributing to the school’s silent auction without the micro-managing help from an adult.

Gathering the materials was easy:

The hardware store for quality, sturdy glass tumblers ($10.00 for a package of 4)

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The craft store for enamel acrylic paint in the primary colours plus white ($20.00 for four bottles of paint)

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A Styrofoam plate for mixing colours (recycled from my veggie drawer)

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Two cookie sheets lined with parchment paper

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Cotton swabs (1 package from the dollar store)

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Before we got started, I reviewed with the students all of the instructions, outlining why it’s a good idea to read through the step-by-steps before starting any project.

Since we would be mixing the colours to create unique blends, I had the students refresh my memory of what colours are created by mixing the primary colours.

After breaking into groups of two (and two groups of three), the students discussed with their partner what colours they planned to dot their tumbler.  It’s recommended not to use more than 4 colours, or else the colours start to muddle together and lose their vibrancy.

Step 1:

Mix your colours.  It’s a nice idea to decide on a palate but not necessary.  What I enjoyed was listening to the partners decide what colours they wanted to paint the tumblers and the reason for it.  The best answer I overheard was, “let’s make it look like a sunrise!”

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Step 2:

Lightly dab a cotton swab into the paint and then dab the glass tumbler.  One dab goes a long way – about 5-7 dots.  It’s important that the dots are not too goopy or else the texture of the glass feels funny, not to mention caring for the glass is more challenging when the surface is raised.

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Step 3:

Continue dabbing until satisfied, about halfway to 2/3 way up the glass.  There’s a fraction lesson here!

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Step 4:

Allow the glasses to dry upside down on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  After about 1 hour the glasses are ready for the oven.

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Step 5:

Yes, I said oven.  I know, I was worried too!  Place the glasses into a cold oven.  Turn the oven on to 350 degrees.  After 30 minutes turn off the heat and allow the glasses to stay in the heated oven for 1 hour.

Step 6:

Once the hour is up, your glasses are ready for use.  Be careful when washing – use warm water and soap, hand-wash and air dry.

The finished product turned out pretty fantastic!  Bookmark this idea if you’re looking for an easy to do homemade gift.  I think grandparents would love these!

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* Take it a step further: try hand-dotting a glass platter or glass plates.  The possibilities are endless!

 

 

 

What We’re Reading Kids

Here are our recommendations for some great reads over the March Break and beyond.

From Beth-Anne

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Don’t Let the Pigeon Finish This Activity Book by Mo Willems

My middle son received this book as a Christmas gift, and hasn’t put it down since. Every night I hear him giggling in his room reading the latest funnies that this Pigeon is up to, and in the morning he emerges from his bunk-bed fort with a newly completed activity. If you have a Mo Willems fan on your hands, this is a sure-fire best bet. I can’t help but think if you’re about to jet off somewhere this book would make for a welcome addition to the carry-on.

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This is the Greatest Place: The Forbidden City and the World of Small Animals by Brian Tse, Illustrated by Alice Mak, Translated by Ben Wang

This beautifully illustrated book teaches children about ancient Chinese culture and customs. Through a series of adventures, the children learn about how delicate the balance is between humanity, animals and nature. If a trip to China is not anywhere in your near future, this book is the next best thing.

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I Love You Near and Far by Marjorie Blain Parker, Illustrated by Jed Henry

Sometimes, the people we love the most are not an arm’s length away. I often think of friends whose families are separated by an ocean
and I wonder if I would ever have the fortitude to parent my boys while my husband is on a months long military mission, like my good friend. That’s what makes I Love You Near and Far such a special book, it reminds us that cousins, uncles, aunts, friends, grandparents and even moms and dads can love each other regardless of where they call home.

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The Possible Police by Wylde Scott, Illustrations by Hannah K. Shuping

Along the lines of The Little Engine That Could, The Possible Police encourages children to be true to themselves and follow their dreams regardless of the naysayers. The rhyme is catchy and the text flowery but it’s the whimsical illustrations that are simply captivating.

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Recipe for Adventure: Paris! by Giada De Laurentiis

My oldest one is a bit of a reluctant reader when it comes to fiction. Give him a sports magazine or a baseball stats book and he’s set, but ask him to choose a novel to read, and that’s when the excuses start. He had some success with the Canadian Flyer series (a Canadian spin on the popular Magic Treehouse series), Jake Maddox and his sports tales are a favourite and now we can officially add celebrity chef turned children’s author Giada De Laurentiis’s Recipe for Adventure series to the “approved” list. With the first adventure to Naples behind him, he’s moved on to Paris. The stories are engaging and light-hearted without any of the silliness that I loathe to find in books marketed to emerging readers. Emilia and Alfie are in the City of Lights and have discovered pain au chocolat, crepes and escargot. My son is adventurous when it comes to food and I’ve made him a deal to follow up each book with a cooking session (recipes are included) and a date night at an aptly themed restaurant.

From Nathalie

Charlie’s Dirt Day

written by Andrew Larsen

illustrated by Jacqueline Hudon-Verrelli

See You Next Year

written by Andrew Larsen

illustrated by Todd Stewart

Two new picture books from Andrew Larsen should top your March Break reading list: Charlies’s Dirt Day is a perfect springtime read, and if you spend any part of this break planning the summer break, the wonderful See You Next Year will remind you of all that there is to look forward to with a summer escape.

Charlie’s Dirt Day begins with an informal parade, a parade to a massive pile of dirt that the mayor is giving away.  (Do you have a city councillor or local official who does this?  I love our annual neighbourhood dirt days!  Everyone rolls up to fill a bucket or a barrow to nourish their young gardens with free compost from the city.)  Charlie is given his very own seed to grow, and he and his neighbour turn the tomatoes that he grows into a delicious spaghetti sauce.  This is a wonderful read-aloud, as the rhythm of the story carries you along trippety trip tripping with Charlie to the park and then back home to await the magic borne of sun and water and care.  The book ends with a two-page spread of science about dirt and compost, city gardens grown on balconies and community gardens that let city-dwellers grow their own food.  Pair this book with an outing to Canada Blooms, and your littlest gardeners will be raring to go.

See You Next Year is all about the joy of summer holidays and their predictable routines and rituals.  It’s got a lovely lyrical quality to it, and there’s a comforting and wistful tone to the narrator’s recounting of her annual summer holidays at the beach.  Each year, she returns to the same motel by the beach, and she delights in recounting all of the sights and sounds of the summer season.  The illustrations are stunning, and Todd Stewart’s particular gift is with light: the light of a bonfire, of the bandstand, of the setting city sun.  If you are aching for the summer season, this is a great book to bring it just that wee bit closer.

For middle grade readers, Middlest is on his second reading of the Gregor the Overlander series by Suzanne Collins, who later wrote The Hunger Games.  There are five books in the series that features a boy from New York who discovers an entire civilization deep underground.  The Underlanders, in turn, discover that he is the key to many of the prophesies their founder made, and Gregor finds himself in peril and adventure at every turn.  The action is very fast-paced, and each chapter ends with a cliffhanger, which makes it very hard to put down the book and has kept my boy up way, way past bedtime on many a night.  These books are not for the faint of heart, as there is a fair amount of gore and a lot of suspense.  But if your middle grade reader is looking for a truly addictive read, we recommend these highly.

 

Experience a Demi Pair by ACCESS

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By being a demi pair I got to find out what it is like to be a part of a Canadian family. I really feel like I was a big brother to my host children. I helped them with their homework, and taught my host brother how to play football. – Max, demi pair from Germany

 

Sometimes you can’t do it yourself, and a helping hand is what you need to get through the parenting day. We’ve discovered one solution: the demi pair.

I met Wendy Gillanders, Co-Founder and Director of Programs for ACCESS International English Language Centre and immediately sensed her passion for culture and language. ACCESS is a boutique English language school dedicated to providing students with opportunities to learn English and soak up Canadian culture while supported by an attentive, caring staff. Wendy, a former English teacher, developed the demi pair programme to offer a unique experience to bring families living the in the Greater Toronto Area together with young adults looking to enhance their language education.

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My host family was the best! It is two years later and I am still in touch with my “Canadian” family. They are going to visit me in Spain in March. – Claudia, demi pair from Spain

Students from Germany, Spain, France, Mexico and Chile arrive in Toronto to study at English at ACCESS throughout the year. A demi pair is a part-time au pair, who goes to school in the morning and is available to help out with childcare, light housework and meal preparation in the afternoons and evenings in exchange for free room and board.

These young adults are keen to learn the language and experience the culture first-hand.  In addition to developing a relationship with their host-family, the students form friendships with each other.  This social network is an important part of the demi pair programme and only further enhances the experience for the student.

What Does a Demi Pair Do?

–       Pick up children from school, activities or camp.

–       Take children to activities.

–       Engage your children in a variety of activities such as soccer in the park, bike rides, outdoor adventure.

–       Provide an extra set of hands for bedtime routine and homework help.

–       Offer babysitting for much-needed adult date nights.

How Could a Demi Pair Enrich My Family?

–       Families are introduced to a new culture and learn about how life may be somewhere else in the world.

–       Children have the opportunity to learn and practice a foreign language.  This is especially ideal for children in extended French or immersion programs.

–       Demi Pairs often help relieve stress when it comes to pick-ups and drop-offs, making for a happier home environment.

–       Many families who have participated report they developed life-long friendships and continue to be in contact with their demi pair years later.

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I LOVE my host family! We are friends for life! I have already returned once to visit them and they are planning to come to Chile next year! – Pilar, demi pair from Chile, Maria (not pictured) and Erin

Inviting someone into your home to care for your children can be nerve-wracking.  ACCESS does all it can to ensure the experience is positive for both the host families and demi pairs by acting as a liaison offering regular support.  Demi pairs are all 18 years of age or older, have experience working with children, are mature and looking to gain valuable experience about Canadian culture and the English language while living in your home.  Placements range from 8 -24 weeks and can begin at any time.

To learn more about the demi pair programme visit www.aupair-canada.com or ACCESS visit their website, www.accessenglish.com.

Disclaimer: This post has been sponsored by ACCESS.

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Erik, demi pair, with his host “brothers” having fun playing hockey.

 

Joust About An Unbelievable Good Time!

imgres-2Why is being a tourist in your own city something that never tops the “list of things to do”?  Just last week I read Amy from Joey and the Owl is moving from New York City to the suburbs, and in her farewell post to NYC she commented how few tourist attractions in the city she’d actually been to.  It made me pause to reflect on the many incredible sites and attractions that Toronto has to offer, practically on my doorstep.  I do make an effort to visit the museums and art galleries, and I have a theatre subscription to both Mirvish Productions and The Young People Theatre, but there are so many places I’ve left undiscovered.

Like, Medieval Times.

Last week Carol and I, along with our families, ten of us in total, trekked through the congested streets of downtown Toronto in frigid arctic temperatures to arrive at the Exhibition Place, home to Medieval Times.

Top 5 Reasons You Should Visit Medieval Times

  1. Betcha Didn’t Know That!

While Medieval Times is simply a fun way to spend time together as a family, it’s also educational, and arguably much more enjoyable than just reading about the Dark Ages.  Servers are aptly referred to as serfs or wenches.  There are no french fries or burgers, only fare that would be typical of a gluttonous medieval feast.  The castle is dark and the lighting used is minimal to replicate the primitive castles of the era, but as Carol’s young son pointed out me, luckily this castle has heat.

  1. Is It Real?

Where you sit at Medieval Times matters, unlike a traditional theatre.  Each seating area represents a knight, and it’s your duty as the king’s guests to cheer on your knight to victory as he risks life and limb in this tournament of heraldry.

Luckily for us, we were seated in the front row and had a clear view of all the action.  Seating is based on first come, first serve unless you’ve chosen to enhance your experience and for a fee.  Carol and I spent some time surveying the various levels and with all seating areas, the view is clear and the knights do make a considerable effort to engage the crowd regardless of position.

Our six boys were sitting at the edge of the seats for the entire spectacle.  Wearing their crowns, and waving their black and white flag they cheered for our knight, who impressively captured their attention, Carol’s heart (until her son stole her intended flower), and several rounds of the tournament.  imgres

It was during the car ride home that my boys peppered us with questions, namely, “was it real?”.  I love that they are young enough to be swept away by the magic of theatre and make believe.  I think it added to the overall awe of performance and how much we enjoyed it.  I explained to the boys it’s just like a play with actors who practice, and many behind the stage hands that make the experience come to life.  An interactive show like this is a good introduction to live theatre if you have a child who isn’t likely to sit through a lengthy play with minimal action.

  1. A Feast Not Only For The Eyes!

I imagine that one doesn’t go to Medieval Times solely for the food, but it’s worth noting that while the fare isn’t going to top any “best of” lists, it’s tasty enough and was a hit with the kids.  Garlic bread and a tomato bisque were followed by a half roasted chicken with spare ribs and a potato wedge – all served warm and eaten without utensils.  My boys rejoiced!  I have to point out that while the food may not be winning any awards the service does.  Guests’ dietary restrictions are readily accommodated, like our nut allergies.  The vegetarian dish, 3-bean stew with fire roasted tomato and brown rice, was served to 2 of our party and while they ate with spoons, they seemed to enjoy it just the same.  Be sure to ask for a take-out container to take home your left overs!

Halal meals are available upon request.

  1.  It’s Joust About Unbelievable!

The jousting tournament was actually quite riveting and within minutes, Carol and I found ourselves cheering alongside our boys.  The jousting lances splinter when they’re clashed and the swords spark with each cross, eliciting lots of excited squeals.  On select days in April your child can experience Knight Training where they can learn first-hand how treacherous life as knight can be and how dangerous the weapons truly are.  All Knights-in-Training will be knighted by King Carltos in a special ceremony.  Reserve your space here.

  1.  Because It’s Fun!

Let’s put aside all the lessons in history and theatre for a moment, and dwell on perhaps the most surprising for me.  Medieval Times is fun!  It’s really fun!  How liberating it was to not only allow but encourage my rowdy group of boys to scream, cheer and boo!

And because I am a mom, and this is something that all moms want to know, I will share that the restrooms were plenty and clean.  And because I am a mom, and this is something that all moms want to know, there are several gifts and treasures to be purchased before, during and after the show – plan accordingly.

Be sure to visit the Medieval Times website for discount codes, birthday specials, and a complete overview of the show with information about medieval life and times.

Little Lords and Ladies Medieval Reading List 

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Medieval Jousts and Tournaments by John Green

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Medieval Castle Sticker Picture by A.G. Smith

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Knights and Castles by Rachel Firth

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Sticker Dressing Knights by Helen Davis

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You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Medieval Knight by Fiona Macdonald

Disclaimer:  Thank you to Medieval Times for hosting all 10 of us!  We had a wonderful time and will be back!  Readers, please note that while we received our tickets complimentary, the views expressed in this blog post are our own.

What We’re Reading: February 2015

 

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From Beth-Anne

Elfrieda and Yolandi, two misfit sisters from an ultra-conservative Mennonite town outside of Winnipeg are at the centre of this critically acclaimed novel by Canadian writer, Miriam Toews.   At 17 years old, Elfrieda travels to Europe to pursue her dream of becoming a concert pianist. A protective, Italian agent that opens a world of opportunity, fame and culture embraces her. She spends decades travelling the world, playing the piano with such affection and magnetism that she ensnares the hearts of men and women alike. Her author-sister Yoli, transplanted to Toronto via two husbands and two children, flies home to Winnipeg to be at her sister’s side after Elf’s latest suicide attempt. Toews explores the complexities of suicide, depression, and relationships and the gamut of emotions that entangle when Elf begs Yoli to help her die. The writing feels anything by contrived, and the widely fluctuating feelings that Yoli expresses cut deep. Toews has been honest that writing this book proved to be cathartic in helping her to heal following the suicides of her father and sister.

I was ready for some levity following the intensity of All My Puny Sorrows and it came in the form of Professor Don Tillman. Don utilizes his keen scientific prowess to develop a survey to effectively weed-out unsuitable potential wives through a series of charming dating scenarios. Did I mention that he has Asperger’s? Eventually, Don does find his ideal wife in Rosie and together they move to New York (book 2) but all goes predictably haywire when Rosie finds herself unexpectedly pregnant. The plot is expected and the characters fairly flat but sometimes a laugh and an escape is all you’re after. If that’s the case, these books do the trick nicely.

I enjoy reading autobiographies and often find myself gleaning inspiration from those who’ve achieved their hard-won accomplishments. After a string of politicians, I have returned to the entertainment industry with Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow. Sophia Loren is incredibly humble recounting her glamorous life. She begins by describing the atrocities she witnessed as a child growing-up in war-torn Italy and moves on to describe her ascent to fame and fortune as a leading lady of Italian cinema and eventually Hollywood. Throughout her recollections she is quick to acknowledge the team of talented individuals supporting her successful career and handful of loyal, passionate friends and family members who helped her to climb the ranks of the Hollywood elite. Despite opportunities to salaciously gossip about golden age celebrities, Loren chooses to be gracious and kind. Maybe her contemporary “Ms. Lollo” could take a lesson or two.

From Nathalie

doubleA Double Sorrow by Lavinia Greenlaw

I read this one twice.  A Double Sorrow is Greenlaw’s retelling of Chaucer’s Troilus & Criseyde.  It’s hauntingly beautiful, and the images from her poems lingered with me long after I had finished it.  Of Criseyde, she writes, “She leads a winter life.”  So stark, so rich in its brevity.  Her Troilus is less in love with Criseyde than he is with the idea of the stories that will be told of his love for her; he’s after fame.

If he ever fears he might not win her

He falls into some inward place of trees

Refusing any path that does not make of itself

The right answer.  Hope will emerge

Like a gentle green creature drawn from green shadows

To steady his gaze.

A fawn, soft in the wild,

Followed only by more of its kind.

After I had read the book, I wanted to read Chaucer’s original.  It was late on a Saturday night, and I asked my husband to stop at the bookstore on our way home from dinner out.  I climbed back into the car and laughed that I never, in all my life, would have expected to be doing a late night run for Chaucer.  He looked at me and said, “Oh, honey.  It’s really not as much of a stretch as you might think.”  Well, I still haven’t finished Chaucer’s telling, having grown very quickly irritated with all of the endless drama of courtly love.  Greenlaw’s telling, though, had me wanting so much more.

ChimneySweepers-cvr-thumbAs Chimney Sweepers Come To Dust by Alan Bradley

Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce is one of my all-time favourite characters.  She’s a sleuthing eleven year old, and she solves many of her cases with chemistry, at which she is extremely talented.  Precocious, fearless, grounded and not a little naive, she’s thoroughly endearing.  This installment of her sleuthing adventures brings her to Canada, which added a wonderful touch to these very Anglophilic country house murders.  If you have not yet met Flavia, begin at the beginning (The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie) and revel in the joy to come!  There are eight books in the series, and I have loved every one.

 

 

The Where, the Why, and the How: 75 Artists Illustrate Wondrous Mysteries of Science

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This beautiful book is published by Chronicle, and the idea was to pair an illustrator with a scientific question, and to enrich information with illustration.  I really loved the combination of quick hits of science paired with illustrations that brought out aspects of the topic that the words did not always touch upon, and found myself making note of all kinds of trivia:

  • Humans have more in common with ants than with any other species (division of labour, roles in society, high level of social dependency).
  • The size of a squirrel’s brain increases during caching season.
  • The number of “dees” in a chickadee’s call describes the size of a predator.
  • Scientists recently discovered a spore that was about 250 million years old within a salt crystal; the bacterium was revived.  Immortality is theoretically possible.
  • Fingerprints help us grip wet things, which is why our fingers shrivel and make deeper channels when they are soaked in water.
  • Yawning is only contagious in humans capable of empathy; contagious yawning is not observed in children under five.
  • When we are deprived of sleep, proteins begin to lose their structural integrity, and they unfold, building up in the cells and becoming toxic.  You can die from sleep deprivation because you are essentially being poisoned.  During sleep, special “cleanup molecules” (their imprecise words, not mine!) help to reverse the unfolded protein response.
  • The DNA in our cells does not age.  The human species has maximized its chances to pass on traits, but only as a species, not as individuals.  Individual aging is irrelevant to the continuation of our species.

From Carol 

how of happinessI can be a bit of a sucker when it comes to self-help books, but The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyurbomirsky does boast a difference:  this book is written by a research psychologist and professor who takes a scientific approach in analyzing data on what makes people happy.  The result is a research-based understanding of what happiness is, and what practices help us achieve it.  Lyurbomirsky asserts that if happiness were a pie, 50% of it is determined by a genetic set-point (some of us are born perkier than others), 10% is influenced by circumstance (rich or poor, healthy or ill), and a whopping 40% is based on our intentional activities, ie. within our control!.  How so?  Based on her research, she identifies the various ways in which people have increased their happiness – ranging from living in the present, to practicing gratitude and positive thinking, to investing in social relationships, to committing to your goals, and much more.  She also provides readers with guidance on how to choose which of these practices to pursue themselves for the greatest happiness impact.  I recognize myself in some of these practices, and feel inspired by others, and am thoroughly enjoying this read.

 

 

Toronto Fashion Find: Coats by Mary Ellen for the Perfect Custom Coat

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Years ago Carol once said to me, “You vote with your dollars”. It’s something that stuck. I live in Toronto, a close walk to two major streets that are lined with shops, restaurants and general services. Even if it means … Continue reading