Surprise!

The lovely owner of The Sugar House Shop (creator of the advent calendar I am currently sequin-ing my way through) contacted me and asked me to pass on a code for 20% off anything in her shop – just enter SWEETMADELEINE at the checkout :)

My internet ramblings are now now saving you money! You’re welcome.

And thanks, Jennifer!

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‘Tis the season

Hello, world. It’s been a bit strange lately.

Radio silence is never a good thing though, so let’s get back into the swing of things, shall we?

First of all I have been balls deep in sequins lately. The reason is CHRISTMAS! of course.

I am not a particularly crafty person. I enjoy painting the odd piece of old furniture, or a wall here and there, and I can crochet a bit, too, but that’s where the talents end. But I am so excited for Christmas this year because it is the first year that Olive kind of understand what is going on. We have been getting books about Santa from the library, decorating our house inside and out, and I have been going a bit nuts coming up with a list of things I want to do with her to help make this Christmas a special one.

So far it includes such aspirational projects like baking cookies (using cookie cutters no less), making a gingerbread house, finding an alternative to a Santa Claus parade to go see because apparently they don’t have one here because it’s too cold (Seriously. Where the hell have we moved to when it’s even too cold for Santa?) and the favourite – going sledding as a family and then coming in for hot cocoa with rosy cheeks and wet ankles.  

Oh, and this.

That is an advent calendar. That I am making. Well, making with the ever-so generous help of my little sister who, to her credit, didn’t even bat an eyelash when I sent the pattern to her two weeks before December and was all, “So…hey there! You probably have TONS of free time right now (doesn’t everyone?) so how’s about we make something beautiful?”

She is tackling the base and I have been staying up until 2am painstakingly stitching tiny beads and sequins onto equally tiny ornaments and I have to tell you, it is already worth it when I imagine Olive’s excitement upon waking up each morning and getting to hang another one.

That is what I have been reminding myself when I jab myself in the thumb with a minuscule (yet painfully sharp) needle for the eighteenth time, anyway.

I love that child more than anything, and I’m so excited to be able to give this holiday to her. She will be so excited to wake up in the morning and run to our tree to see what Santa left, and her eyes will go wide when she sees he has eaten the cookies we left out for him. And then the stocking! I mean really, how can you resist?

Adam and I aren’t travelling for Christmas this year as we normally do. We were trying to make travel plans and find time off work for him and plan how to make the best use of three plane tickets and a handful of days off and what to do with Gus and it just seemed to be really chaotic and expensive and stressful. It’s our first year in our little house, and Adam really wanted to celebrate here. Thankfully our families were understanding and have forgiven us (I think?) so this will be a far smaller celebration this year, and I think it might feel a bit strange too. My mom will be here so Olive won’t miss out on too much familial devotion, but I am really looking forward to this mini-Christmas, and to creating new traditions for our family.

I know that the holiday season can often be challenging. Especially if you are in crisis, or have recently experienced a loss. Right now I understand that more than you can imagine. But I think it is also a chance to pare everything down and focus on what is important. Seek out those you love, bring joy to them however you can, and fill your photo album with happy faces to look back on for years to come.

Wow, sorry, I got a bit sappy there! Balls! Swears! It’s the exhaustion talking, I promise ;)

I painted another thing!

Our room this time.

I have never done a dark paint colour. Grey is as far as I’ve ventured. I am now kicking myself for that because a navy bedroom is the best thing I have ever done with my life ever.

Enough jibber jabber, lets get to the goods. Please insert the requisite poor-photograph quality apology here.

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Here is the before before. When we bought our house. Fancy wallpaper and wall to wall carpets and custom drapery and everything.

Then we trashed the place.

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We took up the carpet and tore down the wallpaper to reveal a lovely lavender paint job in some places – and huge swathes of chipped paint in others. Hm. We lived with this sexy flophouse look for a few months. Then I got the hankerin’ for navy. I don’t know from where, but I now consider it divine inspiration.

AFTER! AAAAAFTERRRRRR

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I mean COME ON. It’s so delicious!

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The one drawback of a darker wall  colour is that it is much less forgiving to paint with. Any uneven lines or smudges immediately pop out, as do the uneven wall textures that seem to be so common in old houses. It’s hard to notice in person, but imperfections seem to pop in photos unfortunately.

Also: lets discuss the window trim. I didn’t paint it, and don’t particularly want to. Adam is pro-window-trim-painting (easy when you’re not the one actually doing said painting, hmm?) and although I know that it would probably look better white I just….can’t? I don’t know. Help. Is it bad to have mullet-trim like this? Is mullet-trim a word? Tuxedo trim? It defies explanation.

When I posted a shot on Instagram, a few people messaged asking if it made the room feel darker or smaller. Smaller, no. It feels more expansive I think because the colour is so deep. It does feel dark, but not dim, if that makes sense. The colour doesn’t suck all of the light out of the room, the window is so big that it still feels super bright, but also really cozy and rich. And fancy? Is that weird? I feel fancy in there now. Everything looks crisp and suddenly makes sense.

Our room felt a bit hodge-podgy before, but it now looks a lot more cohesive. Like we planned it!

I rescued that sunburst mirror thing from under the porch of a house my sister was renting in Victoria a few years ago. Adam hates it, so naturally I have hung it over the bed in each of our last three houses. One of my other sisters is concerned it will fall off the wall in the night and impale someone. Yet recently I painted it gold, and, concerns about nocturnal impaling aside, doesn’t it look like it was just meant to be there? The mirror above my dresser was my mom’s and I’ve never been able to find a space for it before this house. Even the old white and gold dresser left behind by the original owners looks like it belongs in here, and I had been thinking of it as a sort of “make-do” piece until we could find something better secondhand. It might be a keeper, now.

Oh, navy. Is there anything you can’t do?

Anyway, I’ll shut up- it’s just paint Madeleine!

(The colour is Hale Navy by Benjamin Moore, matched in Behr. And if you are thinking about a navy room or a navy hall or a navy accent wall, DO IT, I say. DOOOO IT)

The Grateful Life

***Occasionally my publisher, Viva Editions, asks me to review books by their other authors. This was one that I said yes to because I have always been fascinated about the science behind happiness, contentment, and gratitude – perhaps because I don’t feel like they come to me naturally.

I was provided with a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. ***

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I find gratitude a tough thing to practice on a daily basis.

It can be incredibly challenging to feel grateful for the toddler in full on hysterical meltdown mode because you had the audacity to ask her to wear boots in -20 weather. It can be tough to feel grateful for a sink full of dishes, an overflowing inbox, and a deep bone-tiredness that you can’t seem to shake no matter how much you sleep.

But gratitude is, and I think always will be, something I consciously try to work on. It is a worthy goal – if a challenging one, and The Grateful Life confirmed that for me.

It’s a small book and a simple one, which is kind of fitting given that the practice of gratitude is, too. The chapters are divided into sections which speak about the role gratitude plays in our lives – how it has the potential to improve health, increase workplace productivity, and grow feelings of happiness and contentment, too.

Using anecdotes from the lives real people, each chapter sets out to illustrate how a grateful attitude can truly change your life. Sometimes little vignettes like this seem corny, but it was an interesting approach in this context because many of the stories began with misfortune. And this fact was really important to me to underscore the strange nature of this practice.

Gratitude doesn’t just magically appear when we have everything we want. Grateful people, the people that say Thank you more often and have heart attacks less, the people for whom gratitude is a panacea for all ills, they very rarely have it all. And even more strangely, their gratitude practice often begins during their darkest moments.

This is important. It’s especially important to me right now, because of the frustration I am experiencing with Olive’s latest stage, where literally every piece of clothing she has to put on is grounds for a battle royale and I find myself yelling and frustrated (and I am not a yeller. I have never been a yeller. But I am doing a lot of yelling. And also alot of feeling guilty for yelling.)

I know that as a parent you must pick your battles. So I have given up trying to make her wear clothes in the house – who cares, right? But guys, it’s -15 to -20 here lately. There’s like 4 inches of snow on the ground. Not wearing a coat (or socks or a shirt or a sweater or or or or) is simply not negotiable. So the battle rages on. I am trying to not make it a power struggle, but I’m not sure how is can’t be a power struggle when I am like “Olive do you want the red shirt or grey shirt?” and she says “Nuffing” and then bolts for the door.

It seems like such a small issue, and in the grand scheme of things it IS, but then you have days where you are faced with a toddler who takes advantage of you being stuck on the toilet in a filthy restaurant bathroom and removes her shoes and her socks and then refuses to put them back on again. So then you are both on the floor of the filthy restaurant bathroom and I imagine that if I could play that incident back it would look very similar to calf-roping but with more high-pitched crying and less rope (which, come to think of it, really would have come in handy. Something to add to the diaper bag perhaps?)

Eventually I carried her from the restaurant to the car barefoot and screaming, as the other diners looked on aghast at this shocking display of bad parenting. And then she cried because her feet were cold.

SO. Incidents like that that repeat themselves over and over tend to tint the whole day in an unpleasant way, and that is sometimes tough to be grateful for, you know?

But this book reminds me that stewing in the completely irrational existence of this Sisyphean task isn’t going to make it better. The rage radiating off me isn’t going to make Olive tolerate clothing any more than she already does.

So, at the end of the day, I have started trying to sit down and do what I advise her to do so many times a day. I take a deep breath. And then when I feel a little less like a crazy insane person, and feel all of these tiny crazy power struggles melt away one by one, I write a small list of things I am grateful for.

And that list immediately creates a shift in me, and even occasionally makes me laugh because sometimes it reads like this:

1. I am grateful that it is me dealing with this crazy behaviour, and not someone with less time or patience or love for Olive.

2. I am grateful that we are able to afford warm boots, even if she does refuse to wear them.

3. I am grateful that my daughter is so strong, swift, agile, and tenacious. I mean Beckham ain’t got nothing on this kid. It was truly astounding how, in that bathroom, after I managed to jam one boot on while she was momentarily distracted by the hand dryer, she managed to kick it off with such force that it actually ricocheted off the wall and hit me in the side of the head. Well played, Olive. So power. Much athlete.

4. I am grateful for Adam, who almost never makes me talk in a Minnie Mouse voice and never fails to dress himself in seasonally appropriate clothing all by himself every single day. And looks good doing it,too.

5. I am very, very grateful for bedtime. Hers and mine.

It’s important to do this. And it’s important to know that there is real, quantifiable real science behind it. Gratitude journals aren’t just for flaky hippies anymore, they are for people who want to feel fulfilled, content, healthy and happy.

And don’t we all want that?

In the navy

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If I had a DIY blog- which I would not ever have because I am so terrible at photographing the process and follow through of various millions of projects, but anyway – it would be called DIY After Dark. Because I honestly begin most of my projects after 10:30 pm on any given night.

Last night it was painting our bedroom navy. I only got two walls done (and no cutting in) before I needed to go chip away at a few long overdue writing assignments, so this morning I woke up and was like WHAT THE WHAT?

Similarly, when Adam came to bed last night he was like OH! OH. WOW. I…I’m sure it’ll look good when you’re done!

The middle part of any painting project is made up of 100% fear and regret. The first coat is always patchy and looks like shit, the colour itself is muddled against the virulent green of painters tape and unpainted walls, plus your room looks very flop-housy while everything is getting done.

But I’ve done this enough times to have confidence in my colour choice. NAVY, Man!

If only so I can have a legit reason to buy a sailor hat and drag out related puns for many blog post titles to come.

(I will try to properly DIY this because I took a whole bunch of Before pictures and I will try to pair them with their corresponding After pictures. For once in my life)