Thank you 2016

Dear 2016,

Here are some of your:

Travel highlights:

  • A trip to Southern France with Family.
  • Long weekends with Mum and Dad.
  • Hiking and Skiing in Blue Mountain with Family.
  • Visit Family in New Jersey.
  • Spend time in New York with my sweet friend Dani.
  • Spend time with dear friends in Manchester, Sheffield, and London.

Personal highlights:

  • Spend as much time as we could with friends and family.
  • 5-year wedding anniversary.
  • Guns N ‘ Roses Concert with my brother.
  • Fulfilling our auntie and uncle duties with aplomb, if not that, then definitely with gusto.
  • Read 17 books and 5 children books.
  • Did not give up on the blog and kept chipping away at it.
  • Continued beading with the best group of girls I could wish for.
  • Stuart, our Norfolk Pine Tree is still growing beautifully and now has a happy partner in Ernie, a kumquat fellow.
  • My work in software development went full steam ahead and it was a very work full year.
  • Became a bit of a hamster and had days in which I would walk around our condo in order to get to 10000 steps.
  • Went back to Yoga at the end of the year and spent a lot of time trying new things for my health such as Accupuncture, Osteopathy, and smoothing fruits and vegetables.
  • Kept my Etsy shop and added a couple of prints.
  • Made our condo a home which we love. But that deserves its own post which I hope to cover soon.
  • Excellent coffees at home.

Toronto highlights:

  • Walks. One especially beautiful during fall time organized by Nature Conservancy Of Canada, an organization we are supporting.
  • Hosting dinners in our nest and making it more our own one month at a time.
  • Family and Friend’s visits from overseas get us outside of our city comfort zones.
  • Canadian Opera Company subscription with two performance already checked off: Ariodante and Norma. Four remain to be seen.
  • Beautiful concerts with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, starting the year with an emotional Mozart Requiem and ending with a soulful and funny Jann Arden.
  • Good food at Rose and Sons, Smoked and Cracked, Café Belong brunch, Lee Namjang, Stockyards and a new favorite Marigold.
  • Mama Earth Organics weekly food deliveries.

2016 was very much a full year with lots of work. A year I felt I learned and became more confident in my technical abilities. Reaching that point where you know that not knowing is ok. I never knew anything in this field but with dedication and work all the unknown becomes familiar and you can get on with the work. I still enjoying the learning curves and the problem solving aspects of it. It was also a year of family time, we were lucky to see family here locally but as well visitors and through our traveling. During this year we confirmed that buying our condo/flat was one of the best decisions we made and we were happy not to push ourselves above our means to buy a (town)house. I fell short in taking care of my hobbies, but I spent a lot of time focusing on health improvements also some of the artistic dimension was filled with the beading creations. An extremely rewarding occupation.

Thank you 2016 and here is wishing a blissful 2017 to all.

2016.

2016.2016.

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Books of 2016

These are my fun friends of the past year:

  1. The Continuum Concept: In Search Of Happiness Lost by Jean Liedloff
  2. I Saw Ramallah by Mourid Barghouti
  3. No se lo digas a nadie by Jamie Bayly
  4. Supleantul by Petru Popescu
  5. The Mulberry Tree by Jude Deveraux
  6. The Concubine’s Children by Denise Chong
  7. Oameni din Dublin by James Joyce
  8. To the End of the Land by Davis Grossman
  9. Push by Sapphire
  10. În arşiţa dragostei – Poeme şi confesiuni despre Mircea Eliade by Maitreyi Devi
  11. Noaptea de Sânziene by Mircea Eliade
  12. Scrisori către fiul meu by Gabriel Liiceanu
  13. Flesh and Blood by Michael Cunningham
  14. Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947-1963 by Susan Sontag
  15. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  16. The Reason You Walk by Wab Kinew
  17. So, Anyway … by John Cleese

Some lovely children’s books:

  1. The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito
  2. Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World by Kate Pankhurst
  3. The Hockey Song by Stompin’ Tom Connors
  4. Hello, Mr. Dodo! by Nicholas John Frith
  5. Big City Bees by Maggie de Vries

Let 2017 bring more fun readings!

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Gift giving

I am a big fan of Christmas and I have always been. I started holding on to Christmas as a strict tradition to follow in our small family with my mom and my brother, probably overcompensating my parent’s divorce. Each was to get a present for the other two and it was supposed to be a surprise. Years passed and I still love it. I love the journey of trying to guess gifts that people may enjoy. I don’t appreciate going to the mall the week before to get everyone something. I don’t find joy in that and I dislike buying irrelevant things just for the sake of buying. Instead as early as September when things come in my path that I think would make someone happy I start the Christmas presents box. Especially now as my niece and nephew in Australia are not close, I need to send their presents earlier to ensure they arrive if not by Christmas at least by January.

Anyhow this year I saw Oprah’s list of favorite things and I got giddy with excitement to create my own list of recommendations. Especially because some of the less known things she recommended such as Artifact Uprising, I have been using for two years. So brace up people here it comes:

1. Positive News Subscription

This is a must in a world where we are bombarded with highlights of dramatic and traumatic experiences to dangers at every corner, one has to put real effort into remaining optimistic and finding inspirational stories. One day I google Positive News and indeed found them. Their work in constructive journalism is so important as it highlights the amazing efforts of people solving problems in the world, keeping a positive outlook and making a difference. A subscription includes a quarterly beautiful printed copy with amazing articles and even the commercials support relevant business. Buy buy buy people, buy.

Positive News.

2. Koala Adoption

So far I have used Save the Koala for in memoriam tree planting but now I am considering for happier occasions. For Christmas, you can ‘adopt’ a Koala, of course symbolically, the koala does not come to your home but what a great concept to support them and also teach kids about Koalas, or make Koala-loving adults giddy.

Koala Foundation.

3. McKean Studio

You know someone who loves a city so much they would wear it as a bracelet? Excellent so do I. I bought them for my sister-in-law for her bday and they are gorgeous. The artist based in Australia and makes bangles of cities she has visited.

McKean Studio

4. 31 Bits

You would never think these beads are 100% made from recycled materials and mostly paper beads. Their jewelry is gorgeous and you are supporting the work of Ugandan women. Take the time to meet the artisans on their main website and buy buy buy because they are beautiful.

31 Bits.

5. JordanGraceOwens

I keep meaning to do this for my nieces and nephews and may do it this year. I thought the idea was marvelous to make paper dolls inspired by family members.

JordanGraceOwens

6. Bucketfeet

Bucketfeet is a great avenue for beautiful shoes based on designs from artists all over the world. You are in part supporting the designing artist and you cand find some vegan shoes in there to make you the cool vegan on the block. Well Vegans are cool by default but even cooler.

Bucketfeet.

7. We Are Well Made

This is a new discovery and I was extremely excited to try them. We are slowly filling our walls with various prints and one spot was quite tricky to cater for. We have a wall bed, a Murphy bed, and we wanted to set up a print in the wall space visible when the bed is down. The space requires a very small frame and without a glass. After some googling, I found these frames and they are beautiful and they work so well. Extremely flexible and easy to install too.

We are well made.

8. ArtLifting

Now that you bought a frame then rush and buy some prints or who knows some original art from ArtLifting. The company is set up to give homeless and/or people with mental health problems support to create art and also the pride of earning from your work or passion. I keep spending 30 minutes here and here just browsing everything in there.

Art lifting.

9. Book Pickings
You have to buy books for Christmas. Sounds imperative because it is, reading is one of the richest experiences in life and we have to keep nurturing and nourishing the quest for beautiful books. I tend to buy now mostly used books because I keep running into book fairs but if you are looking for good ideas the author of this blog has plenty. Because of her I discovered Maya Angelou, bought some beautiful children books and many more other on my wish list.

Book Pickings.

10. Rare Tea Company

A gorgeous tea company we discovered while leaving in UK. Henrietta’s passion for fairly sourced tea and the art of a properly made cup of tea is infectious.

Rare tea company.

11. Province Apothecary

Toronto made cosmetics which come in nice glass packaging and make skin look beautiful.

Province Apothecary.

12. My Prints

Self-promotion alert. My little print shop has not been getting much attention from me, although I love still everything about it so here I am doing a bit of promotion here at the end.

Whanganui - Afternoon.

There are many other things I can think of but it is best to stop and remember this is about enjoying making people happy. All these gifts assume budgets but if money is not available then still surprise people. I love receiving food gifts, or as I mentioned in a previous post I now am part of a small beading club so you can make jewelry or just write a thoughtful letter. Enjoy sharing thoughtful caring moments!! Let me know your suggestions if you wish.

Credit: All the photos are of the original websites where these can be found.

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Beading – Part 2

To continue the collection from the previous post, please enjoy some more necklaces.

These two necklaces are in my collection but unfortunately I do not remember the beads.

Beading.

Beading.

This one has made its way to my sister-in-law for Christmas and the small round green beads are Jasper.

Beading.

Beading.

No clasp needed for this one, as the red chain is very long allowing for it to fit over the head. It is reserved for a friend who doesn’t event know yet it is coming her way :).

Beading.

Beading.

This is all the beading output I have for now but hopefully soon enough there will be more fun projects to entertain with.

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Beading – Part 1

Beading has been an extremely fun hobby recently absorbed under the guidance of a friend, let us call her Mrs. BeadMaster. She is an amazing woman who inspires me to create fun projects such as these, she is the engineer who taught me to create all of these fun items. Let the photos speak for themselves.

Necklace – This is one of my first pieces and I loved the colour combination. It has now a home with my soul-sister as a Christmas present. It is using green white jade round beads with purple glass beads.

Beading.Beading.

Necklace – This is also part of the first batch and I love the texture of the white turquoise round beads as well as the filigran piece. This necklace also has found a home with my sweet friend, whose lovely wedding I was part of last September. I need to keep her happy since she sends me boxes of chocolates at Easter and Christmas :).

Beading.Beading.

Necklace – Lapis Lazuli, this is still one of my favourite necklaces to wear. They are two strands of these gorgeous beads, on leather strings and I wear them both. A third one was made later on and it too has a home now with another friend as a Christmas present. Indeed there is a trend, my new gift for you may be a necklace so beware.

Beading.Beading.

Beading.The following two necklaces are from our latest beading session and this one is made with shell pearls, light pink and turquoise and mother of pearl center pieces. This necklace was a gift for the Mrs. BeadMaster herself; a little thank you for all the support and inspiration she has provided me in picking up what is one of the most relaxing hobbies.

Beading.

Beading.This last piece was fun to do, so were all the others but the colour gradient was fun to do. The beads are semi-precious and I think they are agate, but not 100% sure. This fun piece is also a gift for a friend who for the past two years has been a constant support and help.

Beading.

Beading.

Beading.

Similarly to the photographic prints, making these necklaces brings me a lot of joy to have something palpable that I, or friends can enjoy. Also beading days with friends are such a fun way to spend a day, highly recommend it.

 

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My book companions in 2015

These are my fun friends of the past year:

  1. Police by Jo Nesbo
  2. Unusual Creatures by Michael Hearst
  3. 19 Trandafiri by Mircea Eliade
  4. Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands by Jorge Amado
  5. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  6. Detroit by Charlie LeDuff
  7. Calatorie in Romania by Sacheverell Sitwell
  8. Conversations with Maya Angelou by Jeffrey M. Elliot (Editor), Maya Angelou
  9. The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone–Especially Ourselves by Dan Ariely
  10. The Orenda by Joseph Boyden
  11. L S Lowry by Michael Leber
  12. Legende, sau Basmele Romanilor by Petre Ispirescu
  13. Curtezana si Samuraiul by Leslie Downer
  14. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
  15. Sotia doctorului by Sawako Ariyoshi
  16. La felicidad es un té contigo by Mamen Sánchez
  17. Gog by Giovanni Papini
  18. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
  19. O istorie sinceră a poporului român by Florin Constantiniu
  20. Books v. Cigarettes by George Orwell
  21. The Bird Artist by Howard Norman
  22. Excellent Women by Barbara Pym

Some lovely children’s books:

  1. Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French, Bruce Whatley (Illustrator)
  2. Where Bear? by Sophy Henn
  3. White Snow, Bright Snow by Alvin Tresselt, Roger Duvoisin (Illustrator)
  4. Petunia’s Christmas (Petunia) by Roger Duvoisin

Let 2016 bring more fun readings!

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My book companions in 2014

These are my fun friends of the past year:

  1. El amor en los tiempos del cólera by Gabriel García Márquez
  2. The Darling Buds of May by H.E. Bates
  3. Ida by Gertrude Stein
  4. Despre bucurie in Est si in Vest si alte eseuri by Andrei Plesu
  5. The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club by Peter Hook
  6. Intre Dumnezeu si neamul meu by Petre Tutea
  7. The Disinformer by Peter Ustinov
  8. Valsul de adio by Milan Kundera
  9. The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo
  10. Durabila iubire by Ian McEwan
  11. Monsieur Lambert by Jean-Jacques Sempé
  12. Una boda en Haiti: Historia de una amistad by Julia Alvarez
  13. The Obscene Image: Parisian Hospital Break Room Graffiti by Gilles Tondini
  14. The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
  15. Bride of New France by Suzanne Desrochers
  16. El año en que me enamoré de todas by Use Lahoz
  17. The Leopard by Jo Nesbo
  18. Verdi’s Shakespeare: Men of the Theatre by Gary Willis
  19. The Norfolk Mystery: With 29 Places and 22 Pictures by Ian Sansom
  20. The Diary of a Nobody by George Grossmith
  21. Antrenamentul comunicarii sau arta de a ne intelege by Vera F. Birkenbihl
  22. Phantom by Jo Nesbo
  23. The Rainbow by D.H. Lawrence
  24. The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety by Alan W. Watts

And a new obsession, children’s books:

  1. Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty
  2. Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty
  3. The Flat Rabit by Bárður Oskarsson
  4. Aspen Roots by Paul Sullivan
  5. I am an artist by Marta Altés
  6. Henri’s Walk to Paris by Leonore Klein
  7. Melvin: The Luckiest Monkey in the World by Claudia Boldt
  8. Advice to Little Girls by Mark Twain

Let 2015 bring more fun readings!

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Thank you 2014

Dear 2014,

You were a odd one. Here are some of your:

Travel highlights:

  • Attended three weddings. Family wedding Florida, adopted-cousins wedding in Sardinia and friend’s wedding in Toronto. All spectacular.
  • Secluded beaches in Sardinia.
  • Family time and delicious seafood in Norfolk, UK.
  • Flooded Piazza San Marco in Venice with funky Manchester crew.
  • Mountain Hike for Canada Day at Mont – Tremblant.
  • Ice Climbing at Beaver Creek near Haliburton.
  • Skying lessons at Blue Mountain.
  • Detroit Institute of Art and Weekend in Detroit.
  • Niagara on the Lake Lunches and Wine Tasting.

Personal highlights:

  • Keeping up the plan to be best Aunt to 2 pair of twins. I think by the end of the year I had 4 kiddies who can pick me in a crowd. Tremendous success.
  • Our Etsy shop has increased sales by 100% that is two sales have made me really giddy, super giddy. They were sales from our neighbour down south and I can attest I do not know these lovely people and I did not guilt trip them into buying them. Also very proud that both prints were Romanian-based.
  • Upgraded my Camera.
  • Read 24 books and 8 children books.
  • Found a Yoga place I/we like.
  • My software development work has extended to include both medical assessment as well as clinical. It is something I wanted for a few years now.
  • Walks in parks even on my own, without Husband pushing me out of the house.
  • Decided on the type of place we want to live in.
  • Had my 15 seconds of fame by ending up on stage in a Romanian play.
  • Stuart, our Norfolk Pine Tree is growing beautifully.

Toronto highlights:

  • Long walks through parks. Worth mentioning again because they are some of the most peaceful moments we have.
  • Friend’s visits from overseas helped us walk around downtown more than usual.
  • A visit to the Royal Ontario Museum.
  • Theatre plays: Some at Passe Murraille Theatre, Book of Mormon, a trip to Stratford and one to Shaw Festival, some Romanian theatre and Australian Opus.
  • Good food: Rose and Sons, Smoked and Cracked, Café Belong brunch, hot chocolate at Soma and NADÈGE and some other regulars.

I call you odd 2014 because it is hard to classify you. You were a year of searches, patience, lots of work, and learning. It is easier to channel your peaceful self when all is fun and games, travel and good times. It is equally important to find the same balance when work takes precedence and things do not move at the speed you want them to. I am lucky to enjoy both my work and my hobbies so balancing it all and myself is achievable with some good nights of sleep. The key to all, as simple as it may sound, is to take it one day at a time. So 2014 you really pushed me to take it one day at a time.

Before we let 2015 take center stage here are a few highlight photos of the year, all based in our lovely Canada. Wishing everyone a peaceful 2015.

Around Toronto.

Around Toronto.

Around Toronto.

Around Toronto.

Around Toronto.

Around Toronto.

Around Toronto.

Around Toronto.

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First Sale

My Etsy shop has been an endeavor close to my heart since its start in 2010. I mentioned before that it was originally a venue for my mother to extend her passion for knitting and tailoring. It was subsequently put on pause for more than a year while we were traveling. This then helped further shape the content where I got a chance to combine my love of traveling, photography and paper.

I created my first prints while in Australia, post our trip to Lady Elliot Island. The process of creating these prints is captivating, and after years of appreciating them in many blogs and websites, sometimes in real life, I decided this is the way I wanted to go forward. I love the steps: take the photo, spend time in front of the computer sorting and choosing the ones that speak louder than others, decide on colours, choose printing papers, find a title, and sign.

My portfolio slowly started growing and with that came long sessions with family and/or friends to sit through viewings and with their help we would decide which ones are good to put in the shop. My first “friendly” sale was  when a friend of mine bought a print for a wedding present. As a milestone, it excited me, scared me, made me proud, made me question myself and it pushed me further. It was an odd mix of feelings but overall the winning  thought that I would connect with someone else through a print and those moments were chained together was exhilarating.

Husband Chris has been a key part of this and he has viewed most of the photos for hours, he has helped select them, drove with me to the printing studio, waited there with me and every other step you can think of. I am a dream talker with him, I day dream and talk about it and I would ask the “what if this happens?” questions. He has kept it simple and shaped my goal to  one point: One sale from someone who does not know you.

That day came Jun 30th 2014 while we were in Mont Tremblant and as mosquitos were eating away at us in a beautiful scenery I was over the moon with excitement. Over the moon. This is the print which made its way to someone’s home:

Danube Delta - Incognito

Thank you very much First Buyer and know the moment I saw 1 in my Orders list, a dream came true.

Now onto to other adventures to be photographed and shared.

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Record cabinet gets a new life

I notice that every other post, I make a note that I am months late in writing it. By now it is safe to assume this always happens. The story of this beautiful cabinet starts summer 2013. We rolled into a content sale after following through a notice on the street in our neighborhood. I have seen garage sales around and I thought it is the same thing. Rookie assumption, this is a different ball game; basically you walk through someone’s home, hoping they just moved and not passed away and everything has a price tag on it. Somehow we ended up in the garage, picking up a pair of badminton rackets, a game of garden croquet and a record cabinet. All together we spent 12 dollars on these items. We proudly put the cabinet in the front seat and drove it home. We still leave with my mom at the moment so she gave us a suspicious look as we confidently declared we are refurbishing it. Let’s just say this is not our area of expertise so her doubts were not unfounded. We slowly started gathering tools to sand it, fix the holes, remove the doors and paint it.

Ingredients

Cabinet 1.

Process
This was our first experience in giving a piece of furniture a makeover so I started with the easiest part, looking where to buy paint. We were very good and tried to buy environmentally friendly and whatever other stuff friendly we could, anything but budget friendly if possible. We waltzed into Homestead House Milk Paint and hoped all is as easy as slapping a new coat of paint on it and that is it. The visit was enlightening and we quickly discovered that in order for the new layer of paint to look as good as the pieces in the shop we needed to strip it down as close as possible to its natural state. We left the shop with colours made from milk protein from New Zealand, of course we bought if it is from New Zealand. Husband Chris still thinks of our trip there as possibly even better than our wedding. Paints check, next step was to go to Lee Valley Tools and spend another 100 dollars if not more on painting and sanding tools as well as a pasta machine since it was on sale. Notice how quickly we turned the 8-dollar cabinet into a fun long-term investment.

With a box full of everything we needed we started the job. Surprise surprise, hand sanding is a hard thing to do. It was an unbalanced effort where Husband Chris did most of it. It was hard work especially since the cabinet had several layers of varnish on. For the top, we would crack one layer and then a second one would pop out. The sides were a bit better. By the time we finished the top and sides we wisely decided the inside looks warmer and better left as is.

The painting part was definitely more fun. It took a bit to get the right balance of water and milk protein for an acceptable consistency. We also did some test runs on the doors of the cabinet, which we removed since we liked the open look. It was a good idea to help us choose which colours we want. I enjoyed painting it on our balcony and I managed to dirty everything around me, including my clothes and hands. During my Watery Painting course I  created a whole line of clothing for myself with the paint I dropped on my clothes.

Cabinet 2.
Cabinet 3.

Lessons Learned
Just because we paid less than 10 dollars for it, that does not make it a bargain. We ended up paying more than 150 for tools and paints. True we could have chosen cheaper options but didn’t hurt to support local businesses.

Painting is fun but messy, even for a little touch, I still managed to dirty lots of things around me. Definitely this needs to be done in an environment where it is ok to get messy and possibly re-use already stained clothes.

Cabinet 4.We loved doing it up and it is something that I want to do again with other stuff in the future.

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