12 Quotes and Some Reflection for Living Well All Year Round.

Welcome to The New Year!

Image used with permission: http://www.aliciaandneilphotography.com/

2014 is almost over and I can hardly believe that the calendar will read 2015. That sounds like I am living in the future.

Time passes, and current events that were a big part of our life, like the turn of the millenium, suddenly become part of a distant history. Technology moves us along even faster.

The internet has changed the world so quickly; I remember when they brought email into our workplace in the second year of my career (16 years ago). Now, I am sure that most North American children can’t even conceive of a world without their IPods and X-Boxes.  

This all makes me sound very old, but I am not. I am 42. Hey, I still see that as relatively young.

The world today moves so fast, and sometimes it seems to be in such a mess. Yet, it can also be so beautiful, and acts of hope and kindness are everywhere. Life is hard, and demanding, and sad. Life is joyful, wondrous and beautiful. Success, failure. All of it. That struggle is life itself.

A Time for Renewal

So we celebrate New Year as way of wiping the slate clean. It’s a way of saying “let’s all agree to pause now”, to process what has happened in the last year, so we can start again with renewed enthusiasm, courage and optimism.  A new beginning, when all our experiences are hopefully elevated into lessons that arm us with wisdom and strength for the upcoming year.

Time Flies

New Year reminds us that time is passing. Time is finite, and we better get to the business of living well. Let go of worries, of petty gripes, of fears. Enjoy the moment. Celebrate the joys in life, the successes – no matter how small – take them in. Be kind to ourselves and be kind to others, not just humans, but other species, too. Forgive ourselves and forgive others. Think less; don’t overanalyze.  Think more; act mindfully.

We are all just doing our best. Remember that when you want to lose patience with the cashier or the person driving slowly in the fast lane.  You don’t know what they might be going through.

If we keep trying and don’t give up, our efforts will amount to something – to positive change for us and for the planet.

Finding Wisdom

Here are 12 of my favourite quotes from a book called “Wisdom”, by Andrew Zuckerman. The quotes are about life, in general. “Wisdom” is a big, beautiful book filled with interesting ideas and advice, shared by accomplished and famous senior citizens. It’s a book that reminds us that age brings a deeper understanding of life.

Maybe listening to the wisdom of those who have lived a long time is one way to hear, in the words of Bernice Johnson Reagon, “…the part of the universe that continues after we are gone.”

12 Quotes for the New Year: Words of Wisdom.

“Don’t take yourself so seriously” ~Bernice Johnson Reagon

“Life is not perfect; it never will be. You just have to make the very best of it and you have to open your heart to what the world can show you. Sometimes it’s terrifying and sometimes it’s incredibly beautiful. And I’ll take both, thanks.” ~Graham Nash

“Following the seasons is very important, to follow the seasons as they come and to enjoy the food as it is. Small portions, simply prepared” … “Cook with love. Sit down around the table and share food with your children and your family.” ~Jacques Pepin

“I’m curious about life, period.” ~Graham Nash

“…Where people of goodwill get together and transcend their differences for the common good, peaceful and just solutions can be found even for those problems which seem most intractable.” ~Nelson Mandela

“The heart is what matters most. The act of compassion, of being able to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes…” ~ Kris Kristofferson

“People have always said of my whole life… “You are too kind, Bryce.” Well … (being) pleasant and nice- you’re going to be conned, absolutely, for sure – but in the long run, over seventy-five years, it’s a better journey and in the end you win more. In hard fact you actually win more: you win more friends, you win more opportunities, you win more life, you win more joy, you win more character.” ~Bryce Courtenay

“Be here. Be present. Wherever you are, be there.” ~Willie Nelson

“We are in a culture that asks for that quick assessment. I have students sometimes that say, “I like hearing Harriet Tubman better than Sojourner Truth.” And I say, “They’re both dead, and you can have them both. Why are you going to pick one?” ~Bernice Johnson Reagon

“Exercise is very important to my mental well-being.” ~Madeleine Albright

“…just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.” ~Chuck Close

“I don’t want you to compromise, but be careful. It’s your life you are living and nobody else’s. Find out who you are and find out what you really believe in.”… I got this incredible advice, to watch out very carefully and find out where I felt myself attracted and where I felt myself uncomfortable. I think this is what we can call on to approach wisdom: that your experiences of bad things, of good things, of your own mistakes, of your shame… if you have built up knowledge about yourself, you get to have not only dreams, but visions.”       ~Kurt Masur on the advice given to him by his father.

ALL THE BEST IN 2015!!!

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A Funny Frame of Mind.

Delay Gratification?  Nah… It’s The “Power of Procrastination”… Diet.

Procrastination gets a pretty bad rap. But take it from me, an expert procrastinator, the power of procrastination can be harnessed for good.

Now, just to be clear, I am NOT an advocate of “dieting”, but during the holiday season, when the flow of cookies, baked goods, and chocolates is constantly tempting us, it’s all about frame of mind. Let me explain.

Last Spring, I discovered a bakery that prepared home-made alfajores: a delicious treat that I had not eaten since my youth, in Argentina. I loved alfajores, and I started to overindulge. Not a little, but a lot. My well-meaning husband would surprise me with boxes of these wonderful treats. I loved it! Alas, it was too much of a good thing.

A pattern of over-indulgence was emerging, and I observed this thought process:

“I’ll have one more, and then I am not eating any more sweets for today…”

“Okay, I will just cut a little sliver, and then no more.  Okay, one more little sliver…”

“Hmm, there is so little left, I might as well finish it.  And then, no more…” I guess guilt is easier to take in small doses.

I could see this was not a good trend.   I also realized that it was this feeling of anticipated deprivation that was motivating my moderate “binging”. What’s worse, this kind of thinking starts to transfer to all sweets. I wasn’t just feeling anxious about eating alfajores. I would think, “Well, I should cut out all sweets to compensate for my overindulgence.” So, I found myself wanting to overindulge on… well, everything.

My solution was simple: adopt the complete opposite mind-set, and totally remove the deprivation factor. I began to tell myself, “You don’t have to worry, you can eat alfajores (or other sweets) anytime you want.  In fact, since you will be eating them often, you needn’t try to do it all at once.” Whenever I found myself thinking about sneaking another alfajor, I would just reassure myself, “Not right now… Wait a little while. You can have some later.”

I began to joke with my family and friends that this was “The Power of Procrastination Diet”. We would laugh, but the truth is, it worked for me! In no time flat, I was back to enjoying all good things in moderation.

Okay, I realize that this philosophy is NOT for everyone, but it was an interesting experience; the vilified “procrastination” came to the rescue!  Admittedly, though, I have a fast metabolism, and that is a factor to consider.  A funny frame of mind that worked for me.

As we head into the New Year, smile and enjoy the moment!  That is one thing we should not put off!

The above image is by Stuart Miles, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

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Living Arrangements – Unique Ideas on What Home Can Be – CBC

Home is What You Make It!

Photo by Ponsulak, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Check out this interesting series that I just discovered on CBC.  In it, people share stories about their unique choices around their living arrangements. From urban nomads, to a tree planter who finds ever-changing shelter, to creative living arrangement for seniors.  Click on the link below, then pick the story that interests you.

What are your living arrangements?  Traditional?  Big ? Small? Minimalist? Alternative? We would love to hear your story here at homehurrah.com, so feel free to leave a comment!  Likewise, please let us know if you decide to share your story on the CBC. I will add a link directly to your story.

Pop by soon for more interesting links, music, ideas, articles and all things home! Thanks for stopping by homehurrah.com and can’t wait to share my next post with you!

http://www.cbc.ca/thesundayedition/livingarrangements/index.html

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 Comfort ~ Inspiration ~ Ideas

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Winter Solstice and The Changing Seasons

Image used with permission and gratitude: http://www.aliciaandneilphotography.com/

 

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.

~ Edith Sitwell

Yesterday was the longest night of the year: December 21, the winter solstice. Now, almost imperceptibly, like the hands that mark the hour on a clock, the days begin to lengthen once more.  Suddenly, I will notice that it’s 7:00 pm and the sun is shining through a window that only sees direct sunlight in the spring and summer months. That is one of my favourite moments. No matter what home I’ve lived in, I’ve always watched for the sun shining through that window; the window that tells me spring has almost come.

Spring has always been my favourite season. In the city, it is hard to remember just how magical it is. But if you are out in the country, watching spring arrive is one of the most incredible experiences. Still, I appreciate every season for different reasons, and living in the north, one gets to witness the incredible range of temperatures and landscapes that share and transform the same terrain.

There is something special about the winter solstice; a time when the darkness of our surroundings can bring out the light within us, our imaginations.

We light candles and fireplaces, we illuminate our homes with Christmas lights, and turn on the warm glow of our lamps. The moon brightens the nights.

On the longest night of all, the magic and the mystery of the darkness arrive with the promise of longer days to come. It is a hopeful time, a time when we realize we might as well embrace the darkness, and cozy up into the comfort of our homes, for there is no changing the seasons.

Soon, the days will lengthen, and our activities and energies will reflect that cycle.

But now it is the start of winter. The landscape outside my window today looks colourless and gray. Behind those clouds though is a bright blue sky that will shine at another hour.

I will play in the backyard with my son this afternoon, and we will enjoy some fresh air together. I will embrace the holidays, the time with loved ones – and the changing seasons of life will comfort me like the return of an old friend.

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Learning to Blog: Reflections on My First Month

Learning to Blog

On Christmas Eve, it will be exactly one month since I published my first post on homehurrah.com.  It’s been an exciting month for me.  I have learned a lot about blogging, and the process of preparing my posts has been interesting.

Starting a blog has taken some time and effort, and I still have much to learn! The good news is that there are many sources of support. If you happen to be interested in starting your own blog, one of the reference books that I found most helpful was: “WordPress, Absolute Beginner’s Guide”, by Triss Hussey. When getting started, it also helps to refer to informative blogs and websites on the internet. I looked up a whole bunch. http://startbloggingonline.com/ was just one of the many good resources out there.

As I reflect on this experience so far, I want to say thank you to those of you who are reading the blog, and to those of you who have left comments – you made my day!

Looking Forward

As I head into my second month of blogging, I continue to look forward to posting regularly on a variety of topics related to home.  Over the next few months, I will also be including interviews with people who are finding ways to incorporate their passions into their home life: a visual artist, two photographers, and a published author.

I invite you to let me know if there is a topic you would like me to write about, or the name of a song or artist that connects you with “home”. I will do my best to include your suggestions in future posts!

Above image courtesy of desktopocean.com.

Little Drummer Boy – Walk Off The Earth (Feat. Doggies)

To sign off today, here is a very nice version of the Little Drummer Boy, with a fun video that makes me smile! Enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by homehurrah.com, and I can’t wait to share my next post with you!

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Home, Life, and Living.

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Another Song Called “Home”

Phillip Phillips, Greg Holden, and “Home” Videos.

Image by digitalart, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.com

This song, “Home”, is from a few years back. The talented Phillip Phillips, winner of the 11th season of American Idol, made it famous as his coronation song and debut single. The song was co-written by Greg Holden and Drew Pearson, who produced it

A friend recently told me, “This song settles me.”  I agree – it’s a comforting song.

Maybe you’ll enjoy a relaxing listen – click on the links below. 

I am posting two videos for you:

The first one is Phillip Phillips’ official video.   The images of rainy windows and distant mountains, in the video, remind me a bit of road trips to the mountains when I was growing up.   I remember the first time I saw the mountains – it felt like coming home in a way that no other place ever has… but that’s a topic for another post.

BTW: The comedy “Parental guidance” plays this song at the end of the movie.  

 

The second video features Greg Holden, the co-writer of this song, performing it live. That video was posted on Youtube by Greg Holden himself. The footage shows a great performance by Holden, but the camera is a bit shaky at parts. That’s when I just close my eyes and listen.

I am curious to know: What do you think of Greg Holden’s version? Feel free to leave a comment with your opinion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ways to Declutter, Organize, and Celebrate Your Home! Part 2

How I Transformed My Home Without Spending (almost any) Money

Some years ago, I decided to declutter my basement by getting rid of the baby items that my son had outgrown.  This should only take a few hours, I had thought.  Ha!  Was I wrong!  The project gained momentum.

You see, as I got rid of “junk”, I began to rediscover forgotten items – imperfect treasures with patina,  character, and personal stories.   Suddenly,  I wanted to display these things that I had once abandoned in basement storage.

A New MindSet

Up until that point, I hadn’t focused on the full potential a home “set-up” has to nourish our experiences and personalities.  I started to see that my set-up didn’t make certain activities that I valued  – like  drawing  or painting-  very convenient.  Also,  I wanted my space to be more authentic; to be an expression of who I was.  In my diary, I wrote:

“Rethink the living room. Transform it into a room where the living includes creativity.”

“Add new things, get rid of some things, make it organic, open, welcoming and comfortable.”

And so it began: I put pictures up in old frames and displayed them in groupings. I put cool keepsakes on my shelves, and brought up old lamps that I had relegated to our basement storage.

I got rid of things that I didn’t really enjoy, or that didn’t serve a purpose, and I completely shifted my furniture around.

I painted my porch and furnished it with a couch, coffee table, and shelf that were no longer needed inside the house.

Most importantly, I created a small work station, right in my living room, where I could paint, draw and write, while spending time with my family. It was basically a desk with good lighting, tucked into a corner.  We mounted a funky cork bulletin board on the wall beside it, where I pinned pictures, drawings and quotes. It became what I affectionately referred to as the “evolving (because I was open to continually adjusting the space to better suit our needs) creative centre of our home”. It inspired my son to join me in creative activities, and added life to our space.

It took some hard work, but when I was done the whole process, I couldn’t believe how our home had changed. It was so satisfying, and it enhanced our quality of life as well.

7 Tips That Helped Me Set Up My Home.

These are the ideas that helped us set up a space we really enjoy. Maybe some of them can be useful to you:

1) When organizing a space, first ask yourself:  What do I love to do? How do I want to spend my time, on a regular basis, in this space?  What activities do I want to do easily in this space? Make a list. Let your interests (and those of your family) guide your decisions, and then make room for those activities: make them a priority. That can be challenging, especially in a smaller space, I know. It might mean that you have to make some unconventional choices, and get a bit creative with your use of space. Why not try it, though? It is your life! You can make your space what you need it to be!

2) As a general guideline, surround yourself with things that you enjoy, that hold positive associations or special meaning .  This helps you feel good in the space. (See the next point.)

3) When decluttering, look at each item, and ask yourself the following two questions:

Does it serve a purpose?

Does it have special meaning? (For example: maybe it’s a collectable, it’s beautiful, it’s a keepsake from a trip, or a special gift…)

If it doesn’t serve a purpose, and it doesn’t have any special meaning, is there another reason to keep it? Would someone else benefit more from having it? Use your judgment. It’s your choice to make.

This tip gets easier and easier with practice, so do it regularly!

Keep a  box handy, and put “maybe” items in there for a while, and see if you miss them. When you are ready, drive down to a thrift store and drop them off.

4) Don’t get overwhelmed. I got a bit carried away when I rearranged my house, but it was a lot of hard work – both physical, and mental (I was making so many decisions about what to keep, and what to throw, where things should go, how to arrange things…).  Usually,  it is a good idea to reorganize one area at a time.  For example, change your bedroom around this season.  If you enjoyed the way that worked out, focus  on the dining room next summer.  It doesn’t all have to be done at once.

5)  Same thing goes for decluttering!  It’s a good idea to do a small section at a time: a drawer one weekend, a closet next month.  Be patient, and recognize when you are feeling tired.  Get rest, and start fresh again later.

6) Be aware of what you bring into the house. For me, it’s not just about getting rid of things. I try to avoid buying things that will soon become unwanted clutter.  The added bonus: this tip can save you a lot of money.  Give yourself time before purchasing items: if in doubt, just go home and think about it.  I’ve been doing this most of my adult life, and it has probably saved me a fortune.

7)  Above all, have fun with itexperiment with different ideas, and arrange things in a way that works for you and your family.  Only you can decide what is the “right”  set-up for your home!

Editor’s Note:  We have since moved to a new home, and I have used those 7 ideas to help me set up and keep a space where we love to live!

Photograph by Tungphoto, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Thanks for stopping by homehurrah.com, and I can’t wait to share my next post with you!

 

 

Ways to Declutter, Organize, and Celebrate Your Home! Part 1

“At worst, a house unkept cannot be so distressing as a life unlived.”

–Dame Rose Macaulay

A Great Read!

Today’s quote is from one of my favourite books on the subject of home: “A Perfectly Kept House is the Sign of a Misspent Life”, by Mary Randolph Carter.  It’s a great book filled with wonderful photographs and interesting ideas on “how to live creatively with collections, clutter, work, kids, pets, art, etc… and stop worrying about everything being perfectly in its place”.

Reconsidering Clutter: An Opportunity to Share and Express!

It’s true that an uncluttered space has a certain appeal – it can be calming and efficient. But it’s also important to recognize that purposeful “clutter” can express our personality and our history,  and can create warmth and visual appeal.

When I first found  Carter’s book, it was a great source of inspiration for me. It was a period in my life when, more than ever before, I started to focus on how to set up my home in a way that celebrated our life and nourished our interests.

I liked Carter’s take on clutter:

“Embrace it, make peace with it, take control of it, share it, reorganize it, and when the time seems right, bid it farewell.”

“Clutter is the grand parade that follows us all our days from a playpen of toys… to the places we call home.”

“Find solace and a little beauty in the clutter of the things we cherish in our everyday lives at home and at work.”

A Home Is For Living!

Part of the reason that I connected with this book, I think, is  that I was raised in an unpretentious home where living life was the priority.   What was surprising, though, is that this book about embracing clutter inspired me to  start a process of decluttering. 

It was a big job. I began to go through all of our stuff, starting with our basement, which we basically used for storage.  I got rid of countless things: I donated tonnes of stuff, and threw out or recycled what was not fit for giving.

In the process, I rediscovered mementos that were real treasures; imperfect, and full of personal history and interesting stories.  These items didn’t belong in storage. It was time for them to add some character to my home!

It was during this period of time that my personal philosophy of home “organization” really started to evolve.

ClutterFree With a Twist!

In some ways, my philosophy is somewhat minimalist. I enjoy living in a space that is not overly or needlessly cluttered.   At the same time, I find it joyful to be surrounded by the things that I love – books, pictures, and keepsakes.  My home is lived in, not perfect;  but it’s bright, clean, and welcoming

So my home has become a  combination of an uncluttered calm space, mixed with meaningful, useful and comforting objects that enhance my life.  It is all about about enjoying the things that you love, in a functional space that enables you to do the things that you love!

~~~~~~~~~~

Part 2:

How I Transformed My Home Without Spending (almost any) Money!

 

The above image is by Adam, courtesy of freerangestock.com

 

 

A Song Called Home.

“Well, Sometimes Home Is a Person.”

~ Beth Revis, A Million Suns.

 

Today’s song, “Home”, by the indie band Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, reminded me of the above quote.  It’s a fun song (a bit strange at parts, but maybe there is a story behind falling out of the window?),  with a cute little video featuring the large, exuberant band (Currently at 10 members).  My husband recently heard this song included in a playlist, and thought I might want to share it on my blog. He was right, and it’s really worth a listen.

Sometimes, home is a person.  Enjoy!

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Ideas on Creating a Welcoming Home

“… It was amazing what a little noise and brightness could do to a house and a life, how much the smallest bit of each could change everything…”

-Sarah Dessen, What Happened to Goodbye

What Makes a Home Welcoming?

When I was young, probably 12 years old, my aunt, who was working on her master’s degree, took me to a party.   It was hosted by a friend of hers from university and the house seemed to me  full with interesting adults. It was a lively, enchanting affair held in an older home, with arched doorways that connected the rooms. The thing is, decades later, sometimes I still think back to that home and revel in how it made me feel. It had character, but was simple; maybe pretty.  On the surface, there was nothing exceptional about that small house, but the ambiance was warm, welcoming and comfortable. I can’t remember the deco in much detail-  just that it was not pretentious, and that it gave me this feeling of embracing life; a home that was honest and comfortable with itself. These people enjoyed their friends and opened their home in a way that was genuine and, it turns out, unforgettable.

The Secret: Focus On What You Do Have.

Experiences like this have convinced me: It doesn’t matter what kind of house you have. Don’t worry about the imperfections or the size of your house, or the age of the furniture. Your home may be lived in rather than spotless, and the furniture may not be right out of a glossy magazine. Who cares? As we head into the holidays, forget about useless expectations that rob you of the moment. Instead, focus on what you do have and make the most of it.  

So, in that spirit,  here are a few…

Easy Tips to Create a Welcoming Ambiance :

~ Think about lighting. Candles (supervised, of course), and/or Christmas lights create a wonderful feeling.  Lamps can be used to brighten the room softly.  When entertaining, I often use a combination of light sources to create a cozy, but well illuminated space.

~ Music transforms the atmosphere. Download a fabulous free app like Songza, which has themed playlists. You can switch up the playlists to accompany the different activities, enhancing the mood you wish to create. Personally, I love lively, but relaxing music when enjoying pre-dinner drinks, followed by jazzy, soothing music while dining.

~ Informal elegance is the new classic! Think comfortable, gracious hospitality with a down-to-earth touch.

~ Remember that older items often acquire a certain patina, growing more beautiful with age and use.  So display items that tell a story or have positive associations for you! They are personal, charming and interesting to talk about!

~ Plants!  They purify the air and bring colour and life to a room.   I have some geraniums that need a lot of sunlight, so in the winter months I keep them in the family room, which gets sun throughout the short days.  When guests are coming, I take them to the living room, where their bright red blooms create a cheerful welcome and enhance the colours in that space.  Even if you aren’t much of a green thumb, there are plenty of beautiful plants that don’t need much care.  For example, I have several Spider Plants that do well no matter where I put them, and I only need to  fill the self-watering pots every 10 days or so.

Create a Home with Heart

This December, take time to focus on the things in your life for which you are grateful.  A house filled with a generosity of spirit, warmed by smiles, and illuminated  with genuine welcomes is a home with heart. Let’s face it: that is the most beautiful kind of house there is.

Image by Just2shutter, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net. 

 

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Thanks for stopping by homehurrah.com and I can’t wait to share my next post with you!

In the next few days, I will be writing a post on the easiest way to declutter, while keeping the clutter that counts! Believe me, I have experience decluttering! But I believe that it is wonderful to keep, display, and enjoy “clutter” that has a special meaning, purpose, or visual appeal. Anyhow, this is a great tip for creating a welcoming home, but requires a full article to explain properly. So if you are interested, stay tuned for that.