Enjoying Spring in Winnipeg

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“The sun has come out and the air is vivid with Spring light” 

Byron Caldwell Smith, letter to Kate Stephens

 

Mahalo. Have you heard this word before?

In my latest post, I talked about the presentation I saw by Chad Pregrake, the 2013 CNN Hero of The Year.  I found his story encouraging because it showed that each of us has the power to act on the things that matter, and that small actions can add up to make a significant difference.

I closed that post off with a song by a famous Hawaiian musician (It’s a medley of two songs: “It’s A Wonderful World” and “Somewhere Over The Rainbow“).  My oldest brother, who loves to visit Hawaii, left a comment on that post that introduced me to the concept of Mahalo:

“In keeping with the Hawaiian theme of your closing, they have this concept of Mahalo, which translates to ‘thank you’ but also can mean gratefulness or thankfulness, and can be expressed as simply as picking up trash and leaving the place better than you found it.”

Mahalo.  I love it.  The soft sound of one word to remind us of our own power to make a difference.

What a wonderful wor(l)d.

And while we are speaking of gratitude…

Spring has settled in around here, and made itself right at home.  We’ve passed the May long weekend, which is when experts announce the official start of the “frost-free” season in Winnipeg.   Gardeners can start planting!

So, today at Home… hurrah!, I am in the mood for a light-hearted celebration of all things Spring, with a Winnipeg twist! (In case you are not familiar with Winnipeg, it’s an interesting little place.)

1.  Spring officially started more than 2 months ago, and this is how the various regions in Canada looked on that first day of Spring.

2. I love birds, and I am always thrilled by my first sighting of geese flying over us, returning after a long winter! Some thoughts on migration here.

3.  In the spirit of spring, I recently tried painting a bird.

It started like this….

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Then it went through a few phases.  Can you guess how which one of the two was the final painting?

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*See answer at the the end of post.

4. This morning, as I woke up, the fragrance of lilac blossoms reached my senses before I even opened my eyes.  My husband had put some fresh blossoms  in a vase, in our bedroom.  Ahhh… Fresh lilac blossoms, outdoors and indoors!  Love.

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“Every Spring is the only Spring – a perpetual astonishment.”  

Ellis Peters

5.  Barbecues!  Actually, this past Friday, my husband made the best burgers ever.  I am not always the biggest fan of burgers, but these were amazingly delicious.  I will soon tell you how he went about making them… if I can pry the secret out of him!

6. I’ve been using my favourite emojis again! 🌸🌷💐🌱

7.  Oh, the joys of being outside on a warm evening…

sunset at the lake, spectacular cloud
An unusual and lonely cloud, illuminated by the sunset (last summer), looked spectacular.

8.  … in sandals!!!  Aaaahhhh…

People who have to layer up in parkas, scarves, hats, gloves, long underwear, two pairs of socks, and boots, can really appreciate the care free experience of slipping into sandals!  (No matter what our feet might look like!)

feet in sandals
It’s so easy to slip into sandals! And the air on our toes feels so good.

9.  When celebrating Spring in Winnipeg, it is not always easy to decide what to wear.  For example, according to Wikipedia, temperatures for April in Winnipeg range from −6.3 °C (21 °F) to 34.3 °C (94 °F), and can change rather quickly.

10. Green!  Everywhere green! We are embracing this glorious season as the dormant world becomes vibrantly awake in May.

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…The trees outside my window are dressed in their magnificent, leafy green garments.   (Do you notice the trees around you, too?)

Tree lined streets means lots of trees right outside my window.
Trees ask for so little, but give so much. You can see them here in action… beautifying the city and cleaning the air!  They provide a home for birds and other backyard wildlife, and shelter us from the hot sun.

 

This list could go on, as I do love Spring, and the joy only increases as it transforms into summer.  So, today, I will leave you with the bottom line:

“That is one good thing about this world… there are always sure to be more springs.”

L.M. Mondtgomery, Anne of Avonlea (Anne of Green Gables, #2)

Answer – This was the final painting:
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Can’t wait to share my next post with you!

 

On The Map

Picture shared by reader Julia Davi.
Picture shared by reader Julia Davi.

If you are a bit of an explorer at heart, you might find this interesting.

A while back, I read something about Winnipeg, Manitoba that really surprised me.  And, at the same time, it didn’t.  Winnipeg, nick-named “The Peg”, is the unique and interesting place I have come to call home for more than two decades.  I have been wanting to write a post on The Peg for a while, and when I read the big news, I knew it was time.

A Little Background…

Now, before I get to the news, there is something you need to understand about Winterpeg (That’s our other popular nick-name. With our record low winter temperature being -47.8C before the wind-chill, you can easily guess why.  In all fairness, we rarely get anywhere near that cold!).  People have a tendency to complain about, or at least poke good-natured fun at this place. It’s too cold, there is too much snow in the winter, the drivers are bad, too many mosquitoes in the summer…

If you don’t believe me, check out this hit song, actually titled, “I Hate Winnipeg” (written and performed by a popular Winnipeg band), this Simpson’s clip that was often played on one of our networks, or this commercial (it’s a chuckle).

The Weekday Off

I’ll admit that I have certainly complained at times, especially when I’ve had to drive to work in a blizzard.  Or when my garage door froze shut and I was almost late for work. But I digress…

Overall, there are many wonderful things about Winnipeg.  One just has to learn to see them.  In fact, I have come to see Winnipeg as “a weekday off”. Let me explain.

When I was in university, my summer employment often found me working on the weekends and having Monday and Tuesday off.  Some people didn’t like that schedule, but I saw it differently.  Sure, it wasn’t “The Weekend”, but there were many unexpected advantages to a weekday off.  It was easy to make appointments and run errands, and there was always a choice spot wherever I went… be it a provincial beach or a city café!  In time, I came to love, in some ways, even prefer the “weekdays off”.

And that is the perspective I try to share when we all start getting down on Winnipeg.  It’s a week-day off. If you look at it from the right perspective, Winnipeg has many unexpected advantages, and is a wonderful place with much to offer.

So what’s the big news I recently read?….

Lots of clean, natural beaches in Manitoba. Sometimes, you get a whole beach to yourself!
Lots of clean, natural beaches in Manitoba. Sometimes, you get a whole beach to yourself! My son took this picture.
Picture by Julia Davi.
Picture by Julia Davi.

The Big News

Well, you can imagine what an unexpected and pleasant surprise it was to read that Winnipeg has been named, by non other than the National Geographic Traveler, as being one of the top 20 cities to visit in the world!  Top 20 – On the same list as some pretty amazing places, like the last remaining Himalayan Buddhist kingdom; an island in the South Atlantic Ocean that is full of penguins; one of France’s finest vineyards; even places like Bermuda, and New York city.  I won’t go through all 20 places named, but feel free to check it out for yourself. (Here’s a link to the web-site edition… though I still want to read the print edition for the full article.)

Now, when the conversation starts to turn towards the obvious difficulties of living in this climate and city, I remind us: Hey, we’ve been named one of the top 20 cities in the world to visit.  And people pause, smile and nod in agreement.  That’s true, they say.

The National Geographic Traveler has given my positive perspective a lot of credibility.

By now you might be asking, Okay… so what are some of these cool things about The Peg?

Here is a quick list.   Just some of the reasons why Winnipeg is kind of an awesome place (to visit, and yes… to live!):

The serene butterfly sanctuary at the Assiniboine Zoo.
The serene butterfly sanctuary at the Assiniboine Zoo.
  • We have wonderful restaurants with authentic cuisine from all over the world.
  • A world-class zoo, the oldest ballet company in Canada, a vibrant arts community, interesting galleries and museums- including the new National Museum of Human Rights.
My son took this picture on a beach that was almost deserted late one morning.
My son took this picture on a quiet beach that was almost deserted late one morning.
  • Many beaches within easy driving distance of the city. In fact, Grand Beach has been listed among the Top Ten Beaches of North America.
  • Lots of beautiful parks and trees, and the Forks (The place where our two rivers meet, The Forks has a children’s theatre, and is full of shops, galleries, restaurants, cafés, and special events – both indoors and out).
  • We have the longest ice skating river trail in the world (at 8.5 km), and a popular winter festival (Le Festival Du Voyageur), as well as many other festivals, many of which take place in the summer.

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  • We are a diversely multicultural city, and also a distinctly bilingual city, with celebrated vibrant French communities amongst the English majority.
  • We have the typical cold, snowy prairie winters.   It may not be easy, but if we look at it objectively, it’s an interesting experience.  That fluffy white snow is rather magical, if you dress for the weather.  One can also try winter sports, or stay inside feeling super cozy and warm.  Bonus:  Bragging rights for being tough enough for the Manitoba winters!
  • We also have beautiful, sunny, hot summers, and fleetingly colourful autumns.
Natural beauty year-round, as seen in the summer. Picture by Julia Davi.
Natural beauty year-round, as seen in the summer. Picture by Julia Davi.
  • The city is surrounded by cool towns such as Gimli (one hour away), provincial parks, and a national park only 3 hours away.  There are lovely farm fields all around, and lots of nature to be seen, all within easy driving distance.

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The water-break near winnipeg Beach.
The water-break near winnipeg Beach.
  • If you are really adventurous (and don’t mind spending a bit of money), you can take a trip to visit Churchill, and see real-live polar bears and beluga whales in their natural habitat.
  • The house prices and cost of living are still relatively low!  This means that one can have quite a high quality of life on an average income.
  • The provincial slogan for our license plate is “Friendly Manitoba”, and most of us really are.
A unique winter experience
A unique winter experience

On top of everything, there are some interesting facts about this city.  Did you know that Winnie the Pooh was named after Winnipeg?  Or that the character of Bond, yes… James bond was probably inspired by a real-live Winnipegger?  Ditto for Snow White.

That’s not all…  Just for fun, click here or here to find out more.

Sure, going to the Caribbean to soak up some sun does seem like a top choice for a vacation, you won’t get any argument from me.  But still…  Winnipeg is an interesting place for the brave hearts!  How exciting that our square “Peg” has made the top 20s in this round world!

Do you have an unusual or little known favourite destination?

Thanks for stopping by!

Photo by Julia Davi.
Photo by Julia Davi.
There are many city parks where to exercise and enjoy urban nature.
There are many city parks where to exercise and enjoy urban nature.

Where Do You Go?

For me, there is something captivating, even comforting about migration.  Even though my life on the ground may have changed over the year – I’ve lost loved ones, my father is in palliative care – in the spring, the birds return.  And while it does not make the losses easier, there is a serene kind of solace found in the predictable beauty of the cycles of nature.

Depending on the conditions of their geographical location, some Golden Eagles migrate, and some do not.
Depending on the conditions of their geographical location, some Golden Eagles migrate, and some do not.

The arrival of the migrating animals after their long journey exemplifies courage, and life’s triumph over adversity.   We look up and welcome the geese, not only as a sign of the changing seasons and spring’s renewal, but simultaneously as a symbol of perseverance, and life’s constancy.

A family of geese

That’s the thing about migration – it heralds change, but also continuity.  It is a process that transcends our existence here on earth: Migration was here before us, and continues without us. Just like when children grow, they make us more aware of the passage of time, migrations orient us to the seasons of life and create a sense of connection between the passing years.

There is something so worthwhile, so healthy about pausing, and remembering the processes in nature that transcend our own lifespans

Alicia and Neil’s Photography

Migration also reminds us of unseen bonds that connect us to other parts of the planet. We share something beyond ourselves; We share a living species that calls both of our lands home.

“Where Is Your Home, Restless Wings?”

In the modern era, it is harder for us to grasp the magic of migration.  We have developed the remarkable technology to connect with almost anyone, anywhere, instantly, but in so doing may be forgetting a time in recent history when distant lands were still mysterious, and the world felt much bigger.  Less than a century ago, simply receiving a letter from a different part of the world was an exciting event.  In some ways, migrating animals are like living, timeless emblems from distant lands; messengers reminding us of an intricate connection with people we will never meet, and places we might never see.

Reader Julia shared this picture of a beautiful Monarch, know for its epic migration.
Reader Julia shared this picture of a beautiful Monarch, known for its epic migration.

And just as I finished writing these reflections, the world outside my window was transformed over night by a fluffy snowfall, and the words on this post are now a farewell to fall.

How wonderful that the timeless truths of nature are right at our doorstep, and the simple act of stepping outside and looking at the sky can help us find comfort and perspective in our modern, everyday lives.

Mountain blue bird ANP
A beautiful Mountain Blue Bird:  Alicia and Neil’s Photography

Unless otherwise indicated, all of today’s photos are from Alicia and Neil’s Photography.

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Last winter, I heard this song for the first time.  This song may have helped inspire this post.  I have to add that I love this band, and they seem to share my poetic obsession with birds.

Would you like to learn more?  Here are some links to organizations that are working hard to preserve habitat so that life on earth can stay diverse, and migrating animals can persevere.  Every bit we do helps, and these organizations are making a real difference.

World Wildlife Fund

World Wildlife Fund International

Nature Conservancy of Canada

Sign a petition to protect Caribou habitat or  Learn more about CPAWS

Thank you for stopping by!

Sweet Summer Winds Are What I’ll Remember Most.

Post by Carina Spring.

Stand By For The Weather…

“By all these lovely tokens, September days are here, with summer’s best of weather, and autumn’s best of cheer.”

Helen Hunt Jackson

This is the last weekend of the summer, and what a send off. We couldn’t have asked for a more radiant Saturday.

I went for a bike ride to enjoy this beautiful Saturday. Birds gathering to migrate, colourful trees, unbelievably blue skies.

We were so lucky this summer.  The weather here was wonderful – lots of sunny, hot spells and soft breezes – basically, the kind of weather I love most.  I mean really, really love.  (Honestly, the air conditioner doesn’t get much use around our home).

Even when it rained, the storms lasted only a few hours, maybe a day or two, and then we were back to heat and sunshine for a good stretch of time.   The thing that was strange, though, is that the storms we did have seemed to be so powerful.

We had very few ‘soft summer rains’.

So, while most of the days were like this…

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the storms that came and went were electrically charged, with strong winds, and  heavy rains belting down rather fiercely.  You could see plenty of evidence of these powerful storms in the lake region near Winnipeg: Felled trees and branches throughout the area.  Parts of the main beach at Winnipeg Beach were closed off for the whole season due to the damage.

Strong storms causing damage in the Interlake Region.
A common sight this summer – strong storms causing damage in the Interlake Region.

In fact, one afternoon out at the lake, when we were inside, a crack of thunder pierced the air so loudly that I froze (ears covered- ouch). It seemed to keep on going… a white light iluminating the whole room while the force of the sound seemed to rattle everything.

When the storm was over, we went outside to see what had happened.  Remarkably, there wasn’t any significant damage. None!  Yet the lightning must have struck extremely close.  We thought for sure we would find a charred tree outside the door!

 

A reader, Julia, shared with me this pictures of a stormy morning out by lake Winnipeg.
A reader, Julia, took this picture when she was out for a walk by Lake Winnipeg on a stormy morning..

There have even been several tornadoes in the province (…not entirely unusual in the prairies).  One funnel cloud touched down in southwestern Manitoba for around three hours.  Now that is rare.  In Canada, funnel clouds normally only touch down for a few minutes, at most.   The tornado lashed trees, farmlands, and roads.  Miraculously, despite its duration, it did not go through any towns or cities, and caused no major injuries.

We also had a funnel cloud touch down near Winnipeg Beach.  They call it a waterspout when a tornado happens on the water. This one also briefly made it’s way to land.  Again, thankfully, no one was hurt and there was only minimal damage.

I am so glad that there were no major injuries caused by the severe weather, though the trend is worrisome.

Have you experienced any extreme weather in your area?

When I look back on summer 2015, though, soft warm winds are what I will remember most.

One spring day, four colourful, huge kites were dancing in the soft wind, against a radiant blue sky.
One spring day, four colourful, huge kites were dancing in the soft wind, against a radiant blue sky.

Thank you so much for stopping by!  I can’t wait to share my next post with you!

Summer’s Ghost

 “We cannot stop the winter or the summer from coming.  We cannot stop the spring or the fall or make them other than they are.  They are gifts from the universe that we cannot refuse.  But we can choose what we will contribute to life when each arrives.”

Gary Zukav

Welcome back!  Hope you have all had a wonderful summer.  I have missed you, and I have missed blogging for the last long while… Looking forward to catching up.  I have a lot to share, and despite of the fact that the months ahead will be very busy for me, it is the season to get back into regular writing.  I can hardly believe that we are almost at mid-September, but (I think) I am finally embracing the idea of autumn and its routine (maybe).

July and August of 2015 are now behind us, and when all is said and done, I look back on a special summer.  Many out-of-town guests, one road trip to Alberta, a brief stay at the mountains, some time at home, time at the lake. That is the synopsis that describes my summer, but hardly captures it.

It was not a perfect or bump-less summer (literally… I recently suffered a mild concussion.  Please don’t worry, though, I am much better already).  But there were so many beautiful moments – and I am glad that I remembered to notice.

Northern lights, a big round moon, the stars. Fireworks.  Hot days spent swimming in cold water, cool evenings spent by the campfire.  Farm fields, trees, birds.  Mountain lakes.  Laughter, family and friends.  Aaaah.

I miss summer already… and I have lots of stories to tell, but I won’t try to relate my whole summer in one post.

Swimming off one of the many charming public piers. The picture taken at Winnipeg Beach by Julia, a reader.
One of the many charming public piers around Lake Winnipeg. Picture sent in by a reader, Julia.

Hopefully, some of the experiences and thoughts that I’ve been wanting to share with you will find their way into my blog posts in the months to come.  As I’ve heard it said, “In September, we know we’ll welcome summer’s ghost.”

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”

John Lubbock

A serene moment on the shores of Lake Winnipeg, image captured by reader Julia.
A serene moment on the shores of Lake Winnipeg, captured on camera by reader Julia.

Home Is Where The Story Begins

It feels good to be writing again!  I have not posted in 28 days.  I just counted, and the number actually surprised me!  I started blogging at the end of November, and since then, I have always posted at least once a week, and often more.  Most months, 2 or 3 posts a week was the norm.

Back in November, as I was just starting this blog, I created the image below for my landing page (with the help of my 11 year old son).  It was a fun little project, completed on a big piece of paper early one afternoon, but I wound up not using it.  So today, as I ‘begin again’, I thought would be a good time to share it.

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The other thing that has surprised me is how hard it is to start writing again.  When I was writing all of the time, sitting down to prepare another blog post came quite easily.  Having broken the momentum, though, it’s kind of awkward to begin again.  You know when you hear your own voice on a recording and think, “I sound like that?”  Writing for the first time in a while gives me a similar sensation.

So all this has got me thinking a bit about why I haven’t posted, and how staying at home, and leaving on a trip both play a part in the creative process.

On staying…

We can do simple things at home to create the environment we need. We can surround ourselves with books and quotes, images that inspire, and keepsakes that we love.  We can change the colours in our office, or get a brighter lightbulb for the desk.

In the famous words of Franz Kafka, “It isn’t necessary that you leave home.  Sit at your desk and listen.  Don’t even listen, just wait.  Don’t wait, be still and alone.  The whole world will offer itself to you.”

There is a value in knowing how to stay, especially in today’s world, which is constantly in motion.  Staying teaches us how to change our perspective so that familiarity does not become stale; to see the old through new eyes.   This requires and cultivates a certain creativity and ability to appreciate everyday moments.

On Going…

Still, it is invigorating to change our environment entirely every now and then, and go somewhere different.  Distance is the quickest prescription to refreshing and reviving our spirits, helping us see things in a new way.

The last 28 days for me have included some travel.  Nothing too exotic – we drove west through a couple of provinces to see the mountains (that’s where I took the first  picture of the sign) and visit family.  I haven’t been to the mountains for years, though, so I was excited about it, and I always love to see our families.  The 28 days also included a short period of intense work, as well as hosting out of town guests in our home.  Each of those 28 days was rich and meaningful. There were amusing moments, light with humour and laughter.  Other moments stirred thoughts about life, the passage of time, and even the meaning of bizarre coincidences (more on that soon).

I took this photograph from the passenger's window as we drove through Saskatchewan, "The land of the living sky".
I took this photograph from the passenger’s window as we drove through Saskatchewan, “The land of the living sky”.

In tandem…

It is only now that I am home again that I am ready to reflect on these experiences through writing.  In many ways, home is where I make meaning of the adventures that happen outside its doors.

Home is the firm base from where we can launch into our adventures, and home is often where the story is ready to be told after our return.  And whatever home might mean, and whether the story is a sad or joyful one – in so many ways, the story really does begin at home.

 

Backyards

How has the weather been where you live?  Have you had a chance to get out a bit to enjoy Spring?

Thankfully, the weather around here has been quite beautiful lately. A good amount of rain, and lots of blue skies and sunshine in the mix!  Everything has turned to a lush green, and flowers are blooming.

The other evening, a couple of birds were singing the most beautiful melody in the backyard. I couldn’t see them, but their enchanting song seemed to joyfully echo through the trees. It was a rare kind of sound, and made me drop everything I was doing to stop and listen.

We have been making the most of the nice weather. Even on weeknights, we’ve often opted to eat in the backyard, enjoying the longer hours of sunshine and the blissful fragrance of the nearby lilac blossoms.

We have been so busy lately that our backyard is definitely sporting a very ‘natural’ kind of beauty.  😉  If the weather cooperates, I am hoping to spend some time working in the yard next weekend. Over time, I hope to create a yard that grows plenty of native plants and provides some habitat for butterflies and bees, so I will be doing a bit more research, too.

In the meantime, I hope you have a great week!  I’ll leave you with some famous reflections on “the backyard” and outdoors.  Do any of these resonate with you?

“People’s backyards are much more interesting than their front gardens, and houses that back on to railways are public benefactors.”

~ John Betjeman

“Nature is impersonal, awe-inspiring, elegant, eternal. It’s geometrically perfect. It’s tiny and gigantic. You can travel far to be in a beautiful setting, or you can observe it in your own backyard – or, in my case, in the trees lining New York City sidewalks, or in the clouds above the skyscrapers.”

~ Gretchen Rubin

“The really best acting is children in a playground or in a backyard. They’re just lost in their imagination…”

~ Nolan North

“I like to sit in my backyard. I go out on the hammock and sit in silence and kind of meditate. Nature is calming, and it’s nice to go out there and clear my head.”

~ Devon Werkheiser

“I feel a responsibility to my backyard. I want it to be taken care of and protected. “

~ Annie Leiboritz

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The Lure of The Window-Sill

Above Image:  Creative Commons, “Window and Flowers” by Sukanto Debnath, is licensed under CC by 2.0

Post by Carina Spring.

Sunny Window-Sill, Autumn In Sydney Australia, by Ruby Goes, Flickr, CC.
Creative Commons, Sunny Window-Sill, Autumn In Sydney Australia, by Ruby Goes, licensed under CC by 2.0
Window, La Boca Buenos Aires, By DiegoTorres Silvestre, Found on Flickr, CC.
Creative Commons, Window, La Boca Buenos Aires, By DiegoTorres Silvestre, Licensed under CC by 2.0

Windows are a wonderful place where the comfort and ambiance of the indoors connect with the light and colours of nature.

Crack a window open, and the fragrance in the room immediately transforms.  Freshness.  The season enters your room through the air: fresh cut grass, new blossoms from a nearby lilac tree, the woody smell of wet soil.

The sounds gravitate to meet you.  Urban sounds, mingled with the sounds of nature.  Children playing, the mesmerizing rustle of leaves in a soft breeze, birds, a car driving by.

Wherever I go, I always ask for the window seat.

Come Rain or Come Shine by Faith Globe, Courtesy of Flickr, CC.
Creative Commons, Come Rain or Come Shine by Faith Globe, licensed under CC by 2.0.

 

Curtains by Lynn, Found on Flickr, CC.
Creative Commons, Curtains by Lynn, Licensed under CC by 2.0

 

View From My Window, by KaCey97078, Courtesy of Flickr, CC.
Creative Commons, View From My Window, by KaCey97078, Licensed under CC by 2.0

 

Sunglow Window and Tree Shadow, by Ken Bosma, desertdutchman, courtesy of Flickr, CC.
Creative Commons, Sunglow Window and Tree Shadow, by Ken Bosma, desertdutchman, Licensed under CC by 2.0

Thanks for stopping by homehurrah.com!

Image links will soon be added. Sorry for the delay ~ technical difficulties.