Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Passing the Gift Along


It's a lovely day out in our part of the world... bright and warm and feeling so much like Spring.

We can hope it will stay, but we know from past experience that it's really only just a reprieve. There will no doubt be days that feel quite wintery before the season's done. However, reprieve or not, we shall sally forth today to enjoy the warmth on our faces and to take in deep breaths of the air that smells of earth and melting snow.

I'm in the middle of working on a piece that has a deadline looming -- it's for a writers' anthology on habits essential to writers. So no big post here today, alas, but I'm happy to share a post from a few years ago that I just refurbished Pass the Gift Along and I do hope it makes your visit worthwhile.

Here's wishing you glimpses of heaven in unexpected places,


Friday, February 20, 2015

Red Tulips

Here's what's sitting in the middle of my kitchen table today.  It's the bright spot of colour on this grey-skied Friday morning... a cheerful contrast to the frozen garden still snow bound in the back yard with leafless branches sighing against a silvery grey canvas.

My heart sings for, in spite of the dullness outside, I feel a lightheartedness inside. A smile plays on my face. Tulips make me happy.

And so I offer this little gift to you, dear beautiful friends, with the hope that you are yourself cheered and oh-so-ready for this new weekend. Got plans?

With loving thoughts and a warm hug,


Monday, February 16, 2015

It's All in the Layering

Have you ever eaten a delicious three- or four-layer birthday cake?

One of those delectable mile-high desserts where between every chocolate-y layer a new flavour bursts on your taste buds. It's heavenly, isn't it? Now there is nothing wrong with a one-layer cake, but, oh my! it's much more exciting to savour a variety of flavors and textures in that one delicious mouthful.

In truth, I would like my life to be more like a three-layer chocolate cake. Interesting and slightly unpredictable, with promises of rich creamy texture, sweetness vs tart, along with smooth and crunch in my days.

Just as the baker of such a dessert gets to choose the cake and what each layer will be, so to we have some choice about what layers our days. Sure, we can have a simple one-layer sponge cake, working all day long, but wouldn't it be more beautiful to anticipate designing a day that's layered with needful tasks as well as creative ones, busy ones beside quiet, peaceful ones. Days that feel different, taste different, even smell different.

Layers of reading, scrap booking or birdwatching. Writing. Doing the crossword. Quilting or knitting or crocheting. Painting your bedroom with that gorgeous new colour you found. Walking, swimming, meditating. Visiting at large family gatherings and then enjoying quiet solitude in the garden or your favourite cozy corner. Layering the fun stuff between the more tedious tasks. Lazy moments alongside crazy busy ones.

It may be an old cliche, but it's true, variety is the spice of life. When I layer my days with an assortment of activities, people, and experiences, I find myself feeling richer, more vibrant, and bursting with the joy of living.

Yes, I want to create my life to be more like a three-layered birthday cake...

Will you come for tea and cake?

Updated: original post published in 2008

Thursday, February 12, 2015

My Book of Flowers by Princess Grace of Monaco

What a joy it was to discover this lovely book years ago written by Princess Grace of Monaco and Gwen Robyns.

Published in 1980, this beautifully written and illustrated book which describes the flowers and plants of Monaco, as well as their floral history and legends, is one that goes perfectly with a cup of tea on a sunny -- or rainy -- afternoon.

When I first discovered the book at the library, I knew I wanted my own copy, but I couldn't find it anywhere to buy (that was years before amazon). It became one of those books that I checked out of the library regularly... so much so it started to feel like it was mine after awhile.

What I loved about it was that it gave me such a delightful glimpse of the Princess personally -- not just her as a movie star or royalty -- but of her deep love and appreciation for flowers and how she celebrated their beauty by creating lovely gardens for the people of Monoco.

The book includes 'up close' photos of her working in her home on some of her famous pressed flower arrangements -- one I think became the design for a postage stamp. She'd go hunting for the right blossoms and then use old telephone books to press them.

Photo from the book

I think it must have been the discovery of this information that inspired me many years ago to take up flower pressing and turning them into greeting cards. Like the Princess we used piles of old phone books to store our delicate treasures.

Here is one of my favourite quotes from My Book of Flowers.....
"When....I took the time to look into the heart of a flower, it opened up a whole new world -- a world where every country walk would be an adventure, where every garden would become an enchanted one, where one could never again be lonely, bored, or indifferent. It was as if a window had been opened to let in the sun. My eyes were waking up...seeing the unbelievable beauty of nature..." ~ Princess Grace of Monaco

When I read what she said all those years ago, I knew in my heart that, even though Her Serene Highness lived in Monoco and little ole me lived in Canada, we were kindred spirits at heart. I've never looked at a flower the same way since.

Alas, I still remember vividly that day when the news came that she'd died from a car crash. I still feel a pique of sadness all these years later. It was such a shame such a beautiful woman died in her prime of life -- which, of course, makes this book all the more treasured. I'm happy to report used copies are still available to purchase on amazon.com.

Gracefully yours,

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Shades of Blue

It's quite overcast and gray this morning. But we lament not, for the gorgeous neighbourhood jays fill my eyes with brilliant blue even when the sky remains dull.

What fun it is to watch them scan the area and then swoop in for a peanut in a shell. More than one is preferrable, if they can jam the second into their bills. They do check first to see if the shell is full or not. Smart birds, no use trucking off empty shells -- they must feel the weight, too light and they discard it for another.

Then, depending, they will either find a spot to hide their treasure, burying it under dead leaves up against the fence or under little snowy mounds. Or, climb to a safe spot on a bare branch and beak away at the shell until a nice plump peanut pops out... just in time for breakfast. Peck, peck, peck.

And so my morning begins with a glimpse of heaven in shades of blue.

Wishing you a lovely day,

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Blogging With Pleasure or Pressure?

What if we likened our posts to the old letters in the bygone days that came from loved ones, often few and far between, but all the more dearly looked forward for all their rareness and beauty?

I've noticed for myself over the years, and I see the symptoms elsewhere... people enthusiastic about blogging lose momentum and with that comes the sighs and regrets of closing down precious sites. There are duties of life, work, family issues and these must have our time and energy. Of course we understand that's needful.

There are the pressures from other bloggers, maybe those who have turned more professional (go for it, I'm happy for that too) but now those of us who have taken to blogging as a form of expression, for our own creative pleasure or as a gift to others, start to feel pressured or overwhelmed. Maybe we start feeling we have to perform more, bigger, more brilliantly to keep up or keep readers coming back.

I have thought about whether I want to switch to WordPress, but I like Blogger.

I have thought about whether I should make money blogging or keep it as a hobby. I don't want to make money at this. This is my way of connecting to kindred heart friends from around the world. I don't want ads 'cluttering' my beautiful blog.

If I could just say... I hope you don't fade away entirely from your blog. I do know that sometimes we feel the 'need' to post regularly (but maybe that's a modern thing in our instant world and we should just get over it).

So what if we post less often, a couple times a week instead of every day, or even once in a blue moon? Those who love visiting and have connected a kinship will visit however rare a post goes up.  I know that for myself. I wait and when I see a new post of a blogging friend, it's like getting mail from loved ones who live in a far away places.

Maybe we could write our posts the way we used to write our letters or chat on the phone with friends -- frequently or infrequently, but certainly not every day. And did our friendships wane? Probably not.

Let's not let the number of visitors (or number of Google friends signed up) matter more than the quality of our visits with dear ones who are already sharing similar interests and ideas, and who send little gifts in the mail because I just know you'll enjoy this .....

There is a part of me that laments that I have fewer followers than some. But that means I'm in the business of comparing again... I have more friends than you do -- it's like we never left grade school or high school or something...

Let's just want to come back to the gentleness and let go of the modern pressure to keep 'performing' or we'll lose what's most precious. I'm talking to myself here.

If we enjoy the connections of a handful or a few dozen, and nurture those, recognizing that some will always follow from afar (which is perfectly fine), can we just enjoy and rest in that without fear? And if we get to the place where hundreds love visiting, we'll rejoice in that too.

Insert... I think of our beloved Susan Branch. She has many, many beautiful girlfriends following her now. She gets hundreds of comments on any one post. We remind ourselves that she's been building these relationships for decades through her faithful commitment to her art, her writing, her work in the heart of the home. It's decades of loving others through her craft. I would never, ever want to be envious of that. For I love her as many others do.

How many bloggers have been doing similar things? Which means I don't want to be envious of anyone else either. But to enjoy and receive the gift of what others share without worrying if mine's good enough. 

Insert... All that said, I would like to explore ways that you and I can increase our readership and not stay with just a handful of comments, if we want something larger. After all, if the good Lord has given us things to say -- whether they are grand ideas or our every day living stories -- then there must be a company of readers who want and maybe need what we have to say. The other hand in the clap. 

Please note:  This post is in an unfinished state... because I haven't really finishing sorting it out. It was a post I started a long time ago and I'm not sure how it got published today, as I wasn't even working on it. But since it's here, I leave it is in an unpolished state for now. I was going to feel embarrassed, and then decided this is also 'me' in my unfinished state. So I laugh instead, and relax,  and hope you will extend grace, which I know you will because your hearts are kind.

Sharing this beautiful journey together you
because I truly enjoy blogging whether it's with one or with many,


Friday, February 06, 2015

The Beauty Of Overhauling Blog Archives

We've been doing some overhauls in the archives of It's A Beautiful Life.

From some research I've done, the 'experts' recommend that bloggers go back into their archives and update old posts, breathe new life to ones that are outdated, and then send them back into circulation to give new readers the pleasure of some of these wonderful old writings. It's a little like re-gifting. (There are ways to send it out there again, but we'll write on that another time).

We're also removing photos that we aren't sure of their origin and copyright, and replacing with either our own photos or using pics and graphics from sources that give clear permission to use. Even if we give the source, we could still be violating copyright so it's important to replace photos if we've just taken them from Google images or other places without permission.

In this creative exercise, we have discovered,just how much we've learned about blogging having written 1300+ posts since August 2008. Oh my, have we learned and matured, both in writing and presentation and just general blogging know-how.

I've been having fun as there is something stimulating about clearing up old stuff. Bringing order out of chaos. It's like cleaning out the pantry cupboards. You reorganize, toss, and find stuff you totally forgot about.

Please note: I have plans to chat more about the 'technical' aspect of updating and regifting old posts.  It will be under Blogging Tips (which if you go to the sidebar and find the Blogging Tips category, you'll see it's all been overhauled -- and I just love the little school ma'rm with her cute blackboard -- click for original source).

Now... to give you an idea of what I'm up to, I've gathered just a few links to posts that have been stuck in my archives a few years.

I blew off the dust, added some new thoughts, ironed the dog-eared corners, gave them a new title if the old one was obscure, gussied them up with pretty pictures (in the beginning I didn't always have a picture to include, and now we know how valuable that is to drawing in readers) ... I did this with the hopes that you won't mind revisiting them, while I continue working on brand new material for future posts.

On that note, I'm wishing you a beautiful day,


Thursday, February 05, 2015

From The Airport

Can't come out and chat this morning -- off to pick up friends from the airport who are just returning from a holiday in Honolulu. Aren't they well blessed!

It surely would be sweet to catch the fragrance of plumeria blossoms drifting off their shirts. Not to mention, on this very snowy day around here, having a warm tropical breeze blow through your hair while walking along a sandy beach would be quite perfect too.

Dreamin' it is almost like being there... 

Sending you warm hugs,

Monday, February 02, 2015

Start Slow and Taper Off

The cup of tea on arrival at a country house is a thing which, as a rule, I particularly enjoy. I like the crackling logs, the shaded lights, the scent of buttered toast, the general atmosphere of leisured coziness.~P.G. Wodehouse

Mr. Wodehouse really got the nub of it, didn't he? Crackling logs, shaded lights, hot buttered toast and a cup of tea. In truth, nothing could be more perfect on such a snowy afternoon as we've been having today. I see the neighbour's chimney puffing away, the wispy smoke catching away in the sharp wind.

I've been taking Susan Branch's rule of thumb to heart these wintery days -- just start slow and taper off. This break has been good for the soul and has given the creative processes time to rest and dream a little bit. Gain some perspective too. A person comes back with fresh eyes to see anew.

I have happy things in the works... and I hope to bring you some nice things to read when you come a-calling in the days ahead.

Meantime, please stay warm, safe and cozy!