Saturday, August 26, 2023

Five on Friday: Flowers, Books, and Fun Stuff

"There are few pleasures like really
burrowing one's nose into sweet peas.
ANGELA THIRKELL, quote found on A-Z

I have to agree, burrowing my nose in a fistful of sweet peas is one of life's best pleasures. I still recall one memory, from a handful of early childhood remembrances, of the time I went with my mom to visit our neighbour on the next farm. The woman had masses of sweet peas growing on the side of her garage; we didn't have sweet peas at our house. I was invited to smell them. Oh, the sweet fragrance. I have but to catch the scent on the breeze, and I'm right back in that lovely moment. Sweet peas carry on the tradition, and today they climb my garage wall and fill my vases with sweet memories.

It's been mostly cool and rainy this week - with a decided nip in the air that makes one nearly forget it's still summer. There's still so much to take pleasure in. Despite the lateness of the season, the sweet peas are going strong, and now the late blooming Rudbeckia is coming into its own. This perennial beauty inspires me for I consider myself a late bloomer - I wrote about it HERE.

Beautiful friends, I hope you enjoy today's edition of Five on Friday!

One - Outside my window

We moved the tall Rudbeckia two summers ago from the front garden to the back yard. This season it has once again reached its stunning height of nine or ten feet. My heart takes sheer pleasure in catching sight of these yellow petalled beauties with their cute 'hats' in the centre.

Two - An old car and a faded old memory

Here I am standing in front of this vintage car, a 1956-57 Ford Meteor (or so I'm told). This past weekend we had a family reunion on the homestead farm where my mom grew up. My cousin said the car had been my granddad's. Oh my! I popped straight into an old memory—I'm about four or five years old, my grandparents are in the front seat of their car, I'm standing in the back (no seatbelts in those days); I think we're going into town. As we sorted out the approximate year of the car and how old I probably was at the time, I do believe this is the very car of that old memory. I joke with my cousins that maybe there's some of my DNA remaining on that backseat. Haha. I'm tickled to have matched up the car with that flash memory.

Three - My book pile this week

In my new reading pile this week, there are a couple of books from the library and three I purchased. I've browsed but haven't yet delved into any of them. Guess what I'm doing this weekend!

A Cotswold Ordeal by Rebecca Tope. A new-to-me British crime novelist. This book is the second in the series, as I couldn't find the first at the library. From my quick scan, the author has a couple of bestselling series: one set in Cotswold, one in the Lake District. She is also the ghost writer of the novels based on the television series Rosemary and Thyme, a series I liked very much. Do you remember it?

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Everyone surely knows this classic brooding novel set in Cornwall. I read it as a teen and have never forgotten the opening line: "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again." I'd given away my copy some years ago, thinking I wouldn't revisit the story. But I thought of that opening line, and it made me want to read it all over again. I now have a copy back on my shelf.

Write It All Down, How to put your life on the page by Cathy Rentzenbrink. This book came out a couple of years ago, and I always wanted a copy for myself. When I learnt that it took Cathy twenty years to wrestle her own life story onto the page, I knew I had to read the book. She reminds me of myself about the wrestling. In it, she shares what she's learnt about "writing the self in the service of others, no matter their experience, education, background or story."   

Forgiven, A Gift from my Grandparents by Mark Sakamoto. The 2018 Winner of CBC Canada Reads. I was drawn to both the title and cover with its black spine and fiery burnt orange Oriental-like painting overlaid with Japanese characters. This historical biography tells the story of the author's family's story, 'set against one of the darkest periods in Canada's history' during World War II.

Matrix by Lauren Groff is a novel set in 1158 AD. The opening lines set me up: "She rides out of the forest alone. Seventeen years old, in the cold March drizzle, Marie who comes from France." What is this young woman doing alone in the middle of a forest? Where is she? Why has she come from France? 

Four - Funny things happen

Yes, it's true. I went out in public like that! Which reminds me of something that happened 30 years or so ago. My housemate and I were off to the landfill site to discard a worn out mattress. Till we wrangled that thing into our hatchback, I completely forgot to change my shoes. The site when we got there was grubby and muddy, and that's when I realized my feet were still shod in my bedroom slippers! Eww... thankfully the young man working that day offered to retrieve the mattress and take it away. I didn't have to get out, or the slippers would have been tossed right alongside it.

Back to the first story, a couple of days ago, we headed out to meet friends for coffee. I had my blue jeans on, so I slipped on my blue flats. Or, so I thought. Grabbing my bag, I hurried out the door. It wasn't until we were nearly home again till I noticed I'd been happily sporting about town in two different shoes. As they were both flat heeled, they felt similar. No one even noticed, or that's what I hoped. 

Five - Something delicious for lunch

The other day I needed something quick and simple for lunch. I made BLTs. Bacon, lettuce, and rather than plain slices of tomato, I used a few roasted tomatoes with olive oil and chopped basil left over from another meal. Whole-wheat sesame buns, mayo on the lettuce/tomato side and sweet chili sauce on the bacon side. Oh my, it was so delicious. The combo of flavours really jazzed it up. In this case, there are no crumbs remaining... and no pictures to show you.

On that note, I'm wishing you a beautiful weekend.

Photo credits:
All pics, except the sandwich graphic, are mine.

Friday, August 18, 2023

It's A Beautiful Life Turns Fifteen!

"There is nothing like that exquisite moment when
you first discover the beauty of connecting with others
in celebration of larger ideals and shared wisdom."
GORDON GEE, American academic

On this day fifteen years ago, It's A Beautiful Life drew its first breath. I introduced myself to the world, committed myself to writing 100 posts in 100 days, and wondered what, if anything, would come of this new venture called blogging. Now here we are fifteen years later.

This has been the place where I write about living a beautiful life. For me, my posts are a lot like writing letters from home: we share our lives and trade recipes, favourite book titles, and 'oh, here are a few pictures of the garden, our family at Christmas, our visit to so-and-so', etc. I have truly enjoyed meeting kindred spirits from around the globe who share similar interests in discovering the beauty of our world and creating it in our ordinary, everyday lives. Sometimes in our upside-down world it's easy to lose sight of what makes life gracious and fulfilling. Writing here with you in mind helps me to remember. It's become my favourite place to write.

Your presence here makes me glad. I was especially grateful during those hard quarantine days during the pandemic. What a solace it was to find your replies to posts I'd written. It made me appreciate all over again, just what a beautiful online community we have in Blogland. It made such a difference to feel a sense of community and not feel so isolated within my four walls during that time. How often your lovely and encouraging comments came at just the right time—not only then, but all through the years. When I especially needed a boost to keep writing, there you were lifting me up with your words. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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Here are two headers I created and used in earlier years. The second one was a real favourite - I loved the girl in her hat - in my dreams I could imagine wearing such a hat (smile):

For interest's sake, the stats on the first anniversary: 400 posts published that year with over 10,000 pageviews. Today, our archives host over 1100 published posts and well over a million pageviews. Who would have dreamt! That's small potatoes in the social media world, nonetheless, I am amazed... and grateful.

To mark this anniversary, I've curated a small collection of 15 posts from the August archives - one post to represent each blogging year. These posts really are a slender slice of my life. Lots of memories floated to the surface. Reading an old post and I was right there remembering the event and even the ambiance in which I wrote it. I certainly felt the passage of time. Lots of water under the bridge, as they say. I am thankful to note that my writing skills have vastly improved over time. Reading those early posts, I was sorely tempted to give them a good edit, but it is what it is, that's who I was at the time. Ever evolving and learning. Although my blog's look has changed over the years, my theme has remained constant throughout—it's always been about living a beautiful life.

I've enjoyed the glance backwards. Please see the links below, if you care to take a browse.

Intro - Dear Beautiful Reader

Hello and welcome to It's A Beautiful Life.
My name is Brenda... Read More

August 2008
Day 1. Just Jump In

Today is a red letter day for me! I'm jumping into the ever-
growing circle of bloggers as I create this new blog... Read More

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August 2009
Evening in the Garden
The evening was so beautiful last evening. It was
warm, balmy, and with very few bugs... Read More

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August 2010
Friendship, Chocolate, and a Birdie

A long time friend came for a visit
today. We shared a simple lunch... Read More

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August 2011
Brass Polishing Moments and Other Nuances
With hands busy polishing brass—and there's quite a lot of it—
in the theatre of our local performing arts centre this... Read More

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August 2012
Letter in the Post
What a lovely morning. Lots of storms and rain these days,
but also lots of beautiful sunshine and hot weather... Read More


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August 2013
The Simple Woman's Daybook
Outside my window...grey clouds scudded by earlier this morning,
now blue skies and puffy white clouds sail past as if... Read More


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August 2014
Unveiling A 'Me' Photo
As you may recall, this past May I attended my first
writer's retreat. It was an awesome experience... Read More

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August 2015
Memoir Moment: The Piano
Some of my earliest childhood memories revolve
around the beautiful 1900's piano that once sat... Read More

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August 2016
Peach Tart on a Warm Summer's Day
Such a warm summer day. Hot, but not so
blistering as to make your cheeks melt... Read More

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August 2017
Late Summer Blooms with a bit of Musing

Have you have ever seriously wondered if you are a late
bloomer in life? Everyone else, after high school... Read More


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August 2018
Childhood Summers on the Farm

As a kid, I never thought we lived in an interesting place. To
me, it was just so ordinary. Plunked on a small farm in... Read More


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August 2019
Peace Rose: A Notecard Set

Some years ago now, a dear blogging friend Vee used to
host a Notecard Party.  It was held once a month... Read More


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August 2020
Small Treats & Something Normal in Covid

I haven't gone shopping 'just for fun' since March. It's been
only for essentials and basics, so you can imagine... Read More


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August 2021
Garden Glimpses at Last

It dawned calm and overcast this morning. With a mix
of rain clouds and smoke hazing the sky from... Read More

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August 2022
Hold Expectations Loosely

As a girl, I remember having a kind of impression
that life should line up with my expectations... Read More

After all these years, I still love writing here on It's A Beautiful Life. As with seasons of life, sometimes I write more often and sometimes less often, but my heart is always here... with you, dear beautiful friends. Thank you for sharing the journey with me and for making it such a pleasant one. Here's to the next fifteen years - I wonder what they will look like. As long as I can, I will carry on. I hope you will as well.

Wishing you a beautiful day,

Photo credit:
(Top)Image by Guenther Dilligen from Pixabay

Sunday, August 06, 2023

Saturday Afternoon Visit to the Library

"I have found the most valuable thing
in my wallet is my library card."
LAURA BUSH, former First Lady

Ping! A message from the library says the book I reserved is now ready for pick up. I rush off to get it as I'm eager to read The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams, the novel having been recommended by Miranda Mills on a recent YouTube book vlog.

Having parked in the 15-minute zone, I could not loiter. No matter... for even in that space of time, I easily came out with five other books: four from the 'Books About Small Things' display at the entrance, plus a novel from the Staff Picks shelf that looked interesting. On my return home, I've been sitting in the garden sipping a glass of iced raspberry-flavoured sparking water and browsing through my stash.

Titles and covers beguile, and quick glances at back covers, inside descriptions, and a flip through a chapter or two usually settle whether or not the book comes home with me. It's all a matter of 15 seconds or so. And, just to be clear, I have not read any of these so far, so I cannot recommend them.... but I will share a peek at what drew me in. Perhaps something below will catch your eye.  

by Lester Walker, 1993

"the book that launched the tiny-house movement"

It really is a tiny book, about the size of a small greeting card. I loved the look and feel of it in my hand. It's the author's collection of plans, models and photographs of seventeen tiny houses - from the Cape Cod honeymoon cottage to Campground cottages built in mid-nineteenth century to Henry Thoreau's cabin to George Bernard Shaw's writing hut. This slim volume was written to provide readers "with plans for very, very inexpensive small dwelling projects that would take a week to two to build . . . to inspire people of all ages and degrees of carpentry skills . . . to take hammer in hand and build themselves a little dream."

Although my sister might be intrigued, I'll stick to being an armchair carpenter and dreamer of these cute little cottages that would make a perfect art or writing studio. 

Reflections From A Small Garden
by Margaret Simons, 2015, 2020

"Sometimes you reap what you sow.
Sometimes you reap what other people sowed."

I really enjoy memoirs. I like reading about other people, how they live, what they've experienced and believe is important. Australian journalist and gardening enthusiast Margaret Simons "takes readers on a journey through the seasons, through her life, and through the tiny patch of inner-urban earth that is home to her garden."

Looks like a nice little read while sitting in my own garden on a sunny afternoon.

Little Weirds (essays)
by Jenny Slate, 2019

"From the title, maybe I could try a little weird reading.
I'll see how it unfolds. I like the book cover—
a feel of the eclectic, would you say?"

Jenny Slate is an actress, stand-up comedian, and author. From the inside cover, "In her dazzling, impossible-to-categorize debut, Jenny channels the pain and beauty of life in writing so fresh, so new, and so burstingly alive, we catch her vision like a fever and bring it back out into the bright day with us, and everything has changed."

Though I am not familiar with the author, I am intrigued enough to take some time to read these essays.

Small Wonder (essays)
by Barbara Kingsolver (2002)

"Out of the chaos the future emerges
in harmony and beauty."

A book of essays with parrots on the front cover. How intriguing. Exotic. I'm drawn in.

"From its opening parable gleaned from recent news about a lost child saved in an astonishing way, the book moves on to consider a world of surprising and hopeful prospects, ranging from an inventive conservation scheme in a remote jungle to the backyard flock of chickens tended by the author's small daughter." - from the inside cover

by Jessica Francis Kane, 2019

Found on the Staff Picks shelf at the library, this novel is about "a woman who sets out on an odyssey to reconnect with four old friends over the course of a year . . . (it's her) exploration of friendship in the digital age."

A quick browse, and yes, there's an actual list of rules for visiting. Here are a few in the list: Do not arrive telling stories about the difficulties of your trip. Bring a gift. Help in the kitchen, if you're wanted. Don't feed the pets.

by Sara Nisha Adams, 2021

And now for the novel I had on hold. The title grabs me - who among us doesn't like a recommended reading list? You'll be happy to know that The Reading List is described as an "unforgettable and heartwarming debut about how a chance encounter with a list of library books helps forge an unlikely friendship between two very different people in a London suburb." - from inside cover

I'm ready to settle in with this one. You?

Do any of these book covers or descriptions make you want to explore more?

"The library in summer is the
most wonderful thing because
there you get books on any subject and
read them each for only as long as they hold
your interest, abandoning any that don't,
halfway or a quarter of the way
through if you like, and store up all that
knowledge in the happy corners of your mind. . ."
POLLY HORVATH, My One Hundred Adventures
quote found at

Wishing you a beautiful day and a pleasant week ahead,