Sixteen years of Treehouse talk

Sixteen years of Treehouse talk

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Always Learning

 From this Side of the Pond

1. Is school back in session where you live? Is everyone in person or does your system still offer a virtual option? Are kids wearing masks? 

Classroom schools here don't open until September, but some homeschoolers I know have already started.

I don't want to go into what the classroom schools do/don't right now.

2. Something you still do 'old school'? 


Pay cash.

Hang clothes up to air-dry. 

Wait for Mr. Fixit to unlock the passenger door, because our car doesn't have power door locks.

3. One lesson you've learned in the 'school of life'? 

Read the fine print.

4. When you were in school did you pack a lunch or buy a lunch? Your favorite thing to see on the lunch menu or inside your lunchbox back in the day? 

When we were in elementary school, most of us walked home at lunchtime unless there was choir practice or some other activity. In high school I usually packed a lunch but sometimes bought pizza in the cafeteria--the school wasn't near any place to buy other food, and we weren't supposed to leave the school anyway until that so-privileged final year.

When we did take lunches in grade school, my mother used to get creative with cream cheese and maraschino cherry sandwiches.
5. August is National Family Fun Month. Tell me something fun you’ve done this month. 

Went off for a couple of planned-at-the-last-minute days out with Mr. Fixit.

Bought some Bernat Blanket yarn to make a throw for our couch. The yarn has a very newfangled cushy fleece feel to it, so I suppose you could say that's old-school crocheting with a new twist.

6. Insert your own random thought here.

Reading is like an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet. When you think you've cleaned your plate, you wander back up and they've added something new to try.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Wednesday Hodgepodge

From this Side of the Pond
1. Monday, August 16th was National Roller Coaster Day. Are you a fan? Did you celebrate? Last place/time you rode a roller coaster? 

I used to like them. Last time was more years ago than I can count, probably at Canada's Wonderland north of Toronto.

2. Tell us about a time in your life where it felt like you were figuratively riding a roller coaster. 

Besides now?

3. Favorite treat to eat at an amusement park or state fair? 

Hot pretzels.

4. Are you easy to get along with? Elaborate. 

Wow, that's pretty hard to answer for yourself, isn't it? And it depends on who you're dealing with...spouse, friends, neighbours, business people, telemarketers?

I saw a meme recently that said you should try to be the person your dog thinks you are. I don't have a dog, but it's still good advice.

5. Something on your calendar to see-do-read-accomplish or just enjoy before month's end? 

Yes, several things, but not stuff I can get into here. Some of it involves poetry. Some of it doesn't.

OK, to read: Effortless, by Greg McKeown. It's the sequel to Essentialism. Because of the other see-do-read-accomplish, I'm finding that getting it read is a bit effortful. But I'm trying to get it finished before it disappears on my Overdrive account.

6. Insert your own random thought here. 

Happy National Thrift Shop Day for yesterday. I bought a one-dollar scarf to celebrate.

Linked from The Wednesday Hodgepodge at From This Side of the Pond.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Inspired by Estuaries (A Fall Clothes Story)

This mostly-thrifted travel wardrobe is posted in honour of National Thrift Shop Day (August 17th),  and is inspired by similar stories on The Vivienne Files.

Their sister-in-law is an artist and designer who works in natural and hand-dyed wools on beeswax-coated board. Recently she sent them a notecard with a photograph of one of her pieces, inspired by a summer on the St. Lawrence Estuary. 

"Do we have any estuaries around here?"


"Could we go somewhere that's sort of like an estuary?"

"How about Owen Sound?"

"Oh, cool. We could go see the Tom Thomson Gallery, and do some hiking."

"I'm in."

What will she pack? She starts with this teal jersey dress. 

No, it's not a silly idea. She knows lots of different ways to wear it.

By itself with a belt and a necklace

With a long cardigan and ankle boots (and tights, of course)

(There's another way you can wear the cardigan)

Under a vintage ultrasuede coat

Tucked into a black skirt
With a denim jacket

With a blanket scarf/shawl and black jeans (leggings would work too)

Under a teal pullover, with a scarf (and tights)
With a poncho and a grey beret
Well, she can't just live in the dress, especially if they are going hiking. She already has leggings and black jeans in the pile, so she adds a black square-necked top, that can go with either the skirt or the jeans, and a long-sleeved grey t-shirt. (If they were going to stay another day or two, she would put in a blue t-shirt as well.)

 How about this tunic top? It's nice to have a different colour along.
That makes nine items of actual clothing, if you don't count ponchos and outerwear. Ten with an extra t-shirt. Nobody can accuse her of overpacking. Overdressing, maybe, but not overpacking.
She has a few other outfits in mind (besides the dress). The black top and skirt can go under her jean jacket
Or under the purple coat.
The black top and jeans can go with the long cardigan.
Or with the poncho.
And any of the t-shirts she brings can go with the jeans and her jean jacket, or under the teal pullover.

The tunic top can go with the jeans, or the leggings. Or it can get tucked into the skirt.

She is taking three pairs of shoes and boots: her new teal ankle boots, her thrifted Kate Spade snake print loafers, and her Allbirds Mizzles, bought last year, that are good for walking on trails.
Here are her coat and jean jacket. If she's smart, she'll remember to pack her warmer jacket as well.
The poncho and blanket scarf
A couple of other scarves, her beret, a purse, and a belt
She remembers to put in this other scarf (it's a bit warmer)
And some jewelry
And she is absolutely going to bring her Fierce Wisdom bracelets.

Well, that's settled, then.

Thank you, Kathy!

Monday, August 02, 2021

Fall Clothes: Kick Up Your Teals

A few years ago, I decided that I  really liked ankle boots. I found a funky pair at the thrift store, and then a couple of plainer ones from a clearance aisle. But they are all now on their last legs, so to speak. So I planned on replacing them this fall with something practical and neutral.

Then these came along.

Well, wouldn't you?

After all, this is still one of my favourite paintings:
Arthur Lismer, A September Gale, Georgian Bay (1921).

And these are, pretty much, my favourite bracelets. 

So, yes, teal it is for this fall. Varying shades of teal can be problematic: some teal is greenish, some is more blue, some is quite you can't assume that everything will just match. But let's see what's already in the closet and go from there.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Thrift Talk, Part Two: When You've Lost Your Mojo

It happened again this week. I thrifted an otherwise-nice blouse that turned out to be too tight under the arms.

Blame the lack of fitting rooms. 

Maybe I should just stick to non-clothes for awhile. After all, I did a good closet-clean-out-and-fall-check-in recently, and I could really get along for quite awhile without buying much. I was given a few donations by a daughter, and I also have a few colder-weather things I found at the end of the winter that got stored and sort of forgotten.

But it can be frustrating to feel like you're on an un-roll. How do you win back your thrifting confidence?

Well, consider first of all that you might already have enough stuff. Really. Because if you're looking for something you really need, like a pair of jeans when your last ones are wearing out, you're more apt to put your heart into looking, care more about what you find and get it right, than if it's a random blouse. The blouse was mostly my fault: I should have looked more carefully at the size tag, I was probably going too fast. Sometimes choosing something quickly is okay, but other times it's a sign that you're just adding too much to your salad bar plate. There are definitely times to take a break.

If you have a bunch of things that you've already thrifted (or yard-saled, or swapped) and haven't really used, this is the time to dig them out and give them some appreciation. I read somewhere recently that buying something brings a certain commitment along with it. By buying a book, you're showing that you have the intention of reading it, right? You buy a game, and that implies that you want to play it; a puzzle, that you want to put it together; some fabric, that you like it enough to want to sew something from it. You buy the bread machine or the smoothie maker because you want to make pizza or drink healthy green things. So have you done those things? That's not meant to be a guilt inducer, but a fun, creative-juices approach that might make future thrifting a little clearer. If you use the fabric to sew doll clothes or pillows or stuffed toys, that might give you ideas for future projects that also need fabric, or trims, or patterns, or sewing gadgets. But if you can't bring yourself to pull out the materials and make something, that's a good sign that your sewing days are done: don't buy more.

You can switch to a different category of things to look for. I never used to look at table linens much, but over the past couple of years I have put together a collection of placemats, napkins, and runners, plus assorted candles and holders, because my husband and I enjoy making dinnertime a daily "event," even if it's just leftovers. This turned out to be a good thing when we weren't able to go out to eat for a long time.

You could help somebody else thrift, or library-sale, or whatever it is you do best.

If you have enough self-restraint, you could look at things and learn about them, but don't buy anything. Look at the art up on the walls, or the silent-auction or other premium things you usually pass by. Enjoy looking at the colourful dishes, even if you'd never use egg-cups or Bunnykins bowls. That's pretty much what I do when we visit antique markets: occasionally I buy something, but most of it is just looking, admiring (or not), helping my husband look for old radios, and remembering an uncle who liked clown pictures, a neighbour who had those same funny canisters on her counter, or a friend who had that coveted Barbie carrying case (but I had the Country Camper). Patience pays off: we looked at and said no to a lot of old chairs before we came across the ones we bought last month.

So, yes, in the end, patience is probably the big thing. Keep looking, and stay open to adventure.

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Your mother was a hamster

Here are the questions to this week's Hodgepodge. Answer on your own blog, then hop back here  to add your link to the party. See you there! 

From this Side of the Pond
1. Four words that tell us something about your July?

I got my hair cut.

2. Four of your favorite summer foods?

Cherries, ice cream cones, blueberries, watermelon.

3. What were you doing at a quarter past four yesterday? 

It's way too complicated to explain here.

Briefly, trying every which way to get through the gate of an online castle that preferred to keep me out. (I'm not a hacker, it was all very legitimate, but try explaining that to the kniggits on top of the walls.) But we eventually figured it out. Thank you to my husband who kept an eye on the pizza in the oven while I dealt with the cyber dragons.

4. fore!, four letter word, four sheets to the wind, ten-four, 24/7, four eyes, these four walls....pick a 'four' phrase and tell us how you relate currently

Four eyes? Yes, I did get to the optometrist last week and did a computerized peripheral vision test (jacked-up version of the thing you do when you get your driver's license). I guess all those rounds of Space Invaders paid off.

5. Something you own that is four years old? 

Something four years old would be whatever we acquired the spring/summer that we moved from our house to the apartment. So that would include the mundane stuff like the clothes drying racks, but also the little table we bought at Ten Thousand Villages, and the painting of a local farm that is now hanging over our bed.

6. Randomness?

Linked from The Wednesday Hodgepodge at From This Side of the Pond.

Monday, July 26, 2021

New Treehouse Series: Thrift Talk. Part One: "Chatting Fears"

I've been looking at tables and racks of used stuff, one way or another, for the past fifty years. I just came across a blog post from about fifteen years ago that mentions some of my "early days." Flea markets and church bazaars were pretty much it, though, until yard sales started becoming more common here in the 1980's, and it was also  around that time that I found my first thrift shop. Ask me about the cowboy boots some time...and the vintage record player...and the entire set of antique china dishes that I bought at a yard sale during high school but never did end up using.

Our kids grew up during the peak of yard sales and big church rummage sales, both of which seem to have fallen off a bit in recent years (and not just because of the pandemic). They were also around for the changes in thrift shopping, some of which have been an improvement and some I'm still not sure about. What we've definitely seen over that quarter-century has been (as many have said elsewhere) a huge increase in the stuff people buy, and the stuff they then have to dispose of, and the stuff that the thrift stores now have to deal with.

My own take on what to buy (and what to keep) has changed over that time as well. Amy Dacyczyn's Tightwad advice in the early '90's was, more or less, if you could get whatever it was free or cheap, and you had the space to store it, you might as well hang on to anything that might come in handy. It was a making-do kind of simplicity, and if you were going to use what you had, you needed to have some "had" in the house. In recent years, though, there's been more public...I almost want to say scrutiny...of too much "had." I have to be careful not to mix up current perceptions of "Minimalism" (and its cousin "Essentialism") with my own changing needs as an empty-nester. It would be easy for me to say "you don't have to hang on to so much, look, I don't," but I don't know what your circumstances are and what you might need today or tomorrow. 

I do agree with Dana White's "container concept" of managing your space, and I wish I'd come across it a long time ago; I think it's good advice whether you live in a big house or a tiny one. A  fictional example is a murder mystery called Closet Confidential by Mary Jane Maffini, one of those paperback series where the sleuth is also a florist or a baker or whatever; in this case she's a professional organizer with two clients. One is a rich ex-fashion model who has seven closets full of designer clothes. The other is a middle-aged woman living in a chaotic household, who is gifted a makeover of her small closet (but it has to be on a budget). The contrast between the two is amusing, but it's what Charlotte (the organizer) says to her rich client that is the point here: when it becomes clear that she's just not ready to get rid of much, Charlotte suggests that maybe what she needs is another, bigger closet. Sounds crazy, but this is a wealthy person who lives for her personal image, and she has enough space in her mansion to build an entire clothes library if she wants one. The other client gets a tidy little space with hanging shelves (bought with a coupon). Charlotte has no fixed minimalist agenda for either of these women; she just accepts them where they are. And it seems to me that in our own lives we might go through seasons where we have the luxury of space and of deciding what goes in it; and other times where every inch is precious and we find ourselves playing the old "desert island" game. The trick, as Marcus Aurelius said, is to see things, even shelves and closets, for what they are, and to be grateful and content in either case.

I saw one article recently that went overboard analyzing why you shouldn't buy too much secondhand stuff, because if you do, and you then commit the crime of re-donating it, you're just as much a part of the problem as the person who bought it in the first place. But during the past year and a half, when the thrift stores have been allowed to open at all, most of them don't even have change rooms; so if you're buying clothes, you're going by labels and eyeball, and even that's not always enough. Last week I bought a pair of pants for a dollar and brought them home. The size was right, and they were even the right length; but whoever wore them before me had stretched out the waistband too much, and that was something I didn't notice until I tried them on. So yes, they're going back, no regrets.

Last night I was reading C.S. Lewis's Letters to Malcolm (borrowed from the library), and at one point he quotes a phrase from George Herbert's poem "Conscience": "Peace, prattler." I looked up the rest of the poem and found these also-appropriate lines:
By listening to thy chatting fears
I have both lost mine eyes and ears.

I'm hoping that this series will be about using eyes and ears, but that it won't be too much of a prattling conscience.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Wednesday Hodgepodge: French Toast

Here are the questions to this week's Wednesday Hodgepodge. Answer on your own blog then hop back here to add your link to the party. See you there!

From this Side of the Pond
1. Tell us about one small blessing you have counted in the past week? 

Going out for pasta on a patio. (Dine-in still isn't happening here. But it will be by the weekend.)

And also a spur-of-the-moment Saturday breakfast on a patio, to celebrate the reappearance of yard sales. (We had to have a reason.) Mr. Fixit had pancakes, and I had...French toast.

2. Bastille Day is celebrated on July 14th...have you ever been to France? Any desire to visit or re-visit, and if so what site or city would you most want to see? (pretend for a minute international travel isn't an issue) 

Does Quebec City count?

I think I'd like to go see Monet's garden at Giverny. And the Marc Chagall National Museum in Nice.

3. A food associated with France that you love? 



And croissants.

But not really poutine.

4. Something you recently purchased where a coupon was involved? Do you regularly shop with coupons? 

I used to shop with (paper) grocery coupons a lot, when they used to be a thing. Not for a long time now, though. But we still use coupons when we're getting hamburgers.

5. You have to give something away this week...what will it be? 

Have to, as in have to give away something I don't want that I wish would disappear, or something I do want and I have to give it away anyway? Trying not to overthink this...

I'm just going to copy our Hodgepodge hostess and say that I have a bag of this and that accumulating, and I should take a look around and add to it, and it will probably go with us on our next thrifting trip, if I remember to put it in the car. Considering that I went for groceries this morning and a) left all the re-usable bags in the car and b) had misplaced my door key, had to borrow my husband's, and then found the key when we got back in the exact place I had thought it should be but swore that it wasn't, I'm not entirely convinced that I'll remind myself early enough to take it along. Maybe a string on my finger.

6. Insert your own random thought here.

As if that wasn't random enough...

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Wednesday Hodgepodge: The Sands Haven't Shifted Much Here

 From this Side of the Pond

1. July 5th is National Hawaii Day...have you ever been to Hawaii? Any desire to visit or make a return trip? Pineapple, mango, or guava...what's your pleasure? 

Have never been, no plans to go, but we just started watching some vintage Hawaii 5-0 DVDs.

2. Last time you were 'thrown in at the deep end'? Explain. 

As in unfamiliar, uncomfortable, sink or swim? I have one of those coming up: a virtual meeting with (hopefully) friendly but mostly unfamiliar people, and I haven't been told much yet about what to expect. I am not exactly what Jan Karon calls She-who-loves-surprises, so I'm hoping some of it gets clarified before I have to take a deep breath and press "join."

3. Sun, sea, sand, salt...your favorite when it comes to summer? 

Right now we are settling for the nearby manmade lake.

4. Bury your head in the sand, the sands of time, draw a line in the sand, pound sand, shifting sands...pick one and tell us how the phrase currently relates to your life in some way.

Sands of time = sanding and waxing time. We recently found two antique oak chairs at a flea market, and we've been working to restore them.

The vendors had put cushions on the chairs to display them, but they didn't include them in the sale. Underneath the cushions were very old, sagging seats made of canvas webbing, which Mr. Fixit pulled out (there were a lot of nails!) We bought a piece of plywood, and cut two seat-shaped pieces to replace the canvas.

We gave the chairs a coat of natural-coloured Minwax, and then bought a can of oak-coloured for the next coat. They will get another wax touchup in a few days.

This is a good time of year to look for chair cushions, because there is so much patio furniture still in the stores. We didn't want something that looked too outdoorsy, but we did consider outdoor cushions because the chairs are a similar size to some patio chairs.

 However, we then got lucky at the local Homesense: these four feather-filled, made-in-England pillows were on clearance. Actually three of them were on the clearance rack, and then we found the fourth with the regular-priced pillows, so we asked if we could get the same discount for it, and they agreed. It never hurts to ask!

So now we have our Papa Bear and Mama Bear chairs in the living room.

5. On a scale of 1-10 (1 = make your own rules and 10=like a warden), how strict were your parents? If you're a parent where on the scale do you land? 

Not even going to land, just going to fly by that one.

6. Insert your own random thought here.  

Since our last Hodgepodge, we've celebrated Canada Day and our thirtieth wedding anniversary. And some other things I can't quite remember. Maybe I was burying my head in the sand.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

About a hundred dollars

The thrift stores re-opened here two weeks ago (again), so we've resumed our regular trips to look for stuff for Mr. Fixit to fix and other things just to use and wear and put on the table. Last week I found two wool/silk scarves for $2 each. The purple one is a pashmina, similar to a couple of others I own, but I was still not going to pass it up for $2. The other one also said wool/silk; it looked like a lovely sheer fabric in a denim-blue print. It also had a label that didn't mean anything to me. Until I looked it up this morning.
It turns out that it came from a boutique in Toronto that specializes in cashmere clothing. Scarves similar to that one sell for about a hundred dollars Canadian (about eighty U.S.).

Suddenly my scarf had a value attached to it.

Canadian politician Pierre Poilievre recently made a video showing his attempt to buy something at a coffee shop for a quarter, and all he came away with was a stir stick. In a similar vein, about four years ago I wrote a post about trying to figure out the difference in perceived value between a thrifted top and a similar-fabric, similar-colour dress bought new from a "conscious" clothing firm. There was really no conclusion; I supposed that trying to make comparisons between them was apples and oranges.

Let's say that I put the scarf on (it's been a bit chilly) and we went out to drink coffee on the Tim Horton's patio. (Because we're still not allowed to sit inside.) Let's say that the wind blew the paper cup over, and the coffee spilled all over the scarf, undoubtedly ruining it forever unless some dry cleaner knows how to get coffee stains out of blue cashmere/silk. Has this just been my most expensive (hypothetical) coffee stop ever? Or did I only ruin something that cost me just slightly more than Poilievre's coffee stirrer; a scarf that cost exactly the same as a polyester one from the dollar store, so it wouldn't even be worth cleaning?

Let's say that I had gone shopping in Toronto, had stopped in at that boutique (it's near my aunt's house), had fallen in love with this scarf, perhaps had some gift money in my purse, and had decided to fork over the hundred dollars plus tax. If I had somehow then left the package behind on the train coming home, I would most certainly (besides kicking myself very hard) have gone to great lengths to track it down. Would I have done the same for a dollar-store scarf? Probably not so much. But what about this one, where paid-value is much much less than retail-value? Where does respect-to-the-maker (or even respect-to-the-animals) come into that? And, finally, what about stewardship? If God provided the scarf, should what I actually paid for it even be a consideration, in terms of wearing it, storing it carefully, keeping it safe from streams of coffee and unintentional train losses?

It's much the same question I asked that time I messed up a thrifted-but-originally-expensive skirt. Is the value of something based on how much or how little you paid, on its appraised or resale price, or on its usefulness or importance in your own life?

And if the answer to that is that we value all things equally because they connect us to the Giver...does that mean that a new two-dollar polyester scarf deserves just as much gratitude and care as one that inspires awe in me just for the mystery of how it can be wool and still let light through? Say if your kid bought the dollar-store scarf for you for Mother's Day?

I still don't know. Maybe.