Welcome!

My name is Bronwyn and I am so glad you have stopped by for a visit. I hope you find joy and inspiration in everything you see here. I live with my family in a new, builder-grade townhome in a small city, even though my dream home would be a century old farmhouse in the countryside. Daily I strive to add warmth, "age," and character to our little home. I love to knit, crochet, sew, decorate, bake and go thrift shopping. These are all a wonderful release after my three small children are off to bed each evening. Thankfully, I have a patient and understanding husband, Kevin, who allows me to bring all kinds of crazy things into our home in the the name of "creativity."

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Using Up Leftovers: A Blue Baby Blanket

Just a quick blog post today to share a simple make I just finished!
 
After tidying my yarn stash up over the Christmas holidays I found that I had enormous collection of blue yarn - mostly in little balls leftover from other projects. 
 
In order to be a little more thrifty in my crafting pursuits this year, I have planned to use up as much of my stash as possible and avoid spending tons of $$$$ at the craft store. 
 
 
After choosing 10 balls of various shades of blue I got started on a baby-sized afghan.
 
I used the very popular v-stitch pattern which is quick and easy - no need to concentrate while I catch up on "Downton Abbey" and "Call the Midwife," and randomly changed colours as I went.
 
 
To break up the blue, I added in a few stripes of cream and white (also leftovers!) and very quickly, my blanket came into fruition!
 
Royal blue, navy, turquoise, robin's egg, denim.....
 
 
 
 
 
Because this blanket will most likely end up in the arms of a baby boy, I decided to keep the border simple and masculine.
 
 
 
 
 
I tend to crochet for an hour or two every evening.  With that much crochet time , this afghan was finished in just over a week. 
 
Not tons of time, but I used up tons of yarn.  Hurray!!
 


I've already begun 2 new crochet projects in the last week.  My daughter asked for a new red cardigan (which, honestly, I bought new yarn for! Oops!) and another baby blanket - this time in shades of beige, cream, green and blue.   I had to buy the beige but everything else is leftovers.
 
 
 
Before I sign off I'd like to say thank-you to everyone who has dropped by and left me a comment or two on my blog. 
It makes me glad to see that people seem to appreciate my photos and my words. 
 
 
Please come back again soon!
 
XOXOXOX
 
Bronwyn

Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Family Outing to Dundurn Castle

This year my husband and I have resolved to get out and about and see more of what our area of Ontario has to offer.  We quite often head into Toronto for some excitement, but we have realized there is just as much to see the Halton and Hamilton regions near our home. 
 
This weekend we drove 20 minutes to Hamilton, Ontario, to visit a historic home built in the 1800s, Dundurn Castle.   
 
The sky was grey and cold, but nothing was going to dampen our enthusiasm!!
 
 
Here is the front view of the house.  Pretty impressive, eh? 
It's  built facing towards the city of Hamilton and backs onto Hamilton Harbour. 
 
 
 
For some historical context:
 
 
 
We passed the Castle's Dovecote on our way to by our entrance tickets.  The kids had never seen a dovecote and wondered why they existed.  A quick google on our phone and we found out that....
 
"A dovecote is a structure intended to house pigeons or doves. Dovecotes may be free-standing structures in a variety of shapes, or built into the end of a house or barn. They generally contain pigeonholes for the birds to nest. Pigeons and doves were an important food source historically in Western Europe and were kept for their eggs, flesh, and dung."
 
(Wikipedia)
 
 
Inside the house we were chaperoned by a very knowledgeable guide named Victoria (named after the Queen!), dressed in a traditional costume circa 1855. 
 
The first room we visited was the formal Drawing Room.  Very pretty and very feminine.
My daughter was very disappointed to hear that children were traditionally not allowed in this room. It was a place of quiet and repose where grown-ups could talk  politics and religion without the interruption of children. 
She just wanted to spend more time in this gorgeous pink place!!
 
 
Although I, too, am a lover of pink, it was the ceiling plaster that caught my eye!
 
Back in the hallway, we walked across this original Victorian tile work.  Each colour is placed in the floor like a stone quilt, adding to the rich effect of the décor. 
 
(I'm a sucker for floors, too.  Hubby always laughs when I take photos of floor coverings!)
 
 
 
Continuing down the hall, this luxurious staircase came into view. 
Very dramatic. Very rich-looking.   
 
Dundurn cost $175 000 to build back in 1830s. In today's money that's about $39 million. 
Not bad for 18 000 square feet of living space.  :)
 
 
 
Because my husband and I are both classically trained musicians, musical instruments always catch our eye.  All three kids are now taking piano lessons too, and even they longed to try out this 100-year-old box grand piano. 
 
 
 
 
Around the corner, we were lead into the men's Smoking Room where the table was set for a game of cards and a glass of claret.  Hubby wanted to become part of this scene!!
 


And the dining room! Seating for 40 and plenty of glitter from the huge chandelier and  the gold and crystal candlesticks. 
 

 
After viewing the more formal, "upstairs" parts of the castle, we made the journey down into the basement of the house to see how the other half lived while caring for and serving the uppercrust. 
 
See those bells - just like Downton Abbey.  Ring one from upstairs and someone will come running, "At your service" of course!
 



Obviously, the servants were preparing for a large event. Under that net basket is the biggest cake I've seen in awhile!
 
 
 
As a special treat, because we were such well-behaved visitors, our guide took us into some "unfinished" rooms.  They are hoping to finish and re-stage a few more areas of the castle for public consumption. 
At this point only 42 of the 72 rooms in the house are viewable by paying patrons and they are hoping to up that by a few more rooms by summer 2015. 
 
The first step in redecorating a room to look circa 1855 is to hang wallpaper that is appropriate for the time.  The wallpaper being hung in these three unused bedrooms are actually reprints of small samples they found under layers of panelling and paint in each room. 


Here is a photo of the original wallpaper in situ and the expensive reprint the museum has had  made to rehang in the refurbishment. 
 
 

 
 
And at the end of our visit.....
 
A family photo in front of the big wooden entry door!
 (Family minus me, of course!)
 
(Yep. Camden has stick.  He always has a stick.  He found this one upon arrival, put it somewhere "safe" while we were inside and found it again when we came out.  Such dedication to a stick!)


On the grounds of the castle there is a small Military Museum that has many "hands-on" displays.  We headed there next to try out some uniforms from the war of 1812, a cannon and some checkers (played by soldiers in between battles!)
 
A little less serious than the house, a lot of fun for the kids (and my hubby!)
 

 
In closing, some interesting facts about Dundurn:
 
~ Dundurn Castle was famous across the country for its grand entertainments and massive balls.
~  Sir John A. MacDonald (Canada's first Prime Minister)  and King Edward VII are among those who stayed at Dundurn Castle to name a few.
 
~ The Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker-Bowles is the Royal Patron of Dundurn Castle
 


I hope you enjoyed our little foray into Victorian-era history.  The kids said they really enjoyed the outing - especially the traditional shortbread cookies they were given by the "Cook" in the basement of the castle!
 
 
Come back soon!
 
XOXO
 
Bronwyn

Friday, January 23, 2015

Making Me Happy This Week...

1. Date night with hubby in Toronto.  We had a lovely dinner out (complete with an alcoholic hot chocolate for dessert) and a visit to the theatre to see the musical, "The Heart of Robin Hood."  Kevin's new job has quite a few "perks" and these tickets were free!  However, Kevin and I both agreed that we would have happily paid big bucks to see this show. It was amazing - the music, the acting, the stage set-up and the high-flying, circus-like, hanging-from -the-ceiling-by-ropes choreography!
 
 


2.) Spring flowers! I bought these pink snapdragons for next to nothing at the grocery store.  Such a cheery colour and a reminder that spring is on its way!
 


3.) Hot chocolate and homemade oatmeal cookies.  Perfect for a day like today - cold and blustery. 
 

 
 
4.)How about a bunch of yucky, blackened bananas? Not so attractive now, but they turned into the yummiest chocolate chip banana bread.
 


5.  New music! She might be nearly "old news" on the other side of the Atlantic, but I am really digging Ella Henderson these days.  I downloaded this disk on the Christmas holidays and I haven't stopped listening to it since! Even my 8 year old daughter is addicted to this soulful pop music!


 
6.  Healthy eating - trying to eat as many veggies as possible.  Even the kids have become used to half a plate of veg at each meal. 



7.  Tea.  How is it possible that a warm cup of liquid can be so relaxing and taste so good?  I found a new Canadian Tea company that makes the most delicious tea flavours too - Tealish Teas.  They are based out of Toronto and make flavours like "Chocolate Macaron Madness" and "Lemon Meringue Herbal Dessert."
Yum.
 


 
 
Have a wonderful weekend! I'll be back early next week with some pics from the family adventure we have planned for Saturday!
 
Hugs to all,
 
Bronwyn


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Dogsledding in the Ottawa Valley

For Christmas and for our son Bryn's 10th birthday, my sister Stephanie purchased us a morning of dogsledding lessons in the countryside near her home in Ottawa.
 
The weather was well below freezing ( -27 degrees Celcius to be exact!) but we bundled up like Eskimos and headed out to the forest. 
 
 
 
Our teachers were a husband and wife team - Eric and France who have bred, raised and raced dogsleds all their lives. 
 
We had a short hike from the house to the dog kennel so we chit-chatted and admired the scenery. 
The world was freshly coated with 2 new inches of snow and the forest was pristine and white. 
 



(That's Eric in the back, pulling up a new sled. That's my sister in front, doing her version of a snowy selfie!)
 
 
After we crested the top of a hill, THIS came into view:

It was the outdoor dog kennel where 40 excited and happy purebred huskies greeted us with excited barks and howls.
 
 
Each of the dogs had its own wooden house and was attached a long lead that allowed it to move and to play with its friends, yet keep it safe during "unsupervised" times.

 
 
The dogs came in a variety of colours and markings.  Everything from creamy white to black and grey stripes. 
 
 
 
 

I fell in love with the dogs with the big blue eyes immediately. 
 
 

 
 
 I've always been a "dog person" so I enjoyed every minute of getting to know the dogs while Eric and France hooked our the chosen 30 dogs onto the sleds. 
 
 
 
 
My sister and I also took the opportunity to capture some images of these gorgeous animals. 
 
 
 
 
Bryn preferred visiting the dogs after they were attached to the sleds.  Once they were harnessed, they were unable to jump up and knock him flat on his bottom!
 
 


Once the harnesses were on, Eric gave Stephanie and I a quick 15-minute lesson on how to ride and maneuver the long fibreglass sleds.  
It basically came down to learning how to "feel it" and when and where to use the brakes. 
 
He also told us we would fall off.   A lot.   And the sled and dogs would run away a few times.  And we'd probably run into a tree or two.  That was part of learning. 
 
"So we'll be sore tomorrow then, Eric?"
"Yes you will.  Very, very sore."
 
 
 
Bryn wasn't old enough drive his own sled, so he rode in Eric's covered in warm blankets, sitting on a cushy seat. 
 
Here he is, all ready to go!!
 

 
 
And here's my "team." They were raring to go, too!
 

 
 
And we were off!   Nearly 2 hours of hills and valleys, ridges and frozen lakes. 
 
My sister took several pictures along the way, but I kept my hands on the sled! 
 
 
 
 
This is the kind of view had along the way.  Gorgeous isn't it??
 

 
 
I did fall off a few times - 2 times I completely face planted into the snow up to my eyeballs, twice I lost the sled and my team, and once I took out a huge cedar tree. 
 
But every time I picked myself back up and tried again ( always thinking, "Man- I'm going to be SORE tomorrow!)
 

 
 
Midway through the trail ride, we stopped for hot chocolate.  Eric checked Bryn's feet to make sure he was still  at a safe, warm temperature.  He was not!
So off came Bryn's boots and socks and Eric inserted Bryn's cold feet up under his warm, heavy coat. 
 
Eric's "radiator heat" (as his wife called it!) could warm anyone's frozen toes in an instant.    And even though it made Bryn slightly uncomfortable (his feet were in a strangers shirt!) he admitted it worked and he would be less cold on the way back because of it!
 
 
 
And here I am, arriving safely back into the kennel area.  My toes were frozen and my lips were cracked and wind-burnt, but I have to say that dog-sledding was one of the most awesome things I have EVER done. 
 
I would recommend it to anyone.
 
Such memories for all three of us!  Bryn has already stated he wants to do it again as soon as he is big enough to drive his own sled and dog team!!
 
 
 
Keep warm all,
 
XOXOX
 
Bronwyn
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, January 12, 2015

France 2014 : 3 Days in Paris

I had originally planned a fun and simple post about our trip to Paris during the summer of 2014.  However, in light of what has happened there in the past few days, I feel I must begin this post a little differently then I first planned.

It was difficult to explain to our 3  children, who are 10, 8 and 6, about the travesties that took place in the "City of Light" this past week.

During the summer, we had taken them on their first European vacation where we spent a few days exploring Paris before we journeyed out to our rental home in Normandy. 

They remember Paris as clean and safe and filled with beautiful buildings and happy, joyful people. The news of the shootings at Charlie Hebedo was shocking to them. 

Of course, we explained things like this rarely happened in "civilized" cities like Paris.

But lately, it HAS happened a lot.

  Even in Canada.

We used to be able to say, "Don't worry kids.  It never happens in Canada." 
But it did, back in November. 

Rosie DiManno, a journalist for the Toronto Star said it best:

"Will it be repeated? Probably, in some manifestation, at some future juncture. As these attacks were preceded by strikes three months ago at a war memorial in Ottawa, a month ago at a chocolate café in Sydney, a fortnight ago at a school in Peshawar. As in London, as in Madrid, as in Bali, as in New York City and Washington D.C. As in, over and over, Kabul and Baghdad."

Scary.  But true. 

I guess our job as parents is to make sure our children don't live in fear.

And to help them be accepting of all races, religions and creeds so that they can spread love in the world instead of hate. 

My heart goes out to all those who lost their lives in Paris and the surrounding countryside. 

My heart breaks for the Parisian children and parents who may be afraid to walk their city's streets for awhile. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Now onto the more pleasant part of this post -- photos from our 3 days in Paris, July 2014. 



Our rental apartment was in the 17th arrondissement near Sacre Coeur.  It was down a lovely cobblestone street and had pretty views out of it's large windows. 

(Our youngest son located these labels on the door frames in the main lobby of the apartment building.  They also perfectly labeled our three children - Afton, Bryn and Camden!)


Once we had settled into our "home," we ventured down to the River Seine to take a river cruise through the centre of the city. 
(Bryn found his favourite lock on one of the bridges across the Seine.  We saw so many "faces" looking back at us as we cruised the river.)



After enjoying an inexpensive and delicious traditional Chinese dinner (where the kids ate duck for the first time!) we went to fulfil one of the kids "Paris Bucket List" items:
*See the Eiffel tower lit up and sparkling in the darkness.*
(The view of the Eiffel Tower from the Chinese restaurant.  A,B & C fulfil a travel wish!)


We slept REALLY well in the apartment our first night ( jetlag will do that!) and then were up early to see another one of the kids' "Paris Bucket List" items:
*See the gargoyles at the church where the Hunchback of Notre Dame lives."
So, off we went!

(So much beauty and history here.  The kids enjoyed imagining about all of the people that have walked the tiled floors here over the centuries.)


(Afton found the stained glass to be the most memorable part for her.  The boys listed "lighting a candle for Poppa in heaven" as their favourite part. )

After touring the church, inside and out, we went on a walk around the cathedral, checking out hidden streets and not-so-hidden patisseries!
(These purple tables were outside a cupcake shop that wasn't open yet (darn!), so instead we "settled" for these super-sized meringues and several flavours of macaron at a nearby bakery.) 



The final event of our 3 day stay in Paris included dinner out in a simple, yet fine little bistro near our apartment.  Some dear friends, whom we had known since our university days, had recently moved to Ireland.  They had also recently celebrated their 15th anniversary so they decided to book a weekend away in Paris.  Of course, we planned their visit to coincide with ours so that we could reconnect and have a wonderful night out in Paris.  
 
Our dinner lasted for 5 hours as we sipped wine, munched on bread, cheese and olives and then ordered delicious main meals and desserts that were to die for!


 
Our waiter, Mario, was a hoot and got in on the "fun" quite often during the evening. 
 
 
Looking back on it now, all four of us list this night out as one of the most amazing of our lives!  In fact, because Kevin and I are in Italy during the summer of 2015, we have already planned to meet our friends for a dinner in Rome!
 
(If you are wondering who was taking care of our kids while we were out- my Mom and my sister were in charge and took the kids up the mountain to see Sacre Coeur and the view of Paris from above!)
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 
I look forward to sharing more photos of our trip to France. After Paris we moved out to our rental home in Normandy and spent two weeks exploring the area and getting a real feel for French culture.
 
So many adventures, so many pictures!!
 
XOXO,
 
Bronwyn