Sending Snail-Mail

I enjoy sending mail. I know this may be a bit out-dated in our digital age where it is easy to send an email or text, but in my opinion it isn’t the same. There is something lovely about the materiality of choosing (or making) a card, putting pen to paper, and taking the time to post the letter or card. I enjoy each step and I think I come by this naturally since my grandmother also enjoyed sending cards.



When my sister started having children I wanted to include them in my life and share my interests. I have been sending my nieces and nephew postcards since they were babies. I began with the idea I would send them images from museums or galleries I visited, to share in my love of art. But as the kids get older I have expanded what I send to them. Unfortunately, my sister didn’t keep the postcards from the beginning but a few years ago I got each of the kids a binder that they could put the postcards (see below, thanks Steve for the snaps). Whenever I go up to visit we like to pull the binder out and read the different cards and I get a chance to hear the answers to the questions I posed them on the back (I like to ask them about what is on the front of the postcard). The postcards have become a part of our shared history and I cherish our interactions with them.



Besides my postcards to my nieces and nephew, my main push for sending snail-mail is at Christmas. In good years (when I have the time),  I enjoy making my own cards, but other years I have to buy my cards. Last year, I painted a wee postcard as way of a thank-you to the Gowing’s (see below) to go with another painting I made for them years ago (I  slipped this into the outgoing Christmas card).


One other form of snail-mail, that I cannot skip is the old-fashioned thank-you note or card. I lived in South Korea for two years and while I was there I taught English. In May, there is a holiday where students bring gifts to their teachers. For each of the gifts I received, I sent thank-you cards back to the parents in both English and Hangul (my teaching partner translated my English into Hangul for those parents who couldn’t read English). This small gesture was kindly received and the following year I swear my gifts were more generous (I tend to think this was due to the cards and not my teaching). Growing up we were never required to send thank-you notes and I can’t remember why I thought this was something that I should do but it felt good. In my experience it is hard to say thank you in a meaningful way and for me sending a card is a tangible way to do so.


I keep a stash of thank-you cards on hand and collect birthday cards when I come across really striking ones (I have a soft spot for letterpress). My stash also includes tons of postcards as those are easy to collect. As well, I keep stamps on hand so I can easily pop off a letter any time of the day. My address book is also an important aspect in this whole process. I use a Moleskin address book, which I organize alphabetically by first name since people get married more often than they tend to change their first names. I write the name in pen and the address in pencil to make it easier to change addresses. Easy peasy – although at Christmas time I tend to send out a slew of emails to my more nomadic friends to check to see if I have their most recent address because nothing is worse than a returned piece of mail.


Sending snail-mail is another aspect of my attempt to slow down and engage with those I love. Nothing beats getting a letter in the mail.


Living Below Ground – Billionaire Style (Iceberg Basements)


Over in London, UK there is a trend to expand mansions below ground since there is such a scarcity of land to expand out and bylaws against building up. This blew my mind. Does one really need that much space? And then I had so many questions. What about the light, air circulation?

What do you think? Here I am just happy to have natural light throughout the day . . . but I guess a swimming pool would be pretty nice.

P.S. I’ll try and find some images of these below-ground mansions.

The above image is from a 2012 Guardian article on “Billionaires’ Basements,” written by Oliver Wainwright.

Small Pleasures – Beeswax and Wooden Spoons

Twice a year I like to season my wooden spoons and cutting boards. Some of my wooden spoons were starting to look like they needed some TLC so I pulled out my wooden stuff and got to work seasoning them.


There is something calming about this chore (plus, it leaves your hands super soft). First, you pull out all the wooden implements you have that are in need of a re-boot. For me this includes wooden spoons, cutting boards, wood-handled knives, and a wooden bowls I scored last Christmas from a second-hand shop. Then you get to spend some time lovingly caring for those hardworking kitchen utensils that work so hard for you every day.



Second, apply the beeswax salve on dry and clean articles (recipe below) and let stand overnight.


Third, the next day take a piece of cloth (I use an old terry nursing blanket) and buff the wax salve into the wood, creating a nice waterproof (and slightly darker) sheen to the wood. This compound is 100% food-safe and leaves the wood soft and smelling slightly like beeswax.


Recipe for Spoon Oil (wood butter)

16 oz. mineral oil

1/4 pound of beeswax (113.4 grams)

  1. Bring a large saucepan filled with water to a gentle boil.
  2. Place your beeswax inside a 2 quart glass measuring cup or a 1 quart glass jar; set the glass into the gently boiling water.
  3. Place the container of mineral oil inside another medium saucepan filled with water and heat to low. The mineral oil just needs to be warmed to mix with the beeswax; no need for a rolling boil.
  4. Once all the wax has melted, turn off the stove and carefully add the warmed mineral oil to the beeswax;stirring with a spoon to combine.
  5. Using a towel around the handle of the measuring cup, carefully pour the liquid into each jar fit with the canning funnel;filling them almost to the top.
  6. Finish filling all jars and wait for to cool and firm up before using.

Store in a light tight container and in relatively cool spot.

I am planning on making a fresh batch of the spoon oil this Christmas for gifts. The recipe is super easy and lasts a good while. You can pour the mixture into any glass jars, just make sure the jar doesn’t have a small opening so you can easily reach the spoon oil.



Happy buffing!





Here is a peek into my bathroom.

The bathroom is off the living area and divided by a small “hall space” (if you can call it that) where there is a closet on the left-hand side and where I store my bike on the right. There is a small window that opens and between 10:00 and 11:00 sun streams in creating this bright spot in the apartment.


While the space might be small, it has everything one needs (although I am finding I do miss having a bathtub, since there is only a shower stall – to the right of the door).


The previous tenant left this necklace organizer and I kept it to hang my various necklaces. I like how it adds pops of colour and texture to the space.

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There is ample counter space and I have left a lot of my stuff out on display. I mounted this Ikea mirror because the huge mirror that is in the bathroom is a bit too far away to really see anything.

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I covered the small window with a piece of knitted lace that I picked-up years ago and never really found a use for, until now. The window looks out to the air conditioning unit and also the side road, so I wanted to create a bit of cover that still allowed for ample light.


With this choice of window covering, I decided to hang these two prints I have to carry on the lace-like look.

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In addition to ample counter space, there is heaps of storage below. On one side I store extra bathroom supplies and below the sink I store all of the kitty supplies.

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Since the majority of the apartment is carpeted, I decided to store the kitty litter box in the bathroom, so it would be easier to maintain the litter mess (I also store a dust pan and small broom to sweep up daily).


That is my bathroom. This is the room I have done the least with and, as with all the other rooms, is a work in progress. Currently it is painted a light grey colour, but I am thinking a nice bright white coat of paint may be nice. What do you think?



Out & About – Shakespeare in High Park

Last week, Christina and I ventured to High Park to see Hamlet, presented by the Canadian Stage and directed by Birgit Schreyer Duarte. After a wonderful dinner at the tree house (a.k.a. Christina’s place), we walked over to the park and joined the crowd of people ready to see one of Shakespeare’s best-known tragedies. After finding good seats, we settled in for the long haul, with the play running approximately an hour and forty-five minutes and with no intermission (an endurance test, to say the least).


The set was minimalist and lent an air of modernity that was peppered throughout the entire production, from the costumes to many of the directorial touches (did Ophelia really need to get “naked”?). The play was a condensed adaptation that stuck, for the most part, to the original but for this viewer there was something that was lacking.

But I don’t want to be entirely negative. The actor playing Hamlet, Frank Cox-O’Connell (below), did a wonderful job portraying the complexities of the role. While traditionalists may have been turned off by the more contemporary touches of this pot smoking, grieving-turned-slightly mad Danish Prince, I enjoyed Cox-O’Connell’s take on the role. His acting was a convincing mix of a roguish youth mourning the loss of his father, a confused and angered son, dealing with his mother’s quick marriage to his uncle, and a conflicted young man wanting to revenge the death of his father but navigating the ethical and moral terms of this plea of violence from the ghost of his father.

Hamlet’s relationship to Ophelia, in this version, was slightly uneven and confused. Playing opposite of Cox-O’Connell was Rose Tuong as Ophelia. I wanted to like Tuong in her role but no matter how hard I tried I thought she was the weak link in the production with her over the top performance and uneven approach to her role. I blame these two faults on the director who seems to have wanted to create a buzz through some of her choices with Ophelia. By this I mean the overt sexual gestures, for example Ophelia taking of her nickers, and when in her mad state, after the murder of her mother, she tears off her clothing (leaving Ophelia in nude undergarments, which was not at all shocking and left me wondering – WHY?). This last point was especially at odds when Gertrude speaks after Ophelia has committed suicide:

“. . . When downe the Weedy Trophies, and her selfe,
Fell in the weeping Brooke, her cloathes spred wide,
And Mermaid-like, a while they bore her up . . .”

(Hamlet, from the original act 4, scene 7)


Other notable performances besides Cox-O’Connell’s were by Kaleb Alexander who plays Laertes and Nicky Guadagni who plays a gender reversed role as Polonius as mother, instead of father to Laertes and Ophelia.

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Every summer I look forward to Shakespeare in the park and, as you can tell, I was pretty disappointed with this production. I may have to go and see All’s Well that Ends Well to hopefully even out the experience.

My Sister is in Town

I am so excited, today my sister is in town for a quick lay-over before she heads to a conference in the states. Sans kids we are planning on going out for dinner and taking it easy.


Sorry it is a blurry snap, it is an oldie but a goodie and I love it. I wish we lived closer (she lives in Yellowknife, NWT) but I’ll take any sister time I can get.

Back in Toronto – So Far


In one of my first posts I made a list of what I wanted to do this summer, see here.

So far I’m not doing too bad with the list.

I am planning on going to Toronto Island during the August long weekend with Christina.

I’ve ridden along the Lower Don (see here) and walked up along the Don Valley Trail from Pottery Road to .

I went to Shakespeare in the Park to see Hamlet (more to come on this next week).

I’ve gone to the Withrow Farmer’s Market, see here.

I have not had as many picnics as I would like, but there is still plenty of time.

And I have not found a place to volunteer, nor have I found a knit-nite to join. But all in all, I am doing quite well with my list.




Living Below Ground – Nuclear Bomb Hideaway

Original caption: Garden City, L. I.: H-Bomb Hideaway. Snug as a bug in a rug, a family can sustain itself for three to five days after an H-Bomb blast in this buried tank shelter, called a Kidde Kokoon, is manufactured by Walter Kidde Nuclear Laboratories of Garden City, L. I. It offers protection from blast damage in a zone extending three to 12 miles from a nuclear explosion. The shelter also protects against exposure to radioactive fallout. At far end is the fan which draws purified air through a special filter. The handle is used in the event of power failure. Equipment includes a radiation detector, portable radio, protective clothing, blankets, tools, first aid equipment and food supplies. May 19, 1955 Garden City, Long Island, New York, USA

Original caption: Garden City, L. I.: H-Bomb Hideaway. Snug as a bug in a rug, a family can sustain itself for three to five days after an H-Bomb blast in this buried tank shelter, called a Kidde Kokoon, is manufactured by Walter Kidde Nuclear Laboratories of Garden City, L. I. It offers protection from blast damage in a zone extending three to 12 miles from a nuclear explosion. The shelter also protects against exposure to radioactive fallout. At far end is the fan which draws purified air through a special filter. The handle is used in the event of power failure. Equipment includes a radiation detector, portable radio, protective clothing, blankets, tools, first aid equipment and food supplies. May 19, 1955 Garden City, Long Island, New York, USA.


Living Area

The kitchen, as we saw last week, is at one end of the living area and the living area extends from there. I have tried to use the space, which measures 135 x 86 inches OR 80.63 square feet, in a way that doesn’t make it seem that small because it is so teeny tiny. To do this, I have tried to create the sense of increased area by minimizing what I have in it, while also maximizing all I can do in the living area. This is still very much a work-in-progress but things are slowly coming together.


As I have mentioned elsewhere, this apartment has some frustrating features, including space heaters that no longer work. So, for the entrance I used this unusable space (meaning I could have easily extended the Ivar shelving unit further out if not for the space heater) by creating an entrance of sorts. This is where I plan to hang my seasonal coats, stash my scarves and mittens, and catch any miscellaneous stuff, like newspapers, magazines, or books I want to take to the book exchange. For the low shelf, I hung the top of a piano bench I had in Kingston that didn’t quite survive the move, to be the “catch-all” with the baskets. Above the shelf,  I hung individual hooks for my coats and shopping bags (which I may add to as it gets cooler and I need more coat options, with a few more hooks). I decided to also hang smaller hooks (to the right)  for my bike helmet and summer hat and keys.



Below, I store my shoes and added an Ikea crate to increase the storage area.

Storage x 2


Deceptively, this area includes two forms of storage. Since the kitchen is so small, I got creative in where to put my larger items or those awkward things, such as a can opener or veggie peeler (I don’t have any kitchen drawers) so, I repurposed this yellow set of drawers for overall storage (mostly for my kitchen stuff). It is the perfect width for my lasagna pan and there are enough drawers to include one for junk, linen, and Tupperware.


BUT, there is also a cubby hole behind the Walker Evans poster that stores my extra-large soup pots, iron, and other random things.


While it is a bit of pain to get at, it is a lifesaver in this wee apartment.

Table / Eating Area


With only just over 80 square feet for this area of the apartment, furniture gets shifted around throughout the day.  Above you can see where my reading chair is when the wall-mounted table is down. When it is time to eat I shift the chair around placing it beside the shelves.


That way I can lift up the table and have a place to eat. I have now had two dinners with people over and I wish that there was just a bit more space so I could seat three comfortably at the table. For now it is a one-person-over-at-a-time sort of entertaining.




This weekend I finally had the opportunity to go to Ikea to get the extra shelves I needed to finish up with my living area. Before that one side of my bookcase looked like this.


I wanted to get all of my boxes unpacked so the remaining books went on to one shelf all happenstance (I know, I know – this is not good for the books and their poor spines). Now this area looks like this.


And here is the other side.


Work Area


I created a work area in the centre of the shelving unit so that I could differentiate between where I work and where I eat (just like I discussed here).


A Work in Progress

As I mentioned, this is still all a work in progress, especially this area at the other end of the room. I want to put in either a specially made daybed here or a camping cot (to be used as a seating area) but I haven’t had the time to make something and the camping cot I was interested in is just a few inches too long for the space. So for right now this will have to do.  Any suggestions for this area? Another option is to find two chairs with smaller foot prints than the chair I currently have . . .

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I hope you liked the tour.

Currently Reading – The White Road

I enjoy reading and I thought I would share with you what I am currently reading. The White Road: Journey into an Obsession by Edmund de Waal is part history and part biography. Written by famed potter de Waal, the book explores the history of porcelain, the medium the potter is best known for working with.


The book is a treat for those who have done primary research and de Waal takes us through a literary adventure of his own “obsession” or research process. Peppered throughout the book are images, such as the one below. I am learning so much about not only the various histories of the medium but also about de Waal’s own commitment to porcelain and his career.


I first encountered de Waal’s writing with his book The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance. This book was spellbinding to me and I highly recommend it. Another book based on biography and history, The Hare with Amber Eyes traces de Waal’s inheritance of a collection of netsuke tracing back the ownership of this collection to his great, great-uncle Charles Ephrussi, an art critic and friend to many of the Impressionist painters in Paris. The journey of the netsuke takes de Waal all-over Europe and finally to Japan, where the tiny sculptures had originated.


Both books have a sense of loss that is tied to the intersection of history and lived experience, that I appreciate. Material culture comes alive in de Waal’s books and the narratives he weaves around common (or uncommon) artifacts.