Friday, 28 August 2015

$20 Studio Makeover! House Tour Part 5

Is there a space in your house that feels tired, cluttered, and ignored? My music studio had become this place for me. It is obviously a well used space and important to me for my job as well as for my enjoyment, but it had really become a catch-all for piles, papers, and unused books.

The BEFORE picture below, shows what my music studio looked like at the end of a year of teaching. I had just finished preparing students for exams and recitals, it was a busy time, and my studio was a visual reminder of the weary end of the year feeling. Somehow, my music collection and teaching paraphernalia had taken over to the point that I had layers of stuff on my shelf. Layers of clutter for my eye to be distracted by. This room was driving me crazy, so I decided to do something about it. This project really felt like a gift to myself. I now feel ready to take on another year of teaching and music study (although I still have not tackled the paperwork and lesson planning).

I was able to do this project on a budget of $20. All that I needed to purchase was yellow spray paint. I even sent Husband and Mr. K to the store to buy the paint, so I didn't have to leave my house! Everything else I already had.



1. I painted the green wall that came with the house and I could ignore no longer. I love green, just not here. White! Fresh and clean. I had the paint sitting in my garage leftover from a previous project.
2. I took down the green Ikea shelves that I had been deluding myself into thinking would be appropriate to fill with more clutter. Do you want them? They are free...
3. The music library was purged. If I had not looked at it since moving 4 years ago, it is gone. I was actually surprised with how much stayed. I learned that having a music collection and text books is actually helpful for a music teacher. Ha ha!
4. I spray painted an office chair and my music stand. Bright yellow. I think that yellow goes with everything and it makes me happy!
5. All the books and supplies that were on the piano were moved to the shelf, since there was now room. My dad made this shelf for me while visiting a few years ago. There is a ledge there, not big enough for books. I mentioned that I wished it was big enough to be a shelf, and he built me a shelf. It was one of the nicest things that anyone has ever done for me. Really. I love this shelf!
6. Rug was stolen from another room in the house. FREE!
7. Frames did not make it back onto the wall, I liked it more without.
8. I added a painting that I did a few years ago, for visual interest.




1. Yay for a new gallery wall! Just hanging our degrees on the wall seemed boring, and braggy. I added our mandalas, framed, as well as my RCM voice medals. Speaking of braggy... What is the use of keeping my medals hidden in a jewelry box? Hopefully having them on display will inspire my students to aim for those high marks!
2. Future change- I would love to paint those hideous doors (tied together to discourage someone I live with from climbing behind the furnace- this is apparently really fun). However, I do not have the energy, and they don't really bother me THAT much. When they bother me, I will just look at my gallery wall instead. 

Dearest Blog Readers that know about gardening, what are these gorgeous flowers called? I picked them in my yard and they smell amazing!

To the lovely person who gave me this for my birthday, I have a goal to learn how to use it properly, soon! This fall!

I am so happy with this transformation, although it is not dramatic, it was just the lift I needed to feel excited and energized to get back into my fall schedule. Teaching music lessons is an amazing job, I am lucky that I get to share the joy of music with others. I hope that my students like yellow! 

Candid (lies) photo of me playing my favourite, Chopin, with one hand. 

P.S. My cute house was recently featured on The Lovely Side, check it out!

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Developing Minimalism

When life is focused, when art has limitations, amazing things happen. There is a reason that writing prompts are so popular and most visual or musical artists tend to hold to certain themes while creating. Having some boundaries can allow creativity to flourish.  Too much freedom is overwhelming. I feel like the lifestyle of minimalism creates healthy boundaries in my life, and allows creativity and relationships to take centre stage. 

Lately, I have been feeling like I might be a fake minimalist. Last year I went 12 months without buying any clothes. Since then, I have bought a lot less in general and simplified my life via decluttering my home nearly every day. The thing is, I still feel like we have way too much stuff... will I always feel this way? Maybe.

"Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it," my favourite definition of minimalism found on my favourite minimalist website, I also love that the name of Joshua Becker's website is, "Becoming Minimalist," because I really do feel like it is a process.

Some aspects of a minimalist lifestyle are easy for me, I have been doing them my entire adult life.

1. Not becoming over attached to material possessions. It's just not important (to me), and when we have too much, it can become a burden.

3. Preferring to spend money on experiences over "stuff."

4. Intentionally choosing to have less commitments so that I can spend more time with family and friends, as well as engage in activities that are meaningful to me. I learned how to say "no" with confidence and no excuses a number of years ago and my life improved immensely.

5. Actively and successfully paying down debt (incurred from valuing experiences, specifically moving twice on credit and faith- worth it).

6. Letting go of useless thoughts. Negative thoughts have no purpose. Jealousy, resentment, judgement, only hurt the person experiencing the thought and take up room in our brain that could be doing more important work. This is actually a huge thing, and may require cognitive behaviour therapy to eliminate negative thought loops.

Some aspects of minimalism are more of a challenge for me, but since I love a challenge, I will never give up!

1. Not multitasking. I realize that multitasking is not a helpful habit, it often creates more work in the end, it can be inefficient, and is the enemy of mindfulness.

2. Having less goals at a time, not in general (related to multitasking). I make too many goals. To be a true minimalist, one would have less goals and more focus. I can see how this would create increased opportunities for success. It would also help with peace of mind. I often feel overwhelmed. 

Minimalism looks different for everyone. It might not be right for everyone. I think there is a misconception that minimalists live out of a backpack, travel the world, and own nothing. Although this sounds amazing to me, this is not my life. I have 3 children and a husband. They come with toys and stuff. I love them, so I find a way to make all the toys and gadgets fit.

I have been working on reorganizing, paring down, and giving my studio space a facelift before music lessons resume in a few weeks (stay tuned for the full reveal!). I came to a realization that I do need to have a collection of music books to teach from and play from. So although I have downsized my collection, it is still fairly extensive. Does this make me a fake minimalist? Probably not.

I do think that true minimalism is a process and a state of mind. It looks different for everyone and is different according to the stage of life that you are experiencing. Minimalism is also a product of privilege, I grew up with many opportunities and live with an income that allows me the option of amassing possessions. This is not the case for much of the world. Part of me feels that by using my resources differently, I will be able to be more helpful to others who do not have my privileges.

Last night, I told Husband that I might feel happy with our amount of earthly possessions by the age of 60, he corrected me to the age of 90, which made me smile to think that we might live that long. I may never get to a point where I feel that I have arrived at the pinnacle of the minimalist lifestyle, and this point may also not exist.  I need to continue to find ways to enjoy the journey, the process, and the added creative focus.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Colouring as an experience in mindfulness.

Mindfulness meditation has long been recognized as a natural method for controlling and reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. It's something that I have tried, and I find it works for me. It only takes a few minutes a day to reap the benefits of meditation. The byproduct of meditation is mindfulness in general, which creates peace and a harmony in daily life. On days when it is difficult to focus, I have been using a method of visualizing a colour filling my mind, then my body, until all I am is a colour, and eventually, my mind is clear. Colour is very powerful to me.

Some days when I try to meditate, I fall asleep (which means that I am not meditating correctly, or that I am exhausted). Since having children, I have been able to fall asleep very easily (minutes from my head hitting the pillow, almost every night). I also now fall asleep at the dentist, because lying down and not moving is really all it takes for total relaxation these days!

Because of my state of exhaustion, I have been interested in finding different ways to meditate or reduce stress without the possible side effect of falling asleep. Adult colouring books have become very popular lately as a way of relaxing and clearing your mind. This appeals to me for many reasons, first of all because it is creative, and also it reminds me of my colour method of meditation. I convinced Husband to try this method of mindfulness meditation with me. Last night was date night, the kind of date night when you plan an activity in your house with your significant other and hope that the children stay in bed so that you can have an enjoyable evening (the most common kind of date night around here). We coloured together at the kitchen table while listening to music for over 2 hours. It was a lovely peaceful evening, and our children stayed in bed (although they did get up at 5:30 am today, and that is why we need stress relief meditation- ha ha)!

I found some mandalas to colour at Colouring Pages for Adults. There are also many other themes to choose from on this website and in general. I decided to go with mandalas because I have been interested in them since I was a teenager working with a fabulous art therapist as part of the excellent art program that I was lucky enough to take part in at my high school. My mentor taught me that mandala's are a sacred circle believed to balance energy, while enhancing creativity, relaxation, and healing. Plus, they are BEAUTIFUL.

Here are the mandalas that Husband and I chose for our colouring date. The top is my choice and the more star shaped drawing is his. It would also be relaxing to create your own mandala. I have done this in the past, but we didn't have the time last night. Feel free to print these off and colour in your own way. I had some trouble with the format of the mandalas on the website. I did have to resize these and then print them using Picasa.

It took us over 2 hours to colour these drawings. We listened to the second half of Tonic with Tim Tamashiro, and almost all of The Signal with Laurie Brown, which are my favourite old lady radio programs on CBC Radio 2. I loved witnessing our different methods in colour choice and colouring technique. Sometimes we chatted, sometimes we were quiet and listening to the music as we coloured, it was very relaxing and I can see how people relate this type of colouring experience to meditation. I think that both mandalas are beautiful, it is impossible to for me to choose a favourite. I can definitely see our personalities in each of them. What a wonderful thing.

 Husband's work of art.

My work of art. 

At the moment, our mandalas are displayed in the rotating kid art spot in our kitchen, but I think that they are destined for frames. I love them. I highly recommend colouring as a stress relieving activity!

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

The Shortest Season

Summer is the shortest season,
This I know for sure.
We play outside, we swim a lot,
We think the sun our cure.

Summer is the shortest season,
Even when we try,
To fill our days with sunshine rays,
We still must heave a sigh.

For summer is the shortest season,
It lasts but ninety days.
Which seems a lie, I'll tell you why,
Weather rarely behaves.

Summer is the shortest season,
But that's alright my friends.
We do our best, enjoy the rest,
And hope it never ends.

Winter is the longest season,
When you live up north.
So enjoy your sun, and have some fun,
Before the snow comes forth!

Something interesting happened this year, I am having a summer. I also wrote a poem, which I have not done in years. It took me 5 minutes. I hope you love it. In the past, I have had to work all summer, or, if I was in a position to be on vacation, we would visit family, which is the furthest thing from a vacation that I can imagine. I also have a son with Autism who has been in therapy since the age of 2, therapy continues through the summer, so you get the idea. No breaks.  This summer, we had no therapy, I only had one part time harmony student, and we rented a cottage. It was fantastic, and for the first time in I don't even know how long, I really felt like it was summer. The kind of summer I had as a kid. Only this time, I was the stressed parent trying to fit everything into my mini van while my children circled giddily laughing and crying around my feet (I really really related to memories of my dad in that moment).

In the past, I would often pride myself on saying that summer is not my favourite season. Which is true, it really isn't, I was made for cold weather and sweaters. Since I am now living in a home with central air conditioning, and I had a glimpse of what summer can be like by going on a relaxing(ish - we still had the children) vacation, I have to say that summer is making a case for becoming a more favoured season!

We stayed in the coolest cottage. It was built in the 1920s and I found everything about it fascinating. Side note, in Alberta, this would be called a cabin, but in Ontario we call it a cottage (I am just trying to fit in). Why the difference? I have no idea. We hung our wet swimming gear everywhere to impress the neighbours. We had a private beach and swam 2-3 times a day. 

My no sunburn summer was ruined, but it was worth it. 
P.S. Do people over 30 really care about being suntanned? Not this lady. Who cares. My white legs can light the way if we are stuck in a dark alley.

Public Service Announcement: Did you know that if you light too many sparklers at once it becomes a fireball? Husband has the burns to prove it. Also, I have the cutest boys in the world.

We only really have a few weeks left of summer, or maybe a few days, this is Canada after all. I hope that we can all enjoy it and at least have a moment that transports us to a summer of our childhood. Childhood, when done correctly, is magic. We all need more magic in our lives.

Yay summer!