Wabi-sabi; appreciate without panic


I wrote about wabi-sabi, how it can help you look at your day-to-day life differently and put you at ease.

You might be ask: what good is a concept that reminds you things shrivel, break or die?

It’s quite good, actually.

Here’s an example from my own life.

See the painting above? We saw it hanging in a gallery one summer vacation and were smitten. However, we left without buying it. After all, we were only there to look. But we couldn’t stop talking about it, so we returned to the gallery for one last look and that was that. The painting became ours.

That was 2004, around the same time a powerful tsunami hit the Indian ocean. Remember? Heart breaking stories were all over the news. I remember turning away from a newspaper article, looking up at the new painting now hanging on our wall, and thinking it could get destroyed in a fire, flood, or some other unfortunate event. Oddly enough the thought wasn’t troubling. In fact, it put me at ease.

By imagining the painting damaged or gone it suddenly became more precious. It wasn’t about giving way to carelessness or neglect. It was accepting the painting could (will?) one day be gone AND appreciating it, all at once.

That’s what a wabi-sabi perspective offers. Appreciation without the panic.


Exhibition kitchen/The Rockpool experience by Elaine Coffee

elaine coffee painting

Yellow roses and a three-legged cat


yellow roses

yellow roses

yellow roses

yellow roses

yellow roses

yellow roses

Capturing the beauty of yellow roses as they fade helped me tap into peace and calm, which I really needed these past few weeks.

I was distressed about one of our cats; Archie wasn’t doing well and I feared the worst.

We adopted Archie from the Humane Society ten years ago. He’s such a lovely animal, terribly handsome with a most peaceful deposition. It’s an understatement to say we’re attached to him.

He’s our therapy cat. Anyone could benefit from being around him (except those allergic, perhaps). You look into his gorgeous green eyes, stroke his soft beautifully patterned fur, hear his roaring purr and you feel better.

Imagine our grief when we learned of a growing and painful bone tumour in one of his hind legs.

Amputation was recommended. It was expensive but it would put an end to Archie’s pain, which was growing increasingly hard to manage, even with heavy painkillers. It would definitely prolong his life. But a life with three legs? Was it the right thing to do?

Something the vet said put us at ease: a cat doesn’t look backwards to when it had four legs, it moves forward and adapts.

It’s been almost three weeks since his surgery. His recovery is a wonderful thing to assist and witness. Being kind and tender has been the trend around here. I’m touched to see those qualities shine in my husband and kids.

He slept a great deal the first week but now he’s more alert. We can tell by his ears – super perky! He gets out of his heated bed to eat and use the litter. His stitches are out and he doesn’t have to wear the dreaded cone of shame anymore, thank goodness. He even manages going down the stairs on his own. And he grooms himself! It’s a good sign because it suggests he’s not depressed.

Further on in his recovery, when his wound has healed and his fur has grown back in, I’ll post a video or two.

Archie’s going to get along just fine with three legs instead of four and that makes us positively giddy with happiness.

hind leg amputation cat

hind leg amputation cat

hind leg amputation cat

hind leg amputation cat

hind leg amputation cat

hind leg amputation cat

yellow roses

yellow roses







Coaxing paperwhite bulbs: an aura of spring in the dead of winter

coaxing paperwhite bulbs

With very little coaxing paperwhite bulbs will reward you with clusters of fragrant blooms in as little as four weeks. All you need is a container, a holding medium and water.

Soil is not necessary; paperwhites will happily grow anchored in either decorative stone, glass, pebbles or gravel.

paperwhite bulbs

paperwhite bulbs

planting paperwhite bulbs

I started my paperwhite bulbs in mid December, too late for Christmas blooms but perfect timing for flowers in mid to late January.

I chose white pots that belonged to my mother and small river stones for anchoring the bulbs. I decorated the top with moss.

The grande finale is obviously when delicate little white trumpets appear and release their characteristic heady scent. But I get great pleasure out of tracking the paperwhites’ growth until they flower. This poem sums it up perfectly.

coaxing paperwhite bulbs

paperwhite bulbs

coaxing paperwhite bulbs

Next year I’ll try something suggested by researchers at Cornell University: to keep paperwhites from growing too tall and spindly, and to prevent droop I’ll add a splash of gin (almost any hard liquor will do) to the water. It supposedly shortens the stems, lowers the center of gravity and prevents paperwhites from getting top heavy.

Here are guidelines on how to coax paperwhite bulbs. Best growing time is between October and January.

  • Place a layer of stones or glass to a depth of about 2 inches in a small vase or about 4 inches in a larger vase.
  • Place a layer of paperwhite bulbs close to each other, roots facing down.
  • Put a few stones or pebbles around and between the bulbs to anchor them. Leave the tops of the bulbs exposed.
  • Add water to just below the base of the bulbs. If the base sits in water, it will rot. If you are using a pottery vase, use your finger to measure the water level. Replenish when water level falls.
  • Put in a cool and dimly lit or dark place for one to two weeks or until roots have begun to take hold and green shoots emerge. Then move the pot to a bright spot.
  • Rotate the pot regularly to encourage even growth.
  • Four to six weeks later paperwhites should bloom, longer if in a room with less light.
  • After your paperwhites have finished blooming, gently pull the plants from the holding medium and toss them in the compost as they won’t flower again.
  • Wash and dry the stones and the container for future use.



Tidying up

tidying up space clearing

We get good mileage out of tidying up our homes in early December until early January. It’s a natural time to clean up to make room for invited guests and for decorations such as the Christmas tree.

Things get moved here to there and temporarily stored away to make room for new items, and it gets us thinking about our homes and the things we own. In this 1500 square foot house we’re (practically ) five grown ups, so this is a regular necessity.

tidying up space clearing

It happens in January when we remove the decorations, and look for space and a place to put new things. It’s a natural time for renewal and revaluation.

If I had New year’s intention it might be this: to strive for fullness with an impulse toward simplicity. I like how Leonard Koren puts it: “To pare down to the essence without removing the poetry.” Luckily, life provides opportunities to practice this.

tidying up space clearing

I’ve had plenty practice sorting essential items from useless ones; before we settled into this home we moved apartments four times in seven years. Not to even mention the several apartments I moved in and out of before we married.

Several summers ago, the five of us lived comfortably in a small apartment without our belongings for an entire month. After we returned home I looked around at what we owned and thought, “If we moved tomorrow would we take it with us?” I then packed several bags for the Goodwill.

tidyng up space clearing

Clearing my father’s home of his belongings was eye-opening and helped me reconsider my attachments to things, even the sentimental. With it came the comforting realization that you can have vivid memories without relics to conjure them.

When I was four our home burned to the ground and we lost everything. Even catastrophe offers an indelible moment; it was stuff and stuff is replaceable.


Fraser fir in da house!

christmas tree lights reflection

I don’t recall a christmas tree ever giving me this much pleasure.

In an effort to fake it till you make it we got our tree earlier than usual. My enthusiasm for Christmas was low and I thought bringing greenery into our home ASAP might help.

We bought the tree, a Fraser Fir, and I cleared a spot for it in the living room on the main floor, near the front door at the bottom of the stairs. We strung it with lights and there it stood for a week or so until a few teenagers and twenty somethings dressed it with a mish mash of ornaments and bulbs of various shades of blue.

frasrer fir christmas tree

fraser fir christmas tree

christmas tree ornaments

christmas tree ornament

If Christmas has a classic smell then the scent of evergreens is high on the list.

This tree is especially aromatic. Its uplifting scent greets your nose each time entering the house and when descending from bedrooms to the main floor first thing in the morning.

Not only is this tree fragrant and beautiful. Turns out we also chose put it in an auspicious location. One evening at dinner, I could see the tree in four different spots from where I was sitting, its image reflected off windows and mirror.

christmas lights reflections

christmas tree reflection

christmas tree

christmas greenery

This and that

wreath in window

Here are five things that caught my attention lately:

1.this juice

carrot, oange and ginger juice

because it’s an elixir when I’m feeling less than vital – 3 carrots, 1 orange, 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger.

2.these candles

bees wax candles

because I love the smell of bees wax and how it burns.

3.these wee poinsettias

tiny poinsettia

because they’re precious and I’ve no space for bigger versions.

4.this food waste bag

saving eggshells for the garden

because it’s perfect for storing egg shells for the garden.

5.these shingles

turquoise peeling paint

because they inspire me to embrace imperfection.


Noticed elsewhere:

favourite colour palette lately
this is sure to kick start my Holiday spirit

Flowers in the home elevate mood

carnations, flowers in the home to elevate mood

I received much-needed emotional support this past week from photographing a bunch of grocery store carnations.

Displaying them about the house helped ensure my whole family reaped their mood-elevating benefits, too.

Handling each flower, cutting the stems and immersing them in water, and arranging them to be photographed draws my attention to colour, texture and pattern, to the softness of the petals and the particular green of the leaves and stems. It helps me recognize the beauty of flowers, which opens my heart to feelings of joy and love.

orange and pink carnations

orange and pink carnations

fkowers in the home to elevate mood

flowers in the home to elevate mood

I bought three bunches of orange and pink carnations for $20.00. A bit of baby’s breath was mixed in each bunch.

I like to break up the flowers and arrange them in separate vessels of varying sizes.

Place your bouquets in rooms where you spend the most time, and in areas where everyone can see them and benefit from their beauty.

Seeing them first thing in the morning is important since they help set your mood.

The kitchen is an excellent spot since it’s where we tend to gather before we start our day. Plus it’s most convenient room to change the water!

flowers elevate mood in the home

flowers elevate mood in the home

flowers elevate mood in the home

carnations, flowers in the home to elevate mood

flowers in the home to elevate mood

carnations, flowers in the home to elevate mood


Air drying chamomile, mint and sage


dried chamomile, tea

November arrived and I’m giving myself a pat on the back for getting the garden to bed before things freeze up.

Potted hostas are in the garage covered with a blanket. Pots of mint and catnip are safe in the ground until I retrieve them in the spring.

I hate to waste so I gathered the last of the chamomile, mint and sage, and I’m air drying them.

Air drying takes longer than using an oven or dehydrator, but it’s an easier method for preserving fresh herbs. Plus air drying means the oils in the leaves (wherein the flavour lies) aren’t depleted and you get more pungent herbs.

air drying herbs, chamomile

air drying herbs, chamomile

Any herbs still growing in your garden? Harvest them now and air dry them before it’s too late.

Here are some guidelines:

  • Remove only the healthiest blossoms and branches.
  • Lay chamomile flowers in a single layer on a flat surface and store in a container once thoroughly dry.

drying herbs from the garden, sage

air drying herbs, mint

bundle of sage for air drying

air drying herbs, sage

  • Cut mint and sage branches, give them a good shake and remove any discoloured or damaged leaves. Rinse in cool water and pat dry with a clean towel.
  • You can strip the leaves from the stalk and allow them to dry individually, laid flat on a clean towel.
  • Or, bundle four to six branches together, securely tie, and hang in an area free of dust, moisture and direct sunlight, with plenty of air circulation.
  • Hang undisturbed for 1 to 3 weeks. Bundles shrink as they dry so check every so often to ensure branches are secure and not slipping.

air drying herbs

air drying herbs, mint


dried mint leaves

  • You can also place bundles inside brown paper bags and hang to dry if dust poses a problem. Make sure to punch a few holes in the bag for good air circulation.
  • When leaves crumble between your fingers your herbs are ready to be taken down and stripped from the branch.
  • If using the bag method vigorously shake the bag and a give it a few squeezes. The bag is great as it catches all the dried leaves.
  • Store herbs in a tightly lidded container.

dried chamomile, tea

Bathroom revamp

bathroom revamp

My next blog post was going to be about a beautifully designed chair I’ve been admiring. But Simon suggested I write about how we’re fixing up the upstairs bathroom. “People love before and afters,” he said.

So here’s a sneak peak as we revamp one of the smallest albeit most important rooms in our more than 125 year-old home.

Perhaps you think the bathroom looks fine as is. True. But a closer inspection would reveal tired, chipped and peeling fixtures. Even though we invested money and endured toxic fumes to have them resurfaced and painted, they became chipped again. The sink is an eye sore, the bathtub is dangerous to our bottoms (ouch!), and the toilet wobbles.

Since it’s one of the most highly used rooms in our home it deserves to be a priority, don’t you think?

So a few weeks ago, after carefully measuring the space, Simon set off to a local hardware store and picked out a new bathtub and faucet, sink and toilet. When he saw something he liked, he sent photos with a text message for approval. And that was that.

Now to find the right attitude while we deal with the disruptions. For example, when we have to pee in the middle of the night we have to travel down two sets of stairs and back up again. By the time I get back into bed I’m wide awake! No more herbal tea before bedtime, I guess.

But it’s a first world problem and I’ll avoid complaining. Given all the homeless and refugees of this world, I’m grateful for our cozy home and that we have the means with which to renovate it.

I can’t wait until it all comes together. Stay tuned!


bathroom revampAbove: We love the brick chimney. The plan is to remove and use the wainscoting that’s covering it up to repair any damage that needs to occur to the wainscoting in the rest of the bathroom. We talked about removing all of it and tiling instead, but it’s in such good condition and suits the character of our home.

bathroom revampAbove: We need to replace the old pine floor as it needs to be torn up to deal with the plumbing. We’re going with this tile. The colour was inspired by a colour pulled from the bricks in the chimney.

bathroom revamp

bathroom revampAbove: See what I mean? Eye sore.

bathroom revampAbove: This cabinet, which must be as old as the house, needs a little love and care but it stays. Out with the old and in with the new, but not all the time.

bathroom revampAbove: Renovation is underway. I have some painting to do!

bathroom revamp

Above: Three hundred pounds of cast iron sitting in a snowbank waiting to be picked up. We offered it for free on kijiji and had loads of interest.




the beauty of wee flower arrangements

small flower arrangements, tiny vases, la vie quotidienneI believe studies that say spending only a few days around flowers, at work or at home, boosts well-being and makes us more compassionate.

These days I travel no further than my back yard to find flowers to bring inside. I love how flowers breathe life into a space. I love how they help me stay connected to beauty and nature.

Early this month peonies were plentiful. With four bushes I could easily stuff several large vases until overflowing with blooms. large vase of peonies, la vie quotidiennelarge vase of peonies, la vie quotidienneWhen I ran out of  vases, I hung them to air dry.

air drying peonies|la vie quotidiennedried peony petals | la vie quotidiennedried peony flowers | la vie quotidiennedried peony flowers | la vie quotidienneMy garden flowers in bloom right now are not the kinds that lend themselves to big bold arrangements but I’ll be bringing them inside, too. These days I’m thinking smaller scale and choosing  tinier arrangements.

Wee flower arrangements are one of the most effortless and least expensive (if you have to buy your flowers from a shop) ways of bringing flowers into your home. They require minimal flowers, leaves or grasses, and yet tiny bouquets provide equal beauty and benefits as larger ones.

First you need to find the right sized vases. If you don’t have any tiny vases, eggcups, liqueur glasses, shallow bowls or an empty vanilla bottle will do.   Next you decide what goes in them. When you take a good look around a garden it’s surprising how many choices there are.

wee flower arrangements

By chance I spied some little glass vases at our local Home Hardware this weekend.

small flower arrangements, tiny vases, la vie quotidienne

small flower arrangements, tiny vases, la vie quotidiennesmall flower arrangements, tiny vases, la vie quotidiennesmall flower arrangements, tiny vases, la vie quotidienne
Smaller arrangements can be grouped together or amongst other plants and objects, or placed individually in a small spot, on a bathroom shelf or window sill.small flower arrangements, tiny vases, la vie quotidienne
small flower arrangements, tiny vases, la vie quotidienne

large cylindrical vase and minimalist arrangement | la vie quotidienneInstead of a tiny vase I chose a large cylindrical one for this arrangement. I added an inch or two of water, a stem each of hosta flower and day lily to stand no taller than the vase, and floated two marigold flowers in the bottom. Simple!

I look forward to finding new ways to enjoy whatever else my garden provides and to soaking up all the benefits.