Thursday, September 29, 2016

Pretty Basic & Play

Howard is on holiday. We had planned to visit the east coast of Canada only - since February - we've been waiting to find out if he'll be going on strike. The latest vote will be next week and the results tabulated two weeks after that which means that right about the time he goes back to work, we'll find out if we could have spent that holiday money. Meanwhile, we're staycationing, sleeping in, moving slow, going for walks and out for occasional meals.

We had planned two nights in Kelowna for some thrift store and junk yard shopping and walking along the Kettle Valley Railroad only I've spent the last two days on the couch with a real winner of a cold. Today, things are improving so hopefully our rescheduled dates will work out well.


Last year, we checked off the number one thing on Howard's bucket list by going to Europe. On day eight of our tour, Howard went on an optional World War I tour and I spent the day shopping with Alex of Studio Alexandra. When I'm on holiday, I like to buy yarn, fabric, books, and jewelry as souvenirs. One of the things I picked up in Nuremberg was a gorgeous cotton yarn. Last week, I knit it into a scarf, a new shape for my souvenir.

The pattern is Pretty Basic, free on Ravelry. I had a good laugh once I got into the project. Instead of being something completely different, it was very similar to an adaptation of another design by Stephen West that I'd done while playing with possibilities. One of the things I love to do is take a basic shape and change it.


The finished scarf has beautiful drape. The colour is a medium to dark blue-grey that will go with quite a lot of my wardrobe although I've been thinking of what outfit I could sew to go with it simply because I'm very Very VERY bored with my current wardrobe. It was new to everyone else when I moved here a year ago but certainly not new to me. Some things are beginning to show age and wear and some simply need to be packed away for a while until they feel new and fresh again.


My house has a level entry and daylight basement although it's only half out of the ground. Above left is the view from my studio window. Even with the deck, I get plenty of light and sunshine but I'd also like access to the back yard. After a year of playing around with different ideas for how we want to develop the property, the plan is to dig out under the upper deck and put French doors and a lower deck off the studio similar to a previous studio shown above right and below. I'm not sure if that'll happen next year but I'm excited about the possibility. That studio was one of my favourties and this one has many similar attributes.


Normally when I move into a house, the renovations happen in a short time frame. This time around, we don't have that option and so I've had time to weigh the odds and come up with second, third, or fourth "right" answers to how we want to approach things. Renovating and redecorating is no different than the blank canvas of a t-shirt. blouse, or a skirt. There are so many options for how to fill in the same space. I saw that with our condo complex where there were 113 variations on the same theme.


The book I'm working through in my creative study right now is Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart Brown. I've been fascinated to learn how vital play is to our well being and what a loss it is when play is not a part of our daily life. There is real truth in statements like... if anyone goes without play for too long, grinding out the work that is expected of them, they will at some point look at their lives and ask, "Is this all there is? Is this what I can expect for the rest of my life?

At the same time, I've been reading Tiny House Living by Ryan Mitchell. I wanted ideas to apply to our basement suite for building and living well in less than 400 square feet as the subtitle promised however, two-thirds of the way through, the book so far has been more about the philosophy of living small and the benefits of lower expenses and less maintenance, of less work and more play, and about having the time and ability to pursue passions and interests.


The opening segment of the Tiny House show on TV asks could you live in a tiny house and my answer is always no. Even though I'm a minimalist, I need more physical space than that but not a "bigger is better" style of McMansion. I like my small house and I like that it's clutter free and I also like that there is room to breath, that Howard and I are not tripping over each other, and that I have my studio and he has his office. In my humble opinion, these things help us live better together.

It's interesting to me that Sarah Susanka has been talking about The Not So Big House for over a decade now. Is that how long it takes for an idea to really catch on because - from my only somewhat informed perspective - the tiny house movement appears very similar in its approach to more with less. 

All the books focus on The Things That Matter, the title of Nate Berkus' book. It made me think about all the stuff that is at the condo and how much would we really need if Howard and I combined households again at some point in the future. In Tiny House Living, Ryan gives ideas for downsizing including putting everything in a box, dating it, and then seeing what items you pull back out over the next month and then - at the end of the month - going through the remaining items and deciding if they are necessary. I clean every box, basket, cupboard, closet, and drawer in my house usually two or three times a year and even so, when I think about it that way, there is plenty more work that could be done - even my recipe box and my stationary drawer could use a good overhaul. Next time. Right now...

... I'm intrigued with the concept of play. In his book, Nate writes of his childhood that the stuff I loved playing with then is the stuff I still love to play with. Is that true for you? It is for me. As a child, I loved to decorate a house, not play house. I loved to design fashions for my dolls and occasions for them to wear those garments to. I loved dress-up and creating clothes for myself out of towels and blankets. I loved to move my room around and decorate the tents I built in the back yard. I've always had an attraction to eclectic decor, old things, and colour but not to clutter.

Before I learned to sew at age twelve, I learned to crochet and knit and embroider. I loved doodle art posters but not drawing and never liked glue and sequins and still don't. I could go on. The interesting thing is - to repeat myself - that play is vital to our happiness and the secret of how we play now can be found in how we played when we were younger. If at some point in our life play disappeared, we have the opportunity to bring it back. It may not be easy, but it is simple and like many other things, worth the work.

Some of the learning for me from these books is to be more intentional about what I allow into my space, what I do with my time, and how I choose to shape my life. I have choices and I have the consequences of my choices and I can shape the later by shaping the former.

How will you play today?

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - time and space to play


  1. Very very interesting.... thank you for sharing!

  2. I like your new scarf, I'll have to give Ravelry another try (like I need another time hog! :-) ).

    Tiny houses - I suspect that those who live in them successfully long term don't really spend a lot of time in them, most of their "living" is out and about doing things. And I wish the TV shows would go back in a year or two, not two months! Ms Susanka has been doing the Not So Big House series for probably closer to 20 years, I got her first book when designing our current house (yikes!) 15-16 years ago. She has some great ideas for hitting a nice spot between McMansion and tiny house. The downside was when investigating how to incorporate some of those ideas, let's just say don't ever assume smaller = less expensive in house design. At least not here in Iowa.

    1. I was surprised with the 10 year reprint of the Not So Big House because I'd thought the info was around much longer. Thanks for letting me know. Like you, I definitely don't think small equals less expensive. It always depends what finishes you choose. Needing less of something that is far more expensive isn't always a "cheaper" answer. It's math.

      What I love about my small house is that we use every part of it. We don't have a formal living or dining room and I have lots of guests so that part is used and the part of the basement that would have been unused is the suite so it's all maximized. With the suite, the expenses are paid so it's a win-win... for me at least.

      I've been on Ravelry for years but I don't spend a lot of time there, just when I want a new pattern for something specific. (Drops yarn) also offers a lot of free designs. The scarf is quite lovely. I'm enjoying it.

  3. I was surprised (and confused) by the 10th anniversary edition as well. I scrounged around and found my 'original' edition of The Not So Big House (which I got when we were building our house which is 20 years old this year) the copyright says 1998....anyway...the ideas about living 'better not bigger' have always appealed to me, I guess each generation comes to the idea in their own time and own way...thanks for reminding me, I'm enjoying paging through it again. Guess I won't recycle this book just yet.

    1. I guess it's the 10th anniversary of something. I've always liked things to have a place and be in it and I've determined how much of a particular item I can have by the amount of space I've dedicated to it. I've been oozing too much since I moved here so although I started out doing the research for the suite, it's been a good reminder to not go crazy in the studio as well. Today, I've been marking the floor where the walls and closets will eventually be so I can see if - that should probably read how much - I need to downsize between now and whenever I start building.


Thanks for commenting. I appreciate the feedback and the creative conversation.