Dear Friends: My youngest daughter Melinda left home ten years ago, and we finally got around to redecorating her hot pink teenage lair and turning it into a welcoming guest bedroom. Here’s the finished result of our blood (I cut my finger), sweat (moving furniture is hard work), and tears (of nostalgia).
Over the past ten years, The Pink Palace, as we called it, gradually turned into a storage area. (Note the unused rowing machine). Melinda, who works as a recruiter for Mount Royal University in Calgary, came home for the weekend and cheerfully helped me pack her clothes, books, and keepsakes. She was far less emotional than I was about putting away her treasures!
Melinda chose the hot pink wall colour when she was a teenager. After she left, my husband Heinz painted the walls white. Farewell to The Pink Palace! The only colour that remains in the room now comes from the pale blue Ikea wall units.
Melinda’s huge bulletin board had not been touched since she finished high school. Over the years I looked at it now and then with great sentimentality.
Once we stripped everything off, we weren’t sure what to do with the darned thing, which was screwed into the wall and would have been a bearcat to remove.
Instead, we painted it white as well, leaving the blue trim. But what to do with this blank canvas?
My husband had the bright idea of creating a family photo wall on the bulletin board. For the next week, I hunted up my favourite photos, found frames for them at my local thrift store, took them apart and washed the glass (cutting myself in the process), fastened hangers to them, and laid them all out on the family room floor.
If you have ever hung a picture with your beloved, you’ll know how difficult it is not to end up hanging each other! I think we had thirty-three separate arguments over the thirty-three photos.
I wanted to eyeball the spacing, and My Husband the Engineer wanted to measure each one to the sixteenth of an inch. Nevertheless, we managed to get the job done! There’s even a little space at the bottom for future additions.
Here’s a side view of the bedroom, which is on the ground level of the house, facing the lake. Our living quarters are on the main floor, and our master bedroom on the top floor. I must have been up and down the stairs one thousand times in the past couple of weeks.
I threw a ragged old quilt over the table, which doubles as my sewing table on the rare occasions when I have time to sew.
Here’s an overall view from the doorway. I dug out some old framed pictures from my storage closet, two of them inherited from my mother, which I hadn’t found enough wall space for in the rest of the house.
My guest room also has some handmade treasures. Hanging on the photo wall is a hoop made by my daughter Katie, showing the exterior of our house. She makes and sells custom embroidered hoops, so contact me if you would like one of your own.
The hooked rugs on either side of the bed came from my grandmother.
The quilt at the foot of the bed was made by my mother and me back in 1990, and we embroidered our names along the edge. It contains many scraps from my old clothes, so there are lots of memories stitched into this quilt.
The open shelf unit makes a nice display area for my vintage quilt collection, and I chose a few colour-coordinated books as well. I was happy to free up some room in my main bookcase upstairs!
We did leave just one memento of Melinda’s old room for the enjoyment of our guests, the fluorescent stars on the ceiling which glow when the light is turned off!
I love the view from the guest room window – you can just see the waters of Lake Windermere gleaming through the trees.
Friends, let me know if you are ever visiting the Windermere area, as there is an empty room with a view waiting for you!
Memories of Medmenham
I was SO thrilled to meet Fenella Sobchuk of Summerland, B.C. while she was visiting my area — because her mother Diana Cussons was an aerial photo interpreter at RAF Medmenham in England, the basis for my novel Bird’s Eye View! Fenella remembers her mother’s former colleagues visiting her home for cocktail parties after the war, including the famous Constance Babington Smith!
Fenella was also happy to meet someone who had written about her mother’s important duties during the Second World War. I signed her copy of Bird’s Eye View, and she signed my copy of Women of Intelligence, a non-fiction book by Christine Halsall in which Fenella’s mother is quoted extensively. I think we both had goosebumps!!
(My wartime novel is fact-based fiction, the story of a Canadian woman who works at RAF Medmenham as a photo interpreter. To read one thrilling chapter, click here: Bird’s Eye View Excerpt.)
Eugenie Visits Juno Beach
My friend and air force veteran Eugenie Turner of Kelowna, B.C. attended the 75th Anniversary of D-Day ceremonies at the Juno Beach Centre in France. Eugenie even met the prime minister! I’m glad she, and the other 50,000 Canadian women who served in uniform, are finally getting the recognition they deserve. To read her story, click here: Eugenie Turner.
My young friend Eric Brunt, who has been travelling across Canada interviewing veterans on video, sent me this photo from the Juno Beach Centre of my book, My Favourite Veterans, on the shelf in the gift shop. Contact me if you would like a signed copy of your own.
What I’m Reading Now
I belong to an online reading group on Goodreads called Retro Reads, which unearths some real gems from the past. I loved The Enchanted April, written in 1922, the story of four disparate women who rent a villa in Italy to escape the cold winter in England, and discover new purpose in their lives.
When I was writing my novel Wildwood, I read the collected letters of Dr. Mary Percy Jackson, who came to northern Alberta from England in 1929 to serve as the local doctor for a population of settlers scattered across the wilderness. The Homemade Brass Plate is her own autobiography. What a woman! Her story about performing surgery on a dying baby while it lay on top of her Singer sewing machine cabinet is simply staggering. Now I’m reading the two-volume autobiography of her homesteading husband Frank Jackson, who also had some incredible adventures.
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I donned my pioneer duds to attend the Strawberry Tea at my local Windermere Valley Museum. Homemade pound cake, fresh strawberries, whipped cream, and good conversation — there’s no better way to spend an afternoon in June.
Friends, I hope you are enjoying the long days of summer. If you are passing through my little corner of the world, please let me know!