In a recent French  fashion magazine I saw a blue and white striped cotton tunic.  It was three-quarter length with long sleeves and elegant deep cuffs.  It would be the perfect cover-up for summer.   One could wear with with leggings, jeans or shorts, over a bathing suit or even to bed.  The price was $300.00.

I knew it would be simple to up cycle  a man’s shirt, but it must have french cuffs.  The extra deep cuffs are so chic and so feminine.   Unless you have one hanging in the back of a closet the answer is thrift shop. 

There is a thrift shop in the charming village of Ladner, British Columbia.  The Delta Hospital Auxiliary Thrift shop.  It is where I found several shirts – all various tones of blue and white and all with french cuffs.  The shirts were just a few dollars each.

This is a simple project.  You do require a sewing machine, a seam ripper, scissors and small buttons the size of the buttonholes on the sleeve.  Step one is to carefully unpick the seam.

Press the cuffs to remove the original fold line and set aside.

Before your shorten the sleeve measure the length of the arm be sure to include the depth of the cuff. Mark where you are going to cut the sleeve and then pin the sleeve cuff to this mark and try the shirt on. When you are happy with the length (don’t forget to add a 1/2 inch seam allowance) then feel confident to cut the material.

Sandwich the sleeve fabric between the two cuff layers. Fold the extra fabric that forms into a pleat and pin in place. Careful sew the cuff into place checking the sleeve fabric stays between the layers. Sew the buttons in place using the extra button holes as markers. Give the finished cuff a final pressing.

Depending on how tall you are or the size of shirt you can make further alterations. You can narrow the shirt by taking in the sides. You can also take in fabric with French Dart or Body Darts. These are darts that pointed and tapered at both ends and can be used in the front and back of the shirt. I look for shirts that are close to my size. I want them loose but not solarge one drowns in your shirt.

I found this photograph in 2021 edition of Vogue magazine. If you are fashion maven you will wear your wonderful up cycled shirt in this bold, new way. Tell your friends it came from Paris

(Dear Friends,

If it sounds like I am a little in love with the sweet village of Ladner – I am! It is a farming and fishing village just outside the city of Vancouver. I am very proud of Ladner and even prouder of the DELTA HOSPITAL AUXILIARY THRIFT SHOP. I am a volunteer worker for the Thrift Shop and count it a honour to be part of this outstanding Hospital Auxiliary.)

Love and hugs to all,



THE DRAWER OF FORGOTTEN JEWELLERY … changing clip on earrings to posts



Moonlight caught pearls.

Sparkling topaz.

Glittering rhinestones.

Burnished  gold and silver.

Earrings all.

Earrings we loved for the moment then set aside.

In a drawer of long ago dreams.

They lay forgotten.

Unloved.  Unworn.  Uncomfortable.

Clip- on and vintage screw-on earrings so uncomfortable we wear them for an hour or two  then reluctantly remove them.  Put them away and forget about them.

You can rescue clip-on and screw-on earrings by  turning them into post earrings for pierced ears.  This is easy peasy to do, and you can do it yourself.


 You need wire cutters (heavy duty ones)

A file (you may need this to file rough edges)

E-6000 glue (this works the best for me)

Some tooth picks

Earring posts and backers (available at craft shops)


Remove the clips using the wire cutter.


Clip off the earring clip as close to the base as possible.


If there are any sharp or rough edges file these away.


Put a small drop of glue on the area where you want to adhere the post.  Use a toothpick to pickup the glue and try to keep excess glue off your earring.  When using this or similar glue be sure to have windows open (lots of ventilation) and avoid getting any glue on your skin.


Press post firmly into the glue and put aside to set over night.  (no cheating – don’t even think of wiggling the post).  That’s it!  Your done!


I have a dream drawer of earrings.  Earrings I have been collecting for six decades.  The vintage screw back earrings are exquisite but murder to wear, and I am concerned  I might loose them.


The outrageous pink rhinestone earrings circa 1950’s were a gift from my fashionista Mom.   Too precious to loose, too uncomfortable to wear.  But, not any more.  Since I discovered how easy it is to convert earrings to post earring I am doing just that.  And, I no longer have a drawer of forgotten jewellery.


One can’t ignore an amaryllis in bloom. All heads turn to view this spectacular flower. She will never be ignored. She demands attention. Compliments. Exclamations of glory. And in return she will bloom again and again, year after year.


This is the secret to retaining the large, multiple blooms from one bulb year after year. When the dormancy period for your bulb is over, and you bring it in from the cool dark place it must be placed immediately in a sunny warm room ( 70F – 21C). This is the method of professional growers. The stock grows thick, not too tall and supports the flower.

The flower stalk appears quickly (along with the slender leaves). They loves the sunniest of sunny windows and just enough moisture to keep happy. You will see the flower bud start to thicken and the petals trying to escape the tightly formed bud. This happens almost overnight so it behooves you to be watchful.

Tell the beauties to be patient. It is not time to take the next big step. The flower petals are tightly enclosed and not ready to make their bow. But soon. Very soon.

This is what we are waiting for. The bud sheds its skin and tiny blossoms JUST start to separate. It is time to cut the stalk about two inches above the bulb and place in a vase of water. Amaryllis flowers will last about the same time (two weeks) when left on the bulb or cut and put into water. When you cut the stalk the energy no longer goes to the flower but back into the bulb. This guarantees you gorgeous, outrageous flowers year after year. This is why you cut the stalk BEFORE the flower appears.

This is the same amaryllis 16 hours later. Already the blooms are reaching for the light. Refresh the water daily, and nip a bit off the bottom of the stem. Keep it in a sunny window until the blooms are in full majestic beauty, then away from direct light and cold drafts. Meanwhile the precious bulb is kicking back, sitting in the sun, enjoying a hit of “fertilized” water and dreaming dreams that we can only image.

Happy gardening dear friends. Cheers, Virginia.

I TOOK OFF MY BRAVE . . . conversation with a cat

I have a favorite room where I love to read.  Every comfortable chair has a table and lamp convenient for a stack of books, a cup of tea or a glass of wine.   On one wall floor to ceiling shelves filled with books. In this bookish room North windows frame mountains that etch the skyline with snow.  West windows catch glimpses of ocean going  ships plowing up and down the Fraser River.  To my great delight  rabbits burrow beneath generous cedar branches  close to the South patio doors.  This is the home of Oswald, gentleman rabbit and his family.  I have been known to share a glass with Oswald while discussing the affairs of the world.

But must wonderful of wonderful’ s I share this world with our Siberian cat of mature years. Pepper has become an important member of our life for almost two years.  Her life had been shattered when sad circumstances forced her from her old home.  Now these many months later she has become our close, dear companion. 

It is a magical thing – being read to. Growing up it was Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz and always in December Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol. I will often read out loud, especial poetry. It’s not just the words. It is the sound of the words that is poetry to my ears. Pepper will curl up beside me listening to the words. She makes soft murmuring sounds of acknowledgement and occasionally a few comments. She is a cat of few words but very deep thoughts. One just has to listen.

“Miss Virginia, I would like to ask you something. Am I interrupting your book?”

“Pepper, my beautiful darling. Of course not. It is my third reading of Wolf Hall. I can put Mr. Cromwell aside.”

“The poem you were reading the other day. You read it more than once and I heard important words. They described the world – my world. When I lost my first home I was frightened. No one understood me. Why was I left alone? I was angry. I hissed and clawed and made myself disagreeable. I put on my brave to protect myself. You should know I have taken off my brave because there’s nothing to be scared of any more. This is my home and know one will hurt me here.

“TAKE OFF YOUR BRAVE. That is the poem I was reading out loud, Pepper my sweet cat. It was written by a little boy called Nadim. He became brave and bold. He wasn’t afraid of bullies and kids who made fun of him. He put on his Brave. He knew when he was home he was safe and it was where you took off your brave.

(I’ve taken off My Brave and this is My Happy.. I have been watching rabbits and robins and sparrows. There’s two eagles in their nest at the bottom of the field. Which means I can’t go outside even when accompanied by an adult. Watching “outside” is called “cat TV”. Safe but a little boring. Time for a cat nap, but not on Miss Virginia’s chair. Wolf Hall is a big book and I would prefer not to have it land on me if she dozes off.)

THAT’S HOW THE COOKIE CRUMBLES . . . and what to do about it.

When your father is a chef the pure pleasure of food is always tantamount in your life. Food was my fathers joy. He was happiest in the kitchen. At work and at home. I loved baking with my father. Especially cookies. I had my own Blue Ribbon Cookbook when I was ten years old. But, the single most important step when preparing cookie dough was not in any book. According to my father ALWAYS bake a test cookie.

The single test cookie is your opportunity to adjust your dough recipe before you bake. If your test cookie doesn’t spread reduce or remove baking powder or add or increase baking soda, or remove a bit of the flour(in your next go around making this cookie). If the cookie spreads too much reduce or remove baking soda or add or increase baking powder slightly and-or add a couple of tablespoons of flour. This test cookie will also allow you to change the size of your cookie.

Using a digital kitchen scale can make an enormous difference in your recipe. The difference between flour measured in a cup than on the digital scale can be alarmingly different. You can buy a digital kitchen scale for around $20.00, and it will make your baking life so much easier. Weighing a cup of sour cream is easier than scraping it out of a measuring cup.

Then there’s butter. Always unsalted butter unless your recipe specifies otherwise. You control the amount of salt for your recipe and there’s less moisture in unsalted butter. When beating butter and sugar together always blend it very well. If the recipe says 4-5 minutes don’t hurry the process. Improperly blended butter and sugar can give you cookies with flat or craggy edges. Most important when making cookies. Enjoy them with a tall glass of cold milk or a beautiful cup of Earl Gray Tea.



(women holding a violet nosegay – William Worcester Churchill)

Years ago I visited San Francisco in January.  I left the bitter, cold prairie city of Regina, and arrived that to me was spring.  A flower seller  on the street outside my hotel was selling violets.  Desperate to brighten a bitter cold winter  I flew home with a carefully wrapped nosegay of violets.  A shrieking  Saskatchewan blizzard howled raged outside  my home.    Inside it was spring.  The air filled with the sweet  fragrance of my tiny bouquet.   San Francisco will always be about flowers and the tiny violets that gave me such pleasure.

Each violet peeps from it dwelling to gaze at the bright stars above.

The eyes of spring, so azure are peeping from the ground;

They are the darling violets, that I in nosegays bound.

The prairie winters are a memory. January and in my garden  snow drops are blooming.  Tulips and daffodils are poking green spears towards the sun.  Spring will bring violets and a reminder of San Francisco.




And shade the violets, that they may bind the moss in leafy nets. (john keats)


Deep violets, you liken to the kindest  eyes that look on you, without a thought disloyal    (elizabeth barret browning)


Cold blows the wind against the hill, and cold upon the plain;

  I sit by the bank until the violets come again.

Here sat we when the grass was set

With violets shining through,

And leafy branches spread a net

To hold a sky of blue.


poetry from H. Heine, Germany, 1797 – 1856  and Richard Garnett England 1835 – 1906



img_3039I’ve had a love affair with poinsettias all my life.  When I was very young small pots of flaming red poinsettias would appear in florist’s windows in the weeks before Christmas.  Their flamboyant red  bracts brightened the bitter cold December days.   The concept  these gorgeous creations bloomed in the winter months in far away Mexico while we struggled with minus 40 degrees in Northern Saskatchewan, was unbelievable.  I vowed when I grew up I was going to Mexico and I was going to be there at Christmas time.

When my daughter was ten years old we  drove  from Regina, Saskatchewan to Mexico City.   We arrived early Christmas eve.  We stayed  in a charming pension on Hamburgo Street in the center of the city.  There was a flower market close by and that night I carried back to our pension an armful of poinsettias with stalks almost five feet long.  They were our Christmas tree.

There are those who find poinsettias too ubiquitous and just a little prosaic. For me they are proud and fiery plants that herald the bright start of the sparkling Christmas season.    From mid-October to November these darlings spend 14 hours a day in complete darkness to be ready to bring joy to your holiday decorating

Poinsettias thrive on heat and affection.   Never buy poinsettias from open-air stalls.  These tender plants will not last if they stand in the cold for any length of time.  Wrap the plant in a further protective layer when taking it home. They love the warmth of a centrally heated home but dislike direct heat and drafts.  Water to keep the soil moist, not soaking and mist the bracts and leaves regularly.

It is possible to keep a poinsettia going for another year if you prune it back to 10 cm in April.  Replant in fresh compost in a slightly larger pot.  Water sparingly, just to prevent drying out, and fertilize every two weeks.  In an ideal plant world you would keep it in a greenhouse through summer.

Many horticultural gurus regard poinsettias as pot plants that should be discarded after Christmas.  They suggest that plants should be composted once their bracts begin to fall or lose colour.  That is what I do with my poinsettia plants.     I treat them with love and affection.  Enjoy their flaming beauty.  Then as the colour fades I  bid them a grateful good-bye.

CHRISTMAS IN PARIS … wrapping gifts in the style of Coco Chanel.

Logs in the ancient fireplace crackled .  Heavy faded velvet curtains shut out the cold..  On the old Victrola  Piaf warbled   Le Noël de la rue.  It was the top of the hour.  She opened the curtains.   The splendid blue lights of the Eiffel tower filled the room.  Here in the magic of her little house in Paris she would wrap her gifts .

Plain brown paper unrolled.  Silver scissors cut.  A scattering of pearls.  An elegance of black ribbon.  A Coco Chanel wrapped Christmas gift.

Champagne chilled.   Cassoulet simmered on the ancient  La Cornue stove.   The room fragrant  with its rich welcoming aroma.  Footsteps whispered on the ancient stone stairs.  Her guests had arrived. Laughter.  Welcome hugs.  It was Christmas in une petite maison.   My little house in Paris is with me always.  To journey to it I have but to close my eyes and turn the key on the heavy wooden door.  I will spend Christmas in Paris.  The Paris of my memories.

(Dear Friends, This  gift wrapping  of pearls and presents is a favourite.    I love the economy of wrapping with recyclable, inexpensive plain brown paper. Much of Christmas paper is not recyclable.  The pearls are easy stick-ons and the black ribbon is wireless.  Everything purchased in a quick trip to my favorite dollar store.  )


There are stories we retell again and again. They are always stories of delight and happiness. You may call them fairy tales. Tales of romance, magic and enchantment. A princess is rescued. Dragons are slain. Sadness turned to joy. This my storey of the abandoned doll house. Where it was found and how it was restored to its former glory.

The out-grown, I don’t love them any more, cast-off toys find their way to a shop in a small village. There the shelves are carefully filled with toys. Baby face dolls and elegant Barbies. Trucks and rocket ships. Plush hug-able dogs and bears. Game and puzzles and building blocks. They tumble into the imagination of children asking to be taken home and loved again.

This is where I found my doll house. The shop that takes in these forgotten toys is Delta Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Shop. The village is Ladner, British Columbia. Caring volunteers sort, tidy, carefully display, and quite frequently fall in love with these not quite new toys. I am one of the volunteers who fell in love with a dilapidated doll house and took it home.

The doll house keeps Christmas the year round. It fascinates children and adults alike. Items mysteriously find their way into the various rooms. A tiny porcelain cat curled on a rocking chair. A mouse in a chef’s hat. A fat, pink marble frog. Logic says it is my guests who leave momentous behind. I wonder.

Please read again about The Christmas Doll House. A happy Christmas and all things wonderful in the coming New Year dear friends. Thank you for joining me in my world. With much love, Virginia.

THE CHRISTMAS DOLL HOUSE . . . a tale of rejuvenation and delight.

The doll house had been lovingly built.  It was made of wood.  It had doors that would open and shut.  Fancy trim on the shingle roof.  Even a bow window and a front porch.  But it had fallen on hard times. And  as it is in the adult world the house was deemed “not good enough”.   The house had been replaced by a larger more spectacular mansion.  It was made of plastic, but it had a hot tub and a stair case and a chandelier in the front hall.  After all even in the doll world one must keep up appearances.

The contents were thought to be shabby.  The wall paper dated.  The pictures on the wall old-fashioned. No one wanted a hand-made wooden doll house.    The house was stored in the darkest, dreariest, farthermost corner of the garage and forgotten.  Over the years it gathered neglect and dreary dust.

The forgotten doll house sat quietly in the dark corner and remembered.   It thought of the many dolls who it made it their home.  They had tea parties and sleep-overs.    Entertainment for visiting doll friends.  The house  filled with giggles and joyful delight.  Happy memories of by gone days.  Then one day the house was taken from its  dark hiding place and put on a display in a shop that welcomed cast off toys. Time passed.   No one was interested in the shabby doll house.   The lonely house thought of its broken shutter.  The peeling wallpaper.  The scratches, dents and missing pieces.    “No one will want me.  No one will buy me. No one will love me.”

There are those who see hidden beauty in imperfection.   Who search for the unusual, the unexpected.  Who see potential where others pass by.   When she saw the doll house she thought “how absolutely wonderful”.    It just needed a little loving care; some carpentry work, lots of snow white paint and a exotic group of inhabitants.  It would be the perfect Christmas house.

The roof was repaired.  The shutters replaced.  Every inch of the house was painted the dazzling white of freshly fallen snow.  Tiny diamond bright lights adorned the house, inside and out.    The windows were cleaned.    And the house even had a chandelier.

The invited guests gathered for a Christmas party.  The dolls house was filled with excited guests.

The conversation was brilliant.

The Christmas party continued far into the night.

It was adults who lingered long.  Peering into the rooms.  Recognizing nostalgic and familiar toys from the past.  They  were swept up in the magic of this little house.    The house gave a sigh of contentment  for it was not to be forgotten.  Not to be boxed and put away for another Christmas.  It would have its place in this new home.  To be enjoyed everyday by the very young and the young at heart.  The doll house would live happily ever after.

Writer’s Notes:  I found the sadly neglected doll house in the Thrift Shop in  Ladner Village.  It is an amazing experience –  this shopping at the Delta Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Shop.  Everyone is a volunteer and all moneys raised support the Delta Hospital.    I am proud to be a  member of this amazing organization.