Hope Robertson

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August 2014

Hope, She Wrote: Who Are Your Influences?

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My latest column for The Minto Express focuses on the subject of influence. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had some really insightful conversations with friends and family about the impact and importance of positive influences — I’m so thankful to know some pretty stellar souls who consistently inspire and exhort others around them.

The late Jim Rohn once shared this theory that we are all the average of the five people we spend the most time with. The first time I heard that statement, I questioned it’s validity, since the majority of my time is spent in an office (with some pretty cool people, but still). The friends we choose and the company we keep can have a major impact on us.

The people we choose to surround ourselves with, – like it or not, – have an influence in our lives, whether that’s good or bad. That’s a scary thought. Surround yourself with negative thinkers and pessimistic people, and chances are their attitudes will wear on you. Comparatively, surround yourself with motivated, positive, and genuine people, and eventually this could have a positive impact on you.

Not to say that we each don’t have the ability to choose our attitudes; it’s just that sometimes, (oftentimes without even being aware) we can be influenced by attitudes that directly affect our behavior. And we all know the truth: “It’s easier for others to bring you down than it is for you to lift them up.” Look at the lifestyles of your closest friends – what are their habits and traits? Are those habits and traits also present in your own life, and if so, is that a good thing? See also, “A man is known by the company he keeps”.

So how do we make sure the right things (and people) are influencing us?

Positive relationships support positive behaviours. Surround yourself with people who encourage you and inspire you to become your best self, and not the reverse. Also remember the importance of honesty. There’s this thing that Pastor Rick Warren talks about, called “sharing the truth in love” (sometimes known in professional circles as “constructive criticism”). True friends don’t sugar-coat or avoid life’s serious subject matter. They’re real about the heavy things in life, and they try to help you through.

Remember your influence. True friends are hard to find, so when you find them, nurture those relationships. Relationships are not a one-way street; they require “relating”, people! So sure, you want to surround yourself with people who positively influence you, however it’s just as important to remember that to someone, you may be their major influence. Guard your actions, and like the golden rule says, remember to cultivate that as you’d want someone to do for you.

Be true to you. One of the scary things about influence is that it often goes unnoticed until it’s pretty deeply engrained. Always remain true to who you are. Don’t lower your expectations or standards just because the people around you may not share the same values. Also, don’t get sucked in by the notion of peer pressure. Be the creation you were made to be – each one of us has a unique purpose here on this Earth.

Robertson, Hope. “Who Are Your Influences?” Minto Express 13 August 2014: 5. Print.


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July 2014

Hope, She Wrote: About Personal Communication

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I’m fairly dedicated to my mobile devices (yes, deviceS), but recently I’ve come to appreciate the value of real personal communication. Like the handwritten note, — for which a resurgence is long over-due, — we need a revival of real, personal communication.

Several of you shared feedback after my last column (on the art of the handwritten note), which made for some interesting discussion about personal communication (also the removal of cursive writing from schools, but we’ll save that for a later date).

I’m a “millennial”, which means I’m part of the generation who were born during a period of time when cool technological things were just starting to happen: Apple was starting to make waves, IBM introduced the AS/400, Philips introduced the CD, Sony created the Walkman, VCRs came into living rooms everywhere – and even with the introduction of such inventions, parents were still teaching their kids manners (well, some parents, anyway). Millennials (on a whole) were still taught to say “please” and “thank you”, to respect our elders, and to make eye contact whilst engaging in conversation. As the years go by, with even more new technologies being introduced, our skills at personal communication seem to be regressing. The task of parenting has become much more of a challenge (treading lightly here, as my only child is an adorable miniature schnauzer).

When I was young, concerns from my Mum and Dad related to me talking too long on the telephone or wanting to watch “just one more show” on TV after school. Today, parents have a myriad of things to be concerned about, much of which is due (at least in part) to new technologies that, quite frankly, allow children to be out of control. Today’s youth are susceptible to countless challenges that – above and beyond those related to personal communication – include bullying and health problems.

Media theorist Neil Postman once said that “technology always has unforeseen consequences, and it is not always clear, at the beginning, who or what will win, or who or what will lose.” With every advance in technology, there is a price to pay, and in today’s society, it seems that effective personal communication is the biggest loser. People struggle to formulate full sentences, we can’t make proper eye contact because our line of sight is trained on our mobile devices, and we opt for short-form BBMs or text messages rather than long-form letters sent in the post.

With these things in mind, I’d like to suggest that we should all become a bit more conscious of our own communication skills.

  • Make eye contact – Eye contact is a powerful thing (and I don’t mean stink eye). When someone speaks to you, look him or her in the eye. Interestingly enough, eye contact has long been associated with openness and honesty.
  • Practice common courtesy and speak thoughtfully – Say “please”, say “thank you”, and, don’t feel like you need to apologize (why is it so many of us use “sorry” as a filler word?)
  • Remember, people > technology – I’ll quote Neil Postman again: “You can’t just turn off a person. On the internet, you can.” Put people before technology. Set aside time to eat meals with those you care about, make a “no phones at the dinner table” rule, spend time walking and talking rather than sitting and texting.

Remember, people have hearts; nurture them.

Robertson, Hope. “About Personal Communication.” Minto Express 30 July 2014: 5. Print.
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July 2014

Hope, She Wrote: On Writing A Handwritten Letter

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I’ve written on the art of handwritten notes before, however this week’s column is inspired by some of the sweet snail mail I’ve received so far in 2014 from friends across the globe and even close to home. I hope it inspires you to pick up a pen and paper, and write to someone who’s on your mind today.

P.S. Am I the only who preferred Jane Austen’s Persuasion to Pride and Prejudice?

Who doesn’t love, – upon opening their mailbox, – receiving an envelope with their name handwritten on the front. I’m not referring to bills, or information, I’m talking about receiving a letter or a card from a friend. Doesn’t receiving a handwritten letter of some kind make you smile?

They’ve been around for ages, though as we move toward a more digital society, handwritten letters seem to be on the decline. There are several things in the world that have seen great progress, but ironically there’s one area where we seem to be regressing rather than moving forward – the art of personal communication.

The exception being few, people no longer favour writing lengthy love letters or handwritten thank-you cards. It’s all BBM or texting (or whatever the kids are doing these days). It seems we’ve become such slaves to technology that we’re too lazy to write long-form. (And don’t even get me started on the removal of cursive writing from school curriculum.)

Some of the best examples of handwritten letters can be found in classic literature. Darcy wrote to Elizabeth, a long dissertation narrating everything they’d ever been through together, to prove to her that his intentions were true and that he wasn’t a total jerk (I paraphrase, but you get the point). Perhaps even more powerful and poignant than Pride and Prejudice is the letter that appears in Austen’s Persuasion, when Wentworth professes his love to Anne for a second time (even though she’d brutally rejected him years earlier) in an attempt to win her heart once and for all. (For the record, may it be noted that on both occasions, things worked out in favour of these famous literary couples.)

The power of the handwritten letter isn’t just limited to classic literature, either. In real life, handwritten letters can have incredible impact. Think of the words shared between Kennedy and Khrushchev during the Cuban Missile Crisis, or the letters that author Agatha Christie sent to her family and friends during an around-the-world tour that reveal both adventure and heart-ache in the life of a fiercely private woman.

There is something that can be so striking and impactful about the handwritten word. With this in mind, here’s a challenge for this week, should you choose to accept it: Write a letter or a thank-you card to someone you care about. It doesn’t have to be long-winded; just be sincere and be real. Too often I think we take for granted the people who surround and who support us. So why not show some heart?

Here are some tips on how to write a handwritten note:

  1. Decide what you want to say. Thank you? I love you? You’re awesome?

  2. Pick up a pen, paper, and put down your thoughts. It doesn’t have to be complicated.

  3. To start, keep it brief. Keep your note to the point – don’t overthink it. By keeping it simple, you’ll feel more inspired to write again.

  4. Salutations and closings are key. A safe salutation is your recipient’s name followed by a comma. For a closing, be true to what’s on your heart. Jane Austen closed much of her correspondence with, “Yours affec’y” (yours affectionately).

  5. Put the note in the mail. Seems like a no-brainer, but this one is huge. You can always drop a card off to someone’s house or place of work, but send your note in the mail for optimal impact. There’s a feeling unmatched to that of pulling your mail of your mailbox and seeing a stamped letter addressed to you.

Robertson, Hope. “On Writing a Handwritten Letter.” Minto Express 16 July 2014: 5. Print.
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July 2014

Hope, She Wrote: On Living a Balanced Life

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Balance. It’s a difficult thing to achieve. A couple of months ago I wrote about five ways to practice slowness. Part of living more slowly [aka more fully] is learning to live a balanced life.

Growing up, my parents always encouraged me to practice “everything in moderation” – with food, exercise, studying, lifestyle, work, – knowing that taking any one thing to the extreme isn’t healthy. I haven’t always taken their advice, and more recently have learned the hard way that sometimes when you’re living out of balance, life has a way of forcing you to stop and take things into account. There is only so long that you can burn the candle at both ends, so to speak.

Between a career, volunteering, and spending time with family and friends, balance often eludes us. So how do we learn the art of balance? Here are some tips that I’ve found helpful (and am still learning) for living in moderation:

  1. Set challenging [but achievable] goals: Whether personally or professionally, it’s important to set goals for yourself that will help you grow as a person, but that aren’t extreme or unachievable. Habitually working towards a goal will help you stay focused on the task at hand and on the right track. We tend to put our energy into the right things when we have a proper focus.
  2. Don’t be ashamed about having “free” time: I recently read an insightful article in Forbes magazine on this very subject – that ‘free’ time should not mean ‘available’ time. We all need some hours on our schedule that aren’t open for others. Balance can’t be achieved with the bad word “busy”. You shouldn’t feel ashamed about having free time – we all need some time to “just be” in order to stay balanced.
  3. Remember to rest and live your best: In the middle of chasing goals and dreams, don’t forget to rest. The average person needs 7 to 8 hours of sleep to operate at 100 percent. In addition, proper nutrition and exercise are two keys to living a balanced life. Many people practice the 80/20 principle: Eating right and exercising regularly 80 percent of the time, and giving yourself a break for the other 20 percent.

Living in moderation is something learned as we grow through life. Balance doesn’t just happen; like other good habits, balance needs to be practiced everyday, with diligence.

Robertson, Hope. “On Living a Balanced Life.” Minto Express 2 July 2014: 5. Print.
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June 2014

Hope, She Wrote: Why Can’t We Just Say What We Really Mean

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Since I’ve been writing my column in The Minto Express, one of the questions I’m frequently asked is, “Where do you get your ideas?” Most of the time, my subject matter comes from conversations with my friends, observing current events, and even personal experience.

The latter is what inspired this week’s topic. For those of you reading who’ve ever closed the door to share your true heart when you had the chance, you’ll understand. It must be human nature; why is that we sometimes inadvertently avoid authenticity when we should just be straight up?

You know how there are those times when you hear the lyrics to a song and you think, “That is exactly what I am thinking but could not put into words”? Or, those times when you’re trying to have a “straight up” conversation, and you totally blow it by discombobulating your words and not making any sense?

It happens to me at least once a week.

It’s only natural that sometimes in life you’ll have a hard time putting into words exactly what you think, and even when you’re actually able to articulate your thoughts; sometimes the words just come out… wrong. Most of us don’t give the tongue a whole lot of thought, but it is such a powerful organ. I like how the book of James describes it: “The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.”

Even the smallest of words can have life-altering impact (either good or bad). That’s the reality of the things we say (or don’t say). And that is something I’ve been thinking about over the past week – the impact of my words and the consequences of my speech; knowing when to speak, and when I should hold my tongue and just sit back and shut up.

There’s this verse in Proverbs that says, “Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.” This whole notion of “guarding my tongue” is something I’m really trying to learn. And it’s not easy. Here are three suggestions that I’ve found very helpful in my quest to watch my words and – when I do – speak with meaning.

1. Use a mouth guard – think before you speak. Remember that once you’ve put it out there, you can’t take it back. This is something I have to discipline myself about daily. And trust me, it can be a struggle.

2. When in doubt, do without. Proverbs 17:28 says, “Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.” Enough said.

3. Spend more time listening, and less time talking. Want to cultivate real relationships and show you care? Maybe you’re one of those people who have a tendency to spend time formulating a response whilst another person is talking. Spend more time engaged in actual conversation, truly listening.

We have all said things that we regret. And, if you’re like me, you may have even regretted not saying things that you should have said. I’ll close with this quote: “We do not need an intelligent mind that speaks, but rather a patient heart that listens.” Choose your words wisely, and speak authentically.

Robertson, Hope. “Why Can’t We Just Say What We Really Mean?” Minto Express 18 June 2014. 5, Print.
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June 2014

Hope, She Wrote: To Everything There is a Season

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So far, 2014 has been a year of change. Some things planned, some unplanned, and all part of the growing process. Change and I haven’t always been on the best of terms, and my latest column shares some thoughts on how I’m learning to better cope with new life seasons.

I am a creature of habit. While my work and personal schedules are full of variety, I have a daily routine that I like to follow as closely as possible. Get up at the same time each day, eat the same thing for breakfast, get my hair cut the same way each month. While some may call my routine predictable, I prefer to look at it as… controlled spontaneity.

I jest, but the reality is that I’m not always a fan of change. That being said, I do recognize the importance of change, and the necessity of the ‘metamorphosis’. I don’t know why so many of us are so averse to change, when change is the only thing in our lives that is constant. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said “change alone is unchanging.” Change will always be, and the more we fight it, the harder it is. You know the words ‘stress’ and ‘anxiety’? Quite often they’re the bi-products of not effectively dealing with and accepting change.

Although every individual deals with change in his own way, when you approach change with the right attitude, you’ll find handling change a whole lot easier. Here are a few tips on how to deal with change:

  1. Recognize that change is not instant; change is a process and it takes time. This is a big one for me. Ecclesiastes 3 starts out like this: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Some seasons of change will last longer than others (kind of like last winter). When I feel anxiety creeping in about an impending change (whether in my personal or professional life), I make an extra effort to remember that there’s a purpose for every season. Move to accept that change is not just going to automatically happen, like turning the lights on or off. Like some of the most worthwhile things in life, change takes time.
  2. Adjust your attitude. Even if it’s not a change that I think will be ‘good’, I’m learning to adjust my attitude toward change. Rather than dread it, try facing change with anticipation. When you have the right attitude, it can mean the difference between face-palm failure and shining success. Really, it’s a proven fact that positive thinking enhances your ability to channel creativity and work more efficiently.
  3. Don’t take cover; take advantage. You can run, but you can’t hide – change is unavoidable! You and I will never escape it. So, with this in mind, why not make the most of it? Look for the opportunities that come along with change. One technique that I find very helpful is charting change. Look where you are at the commencement of any major life change – birth, death, love, heartbreak, new job, retirement – and chart your journey. Some call it journaling. It doesn’t have to mean a lot of words; even just point form notes can help you focus on the positive aspects of change, and put that attitude of gratitude into action. You’ll be surprised at how being stretched can help build character.

In the end, you can’t control the changes and circumstances that will happen in your life, but you can manage your reaction to it. I love entrepreneur Jim Rohn’s approach to change: “You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of.”

Robertson, Hope. “To Everything There is a Season.” Minto Express 4 June 2014. 5, 7. Print.

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May 2014

Inspired by: 10 Maya Angelou Quotes

Written by , Posted in Biographies / Style Icons, Quote of the Day

Maya Angelou. image via Oprah.com

Maya Angelou. image via Oprah.com

Her poetry was beautiful, she was an author several times over, as well as recognized civil rights activist; Maya Angelou was a woman of influence, and her life and words have inspired so many.

Today, I’m reflecting on her impact with 10 Maya Angelou quotes that have inspired me.

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

“Nothing will work unless you do.”

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

“You shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.”

“Find a beautiful piece of art. If you fall in love with Van Gogh or Matisse or John Oliver Killens, or if you fall in love with the music of Coltrane, the music of Aretha Franklin, or the music of Chopin – find some beautiful art and admire it, and realize that it was created by human beings just like you, no more human, no less.”

“Among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.”

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”

“When you learn, teach; when you get, give.”

“All great achievements require time.”

“One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue consistently. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.”

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May 2014

Hope, She Wrote: Laws for Life

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Last week I had the opportunity to meet a gentleman who is celebrating his 101st birthday (happy birthday, Maurice)! More than a century on this Earth, and I can’t help but think of the time and experiences he’s had in his lifetime – living literally through eras which I’ve only read about in history books.

Mortality is a subject I’ve been thinking about lately. The whole notion that none of us knows how much time we’re allotted or when we’ll be called away from this Earth certainly provides perspective. And with that mindfulness, there’s new importance and value in each day we do have here.

There was this Oprah quote I used to have hanging in my college dorm that said “Live your best life.” Simple, yet profound words. How easy to say, even though the reality is often entirely different. I have days (more frequently than I’d like to admit), where I get discouraged and feel down. Everyone does. It’s normal. The key is to not let your mind linger on that negativity, and also, to stop looking in and start looking out.

Other ways to make the most of right now and the time we do have?

Learn to be comfortable on your own path. Comfortable doesn’t mean lazy. This just means being secure as the individual God made you to be. You are a unique creation, and you should celebrate this. So many people waste precious time copying others or trying to imitate favourite “celebrities” that they miss out on being the coolest person they can be. Accept, and challenge your own self.

Go to bed wiser than when you woke up. This nugget of wisdom has been attributed to several “successful” entrepreneurs, and while it might seem silly to some, it’s such great advice. A strong woman once told me that I should step outside the box and do one thing that I dread or find intimidating – Every. Day. And this is not only über-challenging, but completely sound advice. Think about it – what are the days when you feel most accomplished? These aren’t the days when you drag your feet; the days you’ve made a difference are the days you’ve put yourself out there and done some impactful work.

Grow some courage and go for it. This is waaay easier said and written than it is to actually do. Truth! I struggle with this at least once a week. “What if I say this and someone thinks it’s a crappy idea?” “What if no one understands where I’m coming from?” Develop the courage to not care what others think, and develop the courage to take risks. As entrepreneur Scott Dinsmore says, “Courage does not grow on its own. Just like a muscle, it must be constantly worked out and developed.” See also this quote from living legend surfer dude Laird Hamilton, who says “We are each our own greatest inhibitor. People don’t want to do new things if they’re going to be bad at them or people are going to laugh at them. You have to be willing to subject yourself to failure, to be bad, to fall on your head and do it again, and try stuff that you’ve never done in order to be the best you can be.”

We’re not all guaranteed 101 years of life. There is no better time than now to live!

Robertson, Hope. “Laws for Life.” Minto Express 21 May 2014: 5 Print.

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May 2014

Robertson’s Reads: The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie

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The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie, a Tommy and Tuppence Mystery

The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie, a Tommy and Tuppence Mystery

Whilst my introduction to the Queen of Crime’s famous detective duo started with By The Pricking of My Thumbs, after reading The Secret Adversary, I’ve got to say it was just as thrilling (and helped with some of the backstory of how Tommy and Tuppence paired up in the first place).

The Secret Adversary starts onboard the RMS Lusitania on May 7 of 1915. When the ship starts sinking, a mysterious man man approaches and gives papers to an unassuming American woman named Jane Finn for safe-keeping believing she is more likely to survive the ship’s submersion. He tells the girl that if they both survive the sinking, he’ll take out an ad in the The Times; if there is no ad, she must personally take the papers to the American ambassador.

Fast-forward four years to 1919 and we’re introduced to soldier Tommy Beresford, who’s catching up with war volunteer Prudence Cowley (we know her better as “Tuppence”). Both unemployed and looking for excitement, the non-couple found “The Young Adventruers, Ltd” and put themselves out for hire. “No unreasonable offer refused” is their advertisement, and very soon they find themselves caught up in a mystery. After establishing “The Young Adverturers, Ltd”, Tuppence is followed by a man named Whittington who says he has a “proposition” for her. Although hesitant, she shows up at the man’s office the following day, to hear the proposition. Whittington offers her a job, to go to Paris and pretend to be an American woman. Now even more suspicious, when Whittington asks, Tuppence states that her name is “Jane Finn” (which she heard Tommy mention the day previous). He gets upset thinking Tuppence is playing with him, accuses her of blackmail, and the asks if “Rita” has been talking. Tuppence, obviously confused, is saved by Whittington’s assistant Mr. Brown, who shares that Whittington has an important message waiting. Whittington gives Tuppence some money and asks her to come back the next day.

The next day, Tuppence brings Tommy along back to Whittington’s office, only to find it closed up, and the company gone. Very curious, Tommy and Tuppence place another ad in the Times that asks “Wanted, any information respecting Jane Finn. Apply Y.A.” They receive two replies to the ad, one from American millionaire Julius P. Hersheimmer (he claims that Jane Finn is his cousin that he’s trying to find her), and the second from Mr. A. Carter (who Tommy knows as a member of the British secret service).

When they meet Mr. Carter, he fills the duo in on the story about Jane Finn, and reveals that after the ship sank, Jane Finn was never listed as being rescued. He also reveals the contents of the papers she was carrying as highly classified and containing information that could be used by revolutionists against Britain. While no one knows where the papers are, or who Jane Finn really is, one thing is apparent to all: “Mr. Brown” is the criminal in charge, and his accomplice is Whittington.

Mr. Carter recruits the Young Adventurers to look for Jane Finn. They discover a survivor the Lusitania named Marguerite Vandemeyer (called “Rita” by Whittington). Tuppence poses as her parlourmaid to go undercover and gain more insight into the case, while Tommy locates Whittington with the help of Julius Hersheimmer. Together, Tommy and Julius trail Whittington and a man named Boris. Tommy follows Borris right into a secret meeting in a mysterious house, where he learns of the revolutionists, and their plans (once they get their hands on the secret papers). Tommy is captured and held prisoner in the house.

Meanwhile, Tuppence is still working as Rita’s parlourmaid, and is introduced to houseguests Boris (whom Tommy was following) and M.P. Sir James Peel Edgerton. Edgerton and Tuppence establish a mutual trust when he suggests that Tuppence is not safe working for Rita.

Julius ends up following Whittington to a private hospital in Bournemouth, and while investigating by looking through a second-story window, he falls out of a tree. He awakens under the care of a Dr. Hall, who tells him that Whittington has already left, so Julius also takes leave and goes back to London, where he meets up with Tuppence. Both are suspicious that they haven’t heard from Tommy, so they go to Tuppence’s M.P. friend Sir James and tell him the whole story. He suggests that they should go to Rita’s home later in the night and confront her to find Tommy. Tuppence heads over first and confronts Rita, and in the middle of their confrontation, Julius and Sir James enter the scene. Rita collapses, so they give her some brandy once she wakes. She complains of heart trouble, then nods off. Sir James suggests they call his friend Dr. Hall (who earlier had treated Julius). The next morning, before they can get Rita to Dr. Hall, Rita is found dead, apparently from an overdose of chloral. After talking to Dr. Hall, it is revealed that Rita had originally come to him with her niece in 1915, asking him to treat her as she had amnesia. Her niece’s name was Jane Finn, and she is no longer under Dr. Hall’s care. Julius reveals to Tuppence that he does not trust Sir James. Tuppence later receives a telegram from “Tommy” and rushes off to meet him.

Tommy meanwhile, still being held in the house by his captors, continuously makes references to “Mr. Brown”. Eventually his escape is aided by a young French maid named Annette. Tommy goes back to the hotel, where he and Julius find the fake telegram from Tommy to Tuppence. They go to the address on the telegram, but fail to find Tuppence. Eventually, they do find Jane Finn, who has since recovered her memory. She reveals the hiding place of the secret papers, but when the reach the hiding place, they only find a message from Mr. Brown.  Tommy then goes directly to Mr. Carter, and tells him what he knows. They are under pressure even more now to find the secret papers, as a Russian official named Kramenin is visiting  England and plans to find and use the papers to start a revolt. Mr. Carter also reveals that Tuppence is suspected to be drowned.

Tommy goes back to the hotel, where he and Julius have a fight over Tuppence. Julius leaves, and Tommy searches Julius’s drawer, where he discovers a photo of the French maid Annette. Tommy concludes that the Jane Finn they met earlier was just a decoy, and that Annette is the true Jane Finn. While at the hotel, Tommy also receives a fake telegram from Tuppence (he knows it’s fake because her name is spelled incorrectly). Tommy deciphers the identity of Mr. Brown, and sets out to make things right.

Julius ends finding and holding Mr. Kramenin hostage, and Kramenin (who earlier kidnapped Tuppence), lets her and Annette go. Tuppence and Annette (Jane) head to Sir James’s home in London, and Tommy and Julius follow by car. Jane reveals her story, and also the location of the secret papers. Tuppence divulges that she suspects Julius of being Mr. Brown, and Sir James agrees, and tells the girls how the real Julius was killed in America. Sir James leads them as they go to retrieve the secret papers, where Sir James reveals his true identity to be that of Mr. Brown. He is going to kill them, wound himself, and blame Mr. Brown. Tommy and Julius (who were hiding at the location already), jump Sir James, who then takes poison from his ring and dies.

Later, Julius hosts a party honouring Jane. Tommy and Tuppence are both in attendance, as is Tuppence’s dad, the archdeacon, and Tommy’s rich uncle, who declares Tommy his heir. There are two marriage proposals: Julius to Jane, and Tommy also proposes marriage to Tuppence and she accepts.

Purchase The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie on Amazon.ca

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May 2014

3 Essential Perennials for Every Garden

Written by , Posted in Gardening, Style at Home

I’m slowly developing my green thumb, with some outdoor plants that, as my Mum puts it, are “low maintenance”. While I have to discipline myself to water on a regular basis, thus far things are looking lovely, and this Spring I’m up to the challenge of adding a few additional plants in my garden. Before I get to that however, I’d like to share three essential perennials for every garden. These are low maintenance, easy enjoyment plants that everyone should have in her (or his) garden.

A perennial is a plant that lives for more than two years. Perennials will (or should, if you plant them correctly) bloom year after year, and provide you with long-term gardening success. Long after the blooms and leaves die off for the season, the root remains and will sprout up each Spring or Summer.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve had some hearty perennials planted, which are sprouting well so far this Spring. Here are three essential perennials I’ve got growing in my gardens:

Beautiful periwinkle blue forget-me-nots in my garden. img copyright hoperobertson.com

Beautiful periwinkle blue forget-me-nots in my garden. img copyright hoperobertson.com

1. Forget-Me-Nots (perennial, good in part sun to full sun): Tiny little forget-me-nots are sweet, delicate flowers (mine are blue, but this perennial is available in pink and white). Forget-me-not blooms are rather short-lived (they bloom early in the season), and they spread well because of their generous seeds. [Note to fellow amateur green-thumbs: If you don't want these blues to spread, then best plant them in a pot or collect and dispose of unwanted seeds once they drop.] Two years ago, I transplanted my forget-me-nots along the edge of my gardens, to use as complementary edging. It’s worked out well, and with each passing year they grow more and more.

My peony garden. img copyright hoperobertson.com

My peony garden. img copyright hoperobertson.com

Deep magenta peonies in my garden. img copyright hoperobertson.com

Deep magenta peonies in my garden. img copyright hoperobertson.com

Pretty pink peony. img copyright hoperobertson.com

Pretty pink peony. img copyright hoperobertson.com

2. Peonies (perennial, good in part sun to full sun): Peonies are perhaps the most well-loved perennials out there. I’ve yet to meet a girl who doesn’t love these resplendent blooms. Peonies can be light pinks, reds, even whites or yellows. The pretty petals in my garden are a mixture of the most feminine pink and also a rich deep magenta. The long-fingered green stems usually bloom early Summer (the pictures here I took last June). If you plan to enjoy indoors as part of a bouquet, pick early to avoid ant infestation in the blooms.

Hosta in my garden. img copyright hoperobertson.com

‘Formal Attire’ hosta in my garden. img copyright hoperobertson.com

Hosta and hydragnea in my garden. img copyright hoperobertson.com

‘Aztec Treasure’ hosta in my garden. img copyright hoperobertson.com

3. Hostas (perennial, good in shade, part sun): Hostas are hearty plants. There are more than 50 different hosta varieties, and I was fortunate enough last Spring to have a neighbour give me about ten hosta plants (of several varieties) to enjoy in my garden. Easy to grow, hostas make a lovely accent in any garden. [Cool idea: For a moveable garden, try planting a hosta plant in a container.]

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