Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Slippage Update ... Surviving Winter and Staying Fit... AND Sane.


It has been a great winter for snow so far. And by great, I mean that we've had lots of it, although nothing like the huge dumps they've had further east. Hubby says that it's been many years since we've had such an "old fashioned winter," with so much great snow. He pays attention to stuff like that. 

But despite all that lovely snow, it's not been a great winter for cross-country skiing. And skiing was part of my winter "battling the post-retirement slippage" plan. See my December post for details, but the short version is that I was depending on being able to ski twice a week to meet my fitness goals. And that hasn't happened. So it's been a struggle to survive winter AND stay fit.

After I wrote that December post, we had a thaw and freezing rain and then a green (well, brown, actually) Christmas. This is the view from our waterfront on December 28. Geese coming in for a landing on the fast forming ice, or taking a leisurely evening stroll before bedding down for the night. And no snow, as you can see.


Then, some time after the New Year we had snow... beautiful snow. 

But... along came the freezing rain on top of the snow. And we awoke to this. A highly photogenic icicle world. Lovely to look at, impossible to ski on.


And then we had a string of many, many days when the temperature barely nudged above -20 Celsius. Gorgeous looking, isn't it? But way too cold for me. 


Hubby skis when it's -20 C, or colder, but not me. Not anymore. I've discovered that I have mild asthma which is triggered by exercising in really cold temperatures. Hence, when I cross country ski, I need to start slowly and warm up really well, otherwise my diaphragm tightens and I have trouble breathing. And skiing slowly in very cold temperatures means that my hands never warm up... and frozen hands are no picnic. I've tried hand warmers, but they don't do much good, are hard to fit into my ski mitts, and mean that I can't grip my poles properly. So I stay home until it's -15 or warmer. Which means that I've NOT skied a lot this winter. 

Of course, we had a wonderful week skiing in Quebec at the end of January. I wrote about that here. But all told, I skied three times in December, five times in January (mostly in that last week) and only twice so far in February. 

Thank goodness for skating. I skate once a week with two girlfriends. I'm loving that. But the rest of my fitness routine has been my old faithful, aka my exercise bike, my i-pod and a good audio book. With a weekly weight workout or two. 
Ah well, the best laid plans and all that.

And it's not been all bad. I've increased the number of daily minutes I stay on my bike, and so I've managed most weeks to meet the goal I set in the fall of 240 minutes of cardio a week. If not the increased goal I made when I thought I would be skiing regularly. And there have been other...ah... compensations. Ahem. For me at least. 

Let me explain. My husband is an early morning, get fifteen things done before breakfast, get up and go, kind of person. No throwing up his hands, saying "Oh well, too cold today," and then (like moi) happily snuggling down in front of the fire with a good book for him. On those days when the wind makes it feel like -35 C and the snow is falling sideways, and it's too cold even for Hubby to ski... he cooks. 

Yep. I have to admit I'm beginning to look forward to a weather prediction of -30 temperatures and 40 km/hr winds. On those mornings, I often awaken to the sound of chopping and, when I straggle into the kitchen at 8:30 for my first cup of tea, there'll be a big pot of soup bubbling on the stove. Or the makings for a tasty stir-fry all chopped and waiting for dinnertime. 

Of course, I don't sit around reading all day. I assist; Hubby calls me his "Sue-chef."  

This is Hubby cooking... in his ski underwear. I am on the sideline... awaiting my instructions.


We've also had a lot of fun collaborating in the kitchen. Looking for new recipes that are heart healthy. For instance,we've been using our bread maker to make whole wheat pizza crust, and topping it with Hubby's homemade tomato sauce, artichoke hearts, avocado slices, kalamata olives, assorted veggies, and feta cheese. Yum. 

You see the way I look at it is... if winter throws a monkey wrench into your "slippage" plans... you have to make new plans. That doesn't mean giving up on exercising. Just finding something else that you can live with, until you can get back on track. The ski track that is. 

And maybe, if you're lucky, the situation will have unexpected benefits. I've read a ton of great books this winter; some of them in front of the fire while Hubby cooks, and some of them while riding my exercise bike. And Hubby and I have spent some lovely, "quality" time together in the kitchen. 


So, we're going with the flow, so to speak. Surviving winter. Staying fit. And staying sane.



How are you surviving the winter?





Saturday, February 21, 2015

Sisyphean Shopping... or... The Search for the Perfect Jeans


I need a new pair of jeans. No... really... I do. 

My Paige Hidden Hills, straight legged jeans recently bit the dust The fabric went all pucker-y in places, which is not surprising, since I wore them all the time and evidently washed the stretch right out of them. My J-brand skinnies still look good, but I vowed last fall to replace them. They're low rise. And therefore difficult to keep up, and thus enormously annoying. I have other jeans, of course. But not ones that I love. Not the "perfect jeans."

So. I begin a journey this week. And what does this journey have to do with that guy pushing the rock? Well, that's King Sisyphus. According to ancient Greek mythology, he got on the wrong side of a bunch of Greek gods and was punished. His punishment was to roll a huge boulder up a hill. And when he reached the top, he had to watch it roll all the way back down to the bottom. Then he descended the hill and began his task all over again. For eternity.

reasonandmeaning.com
And if there's any form of shopping that resembles the fate of Sisyphus, it's shopping for the perfect jeans. Jean shopping is a journey filled with hard work, frustration, more hard work, and frequent, bitter disappointment. And then when you find the perfect pair, they wear out, and you have to start the whole painful process all over again. 

So, as I said. I am beginning this journey. Again. Well actually, I began it last week. I made one futile trip to the mall and came home empty handed. I hadn't done my homework thoroughly enough. I mean what exactly was I looking for, anyway? 

I consulted Net-a-porter.com my go-to source for fashion inspiration. And the editors there say that flared jeans are the "jeans of the season." I know that flares quietly reappeared a season or so ago. But... "jeans of the season?" 

Images of jeans, like the ones below, are NOT consistent with the image of the "perfect jeans" that I've carried around in my head for the past few years.


www.netaporter.com

See, this is the look I have aspired to for a while now. Skinny jeans with flats, or low heels and a sweater, or with high heels and dressed up a bit with a jacket. Black, dark blue, or distressed, full length, cropped, or rolled ... but always... skinny.


              
     St Laurent  jeans at net-a-porter.com                                              J- Brand  jeans at net-a-porter.com                                                    Rag and Bone at net-a-porter.com

Or even straight. Like my Paige jeans that have worn out. Still slim, but a bit wider at the bottom and so more easily worn over boots. 


Paige Hidden Hills Straight at Paige.com

But flares? I was a teenager in the seventies. We wore flares that were so wide in the leg, and so long that we stepped on them. And the hem in the back always looked chewed up. It took me years (and years) to feel comfortable wearing pants that didn't drag on the ground. Could I actually go there again? Did I want to go there again?


          
                                                     Madewell flares at Madewell.com                                                        Frame flares at Net-a-porter.com                         

This is a shot of Kim Hersov modeling her take on flared jeans, for Net-a-porter's free, weekly on-line magazine The Edit. I love their features in which Kim and Tallulah Harlech describe how to take trends from runway to real life. The January 15 issue included a "Denim Workshop" with Kim and Tallulah which you can check out here. 


Net-a-porter.com Denim Workshop

But, I don't know that I'm ready for flares. I like boot cut jeans though. They could be a good compromise between skinnies and flares, couldn't they? I own a pair of 7-For All Mankind boot-cut jeans from a couple of years ago. I still like them even though I rarely wear them. They look fine with boots, a casual turtleneck, and a scarf. Although, to be truthful, I'd really prefer my skinny Tory Burch cords with this outfit.


Or I could pair my boot-cut jeans with this animal print sweater from Eli Tahari. Looks good, I think. Or with a striped tee and my newly re-imagined short, black jacket from Theory. I tried this jacket and tee combination in a post a couple of weeks ago, with my skinny J-brand jeans...and...well... I think I like that outfit better.


   
          

Now, I do like this Theory silk shirt, v-neck sweater, and long, black Elie Tahari jacket with my boot-cut jeans. And that's good... because I'm getting tired of trying stuff on and going "meh." It seems to me that anything boot-cut jeans can do, skinny jeans can do better. Or more chic-ly.



And then I found these jeans in my trunk... where I store stuff that I'm not currently wearing but haven't decided to weed out yet. These are Paige jeans, supposedly boot-cut, but much wider in the leg. They're really more like... flares... actually.  

I tried them here with my brown, suede, low-heeled Prada booties, a white tee shirt, and my much loved, brown Akris leather jacket. And this wool scarf which I also love. And, that ain't all I love... I kind of love this whole look. With the scarf layered outside...or inside. 


          

So what exactly have I achieved today? Hmmm. Let's see.

  • Well, I've done my homework. I researched my topic, learned some stuff about how to wear flares. 

  • I've created a couple of outfits that I like with my 7-For All Mankind boot-cut/compromise jeans. 

  • I may have gone some, small way in overcoming my fear of flares; I'd definitely wear these Paige flare-ish jeans with my leather jacket and Prada booties. 

  • But, more importantly, I have learned that, while boot-cut may be a good compromise between skinnies and flares, and though flares are the "jeans of the season," my heart is still with a long, lean look. And for that I want a slim or straightleg (even if not a skinny) jean. And one with a higher rise.

So, let the journey continue. Armed with a much clearer idea  of what I want, and don't want. I'll be off. I've shopping to do. Many, many pairs of jeans to try on...and discard...before I find my "perfect jeans." 

I know there will be jeans that are too low in the rise, and ones that are too high and feel like they come up to my armpits. There will be jeans that are too skinny and tight in the leg, and ones that are too baggy, or too short, or too big in the bum. There will be jeans that make me feel fat, and ones that will make my legs look like sticks. It's a tough, frustrating journey, the search for the perfect jeans. One might even say Sisyphean. 

And you know...once I find them. Once I get that darned rock to the top of the hill. I may have to buy two pairs. And thus delay its rolling back to the bottom... at least for while longer. 




What are your perfect jeans? And is shopping for them a Sisyphean job for you?











I'm linking up this week with Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style,


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Downstairs, Not Upstairs, Books

 Last week I had lunch with a friend with whom I share a love of Jane Austen, Anita Brookner, mystery novels and all things Mitford. Over our coffee, as we gushed a bit about Downton Abbey... the elegant clothes, the sumptuous settings..., we commented that maybe we should have been born one, or even two, hundred years earlier. I remarked that that would do me no good at all, since my ancestors would undoubtedly be found downstairs and not up, and she laughed that hers would be in the barn milking the cows. 

I guess that's the case with most of us "colonials." Our forefathers, for the most part, didn't leave their homes (wherever they may have been) and come to the Canadian wilderness because they were having an easy, successful life, full of opportunity. 

That's certainly true for my family. On my mum's side, I'm descended from an Irish Catholic soldier from County Kerry, who landed in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1819, having been demobbed from his regiment, The Royal West India Rangers, in the aftermath of the defeat of Napoleon. I'm sure the life of an Irish Catholic foot soldier in the British Army was no picnic. Frontier life in nineteenth century Canada was probably a relief. 

So, my ancestors definitely had more in common with the servants who live below stairs in Downton Abbey, or in Jane Austen's books, than with the families upstairs, for whom they toil. Maybe that's why I found Jo Baker's novel, Longbourn, which I recently read, so compelling.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Legging Love

My, my, my... but there's been a lot of media chatter about leggings these last few weeks. I guess this is partly due to that Oregon blogger, Veronica Partridge, who made a "personal vow"  to "stop wearing leggings and yoga pants in public"; her post and the ensuing interview on Good Morning America went viral. Seriously, I'm not making this up. I read about it in Alyson Walsh's article for the Guardian, "How To Wear Leggings the Grown-Up Way." You can read Alyson's article here and some pretty interesting reader comments on the same topic on her blog That's Not My Age.  

What a palaver...  about pants. Or pantaloons, as they were called in the 1790's... when they were worn by men. Yep. Pantaloons were "close fitting tights or leggings," usually made from knitted fabric, and were worn by men (source.) But let's just call them leggings, okay?


www.yesterdaysthimble.com
I love leggings. I have done for years. And like the very sensible and chic Ms. Walsh, whom I mentioned above, I see no reason to stop wearing them because I'm "a woman of a certain age." As Alyson's article tells us, if leggings are made from quality fabric, aren't too tight, and are worn with layers or with longer, loose fitting tops, they make a chic and classy fashion statement. Of course, if the leggings are too thin, or too tight, and worn with, say, high heels and a pop top... they communicate a (ahem) very different message.

These two pairs of black leggings by Donna Karan and Helmut Lang look comfortable and totally chic, to me.

               
Net-a-porter.com

And this beautiful pair by The Row look polished and classy, the epitome of casual elegance, don't you think?

net-a-porter.com
I took this picture last week when I was writing my post about vintage jewellry. Paired with a layered tee-shirt and v-neck sweater, and my long, leather trimmed jacket, I thought my black leggings looked pretty darned snazzy. That's snazzy, not sleazy.


So let's take a closer look, sort of deconstruct the pants, shall we? 

These leggings are by Theory. They're made like pants, with a waistband and faux pockets and a button, but they just pull on. They're also made of a fairly heavy material with a high waist, thus ensuring that they don't show every bump and lump and that I can keep them up. Still, I wouldn't be wearing them with this tee shirt if I didn't have the scarf artfully draped to hide my burgeoning middle age middle.

                 

This is the outfit I wore last week to go shopping for jeans: my Theory leggings, Gap striped tee shirt, and Michael Kors scarf. I needed an outfit that was comfortable, with a top that would slip easily under my coat, and not be too hot in the mall, and bottoms that would slip off easily in the dressing room. I knotted the scarf under my coat, and then untied it (to drape artfully) when I was in the mall. Jean shopping can seem like a never-ending task, almost Sisyphean. So, careful planning in order to minimize frustration is vital... at least for me. Add my burgundy down coat, and this outfit is comfortable and perfectly presentable.


This is what I wore to lunch yesterday with my good friend BB: my Theory leggings, black silky Vince turtleneck, black boots...       


   
The Vince turtleneck is longer in the back and falls away from the body. Perfect with leggings.     



I added a bright scarf that I bought in Ireland a few years ago and my old (and recently rehabilitated) camel pea jacket. I love this outfit, mostly because I love camel and black. For a lunch downtown, I think this outfit is comfortable, casual, and polished.
         

This is an outfit that I'll wear when the weather warms up: my Theory leggings, this navy and white, striped silk blouse, also by Theory, and my Stuart Weitzman loafers.        


Like the turtleneck, this blouse works well with leggings because it is longer in the back, and falls away from the body, but isn't too full. I'm top heavy, and the length and shape of this blouse help disguise that. 



In the spring (if it ever gets here) I'll throw my Paige jean jacket on over the blouse. I'm liking this outfit. I feel casual, pulled together, and classy.



Of course, leggings can look sleazy, scuzzy, cheap, and, as Allyson says in her article, "slatternly." But they can also look chic, classy and polished. And totally appropriate in most women's wardrobes, even someone over fifty, like me. Funny that they should have become so "strangely contentious," as Alyson's article also says, in the past few weeks. I kind of chortled when I read that this young wife and mother in Oregon felt she had to make a "vow" about her determination to NOT wear leggings. I'm trying not to sound mean or sarcastic here. But isn't "vow" kind of a strong word to use when talking about... ah ... leggings?

Now as my husband rightly pointed out to me, I have some pretty strong opinions, myself, about what women should wear, how they should wear it, and when they should and shouldn't wear it.... whatever "it" might be. Especially about what women my age should wear. It's just that I won't be making any "vows" about my choices. That's a recipe for disaster. I'm thinking of my "No Way José" post last spring about drawstring pants; and my later retraction, Never Say Never, after I found, loved, and bought a pair, and then wore them everywhere... all summer. 

Oh.... and I seriously doubt that Canada AM (let alone Good Morning America) will come calling when I write about my personal fashion choices on my blog. 

Oh... and one more thing... and then I'm totally done on the subject. Don't forget  to check the rear-view image before you leave the house in your leggings, eh? 

There I'm done.

www.janeaustensworld.wordpress.com




Any thoughts about fashion "vows?" Of the legging kind or otherwise?


            



Linking up this week with: Passion 4 FashionFun Fashion FridayManic MondayShare in StyleWhat I WoreStyle me Wednesday.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

When Well-Loved Books Become Movies, and Mini-Series... Maybe

As I said in my last post, I recently (finally) finished Donna Tartt's book The Goldfinch. I think she is a wonderful writer. Although I must say there were times when I wished her editors had been a bit more strict with her. Sometimes less is more, you know. 

Certain parts of the book, in my opinion, could have, and should have, been cut down. I thought the description of the aftermath of the bomb blast in the museum, early in the book, was much too long. I even started skimming at one point. Also Boris and Theo's drug and alcohol induced adventures in Las Vegas became tedious and I almost gave up on the book at that point. Drunken teenagers... I'm so done with that scene. At least since I stopped volunteering to supervise high school dances. 

But for the most part I loved the book. As one reader named Sally commented on an earlier post, "this book stays with you;" she said Boris and Theo and Hobie would be with her "for life." Me too, Sally. Especially Boris. Tartt writes dialogue so skilfully that you can actually hear Boris' slight accent, and imagine his shouting "Potter!" at Theo. And I've been in too many high school hallways crowded with teenagers not to recognize (and chuckle over) Boris' vivid exclamation that he had stood in line "for fucking ever." 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Vintage Dreams


I finally finished reading Donna Tartt's stunning (and hefty) novel The Goldfinch. I had it signed out of the library for two weeks only and, at over 700 pages, reading that sucker took every spare minute I could find of those two weeks. But more on that later.


The novel, or rather Donna Tartt's exquisite description of Hobie's magical shop in the novel: "...a wilderness of gilt, gleaming in the slant from the dust-furred windows: gilded cupids, gilded commodes and torchieres..." awoke in me a longing for the days when my friend, Mary, and I made almost weekly forays to local antique fairs and flea markets. 

In some places we simply admired the artistry of the shop owners, and how their skilfully arranged merchandise recreated a tableau of days gone by. And in other places, we sifted through dusty piles of blue and white china or untangled drawers of old necklaces and bracelets in hopes of finding a treasure. Something that we could rescue from the junk pile, and take home to polish up and admire.

Sometimes we visited shops like this.


www.antiquesdiva.com


More often we were drawn to places like this.

Hinton Antiques in Orillia, Ontario
My friend collected snuff boxes and antique goblets of various designs. I bought old painted tins, and small chests of drawers... and sometimes even large ones. I love distressed wood, and old painted furniture. And weird little doo-dads. I've always been attracted to old things. Furniture that has a "back story", so to speak, or jewellry that was worn by my mum or grandmother, or even by someone I never knew. There's a kind of magic about things that have been around for so long, if you'll pardon the rampant romanticism.

Our favourite shop of all was a place called "Now and Again" in the historic, little town of Merrickville, on the Rideau. We made the forty minute drive to Merrickville regularly for years. Every time, and I do mean every time, we drove along the back road that followed the Rideau River, admiring the stone houses, we would try to remember the name of that darned store. 

"I'm excited to see what they have at 'Time and Again'," Mary would say. "It's not 'Time and Again'... it's 'Time After Time'... isn't it?" I'd reply. No? Is it 'As Time Goes By'?  'Now and Then'? And then we'd start laughing and try to come up with as many names as we could....which, of course, just made it totally impossible to get it right. 

This shot below, kind of reminds me of "Now and Again." They always had a clever assortment of small furniture, collectibles, vintage jewellry, and hats. This is where my vintage hat obsession was born. 



I also bought my first few pieces of vintage jewellry at "Now and Again." A long red and white beaded necklace from the 1920's. I think the owner said it was Venetian glass, but I can't really remember. I just loved it; I still do. 

Nowadays, I look for old jewellry at the Ottawa Vintage Clothing Show. I wrote a post about the show and about some of my vintage brooches and bracelets and hats back in November; you can read that here.


Ottawa Vintage Clothing Show 2015     www.ottawacitizen.com

This is a shot of my two favourite vintage necklaces. The long red and white flapper beads that I bought at "Now and Again," and a black, jet necklace, from the 1930's.... I think. 
   


I still wear them both quite a bit. 

The black jet necklace with my black leggings, cream sweater and white tee shirt, and my long, black, leather-trimmed jacket from Elie Tahari. Oh...and my new-ish black and cream Kate Spade purse... a real steal that I snapped up at a Florida outlet last winter.

And both necklaces together, with this outfit from a previous post, where I'm trying to rehabilitate my short, black Theory jacket by combining it with a Gap tee, my leather pants and my Stuart Weitzman loafers. 

                

Another favourite necklace is one that I bought at the Vintage Clothing Show, but which is not old. Well, not exactly. It's just made from old bits. I had kind of forgotten I even had it until I was trying to think of ways to get more wear out of these brown boots.



The boots and brown pants looked good with my cream Gap turtleneck...but the outfit needed something dark against the sweater, and so I thought of this necklace. I bought it at the Vintage Clothing Show, sometime in the nineties. 


I love this piece because it's unique. And quirky. It's made from an old, round, hammered-flat, metal bottle cap, another small piece of hammered metal, miss-matched links of chains with nuts and washers and even a tiny bit of rhinestone. And it goes perfectly with a pair of earrings made of old coins that I've had since the eighties. 




We're off to France for a month this spring. I'm very excited. Not just because it's France, which is wonderful. But because we're spending a week in Paris. It will be my first time in Paris. The Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, Hemingway and Shakespeare and Co, the home of Chanel and Dior and Celine. 

http://ctgpublishing.com

And the Marchés Aux Puces. 

Ever since I read Anne Tyler's book The Accidental Tourist (on my friend Grace's recommendation)... I've wanted to visit the flea markets of Paris. Do you know the book? There's a wonderful scene near the end where Muriel lugs bags and bags of treasures, that she bought at a flea market, back to her tiny Paris hotel room, and spills them all out on the bed. Okay.... so I don't plan to buy bags and bags of things. Hubby eyes would roll so far back into his head that they would stick there for sure. And we can't have that. 

But I might just find one special, perfect for me, old thing to bring home. One small, beautiful thing that I will wrap up safely and, as Theo in The Goldfinch says, save "from the wreck of time."   

If you'll pardon the rampant romanticism, again.

accidentalparisienne.wordpress.com


Are you a lover of vintage things?







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