Thursday, 31 July 2014

Work Horses in Your Closet?

Earlier this summer I wrote a post about a fabulous pair of pants that I had just bought against my own better (or not better, as it turned out) judgement. I say that because I had publicly in one post said I would NEVER wear draw string pants, and then had to eat my words in another post when it turned out that I loved the pants once I tried them. 

And in the comments on the second post a reader (Frances from Materfamilias Writes) exhorted me to "...go buy another pair of those pants right this minute. They are obviously work horses and they look great." And workhorses they turned out to be. 

That term "workhorse" has stuck in my mind all summer. Maybe because we had workhorses on the farm at home when I was growing up: great, strong, clumpy beasts. Patient and lovely. My stepfather adored them. Hated to make them work, actually, he was so fond of them. And so the term "workhorse" has extremely positive connotations for me. 

Prince and King... early 1970's.
My little brother was not very creative with names, especially since King was Prince's mother!

And now that I'm considering what to pack for our two week trip to the Saguenay in Quebec, I'm thinking... "Hmmmm.... Which of my lovely workhorses will be coming with me?" What items in my closet are reliable, hardworking, versatile and .... lovely. Or maybe not lovely, exactly, more that they make me feel great when I'm wearing them. Every time I wear them.

Workhorse #1. Of course my black draw string pants

Perfect for daytime super-casual (aka enroute in the car), daytime shopping/out for lunch, and for a casual evening dinner. 
Check, check, and check. 


I'm packing the pants, the blue striped tee and the black and tan silk blouse. The cream Rag and Bone top didn't make the cut...not because I don't love it. But it's a bit more dressy than I want for our super casual days.

Workhorse #2. My coral Elie Tahari jeans from two years ago.

I love these pants. They are a true mid-rise, so they don't feel like I have to hike them up all the time like a low rise... and they hold in the... well...middle-age middle. I like the ankle length and even roll them a bit shorter for a more casual look. Paired with my sleeveless Judith and Charles top, they will be good for sightseeing and browsing through shops on a hot day. They also look good with the beige, loose-knit, short-sleeved Gap sweater I bought earlier this summer. Which in itself is a work horse...since I can wear it with my black pants or with jeans or shorts. 


Workhorse #3. My summer staple...white jeans.

I love white jeans. I think that I have worn white jeans of one style or another ever since university in the 70's. My current favs are a cropped pair of Hudson jeans from last year ... kind of boyfriend style in that they are looser than a skinny...while still being narrow in the leg. I will wear them for dinner when we are at our hotel on Ile d'Orleans with a loose black V-neck sweater from Banana Republic and my black sandals. Then for daytime running around with my blue striped Gap tee shirt, running shoes and my Theory anorak. 


Which leads me to ...

Workhorse #4. My new-ish Theory Anorak.

I love this jacket. I bought it because I couldn't find a new spring coat that I loved and that was different enough from my old black Michael Kors coat. Then my friend Liz at Holts showed me this jacket. Love, love, love. It's on one side and kind of grey/brown/white/with a little bit of turquoise/camo. It looks great over a white top, or my blue striped Gap tee shirt (above) or this pastel sea green one (below.) I wear it with jeans, and love it with my white pants, or my black shorts. I will even wear it into fall with jeans and boots.

Workhorse #5. Tailored shorts 

I'll undoubtedly pack my black Theory walking shorts (above) and a beige shorter pair that I bought at the Brooks Brothers outlet store in Florida last winter. Both pairs can be very casual and with different tops and shoes a bit more polished. The longer Theory shorts, in particular, I'll probably wear to dinner one night with my Elie Tahari black and tan silk top.  

And serving in supporting roles...not doing the heavy lifting...but necessary to the final product nonetheless.... those versatile tops that go with everything. Those pieces that multitask over and under just about anything in your closet.

In the shot below I've included the Elie Tahari black and tan silk top, the tan Gap short-sleeved sweater, my black 3/4 sleeve V-neck sweater, and three Gap tee shirts (white, the sea green one and my current fav blue and white striped one.) And of course the indispensable  jean jacket. I love my Paige jean jacket. And my anorak. They all work with black or white or tan bottoms, or blue jeans....and most of them will go with my coral jeans. 

I'll definitely pack everything in the shot above for our trip. I haven't decided about my coral pants, workhorse though they are. I will of course add in a couple of pairs of sweats and a heavy sweatshirt along with cycling pants and rain pants. And c'est tout. 

Oh...and our French-English dictionary. 

So those are my summer workhorses.

What's in your stable?   

Linking up this week with What I Wore Wednesday

Friday, 18 July 2014

Getting Dressed Up: How Can You Tell What You Look Like?

As Jane Austen is a truth universally acknowledged... that the mirror lies, but the camera tells the truth. Okay...that's not exactly what she said...the second part is all me. 

How many times have I checked myself in the mirror and thought...hmmm...not bad for 50 or 55 or (now) 58. 

And then, when Hubby and I are at a party, or an occasion, someone, sometime, snaps my picture and I eventually get a look at the result and gasp: "Who is that old fart?" Inevitably, I have my mouth open, talking, looking like I have five chins or no chin at all, waving my hands around and standing or sitting in a most unattractive position. A position that makes me look fat and scrawny all at the same time...with no waist and chicken legs. You laugh?! That is exactly what goes through my head every time I see a picture of myself. Every time. I have never been very photogenic... not in surprise snap shots nor in posed pictures.

Yep, that's me in grade 1. Rolling my eyes and grimacing. Other girls smiled sweetly with dimples. Not me. I'm giving the photographer a look that says "Hurry up and get on with it, cause I have more important things to do... like skipping or doing my spelling homework." The camera always made me feel (and look) uncomfortable... or impatient.

This is me and my cousin Edie when we were both six and flower girls at my cousin Eleanor's wedding. Edie had the cutest dimples. Me...I looked six going on forty...with my toes pointed out and my hands folded exactly like my grandmother. And I mean exactly. No cute girly posing for me. Maybe it was because I was always taller, skinnier, and more awkward than other kids my age. I just felt silly in front of the camera.

Ah well. I don't look uncomfortable or impatient in all the pictures taken of me. I've become pretty good at taking selfies since I started this blog. Some are even pretty good; some of them I even like. 

But seriously, you'd think that by fifty eight I'd get used to what I actually look like, as opposed to what I think I look like.

So where am I going with this? Well, this September I will be attending my 40th high school reunion. Gawd... forty years. How is that possible? And of course I am already trying to decide what to wear. I mean I only have two months... I have to get moving on this! 

I will need a couple of chic and  casual, 'not trying too hard' outfits,  one dressy casual outfit and one dressy-dress. And I'm not sure I trust my mirror to tell me the truth about how I look.

It seems that dresses have been on my mind lately. Mostly because I am on a two week "layover" between camping trips. And when we get back from the bush... I always go a little wild with the girly thing. You know, getting facials, or pedicures, and wearing strappy sandals and skirts or dresses every chance I get. 

So I've been trying on my dresses and then taking pictures with my i-pad to see if I like the look. Inevitably, I look in the mirror... hmmm... okay. Then I take the picture... and it's a whole other story. 

Like this seven year old Diane von Furstenberg dress. I love this dress and haven't worn it for a couple of years. So I thought I would wear it out for lunch with a friend the other day. Looks okay, I thought. Good, in fact.

Then I took the picture and thought.... Akkkk! My knees are so nobby. And I have no sign of a waist. And the dress looks too short to me.

Now I know that some of this is true. I really do not have a waist, and I've always had knobby knees. But some of it was just me... overreacting to what I actually look like.... as opposed to what I think I look like... in my head.

Anyway, it was too late to change by then. I readjusted the wrap so the dress hung a bit longer and grabbed my BIG Michael Kors bag. That looked a bit better. And so off I went in my DVF dress.

Which brings me to today...when I moved on to looking at the party dress I thought I might wear for the "dressy" event at my reunion. It's a Lida Baday dress that I bought two (or maybe three) years ago for a friend's wedding. I love the dress. I love the shape, the way that it drapes and is kind of rumply and not fussy, and the huge pockets that make it more casual. I put it on and felt great. 

Then I took my picture. 

Really? Really? I look that wide? Okay... maybe the angle of the shot makes me look wider? You think? And the bare legs with the pumps are not good..and if I were wearing pumps I would wear pantyhose. And not those shoes anyway. I'd need a higher heel. 

Then I put on the little jacket that goes with the dress.

Oh jeeze... I was not liking this at all. maybe it is a bit more rumpled than it should be...and those pearl earrings are too boring. I need jewelry that is a bit more edgy or bold. 

 Like these earrings. And a black cuff. Or something. 

And I'll lose the jacket and the pumps. And wear my flat sandals. And a pashmina.

 Nope. Except for the scarf which I adore... I was not feeling the love for this outfit. I still think that the Lida Baday dress is lovely. It's just me, really. I don't feel lovely in it. Anymore.

I guess I'll have to start shopping for something new. Or maybe with a new pair of "statement shoes" my Lida Baday dress would be... okay. Maybe? But it's just so hard to tell if it's the mirror or the camera which is telling me the truth. 

Oh, what to do? What to do? 

Still there's lots of time yet. 

Like I said before, I don't look uncomfortable or awkward in every picture. I love the one of me below. It was taken in 1985 by my hubby. I'm standing with my fishing rod over my shoulder in baggy jeans on a beaver dam... and I'm wearing hip waders. And I look pretty good. You think maybe there's a lesson here for me? Skip the makeup and expensive colour job? Stop worrying so much about what I'm wearing.... just hang out in ... like, what... hip waders? 

Are you kidding me? I was 29 years old, people! We all look good at that age. 

So... I guess... that once we get back from our canoe trip next week... I'll probably start looking for a new dress that I can wear to the reunion. Or a pair of shoes that changes the look of my old dress. And I am sure that I'll find something I like and which looks fine.  

But undoubtedly during the shopping and trying on process... I will see one thing in the mirror and something quite different in pictures. 

So then, tell me... which reflection of me... is the real me? The one in the mirror or the one through the camera lens?

Sunday, 13 July 2014

To The Back of Beyond

Ah's summer and we are feeling the call of the road. Back roads, that is. 

So in answer to that call, a week or so ago my husband and I set off for our first camping trip of the season. The ice was chilling in the coolers, the steaks marinated and frozen, the canoe loaded, the tent trailer packed and off we go. 

This first trip is what hubby calls the "luxury trip." This means that we stay at a provincial camp ground and have daily access to electricity, showers, the radio, and our vehicle, and are close enough to civilization that we can even go shopping if we run out of food... or wine. This is in direct contrast to the trip we will take later this month when none of these will apply!

We both love to get out of the city and onto the open road. On this trip we generally head up the Ottawa Valley and stay at a provincial park on Round Lake. The swimming is good, there are lots of trails and dirt roads to ride our bikes and explore, and it's close to Algonquin Park where we can canoe and fish. 

One morning we decide to just drive the back roads and see what we can see. I love the Ottawa Valley: the trees and lakes, the plethora of dirt roads, the little towns and villages, the old farms... the history... the chip wagons. 

We pass lots of marshy lakes and beaver ponds like this one filled with flowering lily pads.

And old farmsteads like this. Tumbledown log barns and stone and cedar rail fences abound up here.

I definitely attract an audience as I climb the bank to get a better shot here. 

This is a shot of the old mill just outside of Killaloe. It was built in 1870. Killaloe, like many of the towns in the valley, was built as result of the lumber trade and settled by Irish immigrants. 

We've learned over the years to expect the unexpected on the many back roads around Killaloe and Barry's Bay and Wilno. Like this home of artist Linda Sorensen. 

I'm familiar with her work. Hubby and I both love the bold colours she uses and her ability to capture the feeling of the Canadian wilderness. But I had no idea that she lived on this tiny gravel road outside of Wilno... or that her gallery would be open and that we would get to spend a half hour chatting with her.

There's a vibrant arts scene in these hills and valleys. Together with artists Joyce Burkholder and Kathy Haycock, Linda has formed the group "Wild Women: Wilderness Art." Cool name, eh? You can check out Linda's work here. You might be surprised to find that there's lots of art in them thar hills!

The next day we abandon the roadways and take to the waterways in our canoe... for a day of paddling and fishing. It is a beautiful sunny morning as we embark up the Little Bonnechere River, into Algonquin Park.

Through a huge marsh, where at times our way is not exactly clear to us. Hmmm which way is the channel? Left or right? Just follow the ripples of the current.

And just how are we going to get around this half finished beaver dam?

Or through this? 

Uh huh...yep... right through the middle we squeeze, and in only about six inches of water. Because you know, folks... where there's a will and fish to be had, there's a way. That's dinner below. Now I'm not one to brag... but I caught the biggest one... as per usual...sigh, casting eyes modestly downward. 

On our last day we eschew all forms of transportation and hike into High Falls on the Bonnechere River. A brisk walk up this lovely path.

Through the sun dappled forest, watching out for the "toe grabbers" on the trail. And accompanied at ALL times by a large escort of very large deer flies. Long pants, long sleeve shirts, hats, bug spray and a brisk pace are still no match for them. But it is all worth it when we begin to hear the gush of white water and can just make out the falls through the trees.

Beautiful. And the bugs have abated as well. But you didn't think that a fishing-obsessed guy like my hubby would walk all the way in here and not drop in a line??! No, me neither.

Check out Hubby's casting action. And his belt....looks like he's packin'. But that holster holds a can of "bear guard." We are in the wilderness, people. And miles from the truck.

On our way out we stop so I can get some shots of the cabin at Basin Depot. Dating from the lumbering days of the 19th century, Basin Depot started with one shack, the "depot shanty" which served as the lumber company headquarters in the bush, and grew to a thriving community of almost fifty people in 1884. This last remaining cabin was saved from dereliction in the 70's and rebuilt by the Algonquin Forestry Authority in 1984. It sits at the fork of two dirt roads traveled these days mostly by lumber trucks and canoeists and fishermen (and women.)

If you know where to look, you can still see the remains of old farms and lumber camps in these parts. And the vestiges of the hard lives lived by the inhabitants.

Like this grave site hidden in the trees on the banks of the Bonnechere River, just across the road from Basin Depot. There's another one on the other side of the road. Exactly the same. No individual graves, just the one wooden cross and a white fence. And the trees and ferns... and the encroaching bush.

In his book Spirits of the Little Bonnechere, Roderick MacKay writes that there are no official records of who lies in these graves. Just stories told by the old families who still live on the river that one is the grave site of nine people who died in a diphtheria epidemic in the 1890's. The other is supposedly where the bodies of drowned river drivers are buried. Men drowned getting the logs down river to market.

You see that's what we love about this part of the country. The old stories, the vestiges of a stone fence, a lilac bush in the middle of nowhere that says a farm house probably once stood on that spot. All the hidden bits that are testimony to the lives of those settlers who came here and found...well, trees and marshes, and rivers and more trees. And stayed. 

So after our hike that day we head back to the campground to pack ... and then home. To bathe our bug bites. And at least for me... to soak up a little urban time... wear makeup, and sandals, maybe a skirt... have lunch with friends. And gear up for our next foray into the wilderness in a week or so. This will be the big one, folks. My first wilderness canoe trip since 2010. 

Can I still do this? Oh yeah... I can do this... I CAN do this. Like the little engine who could. I can do this... I can do this... I can do this....

Are you planning on any road trips this summer...back roads or otherwise?

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Fifties Moment

It seems to me that fashion is having a "Fifties Moment." 

I love the fashion of the 1950's. The ladylike dresses and skirts, the shoes, the overall polished look. I've been dreaming of ladylike dresses and gorgeous hats and elbow gloves for the past week as we have been travelling through the back of beyond. More on this experience in a later post. We're talking wilderness, people! And not a high heel in sight!

This shot is from the book Vintage Fashion by Emma Baxter-Wright. It shows the Christian Dior collection of 1957.

And this is from Dior's 1952 collection. I love the full skirt.

The model below is wearing an outfit  by American designer Tom Brigance from 1952.

I kept thinking of these images when I was on my exercise bike these past few weeks and looking at pictures from the Dior Spring 2014 advertising campaign in Vogue.

And it reminded me of the dresses in some of my favourite 1950's movies. 

Like Rear Window from 1954. Grace Kelly looks gorgeous in this.

And this dress worn by Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, 1958.  I love this movie. And the dress. And Paul Newman, of course.

You get a better look at the dress in this shot. 

So full skirts, it seems, were having a moment, in the fifties. And skirts worn with blouses. Like this shot, again from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Love the rolled up sleeves and the red belt. Especially with the longer skirt. There's just something so great about the proportions of this outfit. I couldn't do it...not having anywhere near the "proportions" of Liz Taylor. Pun intended.

But we do seem to be seeing the tucked in white shirt this summer. Like in this look from Carolina Herrera in the April issue of Vogue.

Mind you the white shirt is almost iconic for Ms. Herrera. And well...the white shirt is just iconic period.

I could see me wearing my fifties style full skirt with a little cardigan like this look from below. I actually own one very like the flowered skirt on the right. Hmmmm. I never thought of trying to wear it with a shirt tucked in. 

I love this shot from the 1950's, of Jane Russell  in her leopard skin and sassy shades.

Kind of like these in the Burberry Spring 2014 ad below. And I am looking for a new pair of sunglasses.

Nope. Not going there. There are just some looks from the fifties that you can't carry off when you're... in your fifties.

So that's me done for now. I'm off to try on my full skirt with a white blouse...and shop for new sunglasses. 

Oh... and try to decide what to wear out for dinner tonight. It's our 25th wedding anniversary today. We're having a casual dinner out tonight. The real anniversary celebration will take place later in the summer. 

I'll leave you with the shot below from the July issue of Vogue. A look from Dior for fall. So 1950's. 

That skirt...those gloves...too divine!

What do you think of fifties fashion?

This week, I'm linking up with the Thursday Blog Hop at Over 50 Feeling 40 and Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style.