Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Sometimes You Just Really, Really Need A Good Laugh.

So. Things have been pretty fraught around the old homestead lately. Pretty tense. I'd say we're living in an atmosphere of anticipation and dread in equal proportions. 

You see Hubby had a bad fall last spring playing hockey. He hurt his shoulder very badly. And so, one trip to emergency, a misdiagnosis, several weeks of physiotherapy, a diagnostic ultrasound, a different diagnosis, an MRI, two more doctors (one a sports medicine doctor and one a surgeon who agreed to do the surgery but didn't hold out much hope for success), one shoulder operation and five months later... we still don't know if he will ever recover full use of his right arm and shoulder. 

He finally had the surgery two weeks ago. And after a summer of frustrating limitations in what he can and cannot do, he's facing six weeks of complete immobilization with his right arm in a sling worn 24/7, and twelve to eighteen months of rehab. Or so we're told. Fingers are crossed. All twenty of them... his and mine. You see there's a lot riding on this for Hubby. Hockey is out for sure. But there's also golf, and fishing, and cross-country skiing, and canoeing. Especially the canoeing. It's impossible to hoist a canoe and carry it through a portage when you can't move your right arm above your waist. I know, I know. As many, many friends and family have already said to me... at least it's not life threatening. No. But it definitely is life-style threatening. And when you are as active a person as my Hubby... that's major. And when you are used to be very active and NOT used to being patient. Well. The waiting ain't easy. For either of us.


We waited two weeks to find out if the repair the surgeon hoped to do had even been done. That's because Hubby had the surgery in the morning and I brought him home later that afternoon. He had no chance to speak to the doctor before they released him, just a follow-up appointment with the surgeon in two weeks. They simply wheeled him to the curb and helped him into my car. As she pushed the wheelchair back up the ramp, the nurse said, "Have a nice recovery." "But...but...but...no instructions for me?" I stammered. Apparently all instructions were in a typed handout in the package Hubby was holding in his lap. Big help they were too... confusing in places and contradictory in others. The nurse's handwritten notations about which drugs to take when did not match up with the names of the meds when I had the prescriptions filled. So glad I could call my pharmacist sister for clarification and help, there. He could start taking showers in four days, but how could he do that in a 24 hour sling? Etc. Etc. And I would have to change the dressing on the four inch incision in three days. Were they kidding? Me? Nurse Nervous Nelly. I have trouble taking a splinter out of someone's finger. I'm so afraid I'm going to hurt the "patient" that I flap, and hyperventilate, and basically do NOT engender confidence in my nursing abilities. 

But, we made it through the first few days. The pain was pretty bad, but Hubby had some pretty good drugs. And thanks to his cousin's daughter, Chelsea, a surgical nurse, we had access to more info than just the "info package." Especially about when to start the heavy duty pain meds. Thanks for that, Chels. And Hubby was managing pretty well with his left hand. Although eating soup was an exercise in patience... and humility. And then we came to dressing changing time. I thought I did pretty well. I managed to get the old dressing off. The sight of the incision was a bit of a shock. But I was able to secure the new dressing firmly enough so that it wouldn't move, or fall off in bed. Okay... there were a few barked instructions from the increasingly impatient patient. But we did okay

It was afterwards, when Hubby had gone for a nap, that the knot in my stomach just wouldn't go away, and I knew I was being silly. It was a bandage, for god's sake. Suck it up Burpee! So I made myself a calming cup of tea. And carried it to my desk to work on my blog post. And the toe of my flip-flop caught on the lip of the step up into the den. And I was moving quite quickly, so I launched myself horizontally into the room. And landed heavily, my ribs on the corner of a plastic file box, and my thigh on the metal stand it sits upon. I tried to catch myself, dropped the tea, and then just watched as a slow motion swath of brown liquid flew up the wall and across my desk. Ahhhh! Ouch! Ow...ow...ow...ow! By the time Hubby managed to disentangle himself from the duvet and rushed into the den, all the time shouting..."What? What? What did you do?" I was on my hands and knees, holding my ribs with one hand, sobbing. And trying to mop up the tea with a kleenex. 

I did actually manage to finish my blog post that day.  Applied several ice packs. Made a new cup of tea. It was the next few days which were more painful. Bruises blossomed on my ribs, thighs, and arms. An X-ray established that I had not broken any ribs. Just pulled or bruised my intercostal muscles. The cure? Ice. Painkillers. Not doing any abs work-outs. And avoiding hanging washing on the clothesline, as I discovered yesterday. Oh, and time. 

So where does the laughing part come in? Stay with me here; the post I wrote that day was the one about my Make-Up Shake-Up. And reader Wendy in York commented that she liked a bold lip colour on others but when she wore it herself she felt like Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. I've seen Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond, the aging silent screen star, in that 1950 movie. And so I knew exactly what she meant. And her line literally cracked me up. See below.

Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard  

And if you've never seen Sunset Boulevard, you must. But in the meantime check out the famous final scene of the film below. Poor disturbed Norma makes her final entrance for the cameras.

And in my reply to Wendy, I asked if she had ever seen the Carol Burnett skit based on Sunset Boulevard. I remembered it from the seventies. Nora Desmond, famous movie star, or as they described her "a living legend in a dying body." And then I found the sketch on You Tube. 

note: Originally I had posted the video here. But it subsequently disappeared from You Tube ... copyright issues. So we'll have to be content with this shot of Carol as Nora... making an entrance. Ha.

Anyway... when I watched that video again after so many years... I laughed so hard my ribs hurt. Even worse than they hurt before. But boy, did that feel good. And Hubby came into the den to see what I was laughing about, and I played it again, and we both had a good laugh. 

Wow. We really, really needed that.

We all know that old cliché about laughter and medicine. But according to one 2003 study "mirthful laughter" has all kinds of measurable "psychological and physiological effects on [our] immune functioning." And an article on the Mayo Clinic website, called "Stress relief from laughter? It's no joke" explains that laughter can "sooth tension," "stimulate our heart and lungs," "release endorphins," boost our immune system, and aid in long term pain relief. Huh.

Hubby had his two week appointment with the surgeon the other day. We were holding our breath. And the news wasn't all bad. They had managed to repair some of the damage. But they had to do some pretty invasive stuff, no arthroscopic surgery here. But we'd gathered that much from the size of the incision. The surgeon said that part of the damage had been repaired successfully. And that part of the attempted repair was tenuous, at best, that it might not hold and, if it didn't, definitely could not be reattached. So we're glad that they at least had been able to do something. Better than nothing. Hopefully the result will be better mobility than what he had going into the surgery. We won't know for weeks yet. Doctors aren't very good at making promises. Or giving odds. 

In the meantime, we're taking Doctor Burpee's advice. Frequent and fulsome laughter. Hubby has been "ordered" to watch the CBC program "Just for Laughs" (which he loves), several times a week. Especially on nights when there has been extensive election coverage. Me. I'm watching one funny You Tube video each morning. Like my fav Lucy episode below.

Hopefully this will alleviate some of the stress. Because when you're living in The Castle of Grumpy Grouch... sometimes you really, really need a good laugh.

By the way. The Castle of Grumpy Grouch was a favourite children's book at my house when I was growing up. My mum read to my older brothers and sisters, and then to me, from that old book. I remember it as a tattered copy, with a cover that looked exactly like the picture above. I surely don't need to explain why the title of the book came to mind when I was writing this post, do I?

How about you? Can you think of a time when you just really, really needed a good laugh?

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Fall Rotation... Round One

Finally. We noticed on our morning power walk earlier this week.... a slight chill in the air. A distinct chill. At last, the daytime temperature has dipped enough (at least here in eastern Canada) to be considering fall fashion. I mean considering wearing it... instead of just thinking about it. 

morning walk in Osgoode, Ontario
Part of the route Hubby and I took on our morning power walk earlier this week. 

And I'm deciding what pieces will be in my early fall "rotation." You know, outfits for those glorious days when it's cool enough to wear a sweater or blazer, but still warm enough to wear loafers and sneakers without socks. And maybe a bit too warm for boots. Of course, I'll be wearing my "fall essentials," which I wrote about in a post last week: white shirt, white tee, sharp black jacket, jeans. But a girl can't live in white tops and jeans alone. 

So for this post I've pulled together some of the images that I've pinned up on my "inspiration board" to remind me of what I want to wear this fall. In my Fall Rotation... Round One.

This shot below from Net-a-porter.com was in my mailbox a while ago. With a mantra I can get behind..."Love. Wear. Repeat." And an image that I can get into... literally. Silky blouse, tweed blazer, jeans. That's a combination I've worn (and loved and repeated) in some form or other since my university days. 

Net-a-porter.com blouse and blazer

This image from Michael Kors reminds me why I love fall. Camel, and brown, and gold, and cognac, and that luscious houndstooth tweed. I looked and looked and could not find out anywhere what MK actually calls the colours in this coat. Let's just call them delicious, shall we?

Destination Kors

Check out this little video from Prada. Aside from the pastel colours, which are not what I want to wear this time of year.... I love the mix of textures. And the prim little shirts buttoned all the way up. And the tweed, of course.

This is the shot that's pinned up on my inspiration board. Tweed. And brooches. Lots of brooches. Hallelujah. Love, love, love my vintage brooches. I've always worn them. I remember when they were very cool, sometime back in the early 2000's. And so they are again. At least at Prada.

And at Chanel. It seems that tweed and your grandmother's brooches are back together in a very big way. And except for the funny up-dos... I could go for any of these looks. Only with jeans and boots on the bottom half.

Images from Chanel.com

And this image from AG jeans is on my inspiration board to remind me to wear my new, crisp blue shirt from Equipment, with a fall coat, and jeans. Or black pants. I love this ad campaign from AG Jeans featuring model Daria Werbowy. And the simple, pared down, seemingly "undone" looks. 
Most of us could never hope to just roll out of bed, run a comb through our hair (or not),  pull on a shirt, jeans and a coat... and look as good as Ms. Werbowy does here. Then again, if she could just roll out of bed and look like this, there would be no need for the stylist, or the hair and make-up team, would there? Nothing against Ms. Werbowy; she's lovely. Just that we should all recognize that it takes a lot of doing to look this perfectly undone, if you follow me. But I digress, as usual.

I also love this shot from J Crew. Again with the jeans, tweed blazers, blue shirts or striped tees, and loafers. This reminds me not to forget a couple of cropped, tweed blazers I own... and my soft and lovely Tod's "driving shoes." I bought the shoes with my retirement gift certificate. They're great for early fall. Just that perfect bronze-y luggage leather colour to wear with denim and tweed.

"The Always List" J Crew

And then there's this shot from Vince.com. Love this cozy coat sweater with loafers and cropped leather leggings. Makes me long to haul out my new Vince coat sweater. And my old faithful black leather trousers. And my black Stuart Weitzman loafers. And my new burgundy Marc Jacobs bag. Ooooh, the anticipation is killing me.

So Fall Rotation... Round One. Tweed. Including these three jackets. All from Max Mara, bought at Holt Renfrew several years ago... 2004, 2000, 2005 respectively. These babies owe me nothing at all. And I still love them. They still fit and they still look great with jeans and boots. I may even try that charcoal grey one on the right with my leather pants; can't think why I haven't worn that combination before.   

But I do know why the other two have stayed in the closet for so long. All my fall footwear is black. Black pumps, black booties, black loafers. Until now, that is. Check out my new fall purchase. Gorgeous brown booties from Paul Green. I loved these the minute the salesgirl suggested them. The slightly square toe, the tassel on the zipper pull, the detail on the toe and heel. And that stacked heel...not too high...yet not exactly flat either. Oh, and the colour. That delicious brown... would you call that milk chocolate? And the pièce de résistance... it's as if they were made for my narrow feet. Usually Stuart Weitzman is my main man for shoes. But I am about to find myself happily cheating on Stuart with Paul.

So... tweed jackets, jeans, leather pants, cosy coat sweater, vintage brooches. That's Round One sorted.... sort of. Now I just have to remember to wear them. 

Stay tuned for Fall Rotation: Round One Point Five...with me actually in the clothes. 

What are you wearing to usher in the fall season?

Linking up this week with:Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style,  #IwillwearwhatIlike at Not Dressed as Lamb, What I Wore at The Pleated Poppy, Passion 4 Fashion at Rachel the Hat, Fun Fashion Friday at Fashion Should Be Fun, Friday Finds at Forage Fashion, Casual Friday at Two Thirty-Five Designs) and My Refined Style Link-Up

Monday, 21 September 2015

Book, Book, Books ... So Many Books

One of the things I loved about teaching was the energy required to keep a class attentive, on task, and not bored. And the reciprocal energizing thrill of watching them catch on fire. Because a room full of teenagers who are engaged and excited about what they are doing is the most fun thing in the world. And of course I loved having a captive audience, so to speak.... for stories, and tales from my childhood and very bad jokes. Especially junior classes, like grade nines. I always loved my grade nines. And their groans at my bad jokes. 

My all time favourite. 

Me: What did the literary chicken say when he crossed the road? Class (rolling eyes): We don't know Ms Burpee. What DID he say? Me: Well.... (Tucking my hands under my arms and flapping to simulate wing action.)...Where did I put my book, book, book?  
Class: Groan. Followed by major eye rolling. 

Sigh. I miss those jokes. So when Hubby asked me yesterday what I was writing my blog post about, I flapped my arms and said, "Book, book, books." I must say a seriously major eye roll followed that line. 

So, book, book, books. I read a few books this summer. Some that I mentioned in earlier posts that I was going to read. Like Paula McLain's latest novel, Circling the Sun. I enjoyed McLain's fictionalized take on Beryl Markham's life, although maybe not as much as I did The Paris Wife. McLain's prose is spectacular, her use of imagery evocative and moving. I wasn't surprised to find out that she travelled to Africa when she was writing this book. No one could describe the sunrises, the exact look of the mountains in the far distance, or the flash of a bird's wing so confidently without having seen them in person. I adore McLain's writing. And I loved her 'character', Beryl Markham. I did find that the plot faltered a bit in the middle. Perhaps one too many tales of unwinnable horses winning races? I can't remember exactly where it was in the book that made me want to give up on it. But in the end, I'm very glad I didn't. Have a look at this review of McLain's novel by Alexandra Fuller from the The New York Times. I may not agree with Fuller's take on either of McLain's books, but her review makes for entertaining reading. It's very witty and acerbic. And interesting considering that Fuller herself wrote three memoirs of Africa.


Tuesday, 15 September 2015

My Make-Up Shake-Up

Fall seems like the perfect time to shake up one's wardrobe. And one's make-up routine, I always think. In the fall, I lose the very minimal tan I've gained over a summer of biking, walking, camping, and fishing. Even with SPF 45 sunscreen, I do get some tan and a few more freckles. Plus the darker colours and heavier fabrics of fall and winter clothing, seem to require a different make-up palette than summer. 

Every year at this time, I long for a pale, clear-skin look with bold brows and a bold lip. Like these lovely ladies. Or a close facsimile. Even a somewhat close facsimile would do. To be more realistic, I scrunch up my eyes and try to imagine these girls in... say... thirty-five years. 

And every year, at this time, I visit the Bobbi Brown counter at Holt Renfrew for some ideas to freshen up my fall make-up. Except this year. Holts in Ottawa closed last winter. Sob. I was verclempt, until I discovered Nordstrom. To be honest, the only reason I visited Nordstrom last spring was because my buddy Liz, who used to be the personal shopper at Holts, was now working in that capacity at Nordstrom. If you read this blog regularly, you'll have heard of Liz. And you'll also know that I've become a "Nordy" fan. I don't shop exclusively at Nordstrom but, over the last few months, they have become my first port of call in any shopping adventure. And why should shopping for make-up be any different, eh?

Now, let me make this clear before we go on. I am much more loyal to a specific salesperson than I am to a specific brand, or store. And I'm at least as interested in service, as I am in the product. I won't buy a crappy product even with good service....but I have walked away from a product that I would otherwise have bought if the service is snooty, or disdainful, or non-existent. Like at the J Crew store in the Rideau Centre. I wrote about that experience in an earlier post about jeans shopping.

But... let's get back to make-up. This summer I met the lovely Katie... see below... while shopping for mascara at Nordstrom. Katie manages the Laura Mercier counter there. She was so friendly and knowledgeable and helpful, that I decided to visit her counter for my fall freshen-up.

I had a few goals when I set off for Nordstrom in late August. 

Goal #1... I had been searching for months for a better eye liner. One that was easy to use and which worked for my new more casual lifestyle. Not to mention aging, wrinkly lids. I had tried using a brush and a gel liner, too difficult to make an even line. Sometimes after trying to make both eyes the same I ended up with an (almost) inch wide smear across my lid. And I had tossed out numerous pencils which were too soft and gloppy and messy, or too hard...ouch. 

Goal #2... I wanted to see if I could achieve that clear-skin, no make-up look...with bold brows and lips. You know... me...but better. 

Goal #3... I wanted a fresh look for fall. 

Goal #4... And a  week or so before I went to see Katie, I received an invitation from blogger D.A. Wolf at Daily Plate of Crazy to participate in her Midlife Makeover series. I'd have to try something new in my make-up routine, and take before and after pictures. Ok-ay. That sounded like fun. 

Here's my 'before' picture. Before make-up. And obviously before I left the house. Hence the bathrobe.

I spent almost two hours with Katie that day. She stripped off all of my make-up, and talked me through the whole routine. From skin care to final lipstick application. And I learned lots. 

Here are my 'after' pictures. We took the shot on the left in the store. And the one on the right, I took when I came home. I wanted to try to replicate the same light as my 'before' shot. It's amazing, isn't it, how much difference lighting makes. See how much blonder my hair looks in the left one?

I love how Katie did my eyes. So my next step was to master the new skills I had been taught.

This is me below, trying to practice what I'd learned. First I used a Laura Mercier eyelid primer in a colour called cotton, which I dabbed on and then blended with my fingertips. I love this product. I generally like a soft colour on my lids, so I applied a petal pink shadow next, and with the primer I could actually see the colour of the shadow.The primer, a soft vanilla shade, can also be worn on its own when I'm in a hurry. I learned that I have been applying my darker contour shadow incorrectly all these years. Katie says to apply it with my eyes open, and to NOT extend it to the corner of my eyes, to use a brush aligned with the end of my eyebrow to give me guidance. I used a kind of bronzy brown colour. 


I am now a convert to the Laura Mercier eye-lining technique called "tight-lining." I moistened my brush, swished it in the black ebony "cake eye liner" to make a paste, then dabbed it on at the root of my eyelashes. First under the lashes. Then on top. Dab, dab, dab all the way across my lid. No drawing squiggly, increasingly wider and wider lines. The brush is perfectly flat at the end and the liquefied powder actually sticks to your lid in amongst the lashes. It really does. I know.... sounds weird. When Katie described it to me, I thought, I'd never be able to do that. But I did. This was only the second time I tried.


This is me, below, with the rest of my make-up done. I took Katie's advice and only applied foundation where I needed it, to even out my complexion. Mostly across my cheeks and my forehead, where I have roscea. (I eventually plan to switch from my Bobbi Brown foundation to the Laura Mercier tinted moisturiser that Katie applied instead of foundation.) I also used a bit of bronzing powder under my cheekbones, and a swish of desert rose blush on the apples of my cheeks. I tried for a somewhat bolder lip than I usually wear. To be truthful, I'm not sold on a very bold lip for me. I feel as if it's a bit aging. Maybe for an evening look.... which I don't do very often... well, hardly ever, actually. 

And speaking of lighting. The halogen lights in my bathroom make this shot look like it's in soft focus. Cue the dreamy muzak.

This one was taken in my sun room in more natural light. I love that tight-lining. 

And this is the final look in natural light. Okay. Okay. Enough with the pictures. Eye roll. 

So let's sum up.... 

Goal #1...Check. Totally love the new "tight-lining." 

Goal #2... Maybe I'll modify my goal to achieve that clear-skin look. Hard to achieve without a heavy foundation. I'll settle for just matching the colour of my face to my neck. Which the Laura Mercier tinted moisturiser, that Katie used, achieved a lot better than my Bobbi Brown foundation. Bolder brow...I liked. Bold lip...not so much.

Goal #3... Hmmm. I feel like my look is fresher. And my new method of applying eye-liner and contour shadow really opens up my eyes. Which is great for my increasingly droopy lids, for which I have gravity and age to thank. And I may invest in a new lipstick. In just a teensy bit bolder colour.

Goal #4... Done and dusted. You can read D.A. Wolf's post called "Shake Up Your Make-up" here. Besides my make-over and Barbara's from Sixty Days in Paris, D.A. has lots of great expert advice on make-up for us middle-agers.

Now about that comment I made earlier with respect to good service. As I said, Katie spent almost two hours with me. And here's what I bought. The eye shadow primer, the cake eye-liner, and the little flat application brush needed to apply it. C'est tout. 

Throughout our session, Katie was perfectly professional, as well as charming and personable. We discussed everything from skin care, to Laura Mercier make-up, to our experiences in high school.... hers as a student and mine as a teacher. And in the end there was no awkward hard-sell moment when I felt pressured to buy more than I had intended. And you know what? As much as the Laura Mercier products, which I really like but not any more than Bobbi Brown's, it's that service which will take me back to visit Katie. I intend to buy the tinted moisturiser and the brow definer, in the short term. And for the long term, I've found a sales person who is knowledgeable and whose opinion I can trust. And I'm very loyal to people like that. 

I certainly hope that Laura Mercier, and Nordstom, appreciate what they have in Katie. 

Yep, my fall 2015 make-up shake-up was definitely a success. I had fun and I learned some new stuff. And I'm getting faster and more adept at that "tight-lining" thing. 

And so I remain....at least in the make-up department....all shook up! 

Hit it Elvis...


P.S. The Elvis video is for Wendy in York. Who said she couldn't get the song from my last post out of her head. Maybe this will help? 

How about you. Any shaking (a whole lot or otherwise) going on in your make-up routine this fall?

Linking up with Fun Fashion FridayCasual FridayFriday FindsVisible Monday

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Exploring My Fall Essentials

So the other day, I'm minding my own business... doing some of my fall 'research' ... reading some of my favourite fashion blogs. And I came across this post on Habitually Chic, in which Heather Clawson says she stumbled across this little video on Instagram. 

It's a fashion shoot by Matches Fashion, called "The Essentials Shoot." Have a look.

I watched the video once. And then I watched it again. And my, oh, my. I was a little bit hooked. Okay... a lot hooked. The spare interiors. The white everywhere. Those plank floors. That staircase. The clothes. The music. I loved it all. I must have watched it a dozen times. I wanted to crawl right into the scene and march around, up and down stairs to that fetching music, casually pulling on and shrugging off "classic knits" and "sharp black blazers" over my "luxe t-shirts" and "crisp white shirts." And then spying some very important message on my i-phone, ditching them all for my "little black dress," and my "forever chic heels" or my "standout stilettos." And finally throwing on my "elegant coat" before I slipped out the door. Sigh. 

I was so taken with the video I passed it on to my friend and fellow fashionista, Joanne, and asked her for her thoughts.

Jo's thoughts:

"I know how the model stays so skinny. She does a lot of stair repeats and outfit changes every morning before she leaves her house. And how come she can pull off a messy bun and look polished and I look like I just finished a 180 km bike ride, in the beating sun, and just pulled off my bike helmet when I try to do that?! Btw I loved the black blazer and the last coat she wore.
P.S. The fall Vogue is out! I've been adding extra arm curls to my weight routine so that I can pick it up in a store this week."

Ah, Jo. She's so funny. And the mention of the 180 km bike ride and the arm curls? These are not hypothetical examples... Jo does triathlons and iron men races. Or should that be iron women? You gotta love a woman who can complete an iron man race and then pick up Vogue on the way home, don't you? Even if she didn't love the video quite as much as me. 

Anyway, that little film started me dreaming... about my own wardrobe basics. Or "essentials" as Matches Fashion calls them. 

I know I eschewed white shirts in favour of blue ones in this post. But I never said I had ditched the white shirt entirely. I still have this "crisp, white shirt" from Theory in my closet. And although I have no stairs to run up and down, living in a bungalow as we do, I could toss it on with my Citizen of Humanity jeans and my Stan Smith sneakers. Uh huh. I could do that.

Theory shirt, Citizens of Humanity jeans, Stan Smith Adidas.

And I could throw a grey, summer cardigan over this. Or swap the white shirt for my white Vince t-shirt. I'm not sure if it qualifies as a "luxe t-shirt," but I love it. And then I'd pull on a different "classic knit" from my closet. This red Banjo and Matilda cardigan is one of my favourites. It's very lightweight, and good for early fall. When it gets cooler I'll bring out my new Vince coat sweater. 

  Vince t-shirt, In Wear cardigan, Citizens of Humanity jeans, Stan Smith Adidas Vince t-shirt, Banjo and Matilda sweater, Citizens of Humanity jeans, Stan Smith Adidas  


And I can surely do the "sharp black blazer." My black Helmut Lang jacket is definitely a wardrobe essential. I'd trade my C of H jeans for these high-rise, Paige skinny jeans, keep the Vince t-shirt. And slip on these "forever chic heels." Okay... so they're not stilettos. But let's get real, folks. I prefer to remain upright when I'm tooling about town, and I fear that my days of running in high heels are definitely behind me. Emphasis on "behind"... as in not wanting to land on it. Besides, I love these grey and black Stuart Weitzman shoes. In fact, I love Stuart Weitzman shoes period. They are one of only a few brands that are narrow enough for my very narrow feet. And a pointy toe, kitten heel is always chic, isn't it?

Helmut Lang jacket, Vince t-shirt, Paige high rise skinny jeans, Stuart Weitzman shoes Helmut Lang jacket, Vince t-shirt, Paige high rise skinny jeans, Stuart Weitzman shoes

I might tuck in the t-shirt, and add a belt and a scarf. Maybe this silk animal print scarf? Or, I hear that skinny scarves are 'in' this season. One or the other might work.

Helmut Lang jacket, Vince t-shirt, Paige high rise skinny jeans, Stuart Weitzman shoes            

Hmm. You know, I'm especially partial to the animal print scarf. The reverse side is black and grey, but I prefer the black and golden beige. Better with my colouring. And I like it with this collarless jacket. 

Or I might toss the scarf and the shoes and pull on my sneakers again. Roll up my sleeves and get... errand running, or shopping, or whatever. This is definitely a great fall, run-around, everyday "essential" look for me. I'd carry my gold Michael Kors tote or my new burgundy Mark Jacobs bag for a bit of colour. You can't get much more "essential" than jeans, a white t-shirt, sneakers and a simple black jacket.

Helmut Lang jacket, Vince t-shirt, Paige high rise skinny jeans, Stan Smith Adidas

Now back to that Matches Fashion video. I still love it. But I do see that that poor model changing her clothes umpteen times before she actually leaves the house is a bit silly. Not that we all haven't done that at least once. And she does waltz up and down those stairs enough times to keep anybody thin.... thanks for pointing that out, Jo. And that all-white house, as dreamy as it is... is a bit too spare to be real. 

But, when you think about it, the overall idea in the video is economy, isn't it? The economy of space in that house. The "economical" wardrobe: how few pieces that girl wore to create so many looks. And the confidence and insouciance that she exuded while she wore such simple pieces. And of course the seriously cool soundtrack. 

You see, here is what I love about that video. It made me see my own fairly "economical" closet as holding all the fall "essential" pieces one needs to be, if not necessarily totally insouciant, then at least confidently well dressed. I love websites like Matches fashion. Sure, I know the idea is to sell the clothing in the shoot. But isn't it great when they can inspire you to do different things with stuff you already own? Now that's what I call economical. And I haven't even brought my new Vince Coat sweater into the mix yet. I'm so looking forward to that.

Now I'm going to go see if I can find that song on i-tunes. It's called "Miles from Minnesota" by the Lower 48. I'm imagining it as my new getting dressed theme song. 

Go ahead. Have another listen. This time without the clothes.

And while you're listening... tell me...what are your fall essentials?

Linking up this week with: #IwillwearwhatIlike at Not Dressed as Lamb, What I Wore at The Pleated Poppy, Passion 4 Fashion at Rachel the Hat, Fun Fashion Friday at Fashion Should Be Fun, Friday Finds at Forage Fashion, Casual Friday at Two Thirty-Five Designs, Hello Monday (at More Pieces of Me and Sincerely Jenna Marie), Fabulous Friday at  A Pocketful of Polkadots, and Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Dreaming of Oz

I've been dreaming of Australia this past week. I'm listening to Arthur Upfield's novel The Widows of Broome on my i-pod. So, as I did housework, or pedaled my exercise bike, I listened to the lovely, gravelly tones of Peter Hosking read Upfield's book. I do love an Australian accent, and Peter Hosking's voice is wonderful. Sigh. If I ever actually see the man, I will undoubtedly be disappointed. His real life image could never match the picture I have of him in my head. 

So, yeah, I've been dreaming of Australia, and of Broome in particular.

sunset on a beach
Cable Beach sunset
The Widows of Broome isn't the best book I've ever read. Arthur Upfield's novels are not great literature. But the mysteries, although a bit slow, are quite interesting. Upfield travelled extensively throughout Australia, and his portrayal of the outback in the early part of the twentieth century, both the landscape and the people, is what makes his books interesting to me. I do admit, though, that his depiction of Australian aboriginals, and the casual and endemic racism which they were subjected to, is disturbing, even if it is historically accurate. I know that might sound a bit hypocritical in light of the challenges faced by First Nations people right here at home. But I don't want to go down that particular rabbit hole right now. 

I want to talk about Australia. 

Hubby and I have been to Australia twice. And I adore reading books that take me back to places I've already been. On our second trip in 2008, we drove almost the entire length of the coast of Western Australia. From Perth, south to Esperance, then inland to Kalgoorlie and the goldfields, and then back north again. All the way to Broome.

For days we followed the long and definitely not winding road.

long straight dirt road

sign saying to beware of stray animals on road for next 240 km

At times, our only stop all day was a roadhouse like this one below, for coffee. On the map, the only dot on the highway for kilometres might not be a town, but a roadhouse. A tiny dot a long, long way from any other dots. Drivers can be mesmerized by the very long, empty, and unbending road, and lulled into inattention. After one coffee stop, just as I was about to hand Hubby his cup, a huge emu lurched onto the road in front of us. Hubby jerked the wheel. Cursed. And then muttered, "Well, that was interesting. You don't know what driving in the outback is until you've stared up at the undercarriage of an emu at 140 clicks." 

On our way north. We stayed in Goomaling (gruesome hotel), Dongara (lovely caravan park with wonderful cottages), Carnarvon, and then Exmouth.... 

We stayed for several days in Exmouth. We swam and snorkeled at Turquoise Bay, in Cape Range National Park. Hiked in Mandu Mandu Gorge. Saw wallabies, lots of lizards and birds and many, many flies. Hence the head net.

man in hiking gear and head net


And we were awakened at five each morning by flying alarm clocks. These noisy cockatoos landed on the roof of our cabin every morning while we were in Exmouth.  

white cockatoos on a roof

... then it was on to Point Sampson, and Port Hedland (yuk... its nickname is 'brown town'), and then beautiful Eighty Mile Beach (where we attended a moving Anzac Day ceremony at dawn on the beach, which I wrote about in this post, and where, even with 80 miles of beach, there was no swimming.) You see, we'd discovered that, in Australia, one does NOT just stop at any likely looking beach and go swimming as we had once dreamed. Too many jelly-fish, stone fish, salt water crocodiles, rip tides, undertows, and whatever. Case in point... this was our conversation as we checked into our lovely cabin in Point Sampson.... Me: Do you have a beach where it's safe to swim? Clerk:Yep. But you might want to wear shoes into the water. There's blue ringed octopus. They hide in the rocks. Me: Oh? What do they do to you? Clerk: Kill ya. Me: Do you have a pool??? 

Travel is so educational.

And eventually, after many days and many, many kilometres we came to Broome. According to Lonely Planet, "Aussie's get a dreamy, faraway look in their eyes at the mention of Broome." 

Yeah, well.... now we know why. Beautiful, tropical beaches. Like Cable Beach below. That's Hubby riding a wave to shore.

man body surfing in the ocean

A lovely frontier style town. With resorts that look like corrugated iron-roofed sheds, but aren't. A museum that relates Broome's rough and tumble past, built on the pearl industry, and all the greed and cruelty that entailed. A cool little pedestrian mall called Johhny Chi Lane. And pearl shops galore.  Broome pearls are famous...and pricey. Hubby bought me a beautiful "champagne" pearl.

That's me below shopping in the market at the courthouse. There were tons of stalls with crafts, food, and art. 

woman in shorts and sunhat in open market

And between the stalls... one ginormous boab tree.

large boab tree

And sunsets. Broome has the most beautiful sunsets we'd ever seen. And a wonderfully laid back, slow paced, have a beer and watch the sunset kind of vibe that suited us down to the ground.

woman leaning on a fence with sunset behind

And of course let's not forget sunset camel riding. You can't go to Broome and not go on a sunset camel ride.

woman and man on camels with sunset behind

Yep, we loved Australia all right. And we saw a lot of it over the course of our two trips. But Broome was special. We adored Broome. Every time I mention the name, Hubby still sighs and says, "Gosh, I loved Broome." 

And ever since we came home from Australia, I've loved reading books that are set there. 

Like Dirt Music by Tim Winton. Dirt Music, set in coastal Western Australia, in Broome, and in the wild and remote region known as The Kimberly, might not be everyone's cup of tea. It's pretty gritty. But then Western Australia, outside of Perth that is, is pretty gritty too. And surviving there, making a life, isn't for the faint of heart. Have a look at this review by Peter Porter in The Guardian. 

My favourite Australian mystery writer is Peter Temple. His books aren't set in Broome or even in the west. The Broken Shore, my favourite of his novels, is set in rural Victoria, south of Melbourne, along the famous Great Ocean Road, with its "iconic jagged coastline", where, as one reviewer puts it, "the shore is not all that is broken." You can read that review for yourself here. Temple is a superb writer. His plots are gripping. And I think you'll love his depiction of Victoria's down-at-heel towns that have seen better days, and his down-a-heel characters in all their flawed glory. At least I know I did. 


Hubby and I love the grandeur of Australia; even the most desolate parts have their own beauty. We're fascinated by the vast array of plants and animals that are so very different from here. And by its history and culture. And language. I mean, I know it's supposed to be English... but even Australians themselves couldn't tell us why they call sausages "snags." And believe me we asked this question many, many times. 

But, I think part of the appeal of Australia for us, in particular small town and rural Australia, is its utter lack of pretension. One night on our way to Broome, somewhere north and east of Exmouth, I can't remember what town, we stopped into a tiny local grocery/liquor store. I wanted to buy a bottle of wine, thinking of having a nice glass before dinner. I picked up one of only four or five on the shelf and gasped at the price. I held the bottle up and said to the young clerk, "Wow. That's really expensive, isn't it?" She just shrugged and said, "Yis 're in the Kimberly now." I felt like a pretentious twit as I put it back on the shelf. And my lesson learned, I had a nice cold beer with my supper, instead. 

shadows of camels and riders

What are you reading... and dreaming of these days?

Two Traveling Texans