Thursday, 29 October 2015

Not in a Rut, Exactly

There's been so much talk these days about the five (or the ten) essential items every woman needs in their closet. I even wrote a post about that a few weeks ago. And so much written about "editing" one's wardrobe, and about "capsule wardrobes." Like the need for a great blue shirt. Ines de la Fressange says in this article that a woman only needs "a few really good pieces," and that a blue shirt is one of them. 

Inspired by this ad for AP jeans, I bought a blue shirt at the Nordstrom sale in July.

"Not in a Rut Exactly"... fall inspiration

And I wrote a post about my new blue shirt in August. But that was back when I could wear it like this. With my Paige skinny jeans, and my comfy Stan Smith Adidas. And wear it I did. Just like this. Over and over. It became my late summer run-around "uniform." 

Paige skinny, jeans, Equipment shirt, Michale Kors bag, Stan Smith Adidas

But summer turned to fall. And the weather became too chilly for a shirt and sneakers, not to mention bare ankles. And besides, I was growing weary of my "uniform." You see, that's the trouble with "capsule wardrobes." The problem with the "five pieces every woman needs" ... is that there are only five pieces. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a great believer in editing, whether it's writing or wardrobes. But a girl has to have some variety. 

Thanks goodness for the change of seasons. I set aside my blue shirt for a few weeks. And now I'm ready to haul it out again, and see how it fits with my fall and winter pieces. 

So I tried it on the other day with the same Paige skinny jeans and my new Paul Green boots. I swapped the white cami for a navy one, and tied this blue, animal print scarf like a neckerchief. I've had this scarf for ages. I thought the mix of dark and light blue really pulled the shirt and the jeans together. Neckerchiefs are big this year, apparently. I saw them in numerous fashion lay-outs in Vogue and Harper's Bazaar this fall. I like this look. But if the temperature dips, my bare neck will be...well, bare... and cold. So I tried tying the scarf like an ascot. I hope it doesn't make me look too much like David Niven.
Equipment shirt, Paige skinny jeans, Paul Green boots

Equipment shirt, Paige skinny jeans, Paul Green boots

And I'm really liking blue and brown this season. Actually, I'm liking brown period, as it happens. I thought that my brown Max Mara coat would be great over the blue shirt. The soft blue shirt with the chocolate brown coat... more milk chocolate than dark... looks yummy, I think. Gad... it seems that I've had this coat for years. And years. Max Mara coats are wonderful... they're really built to last. In this shot, I've exchanged my lovely, new, burgundy Marc Jacobs bag for my old, brown Coach bag. Can't expect Marc to do all the heavy lifting this season. And if you could see all the junk I carry around in my purse, you'd know I mean that quite literally. Yep. This could be a great run-around "uniform."
  Max Mara coat, Equipment shirt, Paige skinny jeans, Paul Green boots, Coach bag

And in keeping with my current obsession with brown. I can pair my blue shirt with my brown, boot-cut Yoga jeans. I love these jeans with my new brown boots. Even if they are a teensy bit western, a little "Urban Cowboy." Maybe because they're a little "Urban Cowboy." And I can add this other animal print scarf tied like a neckerchief. I adore this silk scarf; I featured it in an earlier post. One side is grey, tan, and black and the other is more brown than grey. Making it go with almost everything. 

          Equipment shirt, Paige skinny jeans, Paul Green boots

I don't know what you call this method of tying a scarf, but we used to do it all the time in university. Fold the scarf in a triangle with the ends at the back (like a bandit,) then overlap the ends, bring them around, and tie in the front. And the grey side of the scarf pulls in the grey of my, now ubiquitous, Vince coat sweater. See. 

Vince ciat sweater, Equipment shirt, Yoga by Second jeans, Paul Green boots

Even those who profess to wear a daily "uniform," and who talk about "edited" closets, and fashion "essentials" must get bored at times with their five (or ten) essential pieces. Preston Davis of the blog Keep It Chic, who has long talked about her daily "uniform" has been blogging about, as she puts it, her uniform rut. So I feel in good company. And I wouldn't say that I was in a rut, exactly. I just needed the changing season and the falling temperatures to give me a little push. As much as I blog about this outfit or that one... when it comes time to dash out to the grocery store or the dentist, I tend to reach for the same three or four pieces. That's part of being retired. I don't care any less about how I look; I just don't have to strive so much for variety

And I'm not ready to abandon the yearly exercise of editing my closet. I have really taken to the idea that I will keep in my closet only those things which I truly love. I plan to write a blog post about that soon. But limiting oneself to five (or ten) pieces should be an academic exercise. Not a hard and fast rule. I mean... what's wrong with seven... or thirteen? 

And since I am in such a mood for blue, maybe I need to shop for a lovely blue sweater. Like this one from The House of Barrie, a knitwear company located in the Scottish borders. Gorgeous isn't it? Hmmm. We'll see.
Meanwhile. Back to David Niven. When I saw the shot of myself in my ascot-ish scarf, I immediately thought of him. It seemed to me that he always wore an ascot. Nope. I couldn't find a single photograph of him in an ascot. But he did wear a bow tie a lot. It was Cary Grant who wore the ascots. Like this one from the movie It Takes a Thief.

And his scarf looks kind of like mine, don't you think? Okay. Maybe not, but it is blue. Sigh. I love Cary Grant.

Now, I have to go do my work-out and get ready for my book club meeting this evening. We're discussing the "new" Harper Lee novel Go Set a Watchman. With several former English teachers as part of the group, I'm expecting strong feelings about this book. And hopefully a rousing discussion. More on that later in a November book post. With so many new books to read ... I'm definitely not in a rut there.

What do you do if you find yourself in a fashion rut? That's if you ever do.

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, TBT at Happiness at Midlife.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

With My Nose in a Book

To tell you the truth, I think I've lived my whole life with "my nose stuck in a book," as my grandmother, and my mother, used to say. Not that they weren't great readers themselves, they were. It was just that whenever I was needed, or wanted, or was supposed to be doing something else, I had my nose in a book. 

This affliction started early. And was aided and abetted by my mum. I remember her reading to me from both of these old books. I don't really remember much about The Castle of Grumpy Grouch, except that it was a great favourite. Mum and I talked about it a few months ago, about where it disappeared to, and how much we loved it. Then when I was writing a blog post about how Hubby had been a teensy bit grumpy in the past few months, the title just came to mind. So I looked the book up. And found that Kessinger Publishing had made available "facsimile reprints" of "this rare antiquarian book" because they considered it "culturally important." Cool. So I ordered one from Amazon and sent it to my mum. The Hungry Tiger of Oz I remember better. How I loved the concept of the vegetable man who would take root if he stood too long in one spot. I remember puzzling over that as a child. How did he sleep, or eat his dinner? Would slippers help? 


I think that my grandmother Burpee bought me, The Shiniest Star. I always loved this tale of the little angel Touselhead who could never make her star as shiny as the other angels. The book had pop-ups, and little pockets with things tucked into them, and I adored it. When my niece Susie had her first child, I thought I would wrap it up and give it to her, from one Susie Burpee to the other.  It was a bit beaten up, some of the pop-ups didn't pop any more. I had written my name in the front, along with my signature drawing of a lady, in high heels, a triangle skirt, holding her purse in one hand and a yo-yo in the other. I have absolutely no idea why I drew this lady in all of my books, and why she always held a purse and a yo-yo. Kids are weird, aren't they? Anyway, when Susie and her husband came to Ottawa one weekend, I went along with my parcel to meet her for coffee. I feared that Susie would think this was an exceedingly stupid gift. But I needn't have worried. She loved it. When she opened it, she got all teary and cried..."Oh, look there's your little name!" And then we both cried. 

These are the first books that I remember reading to myself. Maggie Muggins and her creator Mary Grannan were kind of an institution in New Brunswick. And especially at our house. Grannan wasn't only a writer, and later a radio and television personality; she had also been my mum's grade one teacher. And like many Canadian kids, I grew up reading her books and watching Maggie Muggins on TV.

Maggie Muggins favourites

After Maggie, I graduated to books like these. Some were cast-offs from my older sisters, some were my own. These are two that I rescued when my mum moved from the old farmhouse into her new little home. We took many of our old books to the Salvation Army Store, but I brought a representative sample home with me. Like these two.

two of my fav Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew books

And these ones that had belonged to my father when he was a boy.

books of my fathers from the thirties

I had to be selective. We have a small house and I had a whole lot of books already. Especially old books.. I love old books. These are a few that used to belong to a school teacher who lived near my mum's parents and taught at the Devon Superior School. When Kelsey Gregory, who had never married, and her bachelor brother died, my grandparents bought her house with all its contents. Kelsey was a great reader, and over the years, I appropriated quite a few of her books. This Gene Stratton-Porter book, The Keeper of the Bees, is one of my favourites. 

some of my favourite vintage books

And this one too. Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch  by Alice Caldwell Hegan, published in 1911. Mrs. Wiggs is a "philosopher" whose entire "philosophy lay in keeping the dust off her rose-coloured spectacles." She is a widow raising her five children alone after "Mr. Wiggs travelled to eternity by the alcohol route." I love that bit. Kelsey's taste definitely ran to melodrama, with a bit of tragedy and sacrifice, where everything turns out all right in the end. Can't argue with that, I guess. 

Mrs Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch

My taste (as many of you know) definitely runs to murder and mayhem, with lots of Canadian lit, and a good dash of literary chick lit. This is the appellation I like to give to those books that are intelligent, and really well written, but are most definitely favoured by women readers. Books by writers like Nancy Mitford, Anita Brookner, and Barbara Pym. Not necessarily written for women, but which are mostly about women, and probably read primarily by women. I'm not a big fan of non-fiction, unless it's a subject that already interests me... like the Mitford sisters. But I'm trying to cultivate that.

Anyhoo. These are the books I currently have my nose in. Or should I say, in which I currently have my nose? Not wanting to end a sentence with a preposition, you know. 

I'm finally getting around to reading the newly published Harper Lee book, Go Set a Watchman. I'm also reading two non-fiction books. Me, Myself and Us, by Canadian professor and writer Brian Little, is about "the science of personality." It's really interesting. But I'm not good at reading non-fiction books at one go. I usually dip into them over the course of several months, and eventually finish them, maybe. The other non-fiction book I'm working on is The Mockingbird Next Door by Marja Mills. Ironically I'd just started reading this memoir about Marja Mills' relationship with the Lee sisters, Alice and Nelle (Harper), when I heard the news that a "new" Harper Lee novel would be published this year. Let's just say that I have lots to say about that event, but I'm waiting until I finish reading the novel. I'll get back to you about both books later in November.

current reading

This is my "on deck" pile. The new Sharon Bolton mystery Little Black Lies. Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own by Kate Bollick is a non-fiction book that I've been wanting to read since last April. I stumbled upon an article about the book when I was writing this post about Barbara Pym and Anita Brookner. And the Margaret Atwood book Madd Addam has sat unread on my shelf for over a year. Shame on me. I know it will be fabulous. 

upcoming reads

So, this week. When I really should have been cleaning my house, I wasn't. Because, well, I had to finish the Laura Lippman that was due back at the library, and there was the Harper Lee novel that I needed to read before my book club meeting. And as I sat down with my book and my cup of tea, I chuckled as I thought of my grandmother and my mum. And how I still have my nose in a book when I could be doing something else, and probably should be doing something else.

But, if my penchant for avoiding just about anything in favour of reading is exasperating, they have no one to blame but themselves. If they hadn't been such avid readers. If there wasn't always a pile of books somewhere in our house to read, or if Grammy didn't always have boxes of her books ready to give to us. If my mum hadn't read to us kids so faithfully when we were young. If we didn't always get books for Christmas; I mean, it wasn't Christmas if we didn't get a book or two. If Mum and Grammy didn't always have at least one book on the go themselves. Well, maybe I'd have been better at dusting or cleaning my bathroom, less dreamy, or so unable, it seems, to remember what the heck I'm supposed to be doing if I spy my half finished book before the task is completed. 

Yep. I have to say, Mum. 

If my nose is always stuck in a book. Not my fault.

Linking this week with : All About You Link Party at Mama and More

Thursday, 22 October 2015

"Sunny Ways, My Friends." And Sunny Days

In the words of Justin Trudeau our new Prime Minister-designate..."Sunny ways, my friends, sunny ways." And hopefully for those of us who live in the "great white north," sunny days as well. I'm going to pause here for a moment and do my little happy dance... been a lot of that going on since Monday night. 

Okay. Back to my topic, which isn't politics, surprisingly. But fashion.... not surprisingly. It's been a wonderful season so far for fall fashion. Crisp cool days. Cool enough that the leaves have turned and are beginning to fall. This is the road near our house where we walk sometimes. 

carpet of leaves near Manotick Ontario

Yep, we've had the kind of weather that's cool enough for cosy sweaters and boots. But still warm enough some days that I don't need a jacket or coat over my sweater. The other day I wore my cream, wool Gap turtleneck from last year, with high-rise Paige skinny jeans, and my new Paul Green boots. I added a favourite Anne Marie Chagnon necklace and earrings. And a gold bracelet which belonged to my mum, who was given it by her mum, my grandmother.

Gap turtleneck, Paige high-rise jeans, Paul Green boots, Marc Jacobs bag     Gap turtleneck, Paige high-rise jeans, Paul Green boots, Marc Jacobs bag

They can't all be sunny days; it wouldn't be fall if we didn't have days like this. On Sunday Hubby and I walked in a stiff breeze under a threatening sky. Definitely not sunny, but still beautiful. It was snowing by the time we reached home. All the better to build a roaring fire, make a nice cup of tea, and log some quality book time.

Fall foliage near Manotick Ontario

And all the better to wear my beloved Max Mara tweed blazer. I bought it in the late 90's, the last time longer jackets were in style. I was so happy last year when I saw that long jackets were back. It's really well made and still looks like new. I don't think tweed ever wears out, do you? And the sage green is the exact colour of the green stripes in the Vince t-shirt I bought at the Nordstrom sale in July. Aren't I clever? Or maybe my subconscious drew me to the tee because it remembered the colour of the jacket, even if I didn't. Or maybe it was just luck. My Citizens of Humanity jeans are nicely faded now, and I love the look of faded denim with dark green. My buddy Liz chose this Holt Renfrew wool scarf for me a few years ago. Sage green and teal paisley on one side and soft brown animal print on the other, it goes with everything. Including my old green blazer. Hey look, I'm mixing my prints here: stripes and paisley. I am just so on trend, aren't I?

Max Mara blazer, Vince tee, Citizens of Humanity jeans, Paul Green boots

And this is what I wore for lunch with an old friend the other day. It was most definitely chilly that afternoon, but I was toasty warm in my Vince coat sweater, this camel and burgundy scarf, my burgundy NYDJ pants, and my burgundy Marc Jacobs bag. Clearly I am happy with this outfit. And, you know, I'm just feeling happy in general this week.

Vince cardigan, NYDJ jeans, Marc Jacobs bag     Vince cardigan, NYDJ jeans, Marc Jacobs bag

You see, Hubby had a very positive six week check-up with his surgeon this morning. As of today, he's no longer wearing a sling to immobilize his shoulder and arm, and he can start his physiotherapy tomorrow. Soon he'll be driving again. And maybe, before too long, he'll be back in action. But let's not get ahead of ourselves; there's months of physiotherapy before that. Patience is still the watch word. But at least he can start to do something to effect a better recovery, something other than waiting.

fall carpet of leaves

I love the fall. The season of new beginnings. And endings, of course. And here in the "great white north" we've had some serious beginnings and endings this week. Canada elected a new government on Monday. And a new Prime Minister. He's the son of a man whom you might call a Canadian icon. Love him or hate him, you can't deny that Pierre Elliot Trudeau, who was our Prime Minister from 1968 to 1979, and from 1980 to 1984, had an indelible effect on this country. In fact many of us grew up during the Trudeau years, and were affected by "Trudeaumania" as the press called it, even before we were old enough to vote. So I'm sure you'll forgive me for being a teensy bit nostalgic. 

Here's a famous shot of Pierre carrying two year old Justin on his hip, like a football, and being saluted by a member of the RCMP as they enter Rideau Hall in 1973. I love this picture.

On election night, I stayed up until the bitter end, watched all the returns, the speeches.... everything. And despite the fact that I was happy with the outcome of the election, I felt a little sad as well. You see, every election since I was old enough to vote, I've either watched the returns on TV with my step-father or called him afterwards to rehash the results. It was a tradition. My step-dad was a dyed-in-the-wool Liberal. Growing up in a riding that was a longtime Tory strong-hold, he was dubbed "that Grit from Douglas" as a young man. And he remained a true Grit (if you'll pardon the pun) all his life. My step-dad died a few years ago. But after almost ten long years of Tory rule in Canada, I so wish I could have made that call on Monday night... he would have been ecstatic. 

But back to sunny days and sunny ways. "Sunny ways, my friends, sunny ways" is a line from Justin Trudeau's speech on election night. He was actually quoting another Liberal Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier who said those words a hundred and twenty years ago. This article in the National Post explains how Laurier earned his reputation as the original "sunny" politician, who preferred compromise to confrontation. 

Rideau River on a sunny fall morning

So... the election was over. Tuesday dawned bright and unseasonably warm. Party volunteers all across the country pulled up campaign signs. I saw a few being tossed into the backs of trucks as I drove to my appointment across town. I'm sure there were many, many candidates, and campaign workers, and journalists who were so exhausted they were loathe to get out of bed. But it was impossible to stay in bed on such a beautiful, sunny day. Besides, for winners and losers alike it was time to get on with the next thing, whatever that might be. 

And for me. I'm done talking about elections and politics. Let's talk about fashion. 

What do you love to wear when the weather is perfect for cosy sweaters and tweed jackets?  

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.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Girls Etc. on Trains

I've finally read Paula Hawkins' book Girl on the Train. I liked it. At times I loved it, and at other times I despaired of the plot and the characters... so, I guess when you balance those two could say that I liked it.

The story revolves around Rachel, the "girl on the train," who travels daily to and from London right past the old neighbourhood where she used to live with her ex-husband. In fact, she can see the house, number 23 Blenheim Road, from the train. As well as another house that Rachel fixates on. Number 15, the twin of her old house, "a Victorian semi, two storeys high, overlooking a narrow, well-tended garden... beyond which lie a few metres of no man's land before you get to the railway track. I know this house by heart." Each morning and each evening the train carries Rachel past this spot. And she watches the couple who live at number 15 whom she calls Jess and Jason. She watches them, fascinated, because to her they are a "perfect, golden couple." She fantasizes about them: he is "dark haired and well built, strong, protective, kind. She is small, a "beauty, pale-skinned with blonde hair cropped short." Only Rachel's never met Jason or Jess. Knows nothing about them, really. Until one day when she sees something disturbing from the train, and then Jess, whose real name is Megan, disappears, and Rachel decides to insert herself into their lives, for real. 

It's a wonderful premise for a novel. The idea of life seen through the window of a train, images that flash into view and then flip away as the train moves on. Hawkins builds the plot in snippets of narrative, initially focusing only on the morning and the evening commutes. And then, as the plot moves away from the train itself, Hawkins' short chapters develop the story using that time frame..."Morning" followed by "Evening" and so on. 

This structure is perfect for a mystery novel that revolves around the idea of memory and truth, and if one can ever actually deliver the other. Especially when the story is told by a particularly unreliable narrator such as Rachel, and in the first person, to boot. I mean, we all lie to ourselves at times, try to cover up our bad behaviour. But when that bad behaviour is committed in a drunken fog, dare I say 'fugue' ...well.... who knows what really happened. You see, Rachel has a drinking problem, among other issues. She's not a terribly sympathetic character, but we empathize with her. At least I did. And then Hawkins introduces two other narrators, Megan/Jess, and then later in the novel Rachel's ex-husband's new wife Anna, and the mess that Rachel is embroiled in becomes even more complex and confusing. 

I found the novel compelling. The plot structure creative. And the style lean and gritty. Hawkins pulls no punches in her description of Rachel's mess of a life. It's definitely not pretty. And yet the humiliating detail of desperate late night phone calls to her ex, soiled underwear, and alcoholic black-outs are what develop the reader's empathy for her. We understand Rachel's fear and her desperation, and we want to find out where Megan is and what really happened that day, as much as Rachel does. 

But, you know, about half-way through the novel, I had had enough. I wanted Hawkins to change things up a bit, perhaps deviate from the repetitive rounds of Rachel's determination to get her act together, followed by her backsliding. Maybe move away from the now-predictable structure of "Morning" and "Evening," brilliant as it seemed in the beginning. The whole novel seems to flounder. And then it improves. Until the last bit. I guess you could say that I agree with Doug Johnstone's review in The Independent, when he says that Girl on the Train is a "cleverly crafted piece of suburban noir." Gee, I wish I had said that. But Johnstone goes on to call the climax and the end of the book "ham-fisted." Yep. It is... a little arbitrary, maybe a tad stagey, or a teensy bit too predictable in its efforts to be as Tess Gerritsen calls it "wildly unpredictable." But then again, maybe I'm just being cranky. 

Reading Paula Hawkins' book had me thinking about how so many books revolve around trains. Like Patricia Highsmith's Strangers on a Train. It's about two men who meet on a train, their strange conversation, the ensuing pact, and a murder.


The book was perhaps even more famous once it was made into a movie by Alfred Hitchcock. 

And then there's the most famous train mystery, Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. Apparently when the book was published in the United States it was renamed Murder in the Calais Coach to distinguish it from Graham Greene's Stamboul Train which had been published in America as Orient Express. Confused? Me too.

Train mysteries abound. In the first scene of Girl on the Train, Rachel spots a discarded pile of clothing beside the tracks, and then later can't get the image out of her head: "I can't help it, I catch sight of these discarded scraps, a dirty T-shirt, or a lonesome shoe, and all I can think of is the other shoe, and the feet that fitted into them." And I couldn't get that scene out of my head. It reminded me of this book by Ann Granger. One of Granger's Mitchell and Markby series, Beneath These Stones, starts with Meredith Mitchell on a train. When the train is halted due to work on the track, she spies an incongruous green backpack in the shape of a frog dangling from a tree branch. And later when a dead body is found and her partner Alan Markby is involved in a murder investigation, Meredith can't get the image of the green plush backpack out of her head. Bodies and train tracks, they seem to go together.

I've been quite interested in old mystery novels lately. Partly because Sarah Weinman, a former student of mine, is an editor and writer in New York and her work has peaked my interest. She's edited a couple of anthologies of women mystery writers of the forties and fifties, especially writers of what Sarah calls novels of "domestic suspense."  Novelists like Patricia Highsmith, Vera Caspary who wrote the novel Laura, and Dorothy B. Hughes author of In a Lonely Place, which was made into the now classic film noir starring Humphrey Bogart. And partly just because I love books and films set in the thirties and forties. Such a stylish era, wasn't it? 

Anyhoo... where was I? Oh yes... trains. Of course, I'd heard of Patricia Wentworth, and of her Miss Silver series, but I'd never actually read any of her books. When I saw several of her novels listed on, I thought I'd give them a try. Published anywhere from the twenties to the late fifties, her books are surprisingly well written. I say surprisingly, because the original cover art on the books brings to mind pulp fiction and true romance stories. Which I guess they are, in a way; they certainly do not purport to be literature. But I've found them charming.     

And in the Miss Silver books I've now read (and listened to) there always seems to be a train involved in the crime or in its solution. In The Traveller Returns Miss Silver sits on a train, calmly knitting, and listening to a strange woman recount the events of her day the details of which will eventually be integral in solving Miss Silver's case. And in other novels there are train crashes or train journeys or murders on the station platforms. I could go on, but I won't.

I love train travel. It's always seemed so romantic. And although I'd fantasized about travelling on trains when I was young, I'd never actually been on one until I was in my early twenties. I'd just moved to Ottawa from down-east, and had a job selling Lancôme cosmetics at a down-town department store. My second week there they told me they were sending me to Montreal for a "school." This was a one-day product knowledge workshop at the Lancôme headquarters in downtown Montreal. And I was going on the train. Ooohhh, how exciting! I'd never been to Montreal. Or on a train. I got all dolled up, with help from my sister (my dress, her coat and her high heels) and off I went. I was cool. Or I could fake it. Until I asked the purser on the train where I could get a cup of tea, no seat service in those days. And he pointed to the door at the far end of the aisle, and said the snack bar was in the next car. I looked at him in horror and disbelief. "I'm not going out there!" I gasped, seeing visions of my hair whipping wildly in the wind as I tottered on  my high heels across the ... and that was as far as I got in my imagining before I saw that the junction between cars was actually enclosed. "Thank-you, " I said with as much dignity as I could muster, and tottered down the aisle for my cuppa, thinking that I had seen one too many episodes of Gunsmoke, or Bonanza as a child.  

But I've digressed. Back to books about trains. 

Have you read Paula Hawkins' The Girl on the Train? What did you think? Feel free to weigh in. On this book, or other train books, or just on trains in general. 

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

What's With Brown?

There's more to fall colour than red, you know. Take these gorgeous birch trees for example. Delicious golds, honey yellows, and soft browns.  

One might be persuaded that Michael Kors was power walking with Hubby and me when we passed this stand of birch trees on Thanksgiving Day morning. That he used these trees for inspiration for his cosy fall 2015 looks. I mean if one didn't know better.

Seriously, it's the brilliant red, and bright orange fall leaves that get all the attention. But I'm very partial to golds and browns myself. I remember a few years ago when somehow my predominantly black and grey winter wardrobe had morphed into brown. An outfit here, a new purchase there, a dark chocolate sweater and blouse, a gold hounds tooth jacket, a brown tweed skirt... pretty soon I was wearing brown most days. And I didn't notice the shift until one of my male colleagues pointed it out to me. "Uh, Sue?" he asked one day. "What's with brown?" "Dahling," I replied,  "Didn't you know that brown is the new black?" 

And, you know, I've hardly worn brown the past few years. Suddenly I was all about grey and black and charcoal. But now that I have my new brown Paul Green ankle boots, I can indulge my taste for brown again. Not shopping for new sweaters and pants, though. Just shopping my closet and hauling out a few things that I haven't worn in a while.

Like this brown J Crew sweater. I bought it last year, and only wore it a couple of times. But I like it with my black leather pants, my old Elie Tahari coat, and my brown boots. And I'm thinking I like black and brown together.

And I really like my new brown boots with my 7 For All Mankind boot-cut jeans. And this Elie Tahari brown and black animal print cardigan. Not sure if you can see here but the sweater has black lace appliqué down the front. I love this sweater and I've not worn it out the door since I retired. 

Ditto for this brown Judith and Charles silk shirt... not worn for a couple of years. Partly because I don't like the look of that shade of brown next to my face anymore. But with a white cami underneath, it might be okay. And maybe I could take it for a spin this season with my Paige high-rise skinny jeans, my brown ankle boots and this verrrry old Max Mara tweed blazer. I bought this jacket in 2000, when if you recall, tweed made a very big come-back. 

This shot, also from our Thanksgiving Day walk, reminded me that blue can be a fall colour, too. And blue looks much better next to my verging on sixty year old face. Blue and browns look lovely together, I think.  

This is my new blue Equipment shirt that I bought at the Nordstrom Anniversary sale in July. 

And I love the look of this oversized shirt with my brown boots and my boot-cut jeans. And my chocolate brown Akris leather jacket from four or five years ago.


And not to ignore reds altogether. Hubby and I took this shot when we were driving home from our hiking holiday last week. Fall really is a wonderful season, isn't it?  

Brown and gold and red can be lovely together, I think. This gold and brown Max Mara houndstooth check jacket is also from quite a few years ago. I love it with jeans and boots. And my vintage croc bag.  And maybe this red Gap tee? Or even something a bit brighter. Hmmm. Maybe I do need to go shopping after all.


 I should probably fuss with this combination a bit, make it edgier, more au courant. Less like what I've always been comfortable wearing... jeans, boots, blazer. Maybe a longer, loose sweater, and a big blanket scarf wrapped a couple of times. I could do that. And maybe I will. I'll get back to you on that. 

In the meantime. I'll need to dig in my closet for scarves. Dig really hard. Before I decide that I need to shop. Because the rationale for buying the brown boots was to be able to wear the brown stuff I already owned. Not so that I would then go out and buy new brown stuff to go with the old brown stuff and the brown boots. If you follow me.  That would be pretty poor planning. And if you've read this blog before, you'll know that I'm nothing if not anal about my planning. 

What about you... are you a brown lover? Or gold or chocolate or caramel or honey? 

Hmmm. Now I get why talking about fall fashion always makes me hungry:) 


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.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

A Walk in the Woods... or... Algonquin Bound Without a Canoe

This week Hubby and I went for a walk in the woods. A couple of walks, actually. Along the trails in Algonquin Park. 


Usually when we walk in these particular woods, we have three or four packs, a couple of paddles, and a canoe. Not this trip. We've changed up our routine this year, due to Hubby's debilitating shoulder injury and subsequent surgery. Don't get me wrong, I love camping. And canoeing. But I am NOT going camping with a man who does not have the use of both arms. Nope. That's because I am most definitely second "mate" on our little green Kevlar ship. 

Booth Lake, Algonquin Park, 2010

This is me above, trying to paddle in the stern during our Algonquin trip one summer. Note the look of concentration on my face, as we make slow and zig-zaggy progress across this utterly calm lake, until we switch back to our normal positions. Phew. So you see, on these trips, I am the helper, the do what I'm told person... when to paddle and on what side, when to move out of the way with my much more puny pack so Hubby can get past me on the portage trail with the canoe and the big pack... I'm sure you get my drift here. Mind you, not all of our camping expeditions involve portaging several packs and a canoe into the interior of Algonquin Park. For our yearly fall camping trip we use our tent trailer. But even though the fall trip is not a wilderness camping trip, I'm unable to set up the trailer by myself, so it was not an option. Not this year. 

So, instead, we rented a cottage on the outskirts of Algonquin Park for a couple of nights. We left the canoe at home, packed our hiking poles, and with the cooler full of good food and wine, we set off to salvage as much as we could of the fall trip we love so much. Our plans were to hike two areas of Algonquin Park that we never usually see. 

On the first day we walked part of the "Highland Backpacking Trail." This is a "challenging"  trail with 19 km and 35 km loops. According to the warning signs at the access point, the 19 km loop is intended to take two days and the 35 loop three days. We were only planning to hike as far as we felt comfortable doing, and then we'd turn around and head back to the car. What a gorgeous fall day it was. Cool with brilliant sunshine.

hiking the Highlands Backpacking Trail in Algonquin Park

We climbed steadily on the way in. This is typical Algonquin scenery. Pine trees, and long, forested vistas. 

hiking the Highlands Backpacking Trail in Algonquin Park

And rocks and streams and more trees.

hiking the Highlands Backpacking Trail in Algonquin Park

This is where we stopped for lunch.

lunch stop while hiking the Highlands Backpacking Trail in Algonquin Park

This is me below... with my two puny packs. And my new Gortex jacket that I bought last winter. As the camera flashed I turned sideways, "See my big pack, " I said. Hubby snorted. We shed our jackets and rolled up our sleeves shortly after this. The temperature was only about 12 degrees Celsius, but this trail was earning its "challenging" description, and we were both sweating. 

lunch stop while hiking the Highlands Backpacking Trail in Algonquin Park

On our second day of hiking we tackled the "difficult" "Western Uplands Backpacking Trail." Like the trail the day before, the Western Uplands was designed for backpackers to hike over several days, camping out at least two nights on the trail. And like the first day, we would walk as far as we wanted, and then retrace our steps. The weather was surely co-operating. Sunshine, blue sky, and lovely crisp fall temperatures. Again.

hiking the Western Uplands Backpacking Trail in Algonquin Park

See the pile of walking sticks we found near the beginning of the trail? Normally I'd be grabbing one of these. I love to walk with a stick. But we had brought our own from home, so we left these for other walkers. And I was soon very glad to have my stick. We negotiated lots of uphill sections, and even trickier downhill ones. 

hiking the Western Uplands Backpacking Trail in Algonquin Park

This is part of our route. Or should I say root? See that one in the middle of the shot that's raised off the ground a bit? There's just enough space there to insert the toe of a size 8.5 hiking boot, I'd say.

hiking the Western Uplands Backpacking Trail in Algonquin Park

I took the shot below because this is part of the trail that Hubby remembered well. He and a good buddy portaged this trail into Maple Leaf Lake twenty-five years ago. With packs and a canoe. Can you imagine negotiating that bit with a canoe on your head? Me neither. Some people will do anything for good fishing. And I gather that when they arrived at Maple Leaf Lake it was all weeded in and there were no fish to be had. 

hiking the Western Uplands Backpacking Trail in Algonquin Park

When we walked through this grove of maple trees the wind blew and, for a few minutes, it rained leaves. I took several shots standing there as twirling leaves fell around me.... and none of them showed up in the pictures. Pooh. That was disappointing.

hiking the Western Uplands Backpacking Trail in Algonquin Park

Well, except for this one which just "accidentally," and "conveniently," lodged itself in my hat. How lucky was that?

hiking the Western Uplands Backpacking Trail in Algonquin Park

This is where we stopped for lunch on day two. There's no place better for a picnic than a clearing beside a stream with lovely flat rocks, I always say.

hiking the Western Uplands Backpacking Trail in Algonquin Park

Hubby and I love being out in the bush on our own. Paddling, fishing...or like this trip, simply walking. We saw two other hikers all day. Not to sound too smarmy, but I think it's on days like this that we get back bits of ourselves that get lost in the wear and tear of everyday life. We talk a lot. And begin to see each other the way we always have done. Yep. A good walk in the woods is restorative for relationships, I think. And just what the doctor ordered for us. Especially lately

hiking in Algonquin Park

hiking the Western Uplands Backpacking Trail in Algonquin Park

I had planned to end my story about our fall walk in the woods with an inspirational quote. Maybe something from Thoreau? But I thought... nah... too cliché. And then I remembered that Bill Bryson wrote a book named A Walk in the Woods. So that's why that title was stuck in my head, I thought. In this memoir, travel writer, Bryson and an old college buddy try to walk the Appalachian Trail. And I do mean "try." I love Bryson's work. Hubby and I both read In a Sunburned Country before we travelled to Australia. We laughed, and read bits out loud to each other, and then brought the book with us on our trip so we could compare our experience with Bryson's. And I loved Notes on a Small Island, about his travels in Britain. So why, considering the fact that we love to camp and hike and stuff, have I never read A Walk in the Woods

Well, I plan to remedy that as soon as I can get the book from the library. Read this witty review from The New York Times or this one from the blog The Book Brothel and you'll want to read the book yourself. 

And in the meantime, check out the trailer for the new movie, based on Bryson's book, starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte. I hope the movie is as funny as the trailer. 

We drove home yesterday from our mini-vacation in full sunshine. Stopped beside a sparkling lake near Calabogie to eat our sandwiches. And today dawned cool and rainy. A perfect day to sleep in and write a blog post. And be glad to NOT be walking in the woods. 

How about you. Do you enjoy a good walk in the woods?

Linking up this week with .... All About You Link Up Party