Sunday, 31 January 2016

Trains, Planes, and Sweaters

Early last week, I boarded an eastbound train. Bound for Montreal, and a mid-winter, mini-break with a friend. One night in Montreal, a nice dinner, some shopping, lunch, a brief visit with my friend's daughter and grandson, and back home. 

train at Fallowfield Station
This train is bound for Montreal...this train.  
I love riding the train. And I love shopping in Montreal. 

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Happiness Is ... What Exactly?

Last Sunday Hubby and I were driving home after having visited my sister's husband in the hospital. And Hubby just happened to mention that friends of ours were leaving for a big trip in a few weeks. This couple, who have been good friends of ours for many years, are lovely people. And they are living what I view as the perfect retirement. They are healthy, and active, and they travel extensively. They're living the life I expected Hubby and I to live when I retired. And so, as we were driving and Hubby shared with me their travel plans, I felt a wave of what I can now describe as pure jealousy. But at the time all I knew was that I was inexplicably cranky, teary even. What the heck was that, I thought?

rainy walk
Rainy day walk on the Osgoode Trail. November 2015.

It was only later when I read this post on the blog The Likes of Me ... about naming negative emotions, sort of fessing up, by examining and giving a name to those feelings that can be destructive, or perhaps even just unworthy of us... that it dawned on me what had happened in the car on Sunday. I was jealous. Of our friends, people we like and admire. And I felt childish and selfish, and like Mr. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice... "heartily ashamed of myself." 

rainy day on the trail
Raindrops keep falling on my head?

The post I read goes on to discuss Alex Korb's book Upward SpiralKorb uses neuroscience to explain how one can, with small life changes, "reverse the course of depression" from a "downward spiral to an upward spiral." Korb offers evidence-based analysis of depression and its causes as well as helpful advice, at least according to the reviews I read. But it was the idea of naming negative emotions that struck a cord with me. That and the fact that besides getting enough sleep, exercising, and practicing mindfulness, Korb suggests "clarifying your values" as a positive step in triggering what he calls the "upward spiral."

Canada geese in the fall
Autumn invasion on the Rideau River, spectacular and deafening.

I don't claim to suffer from depression. And I really have no cause to complain about my lot in life. None. I am perfectly aware that I have been fortunate in life. But that doesn't stop those niggling feelings of discontent some days. Of yearning. Of feeling a teensy bit hard done by. So maybe the secret is to drag those unworthy thoughts, those negative feelings of wanting what I don't have into the daylight, and take a good hard look at them. Call them out, so to speak. And then review what I really do want out of life. And remember what's important to me... what Korb would call "clarifying my values." 

And if I do all this, I know I will realize that I'm pretty much where I want to be. And I should be grateful for that. 

I am grateful for that. 

winter morning on the Rideau
Early morning on the Rideau, steam rising from the open water.
One reads so much about gratitude these days; it's become kind of an Oprah word, now. But according to Alex Korb, neuroscience has proven that gratitude actually boosts our serotonin levels, making our social interactions better, and making us happier. And Korb also says that it's not even finding things to be grateful for that creates the effect.... one can trigger the increased serotonin simply by searching. 

winter sunset
Pink and blue late afternoon dusk.
So instead of feeling envy for what others have or are doing. And then feeling ashamed for feeling envy when I have so much more than so many others. I should just practice feeling gratitude. Or at least practice searching for things to be grateful for. Things like a loving family. And good books. And a husband who cooks. And who knows me so well that he drags me out skiing when I don't think I want to go because he knows that I will feel better. And I always do. Things like winter sunsets. And the perfect pair of jeans. And financial stability. And good friends. I could go on, but I won't. I'm afraid I might launch into a chorus of "raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens." But joking aside, I am grateful for all these things; they make me happy.

So happiness is.... what exactly? Is it the "perfect retirement," the perfect life... whatever that may be? I guess not. I guess I don't really know what it is... except that I know it when I feel it. And truth be told, despite the odd envious or discontented moment, I feel it a lot. And I'm grateful for that. 

What about you dear readers? Even feel unaccountably overcome by the green-eyed monster? What makes you feel grateful? Or happy?

Friday, 22 January 2016

My Hot New Haut It-Bag

I've been doing heavy duty accessory research for the past while. Drilling down on accessories, as the politicos might say. Ha. Sorry. I couldn't resist. I hate that expression, actually. Anyhoo, I've been looking for a new purse, a small cross-body bag. Not too small, not too big, not too lady-like, with just enough embellishment, and into which I can fit at least half of the stuff I haul around in my bigger bags. 

According to The Edit on Bloglovin ... "one of the Hautest It-Bags of the season" is the Chloe Hudson bag pictured below. I love it. But at somewhere between $2290.00 (CAD) at Holt Renfrew and $2800.00 at Nordstrom... well... I think I'll drill down a little more. Even the sale price at Farfetch is $1667.00. Yikes. Maybe I don't love it quite so much. 

Chloe Hudson bag
Chloe Hudson bag on The Edit
I saw these bags by German designer Philipp Bree on I love the clean design, and the colours are gorgeous. PB0100, as the line is called, was new to me; you can check it out here. Listed at $860.00 CAD, these small cross-body bags are much more affordable than the Chloe. But still more than I wanted to pay. Not that I was in any danger of actually buying one; I was only doing research, looking for inspiration. Not shopping...yet.

PB 0100 bag     PB 0100 bag     PB 0100 bag
German designer Philip Bree's PB0100 bags on

I saw this shot, below, on the fashion blog Who, What, Wear. I like the size of these bags. They are a bit too lady-like, though. Perhaps it's the smooth leather, or the hardware, especially the one on the right, but I can't see wearing them with my down coat. 

black it-bags
Black cross-body bags on Who, What, Wear
So with all this research under my belt, knowing pretty much what I wanted and what I didn't want, I hit the streets. Last week, I did the rounds of the Rideau Centre and environs. I tried on numerous bags in numerous stores. They were all too big, too tiny, too fussy, too cheap looking, or too expensive. Except one. One was just right... to quote Goldilocks. 

saw this cross-body, saddle bag from the Canadian company Mackage, at Nordstrom in December. And I loved it then. But since I hadn't done my research, or looked at and eliminated other options, I didn't buy it. You can't rush these things, you know. But, last week, once I'd eliminated the choices at all the other stores, I hustled back to Nordstrom to have another look at the Mackage bag. It's exactly the right size, and although it's quite structured, the pebbled leather makes it more casual, and less dressy. I love the chunky black hardware, especially the chevron decoration on the side. And the whole tidy, unfussy, kind of polished edginess of it is ...well... just perfect. I'm gushing, I know. 

Mackage cross-body bag
My new tidy, edgy, perfect bag from Mackage

Mackage cross-body bag

My new bag will look good with my Vince turtleneck and my leather pants.

Mackage bag with leather pants and a t-neck

Or with a skirt and jacket, like this pencil skirt and long jacket with leather trim from Elie Tahari. I tried this outfit with a silky white turtleneck and my Stuart Weitzman loafers. And then noticed that I do look a tad... uh... ecclesiastical. I also think my new bag looks just right with my Max Mara coat and these black leather boots from Le Pepe, which I bought at Holt Renfrew when I was still working. I need to endeavour to wear a skirt occasionally, if only to get some wear out of my high boots. 

          Love my new Mackage bag with a skirt and long jacket          Mackage cross-body saddle bag

But for most days, I need my new bag to look good with jeans. Or with my beige Tory Burch cords, and a turtleneck, and my black Cole Haan ankle boots. Look Ma, no hands.         

hands free with my new cross-body bag by Mackage

And, of course, it is January. And January in Ottawa means frigid temperatures, so I'm going to be wearing my down coat most days for a while. And this bag is great for that. Not too dressy. And with a strap that is long enough to allow the bag to slip easily on and off. Over my big down coat. This is key. Let me explain.

Mackage bag with my Zara down coat
Happy that my new Mackage bag looks great with my down coat

Two weeks before Christmas, I was grocery shopping wearing this down coat and my large Marc Jacobs bag worn as a cross-body. I tried to remove the purse over my head in the store, and ended up blocking traffic in an aisle for two or three painfully embarrassing moments. The not quite long enough strap caught in the big collar of my coat, dragging the collar up over my head like a hood, and since my coat was unzipped, and my scarf hanging loose, the strap then wound itself in my scarf. I thought I might abort the attempt, but it was far too late to turn back now. So, I staggered around blindly, trying to untangle myself, cursing inwardly, getting redder and redder in the face, while a growing, and increasingly impatient, crowd of shoppers tried to squeeze by me. Let's just say that the first thing I did with my new bag when I got it home was practice taking it off and on over my down coat. 

Yep. I'm loving my new purchase, folks. My not too big, not too fussy, polished yet edgy, "haut it-bag."  Doing all that "drilling down" paid off. And I don't foresee any cross-body bag provoked cursing on the horizon. I can't promise there won't be other cursing... I have been known to explode into epithets on occasion. 

Like yesterday.

I usually take my blog photos with my i-pad mini, and I've been having trouble with the little "home" button which takes me back to the main screen. I will click it and get Siri..."How may I help you?" So I have to click her off and click "home" again. And when I was taking shots for this post, I did this about three times in a row. Argggg. And then I did it again. "Oh...bleep...bleep!" I said emphatically. And before I could click again, up on the screen I read..."I don't speak to you like that."  Wow. Busted. I yelled to Hubby who was in the kitchen: "I think I've just been told off by my my i-pad." Next thing I know, she'll be speaking in my mum's voice..."Oh Susie, watch your language."

Now it's your turn, folks. Do curse-producing accessory malfunctions happen to you? Been shopping lately, have you? Any perfect purchases you'd like to share with the rest of us?

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, Style Me Wednesday at Shopping My Closet, 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,

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Midwinter Mitford Madness.... Again

I've been stuck in Mitford-land again, my friends. Immersed in the escapades of these six English sisters, and I can't seem to help myself. I pick up one of Nancy Mitford's novels, or a memoir of one of her sisters, and off I go again... down various and sundry Mitford-related rabbit holes. You'd think that one would tire of this. Or run out of new rabbit holes to explore. But one never seems to do so. Oh dear, I'm beginning to sound like shallow, frivolous Cedric in Love in a Cold Climate, who when he spies a "dreadful moustachio'd" man on a train, cries, "Oh, the luck of being one and not somebody like that." I always laugh when I read that book, especially the part about how Cedric, the consummate esth├Ęte, who swans into Lady Montdore's life and charms her and everyone else, hails from the "wilds of Nova Scotia." Coming from the wilds of the province adjacent to Nova Scotia, I find that line hilarious. 

Unity, Tom, Debo, Diana, Decca, Nancy, and Pam Mitford in 1935. 
Reading Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate started me off years ago. I went on to read two of her other novels, Don't Tell Alfred and The Blessing, but neither could touch the comic genius of the first two, for me. 

My collection of Nancy Mitford's fiction: The Blessing, Don't Tell Alfred, and The Pursuit of Love & Love in a Cold Climate.
When I read that Nancy Mitford mined her own life and the lives of her family and friends for inspiration, I started reading pretty much anything I could get my hands on about the Mitford family. I started with the 2001 biography The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family by Mary S. Lovell. I read a couple of books by and about Deborah, the youngest Mitford sister who went on to become the Duchess of Devonshire. I really enjoyed her 2002 memoir Wait for Me. A few years ago I read and loved Anne de Courcy's book The Viceroy's Daughters, about the Curzon sisters, one of whom married Oswald Mosley, who later became Diana Mitford's second husband. I read the compiled letters between Nancy Mitford and Heywood Hills called The Bookshop at 10 Curzon Street. Nancy worked at Hills' Curzon Street shop  during the war. And then with another Anne de Courcy book 1939: The Last Season, about society and politics leading up to the outbreak of World War II... I met my Waterloo... so to speak. I suddenly was absolutely and totally sick and tired of English society, deb balls, the English aristocracy, who knew whom, and when they met on the Lido, blah, blah, blah. At least for a while.

Some of my Mitford and related non-fiction
My interest was rekindled a couple of years ago when I heard Frances Osborne interviewed about her book, The Bolter, a biography of her great-grandmother Idina Sackville, who was the inspiration for Nancy Mitford's much married character, Bolter. At the same time I was listening to Rhys Bowen's charming Her Royal Spyness series on my i-pod. Bowen has a Bolter in her books too. I wrote about all these Bolters in a post a year or so ago. 

And just recently I read Anne De Courcy's biography of Diana Mitford. De Courcy is a fantastic writer. I really enjoyed the book. And so I was off again. 

Diana was by far the most beautiful of the sisters. And the most enigmatic, I think. Why oh why she left her first husband Bryan Guinness, reputed to be "the nicest man in England" for Oswald Mosley, I'll never understand. But then again there's no accounting for chemistry, which I gather they had in spades. De Courcy's book explores all aspects of Diana's life: her early years and first marriage, meeting and marrying Oswald Mosley, her imprisonment during WWII when she and Mosley as leader of the Fascist party were considered threats to England, and the years following the war. I must say that Diana's time in prison really does sound dreadful and not the pampered cake-walk depicted in the press at the time.

William Acton's drawing of Diana.  source
While de Courcy's book is not unsympathetic to Diana, it also doesn't pull punches. It's hard to imagine a life as pointless as that of a society wife. Married to Bryan Guinness, Diana lived a life of leisure and the pursuit of pleasure and diversion. Yet she doesn't come off as insipid or stupid, quite the reverse, actually. Readers can almost understand the attraction Oswald Mosley, an intelligent and supposedly charismatic man, committed to a cause, held for the clever, and perhaps bored, Diana. Almost. 

But what is really hard to begin to understand is how Diana gave up so much, her marriage and her place in society, to commit herself to a married man who, while he said he loved her, had no intention of leaving his wife Cynthia (Cimmie) nee Curzon. It was only Cimmie's untimely death that allowed the two to marry. And afterwards Mosley carried on an affair with Cimmie's youngest sister, while his first wife's other sister raised his children. I cannot fathom why so many intelligent, accomplished women were enthralled by Mosley, and intent on doing his bidding. 

Lady Diana Mosley and her youngest son, Max.  source
Mosley's eldest son Nicholas wrote two books about his father after Mosley's death.
Diana, as she says herself in the interview below, put Mosley first in everything. Not only dedicating herself to his politics and his career and thus making herself one of the most despised women in England for a time. But also setting aside her own interest in writing later in life to dedicate her time to reading and editing his work. I found it sad that she let her obdurate defense of Mosley's memory come between her and Mosley's eldest son Nicholas. After Mosley's death, Nicholas, with whom Diana had had a close and loving relationship, wrote a two-volume memoir of his father's life. Diana disapproved of his depiction of his father and she never really forgave him. She stood by her man to the bitter end. 

Have a look at this interview which I found on You Tube. I was curious to see Diana, in "real life" and hear her voice. I'd read so much about the famous "Mitford drawl;" de Courcy talks of Mosley's habit of imitating Diana's speech. And funnily enough, I later found an interview with Jessica Mitford who spoke much the same way. They both seemed inordinately charming to me. And, in old age, Diana is still lovely. 

In many ways it was not lovely to be Diana Mitford Mosley. I think that Oswald Mosley was an utterly reprehensible man, not just for his Fascist politics, but for his selfish pursuit of power. In particular for his treatment of his children, and his refusal to support them financially while he funneled all his own money into his political ambitions. It seems unfair, really, that later in life his public image was rehabilitated largely through the publication of his memoir My Life, while Diana seems not to have been forgiven at all. That is if the somewhat snarky 2003 obituary for her in The Globe and Mail  is anything to go by. I don't agree with her politics, or many of her beliefs, but they were certainly no worse than her husband's. 

Daphne Guinness, below, bears an astonishing likeness to her grandmother doesn't she? I read recently that Daphne lashed out at Lyndsy Spence, the author of the latest biography of her grandmother, calling Spence a "charlatan" and  "scurrilous profiteer." Spence, founder of the on-line blog and Facebook community "Mitford Society" recently published Mrs. Guinness: The Rise and Fall of Diana Mitford. 

And so the "barrage of Mitfordiana" (as Jessica Mitford called the plethora of books on her family) continues unabated. And so it would seem does the controversy. 

Me. Well, I think I've been down enough rabbit holes this week... I've had enough real life Mitford drama for a while. I'm rereading Nancy Mitford's Don't Tell Alfred. The novel follows Fanny, first introduced in The Pursuit of Love as a cousin of the Radletts (as Nancy called her fictional Mitfords) and daughter of the infamous Bolter. Fanny is now married to an Oxford don, Alfred, who is appointed English Ambassador to Paris. Shy Fanny in her Oxford tweeds struggles to cope with life among the French glitterati. This grown-up Fanny reminds me of the main character in the lovely Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield. I really enjoyed the gentle humour in Delafield's fictional diary.  

Fiction can sometimes be so much more restorative than reality, don't you think? A nice cup of tea and a lovely novel can really make you feel, as Linda says in The Pursuit of Love (and reputedly Diana Mitford said in real life)"how lovely it is to be lovely one." 

What's your take on all this Mitford mania, dear readers? Had enough have you? 

Me too, for while, anyway.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Into The Woods... Of Winter, Logging, and Bologna Sandwiches

We've had snow again these last couple of days. Not a lot. But enough to cover up the ice on the trails. And definitely enough to go skiing. I love a sunny, crisp winter's day.

Osgoode Trail, in Ontario

And being in the woods in the winter, always reminds me of my brief career as a logger. Okay, so, not exactly a logger, more of a logger's helper. Kind of. Let me explain.

When we first moved to the farm, after my mum and my stepfather married, I was entranced by everything. The farmhouse, the brook, the hills and fields, the treasures I unearthed in the old cellar or under the woodpile behind the barn. I wrote a post about that a year or so ago; you can read it here, if you're interested. 

Our farm had, like many farms, a large woodlot. And my stepfather worked in the woods, for a few weeks each winter, cutting logs, some for firewood for the kitchen wood stove, and some to sell. 

He loved to be in the woods. Especially in the winter. Especially with his horses. Usually he would harness Myrt to the sled... that's her on the left... she was lovely, wasn't she... and he'd set off early in the morning, for the whole day. Returning in the late afternoon dusk, in time for supper. 

draft horses, on our farm, in the 70's
My stepfather harnessing Myrt and King, the colt. King is in "training." 1970's 
That first winter after we moved to the farm, when my stepfather came home from the woods, I'd quiz him at supper about his day. Where had he cut? How did he get Myrt to help drag the logs? What did he do at lunchtime? And his stories of the day caught my imagination. How he had built a big fire, and kept it going all day. How, when he stopped to have a bite to eat, he'd sit down on a log and get warm at the same time. How he boiled some snow in a kettle on the fire and made a pot of tea. All these details stirred my little romantic heart. 

"Wouldn't it be good," I asked my stepdad, "To have someone to tend the fire and make the tea?" And, of course, he allowed as how my services would be indispensable. So, I awoke early the next morning, donned my step-brother's one-piece snowmobile suit, and set off with my stepdad for a day in the woods. 

We had a lovely day that I have never forgotten. We built a fire. I added scrap wood to keep it going all morning. Sometimes I held the horse when he needed to be doing something like shifting a big log, and rolling it onto the pile. At noon we boiled water for tea. I have never drunk tea that tasted more wonderful. He said it must have been the ashes that blew into the open pot. Then we opened the packet of sandwiches that Mum had made for us. Homemade bread, bologna, and cheese. He showed me how to take a forked stick, place the sandwich across it, and toast it over the fire. They tasted wonderful too. And after lunch he cut a few more logs, Myrt pulled them into the small "yard" he had cleared, and I helped pile them. And then when the shadows fell across the track, we headed for home. He hooked Myrt up to the sled, and stood with the reins in his hands, urging her along, and I sat on the back of the sled and tried to stay awake.

historic 1940's logging in N.B.
Logging in New Brunswick in the 1940's  source
I must have told an enticing tale at supper of our day in the woods: the sunshine, the fresh air, the fire, the tea and toasted sandwiches. Because the next morning, my stepbrother, two years younger than me, who had been born on the farm, and had previously viewed logging with a certain amount of disdain, as just something his dad did every year, and not how he wanted to spend his school holiday... had a change of heart. Afraid that he'd been missing something all along, he was awake before me, and sitting in the kitchen wearing his snowmobile suit, all ready for a day in the woods, when I came down for breakfast. Looking back I'm sure my parents must have been quite amused by the sudden popularity of logging in our house. 

I used to love to listen to my stepfather tell stories of working in the woods when he was young, big gangs of men lived all winter in the bush, housed in shanties, cutting all day. I remember drinking tea one Sunday afternoon and listening as he and our neighbour told of working in the backwoods of Maine one winter. And of the time the cook quit half-way through the cutting season, and my stepdad had to stand in temporarily. No small feat keeping fifty men fed, the secret apparently being beans, bacon, and biscuits. What? No toasted sandwiches over the fire?

Tobique River log drive, 1955
The log drive on the Tobique River in New Brunswick  1955 source
The men would cut all winter and pile the logs, and then in the spring, there would be the drive. Logs sent downstream on creeks and rivers swollen from the spring run-off. Floated downstream until they could be gathered in huge booms, and lashed together into rafts, and thus continue further downstream to the mills. I remember as kids we even learned to sing a song in school about the log drive..."Down, down, the river Saint John... something, something."

1950's log drivers in New Brunswick
Log Drivers on the Saint John River in New Brunswick in 1957   source
It was a dangerous business working on the log drive. The shot below is of a small fenced graveyard that Hubby and I discovered one summer when we were fishing on the Bonnechere River, in Ontario. Not far from the banks of the river, it's surrounded by encroaching bush and seemingly forgotten. According to local history, it marks the graves of several log drivers who died one spring in the 1890's. Their names are not recorded. 

Log drivers' graves
Fenced in grave site of river drivers killed in the spring log drive on the Bonnechere River. 
And have a look at this little film created by the brilliant people at the Canadian National Film Board. They really do make the best animated short films in the world. I've been singing the song on my head for days. The music is by Canadian singing sister duo Anna and Kate McGarrigle. If you get a chance check out more of the McGarrigle Sister's work. I love them. Sadly Kate died in 2010. 

Logging is a big part of the history of many areas of Canada. It was a big part of my stepfather's life. And a small, but treasured, part of mine. So now, whenever Hubby and I are out in the woods in winter, part of me really wants to build a fire, toast some bologna and cheese sandwiches, and put the kettle on for tea. But I usually settle for a thermos. 

What about you dear readers? What memories does a sunny winter day conjure up for you?

Linking up with Saturday Share Link-up over at Not Dressed As Lamb

Sunday, 10 January 2016

These Boots

We've finally had snow. And I've finally been cross-country skiing. One afternoon last week Hubby and I skied across the golf course near our house, bushwhacked a short way through the woods, and onto an old farm track that a local farmer grooms for his horse and sleigh. The conditions were perfect: sunny, -5°C, with gorgeous snow. Winter can be wonderful. 

Then, with thoughts of snow on my mind, I came home and dug these Stuart Weitzman leather and suede boots out of my closet. I haven't worn high boots yet this winter. And these boots were meant for wading. Wading snow, that is. And I love them.

simple and polished in Stuart Weitzman boots
Me and  my Stuart Weitzman boots.
The low heel means these boots were made for walking too. But I only wear them when the winter weather is cold enough that they aren't ruined by slush and muck. They're nice and high, and perfect for tucking jeans into, like these Paige high-rise skinnies. I'm still not wholly comfortable with pants tucked into boots, unless it's winter when it doesn't feel contrived. I love the grommet detailing and the decorative strap in the back of my boots. But as I am not given to outfits which have too much going on, I kept the rest of my look simple. Just my camel Aritzia turtleneck and my Max Mara coat. 

          simple and polished in Stuart Weitzman boots

"Now, while the weather is good, what else can I wear these boots with?" I pondered. 

This hand-knit, Lopi sweater has the same shade of deep brown as my boots. So, I tried it with my Vince turtleneck underneath and my old camel pea jacket on top. Very casual. Apres ski-ish ... even. But it works for me. By the way, this sweater is the very first thing I ever knit, way back in the 80's. Proof to the world that I actually can finish a knitting project. 

          apres-ski in my Stuart Weitzman boots

And sadly, that was last week. And now. Well... now... it's been raining for two days. And mild. And all that lovely snow is just fading away. Pooh. The ice in the river is almost melted. And there's water and slush everywhere. So my lovely brown Stuart Weitzman boots go back in the closet. The ducks are happy, anyway.

snow is leaving
Raining and warm. And getting greener, unfortunately.
And the sound of ducks on the river again makes me think of fishing. Which makes me think of my Hunter fishing boots. I mean, why not? Everyone else is wearing Hunter boots with their jeans. I tried mine with my cropped Citizens of Humanity jeans, and this gingham shirt and cream wool sweater, both from Gap. Bit too Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm-esque... do you think?

Hunter boots and jeans       

You know, these boots really were meant for wading. They are my fishing boots, after all. Hubby has an identical pair; that's why my name is written in them. He bought these for me for Christmas several years ago... long before the fashion world decided that Hunter boots were chic. They're wonderful boots, actually. The first rubber boots that fit me and in which I can walk for any distance. Perfect for stream fishing. But I'm not sure I can bring myself to wear them to town. 

Hunter fishing boots
My Hunter fishing boots. 
Still. Maybe with my Gortex jacket? I can pretend that I've just stopped off to pick up a few things on my way home from the stables? Or that I left my fishing rod and tackle in the car? They do look kind of cool. Could it be that these boots were meant for shopping, as well as walking and wading?

casual grocery shopping outfit
Ready for errand running, Hunter boots and all.
Nancy Sinatra's boots may well have been meant for walking. But definitely NOT for wading. Have a look at this vintage video.

I love that old song. Reminds me of when I was teaching, and the Christmas Assembly at my school in 1998. Dressed in our high black boots and mini-skirts, with our hair back-combed to within an inch of its life, four of us teachers performed this song. Of course, I use the word "performed" loosely, we lip-synced, and danced... and the kids in the audience went nuts! They love it when their teachers make fools of themselves. And, well, we love it too. Still makes me smile thinking of that. And...and... I have the video. One of the teachers filmed the whole thing. Now that is a video that will never see the light of day except in my own living room! 

So, I'm off, now, to pick up a few groceries. Wearing my Hunter boots and my Gortex jacket. Hubby and I are making a big batch of chili today. Going into production mode as it were. We always make tons, enough to freeze several meals. 

And speaking of freezing. Despite the fact that it's +3°C right now, the temperature is dropping to -15° overnight. And I won't be wearing these Hunter boots tomorrow. It will be a skating rink out there.

Good thing I had my skates sharpened last week. 

How about you? What's your take on these boots... or others... or just boots in general?

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, Style Me Wednesday at Shopping My Closet, 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 Little Red Dress Link Up at High Latitude Style.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

When We Were Grown-Ups ... or... Adulting Is Hard

Remember your first apartment? I remember mine clearly. My first taste of independence. I felt totally grown up. I was in university and I shared a dark basement apartment with two friends from childhood. All of my furniture had been given to me. My bed and chest of drawers came from home. Our living room furniture came from the former apartments of my older sisters. My step-father and my brother moved all my things. I went home every Sunday for a decent meal, usually taking my laundry, and came back on Sunday night with grocery donations from the farm. Really, when I think about it, I'm not sure what exactly was so grown up about that experience. I did pay the rent myself, and my tuition, and my other expenses. That is until the spring, when I ran out of money, and moved back home again. So... not so totally grown up after all. 

U.N.B. grad photo
My University graduation photo. Only partly grown up.

For the past couple of days, I've been thinking about growing up and how one knows if, and when, one is finally an adult. One reason is this article: "When Are You Really An Adult?" by Julie Beck, from The Atlantic. The subtitle for the article reads: "In an age when the line between childhood and adulthood is blurrier than ever, what is it that makes people grown up?"

In her article Beck asks, what is it "that makes you finally, really an adult?" Is it chronological age? University graduation? Financial independence? She asks if society should still use the old markers by which our parents and grandparents were judged: "Getting a job, moving away from your parents, getting married, having kids." 

Beck says that when young people take too long achieving these markers, society judges them harshly, and perhaps unfairly. After all, the law may say you're an adult at 18 or 21, depending on where you live, but brain research tells us that your brain is not fully developed until age 22 or 23. In fact, psychology professor Jeffrey Jensen Arnett calls this fully grown, but not quite grown up, stage "emerging adulthood," and says that this stage can last to age 25 or even 29.  I like the term "emerging adulthood." It seems a fair description of that time when we're making those first, often short-lived, forays into adult independence.

Deb, Ken and me. Stewart St Ottawa 1981
Me, my roommate, and an old friend from school. First apartment in Ottawa, 1981. 

In the article, Beck tells a story of a professor she had in college who liked to "drop truth bombs," and says this one "cratered" her. He said, "Between the ages of 22 and 25, you will be miserable. Sorry. But if you're like most people, you will flail." 

Well, that line "cratered" me as well. Not because I didn't flail... I was a wonderful flailer; I excelled at flailing. No, it cratered me because I had always thought that it was only me who flailed, who screwed up, made so many bad decisions, took so long to "form my identity," as psychologists put it. At least when compared to the rest of my family. I mean, think about this. My mum was married at 18, and widowed at 23, with small children to care for. My step-father, from everything I know about him, was practically born an adult, looking after his grandmother at an early age because his mother was busy with his three younger brothers who all suffered (and died) from muscular dystrophy. Then he went to war. My older brother went to work at 16 and married at 22. My older sisters went to school, worked hard, and were responsible, and when my mum was a single parent, they helped look after me, the classic, spoiled, youngest child. Yep, I was a trail blazer, people... the first flailer in my family. Or so it always seemed to me

Basic Training in 1976
Move Over Rambo. Basic Officer Training. Chiliwak, B.C. 1976
I didn't actually start flailing until after high school graduation. When I couldn't seem to settle on a path in life. Take, for instance, my decision to apply for ROUTP in the Canadian Armed Forces. Once I was accepted, "Regular Officer University Training Program" would pay for my education in a civilian university and give me a job when I graduated. In May of 1976, I set off for Chiliwak, British Columbia, for my Basic Training. Long story short... it did not pan out. See photo of "Beetle Bailey Burpee" above. 

In her article, Julie Beck says that psychologist Jeffrey Jansen Arnett likes to talk about the "Big Three" markers of adulthood: "taking responsibility for yourself, making independent decisions, and becoming financially independent." So when I moved to Ottawa at age 23, I guess I met those three criteria. Except on occasion when I needed to ask my older sister, who also lived here, for help. But really I was still flailing. And I think that's because I wasn't who I wanted to be yet. I worked for a couple of years, then returned to school for a year, then worked in another job that I hated. And while I was taking responsibility for myself financially, I wasn't behaving responsibly, if you can see the difference. I wasn't working hard. I wasn't engaged in my own life. I felt buffeted along. I whined a great deal, I think. It was as if I didn't know who I was anymore. Or what I wanted.

It wasn't until I was 27, desperately unhappy in a job I hated, having just broken up with my boyfriend, that I gathered enough energy, and maybe courage, to give myself a big, big shake. What the heck was I doing with my life? One evening, feeling like a total failure at life, I blurted all this out to my sister and her new husband; they helped me make the decision to sublet my apartment, put my furniture in storage, and go home for a year. I still get tears in my eyes when I think of the emotional phone call to New Brunswick that night, and my step-dad saying, "Snooze, just come home." So I did. I went home to figure out who I was, and who I wanted to be. For years I laughingly referred to my year back home as my "sabbatical."

A year later. With some money in the bank. Some teaching experience under my belt. And a new life plan, I came back to Ottawa. As my step-dad would say, "to take another run at 'er." I took another run at being an adult, and this time I was ready. Finally, at last, at 28, a grown-up. 

Colleen, Debie, Nancy, Judy and me. 20th Reunion, 1994
My Twentieth High School Reunion. 1994. Tenth anniversary of becoming a grown-up.

Julie Beck's article really hit home with me. Not just because I saw myself in the descriptions of kids who struggle with "emerging adulthood." But also because I can see that it applies to former students, and young, much loved, family members who are still struggling. 

And you know, when I think about it, my mum and my step-father didn't have much choice about when they grew up. They had to act like adults; people depended on them. And in hindsight maybe my brother and sisters did a bit more flailing than I noticed. Because from the perspective of the admiring little sister, everything they did looked grown up to me. But lest you think I'm letting myself totally off the hook here... I fully admit... I did a whole lot of flailing. 

Beck's article is one reason I started thinking about this whole growing up thing. If you have the time, you should read it for yourself. 

The other reason is that I've been thinking quite a bit lately of passions that I had when I was young and which I abandoned or lost along the path of adult life. Like writing... hence this blog. Or art. I used to be very passionate about art. Drawing, sketching and so forth. And so I'm thinking about taking some courses. Or something. We'll see.

You know, retirement is a bit like that "emerging adult" stage of life. You have to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life, who you want to be, and what passions you will pursue. 

Actually, I should have said... if you're lucky, you get to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life. I realize that not everyone has that luxury. And having it, I feel very lucky indeed.

My first Nepean Ladies lunch in 2013.
My very first lunch with the "To Hell With the Bell" gang of retired teacher-buddies. June 2013.

How about you? Can you pinpoint when or how you knew you were finally a grown-up? 

Linking up with Saturday Share Link-up over at Not Dressed as Lamb

Sunday, 3 January 2016

New Year, New Jeans ... Why I've Still Got It

So, here's the story. 

I had three parties to attend over the Christmas holidays. And back in December, I thought that maybe if I could find a new top. Kind of festive, a bit dressy, maybe a bit sparkly. Not too pricey. Not too trendy. It would jazz up my festive wardrobe. Not that I actually have a festive wardrobe. Not that I am given to wearing dressy, sparkly things in general. But nevertheless. Off I went in search of something dressy and sparkly. 

And came home with jeans. Just writing that makes me laugh. 

Of course, my new jeans are not dressy, or festive, or sparkly. Nor did they assist me in trying to decide what to wear to my parties. But they are just about the best pair of jeans I have tried on in many, many moons of jeans shopping. 

They make me feel wonderful. I slipped them on at Nordstrom, turned to my friend Liz and, striking a pose, said, "Ooooo, I've still got it!" And laughed. "Well, at least these jeans make me feel as if 'I've still got it,'" I said, making air quotes around the last part of my sentence. And I laughed again because there's a story behind that phrase. But first the jeans, then the story. 

They're Current Elliot jeans. Not quite flares, but a bit more flared than boot cut. A bit distressed. And fairly high waisted. Yah! No more low rise for me. Ever again. 

I love them with my Paul Green boots and my new camel turtleneck from Aritzia.
New Year, New Jeans. Current Elliot jeans with camel sweater
No more low-rise for me. 
New Year, New Jeans. Current Elliot jeans with camel sweater
Standing to attention in my new jeans.
I also like my new jeans with this blue and white striped, rayon and linen, long sleeved tee shirt from Alexander Wang, which I may have picked up the same day I didn't intend to buy the jeans. It's tissue thin, and will be good under my winter coats. Like the brown Max Mara I'm wearing here. Or as a layering piece.  

      new jeans with brown Max Mara coat

Or on those frosty winter days when I want to be super casual, I can wear my new jeans with this long, loose Vince turtleneck. And my old cream Max Mara puffa vest. I bought it in 2002 with a winter white, corduroy, midi-skirt to match. The skirt's long gone, but I still love the vest. Max Mara makes quality stuff. This would be a great outfit for a winter road trip. Say, to the Laurentians for a few days of skiing at the end of January... if Hubby's shoulder continues to improve. Fingers are crossed. I'm trying the half-tuck thing here, with the jeans belted. The jury's still out on this, though. Feels kind of contrived. But fully tucked in is not an option. I lost the right (and the desire) to tuck when middle-age middle made its appearance a few years ago.  

New jeans with Max Mara vest
Max and Vince and a half-tuck.
Now. Off I go art supply shopping. Clad in my new jeans which I think look fierce. And which definitely make me feel like "I've still got it."  

Now about that story. A few years ago when Hubby and I were both still working we liked to get away for a couple of cross-country ski weekends each winter. We'd book into a small motel somewhere up the Ottawa Valley, or near Algonquin Park, and ski the groomed trails, if there were ski trails; if not we'd ski the snowmobile trails, sometimes even breaking trail on old woods roads that were used for logging in the summer. 

One weekend we'd booked into a little inn somewhere south of Algonquin Park, skied the snowmobile trails all day, and on Saturday night were eating supper in the bar/restaurant. More bar than restaurant, actually. While we were eating the place filled up. The parking lot and the snow covered back yard of the inn filled with roaring snowmobiles, and the bar filled with people clad in full body snowmobile suits, and heavy boots, carrying their helmets in one hand and a beer in the other. It was darts night, the waiter told us. 

Anyway, we finished our meal and decided to take our wine back to our room. The bar was getting very loud and very smoky. As we tried to wend our way to the door, Hubby went one way and I the other around a clutch of darts players. Then my path was blocked by a tall, blonde guy, with the top half of his snowmobile suit tied around his waist and a beer in each hand. He was very young, and very drunk. He weaved from side to side, grinning. 

"Where're ya goin' blondie?" he winked, and when he grinned again, I could see that he was missing several teeth
"Over there," I pointed to the door. 
"Are ya sleddin ta-night?" he gestured with his beer and spilled some. 
"Nope. Skiing," I replied. 
"Ah. Why'ncha stay and have a beer?" 
"Can't," I said, gesturing to where Hubby stood by the door. "My husband's waiting for me." 
"Ah well, that'sh too bad," he said. 
"Yep. See ya," I sidled past him.

By the time I reached Hubby at the door I was in stitches. "What?" he said. "What was that all about?" 
"I might be almost fifty," I gasped. "And that guy might be about twelve, drunk, with no teeth... but I've still got it!"

Hubby and I always laugh about that night. The first time in a long time that anyone tried to pick me up in a bar. And the last. 

Ah well. I may be almost sixty, now. But when I pull on my new Current Elliot jeans... well, I feel like I've still got it. Kind of. Sort of. Whatever "it" might be. 

So, dear readers... any particular items in your wardrobe that make you sigh and feel like you've "still got it?"