Monday, 28 March 2016

Early Spring Dressing: Doing the Math

One of the joys of living in a northern climate is the changing seasons. I love it when fall comes around and I can "turn my closet" and pull out my heavy turtlenecks, boots, and tweed jackets after a summer of strappy sandals and white jeans. And spring brings the same joy. Supposedly. When it finally gets here, for more than twenty-four hours. But in the meantime, early spring dressing can be complicated. Because it almost takes a mathematical formula to decide what to wear. 

Take for example one day a week or so ago when I wrote this post on my spring shopping wish list. That was a beautiful day. I had finished my spring research and was finalizing my list. Right down to deciding what I would wear when my planned shopping day rolled around the next week. Except, I never did get to wear my Theory spring anorak, with my black turtleneck, new Vince knit pants and my loafers. Because the day I should have been shopping, I was curled up with a book instead, watching the snow, and rain, and freezing rain blow sideways past our sun room windows. Retirement means I can usually jettison my plans if the weather is uncooperative. So I had a very quiet day, a sweat pant and no make-up day. In fact, the most exciting thing all day was watching the enormous flocks of geese trying to land on the river in the gale force gusts of wind. Phew. It was a pretty hairy day to be a Canada goose. 

So when I had a physiotherapy appointment one sunny day, a few days later, and had to run errands after, I decided to finally venture out in my Theory jacket. I swapped out the black Vince turtleneck for my white one, and traded the loafers for my Stan Smith Adidas. Comfy, casual, easy to change for my physio appointment. Perfect. 

Early Spring Dressing: Doing the Math

          Early Spring Dressing: Doing the Math

But. Even though the day was sunny and gorgeous, it looked too cool for the light jacket and the Vince, silky turtleneck. So I added an orange V-neck sweater for warmth. Yep. A great spring run around outfit. Until I stuck my head out the door. Ah... nope... brrrr. Turned out it was way too cool for bare ankles. And even for the two light sweaters.  

           Early Spring Dressing: Doing the Math
Better but still chilly for a day with a wind chill.

So, in order to decide what to wear, I had to do "some ciphering," as Jed Clampett used to say on the Beverly Hillbillies. Remember that show from the sixties? When I was a kid Mum used to say that our family life on the farm sometimes resembled that of the Clampetts.... sheep in the car, pigs in the driveway... but that's a tale for another post. 

Anyhoo, it was too cold that day for bare ankles, and a light sweater (or even two.) Too springy for my winter coat. Not cold enough for gloves or, heaven forbid, a scarf and toque. I subtracted the Vince T-neck, the orange Gap sweater, and the sneakers, added my camel turtleneck from Aritzia, and my Paul Green boots. And socks. Finally. I was warm, and I still felt springy. 

When I showed up for my physio appointment, Erin the receptionist and I chatted about how hard it was to dress for spring days like this: sunny + cool + a stiff wind. Erin said people had been arriving at the clinic in every possible combination of winter and spring outfits. I said if you wanted to wear a light jacket, you had to add a heavy sweater + socks. "Fashion math is hard," Erin said. And we both laughed. "That's brilliant," I replied. "Can I steal that line?" She said I could. 

Early Spring Dressing: Doing the Math
Perfect for sunny + chilly + windy spring day

Which brings me to today, when I've got things to do and places to be. From every angle, it was a miserable early spring day. Although it was glorious yesterday, today dawned damp and cold. My physio appointment outfit above would have worked fine. Except now it was raining. 

Early Spring Dressing: Doing the Math
Weather trifecta: cold, grey, rainy
So, let's do the math. Miserable, cool + rainy day + black Vince knit pants - minus my good Paul Green boots that I don't want to ruin, similarly - minus the light Theory jacket, which while "water resistant" isn't waterproof. I'll + my Hunter rubber boots, and + my waterproof Gortex jacket. Now, finally = warm + dry. 

Did you get all that? See? Fashion math isn't hard at all. 

Early Spring Dressing :Doing the Math
Early spring rainy day outfit
You know, I think it's kind of a hoot that I'm getting so much city wear out of my Hunter boots and my Gortex jacket this year. Especially since I bought them for canoeing and fishing. Yesterday I wore them for our afternoon tramp across the fields near our house. I even sloshed through a few mud puddles. Of course I had subtracted the Mackage bag, and substituted an old tee shirt for my good camel sweater. I might wear some of my country clothes to town but, like my mum taught all us kids, I never wear my good clothes out to play. 

Early spring dressing: Doing the Math
And the hood is an extra bonus
I've rescheduled last week's aborted spring shopping day to later this week. I hope the weather is kind and let's me go back to my original equation. Spring shopping success = planning and preparation + a wish list + a comfy, smart, springy outfit. With bare ankles and my Theory spring jacket. 

Here's hoping that this all adds up. I always was pretty good at math... but I'm a bit rusty, I'll admit. So, fingers are crossed.

How do you handle the complications of early spring outfit planning? Do you need fashion math to get dressed? 

Linking up with these great sites: 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, Thursday Favourite Things at A Well-Styled Life, Passion 4 Fashion at Rachel the Hat, Fun Fashion Friday at Fashion Should Be Fun, and Friday Finds at Forage Fashion and with My Refined Style

Friday, 25 March 2016

My Spring Break-up ... with Vogue

When you've lived on one Canadian river or another almost all your life, like I have, the term "spring break-up" has very specific connotations. And if you've lived along the Saint John River in New Brunswick, where I grew up, ice and flooding are always part of the spring break-up equation. Like in this photo from 2014 taken when I was home in New Brunswick visiting my mum during the spring floods. This image brings back memories, and not just of that trip in 2014. But I wrote a post about all that back then. You can read it here if you're interested.

My Spring Break-Up with Vogue
Spring break-up on the Saint John, 2014
Today though, I'm not thinking of "break-up" in terms of the ice melting, or the river rising, or the roads being submerged. I'm thinking of break-up in terms of the split that sometimes happens when you grow apart from a loved one. A loved one upon whom you have depended for years. And who has given you great joy. And now, well, now there just isn't that spark when you see each other again for the first time after a whole month. It seems as if you aren't meeting each other's needs anymore. And you begin to feel that maybe it's time you moved on, took a break from each other. A trial separation, maybe. Or maybe you should just split up altogether.

Sigh. That's exactly how I've been feeling lately about my longtime relationship with my favourite fashion magazine. I love Vogue. Or at least I always have. Until recently. Recently I've been noticing that Vogue isn't meeting my needs anymore.

You see, I buy a fashion magazine for fashion inspiration. I want to see wearable clothes, that are current, in combinations that give me ideas for my own wardrobe. I don't expect to be able to wear the clothes exactly as they are styled in the fashion shoots, but I want to be able to apply at least some of the ideas to myself. 

My Spring Break-Up with Vogue
I could totally wear something like this outfit from an Elie Tahari advertisement.
And I want to be inspired by beautiful creative photos. I understand that many fashion stories are pure fantasy, conveying more of a concept than a recipe for how to dress. And I love those stories as much as I do the more literal ones. 

But lately, I feel that Vogue has been letting me down on both fronts. I realized this the other day when I was pedaling my exercise bike and leafing through the March issue of Vogue. The March issue is almost as important for 'wish list planning' as the September issue. I expect it to give me the temperature or the flavour of the season, so to speak. I want to see curated collections of what is new, current, hot. I want ideas of what goes with what, and how I might update my current wardrobe. I want to come away with a feel for the season. And I want to be bowled over with creative, beautiful photos. 

But as I pedaled the other day, I closed my magazine, and thought... meh. Not inspired. At least not by anything that wasn't an advertisement. I had torn out several photos for my inspiration board and every single one of them was an ad. Now, I would expect the work of the team of editors, stylists, and photographers at Vogue to be at least as creative as the advertising created by fashion houses like Valentino or Elie Tahari or Armani. Come on... this is Vogue we're talking about.

My Spring Break-Up with Vogue
One of a series of beautiful shots for Valentino Spring 2016
My Spring Break-Up with Vogue
Another shot for Valentino Spring 2016
The gorgeous images above, shot in Kenya by National Geographic photographer Steven McCurry for the Valentino Spring 2016 campaign, have drawn criticism for their ostensible "cultural appropriation." If you're interested, you can read about the backlash the campaign has received, and replies to the criticism from both the photographer and company creative directors in a Huffpost Style article here. But political and cultural issues aside, one can't deny that the shots, taken in Amboseli National Park which feature models along with local Maasai people, are beautiful. And evocative. And so still. The models in many of the photographs, looking beyond the camera into the distance. I might never wear these clothes, but just looking at these photos made me smile. 

And the rest of the March issue of Vogue? Not so much. Even shoots styled by some of my favourite creative types like Grace Coddington and Tonne Goodman left me a bit cold. I didn't see anything new, or stunning, or even remotely inspirational. Aside from the ads, as I've said. 

But you know, the rift between me and Vogue has been widening for a while now. Ever since the Kim Kardashian and Kanye West cover in 2014. Now that was disappointing. A few months ago I signed up to receive Vogue Runway and via e-mail. "It's free, why not?" I thought. First I was overwhelmed by the twice a day e-mails, and annoyed at the over-the-top, hyperbolic, frequently idiotic headlines. But when I was exhorted to spring clean like Kim Kardashian.... now that was too much. Turns out her "spring cleaning" consisted of enumerating how many piles of outfits she was going to sell off. At least the money was for charity. But still, you are history. I clicked the "unsubscribe" button. Phew. That felt better. So, now I'm thinking of  pulling the plug on the magazine as well. Clearly we've been growing apart. And the March spring fashion issue disappointment just reinforced that.  

And then came the last straw. Yesterday, I was pedaling my exercise bike, again. I've been doing a lot of that lately, since there's not enough snow for skiing, and too much snow and freezing rain for walking. So as I pedaled, I watched on YouTube the entire HBO 2012 documentary The Editors' Eye, made in conjunction with Vogue's 120th anniversary. I loved it. And it reminded me why I have always loved Vogue. Until now. 

Now, I feel as if something is missing. In the HBO documentary, Anna Wintour talks about the courage of the magazine in taking risks, in forging new ground in fashion journalism. But I don't think featuring Kardashian covers, and articles of that ilk takes courage. That smacks of capitulation to me. Still, maybe it's me that's changing. I'm not twenty anymore, but instead creeping up on sixty. Maybe Vogue is simply targeting a younger demographic than they have been for the past few years. Whatever it is, I just know that I'm not finding what I want in a fashion magazine, anymore. And if Ms. Wintour can't see that, then maybe she just doesn't care that much about me, or readers like me any longer. If so, she and Vogue probably won't miss me. When we finally split. 

I won't say that we'll never get back together, Vogue and me. Just that we need some time apart.  I'll be sad, of course. But then again ... there's always Harper's Bazaar. And more fashion blogs 'than you can shake a stick at,' as my mum always says. Guess I'll definitely be playing the field for a while. 

My Spring Break-Up with Vogue
Spring or whatever, on the Rideau.
And speaking of time apart. The shot above was taken the morning before last. This was the scene on the river when we awoke. That's snow, people! So, Hubby and I are taking some time apart from winter, or spring, or whatever the heck you call this crazy season. We're heading south for a couple of weeks. I can't wait.

Now... what are you up to these days, dear readers? How's spring out your way? Are you already hauling out the sandals? Or are you like us and believe that spring has decided to take a pass this year? Your thoughts on spring break-ups, spring, fashion fixes or any of the above are always most welcome here.

Linking up with Thursday Favourite Things Blog Hop at Katherine's Corner

Monday, 21 March 2016

To Dye or Not To Dye ... The Decision

To dye, or not to dye? Should I go grey, or not? That was the question I posed in a blog post a couple of weeks ago. I thought I might be ready to go 'au naturel.' Or some variation thereof. My decision? Well... turns out, folks, that I'm not. Not ready, that is, to go grey. For the moment, anyway. I'm way too chicken. I know, I know.  Bok, bok, bok.

chicken running
But, I'll get to my decision in a moment. First, let's talk about that post from two weeks ago, on "Going Grey. Or Not." Wowee. I was amazed at the comments and conversation that sparked. Thanks so much to everyone who was kind enough to respond, and to weigh in with their choices. Or stories of their own adventures in greying. 

Between Facebook, Instagram, and the blog there were 60 votes cast and these were the top choices. By far people seemed to prefer #3 and #4/8. (4 and 8 are the same since I accidentally included a duplicate photo.) Some people chose more than one option; I recorded all of them. Nine people demurred when it came to choosing one of the twelve options, and instead advised me to do whatever I thought best. Five said they liked my hair the way it was. One person said "Do not go grey!" 

top reader choices for my grey hair look.
Your favourite choices
It was fun reading all the comments. And you had some really great advice. Like Erica's comment that "if the colour says 'old' the haircut must say modern." That's spot on Erica, in my opinion. She also mentioned how important eye-brows are when your hair and skin colour are fading. I agree; eyebrows are huge for aging skin and hair. Okay, maybe 'huge' is not the word I want there, but definitely important. And Suz mentioned that it would be pretty hard to replicate the silver when my hair has warm tones. Well, not without bleach. Good point, Suz; Carmen concurred with this. Lots of you said, damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead; I should let the grey come in and find out whatever mother nature has in store for me. It will be beautiful, you said. Ah thanks, folks. 

Here are the choices I was leaning towards. I liked #2 and #5 the best. But funny thing, they both are not terribly grey. Which might have told me something. And none of them resembles what my own hair would probably look like, especially since they all have dark roots. Still, it was supposed to be an exercise in how various colours of grey or silver might look on me. I had never intended to take the picture to Carmen and say, "make me look like that." 

my choices for grey hair looks
My favourite choices
So, my decision? Well....  I must admit. When push came to shove, I was too chicken to make the leap. Like my blonde feathered friend, with the brown roots, above ... I ran as fast as my little, skinny chicken legs could carry me to my hairdresser, wailing..."Car-mennnnn, what should I do?" Bok, bok, bok, indeed. Luckily Carmen had scheduled extra time for me, so we could consult. 

First we identified my issues. I didn't want to do overall grey. Which Carmen said wouldn't be possible anyway, since my hair left to its own devices would be white, and not grey. Akk. Who knew? I didn't know if I wanted to start growing out white roots with my current colour, or even if I wanted to grow them out at all. Then there were those small dye-resistant patches in the back and side, and I was tired of seeing my sorry looking roots on the top. I didn't know exactly what I did want, a bit of drama, maybe, and not to look old and boring. Okay. 

Now... how to achieve all that?

First, we decided to lighten the darkest parts, on the sides and in the back so the dye-resistant swatches won't look so stark. And the roots, which grow in very quickly, won't be so noticeable. Since colour fades, Carmen can do this by lightening the colour she reapplies each time to match the "faded" colour. It should only take a cut or two to achieve what we want. We will go with a lighter colour on top, for the same reason- roots. And to give dimension, Carmen will add darker low-lights, instead of highlights. And the pièce de résistance, Carmen suggested a couple of bold, blonde, chunky highlights in my bangs. One that is very visible, and another that just peeks out. One assumes cheekily. Cheeky, chunky highlights. I liked the sound of that. 

This is the result. Indoors. In our sun room. 

my new colour

my new colour

And outside on our deck in the full sunlight. The outside shot most resembles what I see in the mirror. Colour, wrinkles and all. It's not a drastic change from what I had before. But I really like those two cheeky highlights in the front. They are more visible when the bangs are swept over to the side. And for the rest. We're evolving. Hopefully into a colour that will be a bit lighter, and blend better with my I mean, my white roots. And which will still have some dimension from those darker low-lights on the top. And which will still work with my warm colouring. 

my new colour in the sunlight

As I am wont to do when I'm writing a blog post I've been reading articles from around the net on going grey. Other women's perspectives. One that struck me as interesting is the article "Grey Is Great: Why Hair is the Last Bastion of Vanity" by Anne Perkins for The Guardian. I mention it because her experience is the absolute antithesis of my own. She talks about the "awestruck warnings" of friends and family when she discussed the possibility of going grey. They were aghast; she was too young; her children were too young. If you check out the article, you'll see that she obviously ignored their advice and went over to the grey side. Me, when I had the same discussion, I had so much support, so many people cheering me on to make the leap. And yet, I didn't. Funny, eh? 

So, I can imagine after all this fuss that some of you are sighing and rolling your eyes in exasperation, at my cowardice. Or my inability to face the inevitable. Yep. I'm aging. We're all aging. I turn sixty in a few short weeks. I get that. 

But I'm going to look at it this way. I've always been a late bloomer. As a teenager, I literally "bloomed" much later than other girls. Ha. Maybe that's too much information, do you think? I flailed for a few years in my twenties. Had several jobs before I settled down to a successful teaching career. I didn't marry until I was in my thirties, although Hubby and I had been together for a few years by then. So, by delaying going grey. By delaying facing the inevitable, maybe I'm just continuing with the late blooming thing. 

Besides, as a long time hair-obsessive, if I had to pick between good hair and wearing make-up, I'd pick hair every time. As Perkins says in her article, "hair matters." And I'm not ready to embrace the identity-change that will come with going grey. 

Not yet anyway. Give me five years and we'll talk again.

P.S. I'd like to add that I wasn't unhappy with my colour before. Carmen always does a great job. And man, oh man, is she patient! She'd have to be with me for a client all these years. 

And so dear readers, I suppose you're sick and tired of talking about this issue. But feel free to weigh in if there's anything you'd like to add. Anything. About hair, grey or otherwise. Aging. Chickens. 

Shot of chicken running found initially on the very cool website: Salt from the Earth

Linking Up with: All About You at Mama and More and Thursday Blog Hop at Katherine's Corner

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Spring Shopping Wish List... A Work in Progress

It seems as if spring has finally sprung here. For today anyway. The ice is melting and great sheets are floating downstream past our house. The geese fly in every evening, land on the water, and then go for a stroll on the ice. You haven't seen (or heard) anything until you've seen a few hundred geese walk by your front yard on a sheet of ice. This morning there are only a few swimming in the river. But still, between the geese and the cardinals... it gets pretty noisy on the river this time of year. 

Spring break-up on the Rideau.
Spring break-up on the Rideau.
So anyhoo... amidst the cacophony of bird noise, this morning I buckled down to do some serious work on my spring shopping preparations. Last month I posted about the research I'd been doing, looking for inspiration , and then choosing what struck my fancy. Then I foraged in my closet for anything that I might be able to haul out of storage and wear this year. Like my old blue Max Mara suit

I'm looking at spring coats in particular this year. Actually I look at spring coats every year. I just never find one I like, except on-line at a price point I am not willing to pay. Like these from Matches Fashion. I love a simple style like this. And I'd love to have a new coat in a colour, or pattern. But at $2300, $2800, and even $700 they're quite a bit more than I want to pay. Still, I do love a good shopping challenge. So a new coat is on my list again this year. 

Spring coats on Matches Fashion
Coats from Max Mara, Jonathan Saunders, and Max Mara Weekend found on

I also love this Frnch diamond print coat on Caroline de Maigret from the blog Le Fashion. This coat is not pricey and is available on-line... but I haven't been able to bring myself to do anymore on-line shopping since my Vince experience last year. Way too much trouble, too many hidden expenses when the store doesn't have a warehouse in Canada. And my two experiences with courier deliveries to my home have been a disaster. Especially the last one where the delivery company called me and insisted that the driver had left the package on my doorstep. Okay... so someone has a free package of Bobbi Brown day cream... but it's not me! And this after waiting a week to get the darned thing. But never mind. I'm just not planning to order on-line again... until I've calmed down. Except from Gap which does have a Canadian warehouse and ships with Canada Post. Much easier. 

Caroline de Maigret in a Frnch coat
Look found on Le

But let's get back to spring shopping. I've done my research. Made my lists of what I have that I'll wear again this year. I keep track of all my wardrobe in  my little book. So when I'm shopping I don't buy what I already have, and I can check to see what jacket, or pants I might wear with something that has struck my fancy. 

I also list the items I think I will sell this year. And those I will store for a few years because they are still good, and still fit, but I'm tired of them or they aren't current this season. You know those pieces that are in good shape, but which just look, well, wrong this year. Too short, too fitted, too long... whatever. Like my old blue Max Mara suit, which I stored for years and hauled back out this year. 

And finally I list my 'needs and wants' for this season. If I don't do this I will no doubt forget what I need, and what I want. And once I'm in the stores... when I am assailed by all the colours, and styles, and... oohhhh look at that... I'll end up coming home without the things I actually needed to begin with. Fashion attention deficit... I think they call it. 

Spring Shopping Wish List... A Work in Progress
My little book for Spring 2016

This year, my list is pretty short. I don't need jeans, or pants of any kind. Or blouses. Or jackets... I'm well "jacket-ed"... so to speak. But a new spring coat does top my list, not black, but in a soft colour or a pattern, maybe. And I'm looking for a dress. A dress (or even a skirt) that I can wear with a couple of my short jackets (one denim, one leather) and with flats or flat sandals. Kind of "boho" style maybe. And I'm going to try culottes.... try them. I'm not convinced they will  look good on me. But I'm keeping an open mind. And I'm always on the lookout for loose light sweaters or tee shirts that can be worn with skinny jeans and not show middle-age middle. That's it. 

And now I just need to decide what I will wear on my spring shopping trip. Something springy, of course. And comfortable. And which can be taken off and put back on easily. So I opted for my silky, black Vince turtleneck, and these skinny, black, knit pants from Vince which I bought in Montreal in January but haven't worn yet. And my Theory spring anorak from a couple of years ago. I bought this jacket when I was looking for a spring coat, but couldn't find one. It's feather light and good for casual wear. I love it. And with my leggings and black patent Stuart Weitzman loafers... it's casual but still smart... I think. 

Spring shopping outfit

And the very cool thing about this jacket is that it's reversible. One side the grey camo. And the other, black.

Spring shopping outfit
Camo on one side, black on the other.

Spring shopping outfit

But I prefer the camo side. More suited for spring, especially since everything else I have on besides the scarf is black too. Including my new Mackage cross-body bag. I love this little bag. Okay, so I know it's not a very colourful outfit. Not yet. That's what spring shopping is all about. Finding some colour.

See how beautiful it is today? Sunny and +9 ° C. Yah! But in the spirit of blogging honesty, I'm not actually going shopping today. That's booked for next week. Today, I'm blogging (d'uh), and then I'm helping Hubby fix the garden shed door.... as his #1 assistant, I hold a mean screwdriver. So I'll just go get out of my shopping outfit, set it aside for next week, and change into my sweats and my rubber boots. That's retirement folks. One moment a fashionista, the next I'm holding the screw driver and passing the drill bits. 

So, friends, you know what's on my spring shopping wish list. For now anyway. Things might change; it is a work in progress, after all. Now do tell... what's on your list for spring?

Linking up with these great sites: Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style, #IwillwearwhatIlike at Not Dressed as Lamb, What I Wore at The Pleated Poppy, Thursday Favourite Things at A Well-Styled Life, Passion 4 Fashion at Rachel the Hat, Fun Fashion Friday at Fashion Should Be Fun, and Friday Finds at Forage Fashion

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

The Lure of the Wilderness: Our Top Five Books

I've finally read Bill Bryson's book A Walk in the Woods. I mentioned it last fall in a post about our weekend hiking trip when Hubby and I went for our own walk in the woods. I remember observing how restorative walking in the woods can be. Or any wilderness, actually. And how we really needed that trip. The wilderness does seem to wield a special kind of power. 

The Lure of the Wilderness: Algonquin Park
A typical Algonquin Park scene. Trees, water, and more trees. October 2015.
I was excited to read Bryson's book... couldn't in fact understand why I had never read it before. I loved it. I learned a lot about the American wilderness, in particular about the Appalachian Trail which Bryson and his friend attempted to hike in 1996. I laughed a lot. Out loud. This was particularly embarrassing when I took the book along with me to my physiotherapy sessions (back issues, remember?) and read it while waiting by myself in a tiny cubicle, for my therapist to finish with another patient. I'm sure the guffaws coming from behind my curtain were a little unsettling for other clients. But then again... better than sobs, or screams. 

Parts of Bryson's book are a bit of a slog. The structure gets quite sloppy in the middle. At times it's a bit preachy; Bryson does like his bully pulpit. But most of the time it is a great read. Bryson is so self-effacing; that's partly what makes his writing funny. He makes no bones about the fact that hiking the Appalachian Trail is the hardest thing he has ever done. He and his friend Stephen Katz survive rain and snow, heat, bugs, annoying fellow hikers (Bryson's description of their new 'friend' Mary Ellen is priceless), fatigue, and some pretty hairy mountainous sections. They do well to carry on as far as they did, in my opinion. One review I read was down-right hostile that Bryson had not hiked the entire 2,000 miles of the trail. Gad. Give the guy a break. He did cover over 800 miles, with and without Katz. Okay, some of it in small pieces. But however he did it, that's still a lot of walking.

The Lure of the Wilderness: film version of A Walk in the Woods
Scene from the film version of A Walk in the Woods

Bryson and Katz finally abandon their adventure after Katz gets lost. He's pretty scratched up and quite shaken, and they decide to go home. As they reflect on how they feel about "leaving the trail," Bryson muses that he "was weary of the trail, but still strangely in its thrall; found the endless slog tedious but irresistible; grew tired of the boundless woods but admired their boundlessness; enjoyed the escape from civilization and ached for its comforts." Yep. The wilderness can be endlessly challenging, yet endlessly alluring. 

Hubby and I watched the movie version of A Walk in the Woods on the weekend. Robert Redford and Nick Nolte have a lovely chemistry in the film, but it's not a patch on the book. Especially the scene with the grizzly bears. Huh? Seriously? Everyone knows that grizzly bears are only found out west. Way out west. And the Appalachian Trail is way, way east. And if the filmmakers didn't already know that, they should have read the part about bears in Bryson's book. 

The Lure of the Wilderness: film version of A Walk in the Woods
Scene from the film version of A Walk in the Woods

After we watched the movie Hubby and I decided to make a list of our favourite books on the lure of the wilderness.

We both agreed that Jon Krakauer's book Into Thin Air about the ill-fated Everest climb of 1996 is perhaps the most compelling non-fiction book either of us has read. Krakauer, himself an experienced mountaineer, was hired by Outside magazine to write a story about "the commercialization of Everest." His memoir of the climb is stunning. Twelve people died that season, nine of them on the same descent, many of them unskilled "tourists" who had paid $65,000. (excluding airfare and equipment) for the privilege of being guided to the summit. As Rob Hall, experienced guide and leader of the "fee-paying expedition" which Krakauer joined, said, "With enough determination, any bloody idiot can get up this hill. The trick is to get back down alive."

Alastair Scott's review in the New York Times calls Krakauer's book "a work of atonement." Exhausted and as a result unable to do anything to save the members of his expedition team who were trapped on the mountain during a sudden storm, Krakauer survived. In his book he relives his experience and tries to answer the question "what went wrong?" The book is a wonderful piece of writing, and certainly (to my mind) a condemnation of those "bloody idiots," as Hall called them, who have more determination and money, than ability or skill. Essentially it's a sad book. When all is said and done, Krakhauer has no answers to his questions. And nine of the people who were on the expedition are still dead, some of them the Sherpas and guides, including Rob Hall, who were trying desperately to make the summit dreams of others come true. You can read Scott's review here.

The shot below is from a 2015 film which recreates the doomed 1996 expedition. The book is sad, and the situation on Everest, during that expedition, tragic and exasperating all at the same time. The film by all accounts cherry-picks the most dramatic and heart wrenching bits from the story, as films do. I really have no desire to see it. I don't understand the lure of something as dangerous as climbing Everest, which as Krakauer says in his book,  "is primarily about enduring pain." And even if you are very fit and very skilled, it's about putting yourself in grave danger. If you're neither, it's about putting others in danger too.  

The Lure of the Wilderness: film version of Everest
Shot from the 2015 Imax film Everest which recreates the 1996 expedition. source

The next book we chose, Gold Diggers by Charlotte Gray, is the story of the Klondike gold rush. This book is Hubby's choice; he's fascinated by the north, the Yukon in particular. In 2006, we drove from Edmonton, Alberta, north along the Alaska Highway, to the Yukon. We fished, hiked in Kluane National Park (where they do have grizzlies, I might add), visited Dawson City, and Whitehorse, and then drove back south through British Columbia on the way to Banff, and then Calgary. It was an amazing six week trip. We even stayed a night in a cabin on a working gold claim on Bonanza Creek in the Klondike, site of one of the original claims a hundred years ago. We passed an interesting evening on the front porch of our cabin, drinking cold beers and talking to the owner who mined the claim. Hubby loved Charlotte Gray's book. She is a great writer; I've read several of her other books. But this one I haven't read, yet. Much to Hubby's chagrin. 

The shot below is of those gold crazy "stampeders" hauling their heavy packs up the Chilkoot Pass enroute to the Klondike. The North West Mounted Police weighed the packs of every prospector before they began the ascent. Making sure they had the required "tonne of goods," enough supplies to survive a year, before being allowed to pass into Canada. A prospector might climb this hillside 30 to 40 times before he had carted all of his stuff through the mountain pass. 

The Lure of the Wilderness: Into the Yukon through the Chilkoot Pass
Hauling supplies up the Chilkoot Pass, 1897-98. source
We all know what drove most of these men to strike out for the wilderness of the Yukon in the eighteen nineties. Gold. Adventure. A chance for a new life. Adventure enthusiasts can hike this same trail today. According to the website Nature Tours of the Yukon, it's a fifty-five kilometre, "multi-day, hike of moderate to hard wilderness trek." Somehow I doubt that the trail is as crowded today as it was back in the gold rush. And it's for sure the packs are lighter.

The last two books I want to mention are works of fiction by well known Canadian writers. When I mentioned the idea of wilderness and its power to provide solace, Hubby and I both thought of Rudy Wiebe's 1966 novel First and Vital Candle. Set in the tiny, fictional Ojibway community of Frozen Lake on the shores of Hudson Bay in northern Ontario, Wiebe's novel is the story of Abram Ross who is sent to Frozen Lake by The Frobisher Company to salvage the tiny community store on the verge of failure. But it's really about Abram's search for meaning in his life. Despite the hardship of life in the north; despite the violence of some of the people, he seems to find it. In the beauty and the often frightening power of nature. And in the connections he makes with the people he finds there. I read the book many years ago and yet I still remember clearly Wiebe's description of Abram Ross skiing at night. Of the winter sky, the stars, and the sound of the wooden boards on the snow. First and Vital Candle is not described as Wiebe's best work, not by a long shot. But somehow it had a powerful impact on Hubby and on me, that neither of us forgot. 


I also wanted to give a shout out to one of my favourite books, Ethel Wilson's 1954 classic Canadian novel Swamp Angel. Wilson's main character Maggie escapes her home in Vancouver and her troubled marriage, and takes a job at a fish camp in the interior of British Columbia. Here she finds herself again. With the help of the lake, the trees, the hard work, and the fishing which she loves. And coincidentally which she learned during her childhood in her native New Brunswick. Ha. I loved that bit. Swamp Angel is a beautiful little book. Beautifully written. Many of the details I'd forgotten until today. I've spent way too much time leafing through the book rereading bits and I'll never finish this post if I don't stop. By the way, I was happy to see that both Rudy Wiebe's book and Ethel Wilson's are available on Amazon. Just saying.      

As you know if you read this blog regularly, I'm not immune to the lure of the wilderness myself. And Hubby is more comfortable in his canoe on a lake in the bush than pretty much anywhere else on earth. Since we've been together, I've seen a fair bit of wilderness. Hiking, canoeing, fishing... or just walking. I've seen some beautiful sunsets. 

The Lure of the Wilderness: Algonquin Park

I've spent some wonderful days on the lakes and rivers of Algonquin Park. Especially warm sunny days like this... watching Hubby do most of the hard work. Like tracking our canoe down a set of rapids.

The Lure of the Wilderness: Algonquin Park

Or clearing part of a beaver dam so the canoe can carry on downstream. 

The Lure of the Wilderness: Algonquin Park

But of course the days are not all sunny, nor warm. A couple of years ago on Hubby's May fishing trip with two longtime canoeing buddies, they awoke to this. Fog and rain ...

The Lure of the Wilderness: Algonquin Park

And then, as the temperature continued to drop... snow. 

The Lure of the Wilderness: Algonquin Park

The Lure of the Wilderness: Algonquin Park

The May trips are not my cup of tea. Ha. Not even close. But these guys love being in the bush. They brushed the snow off the tent, built a big fire, cooked breakfast. And even found time to build a little snow fishing buddy. It's very elemental being in the bush. Keeping warm, keeping dry, and keeping well fed, are key. And when the snow melts and the sun comes out, there's fishing. And later maybe a beautiful sunset as the fish sizzles in the pan on the fire. 

The Lure of the Wilderness: Algonquin Park

Like I said above, I don't go on the long, really tough canoe trips. Four days paddling and portaging and sleeping on the ground are about my limit. But there is something very special about those sunsets, and the sparks from the fire disappearing up into the night sky, and the sound of the loons on the lake. And the feeling of having accomplished something I never thought I would. On the way back to the truck on the last day I always feel stronger, fitter, and somehow, like Maggie in Ethel Wilson's book, more comfortable in my own skin. And although at some point on every trip, exasperated with the hard work, the hot sun, the rain or ...something... I always say: "I'll never do this again"... I always do. It's just the lure of the wilderness, I guess. 

Hubby and I had fun brainstorming for titles for this post. Our very first blog collaboration. Well, except for when I'm blogging and he's making dinner... that's collaboration too. 

Do you have any "wilderness" titles you might share with us? Do tell. 



Linking up with: All About You: Mama and More and Thursday Blog Hop at  Katherine's Corner

Thursday, 10 March 2016

This Old Suit: Updating An Investment Piece from Years Gone By

I'm a great believer in investment dressing. When I can afford it. And when a jacket, or pair of pants, or in this case a suit, fits well, is a timeless classic, and makes me feel like a million bucks, I can usually afford it. Well, within reason, of course.  Because, like Mater reminded me the other day in her discussion of a well-loved scarf, the CPW (cost per wear) (thanks Stacey and Clinton, for that phrase) goes down every time, and every season, that I wear said investment purchase.

And since I bought this Max Mara jacket (and the matching pants) sometime in the early 2000s... hauling it out of my closet after all this time makes it... well... practically free.

This old suit: updating my old Max Mara suit jacket
In one-half of my old Max Mara suit, with Current Elliott jeans and Paul Green boots.

After I wrote a post last week on "lightening up my wardrobe a little" in anticipation of spring, and realized how much I still loved this old jacket, I inspired myself. And I went in search of other ideas for styling the jacket and pants together, or even the pants by themselves. 

Then this morning I received an e-mail from Matches Fashion with their take on "Paris Fashion Week Trends." And wide-leg trousers, apparently the very "definition of elegance," are apparently one of those trends. Well, well, well. I am apparently ahead of the curve, people. Because I happen to have a pair of wide-leg trousers that match that Max Mara jacket. And since I bought them in 2000 (give or take a year), I'm so ahead of  the curve I had to store them for ten or fifteen years to wait for all the other fashionistas to catch up. Apparently. 

Here are a few looks that were featured in the Matches Fashion wide-leg trouser edit. Trouser suits for work, and trouser suits for play. Cropped wide-leg pants, and full length wide-leg pants. With a jacket or without. 

This old suit: finding inspiration from
Looks from Stella McCartney, Max Mara, and Vince found on wide-leg trousers.

This old suit: finding inspiration on
Looks from Valentino, A.L.C., and Sport Max found on wide-leg trousers

I tried my old suit on with a Gap mint-green tee shirt, with my sleeveless navy and white gingham blouse from Equipment, with flats, with boots, and with sneakers. I tried the pants alone with a boxy, 3/4 sleeve, cotton sweater from Theory, and a favourite pair of bronze Stuart Weitzman sling-back heels. I even pinned up the pants to simulate the length of the cropped ones above, from Valentino. Okay... so that looked really stupid. But, the possibilities, while not endless, were pretty varied. What doesn't go with navy? I finally settled on my Stan Smith adidas, a blue and white striped cotton sweater from Brooks Brothers, a pair of Kate Spade white hoop earrings. And my prized "like-a-Chanel" vintage brooch that I bought at the Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen in Paris last spring. Ha. I feel so sophisticated saying that. I did have to make a teensy adjustment to the belt to be able to breathe while wearing it. But let's not dwell on that. 

I like my suit with the few updates I made. It actually looks better in real life; the material is soft and stretchy, the pants have a lot of movement when I walk. I may hem them a bit, since I doubt very much that I'll wear them with heels. We'll see.
This old suit: updating my Max Mara suit from days gone by
With a couple of updates, this old suit, still suits me. 

I can wear the suit with the belt, or without. The tea cup is optional. But in the spirit of my "truth in blogging" post... I must admit that I cannot wear a short sweater like this without the jacket. It appears that wide-leg trousers, with a high waist, flatten my butt and accentuate the middle-age middle in the front. Hence, without the jacket I am in danger of looking like that strange "pushmi-pullyu" creature from Dr. Doolittle... the exact same coming and going. Not, I repeat, not a flattering look, my friends.
This old suit: updating my Max Mara suit from days gone by
My Max Mara suit is more comfortable without the belt

So, overall I'm happy with my updated investment purchase from days gone by. I was pretty excited last week, when I found a modern way to wear the jacket from my old Max Mara suit. I'm even more excited now that I know I can wear the whole suit, and still feel current. Maybe even Paris Fashion Week ready, dare I say? Just kidding with that one, folks. If last year's trip to Paris is anything to go by, we all know that if I ever, ever had the opportunity to take in Paris Fashion Week, I'd stress for six months beforehand and then buy a whole new wardrobe. So I guess it's a good thing that I'll probably never get to go...  I'd have to win the lottery first.

What about you friends? Any stashed investment pieces in your wardrobe that have earned their keep and then some? 

And with these great link parties: 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, Thursday Favourite Things at A Well-Styled Life, Passion 4 Fashion at Rachel the Hat, Fun Fashion Friday at Fashion Should Be Fun, Casual Friday at Two Thirty-Five Designs, and Friday Finds at Forage Fashion