Sunday, 31 December 2017

What I Learned in 2017

Back when I was still teaching, we talked a lot about helping kids to become lifelong learners. Our students graduated from high school and headed out into a world in which it was increasingly difficult to know things, because 'things' were always changing. They would undoubtedly learn how to do one job, only to find that in a few years they'd have to learn a totally different job, or several different jobs over the course of their working life. And as teachers we knew that learning how to be a good learner is invaluable in a rapidly changing world. Invaluable for kids. And for everyone, really.

So in that vein, here's what this lifelong learner learned this year. 

About Travel:

gravel road twists around sharp rocky peaks
Ruta 40 was all gravel between Cafayate and Cachi in northern Argentina

Never be afraid to take the rough road, or go the long way round. Most of the time it's worth it. We saw some amazing places on this back road in Argentina last winter: from Salta, to Cafayate, Cachi, and then back to Salta. Beautiful scenery, bleak vistas, surprisingly lush valleys, and not a few hair-raising twists and turns.

Friday, 22 December 2017

O Christmas Tree etc.

Everyone, meet Gladys. We brought her home a couple of weeks ago. And I've just finished dressing her in her beads and bobbles. She looks lovely, I think. Not too ostentatious or overdone. With a few slightly vintage accessories, and a few that are really old. She's kind of classic. And authentic... I mean she is a real tree after all. 

a decorated Christmas tree in front of a window
Gladys, all dressed and ready for Christmas

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

You're Invited to My Fantasy Tea Party

I've often wondered what it would be like to sit down for tea with some of the women whom I've long admired. Whose words and ideas have sustained me at difficult times in my life. And to whom I have often looked for wisdom, for some sort of guidance on how to navigate through life. Not surprisingly most of these women are writers. And most of them I have never met, and now never will, since they are no longer living. Still. The thought is intriguing to me. 

So, if I were to dream up a fantasy party, it wouldn't be a glittering cocktail party, or a Jane Austen style ball, or even  Mitford-ish coming out party. 

My fantasy is that I might be able to conjure up a gathering of the wise women I admire, bring them together in one room, with a big pot of tea, cucumber sandwiches, cranberry scones, Victoria sponge, and my mum's fruitcake. And chat.

Now, how amazing would  that be?

Friday, 15 December 2017

Love the One You’re With

That's my new fashion mantra for this winter, folks. Trying to love the one I'm with, so to speak. And I'm not talking about Hubby here. I'm trying to rekindle the love I once felt for some of the older pieces in my wardrobe. 

I've been complaining that my closet is so edited it's become a bit boring. And I'm on the hunt for some pieces to take me in a new direction, add some interest, maybe change up my preferred silhouette. Give me something to build on. I love having a goal. I am nothing if not patient with a long term plan. Where's the challenge in instant gratification?

Monday, 11 December 2017

What Are You Obsessed With Right Now?

That question was the subject line in an e-mail I received recently from The e-mail was advertising the most popular pieces... dresses, and shoes, and earrings... which had been purchased the previous week. 

Favourite pieces, popular looks, okay. But obsessed? Really? I love the red outfit from Victoria Beckham, below. At times I almost drool over it. It inspired my recent search for something similar. But I'm not obsessed with it. 

woman in burgundy turtleneck and boots and a long red skirt
I admire this look. Sometimes I almost drool over it. But I am NOT obsessed.
I sometimes despair, folks. I mean, why oh why is the internet so "obsessed" with being obsessed? Why do we use so much hyperbole on-line to talk about sweaters, or shoes, or fancy, festive partywear? 

Friday, 8 December 2017

My Geriatric Closet

Despite the fact that I love to cull my closet, I must confess I do have a number of... ah... older pieces. Items which over the many years of culling I have been unwilling, or sometimes initially willing, but in the end unable, to give away. And I was thinking of these rather geriatric pieces the other day when I read a post on Man Repeller in which Haley Nahman asked five fashionable women to "find and wear the oldest thing they own[ed]" 

Monday, 4 December 2017

Do You Need a Hygge?

Up until the last few years you could definitely describe me as a non-hugger. When I was a department head and mentoring younger members of my department, I'd pass tearful colleagues who needed a hug over to Julie, the lovely lady who sat next to me in the teacher prep room. She was always a great giver of hugs. 

Teaching is a stressful job, especially when you're young and unsure of yourself. When a young staff member stood behind my chair and said in a quavering voice, "Suuuu-ue? Can I talk to you for a minute?" ... Julie would quietly pick up her work and move to the big table at the center of the room. Vacating her chair for whomever was in distress, and giving us some privacy. Then after we'd talked the problem through, I'd say, "Do you need a hug?" And Julie would step in. We laughed and called her seat the "crying chair," and her the official hugger. It became a department joke. I'm a pretty good listener, I can read most people pretty well, and I like to think I offered thoughtful solutions to problems. But hugs, hugs were just not my forté. 

Actually, my point here is not about hugs. But about hygge. I'll admit I wasn't a born hugger... however, I do think I was born for hygge. I excel at hygge. 

Thursday, 30 November 2017

I think my Wardrobe is Over-Curated!

These days I've been feeling as if I need to shop for clothes. Really. No joke. 

For those who think they know me... this sounds like a ludicrous statement. I'm always shopping, aren't I? But my friends who notice these things know that just because I'm always talking about fashion, and always looking at clothes, either on-line or in real life, doesn't mean I'm always buying. 

In fact, I've purchased relatively few fall and winter clothes since I retired. 

Monday, 27 November 2017

Keeping in Touch

We all know the importance of keeping family and friends close. The value of a strong, supportive social network. How staying in touch with loved ones contributes to mental and physical health. 

But sometimes, keeping in touch can be, well, complicated. 

We might live miles, and sometimes continents, away from family and old friends. We're busy with work and kids. We change jobs, or retire, or move away. We might spend large chunks of the year travellingLife moves on and so do we. And people we used to see everyday gradually fall off our radar. 

view of mountains from a plane

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Winter Monochrome-ish

Winter is here. It's been here for a few days, now. We had a minor snow fall last weekend, and the snow has stayed. Hubby's heavy jackets, and winter gloves and toques are unpacked. And he's been skiing once already. So it's official, for him. 

But, me... I've been thinking that I should delay hauling out my winter coats until the very last minute. I've been trying to come up with outfit combinations that involve extending the season for my fall jackets, while at the same time trying not to freeze various parts of my anatomy. 

So I've been looking for outfit inspiration while pedalling my exercise bike, perusing on-line images, and leafing through magazines from the last few months. I love all the monochrome looks I've found. Not monochrome in the standard matchy-matchy way. But outfits comprised of a single colour theme, with differing shades, and textures. Like these looks below. The red outfit is from Victoria Beckham Fall 2017. The blue/grey look is on Victoria Beckham, so one presumes it's from her own collection. And the cream sweater and pants are from Max Mara Fall 2017.

three outfits on three women
Find all these images on my Pinterest board here
I love all these looks. Since I saw that all red outfit in Vogue, I've been hoping to find a long skirt that I can wear with the Akris burgundy sweater I bought earlier this fall. But, I'm really only half-heartedly looking. And in the meantime, I thought I might cobble together my own monochromatic-ish look from items in my closet. Hence we see below.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Reading. Sometimes It's Like Falling In Love

Many years ago when I was in my twenties, I quit a job I hated, left a life that wasn't making me happy, and moved home to New Brunswick to get myself back on track. I was determined to try to recapture all those things that had somehow fallen out of my life after years of living in the big city. And to focus on a career in teaching. Oh yeah... and I swore off men. Especially the kind of men I'd been meeting: good-looking, but unreliable, and overall too smooth by half. After a year down east, sufficiently refreshed, and retooled, so to speak, I moved back to the city. And in the first few weeks of teaching, I met Hubby. 

I didn't intend to meet anyone. I didn't, in fact, want anything to distract me from achieving my goals. But, after numerous lunches in the school staff room, and conversations over coffee, we had our first date in mid-December. Then a movie or two, a few dinners, several cross-country skiing dates and, by late January, the writing was on the wall. He was much more emphatic, more sure about things than me. I was more hesitant, less trusting. I guess I was a bit gun shy, slightly commitment phobic. We spent more and more time together. Talked on the phone for hours at night. I remember thinking that things were moving too swiftly. I wrote in my journal that the situation felt as if I was negotiating a steep set of stairs in high heels, one tentative step, then another, then catching my heel on something, and tumbling all the way to the bottom. I was tumbling all right. Unable to catch myself. And not sure anymore that I wanted to catch myself. Sometimes love is like falling downstairs... except less painful. Ha. 

And now, here is my point... sometimes reading is like falling in love. Really. Let me explain. 

You pick a book off the shelf on a casual visit to the library. You start reading, and suddenly you can't put it down. You don't intend to read until the wee hours, but you are so captivated by the characters, so desirous of finding out what happens next that you are... well... infatuated. The hours simply fly by; time has no meaning when you're reading a book like this. You can't spend enough time with your book. You think about it even when you're apart. 

See what I mean? Just like falling in love.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Mired in the Mud ... Thoughts on Poetry and Fiction and War

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll know that I usually write something about Remembrance Day in November. 

For many years, I taught at a school named for John McCrae, who wrote the famous poem "In Flanders Fields," so observing Remembrance Day was a big deal for us, teaching students about the meaning of Remembrance Day and at the same time showcasing student art, and music, and creative writing. Now that I'm retired, I'm no longer involved in helping my writing students to research and write about what this day means.Trying to help them scale down the melodrama, and the overt hero worship, to look at the reality of what the men and women who fought in wars, or were affected by war, endured. Helping them to uncover facts, and to write sensitively, and respectfully of our history in times of war.

Lest We Forget mural and monument
Photo of the monument at John McCrae Secondary School courtesy of Arlene Angel-Blair

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Thoughts of Boots

I once had a biology professor who could see the lighthearted side of just about anything. I remember one morning he strolled to the front of the lecture hall, stood for a moment stroking his chin pensively, and began,"Imagine this. It's a warm spring evening, and a young worm's fancy turns to thoughts of love." I don't remember much else about that course, but I never forgot that line. 

So, let us begin. Imagine this. It's a crisp autumn morning, and a young-ish (or old-ish if you prefer) blogger's fancy turns to thoughts of boots. Sigh. I love boots. And boot season is finally here. 

Friday, 3 November 2017

Back to the Eighties: My Perfect Sweats.

I've written often on the blog about the never-ending trials of finding the perfect jeans. I've even been known to compare the endless labour of shopping for jeans to the punishment meted out by the gods to poor Sisyphus. You know, the mythological king who so angered the gods he was sentenced to push a rock uphill, only to have it roll back down. Every time. For eternity. Just like jean shopping. Sigh.

Don't laugh. 

Monday, 30 October 2017

Our Healthy Eating Journey

I've been meaning to write this post for ages. Ever since Hubby suggested it. Because food is such an important part of our lives, and always has been. When Hubby and I first met, I used to laugh that we spent most of our dates deciding what to eat, preparing it, eating it, and then talking about it. When we weren't skiing or canoeing those first months together, we were eating. At least that's the way it seemed. 

man and woman leaning against a tree in a field in winter
Cross country skiing in Marlboro Forest, 1987, or so.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Wrapping Up England: Peaks, Valleys, and Friendship

So. England. Now, where was I? Better settle in with your coffee or a glass of wine, depending on which time zone you live in, folks. This is going to be a long one. 

Our UK trip continued apace after Bath. To Stratford-Upon-Avon, and then north to the Peak District. On our day out with Jules in Bath, he'd offered to drive us to Stratford, and show us the Cotswolds at the same time. But we demurred. We were tempted, believe me, but really couldn't justify the extra cost, especially since we had rail passes. So on the Saturday morning, we were up early, packed, breakfasted, caffeinated, and boarding the train along with a myriad of other passengers all seemingly out for a weekend of fun and... well... not to put too fine a point on it... drinking. 

Monday, 23 October 2017

Doings in Bath

Bath. How many years have I longed to visit Bath? And by Bath, I mean the one in Somerset, in England. Not the one in New Brunswick, which is lovely, of course. Nor the one in Ontario, which is lovely too, of course. No, I mean the one in Jane Austen's novel Persuasion. Ever since I read Persuasion, and then saw the 1995 movie with Ciarán Hinds and Amanda Root, much of which was set in Bath, I've longed to go there. And unlike many things long wished for and finally achieved... Bath did not disappoint. Not in the least. 

From our accommodation at Three Abbey Green, seen below, with that huge sycamore tree right outside our window, and the abbey just across the square and around a corner, to the town itself, the people, and the food.... everything was lovely.

historic stone building beside a huge sycamore tree
Our B&B in Bath. Three Abby Green.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

London Calling

Well hello there. This is London calling... kinda. Actually we're in Bath at the moment, but never mind. This is me on the way to breakfast in Covent Garden, below, on our first morning in London.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. 

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Keep Calm and Keep on Packing

I really wish I could take credit for that post title, but I have to admit it comes from a comment D.A. Wolfe left on my last post. D.A. writes the blog Daily Plate of Crazy. I've been reading her work ever since I saw a guest post she wrote a few years ago on Tish Jett's blog A Femme d'un Certain Age. And we've kind of been bloggy friends ever since she asked me to be part of the Midlife Makeover series on her blog. That was fun. And so kind of her to include me. 

Anyhoo, if you remember last time we talked, I whined about not feeling the love for planning and packing, and you listened. Or read, as the case may be. After my initial "meh" moment, and then my ensuing post, I did manage to get some planning done. I pulled everything that I might want to pack to take to England out of my closet and drawers, piled it all on the bed in my spare room, wrote all the items down in my journal. And gave up. 

notes for planning what to pack on a trip
My initial foray into packing planning

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Plan, Pack, Unpack, Repeat

Only one week until Elizabeth and I fly off for our long hoped for, and finally happening, trip to England. I say "long hoped for" because we wanted to make this trip, hoped to make this trip, years and years ago, back in the nineties. But something always got in the way. And now, just when it finally is about to happen... I seem to be having difficulty getting psyched up. I'm having particular difficulty getting psyched up to plan my packing. You know, making lists of what outfits I might wear, and what pieces I might pack. And that, my friends is not like me at all.

Maybe it's the heat. We're having a steamy, humid, uncomfortably hot spell just now. Temperatures in the thirties, with humidex readings of 40° C. Maybe I'm feeling a bit drained after an emotional spring and summer. Or maybe I'm just suffering from planning, packing, and unpacking fatigue. 

misty sunrise, and a river
Steamy, foggy dawn on the Rideau yesterday

Friday, 22 September 2017

Protecting Your Fashion Investment

One of my long-time fashion philosophies is that I buy what I love. I don't mind spending extra for something perfect, something that makes me sigh when I put it on, as I said about this burgundy sweater in a post recently. But spending more on a special item means that I don't buy many pieces, and when I do find something I love, I love it for a very long time. And that philosophy, my friends, requires that I take good care of my clothes. I think of it as protecting my investment. 

Triptych of woman in burgundy sweater, sitting on a bench
My new Akris sweater is definitely an investment piece

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Family Ties

I've been absent from the blogosphere for over a week now, spending time with family, and old friends, back home. And I've been thinking a lot about family. About my family. About my brother Terry, of course, who died recently. About his wife and daughters. About my mum. And my sisters and step-brother, as we all gathered back in Fredericton for Terry's funeral. 

And I've been thinking what an odd phenomenon the whole concept of family is. And about what it means to me. What it literally means... as in how I would even begin to define that word.  

You see, I come from the original blended family. Back in the day, there were no other kids I knew whose mother had a different surname, who had a step-brother, and a grandmother who wasn't really their grandmother, or cousins who weren't actually cousins. I just knew who I knew, and loved who I loved. So what did blood or surname really matter, anyway?

Friday, 8 September 2017

This Was My Brother

                                                                   This Was My Brother by Mona Gould
Terrence Malcolm Burpee  1953,  Age 6

This was my brother
At Dieppe
Quietly a hero
Who gave his life
Like a gift,
Withholding nothing,
His youth...his love...
His enjoyment of being alive...
His future, like a book
With half the pages still uncut-

This was my brother
At Dieppe
The one who built me a doll house–
When I was seven,
Complete to the last small picture frame,
Nothing forgotten.

He was awfully good at fixing things,

At stepping into the breach when he was needed.
That's what he did at Dieppe;
He was needed.
And even Death must have been a little shamed
At his eagerness.

I first read Mona Gould's lovely poem "This Was My Brother" when I was a young teacher. I came across it in an anthology, and discussed it with my class on Remembrance Day that year. I was teaching adults, and there were a couple of women in the group who were old enough to remember World War II. Seems funny now to think of my twenty-something self in my navy skirt suit and heels, standing in front of a class, teaching women some of whom were old enough to be my mother. We talked of the people the students knew who had been affected by the war. Family who had died in concentration camps, fathers and uncles killed in battle. One student explained how she had quit school to volunteer when the war started. I remember we discussed how moments of very personal loss seem to resonate more than pictures of devastation and horrifying statistics.

And so today, when the news is filled with pictures of the devastation wrought by hurricanes in the Caribbean, I can only focus on my own very personal loss. My big brother who fought his many illnesses and health challenges so bravely for so many years passed away this morning. 

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Shifting Into Fall

It's September and here in Ottawa we are shifting into fall. Big time. With dropping temperatures, cool nights, and rainy, windy days. And I have been shifting gears as well. Not like in the old days of lesson prepping and shopping for back to school outfits. More like shopping for not going back to school outfits. And that, my friends, is way more fun. 

Friday, 1 September 2017

For Serious Book Aversion Sufferers

This post is for serious book aversion sufferers. Like me. Don't get me wrong. I'm not suffering from a serious aversion to books. But from an aversion to serious books, if you follow me. I simply can't settle into reading anything that mires me in apparently insoluble problems. Or awakens feelings and fears that I thought long buried. 

Take, for instance, this latest book we read for my book club. 

Tuesday, 29 August 2017


So as you've guessed already, if you've been here before, I've been messing with my blog. Changing things up a bit. Playing with formats and colour and backgrounds. Trying to make it more reader friendly. But still have it reflect what I want. 

I've been thinking of doing this for some time now. Several readers have mentioned that they found the white text on the dark background too hard to read. Last year, I lightened the background from black to dark grey, and made the text less bright. That helped, I think. But I'm pretty sure most people wouldn't have even noticed. Someone else mentioned that the "lines of text were too long," so I changed the widths to make the post itself narrower, and the sidebar wider. I follow several on-line publications that help bloggers, and as a result I cleaned up my sidebar, and did some other stuff. Most of this was just tinkering. Albeit tinkering that took time, but which I enjoyed. I like to tackle a problem, research how to fix it, and then see if I can do it. Most times it works out. 

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Hi-i-i-way Drivin' ... It'll Get You Home

I don't know what it's like where you live, but in my experience, most Canadians seem to think nothing of rising at the crack of dawn, or even earlier, hopping in the car, and driving enormous distances in a day. We're quite sanguine about watching the road roll under our wheels for hours and hours. 

Maybe it's because we live in such a big country. And for those of us from the east coast, making the long trek back home most summers is, well, part of summer. It's a Maritimer thing. The Maritimes has historically been less industrial and less wealthy than "Upper Canada," has offered fewer job opportunities than "out west," especially during the oil boom, and this has often resulted in the young seeking their livelihood elsewhere, and families being scattered far and wide. My Mum and my older brother live in New Brunswick, I have a sister in Ontario, and a sister and a brother in Alberta. And Hubby and I have been making the thousand kilometre drive home at least once every year since we've been together. That's a lot of highway driving, folks. And as the song goes, "highway driving, it'll get you down, but it'll get you home." 

highway before dawn.
Up and on the road before dawn.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Aging Gracefully...Or Disgracefully. Reprise.

Hubby and I are still down east at Mum's. And there's still no time for posting. So hope you enjoy this one from 2015. It's pretty timely... sort of. Because it's Mum's 90th tomorrow. And we'll be busy eating cake and talking to all and sundry. And whoever else drops by. 


There's lots of stuff on the net these days about aging, isn't there? How to, how not to, or how to and look like you're not... or whatever. And as my Mum had her eighty-eighth birthday this week, I've been thinking about aging. And how one copes. And what the heck "aging gracefully" even means.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Lost in the 'Hood Reprise

Hubby and I are back in the 'hood again. But there'll be no time for posting this year. So I hope you'll enjoy the post I wrote about our trip home last summer. See you in a week or so.


Hubby and I are back in the old 'hood this week. Downeast. Staying with my mum for a few days. Fishing and reading and visiting. Drinking too much tea and talking, talking, talking.

On Thursday we were up before dawn to set off for the long drive. Truck loaded with bikes, fishing gear, suitcases. Big cooler packed with fresh veggies from our garden to take to Mum. Thermos mugs of strong tea. Breakfast would be a few hours down the road. Our picnic lunch tucked into our trusty travel cooler that's been everywhere with us from New Zealand to the Yukon to France, was behind my seat. By 5:00 A.M. we were packed, loaded, belted in, and ready for the ten hour drive.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Seeking Fall Inspiration

Fall will be upon us before we know it, folks. And when it comes time to look critically at my fall and winter closet, to do my inventory, and make my list of what I might need, or want, I plan to be ready. And ready for me means having a sense of the looks that have walked down the runway, and featured in fall ad campaigns, and an idea of the trends that are being espoused. Whether I buy into the trends (or buy them literally) is another matter, of course. In other words, I'm currently seeking fall inspiration. So when fall comes I can make good decisions about what I will, and will not, buy. 

Thursday, 10 August 2017

On Being a Teacher

My fondest memory of teaching high school is not what you might expect. It's not of the many commencement ceremonies I watched or took part in, nor of reading the often brilliant work produced by some of my students, or even of the moving Remembrance Day ceremonies that my writing classes scripted. Those moments made me proud. But the memory that always makes me smile is of the 1999 end-of-year assembly when three of my teacher-buddies and I made total fools of ourselves on stage. Wearing black mini-skirts (not too short, of course), high black boots, and sporting backcombed, bouffant hair, we pranced around on stage in front of the whole school doing our best lip-syncing routine to Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walking." The kids went nuts. I'll never forget looking down at several of my grade nine students in the front row of the audience, screaming, "Ms. Bur-paaaaay!" Ha. I'm smiling as I write this. 

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Why I'm Not Bored With My Summer Wardrobe

It seems everyone in the blogosphere is talking about how bored they are with their hot weather wardrobe. Shopping for that special piece to spice up their summer closet, devising new ways to combine tanks and skirts they're sick to death of, yearning for variety, and digging for something, anything, different to wear. Sigh. And what about me, you ask? Am I bored with my summer wardrobe? Ha. I wish. 

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Planning for England.

Only two more months and my friend Elizabeth and I will be winging our way to England. We're trying hard not to be excited. Not yet. There's too much planning to do before we lean back, take a sip of tea, sigh, and allow ourselves to dream of actually being there. 

I'm a total Anglophile. I love England. English food. English tea. English television. English literature. And in particular English (or Scottish or Irish) crime fiction. I've been to England twice. Once to London with three girlfriends on our March Break in 2000, and once with Hubby to northern England and Scotland in the summer of 2005. 

Sunday, 30 July 2017

The Death of Skinny Jeans

I bought skinny jeans the other day. Two pairs. How daring of me. Especially considering that the fashion media has been predicting the death of skinny jeans for at least two years now. 

An article in BuzzFeed declared the skinny jeans trend "officially over" in July 2015. And in January the following year, Julia Hobbs in said she was "calling time on skinny jeans," announcing a return to vintage inspired, "firm, dude-ranch denim." Like Betty Grable wore in the forties. Hobbs says that we're going back to "that lived-in and locked-in feeling you get from proper jeans." The kind with no stretch in them. "Rigid" jeans, they're called, which apparently "hold their shape" and "guarantee an irresistible old-fashioned anti-fit." 

Really? Rigid, locked-in, anti-fit? Does that sound appealing to you? The "anti-fit" is what I wore all through high school, when I couldn't find a pair of jeans that fit no matter how hard I tried. And as for non-stretch jeans, that apparently hold their shape. That's not what I remember. In university, I loved my old Levis, which were "proper jeans," but after one or two wears the knees and the butt bagged from sitting in them, and they had to be washed and put in the dryer to regain their shape. And of course they shrank, requiring one to lay down on the bed to zip them up, a difficult and sometimes painful technique I learned from my roommate Debbie. I do agree that the stiff fabric, at least when freshly washed, will hold one's middle in better than the lighter weight stretch jeans. But jeans as shape wear? I'm not going there, folks. 

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Midsummer Mysteries, and Other Books I'm Reading

It's midsummer already, and I haven't written a book post since the spring. Looking back at what I have written about, besides fashion, I notice a lot of angsting and ranting. Hmmm. What's with that, do you think? But even though I haven't been writing about reading, I have been reading, my friends. My mind may be all over the place this summer, but my butt is still firmly planted in my chair with my book in hand. 

Of course, I've been reading lots of mysteries. 

Saturday, 22 July 2017

And Shoppiness Ensued

Earlier this week, I visited my buddy Liz at Nordstrom for a preview of their Anniversary Sale. And let's just say that "shoppiness ensued." I love that line from Christopher Brookmyre's book When the Devil Drives. 

The fashion blogosphere has been buzzing about the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale for the past week or so. So much buzzing that you're probably sick of hearing about it. I was a slow convert to the idea of shopping for fall in July. The first year after Nordstrom opened in Ottawa, I told Liz that I simply wasn't ready to shop for fall. I hadn't done my inventory, perused the new fall trends, or made my list. But the lure of big discounts on the new fall stock was too tempting. And I found a few really great pieces. Last year I was ready, I did all my homework, but sadly found nothing on my list which was on sale. Although I did buy my Veronica Beard suit which has become a staple in my closet. This year, I threw all my fashion caution aside, did no homework, other than looking at my list of what I already own in the way of fall and winter pieces. But, aside from that minimal preparation, I decided to wing it. Shocking, eh? 

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Elephant in the Room: On Working Hard

I listened to an interesting podcast on CBC radio the other day. One that started me thinking about hard work, and about blogging, among other things. 

"Seat at the Table" is a new series hosted by Isabelle Racicot, a well known television and radio host in Quebec, and Martine St-Victor, a communications expert, specializing in pop culture and politics, who runs her own PR firm in Montreal. In the segment of their show called Elephant in the Room, Racicot and St-Victor explore the idea that very successful women can make the rest of us feel bad about ourselves. About our choice to work hard. That the exhortations of uber-successful women on how we should be successful, happy, and healthy, and at the same time live more balanced lives, sometimes make other women feel guilty, unworthy, or unhappy with their own choices. And that this is particularly frustrating when these "helpful" exhortations are patently unrealistic. Or sometimes even hypocritical. 

Friday, 14 July 2017

My Clothes Are Not the Boss of Me

Last fall I wrote a post about some crazy trends happening in fashion, about how unrealistic, unwearable, and downright silly some of them are. To me at least. Remember the "duvet coat?" Ha. 

And I loved the comment on that post from "Catbird Farm" that she didn't "want to wear clothes that [bossed her] around." Yep. Me neither. I hate bossy outfits. Demanding my attention all day or evening. Whiny outfits that need to be fussed over constantly. I mean, let's just all agree that our clothes are not the boss of us, okay? Or they shouldn't be, anyway. 

Which brings me to my point today. The half-tuck. You know, the trend that's been around for a few seasons, of tucking part of one's shirt or tee or sweater into one's pants or skirt. I like the look on others, mostly. Some of my favourite bloggers have worn it very successfully. But I have to say that I've struggled with this trend.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

On Camping and Marriage

Last week, Hubby and I set off on our annual early summer camping trip. We were feeling hopeful, praying for sun, but fully prepared for rain and bugs, with lots of sunscreen and a bucketful of DEET. This trip is not to be confused with our annual fall camping trip. Nor our semi-annual canoe camping trip, or Hubby's two or three other yearly canoe trips, all of which are wilderness trips into the interior of Algonquin Park. Yep. Over the years, we've had to schedule much of our lives around camping, canoeing, and fishing. Even our wedding. But I'll get to that later.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

A Passion for Books About Fashion ... 4 Still Fabulous Non-Fiction Books

Hubby and I are away camping this week. So this book post is an old one from way back when I first started the blog in 2014. Most of you had never heard of High Heels in the Wilderness back then And as I was re-reading it a few nights ago, I thought how I still feel exactly the same about these four books. Hope you enjoy reading about them. 

And by the way... if anyone knows who I lent The Thoughtful Dresser to...please let me know. I've been looking for that book for ages.


Monday, 3 July 2017

Bounce Back

I'm convinced that the key to survival in life is the ability to bounce back. Back from whatever life, your job, your family, your health, mother nature, or even your own self-sabotaging tendency has thrown at you. Apparently psychologists and social scientists call this ability "resiliency."

That's what I'm working on this week.... the old bounce back. 

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Waxing and Waning: A Crisis of Confidence

Ever have those moments when your self-confidence just dries up and blows away? 

When instead of focusing on the myriad of things you can do well, and do do well, you focus instead on what you struggle to do? Or don't do at all anymore because you suck at that particular thing... and so you gave it up and now you think you should try again because, well, giving up is like failing. Or you look at all the things that you thought you did well, and suddenly they look silly, or trivial, not as important, or essential to the world as the things everybody else you know does well. Suddenly it seems as if what you bring to the table is not of much value. 

Do you ever have those crisis of confidence moments? 

When all your self-confidence seems to have dried up and blown away.
Photo by Krista MacNamara

Sunday, 25 June 2017

An Abundance of Blue

We have had an abundance of blue in our little part of the world these last few days. Yesterday morning, the sun shone, the river sparkled and reflected the blue sky, and Hubby's blue delphiniums were blooming up a storm. I love them. 

Blue delphiniums, green grass, blue water and blue sky above.
Blue flowers, blue sky, blue water.
And all this blue has me thinking that I seem to have an abundance of blue in my closet, all of a sudden. Especially blue tops that I'm not wearing very much. No point in these pieces taking up closet space if they're not pulling their weight. So I'm determined to make more of an effort to get them out and about. And mixing the old pieces with new ones is a great way to give them a fresh look. 

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Funky Town

I have to say that despite the fact that summer seems to have arrived, the sun is shining, and I just returned from a fun little trip to Toronto. Despite the fact that I'm well, and happy with my life. Not to mention happily retired with no real financial worries... and no exams to mark, a situation which fills me with gratitude every January and June. Still, despite all this, I've been in a bit of a funk lately. 

pink wild roses amid greenery and blue sky
I'm in a funk despite waking up to this every morning.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Black and White Reboot: Classic or Boring?

I admit, when in doubt about what to wear, I fall back on my old favourites. Combinations which I know look good on me and... well... just look good. And one of those combinations, especially for summer, is white jeans and a black top. The reverse restaurant waiter look, I guess you could say. 

Monday, 5 June 2017

When Getting Dressed Stops Being Fun.

I read an interesting post over at Man Repeller the other day, in which Leandra Medine asks the question: What Happens When Getting Dressed is No Longer Fun?

I know, I know. I swore off Man Repeller a few months ago because I was offended by their article associating retirees with "baggy pants and pastels and slippers." I was in such a snit that I wrote a whole post in response, describing how the internet makes me crazy in so many ways. But lately I've been drifting back to the blog. I think the young women who post there are talented: bright, witty, and really good writers. And even though I'm definitely NOT in their target age demographic, I still like many of the articles. Reading them makes me feel as if I were still teaching, as if I've just stumbled into a conversation with several female students breathlessly talking prom dresses, or new shoes, or career plans. I used to love those conversations. And I miss them. So I read Man Repeller

Anyhoo. I was reading Leandra Medine's post the other day. And it started me thinking about why it is that, at certain times in our lives, getting dressed stops being fun. And then I thought, "I'll bet getting dressed is no fun for Brigitte Macron these days." 

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Searching for Sunnies

Don't you just adore sunglasses? I do. I'm not sure I have the sort of face that looks good in sunglasses, but I still love them. Sunglasses and big hats like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Audrey Hepburn in a hat and sunglasses

Monday, 29 May 2017

Out and About on a Bike. Speaking Canadian.

Once summer starts here in eastern Ontario, Hubby and I try to get out and about on our bikes as much as we can. There are numerous cycling trails and routes to be explored, and lots of local villages to poke around in, or to stop for lunch.

On this particular weekend, we weren't the only ones doing this. Our little village is a popular destination for cyclists who ride out in packs from the city. We're 25-30 km from Parliament Hill, depending on the route you choose, and if you're an avid cyclist, that's very doable. And I guess the view of Watson's Mill, or the reward of lunch at the pub, or a pint, or an ice cream cone makes it worthwhile. 

cyclists on a leafy street, with historic buildings
Cyclists set off from outside Dickinson House in Manotick

Thursday, 25 May 2017

In the Pink. Ish.

To be honest I'm not always a fan of pink. Of course, I love pink spring blossoms like the ones on our flowering crabapple tree below. I almost missed the blossoms this year because both this tree, and our other apple trees, bloomed while I was away down east. So, yeah, I love pink apple blossoms. And pink tulips; I love pink tulips. And hyacinths. And lilacs.

Pink spring blossoms on our flowering crabapple tree.
Our old flowering crabapple tree
But pink on me... as in true pink, pale pink, blush, or coral... blouses, scarves, or sweaters... not so much. It's because of my colouring. 

Monday, 22 May 2017

Sleep Deprived

I'm feeling a bit loopy today, my first day back home from New Brunswick. Probably because I slept for almost twelve hours last night. Combined with the two-hour nap I had when we first arrived home from the airport, that makes for a whole lot of sleep in the past 24 hours. All that shut-eye was the result of my body not being happy with a virtually sleepless night, followed by a second night with three hours sleep since I had to leave for the airport before dawn to catch my early morning flight home.

Yes, I know, compared to the sleep schedule of some of you, that's nothing. I know. Busy people are sleep deprived. I know. It's just accepted as a part of our modern 24/7 world. People have work, and worries, and sometimes physical pain, and way too many episodes of whatever on Netflix to keep them awake. Not to mention those of you who are parents of small children; you deserve a category of sleep deprivation all your own. 

I understand that many, many people have trouble getting enough sleep. Much more trouble than I have. It's just that I've never operated well on too little sleep. Even when I was young and supposedly invincible, and cramming for exams, or pulling an all-nighter to finish a university paper, or simply staying out on the town until all hours. Or later when worries about work, reliving a stressful day, or going over and over a confrontation with a student or a parent kept me awake to the wee hours, a sleep deprived night was almost always followed by an early-to-bed night and, when possible, a late-to-rise morning. I have always been unable to function on too little sleep. I'm not sure what kind of a disastrous mother I would have made, considering the impact of parenthood on parental sleep schedules. Or how I would have been able to manage a teaching career with small children at home. Probably not well. 

Man and cat napping together.
Hubby and Doc having a well-deserved afternoon nap. 1986

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Hair Management: Learning to Live With Wilful Locks

You know, sometimes when life gets very serious, it's good to stop and stress about something not so serious. Like hair. Wilful, mind of its own, totally misbehaving, unmanageable hair. Like mine. Because as you are no doubt aware, if you stop by here regularly, I do like to stress and obsess about my hair. I seem to write a hair story every few months, starting way back in the spring of 2014 when I first started writing the blog. 

In that post I mention how the writer Natalie Goldberg, in her book Writing Down the Bones, says that if you are casting about for daily writing topics, and nothing springs to mind, "write a hair story." And when I was still teaching, each semester I would suggest "a hair story" as a journal topic. I was always surprised by the clever, funny pieces the students produced. Especially the story written by Jenny (lovely, quiet Jenny, with the long red curls) who felt unable to live up to the fiery personality her hair seemed to promise. Perhaps Jenny thinks she should have been born a cool brunette. With a sleek pageboy cut. Like Donna Parker.

Donna Parker cover art picturing girl with pageboy style hair
I'm sure my hair aspirations harken back to my sister's copy of this Donna Parker book

Friday, 12 May 2017

In Need of a Little Gentle Reading

If you've been reading this blog for a while you'll know that I have an abiding love for gentle books. Stories which ultimately make me sigh and feel that, despite everything, all is right with the world. When I say "all is right with the world" I don't mean in the sense that the hero triumphs, wins the lottery, finds true love, conquers the enemy, whatever. Not in that kind of larger than life sense. I mean that the plot of the novel, the characters, the setting and, in particular, the style make me feel that, no matter what, life can be absorbing, interesting, engaging, beautiful. And often the books that make me feel this way are those that deal with life close-up. Books that deal with the small but fascinating minutiae of everyday life. And with characters who may be unassuming but, on closer inspection, are also intelligent, perceptive, funny, courageous, and endearing. I'm thinking of books written by Barbara Pym and Anita Brookner, who I've written about here  And of course the Nancy Mitford books. Or anything about the Mitfords, really. Not sure why I'm so fascinated by that family. 

Lately I've been in need of a little gentle reading. 

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Needs Must ... Dressing for the Weather

You may (or may not) know that I can get a bit obsessive. I often over-organize. I stress too much about my hair. I get excited about something or other, and jump in over my head. Frequently. So, once we had that first taste of spring a few weeks ago, I was hell bent on spring shopping. All it took was a couple of warm-ish, sunny days, and temperatures above 10°C. The snow disappeared, and then the mud and puddles magically dried up. Dry enough to allow me to venture out in shoes, instead of boots. Warm enough to feel confident about packing the winter coats and hats away. Spring-y enough that I drew up my seasonal shopping list, and then shopped until I dropped.  

In the spring, I'm a bit like the young detective, Jasmine Sharp, in Christopher Brookmyre's book When the Devil Drives. I mentioned her in a post a while ago. Poor Jasmine has had a lot of trouble in her young life. And in the novel when her car gets torched, and the insurance company refuses to pay up, she is disappointed but resigned. Until the last line of the book. I swear this is the best epilogue I've read in years; I laughed out loud: "Five days later O'Hara shows up at the office and handed [Jasmine] an envelope containing ten thousand pounds in cash. Shoppiness ensued." 

Ha. That's me, folks. The sun shines. The puddles dry. And shoppiness ensues. 

Monday, 1 May 2017

Armchair Travel: Two Wonderful Books About Faraway Lands

The weather today here is dreadful. Rainy, blowy, cold. Hubby is in the kitchen; the soup assembly-line is in full swing. He likes to "cook big," as he says. Time to settle down for a good old natter about books, I think. 

Last night I finally finished Amor Towles latest novel A Gentleman in Moscow. I do love books about far away lands, books which take me places when I'm just sitting in my armchair. And I certainly loved this book. 

cover art for A Gentleman in Moscow. Man in suit looking over a hotel balcony     man seated in white shirt, vest and tie
                                                      source                                                            source

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Just Messin' With Black and White

I'll never forget my first encounter with the Irish writer Roddy Doyle. Back in the nineties, Hubby and I watched the movie The Commitments, based on Doyle's book of the same name. We loved it. It has great music, quirky characters, humour and pathos (uh...of course.. it's Irish), lots of swearing, and that weird combination of despair and hope that the Irish do so well. I was off to the library the next day to find Roddy Doyle's books. One expression that stuck with me from that movie, and from its sequel The Snapper, is "messin' with ya." You know, as in "Don't get mad. I'm just messin' wit' ya." I don't really mean it. I'm just playing around, teasing.  

So that's what I've been doing this week with some of my new wardrobe pieces. Just messin' with them. Playing around. Seeing what works and what doesn't. 

Monday, 24 April 2017

On Winning the Birth Lottery

When Hubby and I were in Peru a few weeks ago, we ate supper in a near empty dining room one night at our hotel in Ollantaytambo, and chatted to an American lady at the next table. She sat alone engrossed in her i-pad until Hubby called over to her, "We haven't seen many jackets like yours down here." She had on a zippered, athletic jacket with a logo Hubby recognized from a college in upstate New York, just over the border from where we live. She raised her head, and laughed. That friendly comment of Hubby's began one of the most interesting conversations we had with a fellow traveller on this trip. 

farm field with melting snow
Early spring on the farm in New Brunswick where I grew up.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

How to Make DIY Jeans... When You Don't Sew

The other day when Hubby came home I greeted him excitedly at the door with the words: "Guess what? I made myself a new pair of pants!" He looked incredulous. And well, he should. Me, sew? Me... who hates sewing. Me... who, after a few years of his waiting and waiting and my procrastinating and procrastinating, refused to ever hem another pair of his pants again.

But before I go on with my story, folks, I need to go back.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Peru Under My Skin

Without too much exaggeration I think I can say that I've got Peru under my skin. And I won't be done with thinking about it, and processing our experiences there, for a while. I guess this is one of the benefits of travel. You come home a slightly different person than when you left. 

But enough philosophizing, as my friend Nancy says. Let's continue with our trip. This is a shot I took as we were leaving Colca Canyon. Before we hit the highway for Puno. Lovely, isn't it?

 Inca terraces, near Colca Canyon, Peru
Inca terraces near Colca Canyon

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Moving On... Style Wise

Spring is supposed to be a time of renewal, of rebirth, isn't it? And yet this spring I've been feeling that I'm stuck in a rut. Not a big rut. Not a huge car-swallowing pothole that I'll never climb out of ... bit of Canadian springtime imagery there. Just a certain sense of ennui, of style fatigue. And a vague feeling that everything I wear is a bit samey. Repetitive. Unadventurous. I think it's time to move on... style wise. 

So in my spring shopping research I looked for ideas that might change up my style. Maybe move away from the narrow silhouette I've been clinging to, away from slim pants with a long slim top or blazer. I mean if my research is correct, this is the year to go big. And so I thought that wide-legged pants might be in order. Okay, that didn't work out, as you'll know from my last fashion post. Bu-ut a longer skirt might create the same effect. I almost always opt for a knee length skirt or dress. Since I despise maxi skirts... that meant midi length. And when I visited Liz at Nordstrom last week I did indeed come home with a black and white, striped midi-skirt from A.L.C.
So now the problem becomes ... what the heck am I going to do with this new longer, fuller skirt? How can I style it so that it doesn't do exactly what the wide-leg pants did? Namely cover up my assets, and highlight the bits I'd rather hide. How can I make this skirt look modern, not matronly?