Tuesday, 19 February 2019

High Heels in the Wilderness has moved...

Hi folks. Just a quick post to let you know that I've migrated my blog to Word Press.

Here's the link to the home page for the new site: 
                                 High Heels in the Wilderness 

You may want to clear your browser's cache/history and copy and paste the new site URL into your bookmarks. I've had trouble finding the new site on my i-pad because the darned machine would NOT stop going where it always went before. 

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

When Winter Gets Nasty It's Time to Hunker Down

Winter has been pretty nasty around here lately, folks. Probably it's nasty where many of you are as well. Cold and icy, making walking treacherous. And then last night, a big dump of snow, very big, with high winds, and white-out conditions. Schools are closed. Roads are hazardous. It's dangerous out there, and downright depressing. 

So what am I doing about it? Nothing. Nothing at all. I waved the white flag days ago, and hunkered down in front of the fire. After all, I'm retired; I don't have to battle the snow, and the bad roads, and the traffic to get to work anymore. I'm drawing on all my resources to find the silver lining in this beastly weather. 

snow, sunshine, a frozen river in the background, and steam rising from the water.
Beautiful, yep, but very, very cold. 
I'm implementing our Canadian version of hygge. What my friend Marina tells me is called "tout douillet" in French. Devant le feu, tout douillet, avec un bon livre.  All cosy in front of the fire, with a good book. Not to mention feet up, cup of tea in hand. Ahhh. That's better. 

sidetable with three books, and a vase of flowers, and a clock on the wall behind.
What we're reading while we get tout douillet.
Hubby is recovering from surgery, and he's not able to ski. So we've been walking at a local indoor walking track, then grabbing a latte on the way home, where we hunker down again with our books. And today, we're not going anywhere. We made blueberry pancakes for breakfast, and then, you guessed it, we cosied up in front of the fire with our books. 

I just finished reading The Dry by Jane Harper. I loved it. This book was recommended by Sue N. when she read my Mystery Lovers Anonymous post. Sue said that maybe reading what she called "Australian Bush Noir" would be an antidote for what ailed us during our long, cold winter. And she was right

The novel is set in a remote farming town in the outback of Australia, and I very much enjoyed Harper's depiction of place. The main character, Aaron Falk, is a detective from Melbourne who comes home for the funeral of his childhood friend, killed along with his wife and son in an apparent double-murder-suicide. Although I was gripped by the mystery surrounding the deaths of Falk's friend and his family, I found Harper's clever plot device, a combination of flashbacks and real-time narration, somewhat contrived at times. Especially at the end. But it's a weakness easily overlooked, and does not stop me from recommending the book. Hubby is reading it now. 

Hubby and I have spent a little time in places like the setting of Harper's novel. Small towns in the Australian outback, isolated and slowly dying from the drought. We spent a week in the Murray River area, in 2003, where the river level and the overall watershed had declined drastically in recent years, and we were constantly amazed that the dry and stubble strewn fields could support any life, let alone a herd of cattle or sheep. Then in 2008, we drove from booming, cosmopolitan Perth, in western Australia, north through some very remote areas to Broome.  

man in Ozzie hat, standing outside of a roadhouse in Australia
On the road north in Western Australia, in 2008. Heading into the "bush" apparently. 
We still chuckle about the roadhouse where we made our first stop on our first day out of Perth. I asked for a latte. And the cheerful girl behind the counter just laughed and said, "No lattes around here. Yis are in the bush now."  Ha. My face still flushes over that gaffe. But I do kind of wish I had retorted, "Bush? Bush? I don't see any bush." Because the Canadian bush which is characterized by dense forest, rocks, lakes, bogs, and mosquitoes is very different from the Australian bush. Very different, indeed

After I finished The Dry, I ordered, for my Kindle, another book suggested by Sue. The Ruin, written by a young Irish-Australian writer Dervla McTiernan, is set in Galway, Ireland which Hubby and I visited a few years ago. And, coincidentally, McTiernan lives in Perth, Australia. Ha. So it would seem to be a book we were meant to read. I liked this book very much. McTiernan is a good writer. However, I think she relies a bit too much on elements of the thriller genre, and would be better served if she slowed the pace down and didn't rely so much on plot, especially towards the end. It's not a perfect book, but I really enjoyed the characters, the depiction of setting, and her style, and I will look for more by her. Hubby says to tell you he seconds my opinion. 

The last book that I've recently read in my battle against the winter blues is Peter James' Dead If You Don't. I enjoy James' Roy Grace series. I love the police procedural aspect of his books, the details of how and why a case progresses. And this one was great. I pretty much carried it with me everywhere for two days. I read it during breakfast, propped it up on the table while I ate lunch, continued after lunch in front of the fire, on the exercise bike, even while Hubby was watching hockey on television, and trying to talk to me about the game despite my baleful, shut-up-and-let-me-read looks. I was dying to finish it, and then, of course, disappointed when it was done. Not disappointed in the book, no, no, but in the fact that now I had nothing to read. Again. Sigh. 

two books lying on a white chair with a red throw.
Two of  my favourite Canadian novels.
So I scanned my book shelves in desperation. "Maybe it's time I came home from parts faraway and read some Canadian content," I thought yesterday. And I dug out two of my favourite Canadian novels. Jane Urquhart's Away, about Irish immigrants, especially the women. And Carol Shield's Swan: A Mystery. Shields is one of my very favourite writers. I thought about her the other day when someone said on IG that they were reading Shields' novel The Stone Diaries for which she won the Governor General's award and a Pulitzer. But Swann, one of her lesser known books, is my favourite. It's about a naive, country housewife, whose tiny book of poems becomes famous, and much fought over by the literary world. If you can find it and are not familiar with this gem of Shields' you must read it. I'm loving it all over again. 

Both of these books deal in part with surviving life in Canada. And thinking that a little commiseration is just what I need right now, I ordered Susanna Moodie's Roughing It in the Bush: or Forest Life in Canada from the libraryI haven't read this Canadian classic, published in the mid-1800s, since I was in university. How unprepared for life in Canada were Susanna Moodie and her gentleman-farmer husband! I'm sure reading it again will make me feel grateful for paved roads and central heating, if nothing else. 

Moodie's book has inspired numerous other Canadian writers,  including Margaret Atwood whose book of poetry The Journals of Susanna Moodie is a series of poems told in Susanna Moodie's voice. One of my favourite Canadian non-fiction writers, Charlotte Gray, wrote of Moodie as well. I loved Gray's book Sisters in the Wilderness, which tells the story of Susanna Moodie and her sister Catherine Parr Trail, who both left bucolic England to come to the backwoods of Canada in the 1800s. And as you may know, it's the title of Gray's book which gave me the idea for my blog name. 

And now, time is getting on while I've been writing, folks. I hear the distinctive sound of a snow-blower outside my window. Hubby is out in the cold watching that the young man who he's hired to clear snow for us (while Hubby is out of action) doesn't do something to himself while running the snowblower for the first time or when shovelling the four-foot high bank that the plow just left at the end of our driveway. 

And here I am all warm and cosy, inside. I do feel a bit guilty.  Sigh. 

wood and brass clock hanging on a wall.
The lovely clock given to us by an elderly neighbour.
So I guess I'd better stir myself to go make dinner. Then after dinner we'll no doubt retreat to the living room to loll by the fire with our wine and our books. As my friend Marina says, "Devant le feu, tout douillet, avec un bon livre." 

And I would add, avec un verre de vin. 

Rouge, I think. 

How about you my friends? How are you weathering (pun intended) winter? Devant le feu avec un bon livre? 

P.S. The next post I write will be on my spanking new blog. It should be up and running by Tuesday, next week. Same name, same content... totally new look. And since it will take me a while to get to know the new platform, and how to do everything, I'm going to take a few days off posting. I need to do my homework. E-mailed posts will look quite different, but you'll still get them. Hopefully. And if you have this site bookmarked you'll be redirected to the new site. Stay tuned my friends:)

Linking up with:  #ShareEverything over at Not Dressed as Lamb

Thursday, 7 February 2019

How Socks Solved My Winter Wardrobe Fatigue

I have been known on occasion to rant a little over fashion trends. And sometimes I've had to eat my words. Like the time in 2014 when I wrote that I would never, ever wear drawstring pants again. Then promptly fell in love with a pair, bought them, and had to admit that I should probably never say never. Same with jumpsuits, or boiler suits as everyone seems to be calling them now. Everyone except me. I still think of a "boiler suit" as a piece of apparel accessorized with a tool belt and a hard hat, but never mind that now.

Even though socks have become undoubtedly cool these days, wearing visible socks breaks one of my long-held fashion rules. Socks are to be seen in running shoes when I'm running, or in hiking boots on the trails, period, because visible socks with jeans or dress pants are frumpy. Since I grew out of my Mary-Janes and ankle-sock look when I was twelve, I've worn socks in boots, or with shoes if the pant fell so as to make them invisible. Otherwise it was bare ankles with cropped pants, or maybe pantyhose or opaque tights in cooler weather. I was decidedly judgy about socks. I had a rule, and I stuck to it. Until recently. 

woman in plaid pants, navy sweater and socks, and burgundy loafers sitting in a burgundy chair
In socks and loafers and a matching chair. 
Until last week, in fact, when midwinter wardrobe fatigue sent me searching for inspiration, looking for some way to revive my passion for fashion that did not involve shopping. And maybe utilize some pieces that I haven't worn enough this winter. I sat at my computer or on my exercise bike scrolling through Pinterest images, leafing through fashion magazines. And then while I was waiting for my computer to boot up the other morning, I looked up, and the answer to my problem was staring me in the face. In the very middle of my inspiration board, which is supposed to give me inspiration but which I seem to have been ignoring, were four small images of women in suits. One of them looking very sassy in socks. Huh. Socks. 

collage of fashion shots and slogans
My inspiration board had the answer all along.
And when I started casting about on the net, I noticed that some of the very coolest "grown-up" women wear socks. Like Olivia Colman, below in an exquisite navy suit, with oxfords and socks. I saw this Vanity Fair shot of Olivia on Alyson Walsh's blog That's Not My Age. I can't believe that I haven't seen her in The Favourite yet. Or Lynn Slater, the Accidental Icon in socks and jeans and sneakers. Nobody can say she isn't cool. And Canada's own style icon, Melanie Kobayashi from Bag and a Beret. Melanie is the coolest of the cool. And funny too. I love how those grey socks take the ornateness of her pants and coat down just a notch. Now, I don't have the style savoir faire of these ladies, but I do have socks. 

three women in various outfits all wearing socks with pants and shoes
Olivia Colman source, Lynn Slater source, and Melanie Kobayashi source.
So. I dug out these navy socks and pulled them on with my Uniqlo navy cashmere turtleneck, my Rag and Bone plaid pants, and my Paul Green chunky loafers. I actually bought the navy sweater as an option to wear with these plaid pants. But I've been so busy wearing it with my jeans and boots, I haven't tried them together. This outfit makes me happy. And as long as I don't have to wade snow, or slush puddles, I could wear this look right now. 

woman in plaid pants, navy sweater and socks, and burgundy loafers leaning against a wall
Happy in my socks and loafers.
It's worth noting, I think, that not all of the socks and shoes with cropped pants outfits I tried worked for me. I tried other socks; my navy striped socks with cropped jeans made me look a little like Ronald McDonald. Ha. I tried different shoes, ballet flats, for instance, and found that the look needs the chunkiness and thick soles of these loafers to look "right" to me.

woman in plaid pants, navy sweater and socks, and burgundy loafers leaning against a wall
Just enough of a remix to satiate my appetite for change. 
So, yeah, socks, it seems, are something I can do... now. With the right pants, and the right shoes, and the right socks, of course, I'm evolving. Breaking, albeit a little tentatively, my own long-held fashion rule. How cool is that? 

I don't think I'm ready for the socks with sandals trend just yet. Ha. If ever. That look still makes me chuckle, unless the socks are worn to be ironic, deliberately frumpy or slightly wrong-looking  by someone who is a lot younger, and a lot quirkier, than me. In socks and sandals, I think I'd feel kind of like Geena Davis as Miriam in The Accidental Tourist. Remember Miriam? Flying frizzy hair, socks, high heels, and flapping vintage garments? She was gorgeous in that role. 

But that's a role that's way too quirky for this former farm-girl who spent too long in the classroom to truly be a rule-breaker. 

But the socks with pants thing, well, believe it or not, I'm coming around on that one. And trying this look that I said I'd never wear has allowed me to see some of the pieces in my closet in a new way. And solved my winter wardrobe fatigue problem at the same time. 

woman in plaid pants, navy sweater and socks, fuchsia tweed coat, and burgundy loafers leaning against a wall
If the path is cleared, and I don't have to wade snow, I'll be off to the mall in this outfit. 
Now, I may just throw on my Max Mara tweed coat with this get up and head to the mall. I'm thinking that a lovely new pair of plaid socks would look great with my black Stuart Weitzman loafers, black leggings (turned up to make them ankle length), and an untucked white shirt. 

I may not be original enough, nor quirky enough when it comes to outfits, to qualify as a fashion icon. I'm too conservative for that. But I am usually game to try new things. Well, mostly game. Most of the time. Usually. Ha. 

Hedging my bets there, aren't I? 

P.S. About those boiler suits. A couple of years ago I said I'd never, ever wear jumpsuits again. And I haven't. But it's not for lack of trying. I just can't find one that fits.:) 

How about you folks? Any midwinter wardrobe blues out your way? How are you coping?

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Follow the Money... Maybe

Sometimes the uber-glitzy, sunshiney, picture-perfect, I'm-ready-for-my-close-up world on the internet makes me want to retreat to a snow-covered cabin deep in the woods. I know I've said this before, but sometimes the internet makes me crazy.

Here's why.

For a while now I've been giving a lot of thought to the future of my blog. Maybe too much thought. For the past couple of days, I have been going cross-eyed reading various explanatory articles and defensive exhortations regarding how bloggers and users of social media earn payment for their work. I've been perusing articles which outline the lists of rules and regulations regarding "disclosure," how bloggers and "influencers" (so-called) must let their readers know whether or not they are compensated for their content, by whom, and what form that compensation takes. And it has seriously put me off the business of blogging. 

Not that I intend to stop writing a blog, just that I have decided to shelve, for the moment at least, the idea that I might just possibly consider the possibility of maybe monetising. Ha. Well, as long as I'm certain, eh? 

view of a river at dawn on winter's day
 Why am I up at this hour? Too much thinking.
But let me go back. 

All this started when I decided to upgrade my blog, change the format and get some professional technical help. Ergo, for the first time, I'll be spending money on my blog. And a germ of an idea began to form that if I could get some small compensation for the blog in lieu of my outlay that would be good. I explored this idea a couple of years ago and shelved it. 

So I've been doing my research this week. I read a few interesting and informative articles on a site called Smart Blogger, including one called Affiliate Marketing for Beginners. That article appealed to me because I think affiliate links would be the only way to go for me, if I decide to monetise at all. I imagined placing links to sites where readers could buy books, for instance, which I'd read and enjoyed. And if they clicked on the link and bought a book, I'd be compensated in some way. 

I've no interest in becoming a "full-time blogger." Mostly because I retired from full-time employment over five years ago, and I don't want to disrupt my life to go back to work, so to speak. Plus the very idea of managing a blog that is intended to make money just makes me tired. And bores me stiff. As I've said before on other posts, I want to write what I want to write, and not worry about the money. 

Let me make a disclaimer here before I go on. I read (and admire) several high quality blogs which make money for their creators. I read them because of their content, and am not put off by the fact that the blogs provide an income for their creators. That's Not My Age, Une Femme d'une Certain Âge, and Not Dressed as Lamb are three examples. I know from reading Catherine Summers' posts about blogging, how much goes on in the background to allow her to make an income from Not Dressed As Lamb. Promoting a blog, obtaining sponsorship, chasing brands for the money they promised, and keeping track of that side of things is a lot of work. And if bloggers can produce high quality content, love their work, and make an income from it, then more power to them. 

Over the years, I've learned a lot from Catherine's very generous posts about blogging. Including recently a post about the new-ish disclosure guidelines for bloggers and those who use social media to promote goods and services. You can read Catherine's post here if you're interested. And you should because she clearly outlines the rules, and what she will be doing in her posts to notify her readers. Although Catherine refers in her post to the guidelines for bloggers and Instagram-ers who live in the UK, I checked, and there are very similar guidelines for Canadian and American bloggers as well. These guidelines are all about transparency and clarity, and those who are compensated for content, whether through gifted merchandise or payment, have to let their readers know that this is the case. And the disclosure has to be clear and appear early in the post, not buried in the small print at the end of a blog post, or in a long line of hashtags at the end of an IG post. And according to the guidelines mentioning the name of the brand is not transparent enough, and doesn't necessarily imply a compensatory relationship. 

Okay. That sounds fair to me. As a reader of blogs and a follower of lots of people on IG who post sponsored content, I want to know which posts are sponsored/provided with some sort of compensation, and which aren't. 

I follow a number of blogs on Bloglovin'. Each day I get an e-mail which includes a thumbnail of the latest posts for blogs I follow, as well as the latest "most popular" posts, most of which are for blogs I don't follow. So, this morning, just for interest's sake, I clicked on every one of the thirteen featured "most popular" posts. I spent some considerable time scrolling through each post, looking for any indication that the post had been sponsored, whether the items had been gifted, or whether there was an affiliate relationship between the blogger and a brand. One blogger had a clear notification that the products she was reviewing had been gifted. One out of thirteen. That's not good. 

I went back a second time to some of the more glitzy, obviously professionally photographed posts, and tried to find any indication anywhere on the blog that they had brand relationships... with anyone. No luck. I scrolled back through older posts just in case the latest one was an anomaly. Same result. I found a section on most of the blogs which asks brands and advertisers to contact them if they want to collaborate, but no real information for their readers or followers about which post is sponsored and by whom. I mean, I guess I could draw conclusions from the "shop the post" list of product links which are included in many posts, but I shouldn't have to. What's wrong with just being upfront and clear from the outset? One of these very popular blogs included, at the bottom, a link to their "parent company" which I clicked. Turns out Clique Media owns several blogs and according to an endorsement below its header it specialises in "parlaying fashion advice into retail gold." Uh, okay. 

Now, I am highly unlikely to purchase anything found through a link on any of these blogs. So why would I be upset at the fact that  brand relationships aren't clearly disclosed? Live and let live, right? Well... yeah. Except when I mentioned to Hubby a critical comment which had appeared on my own blog a while ago, he shrugged and replied, "You made the choice to put yourself out there, Suz." Yep. He's right; I did. And I'm a grown up. I accept responsibility for my choices. And if bloggers are going to be grown-ups about it, they have to accept that if they're going to play the  game, they should play by the rules. Just make the declaration. How hard is that? 

So then, because I am a sucker for punishment, this afternoon while I was on my exercise bike, I scrolled through my IG feed, and I didn't see any of the early and easy to notice "transparent" disclosures that are supposed to be happening according to the new-ish guidelines. I saw all kinds of people on Instagram posting outfits followed by a reference to something called #LikeToKnowIt which apparently is an ap that followers can download, and which will send the follower an e-mail with all the necessary links to purchase whatever the IG "influencer" is wearing. It's pitched as a "service" with all the links in one easy and convenient place. Ha. Okay. The brand gets a sale and the content creator who featured the item in their post gets a commission. Nothing wrong with that... except... who knew? Not me. 

I had to Google the name "LikeToKnowIt" to find out what it is, and whether it is considered an "affiliate link." Turns out it is. And not to seem like a troll who gets all negative when someone is just trying to make a bit of money for their hard work, but tossing #LikeToKnowIt at the end of a post doesn't seem very transparent to me. Especially if followers, like me, don't know what it is.

In my research, I found several articles about "LikeToKnowIt", and about something called "Reward Style", a "monetisation platform" which requires bloggers and IG "influencers" to go through a screening process before they can join. This article in Forbes outlines just how lucrative these programs are for brands, and for "influencers." Now, if consumers are spending so very much of their money clicking on these links, then it's no wonder consumer protection agencies are looking for ways to make things more transparent. 

Then, just for fun, and because my slight enthusiasm for monetising hadn't already been bashed on the head enough, I read a couple of blog posts which explain to newbies how to use "LikeToKnowIt" to their best advantage, how to "showcase" their work in order to get accepted by "Reward Style"... blah, yadda, yadda, blah. And amidst all the exhortations to fellow bloggers about the need to create "quality" posts, I'm sorry to say I kind of lost it. And I found myself shouting at my i-pad... "To hell with click-through stats, what about the writing? The comma rules? Ever hear of spell check? No, you can't use that word that way." 

Then I stopped. 

And for a few minutes I seriously felt as if I might just pack a bag and head for the hills. 

winter sun setting behind a forested hill, snow covered fields and old barns in the foreground
So peaceful back home in New Brunswick.
photo courtesy of Krista Burpee-Buell
I'm much calmer now.  

So, yeah, I've learned a lot about the world of blogging this week. Some of which has kind of disillusioned me, as naive as that sounds. 

Like I said earlier, I don't plan to stop writing this blog. But I've put back on the shelf, for now, my idea of monetising. I also don't plan to stop reading and enjoying the blogs of others whose work I admire, monetised or not. 

But, I have decided that I will "unfollow" on Bloglovin' and on Instagram those publications which don't follow the guidelines, whose creators, it seems to me, don't respect me as a follower or reader enough to let me know what's up with their posts. 

Oh... and I definitely have to stop reading those blogs which make me all shouty. At least that's what Hubby says. Ha. 

P.S. I hope you don't think that this post has been too negative. If you write a monetised blog and are offended by what I've been saying, then I'm sorry. And if you want to know more about the guidelines I've been talking about you can read more about the Canadian rules here, the American rules here and here, the UK rules here, and the Australian rules here. There are lots of further links in each of these posts as well. 

Now it's your turn, my friends. Anything making you a bit shouty these days? 

Sharing with Thursday Favourite Things.