Sunday, March 19, 2017

No Green Beer, Just Sleeping Ferrets, Lizards and Rat Kisses

 *Warning: readers with a phobia of snakes should just scroll to the end of this post, unless you are freaked out by rats too, and in that case,  just look at the middle*

While there is some Irish in my family background, I don't celebrate St. Patrick's Day, never have.  I'm not certain when this happened, but it seems to have become a National Holiday for University students everywhere.  They skip classes and start drinking at the crack of dawn, and by nightfall, the streets are littered with noisy, sozzled, green-clad 20-somethings.

To avoid witnessing all that, after work on Friday I decided to head to the Western Fair District, where Little Ray's Reptile Zoo, Animal Ambassadors, and Little Tracks Petting Zoo joined forces to present "Diversity of Living Things" during March Break.  I thought that if I went over the dinner hour it wouldn't be as crowded with parents and their kids - after all, I was going so I could pet "all the things" and when you're a woman of a certain age, you don't want competition from some adorable little tyke when you're waiting in line to pet a lizard.   Upon arriving, I saw that I was the only adult there without a child in tow, which meant I spent a lot of time chatting to the volunteers who were very accomodating to my many requests  of "can I touch that??".

I wasn't a big fan of reptiles (snakes, lizards, etc.) when I was a kid, but as an adult, I conquered my fear of snakes after being able to touch them in controlled environments, and have become quite fond of them.  (I borrowed a small boa constrictor for a burlesque routine when I was in my 30's - remind me to tell you about that some time).  There were several snakes, lizards, a scorpion,  a Pixie Frog (which looked like a large wet green pancake with eyes) , as well as chickens, goats, bunnies, llamas, etc. 

Just look at this sleeping beauty!  He (or she) is a Savannah Monitor lizard, native to Africa, and the smaller cousin of the Komodo Dragon.  They are around 40 - 50 inches in length.

I am fascinated by the intricate patterns and colours of reptile scales

These are the scales of a Carpet Python, a native of Australia that can range in size from 5' - 16'

This handsome guy is a California Kingsnake, native the the West Coast of North America

I asked one of the volunteers from Little Ray's Reptile Zoo if I could touch one of the pythons, so after a bit of a tussle (the snake was not keen on leaving his enclosure), they brought this one out for me.  For those of you who think snakes feel slimy, let me tell you they most certainly don't.  They are cool to the touch and their skins feels almost like plastic.  There's no doubt that they are very much alive, as you can feel the powerful muscle that is their body underneath their skin.

A volunteer was carrying this Nigerian Uromastyx around and when I got out my camera to get a shot, he was ready to show off his posing skills. 

He had the coolest spiked tail - a subtle reminder of their dinosaur ancestors

Every 15 minutes there was a live show for the kids that featured some of Little Ray's reptiles, or some impressive birds of prey.  I missed the Birds of Prey presentation, but watched one of Little Ray's staff talk about tarantulas (he is holding one in his left hand).

Having had my reptile fix, I headed for the cuddlier critters...

Like this guy, a four year old Red Kangaroo.  He was in a large, fenced area in the middle of the floor with a few tortoises (to keep him company, I guess...).  I was disappointed that the volunteer who was in his enclosure didn't provide us with any information about him, and looked bored as she tried to interest the kangaroo in what I assumed was a bit of food, which he politely ignored.  I imagine it had been a long day and being surrounded by kids for hours can be draining for anyone, but it would have been nice to see some engagement and learn something about this little guy.  I wanted to yell out, "for heaven's sake, you are hanging out with a kangaroo - show a little enthusiasm!"

The kangaroo didn't seem to be stressed or nervous, and came close to the wooden fence so we could get a closer look at him.  As part of a touring animal exhibit, I'm sure he's become used to this sort of thing, and while I have mixed feelings about petting zoos, and zoos in general, this is quite likely the only chance that most of us who were there are going to get to see a live kangaroo. 

The tortoises that were in with the kangaroo

This goat from Little Track's Petting Zoo was enjoying a scritch from an accomodating bystander

I was fascinated by this bad-ass chicken with the toe floofs.  It's a Silkie, a breed known for its unusual fluffy plumage and their gentle, friendly personality.  I was making soft "buck buck" sounds (I am the kind of person who talks to chickens) which captured its attention.

More Silkies, in different colours

A shout-out to this lovely volunteer who was friendly and informative, and endlessly patient with the adults and children who crowded around her while she held a sleeping ferret.

The little guy had been petted into a stupor, and stayed sound asleep while multiple strangers stroked his soft fur.

There was a pen containing about a dozen adult rats, and as it was pretty quiet I asked the volunteer who had been holding the ferret if I could pet some of the rats.  I told her I previously had some as pets, and missed them very much.  She brought out the girl in the photo above, who was pregnant, and you could feel the little baby bumps in her belly.

I spent a lot of time at the rat display, talking to the volunteer and sharing stories about Ginger and Ruby. and she graciously allowed me to hold one of them (touching and petting was fine, holding was not permitted).  As you might be able to tell from my blissful expression, this was my favourite moment of the night. As much as I love my cat, there is nothing like whisker tickles and ratty kisses.  I wish I would have got the name of the volunteer who made this happen, and was kind enough to take a photo for me.  It was a good thing I saved the rat display for last, as I was pretty teary afterwards.  If you happen to see this, thank you so much.

I felt a bit guilty after showing sharing my affections with unfamiliar critters so I made sure to give extra attention to this guy when I got home, shown here with his current favourite toy, a piece of velvet ribbon.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Aladdin's Cave of Vintage

A couple of years ago I was at the Spring Toronto Vintage Show and met Ian Drummond, owner of the Ian Drummond Collection, a treasure trove of vintage clothing and accessories for rent to professional film, television and theatre productions.   He also sells items at vintage shows and I had admired the large display of shoes in his booth (little did I know at the time that was just a fraction of his shoe collection).  His assistant, Marla, found my blog and we struck up an occasional correspondence, and invited me to visit their collection, housed in a warehouse in Toronto.  I was in need of an adventure, so this past Thursday I took them up on their offer, and made the journey from London to the wilds of Etobicoke (bus, subway, subway, bus).

Marla and Ian, in front of the gasp-inducing Wall of Shoes

Drummond has been collecting vintage clothing for over 35 years and ran his own vintage store - 20th Century Frox - from 1984-1992.   He started the Ian Drummond Collection in 1996.   He has also worked in the Toronto film industry since the early 1990's and has been an assistant costume designer and extras coordinator for various projects.

When asked how many pieces were in the collection, the answer - "We can't count".  After doing some rough math, they estimate that there is approximately 45,000 pieces in the aisles.  There are about 14 or 15 of these aisles of floor to ceiling racks ( I neglected to count).  Each aisle is home to clothing from a particular decade.  Within each decade, items are sorted by type of garment, size, and colour.  The clothing is covered by bed sheets to protect it from dust and light damage, and each day, a staff member walks the aisles, running their hands along the clothes to check for any sign of moths.   The care and maintenance of the collection takes up the majority of the time of Drummond's staff.

At the front of each aisle is a list of items in that aisle.  Drummond has items from the 1890's to the 1990's.

When new pieces are brought into the studio, they may need to be researched if the label or decade is not known.  Each item is entered into a computerized inventory system and is given a tag with a series of numbers identifying it as men's or women's, the century, decade, etc.  

Everywhere you looked there was great eye candy.  The sparkly 60's number on the left had been pulled to photograph for the upcoming Toronto Vintage Show.    The gold and silver pattern on the 40's dress on the right is made up of tiny glass beads.

Of course, not everything in the collection is a showpiece.  There are many pieces of everyday clothing from all decades which are needed for costuming extras for a film or series.  Walking through the aisles I looked up and saw this section of vintage foundation garments.  I also saw sections of 50's circle skirts, 1970's caftans and 90's goth wear.

During a tour of the studio, we stopped at a rack holding a recently purchased collection of 1970's maxi dresses, many with matching coats.  While the styles were not something I would wear, I love the colours and patterns, especially those with metallic embroidery.

Drummond consults with one of his stuff who was organizing a collection of trimmings he had recently purchased.  They are standing in front of the men's section of the shoe wall, which is home to approximately 2000 pairs of shoes.  You can get a sense of the the ceiling height of the space from this photo.

Of course, I wanted a photo of myself with the shoe wall.  The shoes are dusted every week, and after after they are returned from sets, they must be cleaned and stuffed with new tissue before being returned to the wall.

close up of some of the 1970's shoes on the wall

Women's hats are stored in labeled boxes stacked on wire shelves

Men's hats are stacked on metal shelving running the length of one wall of the studio.

Drummond has a spectacular collection of antique hat boxes which are stacked on the shelf in the photo above.  Below the hat boxes are storage containers full of smaller accessories such as jewellery, collars, feathers, scarves and beaded bags.

I could have easily spent the afternoon poring through the magazines in these boxes. 

The studio has all kinds of fascinating items, including this "Mannish Fabrics for Ladies Garments", a book which most likely belonged to a tailor, that contains swatches of wool suiting that was available in 1914/15 for women's clothing.  Prices for a suit made of each fabric were also included.

Items from the Ian Drummond Collection can be seen in the film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the series The Man in the High Castle, and the new Anne of Green Gables series.

Sitting around chatting about vintage clothing may not be everyone's idea of an exciting afternoon, but for me it was heaven.   Many thanks to my hosts, Ian and Marla, for providing me with a lovely lunch and a peek inside the treasure trove that is the Ian Drummond Collection.  I ended the afternoon by browsing the section of items for sale, and of course, found something to take home....

This oversized lurex sweater was calling my name (it matches my silver Doc Martens perfectly)

I also picked up this unworn, made in Canada, long vest from the 90's

Ian Drummond will have a booth at the at the Toronto Vintage Clothing Show on March 4th and 5th at Exhibition Place. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Turn Towards The Light

We could all use more light right now, literally, and figuratively.  January has been especially grey and rainy here, and we haven't seen sunshine for over two weeks.  And then of course, there are the daily updates from Washington that threaten to bury us in a dark sludge of hate, lies and ignorance.  This post is as light-hearted and non-political as I could muster -  a documentation of what I wore to work on a regular week (albeit a short one, as I took Friday off) with colourful backgrounds, fun clothing, and a sense of humour.


I started the week with one of my favourite colour combinations of pink and black.  The blouse is from Blue Pepper Vintage, and I found the floofy (and rather see-through) tulle skirt at a Goodwill Thrift Store last weekend.  I had a photo of me looking at the camera, but I rather liked how my hair looks from this angle.


I really liked this outfit - the colours make me feel good, and it was very warm and cozy.   The sweatshirt is one of the few great pieces of clothing I've found at Winners, the skirt came from a consignment store, and the fleece-lined leggings are from Talize.   I always feel more comfortable goofing around with poses when my friend Heather takes my photo (she took this one, and Thursday's).  When I have to ask a co-worker to take my photo I try not to take up much of their time, which means no horsing around. 


Wednesday's outfit combined some of my favourite pieces into an odd, but satisfying mishmash of patterns.  The dress was found at Talize some time ago, and could be worn with black tights, heels, and a black jacket in a more conservative work environment.  However, since I can pretty much wear what I want to work, I layered it over Hello Kitty leggings and a long-sleeved t-shirt.  The ruffled neck piece is from Raggedy Rags, and it seems to look good over almost anything.  Looking at the photo, I think the boots look too big and clunky with the outfit, but some experiments are more successful than others.


For the last outfit of my work week, some strangely shaped pants from From Mars were combined with a vintage Haori from the Manhattan Vintage Show.  The necklace is made from a piece of vintage belly dancer's belt (the belt was vintage, not the Belly Dancer) and came from The Sentimentalist.

Looking at these outfits, one could draw several conclusions:
1)  I like the colour black, often worn with pink or gray
2)  Most of my wardrobe is purchased secondhand
3) I like clothing with dramatic, or unusual shapes
4) I don't take myself, or my clothing, too seriously

And they would be right, on all counts

Sunday, January 8, 2017

I Love New York(ers)

Yep, it was darn cold here the last few days (windchill of -20 degrees celsius) so I was able to break out the faux fur that was too warm to wear last year.  The massive 80's shoulders are part of the reason I loved the coat in the first place.  It was definitely warm enough, but when I got out of Heather's car I discovered that it was shedding like crazy, and her passenger seat looked like a large white dog had been sitting there.  I know that real fur will start to shed as it dries out but I didn't realize that faux fur will shed too.  Anyone else have that experience?

Not much worth reporting on has happened here lately, and so I'm going to go alllllll the way back to the end of October, when I was in New York, as there are lots of things you haven't seen yet...

Some of the people (and critters) I spent time with....

This is the sweet, 13 year old, blind-in-one-eye, cat named Bowie that kept me company in my AirBnB.  His owner said Bowie had never paid as much attention to any of their previous guests as he did to me (which I took as a compliment) and he was always waiting outside my bedroom door when I opened it in the morning so we could have cuddles.  He didn't bother my allergies, and is the primary reason I started to seriously consider getting a cat of my own.

a real New York pigeon - looking a bit rough around the edges, but a badass nonetheless

As much as I love the energy and culture of New York city,  it's the people who make it my favourite place to visit.  New York embraces all manner of personalities, eccentricities and styles, and encourages you to be your best possible version of yourself.  I feel very much at home when I'm there! 

Debra Rapoport was one of the first people I met through Ari Cohen and his Advanced Style blog when I started going to New York regularly in October.   We have since become friends and I can count on her to organize some sort of marvelous adventure during my visit.  This year, we did a photoshoot with Jocelyn McKenzie in Brooklyn, which I wrote about here.

I love spending time with my friends Valerie and Jean, aka The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas when I am in New York, and this year we attended a performance of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company at The Joyce Theater in Chelsea.  After the show we were outside talking about the show when the man next to me (whose name is Rudy Baker) in the photo above joined in the conversation.  From his velvet bowler to his painted fingernails, his style suited his personality pefectly, and I wish I could have sat down with him as I bet he had some great stories to tell.

I first "met' Hillary via Instagram and after we had followed each other's accounts for about a year, we were able to meet for lunch while I was there.  She is a total sweetheart, and the only disappointment was that I wasn't able to meet her four-legged baby, Harvey Noodles.

Above is Dayle Berke, (her instagram is @artfulcitystyle) another superbly stylish woman I have had the pleasure to meet while in New York.  Dayle volunteers as a docent at the Museum of Arts and Design, and gave an excellent tour of the current exhibits, to a group which included Jean and I, which I will post about soon.

The Baroness of Latex (right, posing with friend) hosted a Halloween Party in her apartment and I attended as a guest of the Idiosyncratic Fashionistas.  The Baroness was wearing one of her own designs and was a delightful hostess. 

She had asked guests to come dressed as a version of her (which you can only do when you are the Baroness of Latex) so there were some very impressive latex outfits worn by some of the other guests.  I had no latex, so I made do with a form-fitting dress I had purchased at Value Village.  The last photo I had seen of the Baroness showed her with pink hair, so most of us turned up in pink wigs, only to find she had moved on to blonde.  One of the Baroness' cats decided to join me in this photo, in which I look like I am very elegantly hailing a cab.

As luck would have it, fellow blogger Patti was also in New York at the same time, so we met up in Washington Square Park for a coffee.

While I was chatting with Patti, Amanda Dolan came by with her dog Pearl.  Amanda is the owner of Spark Pretty, and usually has a booth at the Manhattan Vintage Show with her partner in style crime, Meagan Colby.