Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Have a Crafty, Art-filled Christmas

I had planned to get this post up much last week, but other stuff that makes up my so-called real life got in the way, and so here we are, just over a week until Christmas....

Tis the season where many of the local art galleries hold shows featuring works by local artists in a generally affordable price range (say, $200 instead of $2,000) in hopes of enticing people to purchase a gift of art for someone on their Christmas list.  A piece of art is a very personal gift, and usually reserved for the recipient whose taste in such things is very familiar to you.  On Friday, December 5th I stopped by the openings of two such shows, and there was enough variety on offer for there to be something to appeal to everyone.

Sales from CRAFTEDThe ARTS Project's exhibition and sale of unique, handcrafted items,  support the artists and The ARTS Project's programming and events.  The show, which runs until December 18th, has a bit of everything.....

If your living room is too small for a real Christmas tree, Jayne Cornelis' glass one is an option

For the feline fan on your list - a bag decorated with a hand-hooked rug by Simone Vojvodin

Sarah Legault, whose work you have seen in this blog before, contributed a few of her cool/creepy art dolls to the show

Clockwise from top left:  glassware by Angie Quick;  fabric clutch purses from Willow and Poppy Studios; Manly forged steel bottle openers by Scott McKay; fashion illustration painted on silk by Selma Popovic

Tim Cosen's "Apple Tree Blossoms, Sun" (left) and Dorothy Pilot's textile collage would add some glorious colour to a room

This re-imagined Jack-in-the-Box created by Gabrielle Nowicki would appeal more to adults than kids, and she also had some small whimsical collages for sale (which you can see on her website)

So from there, it was on to Strand Fine Art Services for the kick-off party to their annual Christmas Show and Sale, featuring work from approximately 25 Southwestern Ontario artists.   Prices ranged from $8 to $1800, with most pieces in the $100 - $300 range.

I'll start with my favourite pieces in the show - a series titled "stockings" by Agnieszka Foltyn.  The small pieces were approximately 6" X 8" and the large one in the top left was maybe 2' x 3'.  I have included a closeup of the black and white striped stockings with red toes, which I could happily imagine hanging in my apartment.

There were a number of bird-themed pieces in the show: Clockwise from top - "Flock" by Agnieszka Foltyn; an origami canary by Bartek Foltyn (I'm thinking they are related), and a flock of crows made from vinyl records by Fran Whitney.

For people looking for a splash of colour, there were many small-to-medium sized acrylic and oil paintings available.  Top left - "Parc St. Jacques" by Jeremy Price; "Pears" and "Eggs" by Thelma Rosner, and "Farming Flowers-Purple" by Laney Richmond

For those who prefer their art in monochrome, there were works in charcoal by Kevin Bice (left), and "Lace Leaves", a mixed media work by Sharron Corrigan Forrest

Fran Whitney was the most prolific artist represented in the show -  the fish prints, bowls made from vinyl records, and mixed media pins above were all her creations, as were the vinyl crows seen in a previous photo.

Some smaller pieces that I wouldn't mind finding under my Christmas tree - clockwise from top left:  "gentle souls hand crank orchestral balladeers" by Leslie Putnam; "untitled trees" by Bill Stelpstra; "Enso" (acrylic on panel with resin) by Maya Foltyn (whom I assume is related to Bartek and Agnieszka);  pastel "Cats" by Linda Fried

The Christmas Show and Sale at Strand Fine Art Services runs until noon on Tuesday, December 24th, and their December hours are:  Tuesday - Friday 10 am - 6 pm, and Saturday, 10 am - 5 pm

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wasn't That a Party?

This past Saturday night, the owners of From Mars, whom I have known since the mid-1980's, had their annual Christmas party at their store.  Last year they asked Catl, a high-energy blues rock band from Toronto, to play at the party, and the response was so positive that they asked them back again this year.  I asked Heather to go with me and we stopped by the Early Bird beforehand to get a bite to eat.....

I had always wanted to try the "Turducken" sandwich (basically a giant club sandwich with smoked turkey, panko-breaded chicken and duck bacon) but I had to wait until I could split it with someone, and Heather was game.  The verdict?  I could have done with less bread and more of the maple mayo, but the insides were tasty.  We had onion rings on the side, just because.

Fully fortified, we headed a couple of doors down the street to the party.  

While the band was setting up, guest enjoyed snacks and a beverage, and shopped the store's stellar selection of unique clothing and accessories.  The store has become a favourite of many stylish 40+ women in London because of the great selection of funky clothes that look good on a variety of ages and body types, and the fabulous shoes and boots by such brands as Fly, Neosens, and A.S. 98

I have more than a few items from the store in my closet, but decided that I would go vintage for the party.  I'd found this 70's maxi dress at Jackpot Vintage recently (you can't see in this photo, but it has tiny gold metal studs throughout the pattern) and it went perfectly with the metallic-embellished haori I purchased in New York.  I did wear the pair of Neosens ankle boots I'd purchased at From Mars a few years ago.

I've seen this woman at a few different events and as usual, she was beautifully turned out, from her striking hair to her metal-accented boots.

This woman has the same pair of A.S. 98 boots that Heather had purchased last month, and it illustrated the appeal of the store to women of all ages when a pair of boots purchased there look just as cool on a woman in her 60's (I'm guessing) as they do on a woman in her 30's.

My neighbour, Natalie, looking super sassy in a furry chapeau and giant hoops

Catl, formerly a duo, then a trio, now a duo again, consists of Jamie Fleming on vocals and guitar, and Sarah Kirkpatrick on drums and vocals.  They play stripped-down, rip-roaring, booty-shakin' blues rock, and it is impossible to stand still while listening to them play.   While they have four albums under their belt, it's their live shows that have earned them a devoted following.

 Kirkpatrick, whose father was a drummer, started playing drums after the band lost its second drummer sometime in 2013.  She is a dynamo on the skins, and never stops shimmying and shaking.

The party guests enjoy Fleming work some guitar magic

Kirkpatrick wasn't the only one doing some serious hair tossing that night - Laurie, one of the co-owners of From Mars, was definitely getting into the groove.

The energy of Fleming and Kirkpatrick was amazing, and by 10 pm when they called it quits, I'm sure they were exhausted.

You can watch Catl perform their first song of the night in the video I shot below....

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

(Wo)Man's Search For Meaning

Regular readers of this blog will note that this post is a rather serious departure from my regular style/arts/culture/thrifting/animals focus, and you may be disappointed it does not contain any photos of interesting people or outfits.   I've learned over the past five years of blogging that when it comes to writing a post, I have to go where my heart is at the time, and this is where it is at the moment...

What makes your life (or anyone's, for that matter ) meaningful?

I have thought about this question often over the course of my adult life, and more so in the last 10 years.  As a single, childless woman, the majority of my time not spent at work is pretty much spent doing things that I enjoy, and are for the most part, all about me.  Lately, I find there is a nagging fear creeping in that I am living this quote by Victor Frankl:

You could ask ten people what makes their lives meaningful, and get 10 different answers, but I think that you would find a common theme in their answers.   In 2013 a study was published in the Journal of Positive Psychology that examined whether people thought their lives were meaningful, or happy.  Jennifer Aaker, of Stanford Graduate School of Business, and her colleagues surveyed 397 people over a month, and one of their findings that I found to be most interesting is that happiness is linked to being a "Taker", while meaningfulness is linked to being a "Giver".   

I have always thought my life was more meaningful when I volunteered my time for a non-profit agency.  In the early 1990's I assisted with event coordination and client support for what was then called The AIDS Committee of London, which provided services and support for people living with HIV and AIDS.  It was certainly not one of the happier times in my life - a close friend had recently been diagnosed with HIV, which was pretty much a death sentence in those days; my employment situation and my marriage were both on shaky ground, and almost all the clients whom I spent time with, died.  But at the same time, I felt like what I was doing really mattered, and that as crazy as my life seemed at that time, it had meaning.   I had the same feeling when I volunteered with our local Crisis Hotline a couple of years ago.  In most cases, the people I talked to on the phone during my time there were grateful to have someone to listen to them, even if I couldn't solve their problems.   Unfortunately, after volunteering for a little over a year, some of the more stressful phone calls were starting to negatively affecting my emotional well-being, after much consideration, I made the difficult decision to give up my volunteer position.   

I started to wonder if there would always be a separation between happiness and meaningfulness in my life.    The things I had chosen to do that added meaning to my life seemed to also be things that left me often feeling sad, or emotionally drained.  Surely everything that made one's life meaningful didn't have to also be so stressful?  With this in mind, I've decided to explore another volunteer opportunity, and have completed the training to be a Big Sister.  I haven't been matched with a little sister yet, but I am feeling excited, and nervous about this new adventure, and my hope is that it will turn out to be both meaningful, and enjoyable.   I won't be blogging about my experience, mainly for privacy reasons, but I did think my decision to try this was something worth sharing. 

Have any of you volunteered your time with a non-profit organization?  Did you have a positive experience? What brings meaning to your life?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Eat Local. Listen Local. Shop Local

For most of the last year, the folks who live in my neighbourhood, myself included, had passed by this pink storefront and wondered if the business was ever going to open.  Then this past weekend I noticed that it had, so of course I had to take a look.

the boombox bakeshop is a cute little bakery/cafe whose interior reflects the owner's passion for music.

After years of working in retail, Alexandra Connon decided to combine her love of baking and music into her own business, which has been open for about a month. 

The sign outside pretty much sums up the philosophy behind the business.  Connon had live music in the shop on the Friday night, and plans to host regular music events.  The art displayed in the shop is created by local artists.

The funky music-themed packaging was designed by a local company, Georgette Packaging, the owner of which used to own a cupcake bakery in Northern Ireland.  

The menu board

The "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" cupcake, featuring a french toast-flavoured cake with a streusel and maple icing.

Chocolate fan that I am, I selected a "C is For Cookie" with a chocolate cake base with cookies and cream icing.  To be perfectly honest, I'm not a big fan of cupcakes, or cake in general.  I don't mind the cake part, if it is freshly baked, but most are covered in too much sickeningly sweet icing.  I am happy to report that this cupcake was very moist, with a pleasant, slightly crispy texture on the top of the cake part, and while there was still more icing than I needed, it was very tasty, and not cloyingly sweet.  If I was craving a sweet dessert, I would go for another one of these, although maybe the double chocolate next time.   I also tried one of the sweet potato and kale popovers, which I warmed up in the toaster oven at home, and it was delicious.

the boombox bakeshop is a very welcome addition to the Old East Village neighbourhood, providing an attractive setting for a coffee and a treat, and an alternative venue for musicians and artists to find an audience for their work.  The bakeshop is open Tuesday - Friday 9 am - 5 pm, and Saturdays 10 am - 4 pm.  You can also find more information on their website.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Is It January Already?

You can't blame one for thinking that we've somehow fast-forwarded through November and December, given that outside my front door, it currently looks like this...

I posted a very similar photo on my blog last year, but it was taken in January, not November. Yes, I shovelled that path to the sidewalk, and the sidewalk.  I'm such a good neighbour.

Of course, everyone in Southwestern Ontario has been saying over the past couple of days, "Thank God we're not in Buffalo", where they have been hit by what the media are calling a "Winter Storm Knife" that has dumped four feet of snow in the area, and could drop more tomorrow.

And in other news, of a much lesser concern than crazy winter storms that cause death and destruction, my wireless mouse, and wireless keyboard both died in the space of three days.  WTF!   Panic ensued, but thank goodness I'm one of those people who can't bear to get rid of any tech devices as long as they still work, even if I've replaced them with a newer model, so I was able to dig out an old keyboard and mouse.  They take up way more space, and don't look as nice as my cute little aluminum keyboard and white mouse (yes, I'm a Mac girl), but they do the job.

So, as a distraction from the ridiculous weather and technical difficulties, let's look at a couple of my outfits of late, shall we?

It has been bloody cold this week, so out came the wool and the leather.  Everything I'm wearing was either purchased secondhand, or retail, but really cheap. 
Wool sweater - thrifted
Danier leather mini - Mesh Consignment Boutique
leggings - Joe Fresh
Boots - some store in Toronto

I found the boots at a store in Toronto last year - in addition to being grey, and kind of badass, they were half price and very comfortable so how could I say no?

Speaking of cheap badass boots, you've seen these shiny blue babies before.  I found them at a Housing Works Thrift Store in New York a couple of years ago for $15, and they have served me well.  The material (not leather, unfortunately) is cracking across the top so they may not be long for this world.  Again, more leather, in the form of my dearly loved leather and fabric pants, and some polka dots just for fun.

This was from last Saturday, before the icy temperatures and the snow.   I hadn't thought about putting pink and brown together, but after purchasing the wool, made-in-France 1960's dress at Jackpot Vintage I was won over.  Ralph, my sad-eyed porch guard dog, looks not so sure.

As much as I like the dress, this outfit was really all about the suede coat I found at a neighbour's garage sale in the summer for $30.  It's made by Danier, and I don't think it was ever worn, and the trim is real fur (mongolian lamb I think). The window of opportunity to wear it is very narrow, as it can't be raining, snowing, or really cold, as the fit is snug, with no room for layering underneath.   Despite all of those restrictions, it found a loving home in my closet just because I feel kind of fabulous when I wear it.   I asked one of the owner's of From Mars, one of the few retail stores I shop in, to take my photo with my phone, as I sort of coordinated with the mannequin behind me.  Thanks Diane!

I think that's enough of  Shelley's Parade of Fashion for now.  I leave you with a video I shot this afternoon out the window of my colleague's office....unfortunately it gets blurry if you enlarge it


 Kind of inspires you to roast chestnuts and sing Christmas Carols, doesn't it?  (NOT)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Going To The Dogs

I used to consider myself a diehard cat person.  When I was a child, stray cats were always following me home (which may have had something to do with the attention I would lavish on them), and I wanted my own kitten desperately.  Unfortunately, I was also very allergic to cats, so I had to content myself with petting ones belonging to neighbours, and cope with the itchy eyes and sneezing afterwards.  Dogs were okay ( I loved all animals, still do), but cats were my top of my pet list.  Fast forward to a few years ago, when I started to meet more and more dogs belonging to neighbours and friends and discovered that there were some breeds to whom I wasn't allergic, and that were totally adorable.....almost as adorable as cats.  I knew I couldn't have my own at this stage in my life (not enough time at home, or the financial cushion for vet bills), so after some research, I got a rat instead.  Those of you who follow my blog know that Fred was a much-loved little rat, and she was fascinating, frustrating and always very entertaining.  Now that she's gone, I find myself looking for any opportunity to pet a furry critter.   New York was the perfect place for that.

New Yorkers love their dogs - mostly small ones, due to the small size of the apartments.  If being left alone in the apartment when his/her people are at work gets stressful, your dog can spend the day at the Biscuits and Bath dog retreat.  It appeared that the job of the guy in the window was to play with the dogs, and from what I could tell, he certainly lacked enthusiasm for it.  I wanted to go in and tell him that I would be happy to take over and play with dogs all day.  Some people just don't know when they have a good thing going.

The little cutie above was named Salma, according to her orange sticker

The hotel I stay in is in a residential neighbourhood, so in the mornings and early evenings, the sidewalks would be full of people walking their dogs.   I always ask the owner first if I can pet their dogs and most of the dogs I met were thrilled to meet a new friend. 

On Saturday morning I ventured out of my hotel to find that a small farmers' market had sprung up right across the street, and in addition to pumpkins, apples, pears, bread and pickles, there were people with their dogs.  I saw this woman out with her dog a few times during my stay.

I stumbled on this scene and stuck around long enough to see how it would play out.  I think the little brown one is a pug (her name was Eunice!) and the other two are French bulldogs?   Those of you who know more about these things, feel free to correct me.  Anyway, I loved the way the scene went from "I am kind of freaked out by you guys" on Eunice's part,  to a gigantic sniff fest in about 10 minutes.  At least in New York, no one bats an eye when you stand in the middle of the sidewalk taking photos of a random dog meetup.

I was able to spend some quality time with the little pug in the photo above, and her mama.  Marja Samsom recently acquired little Bibi and the two of them joined Jean, Valerie, Carol and I for drinks on Friday night.  The weather was lovely, so we sat out on a patio, fortunately for Bibi, who probably wouldn't have been allowed in the restaurant.  Look how well she coordinated with Marja's outfit!  Bibi also went to the Vintage Show the next day, and charmed everyone who crossed her path.

There was another woman sitting on the patio, enjoying a solo dinner, with her two dogs, a German Shepherd and a Belgian Shepherd, lounging on the sidewalk just below her.  They occasionally got fussy and some sessions of barking ensued, but for the most part they were pretty good.   While we were all sitting there, a group of twenty-somethings walked by, and one woman yelled to the woman with the two dogs, "I sure hope they didn't come from a breeder and that they are rescues!!"  They were rescues, and in an ideal world, all animals in shelters would find loving homes, but I couldn't get over the nerve of that woman to make a remark like that to a stranger.  I've learned from my visits that if New Yorkers like something, they tell you, and if they don't like something, they'll also tell you.  There's no fear of expressing opinions in the Big Apple.  When she was ready to leave, Marja took Bibi over to meet them.  Despite the huge size difference, Bibi held her own.  

This was the best dog-sighting of the entire trip.  I was heading to the Manhattan Vintage Show on Saturday and as I was passing a pretty little mint green car, I happened to glance inside the open passenger door....and this is what I saw.  I stopped dead, and asked the man who was leaning against the open car door if all of them belonged to him.  They did, and they were headed to a Halloween Party for dogs happening that afternoon - I'm thinking it was this one.  He had costumes for the dogs, but wasn't sure how the dogs were going to react to them.  While I was standing there chatting with the owner, another woman walked by, stopped, and asked if the spectacle in front of her was real, as she said, "It looks like a painting". 

One day I hope to have my own little canine companion but in the meantime, I will continue to dispense ear scritches and head strokes to any willing dog that crosses my path.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

In My Tribe

I feel so blessed to have met, and become friends with a group of stylish and creative women who live in New York.  We share a passion for beautiful vintage clothing and accessories, contemporary art and design, thrift shopping, thoughtful conversation, and a sense of humour that often borders on the inappropriate.  We love dressing up for no other reason that is is a new day, and one never knows what might happen.  They are my tribe, and I cherish the time I spend with them each year.

After I had done as much damage at Beacon's Closet as I could afford, Valerie and I met up with Jean, and artist, milliner, and fellow blogger Carol Markel (on the right, with Valerie in the photo above) at the Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show and Sale.  I had met Carol a couple of years ago when I was in New York.  She loves bright colours, as you can tell by her striking coat and bag.  Valerie is wearing the painted, open-toed booties she purchased at Nomad Vintage.

Valerie snapped this shot of Carol, yours truly, and Jean.  I am wearing the wonderful vintage hat that I found at a secondhand store in my neighbourhood for $8.   I love when I get compliments in New York on things I've found in my neighbourhood thrift stores for next to nothing.

Carol and Jean had fun trying on hats at the Revival Vintage Boutique, and Carol took the red one home with her.  It was the first time the owner had a booth at the show and and I think she found us very entertaining.

Jean and Valerie have the most amazing accessories - (l) Jean's safety pin bracelet, (r) Valerie was brandishing what I referred to as her sabre-toothed tiger ring.

On Saturday, I was thrilled to run into Michelle, who I had met at the FIT Symposium on Thursday.  It was her first time attending the Vintage Show, she was so excited to see all the gorgeous stuff.  It will be many years before she will be "a woman of a certain age", but she fit in with the tribe very well - it's about the sensibility, and not the years.  The skirt I'm wearing is another of my scores from Beacon's Closet.

The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas took this photo of Michelle as she tried on this adorable hat at Denyse's Closet -  it suits her perfectly! (did you buy it Michelle?)

Marja Samsom (aka The Dumpling Diva), who had joined Jean, Carol, Valerie and I the previous night for post-vintage show cocktails, brought her new puppy, Bibi, to the show.  Bibi had also joined us the night before and I was able to indulge in some much-needed puppy snuggling.

Bibi was very well-behaved and of course, loved all the attention she received at the show

Another blogger to join the fold this year was Patti, (in between the Idiosyncratic Fashionistas) who had flown in from Florida that afternoon with her husband to spend a week in New York.  We didn't get to spend much time together, but it was enough for me to see that she is the same sweet, articulate, and thoughtful woman as she appears on her blog.

Other Vintage Fans

I loved the gold braided hair band and colourful scarf on this woman

Rocking the orange (what a great handbag), and a beautiful coif

This young man in his embroidered coat had sass to spare

My eye was drawn to the mix of colours and shapes this woman was wearing.  I've always liked blue and brown worn together and she is doing it with great panache.  Her blue glasses are the icing on the cake.

This woman was trying the gorgeous printed pony hair jacket I had been admiring at Lulu's Vintage Lovelies.   Her name is Lyn, and she has recently entered joined the ranks of bloggers of a certain age as the Accidental Icon.

This incredibly chic woman was wearing a leather Bonnie Cashin tunic and stunning jewellery designed by Eric de Kolb.

A closeup of the de Kolb necklace.  I had never heard of the designer before and this was another example of how the vintage show is often as much a learning experience as it is a treat for the eye.

We had the pleasure of running into actress, comedienne, and singer, Marilyn Sokol, wearing a beautiful jacket and a pair of spectacular earrings she found at Off Broadway Boutique.  Sokol has been featured many times on Ari Cohen's Advanced Style Blog.

We had oohed and aahed over this funky men's jacket at Icon Style and lo and behold, this brave man was taking if for a test drive.  I think he wore it very well, and I do hope he took it home.

I met Israeli jewellery designer Ronnie Sarnat, whose custom-made green boots and stunning sequin-embroidered jacket stopped me in my tracks.  She asked that I not photograph her, but was very gracious and showed me some photos of some of the jewellery pieces she has created.  She uses bits of vintage accessories and clothing to create pieces that are contemporary works of art, and is particularly drawn to the sensibilities of the Art Deco and Art Nouveau periods.  The blue bead and sequin piece on the bottom right was made by her, as was the beautiful jacket she was wearing.

The Vendors

The vendors at the Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show and Sale are often the best advertisement for their merchandise.  Some wear a specific era head-to-toe, but many mix and match from different decades, and all are happy to show customers how to incorporate a vintage piece into their wardrobe.

(left)  Kathryn and Selima from Bond 07 by Selima  (right) Tim and Heather from Noble Savage Vintage I'm always curious to see what crazy socks Tim will be wearing.

I  admired the drool-worthy 1940's jacket on the woman working at the Philadelphia Vintage and Consignment Shoppe booth (left), and the feather-trimmed jacket on the woman at the Thriftwares booth (right).

The gorgeous gals in the circle skirts are (left) Meika, owner of Another Man's Treasure, and her assistant, Ally.

The incomparable Yardena, of Lulu's Vintage Lovelies.  Her style has a cool punk edge to it, and I was kind of flattered to see that we had the same taste in footwear.  I wore the identical silver Doc Martens to the show last year.  The monkey fur coat and embellished dress are from her booth.

Theo, at the Morphew booth, was channeling his inner Johnny Cash/bad guy this year.

This young woman looked so cute in her romper and converse, but I think she was wishing she had gone for something warmer, as it was kind of chilly in the venue.

Well, Th-th-th-that's all folks, for another year.  If you enjoyed your vicarious trip to The Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show and Sale with me, just imagine how much fun it is in person.  The next show is on February 6th and 7th, 2015, at the Metropolitan Pavilion.